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Getting your first credit card is a big step and a new responsibility, but this guide should help you to understand the basics before you apply.
Whether you’re planning a larger purchase, need a card for everyday spending, or just for emergencies, a credit card offers flexibility and the option to spread costs over a number of months when you need to.
Just bear in mind, unless a 0% p.a. promotional rate for purchases applies, to avoid paying interest on purchases you need to pay off your monthly statement balance in full every month.
Make sure you read through the interest rate information carefully. You may have a number of days from the date your account is opened to take advantage of any introductory interest rates on card purchases – usually around 60 days. After that, and when introductory interest rates expire, your standard interest rates will apply. You may be offered further promotional interest rates in future though.
When an application is approved, your PIN will be delivered by post within 5 working days. Your new card will follow, arriving within 7 working days. You’ll need both of these before you can make in-store purchases.
If you have a low credit score, perhaps because you have a limited credit history, you may consider a ‘credit builder’ card.
Although they usually offer lower credit limits and higher interest rates, by using a credit builder card and making repayments responsibly, over time it could help to improve your credit score. Eventually, you may be able to switch to a credit card offering lower and longer lasting interest rates.
With a balance transfer you could move existing credit and some store card balances held elsewhere, to a single credit card. With everything in one place, your outgoings should be easier to manage. Just be aware that transfer fees may apply. At Lloyds Bank, you can request a balance transfer from most credit cards and store cards which display the Mastercard®, American Express®, or Visa® logos, but not from loan companies, bank accounts or other Lloyds Bank credit cards.
If you’ve never had a credit card before, but you do hold balances on store cards, a balance transfer could still be useful.
Just bear in mind that you’ll have a number of days from the date your account is opened to take advantage of any introductory interest rates on balance transfers – usually around 60 days. After that, and when introductory interest rates expire, your standard interest rates will apply. You may be offered further promotional interest rates in future though.
At Lloyds Bank you can request balance transfers as part of your application, or afterwards if you prefer.
If the option is available, with a money transfer you could move funds to your UK current account, helping you to spread the cost of unexpected bills, or for cash only purchases.
Just be aware that transfer fees may apply.
It’s important to know, if you make a purchase using money transferred from your credit card to your current account, the purchase will not be protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 – unlike some credit card purchases.
You’ll have a number of days from the date your account is opened to take advantage of any introductory interest rates on money transfers – usually around 60 days. After that, and when introductory interest rates expire, your standard interest rates will apply. You may be offered further promotional interest rates in future though.
At Lloyds Bank, money transfers are only available on selected products and when your account is set up.
Rewards – you may see credit cards which offer points or cashback when you spend.
Credit cards offering rewards may have associated fees, e.g. an annual fee. These details should be outlined in the credit card features before you apply.
Do some calculations, based on your planned spending, to see if the benefit is worth the fee.
Low rates – some credit cards are offered with lower than average standard interest rates, rather than 0% introductory interest rates which expire after a fixed period.
Although you’ll be paying interest from the start, there usually aren’t limits on when you transact, and the interest rates and costs may be easier to keep track of.
This could help you estimate how much your credit card borrowing will cost over the course of a year.
A representative example is provided to show the typical costs if you borrowed £1,200, based on the card purchase interest rate only. It’s useful to know that this doesn’t factor introductory interest rates or all transaction fees so your actual costs could vary, depending how you use and manage your new credit card.
The lowest and longest lasting introductory interest rates are usually offered on one primary transaction type, e.g. card purchases, so think about the main reason you need a credit card before you start looking.
You might notice that the duration of some introductory interest rates is advertised as being available for ‘up to’ a certain number of months. That means you could be offered a shorter duration instead, based on an assessment of your personal circumstances and credit history.
As a first-time credit card customer, you may not be offered a large credit limit to start with. Again, this is based on an assessment of your personal circumstances, including any credit history.
If you use your card, stay within your credit limit and repay your balance responsibly for a period of months, you could apply to increase your credit limit in future. Lenders may also offer you a credit limit increase if they see that you’re managing your account well.
In addition to interest, there are other things which can contribute to the cost of borrowing. Fees may apply to some transactions and account features, including balance and money transfers, cash transactions, non-Sterling transactions and annual fees.
Additional charges may apply if you don’t manage your account in line with the conditions set out in your credit agreement, for instance, if you miss payments.
In addition to the details provided in your application, lenders access information from and the score issued by independent credit reference agencies.
If you’ve never had, or have very limited experience with credit, it’s likely you’ll have a lower credit score, so lenders will find it difficult to assess how well you’ll manage it. In turn, you may be less likely to get the lowest and longest lasting interest rates, or be approved for credit at all.
It’s a good idea, especially if you’re planning to apply for credit, to check that the details held by each credit reference agency is accurate. If it’s not, you could apply to have the information corrected.
You may also have some work to do if you want to improve your credit score and eligibility in future.