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What's new in credit cards for September 2021

Buy now, pay later platforms have taken the world by storm and recently more and more financial institutions have thrown their hat in the ring. Citi Australia is the latest to offer customers buy now, pay later (BNPL) technology, with its product, Spot, due for release in October anywhere Mastercard is accepted.

If you’re a fan of BNPL platforms, or if you’re considering jumping on the bandwagon, it’s crucial that you compare your options. Read the terms and conditions attached to any BNPL platform so you’re aware of potential fees being charged. And consider setting spending limits or item purchase limits, so you’re not tempted to start accruing debt.

And speaking of debt, is your overdue credit card balance hanging around like a bad smell? You’re not alone, with the latest RBA figures showing credit card debt accruing interest is hovering around $20 billion for the tenth month in a row. In fact, RBA figures show there was a slight increase of 0.5 per cent month-on-month in May.

To help you find a more competitive credit card option and potentially pay off your balance once and for all, RateCity has compiled a list of balance-transfer credit cards with longer interest-free periods:

Updated by Alex Ritchie on September 3, 2021

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. 

They can be used for everyday purchases, such as your morning coffee, or big-ticket items, such as a new appliance. There is no limit on what you can spend on, only a limit for how much you can spend.

Credit cards vary wildly and, depending on what you want a credit card for, you may find one suits you better than another. 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.

Which credit card will suit me?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to credit cards. There are a range of different types of credit cards that may better suit various customers, depending on your financial situation and goals. 

To know which credit card may suit you, you’ll need to look at your credit card Spending Profile. 

There are four credit card Spending Profiles:

  1. The habitual spender
  2. The impulse/occasional spender
  3. The everyday spender
  4. The big spender

Look at your income, expenses, and spending habits. Compare this to the different Spending Profiles in our Credit Card Guide and take into account how you want to use your credit card (to build rewards points, for overseas spending etc.). 

The pros and cons of credit cards

Credit cards can be a helpful financial tool for cardholders, but they can also be an easy way to accrue debt or hurt your credit score if you’re not careful. It is important that those looking to take out a new or additional credit card are aware of the benefits and disadvantages of this financial product before applying.

Benefits of a credit card:

  • Access to credit. One of the biggest benefits of a credit card is that they offer cardholders access to credit. Whether it’s to pay for a holiday, to purchase new appliances, or to keep just in case of an emergency, credit cards offer cardholders the ability to borrow funds they otherwise wouldn’t have. Credit limits differ for each cardholder depending on the provider and the cardholder's personal financial situation.
  • Rewards and perks. Some credit cards offer more than credit to cardholders. Additional benefits may up for grabs from some card issuers, including rewards programs, frequent flyer programs, shopping rewards, cashback offers and complimentary insurances, including domestic and international travel insurance, as well as rental vehicle excess insurance.
  • Interest-free windows. Credit cards may offer two types of interest-free windows: interest-free days and interest-free periods. Interest-free days (generally 44-55 days) let cardholders have time to pay off their latest statement before they begin to accrue interest. There are also zero per cent purchase cards, as well as balance transfer credit cards, which offer longer interest-free periods (generally six months to two years). These may be used to make one-off purchases, which are then repaid without accruing interest, or used as debt repayment tools.
  • Boost your credit score. Making regular repayments on a credit card and paying your balance in full each statement period is one option cardholders have to boost their credit score.

Risks of a credit card:

  • Easy to grow debt. Due to the nature of credit cards, cardholders who struggle to pay their balance in full each statement period will find themselves quickly accruing interest. As interest grows on outstanding balances, so too does the level of debt. Cardholders who may easily fall into this debt trap could look for low rate and low fee credit card options instead.
  • Hurt your credit history. Making multiple credit card applications at once, or having one or more outstanding credit card debts, can hurt a cardholders’ credit history. Cardholders run the risk of defaulting on their credit card, or more serious credit infringements, due to multiple late payments.
  • Stung with fees. Credit cards charge a range of fees, from annual fees to foreign transaction fees. Over time, these additional costs can begin to add up, even if a cardholder has opted for a lower rate credit card.

Should I get a credit card?

Whether or not you take out a credit card is a personal decision, and not one to be made lightly. As credit cards are easy to misuse, even the most diligent cardholder can quickly begin accruing debt if they can’t pay their balance in time and have a high interest rate.  

It may be 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 credit cards may come with some of the highest interest rates on the market, climbing into the high teens. Whereas a home loan may charge a rate starting with a 3 or below.

An unsecured personal loan may charge a comparable interest rate to a credit card, however a personal loan has a set repayment structure in place to help ensure your debt is repaid over the loan term. So, while a credit card may be easier to be approved for than a home loan or personal loan, the ability to see you accrue debt is higher.

It’s worth keeping in mind that you will need to meet credit card eligibility criteria to be approved, 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

How do you pay off a credit card?


Your credit card will have a minimum repayment requirement for you to pay each statement period – typically $20 or 2% of the outstanding balance.

