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How to pick the right credit card?

Credit cards are a convenient way to pay for things without carrying wads of cash around. Credit cards are widely accepted than personal checks, and they can be used to pay for a variety of services and goods.

However, if you don’t use the cards responsibly, you could risk digging yourself into financial difficulties.

When choosing a credit card, you will find there are several different types of cards available. Some of them promising lower interests, no interests at all or an unlimited amount you can charge on the card.

As you already know, it can get a tad hard trying to sort through all the available credit cards. So, you may want to use a credit card comparison website to compare cards and rates from different financial companies.

Also, to help you make an informed decision about the best credit cards for your financial situation, we have outlined everything you need to consider before applying for a card.

But, first things first:

What is a credit card?

A credit card is an electronic plastic card issued by financial companies that allows a cardholder to borrow money from the card issuer at checkouts to complete purchases.

The cardholder will have to pay back the amount charged on the card at a later date, often between 25-30 days of a billing cycle.

Once the 25-30 days ‘grace period’ is past, the card issuer will charge interest on any outstanding balance on the card.

How’s a credit card different from a regular bank card?

The major difference between a credit card and bank card, say a debit card is where the money comes from when you pay with the card.

Usually, if you charge the transactions to your credit card at checkout, you are essentially borrowing money from the card issuer.

For example, Let’s say your checking account balance is £1,200 before you used a credit card to pay for a £500 purchase. At the end of the transaction, you will still have your £500 intact.

If, however, you were to use a debit card to pay for the £500 purchase, your bank account balance would become £700 immediately at the end of the transaction.

Another way to look at the differences between credit cards and debit cards is to think of credit cards as a loan from a financial institution you are obliged to pay back sometime in the future.

While a debit card is simply a convenient way to access the money in your checking account without having to write a paper check, enter a banking hall or make a cash withdrawal.

What can you use a credit card for?

In the UK, you can use a credit card to pay for a variety of services and products. There are no restrictions on the type of service you can pay with your card, except perhaps for small shops, markets, guesthouses, and cafes that may not accept cards.

Also, a credit card is a great way to have access to money. Usually, people use credit cards to fund their everyday expenses like grocery shopping, buying petrol and other goods and services. To make hotel reservations and aeroplane bookings, and or to handle unexpected expenses.

It is not uncommon for people to also use credit cards to fund their holiday getaway as they take a break from their daily routine.

Benefits of using a credit card

One obvious advantage of credit cards is that they are a convenient way to have access to money. However, there are several other benefits you stand to gain when you use credit cards, they include:

  • Cashback for purchases made using the credit card. Many credit card issuers often pay back a certain per cent of the total purchases you make in a month using their cards.
  • Build your credit score. Responsible use of a credit card is an excellent way to build your credit rating.
  • If you are a frequent traveller, consider using the regular flyer credit cards to take advantage of the discounts, rewards, and points to save money on your flights.
  • Attractive signup bonuses. Many UK credit card vendors offer complementary bonuses such as bonus points, low fees, reduced interest rates and other incentives when you sign up for their cards.

However, be sure to read and understand the terms and conditions before signing up as cards with great bonus might in reality not be suited for your unique needs.

To get the best deal on your credit card, you may want to consider using a comparison site like to compare different cards.

Who can take a credit card?

In the UK, before your application to get a credit card is accepted, you must have met the following requirements:

  • You must be at least 18 at the time of application. Though some cards have a higher minimum age.
  • You must be a UK resident.
  • Must be employed
  • And earns above a certain amount per month.

How to apply for a credit card?

If you are confident you meet all the requirements, here are exactly what you need to do to apply for your first credit card:

Thankfully, you have several options to choose from when applying for a credit card. You can either:

  • Apply online – You will need to visit the provider’s website and complete a form. The credit card issuer may send you some paperwork to sign and mail back.
  • Over a phone – Someone from the credit card provider will take all the details they need from you over the phone. Also, you will be sent a pre-filled form to sign and send back in the post.
  • By post – You will need to fill a paper form and send it back to the credit card company in the post.
  • In-branch – If your credit card provider has a branch nearby, you can make an appointment for staff to help you fill the form.

You will be required to provide information about your name, address, date of birth, employment status, salary, and date of birth. In some cases, however, the credit card issuer might request additional identification documents such as a driving license, utility bill, or passport.

How long does it take to get approved for a credit card?

Your credit card application can take up to 10 to 14 working days to get approved depending on the application process.

In the UK, there are two types of credit card application process: Standard and instant decision.

A standard process can take up to 14 days before you can receive your card in the post. This is because your application will have to be manually verified before the provider can make any decision whether to approve your request or to decline.

The instant decision as the name implies means you can get your application approved within minutes or not later than 10 days.

How to choose the best credit card for you

Understand, there are hundreds of credit cards available, and not all of them are best suited for your unique personal financial situation. So, you may want to shop around for the best deals.

To help you choose a credit card, here are things to consider.

Think about what you want to do with the card

Do you need the card to pay for lodging and flight tickets? If you’re a regular flyer, a frequent flyer credit card might be the right option for you as you can enjoy generous discounts from hotels, car rentals and even redeem the points.

How do you intend to pay off the loan every month?

If you plan to pay off what you owe in full every month; then interest rates are not a top priority as you can take advantage of the interest-free grace window.

Consider getting a credit card that could reward you with cashback, air miles bonuses, and other rewards.

However, if you intend to spread the balance over several months, you may want to get a card that has little to no interest.

Do you have a bad credit score?

Usually, a credit card provider will check your creditworthiness to determine whether you are a safe risk to offer a line of credit.

For people with bad credit score, it is quite challenging to get approved for a credit card. So, before applying you may want to check your score with the credit bureau to know whether you have enough points to get approved.

In conclusion

A credit card is a safe and convenient way to get access to cash quickly. However, before a credit card provider issues you with a card, you must have met some of their criteria, including having a high credit score.

Note also, that you can have more than one credit card, but be careful you can comfortably pay off what you owe on each card every month.

Finally, be sure first to use to compare the different credit card options available to find the best ones that suit your needs. Read the full terms and conditions on the card issuer’s website before signing up for the card.

Written by:
Emil Kjær

Emil Kjær

Emil uses his expertise to make a difference in the financial sector. He studied at the University of Southern Denmark and has been General Manager at Intelligent Banker since 2013, where he has helped more than 500,000 users from all over the world with their financial needs.

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