Sometimes a credit card provider will offer new customers a perk, such as lower rates or cashback, to encourage and reward the customer for joining with them. These are called credit card introductory offers.

These special bonuses are offered on signup to a credit card and can help encourage new borrowers to take out a credit card for the first time or encourage existing cardholders to switch from their current credit card to another.

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What types of credit card introductory offers are available?

Some of the introductory credit card offers available in Australia include:

    • Discounted interest rates on sign up.
    • Bonus reward points and/or frequent flyer points.
    • No annual fees or discounted annual fees.
    • Cash back offers – typically a percentage of each purchase or a fixed amount.
    • Balance transfer deals – charging low or zero interest on outstanding debt when you switch from one card to another.

Some credit cards may feature just one of these introductory offers, while others will provide a combination of bonuses.

How long will an introductory offer last?

The time frame of introductory promotions for credit cards depends on the credit card provider and the offer itself. They can either be given as an upfront, one-off bonus or last for a set period of months.

How long you may expect an introductory offer to last

Type of introductory promotion Length of offering
Low interest rates 5 – 15 months
Interest-free period 0 – 110 days
Annual fee waiver 1 year
Bonus rewards points One time offer - between 7,500 – 200,000 on sign up
Qantas frequent flyer points One time offer - between 7,500 – 150,000 on sign up
Cashback Earn between $200 - $300 on eligible spends for 1 - 3 months

Source: RateCity.com.au. Note: Data accurate as of 09.07.2020. Estimates are based off of the latest data and may be subject to fluctuation.

To keep enjoying bonus offers on your credit card, you may need to fulfil certain terms and conditions, such as spending a minimum amount on eligible transactions per month or per year.

What you need to know about introductory offers

To a new cardholder, credit card introductory offers can sound too good to be true. While there’s plenty to make you smile, you also need to be smart about the way you approach these deals.

Here are some of the key things you should keep in mind when searching for a new credit card and comparing introductory offers:

  • Your introductory period isn’t forever: Keep note of how long an introductory period lasts, especially for low or zero per cent interest offers. If your rates are going to rise, or a credit card bonus offer is going to expire, you’ll want to be prepared.
  • Revert rates: Typically, when an introductory low or zero per cent interest period ends, the credit card will revert you on to a much higher interest rate. Before this period is over, it’s important to know what you’ll be charged in interest, especially if you have any outstanding debt.
  • Read the fine print: You don’t want to get caught off guard if a credit card offer sounds too good to be true. There may be conditions that need to be met that sound good on paper, but you cannot afford to meet in practice, such as spending a minimum amount within the first 3 months of having the card.
  • Look beyond the special offers: Introductory offers are just one factor that’s worth comparing when it comes to credit cards. Some cards might saddle you with high rates and fees along with that generous introductory deal.
  • Don’t hang on to a credit card that doesn’t work for you: If an introductory offer ends, and you’re no longer getting enough value out of your credit card, you may want to investigate other options. The card should work for you, not the other way around.

Pros and cons of introductory offers on credit cards

As with any financial product, there are always benefits and risks to taking out that loan, opening that bank account or using that credit card.

When it comes to introductory offers on credit cards, consider the following pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Big bonus point offerings may be exchanged for rewards items, such as furniture or white goods, or even flights, that you otherwise would have had to spend a lot more on to earn the points for.
  • Zero per cent interest introductory periods may help card holders struggling with debt get the breathing room they need to pay off their outstanding balances.
  • No annual fee, or discounted fee, offerings can help keep the initial costs down on your new credit card.

Cons:

  • There may be conditions that not all customers can meet, such as minimum spends.
  • Low or zero per cent interest rate offers can revert to much higher rates.
  • Some promotions are one-off only, meaning you can only use or spend them once.

Should I compare credit cards by introductory offers?

While it can be tempting to hop from credit card to credit card based on introductory offers, there are more things to consider when searching for the right credit card for your financial needs.

One of the first things you should think about is what type of credit card spender you are. This will help point you in the direction of the right kind of credit card for you. Are you a habitual spender, an everyday spender, an impulse spender or a big spender? To learn more about your spending profile, please read our comprehensive Credit Card Guide.

Once you’ve narrowed down the right credit card type for you, you’ll want to compare the following key things:

What to compare About
Purchase rates The interest rate charged on purchases made with your card. The lower the rate, the lower your repayments and potential debt. However, high rates are often synonymous with more premium credit cards.
Cash advance rates The interest rate charged on money withdrawn from ATMs.
Annual fee Can range from $0 to $1,200. Will contribute to the ongoing cost of your card.
Overseas costs Foreign transaction fees like currency conversion fees and overseas ATM withdrawals.
Interest-free periods How long you have to pay off your card balance before you’re charged interest. The longer the period, the more time to make repayments.
Rewards perks Airport lounge access, concierge services, discounted annual fees, free supplementary cards, affiliated store discounts, VIP seating at events and much more may be on offer. However, these perks typically come with higher rates or annual fees.
Card protections Fraud protection, free domestic and/or international travel insurance, extended warranty, purchase protection insurance, rental car excess insurance and much more may be on offer.

 

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.

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 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 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.

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.

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 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 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 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 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.

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.

How to calculate credit card interest

Credit card interest can quickly turn a manageable balance into unmovable debt. So being able to understand how interest rates translate into dollars is an important skill to acquire.

The common mistake people make is focusing on the credit card’s annual percentage rate (APR), which often sits between 15 and 20 per cent. While the APR does provide a rough idea of how much interest you’ll pay, it’s not entirely accurate.

This is because you actually accrue interest on your balance daily, not annually. So, you need to work out your daily periodic rate (DPR). To do this, divide your card’s APR by the number of days in a year (e.g. 16.9 per cent divided by 365, or 0.05 per cent). You can then apply this figure to the daily balance on 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.

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 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 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.

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.