Best Credit Cards Compared
A credit card can be the fastest and cheapest way to borrow money, but only if you choose the right one.
Credit Cards at a Glance:
Before you sign up for a credit card, understand this:
- Can be a FREE way to borrow money.
- Be wary of interest rates after free period.
- Choose a type of card for what you specifically need.
- Consolidate other debt with balance transfer cards.
- Improve credit rating with credit builder cards.
- Earn rewards on spending with rewards / cashback cards.
- Travel with lower fees with Travel credit cards.
Read the full guide below, or skip to the best rates.
Compare the Best Credit Cards Available
Because all credit cards offer different incentives / benefits, we’ve separated our list based upon the rewards you want.
What is a credit card?
A credit card is a card that offers you a credit limit on spending, which is effectively a short term loan from the credit card company.
You will have a fixed spending limit that you cannot go over, and you will have to pay interest on how much you owe at the end of each month.
Some credit cards offer a limited period of 0% interest, which effectively provides you with a free loan for that set period.
The best way to use a credit card is to spend on it, and have your bank pay it off using a direct debit every month, so that you do not forget.
What does the APR % variable on credit cards mean?
The APR% of a credit card is the interest rate that you have to pay on any balance that is left after you’ve made any repayments. This is usually a figure calculated yearly.
The representative APR usually includes all fees in it, which combines the purchase rate, interest rate, and fees into one rate to easily make calculations.
What types of credit cards are available?
There are lots of different types of credit cards available (they’ve come along way since people got their first credit card) and they are used for various different things:
- 0% balance transfer cards – these are great if you want to move your current debt around, for example if you have another credit card reaching the end of a spending limit.
- 0% purchase cards – these help you borrow money for free.
- Credit builder cards – these are a great way to start improving your credit rating,
- Bad credit cards – these have higher approval rates making you more likely to be accepted with bad credit.
- Combo balance transfer and 0% purchase cards – these give you the benefits of balance transfers at 0% and free purchases.
- Reward cards – these offer various rewards based upon where and how much you purchase.
- Overseas cards – these offer great deals on currency transfers and money management.
- Airline cards – these will often provide you with upgrades and air mile deals.
- Cashback cards – these will offer you the flexibility of getting cash from a cash machine.
Which type of card is best for me?
- Best for: Students – taking on more debt as a student isn’t always a good idea, as you won’t always have a regular income coming in. However if you have an idea of when your next grant is coming in, then you can get a 0% interest credit card that overlaps that payment timing, so that you can pay off your debt without loads of interest.
- Best for: Travel – You want a card that can convert to multiple currencies without charging you loads in fees.
- Best for: Air miles – Virgin and American Express cards will be best for this, as Virgin is a flight operator and Amex work with British Airways.
- Best for: Insurance – Travel insurance is often added to some of the platinum, gold or other premium credit cards, which often have an annual fee attached to them.
- Best for: Building Credit – you should look for a beginner or first time credit card, which will often have a low credit limit and sometimes a very high interest rate.
- Best for: High Limit – For a high limit of credit, you may be better looking at a personal loan deal, which will offer you the flexibility of borrowing much larger amounts of money over a longer period of time, and often at better interest rates.
What brands and banks do credit cards?
Almost every major retailer has a credit card of some kind. Some of the most popular brands to do credit cards are:
- American Express
- Bank of Scotland
- Capital One
- Halifax, HSBC
- Lloyds Bank
- Post Office
How do I apply for a credit card?
The first step in your application will be to work out which type of card you need. As we explain above this really does make a big difference in the way you use your card, and how expensive it might be.
The next step is to double check your credit score to make sure you’re eligible for more debt, because if you apply with a bad rating then you’re less likely to be accepted, and it will also lower your credit score. We have a guide on how to improve your credit score here.
The next step is to compare the best deals for the type of card you want at the credit rating you have, and to make sure that you can repay any fees that you will encounter.
The final step is filling our the application form, which can often be done online these days. They may require personal information and proof of income.
How do I cancel a credit card?
