Compare Credit Cards for Bad Credit (Direct and Affinity)

Looking for the best credit cards for bad credit in the UK? This comparison page will identify the current cheapest subprime rates on the market, as well as addressing other service areas such as customer support, eligibility, experience, user bases etc. As it stands, there isn’t a considerable number of direct lending options, but the choice is widened a little by affinity cards. The plan should be to make sure that any defaults, CCJs etc are settled. Moving forward, pick a solution from below and manage it well to build trust. With trust it may be possible to eventually qualify for leading prime rates, so long as any red markings have fallen of your report (takes 6 years).

– Account servicing is provided for every company listed. Affinity cards are managed on their issuer’s sites and contact is also taken on by the provider.
– Affinity cards are generally matched to their issuer. You won’t be approved for them if you have applied with the lender.
– Comparison listings are sorted alphabetically within the groupings of direct (lender) and partner (affinity).
– Launch years aren’t always known, especially with partners. Due to this, the company launch itself may be shown.

The direct lender layout is as follows…

Company name: Launch year
= Product name | APR | Limit (existing user cap in brackets if applicable)
~ space ~
M: Membership base. Unk = unknown
P: Payment network. Will either be MasterCard or Visa
S: Support days/times. In select cases, (app) = application queries and (exi) = general queries for existing users
T: Takes how many days/weeks before you’ll receive your card
Rel: Related affinity partners
* Supporting notes.

The partner layout just shows their rates since there are never any other differences.

Compare Credit Cards for Bad Credit…


Aqua: 2002
Aqua Card
= Advance | 34.9% to 19.9% | £250 to £1200
= Classic | 35.9% | £250 to £1200
= Reward | 34.9% | £250 to £1200
= Start | 49.9% | £100 to £300

M: 750,000
P: MasterCard
S: Mon/Fri (8am/9pm), Sat (9am/5pm), Sun (10am/6pm)
T: 14 days
Rel: Marbles and Opus (closed for new business)
* Advance sees 5% reductions each year for 3. Potential rate is 19.9%. Reward provides 0.5% cashback (max £100 per year)

Aquis: 2002
Aquis Card
= Aquis | 29.8% | £150 to £1000 (£3500)
= Credit Builder | 49.9% | £150 to £250

M: Unk
P: Visa
S: Mon/Fri (8am/8pm), Sat (9am/5.30pm)
T: 10 to 14 days
Rel: See VB
* Launch unconfirmed, domain reg year is marked.

Barclaycard: 1966
Barclaycard Initial Card
= Initial | 34.9% | £150 to £1200

M: 36 million (global)
P: Visa
S: Mon/Sun (8am/11pm) (app) | 24/7 (exi)
T: 5 working days
Rel: NA
* Initial includes 0% on purchases for 3 months that follows with a £20 cashback bonus. A wide range of prime cards are available with most coming in the Platinum range.

Capital One: 1996 (UK) 1988 (US)
Capital One Classic Card
= Classic | 34.9% | £200 to £1500

M: 4 million (UK) 40 million (global)
P: MasterCard
S: Mon/Fri (9am/5pm) (app) | 24/7 (exi)
T: 7 to 10 working days
Rel: Issues Luma, Littlewoods, Ocean and Very
* Also offers a prime product (Balance Plus).

Marbles: 2015
Marbles Card
= Marbles | 33.8% | £250 to £1200

M: Unk
P: MasterCard
S: Mon/Fri (8am/9pm), Sat (9am/5pm), Sun (10am/6pm)
T: 14 days
Rel: Aqua and Opus (closed for new business)
* NewDay’s best standard rate, but better long term deals are seen in Aqua’s range.

NEO: 2014
NEO Card
= NEO | 39.9% | £150 to £1000 (£3500)

M: Unk
P: Visa
S: Mon/Fri (8am/8pm), Sat (9am/5.30pm)
T: 10 to 14 days
Rel: See VB
* Launched on same day as Original.

Original: 2014
Original Card
= Original | 39.9% | £150 to £1000 (£3500)

M: Unk
P: Visa
S: Mon/Fri (8am/8pm), Sat (9am/5.30pm)
T: 10 to 14 days
Rel: See VB
* Launched on same day as NEO.

