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Learn more about credit cards

When it comes to applying for a credit card, the more “ideal” a customer seems, the more likely a lender will approve them and offer them a higher credit limit. And a good to excellent credit score rating increases your chances of all of this.

Let’s explore what a good credit rating is and how it relates to credit cards.

The importance of credit scores for credit cards

When it comes to applying for a new credit card, your credit score and credit report plays a huge role in determining whether you’ll not only be approved, but how much credit you may be given access to.

Your credit score showcases to a credit card issuer how trustworthy you are as a new customer. It indicates your level of risk to the card issuer around missing repayments or falling into debt and your overall creditworthiness. It is based on your credit report, and is influenced by your repayment history, the types of financial products you have or have applied for - including any rejections - as well as utilities your name is attached to

It also determines whether a credit card company will approve your application and what products you may be able to apply for. Put simply, a good credit score is invaluable and greatly influences your ability to get any credit products.

When you apply for a credit card – or any financial product – you will be assessed against the provider’s eligibility criteria. As credit providers cannot lend money to anyone who applies and must comply with responsible lending conduct, they enforce strict eligibility rules applicants must meet in order to be approved for credit.

This is in your best interest, as these rules prevent Australians from falling into debt and financial hardship.

A credit card issuers’ eligibility criterion will always include meeting a credit score requirement – usually having a good to excellent credit rating. The credit issuer will run a hard credit enquiry on your name to discover your credit history and score.

The other credit card eligibility requirements may include:

  • Being over 18 years of age
  • An Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • Meeting minimum annual income requirements
  • Meeting employment requirements (full-time employment being the most favourable)

What is a good credit score for getting a credit card?

When it comes to understanding a good credit score, it’s important you think in categories over actual numbers. This is because your credit score number may differ from one credit bureau to another.

Two of the biggest credit reporting bureaus in Australia – Equifax and Experian – both have different credit score scales. Equifax grades your credit history between 0 – 1200 and Experian grades it between 0 – 1000.

Although there is a 200-point difference between the highest scores of each bureau, Experian, Equifax and all credit reporting bureaus still section off each individual’s credit score into five bands.

    1. Below average
    2. Fair
    3. Good
    4. Very good 
    5. Excellent

If you want to know the exact credit score you need to be aiming for to sit in the “good” tier, it will depend on the credit reporting bureau you’re getting your report from.

For example, according to Experian’s website, a “good” credit score sits between 625-699. Anything in this range or higher may improve your chances of credit card approval.

Equifax’s website indicates that a good score sits in the 41-60 per cent of its 1200-point scale. Simplified, this means that if your score is between 481– 720, you may be able to assume it falls into the “good” tier.

This doesn’t necessarily mean being on the low side of good is the same as being on the high side. A credit card issuer will still look at your actual credit score number when you apply for a new card, but because of these scales the category you fall into does carry more weight on your application.

Does different credit scoring impact the credit card you can get?

A good to excellent credit score is seen as more favourable to card issuers, so, generally speaking, sitting in these tiers may mean cardholders given greater access to a variety of card offers.

This may include:

  • Higher credit limits
  • Lower purchase rates
  • Greater access to perks and benefits
  • Greater access to rewards programs, as well as frequent flyer points, bonus points or even cashback
  • Approval for longer interest-free periods

According to Experian’s website: “If someone has excellent credit, it's likely because they've made responsible financial decisions such as repaying bills on time, keeping debt low and having accounts in good standing over a long period of time. Because lenders can be more confident someone with a higher credit score will repay the debt in full and on time, they usually charge these borrowers a lower interest rate.” 

But on the flip side, having a bad credit score may mean a lender is more likely to offer someone a credit card with a higher interest charges or access to smaller credit limits. This is generally in the best interest of this individual, as the card issuer wants them to avoid falling into debt or hurting their credit history further.

According to Experian’s website: “When someone has less-than-stellar credit, it might be due to missed or late payments, high amounts of debt, or negative marks such as bankruptcy or accounts in collections. A lower score and negative items on a credit report make a borrower appear riskier to a lender.”

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.

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

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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. 

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 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 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.

Are there credit cards for students?

Yes, there are credit cards available with students in mind. These can help young Australians to build their credit report and learn crucial life skills around budgeting and managing personal finances.

Can I get a credit card with bad credit?

Yes, some lenders will provide credit cards to Australians with bad credit scores. It depends on the provider's individual lending criteria and whether you’ve presented your personal finances to show you’re an ‘ideal’ applicant.

Is instant approval possible for credit cards?

Instant approval may be possible – but please note that the term may be misleading. “Instant” approval tends to mean that when you apply online the lender will let you know the likeliness of your eligibility for a credit card within 60 seconds of receiving your application.

Are credit checks mandatory?

In Australia it is impossible to get a credit card without the provider performing a credit check first. This is for your benefit, as it helps to prevent you from falling into avoidable debt.

What is the lowest monthly repayment on my credit card?

As a rule of thumb, this tends to be around 2-3 per cent of the outstanding balance. You can choose how much you want to repay each billing period as long as it is higher than this minimum required amount.

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 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 to get rid of credit card debt

  1. Calculate your debt. Credit card calculators make it easy to determine the repayments required to chip away at your debt in the shortest timeframe possible for your budget.
  2. Repayment plans. Take some time to formulate a credit repayment plan. Consider increasing your income, scaling back your lifestyle or refinancing.
  3. Talk to your credit provider. If you’re still struggling with your debt, give your credit provider a call. You may be able to come to a new arrangement.

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.