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Purchase Rate

20.24%

Interest Free Days

55

Annual Fee

$30

$20

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Purchase Rate

12.99%

Interest Free Days

55

Annual Fee

$59

$15

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Purchase Rate

19.74%

Interest Free Days

44

Annual Fee

$30

$15

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Purchase Rate

20.24%

Interest Free Days

55

Annual Fee

$0

for 12 months then $30

$20

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Learn more about credit cards

Whether you’re young and looking to build your credit history, hoping to nab some good rewards or want access to credit for an overseas trip, shopping for your first credit card can be an exciting, yet nerve-wracking experience.

There’s the risk of being rejected or even falling into bad debt habits, but also the benefit of having access to funds when you need it.

So how do you find your first credit card? And how do you try to ensure your application isn’t rejected? This guide will take you through what you need to know to not only pick a card but potentially improve your chances of approval.

The basics: what to know about your first credit card

The very first step you’ll want to take in your credit card journey is to familiarise yourself with the basics – aka the costs and features of a credit card. These include:

Balance The balance on your credit card is another way of saying the amount of money you owe, including fees and interest. The more you have owing, the less credit you have access to.
Interest rates The two main types of interest you may be charged is via the purchase rate and cash advance rate.
  • The purchase rate is the rate at which any outstanding balances not paid in full in a statement period are charged.
  • The cash advance rate is the interest rate charged on any money you withdraw, such as at an ATM. The latter tends to be slightly higher but differs for each card provider.
Annual fee An ongoing fee charged once a year to keep your account open. There are cards that don’t charge this fee, but for those that do, the cost can climb as high as $1,200.
Foreign transaction fee A fee charged on overseas spending (including shopping on international websites), typically a percentage of the transaction (2-3%).
Interest-free period The number of days you have to repay what is owing on your credit card before you are charged interest. The number of days differs on each card but is typically 44-55 days from the start of each month’s billing cycle.
Minimum repayment amount The minimum amount of money you are required to pay each billing cycle. This will either be a percentage of your outstanding balance (around 2-3%) or a dollar figure (around $20-$30).
Credit limit The maximum amount of credit you have access to through your card. This can range from as low as a few hundred or thousand dollars, to a near unlimited amount. It will differ for each credit card and can also depend on your income.
Rewards programs Some cards come with rewards programs that give you something extra for your spending. These can be in the form of standard rewards programs, frequent flyer programs or cashback rewards.
Rewards perks The type of rewards you may find in these programs can include frequent flyer points, appliances, electronics, home goods, gift cards and travel perks such as hotel stays and airport lounge access.
Card protections Some cards may offer more protections than others. These may include fraud protection, domestic or international travel insurance, extended warranty, guaranteed pricing schemes and/or rental car excess insurance.

 

Keep in mind that if you apply for a credit card and are rejected, this can hurt your credit history. It’s crucial that you do your research around what card best suits your budget, and the provider’s eligibility criteria before applying.

The basics: how to choose your first credit card

The next step you’ll want to make is to deepen your knowledge of what types of credit cards there are, and which may suit you best. 

  • Low-rate credit cards

As you may know, credit card interest rates can get fairly high. But if you pay your full card balance in full each statement period then you shouldn’t ever really accrue interest. However, if you think you may be the type of person who won’t always be able to pay their full balance off each time, it may be worth considering if a low-rate card would be a better fit for you.

  • Low-fee credit cards

If you are strict about budgeting and believe you won’t be charged interest on any outstanding card statements, then the biggest cost you may face is your annual credit card fee. Low-fee credit cards typically will not charge you this fee.

  • Platinum/premium credit cards

Designed for cardholders with larger incomes looking for higher credit limits and/or more comprehensive rewards. These cards generally come with higher fees and interest. But it is expected that the cardholder can afford these costs, as they are marketed towards high earners.

  • Rewards credit cards

Earning rewards and chasing points is, for some Australians, what separates a credit card from your basic debit card. As mentioned above, these rewards can come in the form of standard rewards programs, frequent flyer programs or cashback offers. Rewards credit cards are a popular choice for cardholders as you get more bang for your buck through points-per-dollar-spent earnings. But these cards also typically come with higher fees and costs, and stricter eligibility criteria.

  • Travel credit cards

These cards are designed with overseas spending in mind. This may mean anything from charging zero foreign transaction fees to offering complimentary insurance, including domestic and international travel insurance and/or rental car excess insurance.

  • Balance transfer credit cards

If you have an outstanding card debt, you may need a little no-interest breathing room to get on top of it. Balance transfer cards allow you to transfer the debt of one card to another, with the new card charging zero interest for a set period of months.

