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How to find the right credit card

Comparison websites can be helpful to help you find the right credit card. You’ll need to know the difference between a best buy table and a ‘whole of market’ search first though. Also, be aware that a best buy table might not show the best cards that are currently available. You can find out more below.

Before you use a comparison website

Here are some important questions to ask yourself before you start to look for the right credit card.

Make use of credit card eligibility checkers before you go ahead and apply for a credit card. They give you a better idea of whether you’re likely to be accepted for certain cards or not, and don’t affect your credit score.

  • Are you looking for a card to spend on and, if so, will you be able to clear your balance in full each month?
  • Maybe you’ve already got an outstanding debt and are looking to make a balance transfer, but do you want to spend on the card as well?
  • Can you afford to repay any balances before any 0% interest periods end?
  • Do you know how good your credit score is and ways to improve it so you can get better credit cards and better interest? Find out more on our How to improve your credit score page.

These are all important questions, which will help identify the best credit card for your needs and whether a credit card is the best option for you.

Using comparison websites to find the best credit card

The wide selection of comparison websites can be very useful in providing a quick list of credit cards and helping you decide which is best for you.

While it’s still best to shop around directly with suppliers once you’ve narrowed your search, comparison websites make your job easier and faster. Different comparison websites also have different deals, so it’s best to check a handful.

Best buy tables

When you first arrive on a comparison website you’ll more than likely see what’s known as a ‘best buy table’.

A best buy table highlights the most competitive credit cards on the market, according to that particular website.

But these best buy tables might not reflect all products that might be available on the market.

It’s always a good idea to use more than one comparison table to help inform your decisions.

The information in a best buy table will usually include:

  • the name of the card
  • any 0% introductory offer on purchases made on the card
  • any 0% interest period offered on balances transferred onto the card
  • the APR (annual percentage rate) – this will be a single rate for the card but will usually be based just on purchases ignoring any introductory period
  • the fee charged for each balance transfer
  • any annual or monthly fee for having the card
  • any rewards associated with the card, such as cashback or loyalty points
  • any basic qualifying criteria for being accepted for the card – for example, an annual salary of more than £15,000.

The information in the table should help you to work out which card most suits your needs.

But it might not contain all the information you need – for example, it might not make clear what interest rates apply following an introductory period, or how much is charged on cash withdrawals or overseas transactions.

The website might provide an indication of likely eligibility for the card which will be based on more than just income, but this isn’t a guarantee of acceptance.

Not all ‘best’ products appear in best buy tables

While a best buy table will show you a range of cards to choose from, it’s important to know that they might not always include the best available on the market.

That’s because most comparison websites make their money through people clicking and applying for cards via the site’s best buy tables.

Every time someone follows the link for a card from the site to the card provider and applies for it, the site is paid a fee.

Not all card providers are willing to pay comparison sites to appear in their best buy tables.

As a result they might not feature, and some cards are only available to current account holders anyway.

But most of the larger comparison sites include both providers that pay them a fee, as well as those that don’t.

Check whether they are ranked in order, for example by price. Sometimes firms can pay to appear on top of the list or more prominently.

Don’t just go for a card near the top of the list – check the details to see whether it’s right for you.

Some, but not all, comparison websites also offer what is known as a ‘whole of market’ search.

While a best buy table will show you a range of cards to choose from, it’s important to know that they might not always offer what is known as a ‘whole of market’ search.

This will allow you to look at almost all of the credit cards that are currently available, including the ones that aren’t on the best buy tables.

Some sites then offer you the chance to choose a category of cards to look at, e.g. those with a 0% balance transfer offers or rewards.

You can usually sort these by other criteria too, and rank cards for example, by APR or interest-free period.

Exclusive credit cards

To make things even more complicated, some comparison websites will do exclusive deals with credit card providers.

This will mean that a particular credit card will only be available on that website, and it might be slightly different from the equivalent card on the provider’s own website.

Using comparison tables

Always look at two or three comparison websites and do a whole of a market search to be sure you’re getting the best deal, and the right product for you.

It’s also a good idea to check out the websites of individual card providers.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

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