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This guide can help you decide which credit card might be best for you.
Our guide to checking your credit score and getting the right credit for you.
This guide runs through the pros and cons of getting a store card.
A lender must agree to give you credit before they hand over one of their coveted cards, on the understanding that you will be paying them back the funds you spend, as well as any previously agreed charges and fees. The lender will want to know your credit history – if you have or have had any debt in the past, and how you've handled it – before they can decide whether you're trustworthy, and what interest rate they would be willing to offer you.
Once you've got the card, you can use it in any way that you like (though beware that there will be different charges depending on the kind of card and how you use it, explained further below). Just remember to pay back at least the minimum required every month, and more if you can, otherwise your debt may get out of control.
To know which card will work best for you, you'll need to know what different types are available, and what they do:
Whatever you need, make sure you compare credit cards to find the best credit card deals. Also, check that you are eligible before you apply for credit, and that doesn’t just mean having a good credit rating. Are you old enough? Have you been a UK resident for long enough? Some lenders may insist you earn a certain amount per year, or that you already have an account with them, so check that it’s a good fit before you apply, otherwise you may jeopardise your credit score for no reason!
Aside from looking at which introductory offer is more generous, the main thing to look out for when you compare credit cards is the APR (annual percentage rate) that is charged. Credit cards are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which requires a clearly indicated APR that allows easy comparison between cards. This relates to the interest that at least 51% of customers will be offered on standard purchases per year. This makes it easy to compare credit card rates at a glance but remember that you may not get this rate; bear in mind too that if you're looking to use the card solely for transferring debt, you may want to look at the interest charged on that instead.
Next to interest rates and introductory offers, you may also want to look at eligibility criteria and how you can apply for and manage the card. A card that is appropriate for most people might not be the right fit for you, which is why it's so important to always compare the best credit card offers to find the one that's best for you.
You'll have to pay interest based on the rate that your lender has set unless you manage to pay off the balance each month before interest can be charged or you are benefitting from an interest-free period. Additionally, most providers charge fees for balance and money transfers, as well as for taking out money.
Unless you're getting a travel credit card, you will likely pay fees on withdrawals or any spending made abroad, and even travel cards might still charge something. Last, but certainly not least, be careful as some lenders charge an annual fee for having the card, even if you don't use it.
Your credit limit will depend on your credit score and other criteria, so there is no way to know until you've applied. That's why it's important to make sure you choose a competitive card and have your finances under control before you apply.
After you've chosen the best credit card offer for your needs, you will have to supply the provider with personal details so that they can run a credit check. If you apply online, this process can take as little as 15 minutes, whereas applying in branch or by post can take somewhat longer.
Different lenders will take different amounts of time to approve your application (this will again depend on how you apply) and send over the card. Generally, however, you can expect your plastic friend around 10 days after you've been approved. Still, if you need it for a specific purpose, apply for a credit card a month in advance to be sure you get it on time.
As you are not required to put your property or possessions up as security when taking out a credit card, they can be considered unsecured debt. However, if the situation gets so bad that you are unable to pay back what you've lent without selling your car or house, these possessions could still be at risk.
Mortgage applications require credit checks, to make sure you're a safe bet for the mortgage provider. Since your credit rating is affected by owning a credit card – positively if you've managed to pay the balance off every month, negatively if you've accumulated debt on it and/or missed payments – your credit card will most certainly affect the success of the application. For that reason, it's a good idea to check your credit score before you apply for either a card or a mortgage.
As mentioned above, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 you may be refunded for a purchase that is faulty, substandard or has gone missing.
This depends on the provider, but there is certainly an increasing number of credit cards available that allow contactless payments.
Yes, but due to the high charges usually associated with this it is not advisable to use a card for cash withdrawals.
While it is possible to have multiple cards tied to the same account, there is always one person solely responsible for the debt that is accrued on the account. So, while you can arrange for your partner (for instance) to get a credit card on the same account, you would be responsible for ensuring that the balance gets paid off.
In the UK, credit cards cannot be used for direct debits. However, you may want to consider setting up a direct debit from your bank account to pay off (a certain percentage of) your credit card debt each month.
When shopping online, always make sure you're on a legitimate website before typing in your credit card details, and never give the long number on the front of the card out to someone in the street or knocking on your door, no matter how legitimate they may sound.