What is the use of a credit card?

A credit card is more than just a way to borrow money. It could also help you budget through prioritising what you pay for immediately and what you repay over a longer, ideally interest-free period. Credit cards can also come in handy when you have unexpected bills, such as a broken boiler, or if you need to buy something last-minute such as a birthday gift. Credit cards usually come with interest rates, charges and are subject to application and status, so you’ll want to bear these in mind when deciding how to use one.

Credit card being inserted into a chip and pin machine

In this article, we'll cover some of the things you can use your credit card for, as well as the potential benefits of sometimes using your card instead of cash or debit.

Paying for services

Making payments through credit card use rather than cash so you can benefit from the financial safeguarding that comes from the Consumer Credit Act. This could offer you purchase protection on payments between £100 and £30,000, so if a product is faulty, work isn't completed, or a supplier goes bust, you may be covered.

Enjoy high street shopping

A shopping trip to your local high street can be an enjoyable activity. Whether you’re shopping for a gift for someone else, or treating yourself, you might find it worthwhile to use a credit card to make your purchases.

If you’ve got important shopping to do, but you’re unable to afford to pay it all in one go, then this is where a purchase credit card can come in handy. A purchase credit card lets you spread the cost of purchases over a certain length of time without paying any interest on the balance.

If you have debt from an existing credit card, then you can consider using a balance transfer credit card, which lets you pay off the existing debt by transferring your balance from one credit card to another that charges less in interest. That way you can enjoy your shopping time interest-free.

Barclaycard offers a flexible, all-rounder credit card that you can use for purchases and balance transfers. This single card can cover all your needs, allowing you to transfer debt and make purchases, while benefitting from a 0% interest free period.

Representative example - most accepted customers get

Representative APR
24.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate
24.9% p.a. (variable)
Based on a
credit limit
Annual fee
No annual fee

The approval of your application depends on financial circumstances and borrowing history, so do the terms you may be offered. The balance transfer period and interest rates, may differ from those shown.


Please enjoy spending responsibly – only buy what you can afford to repay.

Supermarket shopping

Many supermarkets offer reward-based credit cards. If you spend enough and pay off the balance every month, you could earn something every time you make a transaction.

When you pay off your credit balance in full every month, the interest rate becomes less important, meaning you should shop around to find a supermarket card that rewards spending. It’s important you repay the full balance each month and on time, otherwise you might have to pay interest and charges.

Cashback is another reward commonly offered with credit cards. For instance, if your card pays 1% cashback, you could earn £50 on an annual spend of £5,000. Another bonus offered by some cards is airline miles. As you spend, you earn points that can be converted into flights (excluding taxes and other charges). Credit cards with airline points are best suited to people who can repay in full each month, or else the interest charged could outweigh the benefits of the rewards.

Barclaycard has a range of credit cards with different rewards and interest rates that suit a variety of situations.


You may be able to borrow money without paying interest

If you always pay off your balance on time and in full every month, the good news is you won’t pay any interest. You can take advantage of this and use your credit card for everyday purchases.

It’s important not to get carried away though. If you’re using your credit card every day, only borrow what you can afford to pay back. Otherwise, you could end up paying hefty interest charges and late fees. If you can make more than the minimum payment each month, you’ll not only pay off what you owe faster, but you’ll save on interest too. Our Repayment Calculator will show you the difference a few pounds extra a month can make.

Some 0% purchase cards let you make purchases without paying any interest on the balance for a certain length of time. This means you can make a purchase and spread the cost over months or years.

You can use your credit card to make contactless payments

Contactless payments, as the name suggests, is a way to pay for purchases without having to enter a unique PIN number. Many credit cards are contactless, which can make shopping quicker and easier, as long as you repay in full and on time to avoid interest and potential charges.

To see if a card has the contactless feature, look for a wave-like symbol that is made up of four bold lines on the front of the card. It means you can just touch your credit card on the reader when your bill is £100 or less.

You can track your spending

As with a debit card, paying with a credit card means you can track all your spending and payments. With all your transactions in one place, you can keep an eye on your finances more easily. A benefit credit cards have over cash and debit cards is that you could have up to 56 days to pay back what you spend, instead of it coming out of your pocket right away. This makes budgeting easier and lets you prioritise certain expenses over others.

benefit credit cards have over cash and debit cards is that you could have up to 56 days to pay back what you spend, instead of it coming out of your pocket right away.

Just remember that after a month, any money you’ve not repaid will start to collect interest that’ll need paying, unless you have a promotional offer. You can sign up online and mobile credit card apps to help you manage your money on the move. For more tips, check out our guide on how to manage credit repayments.

It can help boost your credit history

It’s easier to borrow money when you have a good credit rating and can also increase your chances of being approved for important loans and contracts in the future, from mortgages to your mobile phone contract. Your credit card history is based on how reliable you are at paying your bills. So, if you pay off more than your monthly credit card payment on time it could improve your credit score.

Take care though because the reverse is also true, as your credit score will suffer if you don’t pay at least the minimum monthly repayments. You’ll also face interest payments and charges. It’s important to check the terms and conditions of a credit card so you’re fully up to speed.

What's next?

To find a card that’ll keep you company while you shop, check out Barclaycard’s Purchase credit cards.

Read more about purchase credit cards