Shopping for a credit card? Compare the nine different card types available and find the right one for you.
There’s a wide array of credit cards in the Australian market for you to choose from. While this means plenty of choice, it also means that it can be difficult to choose one option. If you’re struggling to decide which type of card is right for you, use this guide to weigh up the key features, benefits and costs of the different types of credit cards.
The types of credit cards
- No annual fee credit cards
- Low interest rate credit cards
- Balance transfer credit cards
- Rewards credit cards
- Frequent flyer credit cards
- Gold, platinum and black cards
- Student credit cards
- Business credit cards
- Travel credit cards
No annual fee credit cards
The name says it all: no annual fee credit cards don’t charge a yearly account fee. While this can help you save money on credit card costs, it’s worth noting that these cards often have high standard purchase rates. This means you shouldn’t carry an outstanding balance on a card like this. If you rarely use your credit card or save it for emergencies, a no annual fee credit card could be a worthwhile option to consider. While some cards come with no annual fee for the life of the card, others only offer the $0 annual fee for a promotional period (such as 12 months). Once the promotional period ends, the standard annual fee will apply. Make sure you understand the conditions of the no annual fee before you apply for the card.
Who are no annual fee credit cards suited to?
If the card has a lifetime no annual fee feature, it usually means a higher interest rate, which would be suitable for people who always pay their account balance on time and in full. This card type is also appropriate for you if you rarely use your card and only want to keep one for emergencies or the occasional need. Meanwhile, promotional no annual fee offers work best for people who don’t intend to keep the card beyond its promotional “no annual fee” period.
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Low interest rate credit cards
While the average credit card interest rate is around 17-18% (and can be as high as 22% p.a.), low interest rate credit cards offer rates as low as 9.99%. Some cards even offer 0% interest for an introductory period, which reverts to the standard rate when the promotion ends. So if you have some purchases in mind and know you struggle to repay your balance each month, this card could help you save on high costs. Please note that this rate usually only applies to purchases, so cash advances, balance transfers and other transactions will accrue a higher rate. Most low interest cards also charge an annual fee, so you’ll want to make sure the cost of the card doesn’t outweigh the interest savings.
Who are low interest rate credit cards suited to?
If you usually struggle to pay your balance in full each month, a low interest rate credit card could help you save on the interest you would usually pay. If you have a purchase in mind (such as furniture, electronics or airfares), a low interest rate card could help you repay the cost without accruing interest fees. As low interest cards rarely come with extra premium features, it is a good option for those who are looking for a no-frills card to help manage their cash flow.
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Balance transfer credit cards
A balance transfer refers to when you transfer an existing debt that is accruing high interest from one or more credit accounts to another credit card with a 0% promotional balance transfer rate. While the 0% balance transfer is in place, you can consolidate and pay off your debts without the cost of interest. These promotional rates are only in place for an introductory period (of usually 6 to 20 months) and will revert to a higher rate (usually the standard purchase or cash advance rate) when the promotion ends. While you’ll only be required to pay the minimum repayment each month, it’s important to pay as much as you can each statement period to pay off your balance before the promotional period ends. Otherwise, any remaining debt will continue to grow as it starts to attract the revert rate.
Who are balance transfer credit cards suited to?
A balance transfer credit card can be a useful tool for cardholders who are looking to consolidate and pay down their debt without the cost of interest. As these promotional purchases are restricted by the length of the promotional period, balance transfers are good for cardholders who want to pay off their debt before a deadline. If you’re planning to make purchases with your card, a balance transfer credit card isn’t for you. As repayments are allocated to whichever balance is collecting the highest interest, your repayments will go to purchases first if they’re accruing the standard rate. If a promotional balance transfer rate is in place, you should really concentrate on paying off that debt rather than using the card for purchases and racking up more debt.
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Rewards credit cards
Rewards credit cards let you earn points as you spend, which you can then redeem for rewards including flights and frequent flyer points transfers, hotel accommodation, gift cards and shopping vouchers, lifestyle products and entertainment events. Many of these cards also come with travel and lifestyle perks tailored for frequent travellers, including airport lounge access and complimentary travel insurance. Rewards cards usually charge a premium, such as higher interest rates and annual fees, for these benefits. This makes it important to consider whether or not the value of the rewards you earn will offset your card costs. Also bear in mind the points caps and point expiry conditions that apply to some of these cards.
Who are rewards credit cards suited to?