To cancel a credit card, make sure you follow this order:
- Don’t go crazy if you have multiple cards, only cancel one at a time. Start with your new cards first, and start with the ones with the most fees.
- Make sure you pay off a balance in full before cancelling a card to avoid other fees.
- Contact the company to cancel the card, this can sometimes be done online but more often than not it’s over the phone.
- Some people also recommend you send a written confirmation via email or post as a backup.
- Monitor your credit report to see how it looks after the cancellation.
- Finally you can cut up your old credit card.
Pros and Cons of a Credit Card
There are various pros and cons of owning a credit card that you should be aware of.
Pros of a Credit Card
- Interest free loan when used right
- Flexible to spend up to your credit limit
- Easy to manage payments with direct debits
- Allow for managing of existing debt
Cons of a Credit Card
- Easy to lose control of escalating interest rates
- Easy to forget to repay without using a direct debit
- Charges for cashback and other transfers sometimes
- Credit limit heavily depends on your credit rating
Alternatives to Credit Cards
If you’re not sure whether getting a credit card is the right move for you, then you can consider them vs alternatives below.
Credit Cards vs Personal Loans
If you’re looking to borrow a large amount of money, then it might be better to consider a personal loan. You can often get a personal loan at a better interest rate, and the even repayments can help you avoid escalating debt from interest rates. You can compare the best personal loan rates here.
Credit Cards vs Payday Loans
If you’re struggling to get a large enough credit card limit because of your credit rating, then you might have to settle for a dangerous Payday style loan. These will often be a short term fix, and have very expensive interest rates, with a large payment often coming at the end of the loan term. However they’re more likely to accept someone with bad credit.
One of the other alternatives for someone with bad credit would be a guarantor loan, which you can learn more about here.
Credit Cards vs Overdrafts
If you can arrange a cheap overdraft with your current account provider, then it could represent a better way to manage your finances than an expensive credit card. When compared to credit card “after free period” fees, a reasonable overdraft can be a lot cheaper to manage.
However arranging one is the key, as unarranged overdrafts will often come with heavy penalty fees.
Credit Cards vs Saving Money
The best way to pay for something is to save up for it. Unless you’re using the interest free period of a credit card, getting any sort of finance will always mean you pay an interest fee, which will make that purchase more expensive than if you had simply saved up for it.
You should seriously consider whether or not you really need that new purchase, and only go into debt for things that are essential for you or your loved ones well being.
Frequently Asked Questions About Credit Cards
If your burning question hasn’t already been answered in our guide above, then checkout the following questions to see if it solves your problem. Otherwise you can email us at [email protected]
Will I be rejected for a credit card?
There is a chance that you will be rejected in your credit card application. Like any other form of loan, a credit card company will have to assess whether or not your financial history indicates that you will be a save bet for them, aka whether or not you often pay back your debts.
If you have a bad credit history, or no credit history if you’re young, then a company has to take a bigger gamble on you by lending you money, and so you will either pay a lot more in interest fees, or you will be flat out rejected.
You can browse our best credit building cards to improve your credit score.
How long does it take to apply and get a credit card?
Applying for a credit card can often be very fast, with a simple online application that assesses your eligibility based on the information you give it.
It’s important to be 100% honest on your applications, as you can run into trouble if a company finds out new information later down the line that conflicts with your application, potentially forcing you to pay back your debts immediately.
If you’re applying for a particularly high credit limit, or you already have quite a lot of existing debt, then your credit card application may take a little longer.
What will my credit limit be?
Your credit limit will be whatever the company believes is a fair limit, based upon your credit rating and the interest rates they’re willing to offer.
Often the initial advertised credit limit is reserved for those with an exceptional credit rating, and so you should always take advertised rates to mean slightly lower for your application, and therefore aim for a limit that’s slightly above what you need.
But also don’t apply for too high a limit, as you may then get rejected.
What charges will my credit card give me?
Each credit card will have its own set of charges, however many of them fall under the following categories:
- Purchase interest charge (based upon how much you buy)
- Balance interest charge (based upon how much money you owe at the end of each month)
- Ongoing fees (usually annual charges for the card if applicable)
These are usually combined in a representative APR % that reflects all of these charges annually.
