How to build good credit history with a credit card

Information verified correct on October 21st, 2016
credit report

Want to build good credit history and improve your credit score? Read this guide to find out how a credit card can help.

Credit history is a major factor to consider when applying for different types of loans and accounts. While good credit history can help you get a credit card, car loan or mortgage, limited or bad credit history makes it a lot harder to get the financial products you want or need.

This relationship between credit history and your finances makes it important to consider your credit history and credit score as soon as possible – and credit cards are a smart place to start. This guide looks at exactly how you can use a credit card to build good credit history at any stage of life.

How do credit cards affect credit history?

Your credit report includes details of a wide range of financial products you inquire about or use over the course of your life. The first listings on your credit file usually include phone plans and/or gas and electricity accounts, which do very little to show lenders whether or not you can handle a loan.

Credit cards are a valuable tool for building credit history because they add key details to your credit report that won’t be available if you only have utility accounts, including:

  • The type of account. Credit cards and loans are generally considered the most “valuable” types of accounts to have listed on your credit history because they give lenders key insights into your ability to manage a line of credit.
  • Loan inquiries. Applications for credit cards and other loans are considered “new loan inquiries”, which are also listed on your credit report. Loan inquiry details are important to lenders when assessing your applications for risk factors. The risks are increased for lenders if there are no previous applications or if there are a lot of applications in a short period of time, but it is still good to have some considered listings here if you want to apply for other products in the future.
  • Credit limit. When you get a credit card, your credit limit is also listed on your credit file. These details help lenders see how much access you have to credit when considering applications for loans and other products.
  • Monthly repayment history. Details of when you pay off your credit card, and whether you pay the minimum or full amount each month, give lenders an idea of your financial management skills.

Keep in mind that these are just some of the details listed on your credit history. You can learn more about what else is included with our guide to understanding your credit file.

How can I use a credit card to improve my credit history?

Every time you apply for a credit card or manage your account, there’s the potential to affect your credit history. You can use this to your advantage and build good credit history in the following ways:

  1. Only apply for one card at a time. Having too many credit card applications can hurt your credit rating, so make sure you compare credit cards and then apply for the one that best suits your needs at the time.
  2. Make repayments on time. Paying off your credit card balance on or before the due date shows lenders you are responsible with your accounts. Depending on the credit card you choose, you could even be able to set up automatic payments from a nominated bank account.
  3. Pay more than the minimum. Carrying a balance on your credit card from month to month can increase the risk of serious debt, while paying more than the minimum required helps keep your account in good standing. Over time, this positive credit habit could also be reflected in your credit history and help you get approval for future loan products.
  4. Increase your credit limit. If you get a pay rise at work or your circumstances improve in some other way, requesting a higher limit for your credit card can show that you are able to manage a greater amount of credit. As long as you keep the account in good standing, this higher limit should help improve your credit score.
  5. Upgrade your account. If you have had a basic credit card for years, upgrading to a gold, platinum or black credit card could help show that you are able to manage a more premium credit account.
  6. Regularly review your credit card details. Taking time to go over your account details can help you see how well you are managing your credit card. It will also help you decide whether or not you want to increase your credit limit, upgrade the account or even apply for another credit card to show you are able to manage different levels of credit.

What kind of credit card will help my credit history?

It’s important to keep in mind that a credit card will only help you build good credit history if you can manage the account well. This means choosing a card with features that are right for your circumstances at the time. While there are many factors you will need to consider when comparing cards to find a good option for you, below are some of the key things to consider based on your credit history.

If you have limited or no credit history

Limited credit history can make it harder to get approval for certain kinds of credit cards, so it’s a good idea to start by looking at basic credit cards. The ANZ First Visa, for example, is designed specifically for people who have never had a credit card before and has features and eligibility requirements that reflect that.

As the credit card provider won’t be able to use much of your credit history to assess your application eligibility, more weight will be placed on other factors, such as your income. With that in mind, a low income credit card could be a good place to start even if you earn more than the minimum amount required.

You may also want to consider cards that are designed for students or other “no frills” options, such as the ME frank credit card. These types of cards are designed to be easy to apply for and manage, which means you can start building up your positive credit history.

If you have bad credit history

Credit card providers will carefully consider any “bad credit” details – such as late payments or defaults – that are listed on your credit report. So, if you want to apply for a credit card to help improve your credit rating, sticking to basic options can improve your chances of getting approval.

Another option is to consider credit cards with no annual fee or a low standard interest rate. These kinds of cards can help keep the cost of the account down and make it easier for you to avoid late payments, defaults and other problems that lead to bad credit.

How to apply for a credit card to build credit history

Follow these steps to get a credit card that you can use to improve your credit history.

  1. Compare cards. Search and compare a range of credit cards that suit your circumstances, paying particular attention to the eligibility criteria and ongoing features.
  2. Apply. Once you have chosen a credit card that fits your circumstances, just hit the “Go to site” button and you’ll be taken to a secure application page.
  3. Provide your personal information. Make sure you include as much information as possible in your application to increase the chances of approval, and keep supporting documentation handy.
  4. Submit the application. You should get a response within a few minutes, either on the webpage or via email.

If your application is successful, the provider will be in touch to finalise the process and issue your credit card. From there, you can start using it to improve your credit file.

With a wide range of options to choose from, a simple application process and convenient everyday spending options, credit cards are often a gateway to better credit history and more future loans. So, whether you are just starting your financial journey or need to improve on the past, with this information in mind you can use a credit card to meet your financial goals.

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Credit Cards Comparison

Rates last updated October 21st, 2016
Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
Enjoy a 0% p.a. balance transfer offer for 18 months and also earn 2 bonus Velocity Points in the first 3 months on everyday spend.
20.74% p.a. 0% p.a. for 18 months $64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
ME Bank frank Credit Card
Enjoy a low and consistent interest rate on purchases and cash advances, combined with no annual fee.
11.99% p.a. $0 p.a. Go to site More info
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
Receive a full annual fee refund and save $149 if you meet the $6,000 spend requirement. Enjoy a balance transfer offer and platinum card benefits such as complimentary insurances and concierge services.
19.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 15 months $149 p.a. Go to site More info
NAB Low Rate Credit Card
The NAB Low Rate Card offers 0% p.a. on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. This card also comes with a low annual fee.
0% p.a. for 15 months (reverts to 13.99% p.a.) 0% p.a. for 15 months with a one off 3% balance transfer fee $59 p.a. Go to site More info

* The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your own personal financial circumstances when comparing cards.

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