Choosing the right credit card

With so many different types out there, choosing the best credit card for you can be difficult, so we’re here to help with these 4 steps:

  1. Work out how much you can afford to pay each month.
  2. Look at the range of benefits on offer.
  3. Find out if you’re likely to be approved for credit.
  4. Make sure you fully understand the application process.

A brief introduction to credit card types

When you’re looking for a credit card, it’s pretty important to know what you want that card for... purchases, transfers, just for emergencies? 

How much can you afford to pay?

Looking at different interest rates, APRs and other credit card costs is important when deciding which one is right for you. Essentially, it boils down to what you can realistically afford to pay each month.

It’s also worth thinking about what you’re going to use your card for. If you’re looking to simplify your finances and maybe save money on existing higher rate credit or store cards, you may want to consider a 0% balance transfer card.

  • Representative example: this lets you compare one credit card against another. Also look at things such as the interest rates and fees for the types of transactions you are likely to want to make.
  • Introductory promotional offers: some credit cards come with an attractive initial offer. Double check if there’s an introductory promotional rate and how long it lasts for. Any requirements such as transactions must be completed within a certain window in order to benefit from a promotional rate.
  • Additional fees: look at any extra costs including the annual fee, fees for services, late payments or going over your credit limit, and how payments to the account are allocated.
  • Eligibility checker: use an eligibility checker to find out whether you’re likely to be accepted for credit before you apply without affecting your credit rating.

To avoid any hiccups further down the line you should also make sure you understand the terms of the credit card. For instance, an introductory 0% interest rate offer will come with an expiry date, so it’s best to manage your account carefully as going over your agreed credit limit or missing a payment could result in your promotional offers being withdrawn. After this you’ll be charged the standard interest rate on your outstanding balance, unless you clear the amount in full every month. It’s important to always read the pre-contractual information.

If you’ve already got a credit card, make sure you read your terms and conditions. You’ll find the information you need on your credit card statement or online.

Benefits can make a difference

When rates and fees are similar, it can make choosing a credit card tricky. One way a card can stand out from the crowd is with the added benefits it offers. Here are a few to look out for:

  • Level of service: how good is it? Has the provider won awards for its customer service? Can you get access to your account whenever and wherever you need it?
  • Discounts: will your card get you access to discounts with a particular shop or brand?

Find out if your application is likely to be approved

Before you start applying for a card, it’s good to know if you’re likely to be eligible for credit. You can do this by using our eligibility checker - Clever Check and the good news is that it won’t affect your credit rating.

Try not to make several full credit applications in a short space of time, as these will show on your credit file and can be a red flag to lenders. Make sure you’re only applying for the credit card that’s right for you, as each time you submit an application, a full credit search is carried out.

Knowing your credit score ahead of your application can be helpful. The better it is, the more likely you’ll be accepted for credit, although, it’s worth noting most lenders will have their own lending criteria. To help avoid any disappointment, check your score with the UK’s main consumer credit reference agencies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Read our guide to find out how.

How to apply for a credit card

Depending on which lender you decide to go with, the application process varies. Most can be completed online in a matter of minutes or you can apply by post, phone or even in person. The important thing is to be thorough and honest.

Every lender has their own set of requirements. Most lenders have automated lending decision platforms, which can make the process faster and simpler than manually reviewed applications.

Applications can be declined for a number of reasons, including the information held on you by the credit reference agencies.  You will be told if this is the case and given details on how to find out more information. You’ll normally be told the reason why, so you can look into it if you need to.

Rather than re-applying straight away and damaging your credit record in the process, try taking steps to improve your score. Find out how with our handy guide.

Getting a credit card should be a well-considered decision. Use this guide to help you decide how to choose a credit card that suits you.