You can use a credit card to buy things in the same way you use your bank account debit card. The difference is that when you spend on a credit card you are borrowing from the card provider, rather than spending your own money.
You are then sent a statement each month by your credit card provider which shows your:
Outstanding balance, which is how much you owe
Minimum payment due, which is set by your provider
Due date of your next payment
You can choose to pay off your balance immediately or over time. If you choose to pay it off later, you will charged interest on what you owe, unless you are within a introductory interest free period.
Most places that accept debit cards let you pay by credit card too.
You can use a card in person, online, over the phone, in other countries and for mail order purchases.
When you pay in person, you will usually use your PIN to authorise the transaction, but some vendors may ask for your signature or accept contactless payments.
Credit cards come with a credit limit, which is the maximum balance you can reach without having to pay off some of it. Here is how credit limits work.
Credit building: These cards can help you improve your credit history if you make payments on time, but they usually come with a high interest rate.
It does not cost anything to apply for a credit card, but it could cost you money in interest if you do not repay your balance in full each month.
You may also have to pay an annual fee or charges for withdrawing cash, using your card abroad, missing payments or spending beyond your credit limit.
You can find out more on how to pay off your credit card as quickly and cheaply as possible
Your credit card purchases could be protected by:
Some credit card companies also offer protection against identity fraud or your purchase being stolen or lost. Each provider offers different cover and gives details when you apply.
Choose a card that suits your needs using our credit card comparison.
Apply for the card either online, by phone, by post or in person at a branch.
Activate the card so it is ready to use and set up your repayments. Here is how to set up and manage your new card.
Use our credit card eligibility checker, which will show you the cards most likely to accept you. This can help you avoid a rejection application which could harm your credit record.
If you're unsure of what kind of card to apply for read our guide on how to choose a credit card that suits you
Find the best credit card for you, whether you're looking for 0% card for balance transfers or purchases or day to day spending and rewards