How to get a credit card
3 simple steps: Compare your options, check the eligibility criteria and apply online.
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In Australia, you can apply for a credit card if you're 18, have a good credit history and meet the card's eligibility criteria. You can usually apply for a card online, over the phone or in a branch and it should only take around 10 to 20 minutes to complete the application.
If you want to get a credit card now, here we go through tips on how to pick a credit card, what the application involves and ways to increase your chances of approval.
What's in this guide?
Compare No Annual Fee, Low Interest Rate and Student Credit Cards
What do I need to think about when choosing my first credit card?
Ask yourself these three questions to help you find a credit card that works for you:
- Are you a student? If you are studying full-time at university or another approved institution, you may be able to get a credit card that's designed for students. Student credit cards usually have low credit limits and low or no annual fees, which can help you manage the account costs and reduce the risk of serious debt.
- How much do you earn? Banks and other credit card providers look at your income to help decide if you can manage a card. If you're applying for your first credit card and don't have many other accounts, the credit card provider could place more weight on your income when deciding whether to approve or decline your application. If you're worried about this, you could think about applying for a credit card with a low minimum income requirement.
- How much can you afford to pay for a credit card? Credit card annual fees and interest rate charges can quickly add up – particularly when you're not used to having one. To avoid getting into serious debt, focus on cards that offer rates and fees that are affordable for your circumstances.
What if I want a reward or frequent flyer card as my first credit card?
As long as you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for any credit card you want – including reward credit cards, frequent flyer credit cards or other premium cards. But make sure the card you apply for is affordable based on your income and spending habits. If you're unsure, you may want to call the credit card provider and discuss your circumstances before applying, so that you can decide if the card is worth it.
How to apply for a credit card: 3 steps
You can usually complete an online credit card application form in around 10 to 20 minutes and get a response within 60 seconds of submitting it. Below is a step-by-step guide to help you get there.
1. Compare credit cards
This is an important step to help you find the right card for you. Start by thinking about what you want a credit card for and then consider the features, rates and fees applicable to different cards. If you're comparing credit cards on Finder, you can use the comparison tables to look at the product's features and fees side-by-side or click "More info" to read reviews of individual products.
2. See if you meet the card's eligibility criteria
Each card has its own eligibility criteria, which you'll find on the card's review page and at the start of the online application. These details vary between cards but usually include the following:
- A minimum age of 18. You must be at least 18 years old to get a credit card in Australia.
- Valid Australian residency status. In most cases, you need to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident. If you're a temporary resident, you need to hold a valid visa. Check out the full guide on credit cards for temporary residents for more details.
- Minimum income. Many credit cards list a minimum annual income requirement, which could range from $15,000 to $80,000 or more.
- Credit history. Credit card companies will request a credit check when you submit your application. Ideally, you should have good or excellent credit history when you apply. Otherwise, you may want to focus on improving your credit rating before you apply.
3. Fill in the application
This part usually takes around 10 to 20 minutes when you apply for a credit card online. Having the details you need ready also saves you some time. So, here's a checklist of the details and documents you need when you apply:
- Personal details. This includes your full name, date of birth, Australian residency or citizenship status, contact phone number, email address and residential address.
- Identification. You need to provide a valid form of ID, such as your driver's licence, passport or Medicare card details. Once the initial application is submitted, you may also be asked for certified copies of these documents.
- Employment details. You'll be asked for details of your employment status, including your profession, your employer's name and contact details, as well as your salary. You may also be asked to provide recent payslips that verify your income.
- Other financial details. This includes any other types of income, such as Centrelink payments, as well as any savings, shares or other assets. You also need to provide estimates of your regular expenses, including rent or mortgage payments, loan payments, bills and grocery costs.
- Card details. During the application, you'll be asked about some card features, including the credit limit and any balance transfer (if you're moving debt from an existing account). Keep in mind these details and requests are still subject to the provider's lending criteria and approval.
You may also be asked for supporting documentation once your online application is submitted. This could include:
- Copies of identity documents such as your driver's licence, passport and birth certificate
- Recent payslips
- Recent bills or bank statements
What happens after you apply?
After you've completed the different sections of the online credit card application form, check that all the information is accurate and submit the application.
The information will then be sent to the credit card provider and a credit enquiry will be recorded on your credit file. Most credit card providers will then give you a response within 60 seconds of applying. You may be approved, conditionally approved or declined. The bank may ask for more information before making its final decision.
If you're approved, you can usually expect your new credit card to arrive in the mail within a week or so.
If you're not approved, spend some time comparing other options and improving your credit score before you apply for another one.
What if I don't activate a credit card?
First of all, you can't use any new credit card until you've activated it. And the application details will still be listed on your credit history (this is the case even if you're not approved).
