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Advantages and disadvantages of a credit card

Decide if a credit card is right for you with our comprehensive list of pros and cons.

Credit cards can be a convenient way to manage your finances, but they can also be expensive and risky. If you’re deciding whether or not a credit card is right for you, here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages you can weigh up to make your decision.

credit card advantages and disadvantages infographic

9 Advantages of using a credit card

Some of the perks of paying with plastic include:

  1. A credit card is safer than carrying cash. While there’s only a small chance of having lost or stolen cash returned, a credit card can quickly be cancelled if you lose your wallet. Most financial institutions also have security processes in place to protect you if your card has been lost or stolen or if you suspect your account has been used for a fraudulent transaction.
  2. A credit card can build your credit rating. Your credit card account repayment history make up a key part of your credit file. If you keep your account in good standing, this information will help you build up a good credit score, which could increase your chances of approval for other products such as car loans or a mortgage.
  3. You can get interest-free days. If you pay your balance in full before the statement period ends, you can be rewarded with interest-free days on future purchases for a set period.
  4. Earn reward points when you spend. Rewards and frequent flyer credit cards allow you to earn reward points on every dollar you spend on eligible purchases, such as groceries and fuel. Rewards credit cards let you earn reward points to redeem with the bank’s rewards programs for perks including flights with partner airlines, products from the rewards store or cashback. Frequent flyer credit cards, on the other hand, let you earn points towards flights, upgrades and more with specific airline loyalty programs.
  5. You can request a chargeback if you’re unhappy with a product or service. You can request a chargeback through your credit card company if you have a dispute with a merchant, either in-store or online.
  6. Credit cards work in any currency. Although currency conversion fees usually apply, you can use your credit card overseas to make purchases in a foreign currency. There are even credit cards that waive fees for international purchases, which could be useful if you often shop at international online stores or have an overseas holiday coming up.
  7. Credit cards give you an emergency line of credit. Credit cards can be a financial safety net if you don’t have enough cash or savings to cover any unexpected costs that arise. Just remember that you have to repay everything you owe.
  8. Credit cards often have complimentary extras. Credit card features such as travel insurance, purchase protection and extended warranty insurance can save you money and give you peace of mind. Other value-adding features include complimentary flight offers, airline lounge passes and even free wine when you dine.
  9. You can consolidate debts and save money on existing balances. Balance transfer credit cards allow you to move existing high-interest debts to a new account with a low or 0% promotional interest rate. This can save you money on interest charges and help you pay down debt faster.

7 Disadvantages of using a credit card

The downsides of spending with a credit card include:

  1. Paying high rates of interest. If you carry a balance from month-to-month, you’ll pay interest charges. Purchase and cash advance interest rates can be as high as 22% p.a., so you can end up paying hundreds or thousands more than you initially charged in interest if you’re unable to make repayments each month.
  2. Credit damage. Missed credit card repayments and ongoing debts are recorded on your credit file and can impact your chances of getting a loan down the track. See our guide on how to improve your credit file for some tips.
  3. Credit card fraud. There are a range of fraud schemes that target credit cards. While you can be compensated for illegal transactions on your account, dealing with credit card fraud can still be a time-consuming and stressful experience.
  4. Accessing cash is expensive. Financial institutions make it very expensive to use your credit card to get cash out or make other “cash equivalent” transactions (such as buying foreign currency or gambling). Using a credit card for a cash withdrawal will attract a cash advance fee worth around 3% of the total transaction amount. It also typically attracts an interest rate of 19-22% right away.
  5. Annual fees. While you can often get debit cards without annual fees, most credit cards have them. These can cost as little as $25 per year, or as much as $1,200 depending on the card that you choose. Generally, the more perks you want, the higher the annual fee. If you want to avoid this charge, you can consider a no annual fee credit card – but make sure you look at all the other features to help find a card that works for you.
  6. Credit card surcharges. Businesses sometimes apply a surcharge when you pay with a credit card. For Mastercard and Visa products, this fee is usually 0.5-2% of the total transaction cost, while for Amex cards it could be closer to 3%. Whatever the case, this is an extra cost for the convenience of paying with plastic.
  7. Other fees can quickly add up. Depending on your card, you could be charged fees when you miss a payment, fees if you spend past your credit limit, fees for overseas transactions, balance transfer fees and even some rewards programs fees. If you carry a balance or don’t have access to interest-free days, there’s also a good chance interest will be applied to these charges.

Should I use a credit card?

blonde woman with laptop holding a credit card

Credit cards are suited to certain types of people, but not others. As well as considering the pros and cons, you may like to look at the following factors to help decide if a credit card is right for you.

A credit card may suit you if you

  • Are at least 18 years of age
  • Are an Australian citizen, permanent resident or hold an eligible temporary visa
  • Have a regular source of income
  • Regularly pay your bills on time
  • Want to keep certain transactions separate from your everyday bank account
  • Are keen to earn rewards for your spending
  • Need more flexible cash flow
  • Can afford to pay a little extra for the convenience

A credit card may not suit you if you

  • Don’t meet the age or residency requirements
  • Often struggle to pay bills on time
  • Don’t have a regular source of income
  • Can’t afford annual fees or interest charges
  • Have bad credit
  • Are happy to just use a debit card

If you’re thinking about getting a credit card, it’s important to consider the benefits and disadvantages they offer based on your own circumstances. As well as helping you decide whether a credit card is right for you, this process can narrow down the range of cards you compare so that you can find an option that works for you.

