Is it possible to avoid paying interest on a credit card? Well, you could do it by never carrying a balance on that card. But, in real life, emergencies happen. Perhaps you need to cover an unexpected car repair, sizeable medical bills, or make some other major purchase. A recent study showed that 42% of Americans use credit cards as a cushion for emergencies. Luckily, there are credit cards with a 0% APR period that offer more than an emergency cushion.
What Are 0% APR Periods?
Cards with 0% annual percentage rate (APR) periods help you avoid paying interest on purchases and balance transfers for a promotional length of time – usually 12 to 18 months. After the introductory offer, the standard annual rate kicks in. However, 0% APR credit cards come with significant responsibilities. You need to be diligent with managing money and make your monthly payments on time to avoid fees and penalties. So, for the right cardholder who plans to pay off the debt before the 0% APR period runs out, this card is an interest-free loan that is too good to pass up.
Many people hesitate to open a new card. But, it can be more affordable than just taking out a loan, using a store credit card, or withdrawing cash from your savings account. Using a 0% introductory APR credit card can help you pay for a significant purchase and spread your payments over several months without paying interest or fees. You can also use these cards for consolidating high-interest debt or earning reward points on purchases.
We have compiled a list of the best 0% APR cards on the market today. Keep reading to find out how you can make the most of these offers.
Best for 0% APR Period and Unlimited Cash Back: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
If you are looking for a flexible cashback credit card with a long introductory 0% APR period, you should consider the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card. Not only can you earn rewards with this card, but it also offers a 0% APR on balance transfers and purchases.
With the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, there are no rotating categories, and you do not need to sign up to receive cash rewards. And the best part is that there is no limit to how much you can earn, and your cashback won’t expire as long as you keep your account open.
Cash Back Bonus
Capital One gives Quicksilver cardholders a $150 cash back bonus after they spend just $500 on purchases within the first three months. You can also earn unlimited 1.5% cashback on everything you buy, every day. But, to qualify for the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, you need to have a good to excellent credit score between 670 and 850.
This credit card offers you an introductory period of 15 months of no interest on purchases and balance transfers. After that period is over, the standard APR variable applies, which is typically between 16.24% and 26.24%. You pay a 3% fee on the sums you transfer within the first year and three months.
There are no foreign transaction fees when making purchases outside of the United States, which makes it an ideal companion when traveling abroad. As a final plus, there is no annual fee.
Best for Travel Rewards: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
If you travel a lot and need flexibility, you might find Capital One VentureOne Rewards credit card worth adding to your wallet.
You can earn a sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles after spending $1,000 on purchases within three months of account opening, which is equal to $200 in travel. In addition to the great welcome bonus, you can also enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months. Regular APR is 14.24% – 24.24% variable.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards credit card allows cardholders to earn 1.25X miles (1.25 miles per dollar) on everything you buy, every day. They can also earn 10 miles per dollar at hotels.com or travel through the end of the year 2020.
One of the best features of the Capital One VentureOne Rewards credit card is that you have plenty of redemption options. You can redeem your rewards for a statement credit toward previous travel purchases that include a purchase made from airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, bus lines, and other partners. You can also redeem for cash in the form of a check or account credit, gift cards, etc. Your rewards will not expire, and there is no limit to how much you can earn on purchases.
There is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
Suggested Reading: Save Money and Vacation Stress-Free with Travel Loans
Best for First-Year Value: Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card gives you enough time to pay off your credit card debt. You have an introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, a variable APR of 16.99 – 25.74% applies. There is a balance transfer fee of 3% of the amount transferred, and the minimal amount you can transfer is $5.
In comparison to other flat-rate zero APR cards that offer standard welcome bonuses, this card doubles your cash back in the first twelve months. Chase Freedom Unlimited cardholders earn 3% cash back on all you buy in your first year until the first $20,000 spent. After that amount and in your first year, you get unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card requires no minimum to reclaim cash back. Furthermore, your cash-back rewards are not limited in time as long as your account is open.
Other benefits include:
- Extended warranty protection
- Zero-liability protection
- Purchase protection
- Fraud protection
- Auto rental collision damage waiver
The Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card has no annual fee.
Best for Low Fees: HSBC Gold Mastercard Credit Card
With the HSBC Gold Mastercard credit card, you have more time to get rid of your debt without adding to it. It offers 0% Introductory APR on balance transfers and credit card purchases for the first year from your account opening. Later, a variable APR between 12.99% and 20.99% will apply, depending on your creditworthiness.
In addition to a long introductory interest-free period, this card will waive one late payment fee once every 12 months with no penalty APR, and any late payment occurring more than 12 billing periods since your last waiver.
