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How to build good credit history with a credit card

Want to build good credit history and improve your credit score? Here's how a credit card can help.

Your credit report contains information about your financial history including credit limits, repayment history, loan applications and any defaults you may have had on your accounts. When used responsibly, a credit card can demonstrate positive financial habits and improve your credit score. This can then increase your chances of approval when applying for loans and other lines of credit in the future.

To get your finances in shape, you can use this guide to understand how you can use a credit card to strengthen your credit history.

How do credit cards affect your credit history?

Your credit report includes details of a wide range of financial products you inquire about or use over the course of your life. This includes credit cards, loans, mortgages and utility accounts such as phone plans and gas or electricity accounts. If you have a credit card, the following details will be included in your credit report:

  • The type of account. Credit cards and loans are generally considered the most “valuable” types of accounts to have listed on your credit history because they give lenders key insights into your ability to manage a line of credit.
  • Loan inquiries. Applications for credit cards and other loans are considered “new loan inquiries”, which are also listed on your credit report. Loan inquiry details are important to lenders when assessing your applications for risk factors. The risks are increased for lenders if there are no previous applications or if there are a lot of applications in a short period of time, but it is still good to have some considered listings here if you want to apply for other products in the future.
  • Credit limit. When you get a credit card, your credit limit is also listed on your credit report. These details help lenders see how much access you have to credit when considering applications for loans and other products.
  • Monthly repayment history. Details of when you pay off your credit card, and whether you pay the minimum or full amount each month, give lenders an idea of your financial management skills.

Keep in mind that these are just some of the details listed on your credit history.

How can I use a credit card to improve my credit history?

Every time you apply for a credit card or manage your account, there’s the potential to affect your credit history. You can use this to your advantage and build good credit history in the following ways:

  • Only apply for one card at a time. Having too many credit card applications can hurt your credit score, so make sure you compare credit cards and then apply for the one that best suits your needs at the time. If your application is accepted, don’t apply for another card straight away. Instead, take some time to improve your credit history by demonstrating positive payment behaviours with other accounts.
  • Make repayments on time. Paying off your credit card balance on or before the due date shows lenders you are responsible with your accounts. Depending on the credit card you choose, you could set up automatic payments from a nominated bank account.
  • Pay more than the minimum. You’re only required to pay the minimum payment on your credit card each month. As this is usually only 3% to 5% of the debt owing, this leaves the remainder of the debt to collect interest. If this grows into unmanageable debt, this could hurt your credit score. Instead, paying your account in full (or paying as much as you can) will reduce your interest costs and help keep your account in good standing. It also demonstrates positive credit habits on your report, which could help you get approval for future loan products.
  • Manage your credit limit. If you get a pay raise at work or your circumstances improve in some other way, requesting a higher limit for your credit card can show that you are able to manage a greater amount of credit. As long as you keep the account in good standing, this higher limit should help improve your credit score. However, if you want to apply for another product with a high credit limit and you’re not using all of your existing credit limit, you may want to consider lowering your limit. You can see our guide to how credit limits affect credit scores for more information.

What kind of credit card will help my credit history?

Most Singapore credit card issuers won’t approve applicants who have a bad credit history. This is why it’s important to order a copy of your credit report and score to determine where your finances stand before you apply. If you have a low credit score, you should spend some time improving it before you apply. Check out our guide to improving your credit score for some tips.

If you’re considering a credit card to boost your credit score, you can start comparing your options below. Underneath the comparison table, we’ve also broken down the types of credit cards might suit you if you have a limited or bad credit history.

