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The benefits of a no frills credit card

Learn how a basic no frills credit card can help you manage your finances and minimise costs.

With the myriad credit cards boasting special features and complimentary extras on the Australian market, you must be wondering why anyone would go for a no frills credit card instead? Before you write them off, however, this guide will explain what a no frills credit card does, and how these low-cost options could benefit you.

What is a no frills credit card?

As its name suggests, a no frills credit card is a basic credit card offering a low interest rate or $0 annual fee, but with little or no additional features. The following types of no frills credit cards are commonly available:

Low interest rate credit cards

Low interest rate credit cards are credit cards designed to save you money otherwise lost to interest fees. With typical credit card purchase interest rates hovering around the 20% mark, low interest rate credit cards can save you a substantial amount of money by offering purchase interest rates in the 10% region. Some card promotions even bring that down to 0%, albeit only for a promotional period of X number of months (usually between 6 and 15). Since these cards come with limited extra features, their annual fees are also moderate to low and you can sometimes even find one or two $0 annual fee low interest rate credit cards. These cards are best suited for cardholders who regularly use their cards but who take a while to settle their balances, since these present the greatest interest savings and repayment flexibility.

No annual fee credit cards

No annual fee credit cards offer administrative savings on your credit card, either for the life of the card, for the first year or two only, or sometimes when you meet a specified spending requirement. No annual fee cards exist across the spectrum of different credit card types, including balance transfer, rewards, frequent flyer credit cards and travel cards that offer zero annual fees. No annual fee cards are most suitable if you rarely use your credit card and paying an annual fee for it would not be worthwhile. This kind of card is probably not appropriate if you wish to carry a balance because the purchase interest rates tend to be higher to offset the lack of an annual fee.

Low credit limit credit cards

Low credit limit credit cards are exactly that, credit cards with lower credit limits. While this may seem counter-intuitive at first (isn’t bigger always better?), the virtues of a low credit limit can go a long way. Firstly, it can eliminate the temptation to overspend, which a high credit limit often deviously encourages. Secondly, it could improve your credit score if you spend well under your credit limit. Thirdly, it would improve your chances of getting that credit card application approved if you have a low income. Finally, it can be the one thing that saves you from falling into a credit card debt trap.

Compare No Annual Fee Credit Cards

Rates last updated May 27th, 2019
Name Product Annual fee Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate Product Description
Citi Simplicity Card
$0 p.a.
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months
Get 0% p.a. interest for up to 6 months on balance transfers with no balance transfer fee. Plus, a $0 annual fee for life.
ME frank Credit Card
$0 p.a.
11.99% p.a.
Save money with an ongoing $0 annual fee, the same low 11.99% p.a. interest rate on purchases and cash advances, and up to 55 days interest free.
St.George Vertigo Classic - Online Offer
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($55 p.a. thereafter)
0% for 14 months, reverts to 13.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months
Online only: Low rate card offering 0% p.a. interest on purchases for the first 14 months. Plus, a $0 first year annual fee.
Citi Clear Platinum Credit Card
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
12.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 14 months
Offers a long-term balance transfer and $0 first year annual fee. Plus, insurance covers and Citibank Dining Program perks.
28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard
$0 p.a.
21.99% p.a.
Save with 0% foreign transaction fees on purchases. Plus, complimentary flight delay passes, global wifi access and a concierge service.
St.George No Annual Fee
$0 p.a.
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
Receive up to 55 days interest-free on purchases, a low minimum credit limit of $500 and a long-term balance transfer offer.
HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($79 p.a. thereafter)
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months
Save with a $0 first year annual fee and a long-term balance transfer offer. Plus, complimentary travel insurance.
Citi Rewards Platinum Credit Card - Balance Transfer Offer
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($199 p.a. thereafter)
20.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 26 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
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. Ends 31 May 2019.
Westpac Low Fee Platinum Card
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($90 p.a. thereafter)
0% for 9 months, reverts to 20.09% p.a.
Save with a $0 first year annual fee and a 0% p.a. interest rate for 9 months on purchases with platinum perks.
ANZ Platinum Credit Card
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($87 p.a. thereafter)
19.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee
Receive a 0% p.a. for 18 month balance transfer offer and a $0 first year annual fee. Plus, complimentary overseas travel and medical insurance.
Woolworths Everyday Platinum Credit Card - Finder Only Offer
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($49 p.a. thereafter)
19.99% p.a.
2.99% p.a. for 18 months
Finder only:
Offers a $50 eGift Card, 4,000 bonus Credit Card points and a $0 first year annual fee. Plus, 10% off your shop once a month.
Virgin No Annual Fee Credit Card
$0 p.a.
18.99% p.a.
6.9% p.a. for 36 months
Offers a balance transfer rate of 6.9% p.a. interest for 36 months and up to 44 days interest-free on purchases, all for a $0 annual fee.
Westpac Altitude Platinum Card
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($150 p.a. thereafter)
20.49% p.a.
Earn 60,000 bonus Altitude Points when you spend $3,000 within 90 days of card approval. Plus, a $0 first year annual fee.
St.George Amplify - Online Offer
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($79 p.a. thereafter)
0% for 14 months, reverts to 19.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months
Online only: Save with $0 first year annual fee and 0% p.a. introductory offers. Plus earn uncapped Amplify or Qantas Pts/$1.
Bank of Melbourne No Annual Fee Card
$0 p.a.
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
Take advantage of a 0% p.a. for 12 months balance transfer, get up to 55 days interest-free on purchases and pay no annual fee for the life of the card.
BankSA No Annual Fee
$0 p.a.
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
Offers a 0% p.a. for 12 months balance transfer, up to 55 days interest-free on purchases and an ongoing $0 annual fee.

Compare up to 4 providers

The pros and cons of a no frills credit card

Pros

  • Cheaper to maintain. You will be saving money immediately with low or no annual fees, since credit card annual fees can be tens to hundreds or thousands of dollars
  • Lower interest fees. Interest fees can represent the largest cost when it comes to credit cards, so having a card with low or no interest fees can translate into substantial cost savings.
  • Less temptation to spend. Having a lower credit limit will ensure you spend less, and also having a no frills card means that you won’t be tempted to spend unnecessarily for the promise of earning points.
  • Less possible debt. If you have a lower credit limit and interest rate on purchases, you’re more likely to be able to repay your balance in full and avoid falling into debt.

Cons

  • Less interest-free days. No annual fee cards can sometimes skimp on the typical 55 interest-free days offering. This could pose a problem if you sometimes repay your balance in full and look forward to the reward of more interest-free days.
  • Limited extra features. If you’re after the complimentary insurance treats and rewards perks that rewards credit cards offer, a no frills credit card might fall short.
  • Less value for money. Depending on what sort of spender and cardholder type you are, you may find that no frills cards offer less value for money in terms of features and privileges. If you are a big spender and frequent traveller who always pays off your monthly account balance in full, you’ll probably get more value from using a frequent flyer credit card even if you’re paying more in annual fees for it.
  • Less available credit. A lower credit card limit may become a problem in times of emergency or when you occasionally need to make a large purchase.

No frills credit cards can be beneficial and cost-efficient for some people, but will not be suitable for everyone. As always, we recommend that you research and discover all the available credit card options out there before deciding on the one that will best serve your personal needs and spending habits.
Images: Shutterstock

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