HSBC Gold Mastercard credit card provides travel benefits that include car rental theft protection, travel accident insurance, lost luggage assistance, and more.
On the downside, the balance transfer fee is 4% of the amount of each balance transfer or $10, whichever is greater. The same fee amount applies to cash advance transactions and overdraft amounts. On top of this, there is no sign-up bonus and no ongoing rewards.
There is no annual or foreign transaction fee.
Best for Rotating Category Cash Back: Discover it Cash Back
The Discover it Cash Back card offers 5% cash back at different places each quarter, including gas stations, Uber and Lyft, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon, Target, and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Besides, cardholders earn an unlimited 1% cash back with all your other spending.
Its welcome offer includes automatically matching all the cash back you have earned at the end of your first year, or after the first 12 consecutive billing periods. There is no limit to how much is matched, and you don’t need to sign up. Your point rewards with the Discover it Cash Back card will never expire, and you can redeem any amount of cash back, any time.
The credit card offers a 0% introductory APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, there is a 13.99% – 24.99% Variable APR on balance transfers and purchases. A 5% fee for future balance transfers will apply.
Other Discover it Cash Back card benefits include:
- You can view your FICO® Credit Score for free
- You can freeze your account any time to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers
- Free Social Security number alerts
You will pay no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.
Best for Low Fees and Balance Transfers: Citi Simplicity Card
Citi Simplicity Card is arguably one of the best interest-free credit cards for a balance transfer. It offers 0% Introductory APR on balance transfers for 21 months after account opening. After the introductory period, the variable APR of 16.74% – 26.74% will apply. The Introductory APR is 0% for the first 12 months after account opening on purchases. After this promotional period, the same variable APR applies (16.74% – 26.74%).
Citibank promises access to friendly and efficient customer support to its cardholders. The Citi Simplicity Card offer includes setting up automatic email or mobile phone account alerts to track balance levels, due payments, credit limit, etc. It also provides flexibility regarding setting up your bill payment schedule.
However, there are some disadvantages to this card. You will have to pay a 5% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum), but that is not a lot, because, in return, you will save thousands of dollars in interest payments during the introductory period. There are also no ongoing rewards or welcome bonuses. And, there is a foreign transaction fee for purchases made outside the United States.
On the bright side, you pay no annual fee, no penalty fee, and no late fees.
Best for Simple Debt Solutions: BankAmericard Credit Card
The BankAmericard credit card is an ideal card for you if you want to transfer debt or pay off a big purchase. It is also suitable because its offer includes 0% initial APR for 15 months for balance transfers and shopping you do within the first two consecutive months. After the introductory period, a 14.99% to 24.99% Variable APR kicks in. A 3% (min. $10) fee applies to all future balance transfers.
In addition to free access to your updated FICO credit score via their mobile banking app, the BankAmericard card also offers zero liability for fraudulent transactions, overdraft protection, and account alerts.
If you pay late, you don’t have to worry about penalty APR. And, there is also no annual fee.
Best for Rewards: Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card is all about flexibility. Not only do you have an opportunity to earn cash back, but you also have a solid introductory 0% APR period.
Cardholders can choose from categories that earn 3% cash back on gas, travel, online shopping, drug stores, dining, or home improvement. You can also change your cashback categories on a monthly basis. Also, you earn 2% cash back at wholesale clubs and grocery stores on up to $2,500 if you combine your spending each quarter. And finally, you earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
With the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card, you can boost your rewards and earn 25% to75% more cash back on every purchase if you become a Preferred Rewards member. And the icing on the cake is a $200 cash bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
Cardholders get an introductory 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers made within the first 60 days. So, if you need to make a large purchase or pay your credit card balance, you will save on interest with this card. After the introductory APR, a standard 15.99% to 25.99% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers will apply.
Additional benefits of the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card are:
- Trip cancellation insurance
- Extended warranty on purchases made with the card
- Zero liability for fraudulent transactions, and more
On the other hand, some might find capped rewards categories limiting, while others might not like a balance transfer fee of 3%, with a $10 minimum.
There is no annual fee, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee for purchases made outside the U.S.
Best for Grocery Shopping: Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express
The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express is another no-interest credit card that offers excellent cash-back rewards, a robust new cardmember offer, and other additional benefits.
New cardholders will receive $175 cash back in the form of a credit to your statement after you spend $1,000 with your card within the initial three months. Also, during the initial 15 months, you get 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases. After this introductory period, a standard 14.99% to 25.99% variable APR applies.
