Compare credit cards
Feast your eyes on these fantastic plastic balance transfer rates, cashback offers, travel perks and rewards.
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Approval for any credit card will depend on your status. The APR shown represents the interest rate offered to most successful applicants. Depending on your personal circumstances the APR you're offered may be higher, or you may not be offered credit at all. Fees and rates are subject to change without notice. It's always wise to check the terms of any deal before you borrow.
What's in this guide?
- Compare cards by type
- How do credit cards work?
- Why should I get a credit card?
- Who can get a credit card?
- How much will I be able to spend on a credit card?
- What type of credit card should I get?
- What will a credit card cost me?
- Our 2020 customer satisfaction league table
- What do I need to know before I apply?
- Learn more about specific card features
How do credit cards work?
A credit card allows you to charge purchases to your card which you’ll then pay for later. Each month you’ll get a statement showing what you spent over the previous month, and you can either pay off your balance in full, or you can just pay the minimum monthly payment (typically 2-3% of your outstanding balance).
Unlike a loan with a rigid repayment schedule and a fixed end-date, credit cards give you lots of flexibility and are open-ended. The credit’s there when you need it, and you can pay off your debt as fast or as slowly (within reason) as you like.
High-street banks and building societies tend to be the first place people consider for a credit card, but they’re also available from supermarkets (including Tesco and Sainsbury’s) airlines (like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic) and dedicated credit card issuers (like aqua or mbna.
Why should I get a credit card?
There are plenty of situations when a credit card could be a smart choice. For starters, used carefully, they can be a cheap – or even free – way to borrow. But even if you don’t need to borrow money, there are other benefits you may want to consider.
Crucially, card issuers are jointly liable with the retailer if you don’t get what you paid for – so if your purchase (up to the tune of £30,000) isn’t as described, or if the retailer goes bust and takes your money with it, you may be able to get a refund through your card issuer.
If you’re young or new to credit, then you probably won’t have much of a credit record. If you’re planning to get a mortgage or perhaps car finance sometime in the future, then to get a decent rate, you’ll need to show that you’re capable of borrowing money and repaying it on time. A credit card is one way to demonstrate this.
But even if you have excellent credit and you don’t need to borrow, a credit card could still work for you. Plenty of cards come with perks or rewards – from loyalty points or cashback through to airport lounge access or travel insurance.
Who can get a credit card?
There are credit cards to suit almost anybody, but you’ll need to be 18 or older and a UK resident.
Credit cards are offered at the issuer’s discretion – in other words, when you apply for one, the card issuer will weigh up your application, and if it thinks you’re a safe bet, it’ll offer you a card. Card issuers normally state their minimum criteria (which could include a minimum income or being an existing customer) but meeting these criteria isn’t a guarantee of approval.
For really premium cards, you’re likely to need a decent income and a good track record of borrowing responsibly (a high credit score), but credit builder credit cards and student credit cards are much easier to get approved for.
How much will I be able to spend on a credit card?
If you apply for a card and your application is approved, your specific circumstances will determine what credit limit (that’s the maximum debt you can build up on the card) the issuer will offer you. Your personalised limit will depend on factors like your credit score, and your income and outgoings.
Once you’ve held a credit card for a few months or years, you might want to request a credit limit increase. Any increase will be at the card issuer’s discretion, but if you’ve been using your card sensibly (making repayments on time and not going over your credit limit) and your circumstances haven’t changed for the worse, there’s a reasonable chance your request will be approved. Some card issuers will even pro-actively suggest a credit limit increase after a while.
What type of credit card should I get?
Here are some of the main types of credit card available in the UK, along with the key benefits they offer.
Balance transfer cards
These cards let you transfer existing debt in order to enjoy a low (or 0%) interest rate on it for a promotional period. If you already have credit card or loan debt, a balance transfer card could help you get debt-free faster and/or more cheaply.
0% purchase cards
These cards don’t charge any interest on purchases for a set amount of time. If you’re anticipating a hefty expenditure, a 0% purchase card could let you spread the cost without having to pay any extra for the privilege.
These cards reward you for every purchase you make, either in cashback (account credit) or in points to redeem with participating merchants. They can also offer a world of perks, but tend to be less-suited to ongoing borrowing.
Overseas spending cards
If you’re heading overseas or you’re planning to make non-sterling transactions, these cards can offer fee-free currency conversions (most credit cards charge you for this).
Used carefully, these cards can offer a small financial buffer and can help kick-start a positive credit record. They’re generally available alongside your student current account.
Frequent flyer cards
These cards are affiliated with a specific airline so they’re best for loyal customers. You’ll earn points/miles on all your day-to-day spending to redeem against flights, companion tickets, upgrades and more.
Credit builder cards
These cards are designed for those with damaged or very limited credit records. Rates are typically a bit higher and credit limits a bit lower, but it’s usually easier to get your application across the line.
What will a credit card cost me?
One of the downsides of credit cards is that the fee structure can be a bit fiddly. But do your homework and use them correctly, and credit cards can be t