Choosing a credit card is not an easy task. There are a lot of proposals on the market from banks, such as HSBC, ANZ, NAB, Virgin, Westpac, Commonwealth, St. George, and also supermarkets, airlines and financial companies, like Cole, Woolworths (Woolies credit cards), Ozforex LFS (28 degrees), Aussie, Jetstar and others. Each of them has many offers which belong to different types of cards: travel, low rate and interest free credit cards, balance transfer ones, everyday rewards cards, with different bonuses programs (Frequent flyer: Qantas and Velocity; cash back; for VIP cards). With so many loan deals it is really important to do some investigation first to make right credit cards comparisons and find one which best fits your spending practices and financial facilities. Bankchart.com.au gives some tips to help you make the most of your credit card.
Step one. Should you apply for a credit card?
Credit cards are, probably, the most convenient form of loans. Now, the credit card debt in Australia exceeds $55 billion AUD and continues to increase. There are more than 16 millions of credit cards, all of them are unsecured credit lines, whereas, secured credit cards in Australia are not applied.
But using credit cards can be very expensive. Investigations have shown that such credits have the highest interest rates, and people usually expend more, using a credit card comparing to cash. So, it is very important to think wisely about why you desire one, and how you will pay for it, before applying for. You should calculate your monthly expenditures to estimate, how much net revenue you have each month to repay your credit card.
Get away from obtaining a credit card if you are going to use it to cover other loans. In such cases a personal loan is more preferred because of lower rates and commissions. Besides, in Australia many sellers often propose to purchase some commodities with holidays in payments and zero interest rates. These offerings are generally for high-priced items such as refrigerators, plasma TVs, laptops, etc. So, you should consider well, may be such proposals from vendors fit you better, than credit card ones.
In this way generally it makes sense to apply for a credit card in Australia if you require taking small loans regularly, which you will be able to repay during a grace period. Or, you often use goods and services, on which there are discounts, provided by the proposed credit card.
Step two. What credit card to choose?
Banks and companies in Australia offer a wide range of credit card deals, including:
These cards usually have the lowest interest rates on the market, varying from 11% for the best offers to 17% according to Bankchart.com.au research, but generally they have higher service charges. Also, low interest credit cards commonly do not provide you any frills like travel insurance, cash back, discounts on commodities and trips. So, it will be useful to apply for low interest rate credit cards in Australia, when you are going to borrow a large sum and will not be able to repay it during the grace period and are not needed in some discount programs on used by you items, for example: rebates on air tickets, gasoline, specified magazines, etc.
Apart from the above ones, balance transfer credit cards offers have low interest rates only for a certain period of time, usually from 3 to 24 months depending on a bank. Their size can be very low, or even frequently you can get a zero rate. But, when the advertising period has gone, the standard interest rate will be charged, which can be rather high.
In this way, it is profitable to obtain 0 balance transfer credit cards, when you are able to repay the loan during the promotional time. It looks tempting to change the card at the end of such the period to another one of other banks, what you can do permanently and in this manner do not pay any rates at all. On the other hand, transfer commissions can be charged. Best balance transfer credit cards in Australia can be compared by this link.
Bankchart.com.au survey shows, that many credit cards in Australia even do not have any service charges. But, the ones have a serious drawback – higher interest rates. Also, no annual fee credit cards in Australia usually do not offer rewards programs and other privileges. Thus, you should take such a card if you are able to repay your debt constantly during the grace period.
These credit cards are advantageous, if their owners have great monthly expenditures on the cards on which reward points are counted, and is able to zero the liabilities during the grace periods. Achieving a particular sum of points, you can change them to different gift cards or discounts on retail purchases. Study conditions of the programs scrupulously, because some kinds of expenditures double or even triple the rewards. On the other hand, rewards credit cards in Australia usually have high annual fees and interest rates and require a good credit rating for approval. So, you must consider carefully the benefits of the credit card rewards program in order not to overpay for the card.
It is useful to ask yourself such questions, before applying for a reward card:
- Is there any additional fee for bonuses programs?
- What privileges are being provided?
- How much is it needed to spend to receive the privileges?
- Do you normally expend that sum?
- Are bonuses points constant or temporary?
Best rewards credit cards in Australia can be compared by this link.
These proposals are also named frequent flyer credit cards and are very useful for people, who travel a lot, especially by air. Making purchases with the card, a person usually obtain rewards points (Qantas or Velocity programs), which can be used towards discounts on planes tickets, hotels, vehicles hire and others. If you commonly fly by a particular airline, you should check first whether it is present in your bank’s reward program – in such a case the discount will be maximum. Besides, travel cards frequently have low or even zero tariff for foreign exchange operations. Best credit cards for travel in Australia can be compared with a link.
