There are hundreds of credit cards out there in the market, so how do you know which one is the best one for you?

When looking for the best credit card for you, it’s important to compare products against your own financial situation and budget before sealing the deal. Credit cards offer a range of features but also may come with costly fees, so it’s up to you and a little bit of research to decide which card type best suits you.

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Purchase Rate

20.24%

Interest Free Days

55

Annual Fee

$30

$20

More details

Purchase Rate

16.99%

Interest Free Days

45

Annual Fee

$149

$20

More details

Purchase Rate

20.24%

Interest Free Days

55

Annual Fee

$95

$20

More details

Purchase Rate

19.74%

Interest Free Days

44

Annual Fee

$30

$15

More details

Purchase Rate

19.99%

Interest Free Days

55

Annual Fee

$129

$30

More details

Purchase Rate

20.24%

Interest Free Days

55

Annual Fee

$425

$20

More details

Purchase Rate

20.24%

Interest Free Days

55

Annual Fee

$0

for 12 months then $30

$20

More details

Learn more about credit cards

Which is the best credit card in Australia?

There is no one-size-fits-all credit card as there is a variety of options to choose from that suit different financial situations. The best credit card for you will depend on your budget and spending profile.

  • Habitual spenders - you use your credit card like a debit card and are constantly racking up interest on your outstanding balance.
    • Suggested cards - low rate credit cards, low fee credit cards
  • Impulse spenders - you use your credit card as a helpful financial tool and don't rely on it for everyday spending. You're only bringing it out for large purchases you otherwise couldn't afford in one go, in emergencies, or just when travelling/shopping online on overseas websites, and pay back this debt over time.
    • Suggested cards - low rate credit card, low fee credit card, travel credit card
  • Everyday spender - you use your credit card every day for purchases like groceries or to pay bills, but, different to the habitual spender, you ensure your credit card balance is always paid in full each statement period.
    • Suggested cards - low rate credit card, low fee credit card, rewards credit card, frequent flyer credit card, travel credit card
  • Big spender - you are a high income earner and put over $5,000 a month on your credit card. You may use your credit card for convenience or to try and earn rewards points and game point hacks. You are strict about paying off your balance in full to avoid interest charges.
    • Suggested cards - platinum credit card, rewards credit card, frequent flyer credit card  

What different types of credit cards are available?

As mentioned above, there are a range of spending profiles for each different credit card type. But what are the different types of credit cards available in Australia? 

  • Visa, Mastercard or AMEX - first and foremost, each credit card in Australia will either be a Visa, Mastercard or American Express card. Each card type has its own advantages and disadvantages, as well as individual rewards offered to customers.
  • Low rate credit cards - as the name suggests, these are credit cards offering low interest rates below the average purchase rate (generally around 16-18 per cent). These are typically ideal for cardholders who find themselves always being charged interest. 
  • No annual fee credit cards - again, as the name suggests, these credit cards either will not charge an annual fee or keep their ongoing fees very low. 
  • Rewards credit cards - whether your perks and rewards are linked to a standard rewards program, a frequent flyer program (like Qantas frequent flyer) or a store rewards program (retail gift cards and discounts), you are able to turn your everyday spending into handy extras. Bonus points are earned via spending on earned on eligible purchases. You may also enjoy perks like cash back, complimentary insurances such as travel insurance, concierge services and airport lounge access.
  • Travel credit cards - ideal for avid adventurers, travel credit cards typically suit those planning overseas travel or those who shop online on international websites. They may not charge any foreign transaction fees, and may come with complimentary travel insurance and other perks like airport lounge access. 
  • Balance transfer credit cards - When cardholders have an outstanding balance they're struggling to pay off, they can transfer this balance to a new card that has an interest-free period. The balance transfer offer may be a few months, or even years. You may be charged a balance transfer fee/balance transfer rate upon opening the new card account, which is generally a small percentage (1-3 per cent) of your balance. 
  • Platinum credit cards - Designed for big spenders, platinum credit cards are a type of premium card that carries all the bells and whistles of rewards cards, along with higher credit limits, additional perks and protections like purchase protection. You typically will need to meet a harder eligibility criteria, such as having a higher income than the average Australian. Platinum credit cards may also come with higher annual fees and purchase rates, but it's assumed the cardholders can afford these costs. 
  • Business credit cards - ideal for business owners, business credit cards are issued to a company with an Australian Business Number (ABN). They easily allow for the ordering of new cards and approving additional cardholders for various staff members. 

What are the pros and cons of having a credit card?

Unsure whether to switch from the humble debit card or savings account to a credit card? There are a few things to weigh up. 