Tesco Bank: 1997 (Bank) 1919 (Retail)
Tesco Foundation Card
= Foundation | 28.9% | £250+

M: 7.5 million (general banking)
P: MasterCard
S: 24/7/365
T: A few weeks
Rel: NA
* Foundation was launched in 2014. It includes 0% on purchases and transfers for 1 month and you can earn Clubcard points. They offer a handful of prime cards.

Vanquis Bank: 2002
Vanquis Visa Card
= Vanquis Visa | 39.9% | £150 to £1000 (£3500)

M: 2.5 million
P: Visa
S: Mon/Fri (8am/8pm), Sat (9am/5.30pm)
T: 10 to 14 days
Rel: Aquis, NEO, Original. Issues Argos, Black Diamond and Granite
* Best rate available through Aquis.


Argos: 1973 (Retail)
Argos Card
Argos (VB) | 39.9% | £150 to £1000 (£3500)
* Was Cheaper at launch, but now matches issuer.

Black Diamond: 2012
Black Diamond Card
Black Diamond (VB) | 59.9% | £150 to £1000 (£3500)
* Domain reg year is noted, but company does date back further.

Granite (2010)
Granite Card
Granite (VB) | 34.9% | £150 to £1000 (£3500)
* Was the first subprime affinity card released.

Littlewoods: 1923 (Retail)
Littlewoods Card
Littlewoods (CO) | 34.9% | £200 to £1500
* £10 bonus for new customers.

Luma (2012)
Luma Card
Luma (CO) | 35.9% | £200 to £1500
* Is the most popular subprime affinity card.

Ocean Finance: 1991 (Broker)
Ocean Card
Ocean (CO) | 34.9% | £200 to £1500
* This new card is already more popular than their loan service.

Very: 2009 (Retail)
Very Card
Very (CO) | 34.9% | £200 to £1500
* £10 bonus for new customers.

Data last updated: December 2015.

Credit Cards for Bad Credit Comparison Insights…

Best Pricing for New Customers…
1) Barclaycard (Initial): 0% (3 months) then 34.9% APR
2) Tesco Bank (Foundation): 0% (1st month) then 28.9% APR
3) Aquis (Aquis): 29.8% APR

Best Pricing for Existing Customers…
1) Aqua (Advance): 19.9% APR (starts at 34.9%)

Best Pricing by Affinity Partner…
1) Littlewoods and Very: 34.9% APR (plus £10 bonus)

Affinity Partnerships: Capital One
Littlewoods, Luma, Ocean Finance and Very are all contracted with this major provider. These brands are the most popular affinity cards available today with Luma leading the charge. Vanquis is the only other provider active through partnerships. Argos has been their key brand, but there is also Granite. Black Domain is now controlled through a broker. Outside of these, VB simply operates through other trading names.

Applications and Support: Tesco
Tesco provides 24/7 support for all. This is made more impressive by the fact that they operate 365 days a year and so you can even reach them even on Christmas Day. The Barclaycard support is available 24/7 for existing customers, but for applications the times are cut back to 8am/11pm. Capital One is another provider accessible 24/7 by those signed up. However, for applicant queries they close over the weekends. Both Aqua and Marbles are worth a shout, in being reachable 7/7 for all.

Eligibility: Aquis Credit Builder
High acceptance is widely promoted by every active lender, but from what is openly shared it is Vanquis who appear most likely to say yes. Their Aquis Credit Builder card would be the most attainable release that is assumed based on the higher interest (49.9%) and the small limit set between £150 and £250. A similar product to this is Aqua’s Start that is priced at 49.9% and again we see similar tight caps between £100 and £300. This option would be less attainable though, since this lender is very funny with CCJs and will turn down anyone with one in the past year. Vanquis themselves consider people with defaults, CCJs and bankruptcy.

Matched eligibility is seen across their affinity partners, but just remember that you can only get a yes from the lender once. To cover the various other market providers, Capital One shows a fair level of leniency. They state that CCJs and defaults are ok. You’ll need some borrowing history and being listed on the Electoral roll is essential. Barclays are a little more strict, although through the Initial they provide plenty of supporting info on topic. Bankruptcy within the past 6 years is not allowed. It’ll actually fall of your report 6 years after being filed anyway (5 years after discharge). They are willing to consider 1 CCJ, but no missed payments must have been made recently.

