Thinking of getting your first credit card? Here are some things to consider.
Credit cards can help you manage your money by spreading the cost of your everyday spending and providing a secure way to pay.
Credit cards are typically used for short-term borrowing for everyday shopping such as groceries and petrol, or for larger purchases such as holidays or a television. A credit card can even be used to consolidate balances from other credit and store cards.
A credit card issuer will run checks on your credit file to see if you can afford to pay back what you borrow on your credit card. This is called a credit check. If you’ve previously had problems paying back your debts then your credit file may be affected. If you think this might be the case, you can contact a credit reference agency and ask to see your credit file.
If you’re looking to borrow money, it is important that you compare and choose the right option for you based on your circumstances.
Like debit cards, you can use credit cards to buy goods in shops, over the phone and online. The process for making a payment will differ depending on how you do it:
You can use a credit card abroad to make purchases. Look out for the Mastercard®, American Express® or VISA logos depending on your card type.
Most card issuers will charge you a fee to change your purchases from foreign currency back to sterling.
You can also use your card to withdraw cash at a cash machine, bank branch or buy foreign currency (normally called a cash advance). Most credit card issuers will charge you a fee for this and the interest rate for cash transactions is usually higher than the rate for purchases and is typically charged immediately – if you’re not sure you should check your terms and conditions.
The key differences are:
Credit cards are covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
Under the act, a credit card issuer and the retailer have joint responsibility for your purchase if there is a breach of contract or misrepresentation – for example, if the item is faulty or the company goes bust before you receive your goods. Plus, Section 75 can even give you protection for any costs that you incur as the result of the breach of contract by the retailer.
Certain conditions have to be met for Section 75 to apply, for example, the purchase needs to be over £100 and under £30,000.
The maximum amount that you’re allowed to borrow on your credit card is called your credit limit. This based on your financial circumstances. The limit is initially set when you apply for your card. It is assessed on a regular basis and can go up or down. Any alteration to your limit is unlikely to happen until after you have had your credit card for 6 months.
Typically, after 6 months you can ask for your limit to be increased, and the credit card issuer will make a decision based on how you’ve managed your account or other accounts. They may also use other information they have to assess whether you can afford to repay the increase in debt.
From time to time your card issuer may also offer you an increase without you asking for it. If you’d prefer them not to do this, just contact your credit card issuer, you’ll be able to discuss avoiding forthcoming credit limit increases or even to opt out of all future increases.
Your credit limit can be decreased for a number of reasons. These can include:
If you feel that your credit card limit is too high, then you can ask for it to be decreased by contacting your credit card issuer.