With the Blue Cash Everyday Card, every 12 months, you can earn 3% cash back at U.S. grocery stores until you spend $6,000 while shopping, then it drops to 1%. Next, you earn 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select department stores. You also earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. In addition to these rewards, you get additional cards for friends or family and earn more Reward Dollars for their purchases. Redeem your Reward Dollars for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
American Express Cards, including this one, are accepted in 1.6 million more places in the U.S. since 2018. With that being said, you can earn your rewards faster at supermarkets, gas stations, and other stores across the U.S.
There is no annual fee.
Best for Longest Intro APR: Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card
Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card is great for paying for large purchases over time and paying down balances.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for balance transfers and purchases is the same 0% introductory APR for 18 months, followed by 17.49% to 26.99%, based on your creditworthiness. This APR varies based on the U.S. prime rate. To qualify for the introductory APR, you need to request a balance transfer within 120 days from the account opening.
Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card gives you several additional benefits:
- Access to your FICO Credit score
- Auto rental collision damage waiver
- Travel accident insurance
- Chip technology for enhanced protection
- Free zero liability protection
- My Money Map – budgeting and spending tool, etc.
However, it is essential to note that there is an introductory fee of either 3% of the amount of each balance transfer or $5, whichever is greater, for 120 days from the account opening. Also, there is a penalty fee for late payment of up to $37.
You pay no annual fee, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.
What is a 0% Intro APR?
An annual percentage rate (APR) refers to the interest that can be charged annually for carrying a balance on a credit card. If the card offer includes a 0% intro APR, it means that you won’t pay any interest on balances for a period determined by credit card companies. This period often lasts six to 21 months.
Understanding the APRs on Credit Cards
Unlike other types of loans, you don’t pay a single interest rate on credit cards. However, there might be different types of rates for different types of transactions. Interest rates are also variable and change according to the prime rate.
Purchase APR is a typical interest rate on a credit card. This APR is charged on purchases when you allow the balance to carry over past the deadline. If you make timely payments during the 0% APR period, you will avoid this interest. This interest applies to the balance you don’t pay off before the offer period incurs current interest rate charges.
Balance Transfer APR
When you transfer a balance from one card to another, a balance transfer APR applies. However, many cards do not charge this interest for a limited time after account opening.
If you make a late payment or you miss one during the 0% APR period, you could face a penalty APR. This rate might be higher than other rates. However, some cards do not charge a penalty APR, such as the HSBC Gold Mastercard credit card.
Cash Advance APR
When you take out a cash advance, you are charged a separate APR, which is frequently higher than other rates.
Types of 0% APR Credit Cards
Today, there are two types of 0% APR credit cards:
- 0% intro APR on purchases
- 0% intro APR on balance transfers
Depending on whether you want to make a new purchase or refinance your current credit card debt, you will need to consider either a 0% purchase APR or 0% balance transfer APR. Perhaps you need a card that offers both.
A 0% Purchase APR
Purchase balances are the balances you incur by making purchases with your credit card. With a 0% introductory purchase APR, there will be no interest charges on purchases for a specified period. To qualify for this offer, you need to make a minimum payment by its due date. You also must not violate any of the terms and conditions of your credit card agreement (check the Schumer box). Once a 0% APR period runs out, the regular ongoing APR kicks in.
For example, if you receive an 18-month 0% APR, you will not pay the interest for 18 months on all items you purchase during the first 18 months of account opening.
This promotional 0% APR offer usually applies to new cardholders and lasts for several months after account opening. However, credit card companies also offer 0% rates to current cardholders to get them to spend more.
A 0% Balance Transfer APR
A balance transfer is moving a balance/debt from one credit card to another. With a 0% balance transfer APR, you won’t pay any interest charges on a balance you transfer from a card that charges interest to a card that charges a 0% APR. In addition to moving credit card debt, you can move debt from student loans, personal loans, and other types of accounts.
Here, the same rules apply as for 0% purchase APR. The promotional introductory period might end if you fail to make a minimum payment or violate other terms and conditions.
Balance transfer cards don’t charge interest, but they charge an origination fee. When you move the balance from one credit card to another, you will typically pay 3% or $5 of the total amount you transfer, whichever is greater. Sometimes, fees can go up to 5% of the amount transferred. But, this fee can be justified by the money you save on interest during an introductory period. A balance transfer might be worthwhile regardless of a seemingly high fee.
