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Credit cards - an introduction

Knowing which credit card is right for you can be confusing.

From 0% percent and low interest deals, to cashback offers and the best balance transfer cards, sifting through the different options can leave you scratching your head.

Especially if you're choosing your first credit card.

We're here to break down the jargon and help you find the best credit card deals for you, whether you're a student or a homeowner looking to earn cashback for paying bills.

Using A Spokesman Said's free tools you can compare credit cards from top UK banks and buildings societies, including Llolyds, Halifax, Sainsbury's Bank, Barclays, Virgin Money and RBS, to name but a few!

But first, here's what you need to know before comparing credit cards and choosing a deal.

How do credit cards work ?

As you may have guessed, you can use a credit card to buy items - either online or in store - on credit.

Each purchase is you essentially borrowing money from your bank.

Your card provider will issue you a statement each month detailing how much you owe and the minimum payment required.

Choose to pay just the minimum sum, and not the full outstanding balance, and you may incur interest charges.

The fees you need to pay will depend on which credit card you have.

What do I need to compare credit card offers?

Comparing cards is easy: all you need is some basic personal details, such as name and address.

You'll also need to have your current bank details to hand.

Once you're ready to go, browse credit card deals and simply hit ‘apply' when one catches your eye!

Remember, if you're under 18 you can't apply for a credit card.

What different credit cards are available ?

Here's the lowdown on the different types of credit card options available:

  • Cashback credit cards - give you a percentage of spending back - in some cases as high as 5% - but tend to have higher interest rates and shorter introductory periods.
  • Rewards credit cards - earn points as you spend. For example, Tesco Bank's Clubcard gives customers points to spend in store. Make sure you pay your balance off in full each month to get the most out of the scheme and, as with cashback deals, keep an eye on high interest rates and short introductory periods.
  • Purchase credit cards - spread the cost of your shopping, particularly useful if you're making a one-off pricey purchase. Some credit card deals offer interest-free introductory periods, so keep your eyes peeled. Make sure you're aware of any interest charges for not paying off the balance before the introductory period ends. Here's how to use a 0% credit card deal the smart way.
  • Balance transfer cards - let you transfer existing debt to the card. While cards will typically charge, some 0% balance transfer introductory periods can be 30 months. Avoid interest fees by paying off any balance before the grace period ends.

On A Spokesman Said you can compare these options and calculate your monthly credit card repayments. You can sort by fees and interest, new purchases and representative APR and select which features you want from: low APR; no annual fee, cashback and rewards.

How do I pick the best credit card for me?

Once you've got your head around the different credit card options, how do you find the right one for you?

It all depends on your personal situation.

If you've built up a strong credit rating and pay bills on time, a cashback or rewards card will give you extras on your spending, whereas if you have a poor credit history a credit-builder will be more suitable (more on this later).

A balance transfer card can help if you have an existing credit card debt. Transfer the debt over and you can repay it without incurring interest fees for a longer time.

You might be planning a big purchase, such as a new TV, in which case a 0% purchase card, which will let you spread the costs over a set period of months, could be the best option.

If you're looking to use a credit card for regular shopping, but are worried about outstanding payments building up each month, find a deal that offers a low rate on purchases. You typically won't get a low introductory interest rate offer but you'll be able to steadily pay off the debt at a low rate over a longer period.

TIME FOR A BALANCE TRANSFER?

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What's the best credit card to use abroad?

A Spokesman Said lets you compare the best credit cards to use abroad.

If you're a regular traveller, whether on work trips or family holidays, using the right card can cut your travel costs.

Find credit cards with 0% foreign usage charges in the EU and rest of the world and check which benefits different banks offer.

What is APR?

APR stands for annual percentage rate.

It combines the interest rate on the card with any fees and averages it out over the year.

The lower the APR, the less you'll pay.

APR is important to consider, but is not the be all and end all. For example, if you're moving an existing debt to a balance transfer card with a 0% interest period, the APR is less critical than how long you'll be paying 0%.

I'm in debt, what credit card can I get?

Whether your credit card application is accepted or not will hinge on your credit history, also known as credit report and credit score (for more information, read: why your credit score matters and how to check it).

Have you always paid bills on time? Do you owe money for an outstanding phone bill, for example?

This information, contained in your credit file, will help a lender build up a picture of your financial history and decide whether or not you're suitable to lend money to.

If you're in credit card debt, here's how to get out of it - and why you must.

That said, if you are in debt there are still credit card options at your disposal:

  • Credit builder cards - usually have a high rate of interest but credit offered will be extended if you can prove you're able to repay it. Help you restore your credit rating over time.
  • Prepaid cards - credit cards that allow you to top up to stay in credit. Use your card until the balance hits zero. The big plus is there's no credit check when applying for a prepaid card.
  • Does a credit card give me extra protection?

    One of the big pluses of using a credit card to make purchases is the protection afforded by a consumer law known as Section 75.

    This piece of legislation makes your card provider jointly liable with the retailer you've used for purchases of goods or services between £100 and £30,000.

    The protection covers anything from a problem with a hotel booking to faulty appliances.

    It's an invaluable weapon in the consumers' arsenal and worth knowing about.

    Here's the full details on the protection credit cards offer: Paying by credit card, refunds and Section 75: what you need to know.

    Are you getting the best rate?

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