Are you thinking of applying for a credit card but you have no idea where to start? Don’t worry, I wrote this in-depth how-to guide that will take you through the four basic on how to apply for a credit card in South Africa from start to finish.
I’ll cover everything from what you need to qualify, which credit card should you select, as well as the documents you’ll need to apply.
Ready to apply? Let’s dive right in.
01. Check Basic Qualifying Requirements
In South Africa, there are requirements you need to meet before you can apply for a credit card. Some requirements are make and break, and others depend on who you’re applying with and how much credit you need.
Here are South Africa’s four basic requirements when applying for a credit card:
According to the credit bureau of South Africa, you need to be at least 18 years old.
If you’re not 18 yet, there is a way you could get credit if an ‘Emancipated Minor.’ Which simply means you have legally broken ties with your parents.
You’ll need at-least some kind of sustainable income.
Without a consistent stream of income, a lender won’t even consider you. When you apply for a credit card you’ll be asked to provide at least 3 months of bank statement, if they don’t prove any source of income, then chances of getting accepted are small.
You’ll need a decent credit record.
Your credit record which is usually shown as a score is the first thing a lender will look at. If you’ve been responsible with your debt in the past, then your chances are good. However on the flip side if you’ve missed payments here and there, then your chances decrease significantly.
When checking your credit score, make sure you know the different systems used.
- Experian uses a score rating between 0-705.
- TransUnion uses a score rating between 0-999.
So what should your credit score be? Well, let me break it down this way. If your credit score is…
- 800 up – then the chances of getting a credit card is almost guaranteed.
- 740 to 799 – at this point you’re still above average, so your chances are still good.
- 670 to 739 – here you’ll be considered a low-risk borrower, so your chances of getting approved for a credit card are still good.
- 580 to 699 – this is where the averages hang out. If you’re here it will be a bit difficult getting approved for a credit card.
- 579 and below – there’s almost no chance you’ll get approved.
*Using the TransUnion credit score numbering system. Experian credit scores will be lower.
If your credit score is around the 580 to 699 range then I would rather spend my time building up my credit score before I try and apply for a new credit card.
I wrote a full guide on the best way to build up your credit score, make sure you read it here.
BONUS CONTENT: If you would like to check your credit score for free, I highly recommend the mobile app ClearScore. It gives you forever free access to your credit record and score. Read this article to see my in-depth review of ClearScore as well as 3 other platforms you can try.
02. Select a Credit Card That Matches Your Lifestyle
Generally speaking, banks that offer credit cards cater to three different lifestyles.
Credit cards generally cater to:
- The beginner, low-income earner, or young adult that has never applied for a credit card before.
- To the family man persona who needs a credit card for everyday use.
- To the entrepreneur that needs access to large amounts of low-interest credit, and that’s always traveling.
That said, when selecting a credit card, it’s essential that you choose the right one so that you can get access to benefits that best match your lifestyle.
Below I laid out more details of the three different lifestyles, the benefits the matter to each lifestyle, and what I think the best credit card is for that specific lifestyle based on the research I did for my article that covers 21 best credit cards in South Africa here.
The beginner, young adult, or low-income earner.
The beginner or young adult that’s never owned a credit card before is trying to get his foot in the door to start building a credit record.
The most important factors and benefits you should be looking for in a credit card is:
- The monthly card fee. Since you’re on a low income, you don’t have money to waste on maintenance fees. This is the most critical factor.
- Don’t expect big benefits, if any. Since this is your first credit card, you probably won’t get any benefits apart from your basic travel insurance.
My #1 pick credit card for beginner, low income earner?
Based on my research, after reviewing 21 credit cards, I decided that the Absa Flexi Core Credit Card definitely wins in my eyes as a low income or beginner credit card.
- It only has a maintenance fee of R14 per month, which is the lowest I’ve ever seen.
- You only need to earn R2,000 to be able to apply.
- And you get access to benefits such as R1.5 million basic travel insurance and access to Visa airport dining.
The breadwinner family man, medium-income earner.
The breadwinner family man with a medium-income needs a credit card to help with everyday use scenarios.
Such as taking the family out for dinner, getting cashback when buying basic necessities such as petrol and groceries, as well as the occasional travel benefits to make the family feel special when they do go on holiday such as complimentary airport lounge visits.
If you fall in this category, here are some of the most important factors and benefits you should expect:
- Cashback. For example, FNB offers eBucks so that you can earn money back every time you shop groceries at certain stores or full up your tank with petrol. Ebucks rack up quickly, so they can help give you a bit of financial relief.
- Interest rate. At this point in your life, you’ll probably need to use the credit when an unexpected X creeps up. That said, it’s important that you get a credit card with a low-interest rate.
- Some travel benefits. Expect some travel benefits with credit cards at this level. All credit cards will offer basic travel insurance, however, look out for the ones that offer complimentary lounge visits.
My #1 pick credit card for the family man, medium-income earner?
