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Types of Credit Cards

Different types of credit cards suit different people. Here’s how to choose one that’s right for you.

There are a lot of credit cards on the market in Australia, with over 290 in Finder's database. Most of them fit into one of the 5 main types of credit cards. There are also more specific types people look for when they want a particular credit card feature or offer.

The 5 main types of credit cards

1. Balance transfer credit cards

Balance transfer credit cards can help you save on interest and pay off existing debt. These cards offer an introductory low or 0% interest rate on balances you transfer to the card, with some interest-free offers lasting over 30 months.

Pros

  • Interest-free offers that last up to 3 years
  • Gives you a way to save on interest and pay off debt fasters
  • Can be used for debt consolidations

Cons

  • Some cards charge a 1-3% balance transfer fee
  • Higher interest rates for balance transfers after the introductory period
  • You may still have to pay an annual fee and interest on any purchases

2. Rewards and frequent flyer credit cards

Rewards credit cards offer reward or frequent flyer points on your everyday credit card spending. For example, 1 point per $1 spent.

A lot of credit cards also have bonus point offers when you're a new customer, with some offering 100,000 points or more. Most offers have a spending requirement in the first few months, and some offer more points when you keep the card for over a year.

Pros

  • You get rewarded for purchases you were already going to make
  • Bonus point offers can give you hundreds or thousands of dollars value
  • Perks such as airport lounge passes and flight or travel credit can add extra value

Cons

  • Rewards credit cards typically have higher rates and fees than more basic cards
  • Some cards have points caps that limit how much you can earn
  • Risk of overspending when you want to earn more points

3. Low interest rate credit cards

Low rate credit cards help you save interest if you don't pay off your total account balance each month. These cards have purchase interest rates between 7.49% p.a. and 15% p.a. In comparison, some credit cards have interest rates above 25% p.a.

Based on Finder analysis in 2023, the average credit card holder could save $100 a year by switching to a card with a lower rate.

Pros

  • You pay less interest on purchases compared to other cards
  • Many low rate cards also have low annual fees under $100
  • Simple features can make it easier to manage the card

Cons

  • The low interest rate usually applies to purchases only (not balance transfers or cash advances)
  • Fewer rewards and extra features
  • If you already pay off your credit card each month, a low rate may not offer as much value as another type of card

4. No annual fee credit cards

Most no annual fee credit cards offer an ongoing $0 annual fee or waive the annual fee in the first year. A few cards also offer an ongoing fee-waiver when you meet a monthly or yearly spend requirement.

Pros

  • You can save $25 to $1,450 a year, based on the annual fees for personal credit cards in Australia
  • Cost-effective if you only want a card for occasional use or emergencies
  • Introductory offers with a $0 first-year annual fee help you save on upfront costs

Cons

  • Most no annual fee cards have higher interest rates than low rate cards
  • Fewer extra features for cards with ongoing $0 annual fees, compared to rewards cards
  • First-year annual fee waivers only last 12 months, so you'd need to cancel a card after that if you didn't want to pay it

5. Business credit cards

Business credit cards are suited to business owners and sole traders, giving you a way to separate personal and work spending. They offer expense management features such as cards for employees and integration with accounting software.

Pros

  • Offer access to credit that can help with cash flow for your business
  • Expense management features and tools
  • Some business credit cards offer generous rewards programs and perks

Cons

  • Interest rates can be higher than rates offered by business loans
  • Typically have higher annual fees than personal credit cards
  • Stricter eligibility requirements, such as having an ABN and operating for at least 12 months

Finder survey: What type of credit card would Australians consider next?

Response
Rewards49.06%
No annual fee44.92%
Low rate32.17%
Frequent Flyer31.09%
Cashback24.98%
I do not plan to have a credit card in the future21.74%
Balance transfer15.18%
No foreign fee12.31%
Business6.65%
Other0.72%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1113 Australians, December 2023

What other types of credit cards do people look for?

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  • 0% interest credit cards

    0% interest credit cards usually offer an introductory interest-free period for purchases, balance transfers or both. There is also a small range of no interest credit cards that charge a monthly fee instead.