0% APR Credit Cards vs. Deferred Interest Credit Cards
The distinction between 0% APR credit cards and deferred interest credit cards might not be apparent to many people. In fact, according to research, 72% of consumers don’t understand the difference. Retail store credit cards usually have deferred interest offers. Interest is not charged to your account but is still calculated in the background during an interest-free period. If you don’t pay a deferred-interest purchase by the end of the promotion period, they add the interest retroactively back to the date of the purchase. The interest is calculated on your whole purchase amount, which means you might end up with hundreds of dollars in debt.
On the other hand, interest-free credit cards do not incur interest during the 0% APR promotional period. So, if you do not pay off your debt by the 0% introductory period, APR credit cards will not charge interest retroactively. However, you will be charged the current interest rate in effect on any purchase balance remaining after the end of the promotional period.
Suggested Reading: The 11 Best Prepaid Debit Cards of September 2020
What’s the Catch with 0% APR?
Most credit cards that offer a 0% introductory APR almost always give cardholders actual zero interest promotion. It means that you will only pay interest after an opening period is over. But, you need to scrutinize the fine print to check.
Note that, even if a card offer includes a 0% intro APR, there might still be interest on other things. For instance, let’s say that you have a card with a 0% intro APR on balance transfers only. If you make new purchases on that card, too, you might be charged interest unless you pay off your due balance in full each month. Therefore, choose a card that offers 0% intro APRs on both purchases and balance transfers to avoid this issue.
Also, you need to watch for penalty APRs that can be higher than the regular APR. Make sure you are not late on your payments. In addition to the penalty, it might also lead to losing an introductory APR offer. Not to mention that a single late payment can hurt your credit score.
Are You Still Carrying a Balance?
Once the introductory period ends, the standard APR starts to apply to your balance and any new purchases. According to the Federal Reserve, the average APR charged in September 2020 was 17.14%.
If you are still carrying a balance and haven’t paid it off yet, a new standard rate applies only to the outstanding balance, not the balance you paid off. Additionally, the standard APR will accrue on new purchases you don’t pay in full by the due date.
How to Avoid Paying Interest on Your Credit Card
According to recent research, credit card debt continues to rise. A rising number of Americans incur additional debt due to interest charges made on their credit cards. An obvious question pops out: is it possible to avoid paying interest on a credit card? The answer is yes.
The best way to avoid it is to pay in full before the due date each month. There is a grace period of 21 days from the time you receive your bill to pay off the balance before the interest kicks in. The grace period varies for different cards. Also, to avoid paying interest, do not make additional purchases on your card if you don’t have money for it.
Reasons to Consider a 0% APR Credit Card
When is it beneficial to have a 0% APR credit card? How do you know if it is right for you? Well, if you have a good or excellent credit score and you have good financial habits, you might want to consider a 0% APR credit card.
You Need to Make a Large Purchase
Whether you need to pay for that furniture, appliances, or other major purchases, a credit card with a 0% intro purchase APR might be the right tool you need. Instead of paying a substantial amount at once, you can spread out your payments through the introductory period without paying any interest.
A 0% intro purchase APR card can be a great alternative to taking out a personal loan. You will save money this way because of the interest that is charged on a personal loan. This alternative, however, will only work if you pay off your debt before the promotional offer ends.
Paying Down High-Interest Credit Card Debt
The most common use of a 0% interest card is balance transfer. If you have a high-interest balance that you are struggling to pay off, transferring it to a 0% APR card might ease the burden. You will pay it off quicker if you do it during the introductory offer.
Nevertheless, it is good to be aware that there are charges on a no-fee balance transfer. You usually pay a fee between 3% and 5% of the amount you transfer. And, with some cards, you need to make a transfer within a specific time frame of account opening. Make sure you read the fine print.
An Emergency Arises
Emergencies can happen at any time, and you have to cover costs quickly. This is the time when a card with a 0% APR comes in handy. Whether it is an unexpected bill, a significant home repair, or other significant expenses, you know you have to spend a lot. If you could pay that amount over time, that would provide a needed financial cushion.
Consolidating Your Debt
If you have multiple balances across a few credit cards, you can place all those balances on a single 0% APR card to consolidate debt. This way, you have one monthly payment and no interest on that balance for a specified period. All you need to do is pay it off before the offer ends.
Paying Your Student Debt
You can use the 0% APR card for paying debt other than credit card balances. For example, if you have a high-interest student loan, it might be worthwhile to transfer it. If, on the other hand, the loan has low interest, moving it to a 0% APR card might not be a good idea. If you do not pay it off before the end of the balance transfer offer, you will lose money.
Suggested Reading: Got College Credit? Best Student Cards for September 2020
You Want to Earn Rewards
A 0% APR card can be a great choice if you want to save money on interest and earn rewards at the same time. Some 0% APR credit cards earn cash-back rewards while others earn miles or points on purchases.