It’s important to calculate these ahead of any spending, to make sure that the fees aren’t too much for you to pay back, as the interest rates can mean that you never get close to paying back your debt.
When do credit cards charge interest?
Credit cards will send you a balance at the end of each month showing how much money you’ve borrowed on your card. You will then be given a certain period to pay that balance off, and if you do not, you will be charged the fees after that cut off point.
Which are the easiest credit cards to get?
The easiest credit cards to get will be ones with a low credit limit and a high interest rate. You may also find it easier to get a credit card if it’s designed for someone with bad credit, particularly if your credit rating is quite good.
You can browse the online reviews of credit cards to see feedback on how easily other people have got a card from them.
Which credit cards are secured?
A secured credit card simply means that you have put up some form of financial security for the privilege of getting a credit card. This can range from a cash deposit, to using a house as security.
This form of credit card is often used for people building back up their credit report, as the security makes lenders more likely to provide them with credit.
You can browse other secure loans here.
Will credit cards become obsolete?
With the trend to convenience and the increased use of contactless payments during the 21st century, it’s highly unlikely that credit cards will become obsolete in the near future.
Cash payments are far more likely to become obsolete before any credit cards do, simply because cash is less secure and less flexible. If cash becomes obsolete, then it might offer an easier transition to mobile only payments, in which case credit cards could become obsolete to their digital equivalents.
Can credit cards be recycled?
No credit cards cannot be recycled. The materials used in the making of the cards is PVC, which isn’t easy to recycle. There is also the issue of the personal data that’s on the cards, making it an opportunity for identify thieves if cards were recycled en mass.
If you’re worried about being green, it’s best to concentrate on other, more productive forms of environmental protection.
Can credit cards be used at cash machines?
Some credit cards can be used at a cash machine, and they’re specifically labelled as cashback credit cards. There will often be a small charge for this service, sometimes a one off fee or sometimes based upon the amount you withdraw.
Can credit cards be used as debit cards, and can they get overdrawn?
Credit cards cannot be used as debit cards, as debit cards have a bank account attached to them, and require money in the account before purchase. In contrast credit cards start with a credit limit, and allow you to freely spend up to that amount.
Most credit cards don’t allow you to spend over your credit limit, which is in effect an overdraft, and so going overdrawn is unusual. If your card provider does allow you to go over your limit, it will often be accompanied with charges and so isn’t recommended.
Can credit cards be hacked?
Credit cards cannot be hacked as such, but they can lead to identity theft. Credit card fraud is a huge black market globally, which makes it very important to track your credit card statements to make sure that the payments are all from your purchases and not someone else. Certain areas and shops are more likely to be a victim hotspot of credit card fraud, such as Petrol stations in the middle of nowhere, third world countries, and cash machines in undesirable areas.
Are credit cards waterproof?
Credit cards are waterproof, and they contain no working electrical current from a battery or similar device. They’re more likely to be damaged by extreme heat than by water, and so going in the washing machine is fine, but the tumble dryer slightly worse!
Why did my credit card get declined?
A credit card is usually only declined if you’re trying to make a purchase that would take you over your current credit limit. You can check your credit card balance on the company website, or by checking your statements through the post. It’s important to keep tabs on your payments to make sure you don’t spend more than you can.
Sometimes if you have been a victim of credit card fraud you may have gone over your spending limit without you even doing it yourself.
In these circumstances you should contact the credit card company fraud team.
Will keeping a credit card near my mobile phone break it?
No your mobile phone is fine to be left near any debit or credit cards without it damaging the chip. This is because a mobile phone emits a very low level of RF wavelength signal. These aren’t strong enough to damage an operating card EMV chip anyway, and particularly when a card isn’t being used in a reader as it’s then “switched off”.
Can you pay for a credit card with another credit card?
Yes, paying off a credit card with another credit card is very common, and there’s a special name for those types of cards – balance transfer cards! They basically allow you to transfer an outstanding balance from one credit card to a new one, helping to avoid interest fees and maintain a healthy credit rating.