Owning a credit card an be incredibly useful, especially in emergencies, but it can be a daunting prospect if you are applying for a credit card for the very first time.
- Should I get one with a particular reward scheme?
- What APR should I be getting?
- Actually, more to the point, what is APR?
- Should I go for a card that offers cashback?
- Is it best to go for one that has a 0% periode?
don’t exactly help the situation! As the philosopher and scientist, Sir Francis Bacon, famously quoted, ‘knowledge is power’. It is of your utmost interest to do as my research into the various credit cards as you possibly can. The more you know the better equipped you are to make the right decision. A good starting point is to check out one of the many comparison sites, zoals Moneysupermarket.com.
One of the biggest problems first time applicants struggle with is trying to get credit when they have little or no credit history. People who are new to the UK, students and people who are only just starting their first jobs are likely to have a very limited credit history and for this reason some lenders will be reluctant to sign you up. Echter, there are credit cards available specifically for this market, which can help build up your credit score and will help you with any future credit applications. Be warned though, as these cards (known as credit builder cards) often come with inflated interest rates and very low credit limits. Also, don’t just frivolously apply for as many different cards as you can in the hope that it will increase your success rate. Every time you are refused a credit card it leaves a footprint on your credit file, which will reduce your credit score and make applying for subsequent credit related products considerably more difficult.
If you think you may have some form of credit history, it is worth checking it with a credit reference agency, zoals Experian. At least then you have the information and can then approach only the relevant credit card companies. You will be given a credit score and it is this score that lenders base their decision on whether to ‘trust’ you with their money, or not.
One option, if you already have a current account, is to approach your bank/building society to see if they would be able to offer you a credit card. They are more likely to consider this as they already have access to your financial history, so as long as you have a good relationship with them, are regularly paying money into your account and haven’t got into any debt they are much more likely to grant you credit.
There are, echter, certain things you can do to improve your chances of being accepted for first time credit, bijvoorbeeld:
- Check that you are signed up to the electoral register and, if you are, make sure your contact details, particularly your address, are correct and up to date.
- If you share paying any utility bills, such as gas, electricity or even mobile phone bills, change them to be in your name and this can also help improve your credit score.
- Try not to move house or change jobs too frequently, as this may make lenders wary.
How do I apply for a credit card?
There are three different ways you can go about applying for a credit card:
- You can fill in an application form online. Instructions should be easy to follow and shouldn’t take too long, although you are likely to receive further paperwork that will need signing and returning before the application can be completed.
- You can apply by post by filling in a paper form, which you can usually get from the bank that’s offering the card.
- Or, you can apply in person at the branch. The advantage of this is that you will have an expert on hand to help you with your application, which means there is less likely to be any delays, although it is likely you will need to make an appointment to get this service.
First time applicants need to have their wits about them and must be wary of the many pitfalls that they can fall prey to. Do not fall for the emails of promotional letters that arrive in the post promising you unrealistic rates or even in some cases telling you that you have already been pre-approved credit. They are all a scam and are simply a ploy to try and get more customers. The information is likely to be out of date, irrelevant to your circumstances and even if they state you have been pre-approved, you are likely to be rejected, which will damage you credit score further. Also, don’t feel pressurised into having to make a decision sooner than you feel comfortable with. Any reputable credit card company knows how long the process and checks can take, so a credit card that promises instant credit is definitely one worth avoiding!
Some card issuers may increase their interest rates for first time borrowers, but combine it with a really low credit limit. Lending specialist, Kevin Mountford from Moneysupermarket.com, advises borrowers to pay off any outstanding debts before applying for a credit card for the first time, “Set up a direct debit to cover at least the minimum monthly repayment amount as paying late or missing a payment will result in charges and the loss of any promotional offers. Lenders look favourably on customers who have a proven track record of using credit wisely”.
What do all these words mean?
Credit card terminology can leave first time borrowers baffled, so if you don’t know your APR from your variable rate take a look at easy to understand financial dictionary:
APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate and it is the interest you pay on any outstanding balance on your credit card bill. Many credit cards offer introductory interest rates of 0%, but can quickly increase by as much as 15% when the deal has ended.
If an interest rate is described as variable or representative it means that it is normally the minimum interest that is on offer to customers.
This is when any existing debt is transferred to a new credit card. You may have seen a card that offers a better interest rate than your current one so by transferring the balance across you are getting a better deal.
If you make a full payment on your credit card each month it means you will not be charged any interest. Paying the full balance means you are clearing any funds you have built on your card and it is clear for the next month.
Minimum monthly payment
This is the minimum amount you can pay off of your bill each month, without the credit card issuer getting grouchy! Echter, you will still be charged interest on any remaining balance that is left unpaid.
Some credit cards allow you cashback on any purchases you make on the card. A great way to feel as though you are earning something back, even when you are spending.