How to use credit card comparison tables

If you’re looking for a credit card, then comparison websites can be helpful. But do you know the difference between a best buy table and a ‘whole of market’ search? Or that a best buy table might not show the best cards that are currently available?

Before you use a comparison website

  • Are you looking for a card to spend on and, if so, will you be able to clear your balance in full each month?
  • Maybe you’ve already got an outstanding debt on another card and are looking to make a balance transfer, but do you want to spend on the card as well?

These are all important questions, which will help identify the best credit card for your needs and whether a credit card is the best option for you.

Find out more about choosing and applying for a credit card.

Why you might want to use a comparison website

There are many different comparison websites using different terminology to describe what they do, but they can be very useful in providing a quick list of credit cards.

Best buy tables

When you first arrive on a comparison website you’ll more than likely see what’s known as a ‘best buy table’. A best buy table highlights the most competitive credit cards on the market according to the price comparison website. It should help you to make an informed decision.

But these best buy tables may not reflect all products that may be available on the market. It is always a good idea to use more than one comparison table to help inform your decisions.

The information in a best buy table will include:

  • The name of the card
  • The APR or annual percentage rate – credit cards often charge different rates of interest depending on what you use them for (purchases, cash withdrawal, balance transfers etc.) and different APRs may be published depending on the search criteria you enter
  • Any 0% interest period offered on purchases made on the card
  • Any 0% interest period offered on balances transferred onto the card
  • The fee charged for transferring any balance you might have on another card(s) onto the card
  • Any annual or monthly fee for having the card
  • Any rewards associated with the card: cashback, loyalty points, and
  • Any qualifying criteria for being accepted for the card – for example an annual salary of more than £15,000

The information in the table should help you to work out which card most suits your needs, and may allow you to work out which you are most likely to be accepted for.

Not all ‘best’ products appear in best buy tables

While a best buy table will offer you a range of cards to choose from, it’s important to know that they may not always show the best available or all offers.

That’s because most comparison websites make their money through people clicking and applying for cards via the site’s best buy tables. Every time someone follows the link for a card from the site to the card provider and applies for it, the site is paid a fee.

Not all card providers are willing to pay comparison sites to appear in their best buy tables. As a result they may not feature, and some are only available to current account holders. But most of the larger comparison sites include both providers that pay them a fee or a click through payment as well as those that don’t. Check whether they are ranked in order, for example by price. Sometimes firms can pay to appear on top of the list or more prominently.

Some, but not all, comparison websites also offer what is known as a ‘whole of market’ search. This will allow you to look at pretty much all of the credit cards that are currently available, including the ones that aren’t on the best buy tables.

Some sites then offer you the chance to choose a category of cards to look at, e.g. those with a 0% balance transfer period or to rank data by interest-free period or interest rate.

Exclusive credit cards

To make things even more complicated, some comparison websites will do exclusive deals with credit card providers. This will mean that a particular credit card will only be available on that website.

Using comparison tables

Always look at two or three comparison websites and do a whole of a market search to be sure you’re getting the best deal, and the right product for you.

Go to the Which? website to compare credit cards.