Compare credit cards with low minimum income requirement

Name Product Reward Cashback Offer Annual Fee Min Income - Singaporean and PR
HSBC Revolution Credit Card
Earn up to 10X Reward points or 4 miles per $1 spent on qualifying purchases.
Receive up to $200 cashback. T&Cs apply. Ends 28 Feb 2022.
$0 annual fee
$30,000
New cardholders will be awarded with up to $200 cashback, $50 cashback for one qualifying transaction and $120 cashback upon $500 minimum spend. Receive an additional $30 cashback when you apply online with MyInfo via SingPass. Existing HSBC credit cardholders are eligible to receive up to $60 cashback. Plus, get a chance to win in the Sure-Win Hong Bao game. T&Cs apply. Ends 28 Feb 2022.
UOB PRVI Miles American Express Card
Earn 1.4 miles for every $1 spent locally and 2.4 miles for every $1 spent overseas.
Get $150 cash credit when you apply.
$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and $256.80 thereafter
$30,000
Enjoy up to 20,000 bonus miles if you charge $50,000 to your card in a year. Apply today and enjoy free transfers to Changi Airport.
OCBC Cashflo Credit Card
N/A
$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and $160.50 thereafter
$30,000
Get up to S$100 in cash rebates every month.
American Express CapitaCard
Earn up to 3% rebate (6X STAR$) at participating merchants in CapitaLand Malls in town.​ An additional 5% rebate (10X STAR$) at participating STAR$ X’tra Partners in CapitaLand Malls.​
N/A
$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and $171.20 thereafter
$30,000
New members can receive 150,000 STAR$ while existing members can get 50,000 STAR$ upon $1,500 minimum spend within the first 3 months of card approval. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 January 2022.
American Express True Cashback Card
Enjoy cashback on all purchases with no minimum spend or cap. Plus receive up to $120 CapitaVouchers when a minimum spend of $500 is made in the first month.
Earn 1.5% cashback on all eligible spending with no minimum spend or cap
$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and $171.20 thereafter
$30,000
Apply today and get a 3% Cashback bonus when you spend $5,000 in the first six months.
UOB EVOL Credit Card
Enjoy a wide variety of discounts and cashback rebates on dining, entertainment, online shopping and travel.
Up to 8% cashback on online and mobile contactless spend.
$192.60 annual fee
$30,000
Apply and spend at least $1,500 and receive up to $218 cash credit. T&Cs apply. Valid until 28 Feb 2022.
American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card
For every $1 spent, earn 1.1 KrisFlyer miles on all eligible purchases, 2 KrisFlyer miles in foreign currency spent overseas during June & December and 3.1 KrisFlyer miles on eligible Grab Singapore transactions.
$150 cashback for use at singaporeair.com when you spend a minimum of $12,000 until 30 June 2022
$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and $176.55 thereafter
$30,000
Get up to 13,300 KrisFlyer miles with a minimum spend of $3,000 in your first 3 months and an additional complimentary one-night stay at Andaz Singapore with breakfast for 2 (worth up to $440++) if you are new to American Express. T&Cs apply. Valid until 31 January 2022.
UOB PRVI Miles World Mastercard
Earn 1.4 miles per $1 spent locally and 2.4 miles per $1 spent overseas, including online shopping.
Receive $150 cash credit when you apply for a new credit card.
$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and $256.80 thereafter
$30,000
Receive $150 cash credit (for first 100 successful UOB personal credit card applications) when you apply for a new credit card and spend at least $1,500 within 30 days from card approval date. T&C apply. Ends 28 Feb 2022.
UOB PRVI Miles Visa Card
6 air miles for every $1 spent through Expedia, Agoda and UOB Travel
Receive $150 cash credit when you apply for a new credit card and spend at least $1,500 within 30 days from card approval date.
$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and $256.80 thereafter
$30,000
Receive $150 cash credit (for first 100 successful UOB customers applications) when you apply for a new credit card and spend at least $1,500 within 30 days from card approval date. T&C apply. Ends 28 Feb 2022.
HSBC Advance Credit Card
Receive up to $200 cashback when minimum spend requirements are met.
Enjoy up to 3.5% cashback on all purchases with no minimum spend
$0 annual fee for the first 1 year (permanently waived for HSBC Advance banking customers) and $192.60 thereafter
$30,000
New cardholders will be awarded with up to $200 cashback. $50 cashback for one qualifying transaction and $120 cashback upon $500 minimum spend. Receive an additional $30 cashback when you apply online with MyInfo via SingPass. Existing HSBC credit cardholders are eligible to receive up to $60 cashback. Plus, get a chance to win in the Sure-Win Hong Bao game. T&Cs apply. Ends 28 Feb 2022.
HSBC Visa Platinum Credit Card
Earn 1 Reward point for every $1 on all spend.
Up to 5% cash rebates on groceries, dining and fuel with minimum monthly spend of at least $600.
$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and $192.60 thereafter
$30,000
New cardholders will be awarded with up to $200 cashback, $50 cashback for one qualifying transaction and $120 cashback upon $500 minimum spend. Receive an additional $30 cashback when you apply online with MyInfo via SingPass. Existing HSBC credit cardholders are eligible to receive up to $60 cashback. Plus, get a chance to win in the Sure-Win Hong Bao game. T&Cs apply. Ends 28 Feb 2022.
UOB One Credit Card
Apply and spend at least $3,000 within 30 days and get the latest Secretlab chair. For first 200 new-to-UOB credit cardmembers. T&Cs apply.
Up to 10% cashback with some merchants including Grab,7-Eleven and Cold Storage; 6% for Singapore Power Utilities bills; and 5% back on all other retail spending.
$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and $192.60 thereafter
$30,000
Apply and spend at least $3,000 within 30 days and get the latest Secretlab chair. For first 200 new-to-UOB credit cardmembers. T&Cs apply. Valid until 21 Jan 2022.
UOB Lady's Card
Earn 10X UNI$ (or 20 miles) per $5 spent on a chosen spending category with no min. spend required, and 1X UNI$ (or 2 miles) on other purchases.
Receive $150 cash credit when you apply for a new credit card. T&C apply.
$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and $192.60 thereafter
$30,000
Apply and spend at least $1,500 and receive up to $218 cash credit. T&Cs apply. Valid until 28 Feb 2022.
KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card
Earn 3 KrisFlyer miles per $1 when you spend with Singapore Airlines, Scoot and KrisShop and 1.2 KrisFlyer miles per $1 on all other spend.
Receive up to 3,000 miles and $150 cash credit when you apply for a new credit card and spend at least $1,500 within 30 days from card approval date.
$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and $192.60 thereafter
$30,000
Apply and spend at least $1,500 within 30 days and receive $150 cash credit and up to 3,000 miles. For first 100 new-to-UOB credit cardmembers. T&Cs apply. Valid until 28 Feb 2022.
DBS Live Fresh Card
Up to 5% cashback on online and contactless spend (including SimplyGo rides)
up to 28% cashback when you apply online via digibank or Myinfo with Singpass. T&Cs apply.
$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and $192.60 thereafter
$30,000
Get up to 28% cashback with promo code ‘MORECASH' when you apply online via digibank or Myinfo with Singpass and charge a minimum of $600 within 30 days from card approval date. T&Cs apply. Valid until 31 Jan 2022.
Standard Chartered Unlimited Cashback Credit Card
Shopping, travel and lifestyle offers at over 3,000 outlets in Asia
Earn 1.5% cashback on all of your credit card spend with no cap and minimum spend. Additionally, get up to $20,000 cash with 100% cashback on your processing fee. Plus, get $120 cashback upon card activation on your approved Funds Transfer Amount.

