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What's new in credit cards for April 2021

After months of Australian cardholders’ chipping away at their debt, Australia’s credit card debt increased to $20.03 billion, according to the latest Reserve Bank of Australia figures for February 2021.

The news comes as the federal government faces mounting pressure to better regulate credit card interest rates, with Victorian Treasurer, Tim Pallas, calling current limits “unconscionable”.

Ideally, credit card interest rates would instead sit within a maximum margin of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s cash rate, which currently sits at a record-low of 0.10 per cent.

The current average Australian credit card rate is 17.30 per cent. RateCity research found that if the average credit card rate were 10 per cent instead, Australia’s credit card debt may have been $122 million less in February 2021, and $1.53 billion less over the last year.

For Aussies struggling with too-high credit card bills, the time is now to get on top of that debt. There are a few options available, so it’s worth doing your research, adjusting your budget and paying down your debt before it becomes untenable.

Updated by Alex Ritchie on April 12, 2021

Credit cards vary wildly, and depending on what you want a credit card for, you may find one suits you better than others. Whether you’re a traveller, rewards points chaser, or big spender, it pays to do your research around which credit card could be right for you. 

What is a credit card?

Credit cards are a piece of plastic (like a debit card) issued by financial institutions that give the cardholder access to a line of credit for purchases. The amount of credit you have access to is called your credit limit, and you may be charged interest on any outstanding purchases made. 

Credit cards can be a helpful financial tool that allow you to make purchases when you don’t immediately have the funds. But they can also be risky if used incorrectly, and lead to credit card debt. 

Do I need a credit card?

Whether you need a credit card or not is determined by how you plan on using the card and your personal financial situation. There are a variety of credit card types with different benefits, such as travel cards with complimentary insurances, which can make life easier for the cardholder. But if you cannot afford to pay your balance off in full each statement period you may begin to accrue interest on your card. This means that if you are not in a financially stable place, or are prone to paying your bills late, a credit card may not suit you. 

Which credit card will suit me?

There’s no one-size-fits-all credit card. To know which credit card may suit you, you’ll need to look at your credit card spending profile. 

There are four main credit card spending profiles:

  • The habitual spender
  • The impulse/occasional spender
  • The everyday spender
  • The big spender

Take a look at your income, expenses and spending habits. Compare this to the different spending profiles in our Credit Card Guide, and also take into account how you want to use your credit card (to build rewards points, for overseas spending etc.). Then, using credit card comparison tools, you may be able to narrow down your search to find a credit card that suits you. 

Can anyone get a credit card?

No, not everyone will be approved for every credit card. It is easier to be approved for a credit card than some other forms of finance, like a home loan, as you don’t need to offer up a deposit to be approved. But you will need to meet credit card eligibility criteria, such as:

  • Being an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • 18 years old or over
  • No history of bankruptcy
  • Meet minimum income requirements (can range from $10,000 to $1000,000 and higher for platinum and above cards)
  • Good credit rating

Credit card providers will assess your eligibility at different scales, depending on the type of card you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a Titanium credit card and you don’t meet the minimum income required, your application is more likely to be rejected.

When applying for a credit card, you’ll need to provide the following:

  • Proof of income: salaries or wages
  • Proof of employment: two or more recent payslips
  • Photo ID (driver’s license, proof of age card or passport)
  • Additional assets and income (such as a savings account or managed investments)
  • Credit history
  • Tax file number
  • Details of any existing loans, such as personal loans, a lease or other credit cards
  • Recent tax returns, particularly if you’re self-employed

How much do I have to pay on my credit card?

All credit cards have minimum repayment requirements. These are usually a percentage of your total balance (2 - 3.5 per cent) due each statement period, but can be a dollar figure - usually around $20. It’s highly encouraged that you make more than the minimum repayment requirements, however, or it can take you years to pay off an outstanding balance.

For example, Mark has an outstanding credit card balance of $10,000 at an interest rate of 18 per cent. His card has a minimum repayment amount of $20 or 2 per cent (whichever is higher). If he only made minimum repayments to this debt, it would take him 43 years and 11 months to pay off his balance. However, if he made higher monthly repayments of $400, it would only take 2 years and 7 months to pay off his balance.

What type of credit cards can you find?

