How to get your first credit card

Should I get a credit card?

Applying for your first credit card can help spread the cost of larger purchases. Some people use credit cards to help build their credit score, which can help with other types of borrowing like loans or mortgages.

Credit cards allow you to borrow money to pay for purchases. Every month, you’ll get a statement detailing what you owe, and the minimum amount you need to repay. You’ll be charged interest on anything you don’t pay off each month, unless you have a promotional offer.

Find out more about how credit cards work.

How to choose your first credit card?

Checking if you are eligible for credit is an important part of how to get your first credit card. Many credit card providers can run a soft credit check, which won’t affect your credit score.

You’ll need to choose a credit card that’s right for you. There are different types available, like:

  • Purchase credit cards
  • Student credit cards
  • Incentive or reward credit cards
  • Balance transfer credit cards

You can shop around and compare credit cards before making a decision.

What to look for when choosing a credit card?

  • Fees and charges - It’s important to understand the fees and charges of your first credit card. Making late payments can quickly get you into debt.
  • Interest - The interest you pay on purchases can vary by card. Some cards offer an initial low rate or interest-free period. Others have perks and rewards linked to your spending, like store points or vouchers.
  • APR - APR can help you compare the cost of borrowing money from lenders. APR factors in how much interest, as well as any standard fees, you will have to pay.
  • Credit limit - A credit limit is the maximum amount of money you can borrow on your credit card, at one time. This amount depends on your specific account and unique credit score.

How to apply for your first credit card

When applying for your first credit card, the card provider will check a few things. These can include your age, where you live, your income and expenditure and your credit score.

To get your first credit card apply online after you’ve checked you are eligible and chosen the right one for you. It’s a simple process and doesn’t take long to do.

How to use your first credit card

After you’ve made a purchase, you’ll receive monthly statements showing what you owe. Make sure to always pay at least the minimum payment each month. If you can, you should try to pay more than the minimum payment. If you only ever make the minimum payment, it'll take you longer to clear your balance and may cost you more in interest.

You can set up a Direct Debit from your current account to automatically pay your credit card balance. There are three options when choosing to pay by Direct Debit:

  • Minimum payments
  • Fixed payments
  • Full payments

Learn more about paying by Direct Debit.

Your provider will tell you how to query a transaction, or what to do if your card gets lost or stolen.

What age can you get a credit card?

Credit card providers need you to be at least 18 in order to get your first credit card.

Discover more about M&S Credit Cards and check if you are eligible here.

Published August 2023