However, if you only paid the minimum repayments on your credit card, you may turn a $10,000 debt with a 15% interest rate, for example, into a $25,095 debt that may take 31 years and 3 months to repay.(Source: ASIC MoneySmart Calculator, figures do not factor in fees).

Instead, if you want to keep on top of your payments, it may be worth repaying your full balance by the end of each statement period. This will prevent any interest charges from occurring and keep you accountable to your spending.

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.

Some of the most popular credit card types include:

Credit card typeAbout
Low-rate credit cardsCredit cards that come with competitive, low purchase rates (typically 10% or below). Card issuers may 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.

A low-rate credit card may have a low purchase rate but carry a higher-than-average cash advance rate. Make sure you read the key fact sheets around what rate is “low” before you apply.

Low fee credit cardsLow fee cards typically 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, so opting for a card that waives it may be cost-effective.
Platinum credit cardsAimed towards Australians looking for high credit limits and extensive rewards programs. Premium cards may 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 cardsIf 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 on to a new credit card, where your balance will be charged at zero per cent interest for a set period. This time frame is usually referred to as the balance transfer offer. Balance transfer cards may help you 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 and it’s 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 cardsCredit cards 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 earn bonus points on card sign-up. A bonus points offering may be thousands, even hundreds of thousands of rewards points with your card provider's rewards program.

Frequent flyer cardsOne of the most popular types of credit cards, 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 and upgrade with major airlines, and may come with perks like concierge services and airport lounge passes, as well as complimentary insurance, like travel insurance and car rental insurance.

Like rewards credit cards, you may also be able to earn up to hundreds of thousands of bonus points on card sign up. The airline points will depend on the frequent flyer program attached to the card. For example, Qantas rewards will offer bonus Qantas frequent flyer points.

Travel cardsCredit 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 other options are there instead of credit cards?

There are financial product alternatives available for those looking to make purchases but who may have the funds right now. Keep in mind that all financial products come with their own risks and benefits, and it’s important to do your own research before applying.

Personal loans

A personal loan allows borrowers access to a specific amount of funds (typically between $5,000 and $50,000), to be repaid over a set loan term (typically 1-7 years). Unlike a credit card which offers you access to credit over an extended period, a personal loan must be repaid over the loan term at risk of credit infringement.

Personal loans may come with higher ongoing repayments than a credit card, as the minimum credit card repayment may be $20 or 2% of your card balance. However, secured personal loans typically charge lower interest rates than credit cards on average. The average credit card rate has sat around 16% for decades, whereas secured personal loan interest rates may sit around 8-10%.

Buy now, pay later

Another alternative that is growing in popularity is Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) platforms, such as Afterpay or Zip Pay. Interest in BNPL platforms has actually increased in response to some of the negatives associated with credit cards, like high interest rates. BNPL platforms allow you access to credit but typically do not charge interest on purchases made. Instead, repayments are broken up into small instalments and repaid typically each fortnight. You typically won’t be charged an interest rate, but you may be charged a card account-keeping fee or a late payment fee.

Line of credit

Like a credit card, a line of credit involves a lender providing you access to credit with interest only charged on the amount you spend. There are two main types: unsecured line of credit and a home equity loan.

An unsecured line of credit may be used as an alternative to a personal loan or car loan, as you can access funds greater than a standard credit card limit (usually between $5,000 to $100,000).

You only spend what you need and are charged interest on what you spend, instead of being charged ongoing repayments for a full personal loan amount. This may be more economical for funding an ongoing project, such as home renovations, for example.

A home equity loan allows you to draw down ono the equity in your home, typically for purposes like renovations, medical bills, urgent repairs and more.

What to look for in a credit card

Here are key factors to consider when shopping around for your best credit card:

  • Credit card purpose: How do you plan on using your credit card? For example, is it for everyday shopping or major purchases only, buying overseas or travel, or transferring an existing balance? You may need access to credit for work and be better off comparing business credit cards. Identify your card 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 rate after a set period (typically the first year). Knowing what rates you may be charged before applying can keep you from accruing debt.
  • Interest-free periods: The number of days allocated to pay your credit card balance before you’re charged the purchase rate. 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 like 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 to apply for a credit card

When applying for a credit card, the card issuer will need to assess your personal financial situation, budget, and credit history to determine if you can safely manage the risks associated with said card.

To do this, 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

It's worth taking stock of the card issuer's eligibility criteria, T&Cs and product disclosure statement before you apply. You’ll want to meet all requirements, such as minimum income thresholds, to boost your chances of card approval.

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.

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.

Choose your Spending Profile

Firstly, using the information above and in the Credit Card Guide, you’ll want to choose your Spending Profile. This may help to point you in the right direction of which type of credit card may best suit your financial situation and budget. Whether you’re a habitual spending, impulse spender, everyday spender or a big spender, there is a credit card out there that may suit your needs.

Comparison tables

Comparison tables are a helpful way to compare things equally, side by side. 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 days interest free 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 breakdown of all card fees and interest rates.

