Deciding if a credit card is right for you

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Should I get a credit card?

A credit card is a fast and flexible way to borrow money. While your debit card will take money from your account immediately, a credit card allows you to buy now and settle your bill at a later time (conditions apply).

Before applying for your first card, check your credit score or use an eligibility checker to see if you’re likely to be accepted. Also do your research: finding the perfect card for your individual circumstances means considering the interest rate, purchase rate, and possibly – if it’s not your first card – a balance transfer fee.

You can borrow without paying interest

You won’t pay any interest if you pay off your balance in full every month by the payment due date. Some credit cards also come with an interest-free promotion. Barclaycard offers a flexible credit card you can use for balance transfers and purchases.

With an interest-free promotion, as long as you stay within your credit limit and pay at least the minimum amount on time each month, you can borrow interest-free for a set time. After this you pay interest on your existing borrowing and anything new you spend. So it’s important to always aim to pay off the balance before the end of the offer and budget to make sure you can afford what you are borrowing.

A balance transfer can help reduce interest payments

It's best to pay back the balance in full every month by the payment due date and always avoid spending beyond your means and going over your credit limit.

However, if there are circumstances where you’ve built up a balance that you’re paying interest on, moving it to a new interest-free or 0% balance-transfer card can help you take a break from paying interest for a while. But remember, the minimum payment for the account has to be made on time each month and the balance should be paid off before the 0% offer ends.

Moving your balance doesn’t necessarily mean your minimum payment will be lower each month. But, you can use the money you save on interest to pay off the balance sooner.

It helps you manage your money

Your statements show all your payments and spending so it’s easy to keep a check on your finances. There are lots of online tools and mobile apps to help you manage your money on the move. Check out our guide on how to manage credit repayments for tips.

It helps you prepare for emergencies

A broken boiler, a set of tyres or a hefty gas bill. Sometimes we have to fork out for things we didn’t expect. Your credit card could be a convenient way to borrow money in an emergency. Using a credit card online also means you could get a refund if a supplier lets you down thanks to the Consumer Credit Act.

It helps to build a healthy credit rating

When you apply for credit, credit card companies check your credit file to work out how much of a financial risk you are. Spending within your means on your first card and then making regular monthly payments to repay the money will help build a good credit rating.

Subject to status, there are credit cards – with low limits – that are designed to help you build your credit history.

Choosing the right credit card for you

There’s a lot to consider when deciding whether to get a credit card, such as how much you can afford to pay back each month and what benefits you want from your card. Some of the main things you should consider are:

  • Annual fees. Some cards have annual fees but may offer extra benefits such as travel insurance and concierge services in return. Sometimes the annual fee doesn’t apply for the first year, so work out how much it will cost in the long-term.
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  • Interest rates. Unless your card has a 0% interest period, you’ll pay interest on any borrowed money you don’t repay each month. The amount of interest can vary a lot depending on which card you choose or can be accepted for.
  • Fees for using the card abroad. If you’re planning to spend on credit while on holiday, it’s best to choose a travel credit card, otherwise you could be charged withdrawal and exchange rate transaction fees. Check out our guide on travel credit cards for more information.
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  • Balance transfer fees. If you already have credit card debt that you’re paying interest on, or if you develop some later down the line, moving it to a new card with 0% interest for a set period can be a good idea. There is usually a fee for doing this, although you could easily end up saving enough to cover the fee and pay off your balance sooner, and hopefully before the interest period ends. We have a guide on how to find the best balance transfer credit card.
  • Credit card fees and interest rates might feel daunting, but we’re here to help you get a better understanding so you can choose the card that’s right for you.

Will I be able to get a credit card?

Card issuers have a few basic requirements. Barclaycard’s include being over 18 and employed, earning at least £3,000 per year, and having not been made bankrupt in the last six years.

You’ll also need to prove where you live and show that you haven’t been missing bill payments. If you have all that ticked off, then the next most important thing is having a healthy credit history.

This can feel like a catch-22 – how do you build a good credit history if you can’t get a credit card? There are special credit cards with low limits that are designed to help you build your credit history, including the Barclaycard Initial Card. It has 0% interest on purchases for three months from the date you open your account, and 34.9% representative APR after the promotional period has ended.

Below is a representative example:
 

Representative example

Representative APR 34.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate p.a. 34.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200
Annual Fee No annual fee

You may be offered a different credit limit, representative APR, purchase rate or promotional Balance Transfer period to any shown here as it depends on your individual circumstances. Subject to status.

Learn more about credit

How do I find the best balance transfer credit card?