Placing a credit card application in Australia is now easier than ever. With the option to attain a card in as little as ten minutes whether that is online, in branch, or over the phone, Australians now have plenty of choice at their fingertips.
For some, this might mean quicker access to the milestone of adding a credit card to your financial toolbox. For others, an approved credit card application may mark the beginning of a downward spiral, especially considering inflationary and housing pressures. Given these risks, and the plethora of card types, providers, and perks available, it is imperative that before you apply for a credit card, you have:
- Ensured that it will suit your lifestyle and that you can repay any debt incurred, and
- Researched the market to determine what type of card is your best fit.
This article will provide a compilation of tips and considerations to help with your credit card application—should you choose to go down this path.
Related: Best Credit Cards for Australians
What Type of Card Do You Want?
While choosing a credit card seems relatively straightforward, it is quite easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer range of choices. There are a handful of considerations when it comes to credit card perks, and depending on your lifestyle some options are likely to be more useful than others.
Below is a breakdown of the four most common credit card types.
Balance Transfer Cards
Balance transfers allow you to move the balance you owe, from your original credit card to a new credit card. This is often done to prevent debt build-up, as a balance transfer card usually offers much lower interest rates for a set period, allowing you to get on top of your repayments.
Providing you are proficient with making these repayments and clearing the debt, a balance transfer can save you money. Although, if you still have debt after the low-interest period ends, it could end up costing you more in the long run.
Finding cards that permit balance transfers is not difficult, however, do not assume that you are eligible to use this perk just because your card permits it. Make sure you enquire about the terms of a balance transfer before you apply.
Rewards cards are any credit cards that offer you certain bonuses based on how much you spend. These rewards are usually point of sale discounts, cashback, merchandise, or frequent flyer points. Should you use your credit card intelligently, these rewards points could be of significant benefit.
However, ensure you are realistic about the high interest rates and fees attached to these cards, as they may undo any benefit the rewards points provide. Also, be honest with yourself about whether a rewards card will increase your temptation to overspend.
Related: American Express Velocity Credit Card Review
As the name implies, zero-interest credit cards allow you to make purchases without the extra stress of paying interest on your debt. This interest-free period will not remain forever; you can usually expect 0% interest for 12 to 20 months depending on the provider you choose. After this, interest will apply.
It is possible to find lifetime zero-interest cards. However, high account fees are usually attached to this to compensate your provider. Keep in mind that regardless of the length of your interest-free period, you will still need to make the minimum repayments on your debt.
Frequent Flyer Cards
As mentioned, frequent flyer cards are a type of rewards card, however, given the popularity of these cards, they often fall into their own category. These cards are typically linked to a frequent flyer account and allow you to accumulate points for each dollar you spend. These points can then be used to save you money on flights and other travel-related purchases.
Some of these cards will offer up to 150,000 introductory bonus points. Although, as with most rewards cards, frequent flyer cards can be accompanied by high fees and an increased temptation to spend.
Should You Apply For a Credit Card?
Despite the benefits that can accompany a credit card, there is a notable level of risk attached to this line of credit. How well you manage your finances and spending habits is likely to determine whether applying for a credit card is the right move. To help you decide, we’ve listed some examples of when a credit card might, or might not, be useful.
Consider applying, if:
- You plan on taking advantage of interest-free periods
- You wish to make the most of a card’s rewards points and can justify the (potentially) higher interest rates
- You have a history of making timely repayments, smart purchases, and spending within your means; and
- You intend to predominantly use this credit card for larger purchases.
Reconsider applying for a credit card, if:
- Your credit score is already in poor shape–due to missed repayments or frequent applications
- You are an impulse shopper
- There is no justifiable reason for you to own a credit card or
- You plan on using your credit card for lots of small purchases.
Debt adds up very quickly. If you do not have the available savings to repay your credit purchases, applying for a credit card is ill-advised. It is incredibly important to be honest with yourself about whether you have the facilities to responsibly use a credit card.
Despite the perks of these cards, they are becoming less and less necessary for day-to-day use. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sticking to your debit card if it will save you from falling into a debt cycle.
If you have sufficiently analysed your motivations for a credit card and decided to proceed with an application, you then need to ensure your eligibility. Firstly, you will need to be 18 or older. Once you’ve proved this (if necessary), your credit card provider will need to verify the health of your credit score, income, and debt history.