Popular credit cards

Frequently asked questions

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

Do you need a credit card to get a loan?

You do not need a credit card to get a loan, but you usually need to have a credit history. Without a credit history, a financial institution cannot assess your ‘credit worthiness’, or your capacity to pay off the loan.

If you don’t have a credit card, your credit history can reflect any record of paying off an asset. Without any credit credit history, you’re limited in the type of loans you can apply for. But you may be able to obtain a secured loan against an asset. For more information on improving your credit score, go here

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 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 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 to get a free credit card

There's no such thing as a free lunch. All credit cards come with associated costs when used to make purchases, even if it’s simply the cost of making repayments.

However, many lenders offer incentives for customers such as a $0 annual fee or 0 per cent interest on purchases during an introductory period. Additionally, paying off your balance in full during an interest-free period means you could only have to pay back the cost of purchases without interest. You could also be eligible for additional rewards such as cashback during that time, saving you more money.

Where can I get a credit card?

Looking to get your first credit card? You might be confused as to exactly where to go to apply for one. Here’s where to go when you are ready to put in that application.

The bank: Your bank is a great place to start, provided that you have a good banking history. Since you already have a financial history, you have more chance of your application being approved.

Credit card provider: Another option is to apply for a credit card directly from the issuer, such as Visa, Mastercard or Amex. This will most likely be an online application, so do your research and apply for a suitable card for your circumstances.

Major retailers: Coles, Woolworths, Myer and David Jones all have credit cards available. But watch out for the interest rate and annual fees – these cards are designed to help you spend more in store.

How do credit cards work?

Think of credit cards as a short-term loan where you use the bank’s money to buy something up front and then pay for it later. Unlike a debit card which uses your own money to pay, a credit card essentially borrows the bank’s money to fund the purchase. When you apply for a credit card, the bank assesses your income and assigns you a credit limit based on what you can afford to pay back. At the end of each billing cycle, which is usually monthly, the bank will send you a statement showing the minimum amount you have to pay back, including any interest payable on the balance.

How to get money from a credit card

You can get money from a credit card, but generally it will cost you.

Withdrawing money from a credit card is called a cash advance, as it operates more as a loan than a simple cash withdrawal. Because it is a loan, you may be charged interest on your cash advance as soon as you make the withdrawal. Interest rates are also usually much higher for cash advances than standard credit card purchases.

In addition to the interest rate, you may also be charged a cash advance fee. This could be a flat rate, or a percentage of your total cash advance. If you are considering a cash advance, make sure to add up how much it will cost you before committing.

What is CVV on a credit card?

CVV stands for ‘card verification value’, and is also sometimes referred to as a CVC or card verification code.

A CVV code is usually needed when the card is used online or over the phone as an anti-fraud measure. Without the cardholder being physically present to sign or verify the purchase, the CVV provides an extra layer of protection. 

If you’re using Mastercard or Visa, the CVV is the three digits located on the back of the card. If you’re using an American Express, the CVV is usually four digits and is on the front of the card.

How long does it take to get a credit card?

There are a few stages you need to go through to get a credit card; each one takes a different length of time.

Applying for the card online, over the phone or in person is the fastest step. This usually takes around 15 minutes, provided you have all of your documents handy.

After submitting your application, it usually takes between one to 10 business days for the lender to assess your eligibility. Some lenders offer instant approval, although you will need to send supporting documents before it is official.

Once your application has been approved, expect to wait between one to 14 days to receive your card in the mail. Keep in mind that delays can happen during busy periods, such as if the lender has launched a special deal.

What is a credit card?

A credit card is a payment method which lets you pay for goods and services without using your own money. It’s essentially a short-term loan which lets you borrow the bank’s money to pay for things which you can pay back – potentially with interest – at a later date. Credit cards can also be used to withdraw money from an ATM, which is known as a cash advance. Because you’re borrowing money from a bank, credit cards charge you interest on the money you use (unless you repay the entire debt during the interest-free period). When you apply for a credit card, the bank gives you a credit limit which sets the maximum amount you can borrow using your card. Credit cards are one of the most popular methods of payments and can be a convenient way of paying for goods and services in store, online and all around the globe.

How to get a new credit card

To get a new credit card, generally you need to be at least 18 years old and have a good credit rating. You don’t need to be an Australian citizen. Usually you can apply online or in person at a branch of the card issuer. You’ll typically have to supply information like:

  • Your income and living costs (e.g. rent/mortgage, loan repayments, living expenses)
  • Your employer’s contact details
  • Details of your assets and any debts you are paying off

How to get cash with just a credit card number

Banks and merchants usually will not allow you to access cash without a physical card, because doing so would open up opportunities for fraudulent activities. Even most non-cash credit card transactions (such as shopping online) require you to know the expiry date and CVV on your credit card in addition to the card number.

However, some banks offer cardless cash for transaction accounts. Using a secure app installed on your mobile phone, you can log onto an ATM and withdraw the money you need. This could be a practical and secure solution if you don’t have a card and need cash.

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.

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.