Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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The best way to avoid paying interest on a credit card is to never carry over a balance on that card in the first place.
However, in real life, things happen — an unexpected home or car repair, a large medical bill, or even a last-minute trip to attend a funeral can have you spending more than you planned.
Regardless of the reason, carrying large balances on your credit card can cost you dearly when interest is added to the debt and you’re unable to pay it off in a timely manner.
The good news is that there are several credit cards with zero-interest offers out there that can help you get the cost of that debt under control while you focus on paying it off. It’s even possible to earn rewards on purchases you make with 0% APR cards.
Let’s look at how 0% APR cards work, how you may be able to earn rewards while saving on interest charges, and some of the best options for introductory 0% APR credit cards.
Let’s preview our list of 0% APR cards and look at how the cards currently stack up for offers on purchases and/or balance transfers.
|Card||Welcome Offer and Annual Fee||0% APR Period for Purchases||Top Choice For|
||Best for Earning Travel Rewards|
||Best for Earning Travel Rewards|
||Best for Cash-back on Everyday Purchases|
||Best for 2x Rewards on all Purchases|
||Best for Everyday Spending|
||Best for Earning Travel Rewards on Business Spend|
||Best for Earning Travel Rewards on Business Spend|
If you’re looking for a 0% APR credit card, you’ll want to consider the repayment period that best fits your needs and any associated fees that might be charged. Another consideration, especially if you’re making a large purchase, is whether the card will earn travel rewards, cash-back, or have a generous welcome bonus offer.
With so many variables to consider, you might need a little help — so we’ve put together all the information you need to select the right card for your situation.
Let’s get started with some suggestions for 0% APR cards to consider for purchases, starting with Chase.
Both cards offer 5% cash-back on travel via the Chase travel portal and 3% cash-back on dining at restaurants and at drugstores. The Freedom Unlimited card then earns 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases while the Freedom Flex card has quarterly bonus categories earning 5% cash-back, then 1% on all other purchases.
Cardholders can receive their cash-back at a rate of 1 cent per point via a statement credit to offset purchases made or opt to receive a direct deposit straight into their bank account.
While both cards earn cash-back, when paired with an Ultimate Rewards Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, that cash-back can be converted to valuable Ultimate Rewards points to redeem for up to 50% more value when redeemed for travel or transferred to travel partners.
Depending on the nature of the large purchase, you could fare well if you use the Amex Blue Cash Everyday card because it earns 3% cash-back at U.S. online retailers (up to $6,000 in purchases each year). This might be a card you would keep after your purchase is paid off, too, since it also earns 3% cash-back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year) and 3% cash-back at U.S gas stations (up to $6,000 in purchases per year).
There’s also a welcome bonus offer on this card, and depending on the amount of your large purchase, the welcome offer might be used to offset part of the cost of that purchase.
To learn more about utilizing cards for large purchases, we also have an entire post dedicated to the best credit cards for high-spend and large purchases if you want to dig deeper into this topic.
Transferring high-interest credit card balances to 0% APR cards can save you plenty in interest charges. Here are a couple of examples of cards that earn rewards and offer 0% APR for balance transfers.
Hot Tip: Many credit card issuers allow you to transfer student loan balances to a 0% APR credit card. You’ll want to make sure the amount you transfer can be paid off during the 0% APR promotional period, and that you consider transfer fees in the calculation to determine if it’s a good deal for you.
Making a large business purchase and having a 0% APR business credit card to pay back the purchase amount over time can help manage business cash flow. Fortunately, these 2 business credit cards offer a way to earn rewards on your purchases and offer repayment flexibility with no interest charges.
Plan your next large business purchase(s) within the allotted months to repay with no interest charges with either of these Chase business credit cards.
You’ll find that both of these business cards come with a generous welcome bonus offer, have similar rewards redemption options, and come with several travel and shopping benefits.
You’ll also be able to transfer Ultimate Rewards points earned on either card to Ultimate Rewards earning Chase credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or Chase Sapphire Reserve card for up to 50% more value for travel redemptions.
Is there really such a thing as a credit card that doesn’t charge interest? It would be wishful thinking to believe any credit card never charged interest — but the next best thing might actually be a 0% interest credit card.
A 0% interest credit card (frequently referred to as a “0% APR credit card”) is just a normal credit card that offers a special introductory period when no interest is charged on purchases made and/or on balances transferred from other credit cards.
How do you know if a 0% APR credit card is right for you?