When you place a credit card application your provider will conduct a credit score check, as your credit score is a key indicator of your ability to manage your finances. A credit check gives your card provider a better understanding of whether you can facilitate a credit card.
Your credit score is calculated based on your borrowing habits, past applications for credit, and the timeliness of your repayments. If your credit rating is lower than ‘good’ you may want to reconsider your application. It is imperative to note that multiple applications for a credit card over a short period is likely to further damage your score.
The types of credit cards you can choose from may depend on your income. It is safe to assume that, for a successful application, you will have a minimum annual income of $30,000 to $40,0000. It is possible to attain a low-income card, with approximately $15,000 annual earnings. However, whether this is a smart decision is up for debate and dependent on personal circumstances. Consider all the options available to you, before applying for a low-income credit card.
Any outstanding debts you have could hurt your chances of a successful application. Missed repayments will show up on your credit report. Therefore, taking the time to ensure you have repaid any missed bills may increase your odds of application approval.
How to Apply: Step by Step
Placing your application for a credit card is usually the easiest part of the process, with many providers offering ‘instant approval’ 60-second turnarounds. However, the time that it takes to apply will depend on the method you choose.
For the sake of this example, we will look at applying online. Applying over the phone or in branch will involve a similar process, although it is typically conducted on your behalf by your provider.
Step One: Pre-Application Checks
Conducting the appropriate research and gathering the necessary documents before you apply, is vital. This will help you to reach a decision on the best card type for you, compare the market for this card type, review your provider’s eligibility, and ensure that you have given the necessary consideration to your motivation for applying.
Step Two: Placing Your Application
Set aside 10-20 minutes and get started on the application phase of the process. For a more efficient application, have all the necessary documentation compiled and ready to go. You will typically need:
- Identification: driver’s license, passport etc;
- Personal details: name, date of birth, address, phone number, email;
- Financial evidence: recent payslips or bank statements to prove your income, alongside estimates of your regular expenses;
- Employment information: your profession, job status, and employer’s information; and
- Card requirements: your intended card balance and transfer limit.
Your provider may not request all the above information; however, it is smart to be prepared to submit any information they might request. You may be asked for copies of the listed documents after your application is submitted, so that your information can be verified.
Step Three: Activate Your Card
Once you receive full approval your card will be posted to your address. Pending its arrival, all that will be left to do is activate it.
If your application is rejected, this might be recorded on your credit report. In this case, it is in your best interest to withhold from applying again for a few months; thereby preserving your credit score from further damage. In this wait period, you can do your best to try and improve your credit score by repaying any debt. Alternatively, you could work on establishing a more serviceable income.
Opening a credit card account can be a smart money move, but applying for a credit card you’re not likely to qualify for or getting a card that isn’t a match for your spending habits is often a waste. Take the time to figure out your credit standing and evaluate what type of card might be best for you.
Plus, credit cards are not the necessity that society often suggests they are. It is perfectly fine to stick to your debit card if that is what is working for you. A mismanaged credit card can be high risk, potentially impacting your credit score and hurting your ability to borrow credit in future. Always ensure that you spend within your means and keep on top of your repayments.
If you are currently struggling with credit card debt, do not be afraid to ask for help: the National Debt Helpline is an excellent place to start.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much does applying for a credit card affect your score?
All credit applications have the potential to impact your credit score to some degree. If you are applying for your first credit card this impact may be quite minimal. The same applies if you only own one card and are in the process of applying for a better deal.
However, taking out multiple credit cards in a short period of time is likely to have a more obvious impact on your credit score. It is necessary to remember that any credit enquiry you make will show up on your report. Too many enquiries could also result in providers denying your future applications.
How old do you have to apply for a credit card?
You will need to be at least 18 years old to apply for a credit card in Australia. Aside from this, you will also need to be a citizen or permanent resident and have a positive credit history.
How much do I need to make to apply for a credit card?
The income requirements for a successful credit card application will vary based on the card type and the provider. On average you may be required to prove that you earn, at least, $30,000-$40,000 annually. However, there are some low-income cards in circulation with a minimum income requirement of $15,000 per annum.
What should you do if your application is unsuccessful?
An unsuccessful credit card application isn’t the end of the world. However, it is important that you don’t immediately run to a different provider and try again. Multiple applications for credit within a short period can hurt your credit score.
Therefore, if your application is rejected, it may be better to try and ask your provider why, and then work on fixing these issues before applying again. Three to four months is a reasonable amount of time to wait between applying for credit.