A year in review: the most popular credit cards of 2018

A year in review: the most popular credit cards of 2018

  • Find out which card offers resonated with Credit Card Compare users in 2018
  • Check out the  card features that people found attractive
  • Pick up some tips to help you make your own decision 

Conventional wisdom says that it’s often best to let someone else be the pioneer, make all the mistakes, and finally hit upon the best solution. And when it comes to choosing a credit card, conventional wisdom has got it absolutely right.

Whatever kind of credit card you are looking for, lots of people have already voted, with their 2018 card applications via Credit Card Compare, for the most popular cards. Check out their top picks below.

Rewards cards – best bonus points offers in 2018

These cards were loaded with bonus points and other attractive benefits which obviously cancelled out a few disadvantages (highlighted below in italics) in the opinion of the many applicants.

American Express Explorer card - November 2018

American Express Amex Explorer card

The offer included 100,000 bonus Membership Rewards points for spending $1,500 in the first three months. As well as a good ongoing points earning rate there were other complimentary benefits: a $400 annual travel voucher which offset the $395 annual fee, two single-visit Amex airport lounge passes, a US$75 hotel credit, free travel and shopper’s insurance policies, a 12-month zero-interest balance transfer offer (1% upfront fee) and up to 55 interest-free days.

American Express Qantas Ultimate Credit Card – March 2018

American Express Qantas Ultimate Credit Card

100,000 bonus Qantas points for spending $3,000 in the first three months. A great ongoing points earning rate and a $450 annual travel credit covering the $450 annual fee. Two single-visit Qantas lounge passes. Free travel and shopper’s insurance policies, and a 12-month zero-interest balance transfer offer (1% upfront fee). Only up to 44 interest-free days, not 55.

NAB Qantas Rewards Signature Card - January to March 2018

NAB Qantas Rewards Signature Card

100,000 bonus Qantas points for spending $3,000 in the first two months. A very good points earning rate for a Visa card. A fairly low $5,000 per month points threshold (beyond which the earning rate drops dramatically) but a generous $20,000 per month cap. Full suite of insurance policies plus concierge service. No lounge passes or travel credit. A short six-month zero-interest balance transfer offer, with no upfront fee. Only 44 interest-free days. $395 annual fee.

Qantas Premier Platinum Credit Card – December 2018

Qantas Premier Platinum Credit Card

100,000 bonus QFF points: 70,000 in return for spending $3,500 in the first three months, 30,000 for renewing by paying the second year annual fee. A good ongoing points earning rate, no points cap, and extra points for spending with Qantas. But there was a $10,000 per month spending threshold, beyond which the points earning rate fell steeply. Extensive travel insurance and concierge service but no shopper’s insurance. Two single-entry Qantas lounge passes. Discounted companion fares. Six months interest-free on first purchase of Qantas products. Long 18 months zero-interest balance transfer offer, with no upfront fee. Annual fee $299 ($149 first year) plus $50 per supplementary card. Up to 55 days interest free.

If you’re in the market for a new rewards credit card, by all means, shop around for the best bonus points offer to get your points balance off to a flying start. But don’t let all those zeroes distract you from a careful consideration of the card’s other features, and whether they suit your lifestyle and spending pattern.

Best 0% p.a. balance transfer offer cards in 2018

A zero-interest balance transfer offer provides a simplified route for debt consolidation, since you can usually transfer debt from more than one card without going through the formal process of applying for a bank loan. You can save heaps on interest charges if you have credit card debt you can’t repay immediately; or save on mortgage interest (or earn savings account interest) if you have credit card debt you can actually afford to repay right now, by depositing the cash earmarked for repayments.

    St George Vertigo Platinum Credit Card – January 2018

    St George Vertigo Platinum Balance Transfer BT offer
    24-months balance transfer at 0% p.a. with no upfront fee. No annual fee for the first year, $99 in the second. Also included were the full suite of insurance policies plus concierge service, and an ongoing purchases interest rate of  12.74% p.a. The upfront fee for the current balance transfer offer is 2%, so this was a great deal. But the balance transfer revert rate was the 19.49% p.a. cash advance rate.

      NAB Low Fee Platinum Card Exclusive Offer – July 2018

      NAB Low Fee Platinum Credit Card

      This Credit Card Compare exclusive offered a 25-month balance transfer at 0%, with no upfront fee. It included the full suite of insurance policies, all for an annual fee of $90. However, the ongoing purchases interest rate was a high 19.74% p.a., and the balance transfer revert rate an even higher 21.74% p.a.