There's no shortage of cards to include in your credit card comparison. Your credit card choice will ultimately depend on what you want to use your card for, your financial situation, and the perks you may receive whenever you do. Whether you're a first-time cardholder or just shopping around for a new credit card, there are a range of credit card types available in Australia. Some of the most popular include:

Low rate credit cards

As the name implies, low rate credit cards are credit cards that come with competitive, low interest rates. They are able to keep rates down by not offering perks like rewards programs or high credit limits. If you’re looking for a no-frills option that’s theoretically easier to manage, consider a low rate credit card.

Keep an eye out for what rate the ‘low’ label applies for. A low rate credit card may have a low purchase rate, for example, but a higher than average cash advance rate. Make sure you read the key fact sheets for any credit card you may be interested in.

Low fee credit cards

Similar to low rate cards in that they’re designed to keep costs down, low fee cards often do not charge cardholders an annual fee, or may charge very few fees. Annual fees can range between $25 - $1,200, depending on the type of card. If you’re the type of cardholder who always pays their balance in full by the due date and never accrues interest, an annual fee may be the biggest cost you face. This is why it may be helpful to avoid paying an annual fee altogether.

Platinum credit cards

Unlike low rate credit cards, platinum cards are aimed towards Australians looking for high credit limits and extensive rewards programs. These premium cards can come with higher interest rates and annual fees. However, the idea is that those taking out a platinum credit card can afford these costs as they’re marketed towards those with higher incomes.

Balance transfer cards

If you have existing credit card debt, balance transfer cards can be a helpful debt management tool. This is where you transfer your existing credit card debt to a new credit provider, and your balance will be charged a balance transfer rate of zero per cent interest for a set period of time. This time frame is usually referred to as the balance transfer offer. This means you can concentrate on clearing your debt without being charged more interest on top of it.

The new card provider may charge a balance transfer fee. This is typically a percentage of the total balance you are transferring. Balance transfer fees can be a common occurrence, and worth factoring into your budget before applying.

Just remember that you’ll still be charged interest on new purchases, often straight away, without the benefit of interest-free days. If you get a balance transfer card, it’s advised that you put it in the freezer and focus on paying off your debt.

Rewards credit cards

Rewards credit cards are those that are attached to rewards programs. The dollars you spend on eligible purchases could earn you rewards points. Credit card providers may allow you to exchange these points earned on eligible purchases through the rewards programs for things like gift cards, home goods and electronics. They can also carry perks such as concierge services, VIP seating for events, airport lounge access and more.

You may also be able to earn bonus points upon signing up to a credit card. This is done to entice new customers to join with a card provider. A bonus points offering may be thousands, even hundreds of thousands of rewards points with your card provider's rewards program. To learn more about the rewards program spend criteria and eligibility, it's worth reading the card provider's product disclosure statement.

If you plan on using your credit card regularly, they can be a competitive choice. Consider how you plan to use your card and how closely this matches with the card’s rewards program. For example, if you regularly use your credit card at a local supermarket, you may want to consider a credit card that lets you earn points that can be redeemed at these shops.

Frequent flyer cards

One of the most popular types of rewards credit cards are those that offer frequent flyer points. It works similarly to rewards points, but you earn frequent flyer points instead based on the amount you spend on eligible purchases. They can be spent on flights or upgrade with major airlines. If you make regular plane trips for work or to visit family, or if you love to travel, this card type may suit you. They can also carry perks such as concierge services and airport lounge passes, as well as complimentary insurance, like travel insurance and car rental insurance.

Similar to rewards credit cards, you may also be able to earn up to hundreds of thousands of bonus reward points when signing up to a frequent flyer credit card. The type of points will depend on the frequent flyer program attached to the card. For example, Qantas rewards will offer bonus Qantas frequent flyer points.

Travel cards

For avid adventurers, there are credit cards designed with overseas travel and overseas spending in mind. Travel credit cards may carry some of the same perks as frequent flyer cards, such as complimentary insurance. They also typically come with no or low foreign transaction fees, such as foreign ATM withdrawal fees and currency conversion fees. They may also allow you to hold multiple currencies on your credit card.