$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and $192.60 thereafter
$30,000
Receive up to $280 cashback and 6-month Disney+ subscription when you spend $200. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 Jan 2022.
Citi SMRT Card
Up to 5% savings on groceries, online shopping, taxis (including private hire rides), and EZ-Link Auto Top-up/SimplyGo. Plus, 0.3% savings on all other spend
Up to 5% savings on groceries, online shopping, taxis (including private hire rides), and EZ-Link Auto Top-up/SimplyGo. Plus, 0.3% savings on all other spend
$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and $192.60 thereafter
$30,000
Get a welcome gift of $120 cash back when you spend $1,200 in the first 3 months. T&Cs apply. End 30 Jan 2022.
Standard Chartered Rewards+ Credit Card
Up to 10X rewards points for every S$1 spent in foreign currency on
overseas retail, dining and travel
Receive up to $280 cashback. T&Cs apply.
$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and $192.60 thereafter
$30,000
Receive up to $280 cashback and 6-month Disney+ subscription when you spend $200. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 Jan 2022.
Citi Cash Back Card
Get up to 20.88% fuel discounts at Esso and Shell, 6% cashback on dining and 8% cashback on groceries.
6% cash back on dining, 8% cashback on groceries and petrol transactions. 0.25% cashback on other retail purchases, capped at $80 for all transactions per statement month.
$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and $192.60 thereafter
$30,000
Get a welcome gift of $120 cash back when you spend $1,200 in the first 3 months. T&Cs apply.
Standard Chartered Spree Credit Card
Up to 16% petrol savings at Caltex stations.
Get up to 3% cashback on all online spend in foreign currency and all vPost spend.
$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and $192.60 thereafter
$30,000
Enjoy up to 3% cashback on all online spend in foreign currency and all vPost spend. Plus, up to 25% off on postal services and lots more.
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If you have limited or no credit history

Limited credit history can make it harder to get approval for certain kinds of credit cards, so it’s a good idea to start by looking at basic credit cards that are designed specifically for people who have never had a credit card before and has features and eligibility requirements that reflect that.

As the credit card provider won’t be able to use much of your credit history to assess your application eligibility, more weight will be placed on other factors, such as your income. With that in mind, a low-income credit card could be a good place to start even if you earn more than the minimum amount required.

You may also want to consider cards that are designed for students or other “no frills” options, such as the Citi Clear Card. These types of cards are designed to be easy to apply for and manage, which means you can start building up your positive credit history.

If you have a bad credit score

Credit card providers will carefully consider any “bad credit” details – such as late payments or defaults – that are listed on your credit report. So, if you want to apply for a credit card to help repair your credit score, sticking to basic options can improve your chances of getting approval.

Another option is to consider credit cards with no annual fee or a low standard interest rate. These kinds of cards can help keep the cost of the account down and make it easier for you to avoid late payments, defaults and other problems that lead to bad credit.

How to apply for a credit card to build your credit history

Follow these steps to get a credit card that you can use to improve your credit history.

  1. Compare cards. Search and compare a range of credit cards that suit your circumstances, paying particular attention to the eligibility criteria and ongoing features.
  2. Apply. Once you have chosen a credit card that fits your circumstances, just hit the “Go to site” button and you’ll be taken to a secure application page.
  3. Provide your personal information. Make sure you include as much information as possible in your application to increase the chances of approval, and keep supporting documentation handy.
  4. Submit the application. You should get a response within a few minutes, either on the webpage or via email.

If your application is successful, the provider will be in touch to finalise the process and issue your credit card. From there, you can start using it to improve your credit score.

With a wide range of options to choose from, a simple application process and convenient everyday spending options, credit cards are often a gateway to better credit history and more future loans. So, whether you are just starting your financial journey or need to improve on the past, with this information in mind you can use a credit card to meet your financial goals.

Picture: Shutterstock

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