5 tips to help you get the best credit card deal in 2020
In a time of financial volatility, taking charge of your credit card is one way to lighten the load.
If you're paying off a credit card debt or don't like the annual fee that comes with your account, it's time to look at other options that offer you more value.
While there are lots of credit cards you can choose from, there's no one-size-fits-all standard. It depends on how you use the card and what you want from it.
So, whether it's saving money with a balance transfer, getting a low or $0 annual fee or grabbing some bonus points, here are five tips to help you find a credit card deal that helps you get there.
1. Compare your options online
If you already have a credit card, take a moment to look at what you're getting (and paying for). You can use those features as a point of comparison with new cards to work out how much value you'll get by switching.
For example, if you're paying a $300 annual fee now and switched to a card that offered a $0 annual fee in the first year and a $150 annual fee after that, you'd save $450 over 2 years.
If you don't have a credit card or you're on a hunt for one with completely different features – such as a bonus points offer – there are plenty of websites that show you the possible value you'll get from different credit cards.
2. Keep a lookout for balance transfer fees
If your priority is to pay off your credit card, a 0% p.a. balance transfer offer will help you save on interest charges for an introductory period. Some of these cards charge a one-time balance transfer (BT) fee, which is usually worth 1-2% of the amount you move to the new card.
Although the BT fee is another cost to factor in, sometimes an offer with a BT fee can save you more money than getting a balance transfer with no fee. It depends on the other terms of the offer and how long you think you'll be paying off the balance.
As an example, the HSBC Platinum credit card offers 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 26 months with a 1% BT fee. It also waives the annual fee in the first year, which then goes back up to $129 in the following years.
Say you had a $3,000 debt you wanted to transfer and decided to compare this offer to a card with 0% p.a. for 26 months, no balance transfer fee and a $150 annual fee.
Assuming you made no other purchases on the card and repaid the debt during the 0% p.a. period, here is a break down of the balance transfer and annual fee costs during the 26-month introductory period:
|HSBC Platinum credit card||Balance transfer credit card|
|Balance transfer offer||0% for 26 months, 1% BT fee||0% for 26 months, no BT fee|
|Annual fee||$0 for the first year, $129 after||$150 per year|
|1st year cost||$30 ($3,000 x 1% plus $0 annual fee)||$150 (0% BT fee plus annual fee)|
|2nd year cost||$129 (annual fee)||$150 (annual fee)|
|3rd year cost||$129 (annual fee)||$150 (annual fee)|
In this example, you can see the HSBC Platinum offer would save you $162 more over the length of the introductory period – even though it charges a 1% BT fee.
But if you thought you could pay off your balance in less time or could find a card with a similar offer and a lower annual fee, then you might save more money.
3. Choose your focus
Tempting as it can be to use a credit card for all the things, focusing on one goal is a really simple way you can get more value from one.
For example, if you get a 0% balance transfer credit card, you're more likely to save on interest charges by focusing on repaying what you owe and not using it for new purchases.
On the other hand, if you have some big expenses you want to put on a credit card, you could look at cards that offer a 0% p.a. introductory rate for purchases or one that gives you thousands of bonus rewards points when you spend a set amount in the first few months.
Got a few goals? Pick the one that you think is most important to you and go with that. Remember, you can always look at other cards and goals in the future, but ticking one off means you'll have less to think about next time.
4. Have a game plan for introductory offers
You'll get more value out of a 0% interest rate offer, bonus points, cashback or other introductory offer if you plan how you'll use it.
If it's a balance transfer offer you're looking at, for example, work out how much you'd need to pay each month to clear your debt during the introductory period. A simple way to do this is to divide your debt by the months in the introductory period. So if you had a $3,000 debt on a card with 0% p.a. for 26 months, you'd need to pay at least $116 per month – not including any annual fees or BT fees.
With balance transfers, it's also important to be aware that any new purchases will have an impact on how long it takes to pay off your balance transfer because the purchase balance would be paid off before your balance transfer. You can learn more about the way repayments are allocated (and how it can affect you) in this guide.
As another example, say you got a card that offered thousands of bonus points if you spent $3,000 in the first 90 days. Thinking about what you'd pay for with the card to reach that $3,000 hurdle would help you get your points and plan for repayments. If you used the card for purchases you already had money saved for, you could even avoid interest.
5. Ask questions
There is no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to credit cards. Sometimes it's hard to understand the terms and conditions of an offer or to know exactly how much a card's features could cost you.
If you're umm-ing and ahh-ing about a particular offer for too long, it could end before you even apply. Asking questions – whether that's searching for answers online or calling the credit card provider – means you'll get the fine print that's relevant to you without straining your eyes.
There isn't a one-size-fits-all standard for credit cards, and what worked for you a few years (or months) ago may not offer as much value now. These tips give you a way to find credit card offers that fit your current goals and plans – and you can use them again in the future.