If you have a solid credit history but any of these scenarios would potentially put you in a financial bind, you might want to consider a 0% APR credit card.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how a 0% APR card works and why you’d want to consider the option, let’s look at some of the best credit cards with introductory 0% APR periods that also earn rewards.
Now that we’ve reviewed some examples of cards that have 0% APR offers, let’s dig deeper into how 0% APR cards work and tips for maximizing these offers.
While there are plenty of introductory 0% APR offers available, these offers may only be temporary offers. In addition, 0% APR periods can change as well as subsequent interest rates. You’ll want to review pricing and fee information on any card you’re considering before applying.
One of the primary reasons for securing a 0% APR credit card is not having to pay interest for a specific period of time. Let’s say you have a $2,400 balance on a credit card that has a 16% APR. You currently pay the minimum of $96 a month on the card.
Each month you’ll pay about 4% of the balance as a minimum payment. In this scenario, it will take you 99 months to pay off the card completely, during which you’d pay $1,096.66 in interest. This may seem shocking, but there are some caveats to consider before you immediately make a balance transfer.
First, there may be transfer fees (usually the greater of $5 or 3%), even when transferring balances during the 0% promotional period. Second, if you continued to pay the $96 a month versus a 4% minimum payment on the high-interest card balance, you would pay off the $2,400 in closer to 32 months — not 99 months.
In this case, even paying a $72 fee to transfer this $2,400 balance to a 0% APR card would still net you significant savings. Paying $155 per month for 18 months toward the $2,400 balance on the 0% APR card would result in saving over $300 in interest charges.
When you utilize a 0% APR credit card for a large purchase, you’re basically just spreading out the repayment of the original purchase price over time. For this reason, 0% APR cards can serve an important role in managing your finances when an unexpected or large expense arises.
For example, let’s say you need a new washer and dryer. You found a set for $1,500 and decide to charge the purchase on your credit card which has an APR of 16%. You pay $94.28 per month for 18 months until the debt is repaid. The total interest paid would be $197.12.
However, you’d save this entire $197.12 if you made the purchase on a 0% APR credit card with an 18-month introductory 0% APR period.
Before jumping in and selecting a 0% APR credit card, you’ll want to consider the following and ask yourself a few questions:
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you select the right 0% APR credit card to fit your situation.
Example 1: Let’s suppose you’re selecting a card because you have $2,000 in high-interest credit card debt you’d like to eliminate. You’re comfortable paying off the balance in 18 months, and you’d prefer a card that doesn’t charge any balance transfer fees. You plan on not using the card for additional purchases until you pay off the debt.
Example 2: Now let’s imagine a different scenario where you plan to purchase a $2,000 riding lawn mower to make your weekend chores a bit easier. Your priorities for selecting a 0% APR credit card have changed.
You won’t have to consider transfer fees — only that you’ll get a 0% APR period to repay your purchase. In this case, you might select the Freedom Unlimited card that offers 15 months to pay off your balance interest-free.
Note that none of the cards in our example charge an annual fee, and we’re not factoring any welcome bonuses, cash-back rewards, or other benefits into the comparison.
Hot Tip: You can benefit from 0% APR cards that have welcome bonuses and earn rewards or cash-back. If you’re making a large purchase, you’ll generally want to receive rewards or cash-back for that purchase. Balance transfers do not earn rewards or cash-back.
It’s common to hear people ask, “What’s the interest rate on that credit card?” The problem is, there’s no simple answer to this — credit cards can charge different interest rates for different types of transactions. Interest rates can also change periodically as they are based on the prime rate.
It might sound like a 0% APR credit card is a really great solution for paying off high-interest debt or spreading out the repayment of a large purchase over time, and it can be.
If you use the card correctly and follow the rules (better known as “terms and conditions” in the credit card world), a 0% APR credit card can be a real asset in managing your finances.
However, you should proceed with caution and be aware of triggers that could potentially make your decision to utilize a 0% APR card an expensive one.
Missing or making a late payment on a 0% APR card can trigger a penalty interest rate that can significantly exceed the regular interest rate on the credit card. In some cases, this can be close to 30%.
Not all 0% APR cards charge a penalty interest rate — only the regular interest rate when a payment is late during the 0% APR period. This is still a costly mistake, though, so you’ll want to make every payment on time.
The penalty interest rate can be temporary and removed at the credit card issuer’s discretion after a specific period of time, like after 6 months of subsequent on-time payments.