Based on my research in this article that covers 21 credit cards, I chose the FNB Premier credit card as the best credit card for everyday use and for medium-income earners. Here’s why:
- They offer eBucks. My experience so far with eBucks has been great, they seem to be far ahead of any other cashback service because they’re well established and they have already partnered up with so many companies around South Africa such as Engen and Checkers, etc.
- Travel benefits. eBucks will also give you access to travel benefits such as complimentary airport lounge visits and Avis meet and greet services. How much you get depends on what eBucks level you’re at. The higher the rewards level you are, the more benefits you can expect.
The entrepreneur or high-income earner.
If you’re a high-income earner, always on the move, then there are credit cards that specifically meet your needs.
- Credit card limits. As a high-income earner, you should expect to get as much credit as you need. The higher, the better. This will give you the flexibility you need by having cash on hand if an opportunity reveals itself.
- Interest rates. At this point in your life, you get to be fussy. Don’t settle with a high-interest rate, shop around, and make sure you get the best interest rate possible so that when you do use the credit, you won’t be paying a lot for it.
- Travel benefits. You probably travel often, making it as comfortable as possible by selecting a credit card with the best travel benefits. Such as airport lounge access, meet and greet services, and flight miles that you could use for free upgrades.
My #1 pick credit card for the entrepreneur or high-income earner?
I’ll be honest, I was indecisive between Standard Bank Diners Club Credit Card and the FNB private wealth credit card. However, I just had to go with Standard bank as my number #1 option, even though I bank with FNB myself. Here’s why:
- The monthly income required is really low for the number of benefits they offer. You only need to earn R41,000 per month, and you’ll get better benefits when compared to credit cards where you have to earn over R100,000 per month.
- Amazing flight benefits. You’ll get complimentary access to over 1000 airport lounges worldwide, as well as access to meet and greet and VIP fast track services so you’ll be able to get to your destination as quickly as possible.
- Aiport miles. This is what sets Standard Bank Diners Club Credit Card apart from all others. Based on my research, they are this is the only credit card in South Africa that offered airport miles.
03. Get Your Documents Together
So you’ve chosen your perfect credit card, now you need to get the right documents together.
I’ll briefly go over what documents they usually request below and the best way to get them, however, I advise you also read what documents your selected credit card requests, because each bank will ask for different documents.
In a nutshell, there are three documents that you’ll need to apply for a credit card. Here’s what they are, and how to get them:
Proof of address.
Generally, the best document you can use to prove your proof of address is:
- Bank statement
- Utility bill
- Active lease agreement
Those three documents are the most popular ones most people use, however, there are many cases when people don’t have access to those.
If you’re on of them, then read my article that shares 21 documents you can use as proof of address in South Africa. Just keep in mind that each bank will only accept specific documents, so make sure you contact them too.
Proof of income.
The best way to prove your income is by using bank statements. Most banks will request the most recent three months, so make sure you have yours on hand. If you can’t get access to bank statements, ask your bank if they’ll accept payslips. I know some banks will accept these.
Don’t have an income? Unfortonutaley there’s a high chance they won’t even look at your application. Most lenders require that you have an income before they’ll even consider you. Rather focus on creating a source of income. To help, I wrote an article that covers 14 ways beginners can make money only in South Africa here. Make sure you check it out.
Proof of I.D.
For this you can use either a valid South African I.D or your smart card.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you walk into the bank you’ll need to bring in the hard copies. The banks will make their own copies. However for online applications you’ll need to have access to a camera or scanner, so that you can make digital copies of your documents.
04. Start The Application
Once you’ve selected a credit card from above that best suits your lifestyle, and you’ve managed to get your proof of income, residence, and I.D together, then it’s time to start the application.
There are a few ways you can do this. You can either:
Apply for a credit card online (Quickest and easiest method)
An online application is by far the quickest and easiest method you can use to apply for a credit card. An online application can be made by going to the website and clicking ‘apply’ for the credit card you want.
To save time, click here to fast track to 21 credit cards in South Africa that I reviewed, and use the links there. The links mentioned in that article will take you straight to the application page.
Walk into the bank (Best used if you can only get hard copies of documents)
If you only have hard copies of your documents and you prefer to be face to face, then this is an option. All banks that offer credit cards will be more than welcoming, so simply walk into a branch and let them know you want to apply for a credit card.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Before you make the trip to the bank, make sure you have ALL the required documents. I’ll make a list of all the documents you’ll generally need below, so make sure you keep read that section of this article. There’s NOTHING worse than traveling back and for because you forgot a document.
Call the bank (Best used if you want to talk to someone directly ASAP)
Most banks will also be more than happy to make a credit card application over the phone, and this method can be the quickest because you can directly chat with someone as you’re reading this article. So if you’re in a rush, consider this method.
The only drawback? Sharing details over the phone can be extremely frustrating, so make sure you have a decent connection and an email address because they will ask you to email digital copies of your documents over to them.