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.

Updated

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
DBS Live Fresh Card
Up to 10% Cashback on online and contactless spend (including SimplyGo rides)
Get AirPods or S$200 Cashback when you apply now!
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get AirPods or S$200 cashback when you sign up by 30 June 2020.
UOB PRVI Miles American Express Card
6 air miles for every S$1 spent through Expedia, Agoda and UOB Travel
Get S$150 cash credit if you spend a minimum of S$1,500 within 30 days. First 800 new customers only.
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$256.80 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy free transfers to Changi Airport. Plus, 20,000 bonus air miles if you charge S$50,000 to your card in a year.
HSBC Revolution Credit Card
Up to 5X Rewards points (2 miles per S$1 spent) on qualifying purchases
S$150 cashback when you make S$800 within the qualifying spend period. Ends 30 June 2020
S$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and S$160.50 thereafter
S$30,000
New cardholders will be awarded with a Samsonite Prestige 69cm Spinner Exp with built-in scale (worth SS670) or S$150 cashback with minimum spend of S$800 within the qualifying spend period. Receive an additional S$20 worth of grab rides when you apply online with MyInfo via SingPass. T&Cs apply. Ends 30 June 2020.
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 minimum spend. Additionally, get 1% cashback on your approved Funds Transfer Amount.

S$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today via MyInfo and receive up to S$170 cashback. Ends 30 June 2020.
American Express CapitaCard
Earn 3X STAR$ when you shop at participating CapitaLand malls, and more
Get a referral bonus of S$50 worth of CapitaVouchers when you refer a friend
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$171.20 thereafter
S$30,000
Receive an American Tourister Hypebeat 79/29 Spinner luggage (worth S$239) upon S$3,000 minimum spend within the first 3 months of card approval. Ends 30 June 2020.
Citibank SMRT Card
Up to 5% savings on groceries, fast food, movies, and coffee. Plus, 3% savings on online shopping
Redeem S$10 cash back for shopping vouchers with every 10 SMRT$ earned
S$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get a welcome gift of S$120 cash back when you spend S$1,200 in the first 3 months. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 January 2021.
Standard Chartered Rewards+ Credit Card
Up to 10X rewards points for every S$1 spent in foreign currency on
overseas retail, dining and travel
Apply today via MyInfo and receive up to S$170 cashback. Ends 30 June 2020.
S$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy a range of perks including 1-for-1 movie tickets with Cathay Cineplexes. Plus, complimentary travel medical insurance.
American Express True Cashback Card
Enjoy free travel insurance benefits of up to S$350,000
Earn 1.5% cashback on all eligible spending with no minimum spend or cap
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$171.20 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and get a 3% Cashback bonus when you spend S$5,000 in the first six months.
UOB Yolo Card
Wide range of discounts. Plus, complimentary travel insurance
Enjoy up to 8% cashback on dining, travel, shopping and entertainment. Plus, a further 3% cashback in selected categories
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and get up to S$230 in bonus cash credits. T&Cs apply.
American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card
Enjoy money-saving offers on Hertz, Grab and at restaurants in Singapore and overseas
S$150 cashback for use at singaporeair.com when you spend a minimum of S$12,000 untill 30 June 2020
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$176.55 thereafter
S$30,000
Earn 8,000 bonus KrisFlyer miles when you spend S$5,000 in the first 3 months of card membership and additional 8,000 bonus KrisFlyer miles in 4th to 6th month. Ends 30 June 2020.
UOB PRVI Miles World Mastercard
6 air miles for every S$1 spent through Expedia, Agoda and UOB Travel
Get S$150 cash credit when you apply. Minimum S$1,500 spend within 30 days. First 800 eligible applicants only.
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$256.80 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy up to S$150 in cash credits. Plus, free travel cover.
UOB PRVI Miles Visa Card
6 air miles for every S$1 spent through Expedia, Agoda and UOB Travel
Get S$150 cash credit when you apply. Minimum S$1,500 spend within 30 days. First 800 eligible applicants only.
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$256.80 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy up to S$150 in cash credits. Plus, free travel cover.
HSBC Advance Credit Card
Enjoy annual fee waivers, up to 20.2% off your fuel, 1-for-1 lifestyle offers, and more
Enjoy up to 3.5% cashback on all purchases with no minimum spend
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year (permanently waived for HSBC Advance banking customers) and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
New cardholders will be awarded with a Samsonite Prestige 69cm Spinner Exp with built-in scale (worth SS670) or S$150 cashback with minimum spend of S$800 within the qualifying spend period. Receive an additional S$20 worth of grab rides when you apply online with MyInfo via SingPass. T&Cs apply. Ends 30 June 2020.
Citi Cash Back Card
Get up to 20.88% off fuel. Plus, travel offers in 95 countries
8% cash back on dining, groceries and petrol transactions
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get a welcome gift of S$120 cash back when you spend S$1,200 in the first 3 months. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 January 2021.
Standard Chartered Spree Credit Card
Up to 24.2% petrol savings at Caltex stations.
Apply today via MyInfo and receive up to S$170 cashback. Ends 30 June 2020.
S$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and S$192.60 thereafter
S$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.
Citi PremierMiles Card
Deals and discounts in 95 countries. Plus, 10% off on hotel bookings with Expedia
Up to 10% cash back at selected merchants
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get 37,300 miles when you spend S$9,000 in the first 3 months. Annual fee applies. Ends 30 June 2020.
HSBC Visa Platinum Credit Card
Earn 1 Reward point for every $1 on all spend.
Up to S$150 cash back when you spend
S$800 within the qualifying spend period. Ends 30 June 2020