Credit cards can be a handy asset when:

  • You don’t have a lot of cash with you;
  • You're travelling overseas; and
  • You want to earn bonus points for your everyday spending.

Keep in mind that credit card providers make money mostly by charging you interest on purchases you make when you don't pay your balance in full each statement period. They also may charge interest on money you withdraw and sting you with costly ongoing fees, such as annual fees, late payment fees and foreign transaction fees. 

That's not to say that credit cards aren’t worth getting - you just need to make sure you use them sensibly. But that convenience can also come with a cost. You might find yourself spending more when using a credit card than when using cash if you aren’t a disciplined spender.

RateCity tips for new cardholders

Be aware of the interest-free period. Remember that the interest-free period is for a limited time only. You may only have a window of no interest for the first year of the card. If you still have an unpaid balance on your credit card when the offer ends, you will be charged interest on the amount you owe. It’s best to pay off the debt before the interest-free period expires.

Credit card fees and charges

When deciding on the best credit card for your budget, a general rule of thumb is to aim for one that keeps fees and charges down. These costs can add a lot to your bill, and may result in you accumulating debt. Here are some of the main fee types you could be facing:

  • Annual fees
  • Late payments fees
  • Cash advance rate
  • Fees for exceeding your credit limit
  • Foreign transaction fees

However, not all credit card fees are considered bad. In fact, if you opt for a credit card with a rewards program, it's generally accepted that you will pay a little more in annual fees or interest rates for the benefit. These costs help to pay for the rewards, and may be unavoidable for this type of card.

  • For a full breakdown of any potential fees, read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and terms and conditions linked to your credit card. It's crucial that you’re aware of these charges so that you can budget accordingly. The PDS will also have a breakdown of the earn rate on rewards programs.

How do I find the best credit cards?

The best way to find the right credit card for you is to use comparison tools, such as tables and calculators. 

Comparison tables allow you to compare apples with apples. You can filter down and sort from the options shown based on what you're looking for, such as card type, purchase rate, number of interest free days, and annual fees. This will help you to find the best credit card for your needs from RateCity's top pics. You'll also get a clear indication of any features and perks linked to the new credit card. 

Once you've narrowed down your search, it’s worth making a short list of potential cards and carefully looking at each card's PDS, key fact sheet or equivalent document. 

Once you've settled on a choice, triple check the eligibility criteria set by the credit card provider before you begin your card application. If you don't meet the card issuer's criteria, you may not get card approval and be rejected. This can seriously hurt your credit score and will be noted in your credit history. 

Also, keep in mind that credit cards can be a helpful financial tool but when misused are very capable of growing credit card debt. Maxing out your credit limit and having too much credit card debt will also hurt your credit score.

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.

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. 

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 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 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. 

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.

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 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 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.

How do I apply for a credit card online?

How to make a credit card online

If you’re wondering about how to make a credit card online application, here are some steps to follow:

  • Test the market. Many credit card options are available online. Compare providers by fees, interest and perks to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
  • Complete the application. Once you’ve selected a card, head to the provider’s website and complete the online credit card application form. Forms vary by providers.
  • Provide details. Most cards require you to meet age, residency, income and credit status condition, and you need to provide details like a bank account statement to prove this.
  • Review details. Ensure the information you’ve entered is correct.

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.

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 many numbers are on a credit card?

The numbers on your credit card actually follow a universal standard which is used to identify specific functions. Each credit card has a different amount of numbers. Visa and Mastercard have 16, American Express has 15 and Diner’s Club has 14. 

The first number on a credit card always identifies what type of credit card it is. Visa cards start with a 4, whereas Mastercard starts with a 5 and American Express with a 3. The remainder of the digits represent the account number, including the last number which is used to verify that your credit card is actually valid. 

Credit cards also have additional verification numbers, which are mainly used when the card isn’t present for phone and online purchases. These are the three-digit numbers on the back of Visa and MasterCard or the four-digit numbers on the front of an American Express card.

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 to pay a credit card from another bank

Paying or transferring debt from one lender to the other is called a balance transfer. This involves transferring part or all of the debt from a credit card with one lender to a credit card with another. As part of the process, your new lender will pay out the old lender, so that you now owe the same amount of money but to a new institution.

Many credit card providers offer an interest-free period on balance transfers to help new applicants better handle their debt. During this period, cardholders are not required to pay interest on the debt they brought over from the other card. This can be a great opportunity for consumers to pay off credit card debt with no interest. There are often fees associated with balance transfers; normally, these are a percentage of the amount transferred.

So make sure you read the terms and conditions of the card before transferring any debt across.