What to look for in a credit card

Here are a few things to consider when shopping around for a credit card:

  • Credit card purpose: how do you plan on using your credit card? For everyday shopping or major purchases only? For buying overseas or travel? To transfer an existing balance? Narrow down your purpose so you can compare apples with apples.
  • Interest rates: credit cards can charge different rates for purchases, cash advances and balance transfers. Also, keep an eye out for introductory, promotional, or “honeymoon” rates that revert to a higher one after a period of time. Knowing what rates you may be charged before applying can keep you from growing debt.
  • Interest-free periods: the number of days you have to pay back your purchases before you’re charged credit card interest. The higher number of days, the more breathing room to make repayments. A typical interest-free period is around 44 days.
  • Rewards programs and extras: rewards card programs let you earn points on your everyday spending that can be exchanged for goods, transferred into frequent flyer points or may come in the form of cashback deals. Some credit cards also offer extras such as international travel insurance and purchase protection insurance. However, some extras may be as simple as not charging a fee for supplementary cards for additional cardholders. These programs and extras typically incur higher annual fees.
  • Card fees and charges: are there any extra costs, such as annual fees, foreign transaction fees, cash advance fees or charges for overseas purchases? Consider whether the credit card’s benefits would likely be worth these costs.
  • Credit card type: There are three main credit card types- Visa, MasterCard and American Express (AMEX). Visa and MasterCard are quite similar in that they are just payment processing systems, so they cannot issue cards directly to customers. Whereas AMEX is both a payment processing system and can issue its own cards. When making payments, Visa and MasterCard typically carry lower card fees than AMEX.

How do you compare credit cards?

Now you know the type of card you want, and the extras to keep an eye out for, it’s time to narrow down your options. The best way to compare credit cards is to do your research and use comparison tables.

Comparison tables are a helpful way to compare things equally, side by side. You can view a range of credit card options in a table that outlines some of the more significant costs and features. These include the purchase rate, annual fees, maximum interest free days and late payment fees. Filter down your options to create a short list of credit cards.

Once you’ve made a short list, it’s worth checking out the product disclosure statement for those cards. These are kept on the credit card provider's website. They offer more detail on the cards you’re interested in, such as a break down of all card fees and interest rates.

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Frequently asked questions

Can a pensioner get a credit card?

It is possible to get a credit card as a pensioner. There are some factors to keep in mind, including:

  • Annual income. Look for credit cards with minimum annual income requirements you can meet. 
  • Annual fees. If high fees are a concern for you, opt for a card with a low or $0 annual fee. 
  • Interest rate. Make sure you won’t have any nasty surprises on your credit card bill. Compare cards with a low interest rates to minimise risk.

How easy is it to get a credit card?

For most Australians, there are no great barriers to applying for and getting approved for a credit card. Here are some points that a lender will consider when assessing your credit card application.

Credit score: A bad credit score is not the be all and end all of your application, but it may stop you being approved for a higher credit limit. If your credit score is less than perfect, apply for the credit limit that you need, rather than the one you want.

Annual income: Most credit cards have minimum annual income requirements. Make sure you’re applying for a card where you meet the minimum.

Age & residency: You need to be at least 18 years old to apply for a credit card in Australia, and most require that you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident. However, there are some credit cards available to temporary residents.

What is a balance transfer credit card?

A balance transfer credit card lets you transfer your debt balance from one credit card to another. A balance transfer credit card generally has a 0 per cent interest rate for a set period of time. When you roll your debt balance over to a new credit card, you’ll be able to take advantage of the interest-free period to pay your credit card debt off faster without accruing additional interest charges. If your application is approved, the provider will pay out your old credit card and transfer your debt balance over to the new card. 

How do you use credit cards?

A credit card can be an easy way to make purchases online, in person or over the phone. When used properly, a credit card can even help you manage your cash flow. But before applying for a credit card, it’s good to know how they work. A credit card is essentially a personal line of credit which lets you buy things and pay for them later. As a card holder, you’ll be given a credit limit and (potentially) charged interest on the money the bank lends you. At the end of each billing period, the bank will send you a statement which shows your outstanding balance and the minimum amount you need to pay back. If you don’t pay back the full balance amount, the bank will begin charging you interest.

What should I do if my ANZ credit card has expired?

Your ANZ credit card is considered expired only after the last day of the month and year marked on your card. For instance, if your card’s expiry date reads 03/22, it is valid until 31 March 2022 and expires on 1 April 2022. Typically, you should have received a new credit card by that date, and you won’t have to request a new card. 

Once you get the new card, you should remember to switch any automatic payments you have - such as a utility or mobile phone bill - from your expired credit card to your new credit card. Equally, if you are using CardPay Direct to repay your ANZ credit card debt, you may need to update the credit card account details for that service as well. 

In case the new card doesn’t arrive by the expiry date of your current credit card, you can call ANZ on 13 22 73 to find out the reason and if you need to request an expedited card. Please note that if you were planning to close your credit card account or request a credit card upgrade, you may need to call ANZ at least before the 25th of the month your current credit card expires in, as that’s when they may send you the new credit card.

