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How to apply for your first credit card

From eligibility requirements to filling out the application form, here's what you need to know to apply for your first credit card.

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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 20 minutes to complete the application.

If you want to get your first credit card now, this guide goes through tips on how to pick a credit card, what the application involves and ways to increase your chances of approval

Compare No Annual Fee, Low Interest Rate and Student Credit Cards

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Purchase rate Interest-free period Annual fee Balance transfer rate
Westpac Low Rate Card
13.74% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$59
0% p.a. for 20 months with 1% balance transfer fee
A low rate card offering 0% p.a. interest on balance transfers for the first 20 months and a $200 cashback offer.
ANZ Low Rate
12.49% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($58 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 25 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
Save with 0% p.a on balance transfers for 25 months (with a 1.5% BT fee) and $0 first year annual fee. Plus a 12.49% p.a. purchase interest rate.
Coles Low Rate Mastercard
12.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$58
0% p.a. for 6 months
Save with a low purchase interest rate, earn Flybuys points as you spend, and get up to 55 days interest-free.
Bankwest Breeze Classic Mastercard
0% for 15 months, reverts to 10.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$49
2.99% p.a. for 9 months
Save with an introductory rate of 0% p.a on purchases for 15 months and 2.99% p.a. on balance transfers for 9 months.
ANZ Platinum Credit Card
0% for 17 months, reverts to 20.24% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($87 p.a. thereafter)
20.24% p.a.
Receive a 0% purchase rate offer for 17 months and a $0 first-year annual fee. Plus, complimentary overseas travel and medical insurance.
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Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Annual fee Purchase rate Balance transfer rate
Coles No Annual Fee Mastercard
$0
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
Earn Flybuys points for your spending and save with an ongoing $0 annual fee and 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 18 months.
Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard
$0
17.99% p.a.
2.99% p.a. for 9 months
Offers a $0 annual fee, 0% foreign transaction fees, complimentary international travel insurance and a balance transfer offer.
ANZ Low Rate
$0 annual fee for the first year ($58 p.a. thereafter)
12.49% p.a.
0% p.a. for 25 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
Save with 0% p.a on balance transfers for 25 months (with a 1.5% BT fee) and $0 first year annual fee. Plus a 12.49% p.a. purchase interest rate.
ANZ Platinum Credit Card
$0 annual fee for the first year ($87 p.a. thereafter)
0% for 17 months, reverts to 20.24% p.a.
20.24% p.a.
Receive a 0% purchase rate offer for 17 months and a $0 first-year annual fee. Plus, complimentary overseas travel and medical insurance.
Virgin Money No Annual Fee Credit Card
$0
0% for 12 months, reverts to 18.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months
Save with an ongoing $0 annual fee and 0% p.a. on balance transfers and purchases for 12 months.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Purchase rate Interest-free period Annual fee Balance transfer rate
ANZ Low Rate
12.49% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($58 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 25 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
Save with 0% p.a on balance transfers for 25 months (with a 1.5% BT fee) and $0 first year annual fee. Plus a 12.49% p.a. purchase interest rate.
Westpac Low Rate Card
13.74% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$59
0% p.a. for 20 months with 1% balance transfer fee
A low rate card offering 0% p.a. interest on balance transfers for the first 20 months and a $200 cashback offer.
Bankwest Breeze Classic Mastercard
0% for 15 months, reverts to 10.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$49
2.99% p.a. for 9 months
Save with an introductory rate of 0% p.a on purchases for 15 months and 2.99% p.a. on balance transfers for 9 months.
Bendigo Bank Low Rate Credit Card
0% for 15 months, reverts to 11.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$45
13.99% p.a.
Get 0% p.a. interest on purchases for 15 months and a $150 Woolworths Supermarket gift card when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.
St.George Vertigo Classic
0% for 7 months, reverts to 13.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($55 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 22 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
Get 0% p.a. promotional purchase and balance transfer rates and save with a first-year annual fee waiver.
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Compare up to 4 providers

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.

cc application-

Do I meet the card's eligibility criteria?

