Credit cards may not have the best reputation, as the media is often quick to portray the negative connotations associated with them. If you lack self-discipline, a credit card can run you into trouble with debt levels beyond your comfort. On the other hand, credit cards are a very useful financial tool and when used properly, there are many benefits to having the card available in your wallet.
There are many reasons why people apply for a credit card. Just because you don’t have the money sitting in a piggy bank to purchase that much needed item isn’t the only reason to apply for a credit card.
Here’s a few more purposes to needing ‘the plastic’.
No need to carry cash
When you leave home for the day you don’t need to bulk up your purse/wallet with wads of cash. A credit card will get you through the day with any purchases that come your way no matter how big or small they are.
Who doesn’t love free stuff?! By using a rewards credit card you can earn points towards an airline ticket, hotel, receive store discounts or even cash back deals. Rewards are a big factor enticing people to apply for a credit card. Check out the latest reward deals right here.
Making purchases and paying bills online
Oh the convenience of shopping online! Having a credit card allows you to sit back and relax in the comfort of your own home and make purchases online without the stress of getting in your car and driving to the shops. Some of the best deals around are found on the internet. You can also use your credit card to pay bills online.
It’s wise to have a credit card just in case of an emergency. A credit card will provide you with instant access to cash via an ATM.
To boost your credit history and score
Applying for a credit card and then using it wisely and making repayments on time will actually improve your credit history and score.
Convenience when travelling
A lot of people apply for a credit card when jet setting overseas for a holiday or business trip. It’s a convenient way of paying for travel expenses without having to continuously find an ATM to withdraw local currency. But be careful of foreign exchange rates! Before you apply for a travel credit card read the Mozo survival guide – overseas credit card woes.
Types of credit cards
There is no shortage of credit card options out there, from the basic plastic to the premium card with lots of incentives and benefits. The credit card you choose to apply for will depend on what type of spender you are and your purpose for having one. But of course if you’re not good at managing debt than a credit card may not be for you! Check out our list of credit cards below.
- Balance Transfer credit card – If you’ve accumulated a substantial amount of debt on a credit card with a high interest rate a balance transfer credit card can help get you out of the red. You can move your existing credit card debt to a new BT credit card and receive low if not zero interest for a set period of between 3-24 months. Learn more about balance transfer cards here.
- Rewards credit card – Are you well disciplined and likely to pay off your credit card in full each month? If ‘yes’ than a rewards credit card could be right up your alley. Rewards credit cards have higher interest rates and annual fees than standard credit cards but you’ll receive, airline, supermarket and general rewards for your spending. Make sure you choose a rewards card that suits your spending habits and has benefits for the things you are interested in. There’s no point choosing a credit card linked to an airline frequent flyer program if you have a fear of flying! Read our guide on the highs and lows of frequent flyer cards.
- Platinum credit card – Do you like to spend big, have a decent salary (over $60,000 p.a.) enjoy travelling, love going to live events and will pay off your credit card balance in full each month? If this sounds a lot like you, than a platinum credit card could be all yours! Platinum cards generally have higher interest rates and annual fees but come with plenty of perks including complimentary insurance and personal services like concierge.
- Low interest rate credit card – A low rate card is ideal for those people who are a little forgetful and unreliable when it comes to paying off their credit card in full each month. A low interest rate card generally has interest rates of 14% p.a. or less.
- Interest free credit card – These cards offer a means of borrowing money with an interest free period (3, 6 or 12 months) to repay it. Who doesn’t want a 0% interest rate on purchases! Learn more and compare interest free credit card deals here.
- Low or no fee credit card – If you’re someone who is likely to pay off their credit card in full each month then you can be rewarded with a card that has low or even no fees attached. A low annual fee credit card may have higher interest rates and no reward scheme connected to it.
- Travel credit card – Don’t waste your hard earned savings on currency conversion fees. There are plenty of travel cards on the market specifically designed for overseas travel where you can avoid a foreign exchange fee altogether. Search Mozo's travel credit card hub to find a great card deal for your next holiday abroad.
Mozo can help you find the best credit card deals in Australia, compare over 195 credit cards from 58 banks.
Key features to know before applying for a credit card
To help you make a wise decision about which card suits you and your needs, make sure you have an understanding of the following features before you apply for a credit card.
- Credit limits: A credit card limit refers to the maximum amount of funds a bank or financial institution will allow you to charge to the card. It’s important that you don’t exceed this limit as your provider may hit you with a penalty. So it’s important to find a card that has a credit limit that you can stick to i.e. don’t borrow more than you can afford as it will cost you much more in the long run.
- Fees: There is definitely no shortage of fees tagged onto credit cards. Make sure you know which fees come with your credit card before you apply. Factor the fees in when you do your budget. Credit card fees include: Annual fee, cash advance fee, late payment fee and overseas currency conversion fees. Read Mozo’s guide on avoiding credit card fees.
- Rates: When shopping around for a credit card, it’s extremely important to look at the interest rate the provider will charge. A low interest rate is usually around 14% while some can be as high as 18%. How much interest you’ll pay will depend on the card you have, the purchases you make and when and how much you make in repayments.
- Interest-free days: This is the number of days you have to pay your bill in full before interest is charged on the balance. Compare and save on credit cards right here.
- Repayments: For every purchase you make with your credit card you go into debt. The amount which you have borrowed on your credit card needs to be repaid to your provider. Repayments are usually made monthly. Use the Mozo credit card debt payments calculator to see how and when you’ll be debt free!
Should I do a credit check?
There is no harm at all in doing a credit check before you apply for a credit card. If you have a bad credit rating it can delay your credit card application for weeks, if not months. If you’ve never applied for a credit card before or have defaulted on a bill this may affect your credit rating. So it’s a good idea to order your credit report regularly to make sure all information is up to date and there is no incorrect information.
How to apply for a credit card
Applying for a credit card is a relatively easy and quick process. You can do it online, over the phone, or in a bank branch.
- Convenience of applying for a credit card at home or work at a time that suits you
- Online forms take around 15 minutes to complete
- You don’t need to worry about bringing all the necessary documents
- Technical issues can delay or affect your application
- You can’t ask any questions you may have during the application process
- No queues
- All your questions can be answered
- You should have all the essential documents at the tip of your finger
- You can only apply over the phone during bank hours
- You may be put on hold several times which can be rather annoying
- It’s personable and you can ask all the questions in the world you have about credit cards
- A good excuse to get out of the office/home and go for a walk for some fresh air to your local branch
- You’re restricted to bank hours
- There’s often long queues if you go during lunch time
- You risk forgetting a crucial document, which therefore can delay the process
Checklist when applying for a credit card
- Proof of ID: Driver’s licence, passport, Medicare card or proof of age card
- Employer details: Name, address and phone number. If you’re self-employed you’ll need to provide your accountant's name and contact number
- Proof of income: Payslips and/or bank statements.
- Current financial commitments: Details of your spending, what you own and owe e.g. rent or loan repayments
How long does it take for a credit card to be approved?
A credit card application takes around 15 minutes to complete. Once your application has been approved it then takes approximately 5-10 working days to receive your card.
Tips for managing your credit card
- Stick to a budget and don’t spend money you don’t have. Check out the Mozo budget planner
- Keep track of the latest purchases on your card by regularly checking your account online
- Don’t use your credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM, as you’ll be hit with a fee
- Avoid the minimum payment trap and pay the full amount back each month
- Make sure you check your statement when it arrives to track your spending and pick up on any incorrect charges
- To avoid all interest charges, set up a direct debit system to pay off the full amount owing each month