Can I transfer money from my American Express credit card to my bank account?

If you’re an American Express credit card customer, you may not be able to transfer money from your credit card to your bank account. However, you may be eligible for cash advances, which involves withdrawing money through an ATM. 

To qualify for a cash advance, you’ll likely have to enrol for American Express Membership Rewards. Consider checking your online credit card account to see if you can withdraw a cash advance and, if so, the fees and charges you’ll incur for this transaction. 

You should remember that cash advances are different from balance transfers, which were available with some American Express credit cards earlier. Balance transfers allow customers to consolidate debt from high-interest credit cards to a credit card offering a lower interest rate. If you only recently applied for an American Express credit card, balance transfers may not be available irrespective of the card you own. 

What should you do if your credit card is compromised?

Credit card fraud is a serious problem. If your credit card is compromised and you’re wondering what to do, here are a few precautionary steps to take.

Contact you credit provider – Get in touch will your credit card provider. If you feel your card has been compromised, you should be able to lock or block it.

Monitor your accounts – Keep an eye on your credit card accounts. Any unauthorised transactions could be a sign your credit card has been compromised.

Check your credit rating – It’s also important to check your credit rating, to ensure you’re not a victim of identity theft or some other financial mischief.

Should I get a credit card?

Once you've compared credit card interest rates and deals and found the right card for you, the actual process of getting a credit card is quite straightforward. You can apply for a credit card online, over the phone or in person at a bank branch. 

Does ING increase credit card limits?

You may want to increase your credit card limit for many reasons, such as having access to more spending money. However, if you are using the Orange One credit card issued by ING, you may not be able to do so. 

ING customers can choose a credit limit of their preference when applying for the Orange One credit card. Depending on your financial situation, this limit can be anywhere between $1,000 and $30,000. If you qualify for a Rewards Platinum card, the minimum credit card limit will likely be $6,000. 

Ideally, you should set your credit card limit knowing how much you can afford to repay each month and keep your expenses lower than this level. With most credit cards, you should have the option of requesting a credit card limit increase at a later time, although you will need to qualify for any increase. With an ING credit card, limit increases are out of the question (at the time this was published), which means you may want to apply for a higher credit card limit from the beginning. Remember that you have the option of decreasing your ING credit card limit at a later time.

What should you do when you lose your credit card?

Losing your credit card is a serious situation, and could land you in financial trouble. Here is a simple guide detailing what to do when you lose your credit card.

Lock you card – Contact your provider and inform them about your lost credit card. From here lock, block or cancel your card.

Keep track of transactions – Look out for unauthorised credit card transactions. Most banks protect against fraudulent transactions.

Address recurring charges – If your card is linked to recurring charges (gym membership, rent, utilities), contact those businesses.

Check credit rate – To ensure you’re not the victim of identity theft, check your credit rating a month or two after you lose your credit card.

How do you use a credit card?

Credit cards are a quick and convenient way to pay for items in store, online or over the phone. You can use a credit card as a cashless way to pay for goods or services, both locally and overseas. You can also use a credit card to make a cash advance, which gives you the flexibility to withdraw cash from your credit card account. Because a credit card uses the bank’s funds instead of your own, you will be charged interest on the money you spend – unless you pay off the entire debt within the interest-free period. If you pay the minimum monthly repayment, you will be charged interest. There are many different credit card options on the market, all offering different interest rates and reward options.

How to get a credit card for the first time

A credit card can be a useful financial tool, provided you understand the risks and can meet repayment obligations.

If you’re a credit card first-timer, review your options. Think about what kind of credit card would suit your lifestyle, and compare providers by fees, perks and repayments.

Once you’ve selected a card, it’s time to apply. Credit card applications can generally be completed in store, online or over the phone.

When you apply for a credit card for the first time, you must meet age, residency and income requirements. As proof, you must also provide documentation such as bank account statements.

How do you apply for a credit card?

You can apply for a credit card online, over the phone or in person at the bank. Once you’ve compared the current credit card offers, the application process is quick and easy. Before you get your application started, you’ll need to gather your personal information like proof of ID, payslips and bank statements, proof of employment and details of your income, assets and liabilities. To be eligible for a credit card, you’ll need to be an Australian citizen over 18 and earn a minimum of $15,000 each year. Once you’ve applied for a credit card, you should get a response fairly instantly. If your credit card application has been approved, you should receive a welcome pack with your new credit card within 10-15 days.