      The appeal of these two card offers was almost certainly the combination of a balance transfer interest-free period that lasted at least two years, plus the fact that there was no upfront fee to pay. Some cards charge as much as 3% of the balance transferred, debited to your new card account on the day the relocated debt arrives.

      Best 0% p.a. on purchases card in 2018

      Virgin Velocity Flyer card purchase offer

      In September 2018 Virgin Australia decided to offer their Velocity Flyer Credit Card with 14 months at 0% p.a. on purchases. Also included in the deal was a 0% balance transfer for six months (with no upfront fee), ongoing Velocity points on spending, an annual $129 gift voucher to spend with Virgin Australia, plus complimentary transit accident and guaranteed pricing cover. Card applicants who applied via Credit Card Compare received a 50% discount on the first year annual fee, bringing it down to $64 instead of the usual $129. Savvy card applicants would have avoided using the interest-free period on purchases as an excuse to spend more than they could afford to repay, since the card’s high ongoing purchases interest rate of 20.74% would apply to any balance unpaid after the end of 14 months.

      Best low interest rate card in 2018

      Westpac Low Rate Card low interest

      From January to March, Westpac provided a Credit Card Compare exclusive offer on their Low Rate Credit Card. The offer included a low ongoing interest rate on purchases, which can be a real money-saver for anyone with a low and possibly fluctuating income who can’t clear their purchases balance in full every month within the interest-free period allowed. So Westpac’s purchases interest rate of 13.49% p.a. proved to be very popular, especially since it was coupled with a 24-month zero-interest balance transfer option in this exclusive offer. Additionally, cardholders who committed, under the bank’s SmartPlan scheme, to monthly repayments of their balance transfer or uncleared purchases balances, were able to continue enjoying up to 55 interest-free days on continuing purchases. (Under normal circumstances interest-free days are forfeited when there is an uncleared balance on the card). The card also offered a low $59 annual fee.

      Best supermarket card in 2018

      Woolworths Everyday Platinum credit card

      Store loyalty credit cards are a great way to be rewarded for everyday spending you were going to make anyway. This Woolworths card, offered in March 2018, combined uncapped rewards points for spending everywhere with extra-high rewards for purchases from Woolworths group retailers (of which there are many) and even higher points for buying Woolworths-branded products. Points can be converted into money off shopping at Woolworths, or into Qantas frequent flyer points. Cardholders also get a 10% discount off their Woolworths shopping once a month, as well as free purchase protection and violent wallet theft insurance. At the time of this offer, new cardholders could qualify to receive a $100 Woolworths eGift card simply for making the first purchase at Woolworths using their card. The card’s annual fee was $0 for the first year, $49 thereafter. You need to be a committed shopper at the store issuing the card to make the most of this kind of deal. There’s a reason why they’re called ‘loyalty’ cards.

      Best young travellers card in 2018

      28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard

      The gong for the most enduringly sought-after card of 2018 goes to this unassuming card, the 28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard from Latitude Financial Services, totally devoid of the Big Four banks’ favourite enticements of rewards points and free insurance. Instead, applicants in 2018 were seeking the card's fee-free overseas purchases (great for online shoppers as well as travellers), free global Wi-Fi access, free worldwide emergency card replacement, concierge for travel and entertainment booking assistance, and $0 annual fee, every year. It’s possible that the absence of an annual fee made this a popular choice as a second card, to use only for online shopping or overseas travel. Foreign transaction fees can be as high as 3.5% of the purchase amount. So it’s worth missing out on rewards points for overseas transactions since rewards points can deliver as little as 0.5 cents per dollar spent, very rarely 3.5 cents.

      Learn from the crowd, but go your own way

      It’s very likely that most of the people who successfully applied for these popular cards in 2018 had paid attention to their credit score. You can maximise your chances of getting one of these crowd-pleasers by checking your credit score using our free credit score tool and fixing any problems that you see.

      And while it’s a good idea to keep an eye on what suits other people by considering the most popular credit cards, there’s no substitute for doing your own research to find a card with the combination of features that will work best for you.

      The popular cards of 2018 are likely to have tweaked their offers, so don’t assume that they have identical features in 2019. Check out their latest deals, including online exclusive offers not available elsewhere, at your favourite credit card comparison website.

      P.S. Keep your eyes peeled for our post on what to look out for in the world of credit cards for 2019!