Want to build good credit history and improve your credit score? Read this guide to find out how a credit card can help.
Your credit report contains information about your financial history including credit limits, repayment history, loan applications and any defaults you may have had on your accounts. When used responsibly, a credit card can demonstrate positive financial habits and improve your credit score. This can then increase your chances of approval when applying for loans and other lines of credit in the future.
To get your finances in shape, you can use this guide to understand how you can use a credit card to strengthen your credit history.
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How do credit cards affect your credit history?
Your credit report includes details of a wide range of financial products you inquire about or use over the course of your life. This includes credit cards, loans, mortgages and utility accounts such as phone plans and gas or electricity accounts. If you have a credit card, the following details will be included in your credit report:
- The type of account. Credit cards and loans are generally considered the most “valuable” types of accounts to have listed on your credit history because they give lenders key insights into your ability to manage a line of credit.
- Loan inquiries. Applications for credit cards and other loans are considered “new loan inquiries”, which are also listed on your credit report. Loan inquiry details are important to lenders when assessing your applications for risk factors. The risks are increased for lenders if there are no previous applications or if there are a lot of applications in a short period of time, but it is still good to have some considered listings here if you want to apply for other products in the future.
- Credit limit. When you get a credit card, your credit limit is also listed on your credit report. These details help lenders see how much access you have to credit when considering applications for loans and other products.
- Monthly repayment history. Details of when you pay off your credit card, and whether you pay the minimum or full amount each month, give lenders an idea of your financial management skills.
Keep in mind that these are just some of the details listed on your credit history. You can learn more about what else is included with our guide to understanding your credit report.
How can I use a credit card to improve my credit history?
Every time you apply for a credit card or manage your account, there’s the potential to affect your credit history. You can use this to your advantage and build good credit history in the following ways:
- Only apply for one card at a time. Having too many credit card applications can hurt your credit score, so make sure you compare credit cards and then apply for the one that best suits your needs at the time. If your application is accepted, don't apply for another card straight away. Instead, take some time to improve your credit history by demonstrating positive payment behaviours with other accounts.
- Make repayments on time. Paying off your credit card balance on or before the due date shows lenders you are responsible with your accounts. Depending on the credit card you choose, you could set up automatic payments from a nominated bank account.
- Pay more than the minimum. You're only required to pay the minimum payment on your credit card each month. As this is usually only 2% or 3% of the debt owing, this leaves the remainder of the debt to collect interest. If this grows into unmanageable debt, this could hurt your credit score. Instead, paying your account in full (or paying as much as you can) will reduce your interest costs and help keep your account in good standing. It also demonstrates positive credit habits on your report, which could help you get approval for future loan products.
- Manage your credit limit. If you get a pay raise at work or your circumstances improve in some other way, requesting a higher limit for your credit card can show that you are able to manage a greater amount of credit. As long as you keep the account in good standing, this higher limit should help improve your credit score. However, if you want to apply for another product with a high credit limit and you're not using all of your existing credit limit, you may want to consider lowering your limit. You can see our guide to how credit limits affect credit scores for more information.
- Upgrade your account. If you have had a basic credit card for years, upgrading to a gold, platinum or black credit card could help show that you're capable of managing a more premium credit account.
- Consolidate debts. 0% on balance transfers for a promotional periodIf you already have more than one credit card and you're struggling to repay them or would prefer to manage a single account, you can consider consolidating your debts with a balance transfer. These cards usually boast which can range from 12 to 24 months. If you repay your account in full before the introductory interest-free period ends, this could have a positive impact on your credit score.
- Regularly review your credit card details. Taking time to go over your account details can help you see how well you are managing your credit card. It will also help you decide whether or not you want to increase your credit limit, upgrade the account or even apply for another credit card to show you are able to manage different levels of credit.
What kind of credit card will help my credit history?
Most Australian credit card issuers won't approve applicants who have a bad credit history. This is why it's important to order a copy of your credit report and score (which you can do through Finder) to determine where your finances stand before you apply. If you have a low credit score, you should spend some time improving it before you apply. Check out our guide to improving your credit score for some tips.
If you're considering a credit card to boost your credit score, you can start comparing your options below. Underneath the comparison table, we've also broken down the types of credit cards might suit you if you have a limited or bad credit history.
Compare credit cards to repair your credit history
If you have limited or no credit history
Limited credit history can make it harder to get approval for certain kinds of credit cards, so it’s a good idea to start by looking at basic credit cards. The ANZ First Visa, for example, is designed specifically for people who have never had a credit card before and has features and eligibility requirements that reflect that.
As the credit card provider won’t be able to use much of your credit history to assess your application eligibility, more weight will be placed on other factors, such as your income. With that in mind, a low-income credit card could be a good place to start even if you earn more than the minimum amount required.
You may also want to consider cards that are designed for students or other “no frills” options, such as the ME frank credit card. These types of cards are designed to be easy to apply for and manage, which means you can start building up your positive credit history.
If you have a bad credit score
Credit card providers will carefully consider any “bad credit” details – such as late payments or defaults – that are listed on your credit report. So, if you want to apply for a credit card to help repair your credit score, sticking to basic options can improve your chances of getting approval.
Another option is to consider credit cards with no annual fee or a low standard interest rate. These kinds of cards can help keep the cost of the account down and make it easier for you to avoid late payments, defaults and other problems that lead to bad credit.
How to apply for a credit card to build your credit history
Follow these steps to get a credit card that you can use to improve your credit history.
- Compare cards. Search and compare a range of credit cards that suit your circumstances, paying particular attention to the eligibility criteria and ongoing features.
- Apply. Once you have chosen a credit card that fits your circumstances, just hit the “Go to site” button and you’ll be taken to a secure application page.
- Provide your personal information. Make sure you include as much information as possible in your application to increase the chances of approval, and keep supporting documentation handy.
- Submit the application. You should get a response within a few minutes, either on the webpage or via email.
If your application is successful, the provider will be in touch to finalise the process and issue your credit card. From there, you can start using it to improve your credit score.
With a wide range of options to choose from, a simple application process and convenient everyday spending options, credit cards are often a gateway to better credit history and more future loans. So, whether you are just starting your financial journey or need to improve on the past, with this information in mind you can use a credit card to meet your financial goals.