Learning to love your plastic

Learning to love your plastic

Often we’re told to beware of credit cards and the tricks and traps of marketers.

While we should always be on our toes with these sorts of things, it’s important to remember that credit cards aren’t all evil. In fact, when used wisely, they can be a great everyday spending tool.

There are over 200 cards on the market and plenty of competition but it’s difficult to sift through it and know where the hidden traps lie. Often lenders use special offers and inducements to suck in unprepared customers but when armed with the right knowledge, owning a credit card doesn’t have to be a risky task.

Here are some of the things to look out for when you’re on the hunt for a credit card.

Balance transfer cards

Balance transfer cards can be an ally for consolidating debts if you pay them off within the introductory period, however – these cards aren’t free money. Once the honeymoon period is over, the cards generally all revert to a super high rate of over 20 per cent.

A lot of balance transfer cards also have high annual fees and a balance transfer period which runs for more than 12 months, which means you can get hit with two lots of annual fees, adding up to the hundreds.

The best way to approach balance transfer cards is to have a plan to pay it off before you start. Stay focused and committed to paying down your debt in the interest free period and you would have made a wise credit card choice.

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Annual fees

Excessive annual fees are one of the biggest traps when it comes to credit cards. Fees range up to $1,200 a year and yet there are almost 30 cards on the market with no annual fees at all.

The average card fee remains at around $110 so if you’re after particular features or rewards you might not have the luxury of choosing a no annual fee card. Instead, consider your needs and the amount of the fee and weigh up whether the cost is worth the benefit.

Rewards

Rewards cards are designed to lure you in with the promise of free flights and bottles of wine but these cards generally attract higher annual fees, so if you don’t use your card much, it’s entirely possible you’ll end up going backwards because of them.

A RateCity.com.au study found that you need to be spending an average of at least $15,000 on your credit card before you break even on any rewards benefits you might be getting. The study found that 7 million Australians get no value from rewards cards because the annual fee outweighs the value of the rewards.

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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'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. 

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 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 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.

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. 

How to increase your Bendigo Bank credit card limit?

As a Bendigo Bank credit cardholder, you can avail a minimum limit of $500, but if you use your card regularly, you may want to consider increasing it. To increase your Bendigo Bank credit card limit, you can contact the bank’s credit card team on 1300 236 344 and talk to the bank directly.

You can also apply for a credit card limit increase through online banking, by logging into Bendigo Bank web portal or through the app on your phone or tablet. Once you’ve successfully logged in, you'll want  to send a secure message to Bendigo Bank asking them to increase your credit card limit. 

If you cannot access the online portal or the app, you can also apply to increase your credit card limit through the online enquiry form. Simply add relevant information in the required fields and click ‘Submit’. Once you have completed the application, Bendigo Bank should verify your details and analyse your current financial standing. Based on this assessment, the bank will either accept your application to increase your credit card limit or deny it. 

How do I increase my Virgin credit card limit?

If you’re a Virgin Money cardholder and you’re looking at increasing your credit card limit, the first step is to get in touch with Virgin’s credit team on 13 37 39. 

Once you request a Virgin Money credit card limit increase, the lender will do an assessment of your current financial position to make sure you can repay the credit. Virgin Money will typically take 7 to 10 working days to complete this process.

Virgin Money has strict terms around credit increases. To be eligible, you must have opened your account no less than nine months before making the application. Also, at least six months must have passed since your last credit limit increase. The maximum increase you can expect will be 50 per cent of your existing credit limit.

How do I transfer money from my Commonwealth bank credit card to my bank account?

Your Commonwealth bank credit card may include a cash advance benefit, but you won't be able to transfer money to your bank account. 

You can, however, withdraw cash from your credit card at an ATM. You should remember that you have to pay a fee for such transactions, and you’ll be charged interest from the day you withdraw the cash. 

Unlike other credit card transactions, you don’t get an interest-free repayment period for cash advances. Also, you may not be able to access your full credit card limit for a cash advance.

What is the American Express credit card insurance coverage?

Several American Express credit cards, including the Gold, Platinum and Green cards, come with international and domestic travel insurance, shopping and purchase protection and smartphone screen insurance. All you have to do to activate your American Express credit card insurance cover is use it to pay for eligible purchases, travel, and a smartphone.

The complimentary travel insurance requires you to be less than 80 years old with no pre-existing diseases and your travel must begin and end in Australia.