How do you cancel a credit card?

It’s important to cancel your old cards to avoid any additional fees. Unless you’re doing a balance transfer, you’ll need to pay the outstanding balance before you cancel your credit card. If you’ve opted for a card with reward points, make sure you redeem or transfer the points before you close your account. To avoid any bounced payments and save yourself an admin headache, redirect all your direct debits to a new card or account. Once you’ve done all the preparation, call your bank or credit card provider to get the cancellation underway. Once you receive a confirmation letter, destroy your card and make sure the numbers aren’t legible.

How do I apply for a BOQ credit card limit increase?

If you’re an existing BOQ customer, you can request a BOQ credit card limit increase over a phone call. However, you should remember that owning and using a credit card is a matter of financial responsibility, so it might be worth thinking this decision through. 

When requesting a credit card limit increase, you’ll need to be just as responsible in terms of how much you earn and can set aside to repay the outstanding card balance. A credit card company may approve a credit limit increase only if you can show that you have either the income or the disposable income, which is the amount you have left after all expenses have been paid out.

For this purpose, you may need to submit your latest income documents and bank statements for an increase. You may want to estimate how much you usually have left after deducting your expenses, and then use this amount to try and convince the credit card company. Also, you may prefer to pay off the card balance in full each month and thus avoid paying interest on the card, helping you back up any claims of financial responsibility, as well. 

Remember that you may not be able to apply for a credit card limit increase beyond any limitations on the type of card you own. For instance, if you own a card whose ceiling is $10,000, and your current limit is $5,000, you won't likely be able to apply for a $10,000 credit card limit increase.

Which credit card has the highest annual percentage rate?

The credit card market changes all the time, so the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate is also liable to change.

Keep in mind that credit card interest rates are expressed as a yearly rate, or annual percentage rate (APR). A low APR is generally good but also consider:

  • There can be different APR's for each feature of the card (e.g. purchases may have an APR of 14 per cent, while cash advances on same card could have an APR of 17 per cent.
  • Credit cards with a variable rate can change throughout the year, affecting your APR, so check the full details.
  • If you pay your balance in full every month, having the lowest APR is not as important as the other fees associated with the card. However, if you carry a balance from month to month, then you want the lowest APR possible.

What does ANZ credit card insurance cover?

ANZ offers complimentary insurance on some of its credit cards, which can provide some protection against unforeseeable incidents, like the theft of your card. Depending on the type of credit card you own, you may be eligible for different insurances. For instance, most ANZ credit card customers may qualify for Purchase Protection Insurance and Extended Warranty Insurance. Customers who own premium credit cards may also be eligible for Guaranteed Pricing, Rental Vehicle Excess, International Travel, and so on.

Consider checking your ANZ credit card insurance features listed in the Insurance Policy Information booklet to know which items are covered. Also, while ANZ issued the credit card, they are not the insurer. For this reason, you may need to send your insurance claims - and get your ANZ credit card insurance refund - to the insurance provider.

How to pay a credit card

There are a few ways to pay a credit card bill. These include:

  • BPAY - allows you to safely make credit card payments online.
  • Direct debits - set up an automatic payment from your bank account to pay your credit card bill each month. You can choose how much you want to pay of your credit card bill when you set up the auto payments.
  • In a branch.
  • Via your credit card provider's app.

What's the best credit card for rewards?

There is no one-size-fits-all best rewards credit card. It's best you research what type of rewards program you'd like, as well as the fees, interest rate and conditions associated with those types of cards before making a choice. 

Rewards credit cards can also come with high annual fees that may end up nullifying the rewards, so think how often you use the card to decide whether the benefits outweigh the extra cost for you. A card with a lower annual fee might require a lot of spending to get any useful rewards, while another card with a higher annual fee might need fewer purchases to get a reward. 

How can I increase my Bankwest credit card limit?

When you apply for a Bankwest credit card, you get assigned a pre-set credit limit, which will end up being the most that you can spend on your credit card before having to pay it off. Your credit limit is chosen for you and your current financial situation, and you should remember not to overspend, irrespective of the limit, in order to avoid racking up a massive bill.

However, banks and lenders understand that your needs will change, and have made it possible for you to increase your credit card limit, allowing you to get extra cash when you need it most. Moreover, with a higher spending limit, you may be able to get access to certain perks and benefits with your Bankwest credit card.

To increase your Bankwest credit card limit, you can visit any of the bank’s branches or call 13 17 19 and follow the steps outlined.