Aqua Start was mentioned above. For their general products (plus Marbles), bankruptcy in the past 18 months will see a decline that is improved, but you can’t be accepted if there has been a CCJ in the past year. With a troubled background, they may just be able to say yes with their Start. Tesco is one of the newer lenders on the block. They don’t choose to share in what scenarios they’d say no. Just a few basic requirements are listed such as on wage and on having some past borrowing activity. We’d say that Vanquis (as well as their various partners) would deliver the highest acceptance rates.

Experience: Barclaycard
The Barclaycard was the first British credit card launched in 1966 and so there is little surprise that they are one of the world’s most recognisable credit card brands. It is not clear how many years Initial has been around for. This is the single subprime product that Barclays has ever offered. Capital One was established in 1988 and they arrived in the UK in 1996. Their Classic card has been around for a considerable time now and so they’d likely command the most experience in serving those with poor credit. Tesco have been providing financial services since 1997, but their Foundation option arrived in 2014. Aqua and Vanquis each launched in 2002.

Customer Base: Capital One
Capital One has notched up more than 40 million customers worldwide. They state that 4 million users have their Classic credit card and so they’ll likely be commanding the most subprime market share. Barclaycard has 36 million members worldwide with most you’d assume being located in the UK. The bulk will however be using one of their Platinum cards with Initial likely making up just a few million. Vanquis have signed up 2.5 million users. Tesco does have 7.5 million banking users, but through their new Foundation card it is unlikely that they have yet surpassed 1 million.

Limits for New Customers: All Capital One Brands
The new customer cap is set at £1500 (this is also the maximum potential limit). This same amount can also be received across their partners including Littlewoods, Luma, Ocean and Very. Tesco starts at £250, but for their maximum sum they just note that this is subject to status.

Limits for Existing Customers: All Vanquis Brands
Across the Vanquis network you can access as much as £3500 over time. This is one of their key features since non of their rivals come close to this. The next highest option is £1500 that is less than half. You would really expect more lenders to be stretching above £2000.

New Deals (Introductory Rates): Barclaycard
Through the Initial you receive 0% on purchases for 3 months. Once this deal comes to an end you are then rewarded with £20 cashback. The only other provider that extends to 0% is Tesco who do this both on purchases and transfers although this is only for 1 month. A small added benefit there is the opportunity to earn through Clubcard points.

New Deals (Loyalty Cashback): Aqua
Aqua’s Reward product issues 0.5% cashback and through this they’ll hand you as much as £100 each year. Most customers won’t get close to this though as a £20,000 annual spend would be required.

Credit Cards for Bad Credit Comparison Summary

There isn’t a significant gulf between any of the lenders competing in this niche. Whether you head to a direct provider or an affinity partner you will be provided with account servicing and there are usually apps available to download. The limits may be higher with select lenders, but there is no guarantee that you’ll be started on a high amount. They may just cap cards at just a few hundred pounds. Capital One and Vanquis have been fighting aggressively over the years in this sector and there is no doubt that Aqua are a rising force and their range provides plenty of choice. Barclays and Tesco are interesting entries in the space.

Both are making waves in prime lending with excellent introductory deals, but subprime is unfamiliar territory for the pair. It is however good to see that the Barclaycard Initial delivers 0% for the opening 3 months on purchases, although their rate then jumps up considerably. Tesco delivers the lowest standard rate at 28.9% and their 24/7/365 support is commendable. Aqua’s Advance is another good pick that can drop to 19.9%. Their cashback card (Reward) also provides top value to those that are likely to use their card for many purchases. We’d however recommend using cards like this sparingly since the interest can rack up if you aren’t paying off your balances frequently.

If you are planning on fixing your finances, it is a good idea to check for any debts to clean up and to also get a current score. This can be done for free with Noddle (by CallCredit). For more detailed reporting, Experian’s CreditExpert is the best solution since most lenders use Experian who are the UK’s biggest CRA. You can use their service on a free trial, but just remember to cancel it in time. As a final note, the rates headlined by the providers are always variable. When you do look at their terms page you’ll typically see 3 varied rates that could be issued, but they always display their most competitive deal.