To make an American Express credit card insurance claim, you’ll need to lodge your request with Chubb Claim Centre within 30 days. Submit the form along with supporting documents like medical reports, original invoices and receipts. You can also contact Chubb on 1800 139 149 or file a claim via the Chubb website.

Does Bendigo Bank offer credit card insurance?

No matter which type of Bendigo Bank credit card you own, you may qualify for complimentary purchase protection insurance, extended warranties, and best price guarantee. 

If you are eligible for one or more of these complimentary insurances, you won’t need to activate them separately. Consider checking the coverage limits as well as the terms of purchase to find out if they apply to your purchases. For instance, the annual coverage limit under Bendigo Bank’s purchase protection insurance for one type of credit card is $25,000. However, the coverage limit per item is $5,000, and you may have to pay an excess of $250 every time you file a claim.

Some Bendigo Bank credit card customers may also qualify for mobile device insurance, which covers the accidental damage to or loss of your phone. Again, the coverage limit varies for repairing or replacing your phone,compared to repairing accidental damage to your phone’s screen. Other complimentary insurance offered by Bendigo Bank on some credit cards includes coverage for overseas travel, domestic flight inconvenience, and transit accidents. If you rent a car using an eligible Bendigo Bank credit card, you may be able to get a waiver on the car rental excess as well. 

What coverage does Coles credit card insurance offer?

Most customers who own a Coles credit card may be eligible for complimentary purchase protection insurance, but low rate card owners won’t receive this benefit. 

Some premium credit cards issued by Coles include transit accident insurance and extended warranty cover in addition to purchase protection insurance. Covered items paid for at least partially with your Coles credit card usually qualify for purchase protection insurance.

However, you may only be eligible for transit accident and extended warranty coverage if the entire travel cost or purchase price is billed to the eligible card. Additionally, the extended warranty coverage matches the manufacturer’s warranty up to a maximum of five years. If your credit card offers extended warranty, but the covered item comes with a six-year warranty, you're unlikely to receive the benefit.

How does the ANZ credit card instalment plan work?

While you usually need to settle all or part of your credit card dues at the end of your statement period, some credit cards afford you the option of setting up instalment plans. This allows you to settle your credit card debt at a pace that's more convenient for you, paying a fixed amount over a fixed period, thus making it easier to budget your repayments every month.

With the ANZ credit card instalment plan, you can set up a structured repayment schedule for part or all of your balance, or even for specific purchases over a certain value.

Some of the benefits of instalment repayment include: 

  • Structured repayments: You’ll have a fixed sum to pay each month.
  • Easier to budget: A fixed repayment sum makes it easier to make your monthly budget.
  • Account benefits: You might also get benefits such as discounted interest rates or debt-tracking tools.

There are disadvantages of opting for instalment repayment, however, and they include:

  • Less flexibility: You will not be able to pay a smaller amount once you set an instalment plan.
  • Different interest charges: In case the instalment plan only covers part of the balance, different interest charges could apply, making it challenging to budget.
  • Additional fees: You might have to pay fees or penalty charges in case of missed payments.

Does St. George Bank offer any credit card insurance?

Depending on the type of card they hold St. George Bank credit cardholders can benefit from a host of various credit card insurance offerings including:

Complimentary overseas travel insurance, covering:

  • Medical and hospital expenses incurred while travelling overseas, with the exclusion of pre-existing conditions
  • Loss or damage to personal property
  • Legal liabilities
  • Loss or damage to rental vehicles
  • Unexpected cancellation of travel arrangements or any other unforeseen expenses

Complimentary purchase security insurance may be available to level 1 cardholders for four months and three months of complimentary insurance accessed by level 2 cardholders. This type of insurance covers loss, theft, and damage costs to eligible products purchased anywhere around the world, provided that the product was purchased using the St. George Bank credit card. 

Extended warranty insurance may be available to St. George Bank credit cardholders, which extends the manufacturer’s Australian warranty on certain products purchased. For example, if you purchase a pair of headphones that comes with 11 months of warranty, St. George Bank will provide an extended warranty of 11 months, provided the entire purchase is charged to the St. George Bank credit card. 

Select cardholders may be able to take advantage of St. George Bank’s rental vehicle excess insurance, which covers up to $5,500 for any excess or deductible which the cardholder is legally liable to pay during the rental period.