What You Need to Know Before Applying
Looking for a new credit card can seem like a daunting and confusing task with all the different cards available from Australian banks. To make selecting a credit card simpler, our comparison tables offer a quick and easy way to check out all the deals and find the one that is most suitable for you. Each table presents a selection of the best credit cards currently available, divided into different types and presenting all the essential information to help you select the best option.
When you are comparing and choosing a credit card it is important to know how they function, what all the various features really mean and how you can get the best out of using your new card. It is also crucial that you consider the way you want to use you credit card and how it fits in with you spending habits and finances. Credit cards give you access to borrowed money, so you must be careful not to build up bad debt, but used wisely they can provide a convenient and useful way of spending, repaying and even saving money.
Every time you use your credit card to make a purchase or other transaction the bank is in effect lending you money to cover the payment. It’s your responsibility to repay the money, paying at least the minimum required amount on your monthly statement. Any remaining balance on your credit card account starts attracting interest. The interest is calculated and presented as the annual percentage rate (APR), and is one of the first things you should consider when comparing credit card offers. Ideally, you should find a credit card with a low interest rate, since this reduces the cost of using the card. You should also note that the main interest rate that banks use to advertise their credit cards is the purchase rate. Other types of transaction – such as cash advances including ATM withdrawals and buying foreign currency – attract different interest rates, often significantly higher.
The annual fee is another important feature to consider when comparing credit cards. This yearly charge pays for the maintenance of your account and varies greatly depending on what extra features are included in the deal such as rewards programs and insurance policies. Gold and platinum credit cards are designed for people on above average income and often feature a relatively high annual fee, but in return for paying this cardholders can enjoy some attractive extra benefits. If you want a more basic package, and plan to use it infrequently, a credit card with a low or no annual fee is more suitable.
The Australian credit card market is highly competitive, and banks are always devising new ways to get new customers, including special introductory deals such as fixed period low purchase rates, no annual fees and balance transfers. If you shop around, and know how to use your card correctly, you should be able to find a deal that can save you money. A low purchase rate introductory offer can be a good way of making large, one-off purchases; if you can repay within the fixed period you can minimise the cost of interest on borrowing the money. Balance transfers allow you to move the debt from an existing credit card to a new card from a different bank, and repay with a special low interest rate during the fixed period. It is important to examine how the deal changes at the end of the promotion, but used strategically introductory offers can be a good way of managing your finances.
Three Key Tips on Choosing a Credit Card
Choose a credit card that suits your spending and finances: The way you want to use your credit card and your financial circumstances should determine the type of card that is best for you. If you want a credit card to only use occasionally or reserve for emergencies, a basic no annual fee card is suitable for you. If you like to spend often, and are likely to have an ongoing balance on your account, a deal with a low purchase rate helps reduce the cost of your credit card. If you are a high earner with a solid credit rating you could qualify for a gold or platinum card and enjoy all the extra benefits associated with these packages. If you travel often or like shopping you may also find a card with a rewards scheme that fits in with your lifestyle. Australian banks also offer credit cards aimed at particular types of cardholder, such as students and business owners, with features designed for their specific financial requirements.
Always try to pay the monthly balance in full: Keeping your credit card account in good order helps you avoid getting into too much debt and improves your credit rating. You should aim to pay-off more than the monthly minimum required payment, ideally clearing your balance in full. In this way you can avoid paying interest, and minimise the costs of your credit card usage.
Find rewards and extras that suit your lifestyle: Many Australian credit cards provide access to loyalty schemes such as frequent flyer programs, retail rewards, charity donations and cash back deals. Credit cards also often include insurance policies such as travel insurance and purchase protection. Cards with these extra benefits tend to feature a higher annual fee, so it is important that they are right for you. The rewards scheme should offer the opportunity to earn points in the way you like to spend, and provide rewards that you can make use of. Insurance policies should be suitable too, providing the correct type of cover for the way live your life.
Typical Credit Card Features
Purchase rate: This is the interest rate, calculated and expressed as APR, which is applied to the part of your balance that represents purchases, and one of the key features to consider when comparing credit cards. The lower this rate is, the better. On occasion, banks run a special offer of 0% on purchases.
Annual fee: This is an annual charge that pays for the maintenance of your credit card and any extra features. The fee should not be high enough to negate the card’s extra benefits.
Balance transfers: This is the option to move the debt from an existing credit card to a new card from a different bank and repay at a low interest rate for a fixed period. They can save you a significant amount of money when used properly.
Rewards: Banks encourage and reward customer loyalty with various types of programs in which you can earn and redeem points for rewards. Ensure the scheme is suitable for your lifestyle and offers the chance to chance to enjoy beneficial rewards.
Other fees, charges and restrictions: When you have found a credit card you want to apply for, always take the time to carefully read through the terms and conditions, familiarising yourself with any other charges, fees and restrictions that may apply. This helps you avoid any nasty surprises, and you may also discover extra benefits that you can enjoy.