S$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
New cardholders will be awarded with a Samsonite Prestige 69cm Spinner Exp with built-in scale (worth SS670) or S$150 cashback with minimum spend of S$800 within the qualifying spend period. Receive an additional S$20 worth of grab rides when you apply online with MyInfo via SingPass. T&Cs apply. Ends 30 June 2020.
UOB One Card
Up to 10% cashback on Grab and UOB Travel transactions; 6% for your Singapore Power bill; and 5% back on all other spending
New customers can get up to S$230 in bonus cash credits. Until 30 June 2020. Ts&Cs apply
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and get up to S$230 in bonus cash credits. T&Cs apply.
UOB Lady's Card
10X UNI$ (or 20 miles) per S$5 spent on chosen category with no min. spend required
New customers can get S$150 in bonus cash credits. T&Cs apply.
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and get S$150 in bonus cash credits and four medical consultations worth S$52. Ends 30 June 2020.
Standard Chartered NUS Alumni Platinum Credit Card
Earn 1 Rewards point for every S$1 charged to your card
Apply today via MyInfo and receive up to S$170 cashback. Ends 30 June 2020.
S$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today via MyInfo and receive up to S$170 cashback. Ends 30 June 2020.
Citi Rewards Credit Card
10X Rewards on certain shopping spend, including online purchases
Up to 10% cash back at selected merchants
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get 30,000 Citi Thank You points when you spend S$3,000 in the first 3 months. T&Cs apply. Ends 30 June 2020.
KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card
Earn 3 KrisFlyer miles per S$1 when you spend with Singapore Airlines, Scoot, SilkAir or KrisShop and 1.2 KrisFlyer miles per S$1 on all other spend.
Get S$150 cash credit if you spend S$1,500 or more within 30 days. First 800 new customers only.
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy up to 3,000 KrisFlyer miles if you charge at least S$1,500 to your credit card in the first month.
DBS Live Fresh Student Card
Get AirPods with charging case (worth S$239) or S$40 worth of foodpanda vouchers when you sign up by 30 June 2020 and meet the minimum spend requirement.
5% cashback on McDonald’s, McDelivery, Starbucks, Golden Village and your favourite music, movies & TV series streaming services.
S$0 annual fee for the first 5 years and S$192.60 thereafter
N/A
Get AirPods with charging case (worth S$239) or S$40 worth of foodpanda vouchers when you sign up by 30 June 2020. Plus, stand to win a pair of Marshall headphones with a custom pouch with every S$20 spent online.
Standard Chartered Manhattan $500 Card
N/A
Earn 0.25% cashback on everything you spend.
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$32.10 thereafter
S$18,000
DBS Altitude Card
Earn up to 4 miles per S$1 spend, with no expiry
Get AirPods or S$200 Cashback when you apply now!
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get AirPods or S$200 cashback when you sign up by 30 June 2020.
Get fee waiver for the first year and up to S$192.60 thereafter, with 10,000 bonus miles.
POSB Everyday Card
Enjoy up to 15% cash rebates on daily essentials such as groceries and online food delivery
Get AirPods or S$200 Cashback when you apply now!
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get AirPods or S$200 cashback when you sign up by 30 June 2020.
Standard Chartered Priority Banking Visa Infinite Credit Card
Earn 2.5 points for every $1 spent on your credit card
Apply today and receive up to S$80 cashback. Ends 30 June 2020.
S$321 annual fee
S$30,000
Apply today and receive up to S$80 cashback. Ends 30 June 2020.
Maybank Horizon Visa Signature Card
Complimentary access to selected VIP airport lounges. Plus, travel cover of up to S$1,000,000. Ts&Cs apply
Earn up to 3.2 Air Miles (8X TREATS Points) per dollar spent in Singaporean restaurants, petrol stations, public transport charges and Agoda hotel bookings.
S$0 annual fee for the first 3 years and S$180 thereafter
S$30,000