The other details depend on the provider and the terms and conditions that you agree to when you apply and submit your application. In some cases, your account may be set up as soon as your application is approved, especially for digital or virtual cards.
For example, the MoneyMe Freestyle Virtual Mastercard terms and conditions state that the card "will be activated and ready for use once MoneyMe has approved the opening of your Account", while Bankwest states its digital cards don't need to be activated.
So if you don't want to activate or use a credit card after you've applied and been approved, you should call the provider as soon as possible and explain that you have changed your mind and no longer want the account. In most cases, this will void the card and the account before you have accepted it.
Can I get a credit card as a casual employee?
It's possible to apply for a credit card when you're a casual worker – as long as you meet all the eligibility requirements for the card you want.
However, it could be a bit trickier to prove that you meet a minimum income requirement if you're employed casually and don't have set hours (compared to someone employed permanently with fixed hours).
But you can provide supporting documentation to give the provider a clear idea of your regular income, including:
- Recent payslips for the past 2-3 months (or more)
- Your most recent income statement (previously known as a payment summary or group certificate)
- Your employer's contact details and/or a letter confirming your employment
- Your 1-2 most recent Tax Assessment Notice from the Australian Taxation Office
Other details to keep in mind when you're employed as a casual
The following factors could also have an impact on your credit card application when you're a casual employee:
- The length of time you've been with your employer (the longer, the better in this case).
- Any other sources of income.
- Your savings or other assets.
- Your share of regular household expenses – so if you split the cost of rent or electricity with others, make sure you only provide details of your own expenses.
Another factor to think about is your potential credit limit. Credit card providers must assign you a credit limit that is no higher than what you can afford to pay off over a three-year period (including interest charges). Your income is a key part of this assessment. As there is potential for income to vary when you're employed casually, it's likely you'll be offered a lower limit than someone who earns the same amount in a full-time job.
For this reason, you may want to focus on cards that have low minimum income requirements since they usually have lower credit limits. Also consider looking at credit cards offered by your current bank as it will already have access to some of your financial history.
While there is no way to guarantee success when you apply for a credit card, including as much supporting documentation as possible gives you a greater chance of approval when you're employed as a casual, work part-time or earn income from a few different sources.
Can I get two of the same credit card?
How likely it is to get approved for each one depends on the lender's application criteria and assessment. Basically, they would want to know that you had the ability to pay off each account.
There's also another snag when it comes to rewards. Bonus point and other introductory offers are typically reserved for new credit card customers – and most providers explicitly state that you won't be eligible if you hold a similar account with them.
Bonus point offers available on St.George Amplify credit cards, for example, are not available to anyone who has held an Amplify product in the past 12 months. American Express, on the other hand, typically states that you won't be eligible for bonus points on any Amex card if you have held a card issued by American Express in the past 18 months.
The "new cardholder" requirement extends to other introductory offers, including 0% p.a. purchase rate promotions and balance transfer offers. In the case of balance transfers, you also won't be able to transfer debt from one card to another with the same provider.
So if you're on the hunt for bonus points (or other introductory perks), this fine print rules out applying for the same credit card you already have. But you can still apply for other frequent flyer cards that offer bonus points.
Something else to consider is that a second application for the exact same account could raise questions of identity theft. After all, having two identical credit card accounts would mean paying the same annual fee twice, along with any interest charges.
Usually when people want to know if they can get two of the same credit card, it's because of a specific goal. In your case, this was bonus points and the solution is to look at introductory offers you are eligible for with other cards/providers.
But here are a few other reasons people may have for asking this question – along with possible alternatives:
- Sharing the account. If you want to get another physical credit card to share with your partner or another family member, you could look at adding them as a secondary cardholder to your existing account.
- Getting access to more credit. If the reason for getting another credit card is to access additional funds, you could request a credit limit increase on your existing account. If approved, this would give you access to more credit, without the hassle of having another account to manage.
- Enjoying updated features. Sometimes the features on a particular credit card will change for new customers, but not for existing customers. If that's the reason you want to apply for a new version of your credit card, call your provider first and see if the updates will be applied to your existing account in the future. If not, you could cancel your existing card before applying for the new one – or look for a new card that offers even more competitive features.
- Separating expenses. Having a different credit card for work spending, online purchases or travel can be a convenient way to manage your money, particularly for accounting. If that's the goal, you could look at getting a dedicated business credit card, a card with 0% foreign transaction fees or one with other benefits based on what you plan to use it for.
So even though there are situations when getting two of the same credit card might seem ideal, it's often easier and more practical to look at other options that fit with your goals.
Ready to get a new credit card, start by comparing a range of options. Once you find one you want to apply for, click through to the online application, follow these steps and wait for the response.
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