Graduation hat
  • Student credit cards and low income credit cards

    Credit cards for students typically offer low credit limits, low rates and low fees. They also often have low minimum income requirements and accept applications when you're getting Centrelink payments, ideally in addition to income from a job (e.g. part-time or casual work).

    • Example of who these cards are suited to: People studying at university or TAFE and anyone working casually, part-time or who's on a low income.
    • What to watch out for: Check the eligibility requirements before you apply and include as much proof of income as possible. Also look at what the interest rate is if you don't pay off the total balance listed on each statement and late payment fees.
credit card on laptop screen
  • Virtual credit cards

    Virtual credit cards are stored in your digital wallet or an app, giving you a way to make contactless payments from your phone or device. Some virtual credit cards can be used as soon as you're approved, including cards from Bankwest, Bendigo Bank and MONEYME.

    • Example of who these cards are suited to: Anyone who prefers to pay with their phone instead of a physical card or who doesn't want to wait for a new card in the mail.
    • What to watch out for: The "instant" access offered by some virtual cards is only available with compatible apps and services, so check that when you're looking at the features and costs.
Hand with coins and arrow
  • Cashback credit cards

    Cashback credit cards offer you money back for your spending. In Australia, you'll typically find introductory cashback offers that give you a statement credit or digital gift card when you meet a spend requirement. Some cards also offer cashback as a percentage of your ongoing spending.

    • Example of who these cards are suited to: People who want to save on upcoming purchases.
    • What to watch out for: Make sure you can meet the spending requirements for a cashback offer and aim to pay it off before interest applies.
airplane, credit card, and location icon
  • Travel credit cards

    People who want to travel with a credit card can save on 2-4% on costs with a no foreign transaction fee credit card. Some people also look for extra value from complimentary travel insurance, lounge passes or frequent flyer perks, even if there is a foreign transaction fee or other costs involved.

    • Example of who these cards are suited to: People who take at least 1 overseas trip each year, or who often shop online with overseas businesses (which also attract foreign transaction fees).
    • What to watch out for: Make sure the annual fee is affordable based on how often you'll use the card and the features you get. And keep in mind most cards with travel perks and rewards charge foreign transaction fees.
colored suitcases
  • Credit cards with airport lounge access

    These credit cards offer access to airport lounges when you're travelling, regardless of the airline. Most cards offer either single-use invitations each year, or membership Priority Pass and other lounge programs.

    • Example of who these cards are suited to: People who regularly fly with different airlines and want perks at the airport.
    • What to watch out for: Check the terms and conditions for airport lounge access through your credit card and the lounge, as they're different for each card.
Black credit cards
  • Gold, platinum and black credit cards

    These credit cards all offer extras above what a basic card offers. Think complimentary insurance, more rewards, airport lounge access and other premium perks.

    • These credit cards all offer extras above what a basic card offers. Think complimentary insurance, more rewards, airport lounge access and other premium perks.
    • Example of who these cards are suited to: Big spenders and earners, people who want points and perks and people who pay off their total balance each month.
    • What to watch out for: Gold, platinum and black cards typically have higher rates and fees than basic cards. So if you don't pay them off or don't use the perks, the cost could be high.
Grey card with crown icon
  • Metal credit cards

    Metal credit cards offer a sense of prestige because they're not made from plastic and usually come with premium perks. In Australia, there are 2 metal credit cards you can apply for: the American Express Platinum Card and the Qantas Premier Titanium.

    • Example of who these cards are suited to: People who want an exclusive credit card made from metal.
    • What to watch out for: Annual fees for these cards are among the highest on the market in Australia, so make sure the benefits are worth it for you.
credit card with dollar coin
  • High credit limit credit cards and charge cards

    These credit cards can offer maximum limits between $20,000 and $100,000 for people who meet the requirements. There are also charge cards that don't have a pre-set spending limit but factor in your credit history, previous spending and other details instead.

    • Example of who these cards are suited to: People with very high incomes who use their card for lots of expenses.
    • What to watch out for: A high credit limit increases the risk of serious debt. Even if you're eligible, make sure you calculate repayments to help manage the balance.

Frequently asked questions

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