There are many types of pensions that can be accepted by credit cards. Compare credit cards here.
Although your income as a pensioner may be limited, you can still successfully apply for a credit card as long as you choose one for which you meet the eligibility criteria. Most Australian banks have several credit cards suitable for pensioners, but the approval process may be a little more complicated than it is for someone with a regular salary.
Minimum income requirement
When applying for a credit card, one of the most important factors is minimum annual taxable income. It doesn’t matter if you are a young salaried professional or a retired pensioner: if you don’t earn more than the minimum required, you won’t get approved. The bank may need to confirm if the income is from a salary, investments, or a pension scheme. Some banks treat pensions as income, but may require a higher minimum income for pensioners or proof of secondary income besides a pension.
For most basic credit cards the minimum income required is $15,000. Most banks clearly display the minimum income required and you will also see it during your comparisons on our website. It’s important to check this detail before applying.
The point of the minimum income requirement is that banks want to make sure that you are able to repay any debt that you may incur.
Difficulties proving income
Most standard credit card applicants are salary or wage earners whose income can be verified by pay slips or by contact with an employer. Pensioners do not fit into this bracket, and will experience problems similar to the self-employed or small business owners when it comes to proving their income.
With a standard credit card applicant, banks can see a verified earned taxable income and calculate the risk incurred by extending credit to them. Pensioners, on the other hand, may need to provide statements from Centrelink establishing the amount of their fortnightly pension income, or from their accountant in the case of a superannuation pension or other income sources.
In the absence of a taxable income from a job, pensioners may be classified as a high credit risk, even though they have a regular income from their pension and, potentially, from other investments.
Alternative qualifying factors
In the absence of a substantial income, approval is more likely for applicants who own their home or have other investments, and have a good credit history with a track record of timely repayments. Applicants with a low ratio of outstanding debt to available credit are seen as lower risk. The total balance in your superannuation account, if you have one, is also likely to be taken into consideration.
Improving your chances of approval
To improve your chances of approval, you need to demonstrate that you meet the eligibility criteria. The best way to do this is to provide documents that clearly prove your income. This income could be from shares, investments, assets, rent, or from a Centrelink or superannuation pension.
Assemble your documents before you start your application, and avoid making multiple applications within a short time period, since this could damage your credit rating.
There is legislation in place which prohibits age discrimination in financial services, but pensioners may still face more limited options when it comes to credit cards.
Compare credit cards in the table below to find out more about the cards you may qualify for as a pensioner. For each card, click ‘More info’ and then ‘Eligibility’, to find out if your kind of pension is regarded as qualifying income by the issuing bank. Some cards accept any of Age Pension, Disability Pension, Overseas Pension, Veteran’s Pension and Widow’s Pension, while others may exclude some or all of these pension types.
Regardless of your income source, you will normally be required to prove that you have an annual income of at least $15,000.
It mostly depends on your income. If your pension is your sole source of income, your choices will definitely be more limited than they would be if you had income from employment, a business or investments, since some banks do not accept pensions as a valid type of income for some of their cards.
The other limiting factor may be the amount of your pension. Even the most basic credit cards will often have a $15,000 minimum income requirement, while prestige cards offering rewards points and other complimentary benefits may have a much higher annual income requirement.
A pensioner may be simply be looking for a low-cost option to provide a more convenient payment method than carrying cash, with the added benefit of a line of credit able to be accessed in an emergency. In this situation, the ideal card would have a low (or zero) annual fee, and preferably a low interest rate on purchases in case a short-term financial emergency arises. It would also be a good idea to compare the amount of any other fees, including late payment fees, over limit fees, foreign currency transaction fees and lost card replacement fees.
However, pensioners may also be self-funded retirees enjoying an affluent lifestyle involving travel, eating out and regular shopping trips. Their choice of card will be dictated by their circumstances and spending pattern, and they would probably be better served by a more expensive card offering rewards points and other complimentary benefits, such as travel insurance.
You will need any of the following documents that apply to your situation:
It may help if you have had a relationship with a particular bank for many years. The application process may be simpler because the bank has access to your financial history. However, your current bank may not be offering a card for which you qualify, or which is most suitable for your circumstances. You are not limited to applying for a credit card from your current bank.
The lowest credit limit available for most cards is $500, regardless of whether you are a pensioner or a wage earner. The card issuer will determine the level of credit they consider suitable for your financial circumstances, but you can choose to have a lower limit than the one they recommend.
Definitely not. Apply for only one card at a time, and avoid making multiple applications within a short time period because this could damage your credit score. If your first application is rejected, contact the card issuer’s customer service department to find out if there is any further information you can provide to make them reconsider their decision. Do this before deciding to apply elsewhere, because you may be rejected again if you have not provided sufficient proof of your creditworthiness.