How to have free family fun over the holidays

How to have free family fun over the holidays

How did your budget hold up at Christmas? For most us, it’s a withered, depleted mess waiting for a New Year’s resolution of better savings.

According to the ASIC MoneySmart website, nationally we each spent an average of $955 over the Christmas period.

And 75 per cent of us dipped into our savings to pay for the gift-giving splurge. For those of us who used a credit card, we averaged $1,666 of new debt.

Without much spending money in your pocket, your challenge now is how to have free family fun over the holidays.

On the bright side, a financial blowout doesn’t mean the festive fun has to stop. There’s a bounty of fun to be had (wherever you live), without having to spend money.

Remember the old saying – the best things in life are free. It’s true, and if you put your mind to the challenge of having fun on a zero budget, you would be pleasantly surprised at what you can do.

Holidays represent an opportunity for the family to spend quality time together, without the pressure of daily life. When time and money aren’t an issue, the world is your oyster.

Here’s a list of ideas how to have free family fun over the holidays (whether you live in the city or country):

  • Visit a national park
  • Go for a picnic
  • Follow a tourist attraction sign
  • Check out your local art gallery or museum (big or small)
  • Walk around your neighbourhood
  • Take a swim somewhere to cool off
  • Visit an old friend

Get out and about without spending money

National parks are a treasure trove of wonder and a place to see native wildlife. You and your family could go camping and explore nature via the many safe walking tracks at no cost.

A picnic – if not at a national park – can be as simple as Vegemite sandwiches and a blanket on the ground. Which gives you no excuse to not grab some green space somewhere under the shade.

There’s an assortment of roadside tourist attraction signs (often referred to as brown signs) which could take you and your family to destinations you wouldn’t normally visit.

From conservation parks and botanic gardens to historic buildings and towns, scenic lookouts, monuments and other objects of unique interest. Your only cost is the fuel to get there.

When was the last time you visited your local art gallery or museum? If there’s no brown sign to lead you, a call to your local tourist information centre should be able to point you in the right direction.

If you’re not up for driving, a more relaxing option is to take in the sights and sounds of your own neighbourhood on foot. Take a tour of your local streets to catch-up on what’s been happening.   

Your meanderings might also lead you to the house of an old friend you’ve been meaning to visit but haven’t had the time. The next generation always benefits from strong ties with family friends.

One final tip – wherever you go, take bottles of water and packed lunches, so you don’t have to waste money on takeaway meals.

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Learn more about credit cards

How to get a free credit card

There's no such thing as a free lunch. All credit cards come with associated costs when used to make purchases, even if it’s simply the cost of making repayments.

However, many lenders offer incentives for customers such as a $0 annual fee or 0 per cent interest on purchases during an introductory period. Additionally, paying off your balance in full during an interest-free period means you could only have to pay back the cost of purchases without interest. You could also be eligible for additional rewards such as cashback during that time, saving you more money.

What is a credit card?

A credit card is a payment method which lets you pay for goods and services without using your own money. It’s essentially a short-term loan which lets you borrow the bank’s money to pay for things which you can pay back – potentially with interest – at a later date. Credit cards can also be used to withdraw money from an ATM, which is known as a cash advance. Because you’re borrowing money from a bank, credit cards charge you interest on the money you use (unless you repay the entire debt during the interest-free period). When you apply for a credit card, the bank gives you a credit limit which sets the maximum amount you can borrow using your card. Credit cards are one of the most popular methods of payments and can be a convenient way of paying for goods and services in store, online and all around the globe.

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 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'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. 

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.