How to get a credit card

Finance Journalist · 21 October 2021
At some point in your life, whether it’s in your late teens, early 20s or later, you might decide you are ready to get your first credit card. So what steps are involved?

Firstly, think about why you are taking out a credit card. Credit cards can be helpful if you find yourself in an emergency situation, want to take advantage of rewards and know you will be able to pay the debt in full each month or could help you manage your cash flow. But you run the risk of accumulating debt and damaging your credit score if you’re not careful. So it’s worth considering whether you could get by with just a debit card.

If you’ve decided you do want a credit card, you can usually apply online, in person at a branch or over the phone. To get a credit card, you’ll need to meet the provider’s eligibility criteria and provide them with information to show you can make the repayments.

What are the requirements to get a credit card?

To get a credit card, you will typically need to:

  • be 18 years old or over
  • be an Australian citizen, permanent resident or hold an eligible visa
  • have a good credit history
  • meet any minimum income requirements specified

It’s a good idea to check your credit score before you apply for a credit card. You can check your credit score for free with Canstar.

How can I get a credit card if I am under 18?

You will only be eligible for a credit card if you are 18 years old or over. As an alternative, you may be able to become an additional cardholder, such as on a parent or guardian’s credit card. You will typically need to be at least 16 years old.

As an additional cardholder, you will get your own credit card with your name on it. However, it will be under the same account as the original cardholder and they will be responsible for the transactions made.

What details do you need to provide to get a credit card?

Credit card providers will ask you to provide information to prove your identity and establish your creditworthiness. You will typically need to provide the following details:

  • An Australian driver licence number (if you have one)
  • Employment and income information, such as payslips or bank statements
  • Details of your existing liabilities, such as personal loans, other credit cards and buy now pay later services
  • Details of your expenses, such as rent, food, bills, transport, childcare and education
  • Details of your assets, such as cars or homes

If you are an existing customer, some of your information may already be on file.

How do I choose a credit card for the first time?

Firstly, consider your spending habits and whether you are realistically going to pay off your credit card each month. There are three main types of credit cards:

  • Low fee: this may suit you if you think you can pay your credit card balance off in full each month (and can therefore avoid interest charges).
  • Low rate: this may suit you if you don’t think you will pay your balance off in full each month as it will reduce the amount of interest you pay on purchases.
  • Rewards: this may suit you if you think you will pay your balance off in full each month and want to earn rewards points and receive complimentary insurances. Be aware that rewards credit cards typically have higher interest rates and annual fees than non-rewards cards.

Once you’ve decided on the type of card that would suit your spending and repayment habits, it’s then important to compare factors like:

  • the interest rate
  • the number of interest-free days on offer
  • the annual or monthly fee
  • other fees, such as late payment fees and cash advance fees

Compare credit cards on Canstar’s database

If you’re currently comparing credit cards, the comparison table below displays some of the low interest credit cards currently available on Canstar’s database for Australians looking to spend around $2,000 per month. Please note that this table features links direct to the provider’s website, and is sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest), followed by provider name (alphabetical). Use Canstar’s credit card comparison selector to view a wider range of credit cards.

After you’ve applied for a credit card, the credit card provider will then assess your application and will usually conduct a credit check. If you are approved, you will usually receive your card within five to seven business days. You can then activate your card and start using it.

Cover image source: Teerasak Ladnongkhun/

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This content was reviewed by Finance and Lifestyle Editor Shay Waraker and Sub Editor Jacqueline Belesky as part of our fact-checking process.

Tamika covers personal finance for Canstar, specialising in banking and general insurance. She joined the team after completing a Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of Laws (Honours) at QUT. She has previously written for a range of news, music and arts publications.

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