The basics: how to compare credit cards

Once you know what features and fees are involved with credit cards, as well as what type might best suit your budget and financial situation, you’ll want to narrow down a shortlist of potential cards.

Instead of starting from scratch and googling ‘best credit cards,’ the simplest way to search for and compare credit cards is to use comparison tools, such as tables and calculators. 

Comparison tables, like the one on this page, allow you to enter the details of the card type you want, as well as filter features you want and fees you don’t. You’ll then be able to easily compare apples with apples by seeing a range of potential cards next to each other, and compare them based on their interest rates, number of interest-free days, annual fees and more.

Credit card calculators can also be helpful in showing you what potential card repayments may look like for your budget. If you put down the card limit you may receive as the ‘balance’, and add the interest rate, you may get a good idea of how much you’re looking to repay if you were to max out your credit card.

Application process: do you meet the credit card eligibility?

Now you’ve got a shortlist of potential first credit cards, you’ll want to double check that you meet the eligibility criteria before applying. This can help reduce your risk of being rejected. 

Here are some of the standard eligibility criteria for credit cards in Australia:

  • Be at least 18 years old,
  • Be an Australian citizen, permanent resident or hold a valid visa,
  • Meet the minimum income requirement (can range from $15,000 - $100,000, depending on the card type),
  • Meet the employment requirements (some providers may prefer full-time employees, and look favourably on those employed for at least 12 months), and
  • Have a good or excellent credit history.

Application process: How to get a credit card with no or poor credit history

If you’re a young Australian with no credit history, there’s a chance that your card application may be rejected. This is because credit cards are a financial risk, and those with good credit history built up are less likely (in the eyes of the provider) to run up debt.

But how do you build credit history if you can’t get approved for credit?

There are ways to potentially grow your credit history without a credit card, including:

  • If you’re financially independent, consider putting your phone plan and bill under your name.
  • If you’re out of home, consider having your name on the energy and/or gas account and bills.
  • Build your savings, as having a big nest egg may give card providers the impression that you’re responsible with your finances, and also have a good record of making regular payments into a savings account.
  • Don’t make late payments, whether on your phone bill or on a car loan, as this may weaken your credit score.

 If you’re set on getting a credit card, but have little to no credit history, you could consider having a parent or family member go guarantor on your card application to help boost your chances of approval. The card provider will then look at their credit history, as well as their current debts and assets, and this may help to get you over the line. Just keep in mind that mixing money with relationships can turn sour if not carefully managed. You may damage your guarantor’s credit history if you then use your card to rack up a huge debt that you never pay off.

Credit card alternatives

If, after you’ve read through this guide, you’re no longer sure you want to get a credit card, there are other options available. 

You may want to consider the following:

  • Debit card. No, it’s not as “glamorous” as a credit card, but your standard debit card does give you access to your own money. This means you run less of a risk of racking up debt, as you’re only spending what you can afford. Plus, the eligibility criteria is much less strict, as pretty much anyone can apply for a bank account.
  • Buy-now-pay-later. If you’re just looking for a means to get one-off items, like clothing or furniture, you may want to consider buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) services like Afterpay or ZipPay. BNPL services allow you to break up the total cost of your purchase into smaller, more manageable sections that are paid off typically fortnightly. They also do not charge interest but may come with late payment fees if you miss a scheduled payment.

It’s also always worth grabbing your annual free copy of your credit report and going through it with a fine-tooth comb, as mistakes can occur. 

Frequently asked questions

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. 

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.

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. 

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 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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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.

How is credit card interest charged?

Your credit card will be charged interest when you don’t pay off the balance on your credit card. Your card provider or bank charges you the individual interest rate that is associated with your card, which is usually between 10 and 20 per cent. 

The interest will be added onto your bill each month or billing period if you don’t pay off the balance, unless you are in an interest-free period.

You will be charged interest on anything that hasn’t been paid for inside the interest-free period. Usually you will receive a notice on your bill or statement saying you will be charged interest so you have some form of notice before you’re charged.

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.

How does credit card interest work?

Generally, when we talk about credit card interest, we mean the purchase interest rate, which is the interest charged on purchases you make with your credit card.

If you don’t pay your full balance each month (or even if you pay the minimum amount), you are charged interest on all the outstanding transactions and the remaining balance. However, interest is also charged on cash advances, balance transfers, special rate offers and, in some cases, even the fees charged by the company.

The interest rate can vary, depending on the credit card. Some have an interest-free period, otherwise you start paying interest from the day you make a purchase or from the day your monthly statement is issued. So avoid interest by paying the full amount promptly.