When to get your first credit card; everything you need to know

Updated: Jan 29

You may be thinking ‘when is the right time to get my first credit card?’.

If like us, you feel a little late to the party, fear not, we’ve got you covered. From APR rates to fees and charges, getting your first credit card can seem a little scary. After all, we all know that one mate who has about four different cards that they’ve somehow managed to max out. Don’t be like that friend – it’s not worth it.

Here’s our guide on when to get your first credit card and everything you need to know before signing the dotted line.

When to get your first credit card

Credit cards aren’t like scratch cards when you turn 16. The novelty of a scratch card is that you’ve reached the legal age where you can buy one. With a credit card, there isn’t really such a significant moment. However, generally speaking, most lenders will want you to be at least 18. So, if you’re looking for the magic number, that would be it.

But it’s not just your age that matters. There are several other factors lenders take into consideration before letting you get your sweaty little hands on a card. For example, other things they take into consideration include:

· Your income: some credit cards will only be on offer to you if you earn a certain amount. Lenders also consider whether or not you are employed full or part-time.

· Your personal finances: if you’ve had any County Court Judgements or bankruptcies, this might affect your application.

· Your credit report: this is the one you need to think about the most. Have you always paid your phone bill on time, for example? Any late or missed payments can damage your ‘creditworthiness’ which might mean you are rejected for a credit card.

Ideally, you should get a credit card as soon as you’re suitable. The sooner you have one, the longer you will be building up your credit score – something we’ll talk about later.

What type of credit card is best for me?

If you’ve already had a look online you might be wondering, ‘which card is best for me’?

It’s basically a whole new world if you’ve never dabbled with credit cards before so we don’t blame you for feeling confused. Let’s break down what each type of card is for:

· Balance transfer cards: allow you to transfer credit from one card to another with low or even no interest rate. This is only really for people who already have a credit card and they are managing their debt

· Purchase cards: allow you to borrow money interest-free or at a low rate.

· Reward cards: offer incentives such as cashback, Airmiles or shopping points when you use the card. These cards tend to have higher interest rates than a purchase card.

Now, we can’t offer you any financial advice, it’s all your own choice. But, if you’ve never had a credit card before, you can probably quite comfortably rule out a balance transfer card. The rest is up to you and how often you think you’ll be using your card and how reliable you are at making the repayments.

Credit card jargon buster

We get it, you’ve been on a few different lenders sites that have left you feeling completely clueless as to what a credit card really is. Why do they need to make it sound so complicated? Here are some credit card jargon busters to help you make sense of it all:

Fees & charges: If you were to miss a payment on your credit card, you could be charged a fee, and this will damage your credit report. You may also find some fees and charges apply when taking cash out abroad. So, always check the terms and conditions before slapping your pin into a cashpoint on your girls’ holiday to Spain.

Representative APR: the amount you will pay annually if you’ve borrowed money. The representative APR is the number you will see advertised when looking at a credit card. This is just a guide and the actual APR rate may change depending on the factors we talked about earlier. You’ll only be charged APR interest if you miss payments. So, the longer you take to pay off your credit card, the more interest it will gain. That means you will pay more back in the long-term.

Introductory APR: is a lower rate of interest that may last several months as a ‘bonus’ for becoming a customer. It won’t last forever though, so don’t assume it’s a golden ticket.

Credit limit: the amount that you can spend on your credit card. If you are a reliable borrower and make all your payments on time, your limit will be increased. Although, you don’t have to accept the increases. You can tell your lender to freeze your limit if you feel that’s best for you.

Credit score: a numerical representation of the creditworthiness of a person. This is based on your credit files and is used to determine things like how much of a mortgage you can get. However, they also determine things like your credit limit and eligibility for certain loans and credit cards.

Hopefully, this post has cleared up some of the fog around credit cards and helped you figure out when to get your first credit card. They might sound a little intimidating, but so long as you're sensible and financially responsible, they can be hugely beneficial.

It's important to only spend within your limits and if you are worried about debt or your spending habits, there are helplines and charities out there to support you. Here are a few suggestions: