young_lady_coffee_creditcard_optimised_Shutterstock

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 details and payment 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 flights 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. Remember that you have to repay everything you owe, though.
  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 often 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.

Pictures: ShutterstockBack to top

Compare credit cards

Rates last updated July 16th, 2018
Name Product Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee Product Description
Westpac Low Rate Card
13.49% p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($59 p.a. thereafter)
Offers a 0% for 24 month balance transfer option, first year annual fee waiver and a competitive purchase rate.
Citi Clear Platinum - Exclusive Offer
14.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
finder Exclusive: Receive 0% p.a. for 24 months on balance transfers and a discounted annual fee in the first year. Plus, access to Citi World Privileges.
NAB Low Fee Platinum Card - Exclusive Amazon Offer
19.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$90 p.a.
finder Exclusive: Take advantage of 10% cashback with amazon.com.au for 12 months (capped at $25 per month).
American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum Bundle - Exclusive Offer
20.24% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($199 p.a. thereafter)
$0 first year annual fee & up to 90,000 bonus Altitude Pts when you meet T&C with this Visa (issued by Westpac) & Amex (issued & serviced by Amex).
Qantas Premier Everyday
19.99% p.a.
4.9% p.a. for 24 months
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($49 p.a. thereafter)
Take advantage of up to 40,000 bonus Qantas Points, a $0 first year annual fee plus complimentary overseas travel insurance.
Suncorp Clear Options Platinum Credit Card - Exclusive Offer
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months
$99 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
finder Exclusive: Receive a long 18-month, 0% p.a., no fee balance transfer and earn Suncorp Rewards Points or Qantas Points per $1 spent.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - 0% Interest Offer
0% p.a. for 14 months (reverts to 20.74% p.a.)
0% p.a. for 6 months
$129 p.a.
Buy now and pay later with 0% p.a. interest on purchases for 14 months. Plus, 0% p.a. on balance transfers for up to 6 months.
Citi Simplicity Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 15 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a.
Save with 5% cashback on eligible purchases (capped at $50 per month) for the first 90 days from approval. Plus, a 15 month 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 60,000 bonus Velocity Points in the first 3 months and enjoy a discounted annual fee of $64 for the first year.
Citi Rewards Platinum Credit Card
20.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 26 months with 2.5% balance transfer fee
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
Earn reward Points per $1 spent, take advantage of a 0% p.a. for 26 month balance transfer offer, plus complimentary international travel insurance.
St.George Vertigo Platinum - Online Offer
12.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Platinum card benefits including complimentary insurance, plus first year annual fee waiver and 0% p.a. for 24 months on balance transfers.
ANZ First Visa Credit Card
19.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$30 p.a.
Get up to 18 months interest-free on balance transfers and save with a low $30 annual fee. Plus, up to 44 days interest-free on purchases.
Virgin Money Low Rate Credit Card
11.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 14 months
$49 p.a.
Offers a $49 annual fee, up to $100 cashback when you make a purchase within 3 months and 0% p.a. for 14 months on balance transfers.
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 22 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Offers a 0% p.a. for 22 months balance transfer, $0 annual fee for the first year and an annual fee refund each year when you spend $6,000.
Westpac Altitude Platinum Card - Qantas
20.24% p.a.
$50 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($150 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 60,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $3,000 within 90 days of card approval. Plus, a $50 first year annual fee.
American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum Bundle - Qantas
20.24% p.a.
$50 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($249 p.a. thereafter)
Up to 90,000 bonus Qantas Points when you meet the criteria with this dual Visa (issued & serviced by Westpac) & Amex (issued & serviced by Amex).
Suncorp Clear Options Platinum Credit Card
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months
$129 p.a.
Enjoy Qantas or Suncorp Rewards Points per $1 spent, a long-term balance transfer offer and complimentary international travel insurance.
HSBC Low Rate Credit Card
13.25% p.a.
0% p.a. for 20 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$79 p.a.
Receive up to 20 months interest-free on balance transfers with a 2% BT fee. Also enjoy exclusive offers with the home&Away Privilege Program.
NAB Low Fee Card
19.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$30 p.a.
Receive complimentary purchase protection insurance, a 18 month balance transfer offer and special offers from Visa Entertainment.
Citi Platinum Credit Card - 100k Bonus Points
20.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 15 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 100,000 reward Points, enjoy a long-term balance transfer offer, a discounted first year annual fee and complimentary travel insurance.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Take advantage of 0% p.a. on balance transfers for up to 18 months. $64 in the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter), plus, bonus Velocity Points.
HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months
$199 p.a.
Receive 60,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $3,000 within 3 months of card approval, plus enjoy complimentary travel insurance.
Bank of Melbourne Amplify Platinum
19.49% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Earn 50,000 bonus Amplify or Qantas Points when you spend $2,000 within 90 days and earn 0.5 Qantas Points or 1 Amplify Point per $1 spent.
St.George Vertigo Visa
13.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$55 p.a.
Enjoy a 0% p.a. for 18 months balance transfer offer. Plus, up to 55 days interest-free on purchases.
NAB Low Rate Platinum Card
0% p.a. for 9 months (reverts to 13.99% p.a.)
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$100 p.a.
Enjoy a 0% p.a. interest rate offer on purchases for 9 months and the protection of 7 complimentary insurances including overseas travel insurance.
Westpac 55 Day Platinum Credit Card
19.84% p.a.
0% p.a. for 20 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($90 p.a. thereafter)
Receive a 20 month balance transfer offer, up to 55 days interest-free on purchases, a platinum concierge service and a $0 first year annual fee.
NAB Rewards Platinum Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$195 p.a.
Collect 60,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 within 60 days of account opening. Plus, receive complimentary travel and purchase insurances.
NAB Low Rate Credit Card
0% p.a. for 6 months (reverts to 13.99% p.a.)
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$59 p.a.
This card offers a low introductory rate of 0% p.a. for 6 months on purchases. Plus 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 6 months.
NAB Rewards Classic Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$95 p.a.
Get 30,000 bonus points when you meet the spend requirement, 0.75 NAB Rewards Points per $1 spent and a 0% p.a. balance transfer offer.
Bank of Melbourne Amplify Card
19.49% p.a.
3% p.a. for 36 months
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($79 p.a. thereafter)
Take advantage of a 3% p.a. for 36 months balance transfer offer, Amplify or Qantas points per $1 spent and enjoy a $0 annual fee for the first year.

Compare up to 4 providers

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Related Posts

Credit Card Offers

Important Information*
Westpac Low Rate Card
Westpac Low Rate Card

Interest rate

13.49

Annual fee

59
Qantas Premier Everyday
Qantas Premier Everyday

Interest rate

19.99

Annual fee

49

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.
Ask a question
Go to site