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The right payment card for you

This is your impartial guide to choosing and using credit cards, debit cards and prepaid cards. If you would like more information about the contactless functionality available on many cards, please click here.

The UK Cards Association represents all of the major UK card issuers and we’ve used our industry knowledge to make sure you get the best information on how cards work.

This section of the website will help you understand how plastic payment cards work, the factors that you should be considering when making your choice and the best ways to use your cards.

Plastic cards are a useful and convenient way to pay for goods and services virtually anywhere in the world, easily and conveniently.

However, with a number of different types of payment cards available from a growing number of card companies it can be difficult to choose the right card for you.

It is important to understand the different types of cards available before deciding which best fits your needs. The right payment card for you will depend on your spending habits and how you prefer to manage your money. Payment cards are not a one-size-fits-all product.

There are three main types of payment plastic cards:

  • A credit card allows you to make purchases using a credit facility provided by your card issuer.
  • A debit card operates much like cash. When you use a debit card the money is deducted directly from your current account.
  • A prepaid card must be loaded with funds – and can then be used until the funds run out.

While these cards can be used in similar ways to pay for goods and services, there are some basic differences in the way they work.

Other types of card include store cards or charge cards, which are types of credit card; ATM-only cards, also known as a cash machine card; or cheque guarantee cards, although the cheque guarantee scheme was withdrawn at the end of June 2011.These days, it is now much more common to have cheque guarantee functions incorporated on your credit or debit card.

Finally, you may also have come across contactless cards. Contactless is not actually a type of card; rather a functionality of some credit or debit cards. This functionality allows you to make payments simply by placing your card on or a few centimetres away from the reader for purchases costing up to £20.

To find out which factors to consider when choosing the best card for you, click on the links below:

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