However, these cards do not earn the highest rewards on the market. So, if your focus is on bonuses, you might want to consider another card with a rewards program. In other words, rewards are just an added perk.
When Not to Consider a 0% APR Credit Card
There are times when a 0% intro APR card might not be right for you. Let’s say you are planning to make a significant purchase. If you know you won’t be able to pay it off during the introductory period, perhaps you should consider other options. In this case, taking a personal loan might be a better solution.
For example, paying off a new fridge for a year is doable during the 0% APR period (typically up to 21 months, depending on the card). But, charging a large medical bill to this type of card will not work if you don’t have a plan for paying it off in the next 18 months, for example.
A 0% APR card might not be right for you if you don’t have a plan or a good reason. Wait until you do, and then start looking for 0% APR credit cards.
Are You a “Revolver” or a “Transactor”?
Revolvers carry a balance on their credit cards from month to month. You accrue balance on your debt, and credit card issuers love revolvers because they are profitable.
Transactors, on the other hand, pay off the full balance on their card each month. You save on interest and perhaps use your cards for rewards. Credit card issuers hardly make a profit with transactors.
If you are a revolver, then a 0% intro APR card might not be the best choice for you.
0% APR Credit Cards For Bad Credit
Beware of issuers that offer 0% APR credit cards to consumers with bad credit. If your credit score is below 630, you are unlikely to qualify for this type of card. That is because credit card companies make money either from interest charges or different fees. So, consumers with lower scores will usually spend less than those with higher credit. It is highly unlikely they will issue a 0% interest card to people who make smaller purchases. There is just not much profit for a credit card issuer here.
If you bump into such an offer, make sure to read the fine print and get familiar with terms and conditions. Even if you qualify for this offer, the interest rate will be higher because of your low credit score. The only way to get a better offer with a lower rate is to improve your credit. Here’s how to do it:
- Make a full payment on time on all accounts (credit cards, loans, utility bills and other)
- Limit your credit applications
- Keep your accounts open and active (except for accounts with annual fees)
- Keep your overall credit utilization below 30%
- Analyze your credit report and check for inconsistencies
How to Make the Most of 0% APR Credit Card Offers
Interest-free credit cards can be valuable in different situations. However, it is essential to use your 0% APR credit card responsibly. Free credit card offers do not last forever; the 0% APR period is temporary. There is a risk of not being able to pay off your balance before the introductory period ends. Ideally, you should use a 0% introductory APR credit card for emergencies.
Pay Your Credit Card’s Minimum Payments
You must make a minimum payment on time each month. Making late payments or making less than the minimum payment leads to losing your 0% APR promotional offer. The card then charges the interest at the regular APR. Moreover, you will pay a late fee and a penalty APR if you are more than 60 days late. You can set automatic payments for the minimum amount to cover the monthly payment.
Prepare in Advance
Unless it is an emergency, you should plan your purchases in advance. It will give you enough time to compare 0% APR cards and choose the one that fits you best. Since offers change all the time, it is smart to keep looking until it is time for your purchase. Do not apply too early because your intro period starts from the day of account opening. But, do not apply too late either as you might not have the card when you need it.
Ideally, you should apply two to three weeks before a planned purchase.
Watch Out for Fees
There are many costs related to 0% APR cards. Before you take advantage of a 0% APR offer, consider annual fees, balance transfer fees, late fees, penalty charges, and others. Sometimes fees are worth paying considering the amount you save on interest during a promotional period. But, calculate all costs before making your decision.
Earning Your Welcome Bonus
Most cards with a 0% introductory offer come with a sign-up bonus. However, there’s usually a minimum spending requirement before you are eligible to claim it. For example, you can earn a $150 cash rewards bonus with Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Credit Card after you spend $500 during the initial three months of opening an account.
Track the 0% APR Period Expiration
The purpose of using a 0% APR card is saving money on interest by paying off the balance before the introductory period expires. You need to know when exactly that is so that you pay your debt before that date, and get the most out of your zero-interest offer.
Suggested Reading: Understanding National Debt Relief
Bottom Line: Use 0% APR Credit Card Offers With Caution
A 0% APR credit card offer is not free money. It is the money you borrow from a credit card company, and you need to repay that debt. While you save money on interest during the promotional period, you might end up paying that interest, too, if you don’t pay off your debt within the 0% APR timeframe.
Do you have a 0% APR credit card? Which card do you have?
If you have questions or tips you would like to share with our readers regarding no-interest credit cards, feel free to comment.