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Compare credit cards

Rates last updated August 24th, 2019
Name Product Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate Annual fee Product Description
Westpac Low Rate Card
2019 Winner
Westpac Low Rate Card
13.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 16 months
$59 p.a.
A no frills, low rate card offering 0% p.a. interest on balance transfers for the first 16 months, with no balance transfer fee.
American Express Velocity Escape Card
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a.
Earn uncapped Velocity Points on purchases and save with a $0 annual fee for life and a 0% p.a. for 12 months balance transfer offer.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Bonus Points Offer
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Earn up to 75,000 bonus Velocity Points and save with a $64 first year annual fee. Plus, a long-term balance transfer offer.
Westpac Altitude Platinum Card - Qantas
20.49% p.a.
$200 p.a.
Earn 60,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $3,000 within 90 days of card approval. Plus, complimentary insurances and a personal concierge.
Westpac Altitude Black - Velocity
20.49% p.a.
$300 p.a.
Collect 80,000 bonus Velocity Points when you meet the spend requirement. Plus, complimentary seat upgrades and lounge passes.
St.George Vertigo Classic - Exclusive Offer
0% for 14 months, reverts to 13.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($55 p.a. thereafter)
Finder Exclusive:
Low rate card offering 0% p.a. interest on purchases for the first 14 months and on balance transfers for 6 months. Plus, a $0 first year annual fee.
American Express Westpac Altitude Black Bundle - Velocity
20.24% p.a. (AMEX)

20.49% p.a. (Visa/MC)

$499 p.a.
Up to 120,000 bonus Velocity Points with Mastercard (issued by Westpac) & Amex (issued & serviced by Amex). T&Cs apply.
American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum Bundle - Qantas
20.24% p.a. (AMEX)

20.49% p.a. (Visa/MC)

$249 p.a.
Up to 75,000 bonus Qantas Points when you meet the criteria with this dual Mastercard (issued by Westpac) & Amex (issued by Amex).
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Annual Fee Offer
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months
$50 p.a.
Save with an ongoing $50 annual fee and 0% balance transfer offer. Plus, the ability to earn up to 30,000 bonus Velocity Points in the first 3 months.
Citi Rewards Platinum Credit Card - Balance Transfer Offer
20.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 26 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($199 p.a. thereafter)
Earn reward Points per $1 spent, take advantage of a 0% p.a. for 26 month balance transfer offer, plus $0 first year annual fee.
St.George Vertigo Classic
13.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 16 months
$55 p.a.
Get 0% p.a. interest for up to 16 months on balance transfers with no balance transfer fee. Plus, a low annual fee and purchase rate.
HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($79 p.a. thereafter)
Save with a $0 first year annual fee and a long-term balance transfer offer. Plus, complimentary travel insurance.
Bank of Melbourne Amplify Platinum
19.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months
$99 p.a.
Earn up to 100,000 bonus Amplify Points (50,000 per year) when you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases each year for the first 2 years.
Westpac Low Fee Platinum Card
0% for 9 months, reverts to 20.09% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($90 p.a. thereafter)
Save with a $0 first year annual fee and a 0% p.a. interest rate for 9 months on purchases with platinum perks.
St.George Vertigo Platinum
12.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Features a long-term 0% balance transfer offer, $49 first year annual fee and access to a 24/7 personal concierge service.
Bank of Melbourne Amplify Card
0% for 14 months, reverts to 19.74% p.a.
$79 p.a.
Take advantage of 0% p.a. interest on purchases for the first 14 months. Plus, your choice of Amplify or Qantas Points.
Westpac Altitude Platinum Card - Velocity
20.49% p.a.
$200 p.a.
60,000 bonus Velocity Points when you spend $3,000 within 90 days of approval. Plus, complimentary Economy X Seat Upgrade Vouchers.
American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum Bundle - Velocity
20.24% p.a. (AMEX)

20.49% p.a. (Visa/MC)

$249 p.a.
Earn up to 75,000 bonus Velocity Points when you meet the criteria with this dual Mastercard (issued by Westpac) & Amex (issued by Amex).
BOQ Low Rate Visa Credit Card
13.49% p.a.
0% p.a. for 14 months
$55 p.a.
A no-frills card offering 0% on balance transfers for the first 14 months with no balance transfer fee. Plus, a competitive purchase interest rate.
BOQ Platinum Visa Credit Card
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Enjoy 1,000 bonus Q Rewards points monthly when you meet the spend requirement, a 12-month balance transfer offer and $0 first year annual fee.
Virgin No Annual Fee Credit Card
18.99% p.a.
6.9% p.a. for 36 months
$0 p.a.
Offers 6.9% p.a. for 36 months on balance transfers and up to 44 days interest-free on purchases, all for a $0 annual fee.
BOQ Blue Visa Credit Card
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months
$60 p.a.
Receive $120 cashback when you spend $500 per month on retail purchases for the first 3 months, and a 6 month interest-free balance transfer offer.
Bank of Melbourne No Annual Fee Card
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a.
Take advantage of 0% p.a. for 12 months on balance transfers, up to 55 days interest-free on purchases and no annual fee for the life of the card.

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