Get S$100 cash credit when you apply, charge to your card and withdraw from your CreditAble account with a minimum of S$250 for each of the first two months upon approval. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 Aug 2020.
Maybank FC Barcelona Visa Signature Card
Chance to win a trip for 2 to watch FC Barcelona every season
1.6% cash rebate on all spend locally. No minimum spend or cap
S$120 annual fee
S$30,000
Get S$100 cash credit when you apply, charge to your card and withdraw from your CreditAble account with a minimum of S$250 for each of the first two months upon approval. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 Aug 2020.
Standard Chartered Platinum Visa Credit Card
Earn 1 Rewards point for every S$1 charged to your card
N/A
S$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Earn 1 Rewards point for every S$1 charged to your card.
UOB Delight Credit Card
Up to 8% rebate at Cold Storage, Market Place, Jasons, Giant and Guardian.
Up to 10% SMART$ rebate at over 300 participating outlets islandwide.
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$85.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Maybank DUO Platinum Mastercard
Car servicing vouchers, vehicle merchandise and more
5% cash rebate on petrol transactions in Singapore and Malaysia
S$120 annual fee
S$30,000
Get S$100 cash credit when you apply, charge to your card and withdraw from your CreditAble account with a minimum of S$250 for each of the first two months upon approval. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 Aug 2020.
Standard Chartered Visa Infinite X Credit Card
3 miles per $1 spent on foreign currency.
Get Cashback/Reward points/Bonus Interest on IRAS, Education, Insurance & Rental payment. T&Cs apply
S$695.50 annual fee
S$30,000
Apply today via MyInfo and receive S$20 cashback.
Standard Chartered Prudential Visa Signature Card
Up to 10x rewards points on foreign spend, with no minimum spend required
Apply today via MyInfo and receive up to S$170 cashback. Ends 30 June 2020.
S$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today via MyInfo and receive up to S$170 cashback. Ends 30 June 2020.
Maybank Manchester United Platinum Visa Card
Chance to win a trip for 2 to watch Manchester United FC every season
1% cash rebate and 1X TREATS Points for every dollar spend.
S$0 annual fee for the first 2 years and S$80 thereafter
S$30,000
Get S$100 cash credit when you apply, charge to your card and withdraw from your CreditAble account with a minimum of S$250 for each of the first two months upon approval. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 Aug 2020.
Maybank Family & Friends Credit Card
Earn up to 3X interest on your child's savings with Maybank Family Plus
Up to 8% cashback with minimum spend of S$800 per month
S$0 annual fee for the first 3 years and S$180 thereafter
S$30,000
Get S$100 cash credit when you apply, charge to your card and withdraw from your CreditAble account with a minimum of S$250 for each of the first two months upon approval. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 Aug 2020.
Maybank Platinum Visa Card
Get complimentary travel cover of up to S$500,000
Up to 3.33% cash rebates on local spending - up to a monthly limit of S$100
S$0 annual fee for the first 3 years and S$80 thereafter
S$30,000
Get S$100 cash credit when you apply, charge to your card and withdraw from your CreditAble account with a minimum of S$250 for each of the first two months upon approval. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 Aug 2020.
Citi Lazada Card
Earn 10x rewards on eligible Lazada purchases and 5x rewards on qualifying dining, entertainment and travel purchases
N/A
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
DBS Woman's Card
Up to 10X DBS Points (or 20 miles) per S$5 spent on online and overseas purchases
Get AirPods or S$200 Cashback when you apply now!
S$0 annual fee for the first 1 year and S$160.50 thereafter
S$30,000
Get AirPods or S$200 cashback when you sign up by 30 June 2020.
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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.

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