Rewards credit cards are most suitable for people who charge a lot of expenses to their credit cards, but who are disciplined enough to pay off their account balances monthly. The high spending requirements of most of these cards also make them better suited to people who are high-income earners, big spenders and genuinely geared towards earning and redeeming rewards.
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Frequent flyer credit cards
Frequent flyer credit cards are a type of reward credit card that is linked to a specific frequent flyer program, such as Qantas Frequent Flyer or Velocity Frequent Flyer. These cards strictly earn and redeem that program’s rewards points. Depending on the frequent flyer program, your redemption possibilities with this type of credit card are similar to other rewards cards: you may use your points for flights and seat upgrades, to book hotel stays and car rentals, or exchange them for gift cards, shopping vouchers, electronics or other products. These cards may also have other perks associated with the airline, such as lounge passes, priority check-in or complimentary upgrades.
Who are frequent flyer credit cards suited to?
This type of card is most appropriate if you are a frequent flyer and have a preferred airline you’d like to be able to fly with using points. Just as with rewards credit cards though, frequent flyer credit cards generally come with high annual fees and interest rates, so you should get this type of card only if you’ll benefit from the perks and can be disciplined to pay your monthly balance in full.
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Gold, platinum and black cards
These cards represent an elite subset of credit cards catering to the higher income demographic. They have higher minimum credit limits and offer more luxury benefits, such as travel insurance, business class lounge access, concierge services, or higher reward point earning rates. They also charge higher annual fees in exchange for these benefits. As premium options, the eligibility criteria for gold, platinum and black credit cards are stricter when it comes to your credit score and minimum income requirements.
Who are gold, platinum and black credit cards suited to?
These cards can be ideal for you if your yearly income meets their approval requirement, and if you’re a frequent traveller looking to ramp up your points-earning potential and enjoy some complimentary extras at the same time. Since they usually also charge high interest rates, this type of card is probably not for people who wish to carry a balance from month-to-month.
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Student credit cards
Student credit cards are designed specifically for people studying at an accredited university or educational institution. They usually have low annual fees that may be waived completely if you meet the eligibility requirements. As students usually don’t have high incomes, these cards typically offer low credit limits, which could start from as little as $200. Also, if you don’t meet the income requirement, you will need a cosigner to bear the liability for any debt you might fail to repay.
Who are student credit cards suited to?
Student credit cards are perfect for students who want more flexibility with their cash flow or who want to start building up good credit history. These cards can be a great way to practise money management and can give you access to extra freebies like purchase protection and extended warranties on purchases.
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Business credit cards
Business credit cards are tailored for businesses, with features that are designed to keep track of company expenses, manage cash flow and maximise rewards earning. Business credit cards essentially operate the same way as personal credit cards with credit limits, annual fees and interest rates, except they come with specific features to aid business management. These features include the ability to customise spending limits on different employee cards, the ability to track expenses, as well as complimentary analytics tools designed to help with business reporting and budgeting. Some business credit cards also give you the ability to earn rewards for your spending.
Who are business credit cards suited to?
If you run a business, this can be an ideal way to stay abreast of business expenses and streamline your accounting processes. As with personal credit cards, there are a number of different types of business credit cards, so you should compare them before choosing the most appropriate one for your business.
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Travel credit cards
Travel credit cards are designed for overseas use, and offer such perks as 0% foreign transaction fees or free international ATM withdrawals. They may also offer 0% purchase interest rates for a period of time, which allows you to make repayments without having to worry about interest. A key benefit of using travel credit cards as opposed to cash or traveller’s cheques is the safety and convenience of carrying plastic instead of wads of cash. Another potential benefit is the ability to tap into the day’s current exchange rate instead of being locked into an exchange rate.
Who are travel credit cards suited to?
Travel credit cards could be handy for frequent travellers or cardholders with an upcoming holiday. When compared to using your regular credit card abroad, having a travel credit card can save you substantial fees on currency exchange and ATM withdrawals. Remember that even if your card has a 0% promotional purchase rate, this will not apply to amounts you withdraw from the ATM. Cash withdrawals will be levied with a cash advance fee and charged interest at the higher cash advance interest rate immediately. If you plan on making international cash withdrawals, making a prepayment on your account or using a debit card can help you avoid interest fees.
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There is no better or worse type of credit card. Each option is suitable for a different kind of spender or borrower. This is what you should figure out about yourself before deciding what sort of credit card to get: which type of spender or borrower are you?
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