Handing holding several credit cards

What’s the best credit card deal for me?

What suits you will depend on what you want to use the card for.

Credit cards are a necessary part of life for some of us. So, if you do need one, how can you make sure if you’re getting the best deal on it?

Well, firstly you need to figure out what you need the card for. Maybe you want to use it to book an upcoming holiday, or you want it for unexpected expenses, or for online purchases? Or perhaps you already have a substantial credit card balance and you want to clear it?

Whatever you want the card for, there’s sure to be one on the market to suit you, so here’s what to look out for….

You want a credit card for a once-off big purchase

You could be getting a credit card as you want to pay for a big purchase upfront and pay it back over time - like flights, a holiday, or maybe a new car.

And, while credit cards are like other forms of credit, in that they allow you to do this, they’re also one of the most expensive ways to borrow - especially if you plan to pay back the purchase over time.

If you really need to do this - and want access to a credit card going forward - look for one with a low introductory rate for new purchases, and try to pay off the large purchase within that time.

Currently, the Bank of Ireland Classic Card and Platinum Card, and Ulster Bank’s Gold Mastercard have a 0% introductory rate on new purchases for the first 6 months.

If you don’t need a credit card on an ongoing basis, you could try a personal loan instead - the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has a personal loan comparison which could be a help when comparing deals.

You’d like to have a credit card to cover unexpected expenses

Some people like to have a credit card to cover unexpected expenses, like a leak in the ceiling, or maybe a doctor’s bill.

If this sounds like you, the best thing to do would be to choose a card with the lowest ongoing interest rate possible.

The reason for this is that you could be using the card at any time, and if you’re faced with an unexpected expense, you may need some time to pay it off - the lower the rate, the less interest you’ll pay on any balance on the card.

You want a credit card for shopping online

According to the Central Bank, e-commerce accounts for almost half (44%) of Irish consumers’ credit card purchases.

Again, a low interest rate for purchases will be really important if you’re using your card primarily to buy online.

But, remember that if you always pay off your full credit card balance each month, you don’t need to worry about the interest rate as much, as all cards offer an interest-free period on purchases. This varies between providers, but is usually about 56 days.

You have a credit card balance and want to clear it as quickly as possible

If you already have a credit card with a balance that you’re finding hard to clear, remember you are paying interest on this balance each month. As a result, simply paying off the minimum amount will have little or no effect.

If you want to clear your balance, the best bet would be to transfer your balance to a card with a 0% introductory rate for balances transferred.

The Chill Money Credit Card is one of the best offers on the market at the moment - with 0% interest for 9 months on balances transferred.

So, say you have a balance of €4,500 on your card. If you transfer the balance to this card (and stop using the card), paying off €500 per month would clear the balance completely within the interest-free period.

Other credit card fees and charges

Remember, the interest is not the only charge you’ll need to pay on your credit card:

  • Each April, you pay Stamp Duty of €30 on each credit card you own;
  • If you withdraw cash you’ll pay a Cash Advance Fee each time;
  • If you use your card for purchases or withdrawals abroad, you’ll pay a Foreign Exchange Fee; and
  • If you go above your limit, or don’t pay your bill on-time, you’ll also face additional charges.

So, make sure you consider these charges when you’re comparing cards, too.