Such programs will provide you with some cash, paid back on your card expenses, which are spent during some specific time. The amount of cash can be restricted by a determined limit. Cash back rate often isn’t high and doesn’t exceed 3%. More information about these cards and best offers you can look through in Bankchart.com.au report.
These cards have a premium class (Visa Black, Visa Platinum, MC Platinum, Visa Signature, MC World Elite and others) and suit for high income persons, who spend a lot, so can gain enough monthly points to cover the cards periodic fees. According to our report the annual fee can reach 700 AUD. The rates are also higher, till 21,99% on purchases and cash advances. On the other hand, the reward programs of these cards are usually wider, including exclusive services and privileges like travel insurance, concierge, airport lounge, purchase protection, etc.
These credit cards are provided by large supermarket networks and offers reward programs, when you pay with the cards in their shops. Achieving some amount of points you can change them to discounts on goods of the network or other companies-partners, for example, airlines. The most popular store cards in Australia for applying are Coles credit card and Woolies credit card. It is useful to apply for such cards if you are used to make purchases regularly in one of these retail networks.
Student credit cards
Apply for these cards when you are studying at TAFE or university. It is the best way to manage your finances and make a credit history. Banks may have separate credit cards for students, but usually offers ones from their low rate or low fee proposals.
Visa credit card vs MasterCard in Australia
Visa and MasterCard are the largest card processors in the world and in Australia particularly. They both provide a cardholder with
worldwide access, security, travel rewards and other benefits. So, commonly it is not important what network you should apply for but your choice will depend on a bank and its credit cards parameters.
Step three. What are rates and credit card fees?
Australian banks charge several types of interest rates, depending on how your card is used. These credit cards interest rates are:
- Purchases interest rate – applies, when you buy goods or services with EFTPOS or Internet
- Balance transfer rate – an interest rate which applies, when a person transferring (debts) from one credit card to another one
- Cash advantage interest rate – is used, when you withdraw money from ATMs or in banks offices
- Advertising interest rate – is used to attract new clients and is applied during a particular period of time, which usually doesn’t exceed 12 months
Interest rates on credit cards are usually variable, but sometimes fixed rates can be established, especially on special offers.
There are a lot of fees and charges on credit cards, so you must check them carefully in order not to overpay later. Such commissions are:
- annual maintenance fee – usually varies from 0 to 700 AUD, depending on a card class. High limit credit cards usually have larger annual fees
- balance transfer fee definition – is a commission charged by a bank to transfer a balance from one credit card account to another. Can be null, for example, on balance transfer cards
- fees for reward programs – may be not obligatory payments, just added to periodic fees, if you require bonuses
- late payments fee – equals 9-30 AUD and is charged, when a person doesn't pay the balance till maturity date. Determine automatic repayments and you never miss the established term
- fees, when you exceeding the credit limit – according to our researches commonly vary from 9 to 40 AUD
- international transaction fees – usually equal 3-4% but on some proposals can be lower - 1,5% or even 0%. So, seek for special travel cards, if you fly abroad a lot
- cash advance fees – are the largest cards commission expenditures if you withdraw a lot. Also, they cause a higher interest rate, so you are interested to repay the debt as soon, as it is possible. The tariffs usually vary from 2% to 4% and have minimum commission restrictions, as a rule, 2,5-4 AUD.
Step four. What else should you pay attention to when you choosing a card?
Besides interest rates and different commissions, you should consider many other different conditions of proposed credit cards in order to choose the one, which fits you best. Such parameters are:
- Minimum repayment – usually doesn’t exceed 5-7% of a debt amount
- Credit limit – is the maximum sum, that you can get on your card. This parameter is rather important, because if you exceed it, you will have to pay a charge of 9-40 AUD.
- Definition of grace period – is the time, during which a card holder is permitted to repay its credit card debt without having to pay interest. The bigger it is, the lower interest payments you will have. Is not established on all proposed credit cards of Australian banks. The maximum term on the market is 55 days according to our research
- Availability – make sure that the local branch is near your location, and the requirements to the card consumers (age, credit rating, nationality) fit your possibilities
- ATMs – check whether there are many of available ATMs for you to use. Are these machines not far from your location or workplace? It is important, because withdrawal form other Australian banks’ machines charges high commissions, while servicing in native net can be free
- PayPass – contactless payment is a convenient method of clearing-off, but more risky, if your card has been stolen
- Extra card benefits – addition different bonuses, like extended warranty, price protection, insurance cover, free lounge cover, can be very useful in particular situations
Step five. How to use a credit card with the maximum benefit?
Besides interest rates, fees and other mentioned above parameters of credit cards of Australian banks, you should also keep in mind such situations to use your card with the maximum benefit:
It is important to repay your credit card as soon, as it is possible. Don’t wait for the maturity date, because the interests on your debts are counted daily. It's a good idea to get into the custom of putting some cash on your credit card every time, you have this possibility. If the card has a grace period, pay back the balance a few days earlier. Because the enrolment of money can take some time, especially if you make transfers from another bank. Also, it is very useful to arrange regular payments to your credit cards in order not to forget to make them by yourself. The commissions for late payments are rather high.
Growths in credit limits
Usually your bank will offer you periodic credit limit growths, if you make regular payments in time. You shouldn’t employ these extra sums, if you are not sure that will able make additional repayments on an increased debt. Keep in mind that in such situations it will take more time to repay your liabilities, and you will be charged higher interest payments.
Don’t obtain many credit cards
When you have several credit cards, rates and commissions payments increase. It's too attractive to use credit limits and your liabilities only multiply. So, never obtain more than two credit cards. Nonetheless, if you got into large debts on credit cards – you may take consolidation credit or transfer liabilities to one card with lower interest rates.
Joint credit cards
If you are not single, you may apply for a joint credit card. In such a case you can get a higher credit limit comparing to an individual claim. Additional credit card for your partner requires surcharge, but it still will be cheaper comparing to getting two separate credit cards.
If you lose your credit card
If your everyday rewards card is lost, whatever the issuer is (Woolworths, Coles, HSBC, others), you should call your provider’s 24/7 customer assistance as soon as it is possible and cancel it.
Below are the phone numbers of some of the largest credit card issuers in Australia to be called in such cases:
- Commonwealth Bank - 13 22 21
- Westpac - 1300 130 961
- NAB - 1800 033 103
- ANZ - 1800 033 844
- Georges - 1800 028 208
- Citibank - 13 24 84
- HSBC - 1300 308 008
- American Express - 1300 132 639
- Coles - 1800 005 809
- Woolworths - 1300 10 1234
Also, Visa and MasterCard have own fraud protection programs - Zero Liability Policy (Agreement), so you will not be responsible for fraudulent transactions, if you fulfill appropriate requirements.
Step six. How to apply for a credit card (online)?
You should know some features in order to apply for a credit card and get a positive response. Irrelevant, whether it is your first credit card choice, or you have no income. The best way to get a credit card and also any other loan - is to take care of this in advance. Pay your bills (phone, Internet, electricity) on time regularly. It will help you to build a good credit history and not only receive an affirmative decision, but also lower interest rates on credit cards or home loans.
In order to make applying for a credit card a person usually needs to be a resident of Australia and, be over the age of 18. Apply for a credit card online to speed up the process or visit a branch. The bank will make identification, for example, ask your Australian driver's license number and analyze your financial facilities. Base credit cards commonly requires annual income of 15 000 AUD, but premium ones can demand 75 000 AUD or even over. Some of credit cards have instant approval, but usually you will have to wait a little.
Banks can reject your application if you belong to people with bad credit rating in Australia, but also in other cases, such as:
if you earn not enough or have large expenses
- if you don’t fit age limits
- not meeting citizenship
- if you apply for several credit cards in a short space of time
- incorrect information in your application (for example, you made a mistake in the driver’s license number)
Do not immediately apply for another credit card, if you've been refused for a one. This will make the case only worse, as any credit card rejection may influent your credit score. In such occasions you should appeal to a credit bureau and to request a copy of your credit report. It will provide you with information of ways to improve your credit rating or mistakes in data. If errors in information took place, you should contact the credit agency to fix them. Improving your credit score is more difficult case - make the debts consolidation and shorten your monthly expenditures. Perhaps, fortune will be on your side then.
So, a credit card is not a panacea for all financial problems. It is advantageous to use credit card limits only if you have a need in small amounts of financing and you will be able to repay credit debts within a grace period. Or the bank provides significant bonuses on goods and services, that you often use. Establish automatic debt repayment and strictly follow your budget. Do not get fooled by advertising tricks of Australian banks and marketers. You should remember, that rich people do not spend more than they earn, but, on the contrary, regularly save some sums from their income to ensure financial independence in the future.