Once you've found a credit card you want to apply for, start by checking that you meet the eligibility requirements. 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.

Eligibility criteria icons

What information do I need for a credit card application?

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can usually apply for a credit card online in around 20 minutes. 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 whether or not you want to be told about other promotions. If you request a credit limit, it will be considered by the provider but is subject to approval (they may offer you a different limit instead). You don't need to sign up for promotions unless you want to.

As well as these details, you may 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

It's a good idea to have these documents ready before you apply for your first credit card, so that you can provide them as soon as they are requested.

Getting your first credit card can be a big financial step. So taking the time to compare different cards based on your financial circumstances and checking the eligibility requirements will help you find a card that suits your needs.

Images: Getty and Shutterstock

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8 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    BenJuly 9, 2013

    How long does it take for an application to be approved, and for cards to be received? We are going away in 2 months and need to know if we should start applying now.

    Cheers

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JacobJuly 9, 2013Staff

      Hi Ben. Thanks for your question. An application should take about 10 to 15 minutes. Once you finish, you should have a response in about a minute. After approval, a card will be sent out in about a week and half. When you receive the card, you will need to activate it, which can be done over the phone, and you can start using your card right away. Jacob.

  2. Default Gravatar
    SusanJune 4, 2013

    I’m new in Australia permanent resident about just over a year ago and I’ve only been working for 9 months and get paid 60000 a year I have took out car finance about 6 months ago. Am I eligible. For credit card or do I have to wait a bit longer to apply for one? Thanks

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JacobJune 5, 2013Staff

      Hi Susuan. Thanks for your question. Please see this page for a list of providers that allow temporary residents to apply for a credit card. Jacob.

  3. Default Gravatar
    NimeshMay 6, 2013

    Can I cancel the credit card when I have no longer use of it and if I can, what should I do?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JacobMay 7, 2013Staff

      Hi Nimemsh. Thanks for your question. If you have paid your account balance in full, you can cancel your credit card account at any time without charge. To cancel the card, you will need to call your provider. They will put you through the process, which only takes about five minutes. Once that’s done, cut the card up. Jacob.

  4. Default Gravatar
    BabaMarch 10, 2013

    I am a full time worker getting $652 clear money per week. i applied for a credit card to commonwealth bank and after around 6 month ,the bank accepted my offer and they sent me message with conditionally approved for 10,500 credit offer and when i sent my pay slip again they declined me,.again the manager from the broad meadows branch recommended for me but again they declined me and sent me one letter,.i m not meeting the bank’s criteria,.so can you please answer me why they are declining my credit card application,..and what should i do to get credit card, again?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      MarcMarch 11, 2013Staff

      Hello Baba,
      thanks for the question.

      There are many reasons why a credit card application can be denied. Some of the more common reasons are: bad credit history, failing a credit provider’s point score system, or too many prior credit applications on your credit file. To read more about these in depth this page may be of some help. To better understand how not to be declined on your next credit card, this guide may also have some answers for you.

      I hope this helps,
      Marc.

Credit Cards Comparison

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Purchase rate Balance transfer rate Annual fee
Citi Rewards Card - Exclusive Offer
21.49% p.a.
0% p.a. for 30 months
$49 annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
Finder Exclusive
Save on interest with 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 30 months with no balance transfer fee. Plus, a $49 first-year annual fee and Citi Rewards.
Coles No Annual Fee Mastercard
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
$0
Earn Flybuys points for your spending and save with an ongoing $0 annual fee and 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 18 months.
Qantas American Express Premium Card
20.74% p.a.
$249
Enjoy 100,000 bonus Qantas Points, 50 bonus Status Credits and 2 complimentary Qantas Club lounge invitations per year. Ends 4 November 2020.
Citi Rewards Card - $500 Voucher Offer
21.49% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months
$99 annual fee for the first year ($199 p.a. thereafter)
Get a $500 e-voucher to spend at Myer, JB Hi-Fi or Coles when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days. Plus, earn points with the Citi Rewards Program.
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* The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards finder.com.au has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your own personal financial circumstances when comparing cards.

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