Hot Tip: Set up automatic payments to your 0% APR credit card that are scheduled to be applied well before the due date, and follow up to make sure they’re credited to your account. If for any reason the payment isn’t processed correctly (and this does happen), you will still have time to make an on-time payment.
Not paying off your balance prior to when the 0% APR period ends can trigger interest to be charged on the amount of the balance left. Paying interest on that balance diminishes the value of getting the 0% APR card at all, so you’ll want to plan effectively.
Say you made a large purchase or transferred a large balance to the 0% APR card, and created a plan to pay off this balance by the end of the 0% APR period. If you use the card for new purchases, you could get into trouble if you don’t have a plan to pay off those purchases as well.
A lot of unfamiliar terminologies are thrown around in the credit card world, and it can be confusing. For example, when you hear similar terms such as a 0% APR period or deferred interest period referred to in various credit card offers, pay attention as there is a huge difference.
When we discuss 0% APR credit cards, we’re referring to credit cards that have an introductory period (commonly starting when you are approved for the credit card) where there is no interest charged on purchases you make on the card. There may also be a 0% APR for transferring balances.
Other credit cards — usually co-branded retail store credit cards like those offered by Comenity Bank or Synchrony Bank — may offer an introductory period where interest is deferred on specific purchases. With these cards, interest is still accumulating during the interest-free period… it’s just not charged to your account.
If a deferred interest purchase is not paid off by the deadline, interest is added retroactively back to the date the purchase was made. The interest is also calculated on the entire amount of the purchase — so you can imagine the interest charges would be significant!
0% APR credit cards work differently, and they do not incur interest during the 0% APR promotional period. 0% APR credit cards also do not charge interest retroactively if you do not pay off your balance by the expiration of the 0% APR period.
You will, however, be charged the current interest rate in effect at the time on any purchase balance remaining when the 0% APR promotional period expires.
If you paid off your balance by the end of the 0% APR, congratulations! You’re probably wondering what you should do with the credit card now.
Should you continue to use it? If you selected a rewards-earning credit card and it fits your current spending habits, you’ll benefit from continuing to use the card. Just make sure you pay off your balance monthly to avoid incurring any interest charges.
Should you close it? There is no real reason to close the credit card unless it has an annual fee. When you are approved for a credit card, your credit history clock starts ticking … and a long credit history is good for your credit score.
Also, keeping the card even if you don’t use it often can help your credit utilization, which is the amount of credit you’re using compared to the total amount of credit you have available.
Hot Tip: To learn more about credit utilization and how it affects your score, read our in-depth article about credit scores.
What if you failed to pay off the balance on the card by the end of the 0% APR period? No need to panic — only the amount you haven’t paid off will incur interest charges. Although these charges can be hefty, you’ve hopefully paid down the balance enough so you can focus on eliminating the remaining balance quickly.
Considering whether to apply for any credit card is a decision you should take seriously; how you manage that card can affect your financial future. Using a 0% APR credit card adds an additional layer of responsibility.
Just like with a regular credit card, you’ll need to make timely payments — but you’ll also need to make sure your balance is paid off before the 0% APR period expires. If not, you’ll incur interest rate charges that negate the benefit of having a 0% APR card at all.
You’ll also want to judiciously manage new purchases on the 0% APR card to make sure you’re able to pay those off prior to the expiration of the interest-free period.
A 0% APR credit card is a fine tool to help you manage your finances and potentially earn a lot of rewards. If you have the discipline to manage the card well, you’ll come out on the other side reaping the benefits a stronger credit history can bring.
The information regarding the Chase Freedom Flex℠ was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® from American Express, click here.
A 0% APR on purchases means you can make purchases on your card for a specific period of time and not be charged any interest. The 0% interest (APR) on a balance transfer means you can transfer a balance from your high-interest credit cards to the 0% APR credit card, and then pay off the balance over a specific period of time without being charged interest. One key difference is that 0% APR credit cards can charge a fee for transferring a balance, which is typically 3% to 5% of the amount transferred.
0% interest rate credit cards are just normal credit cards that offer a specific period of time after you’re approved when you won’t be charged interest for purchases and/or transferred balances from other credit cards. Once this introductory 0% interest period expires, you’ll be charged the current interest rate for any balances going forward.
A 0% APR credit card can be a very useful financial tool to pay off high-interest credit card debt, pay off a large purchase over time, or effectively finance a large expense interest-free. If you don’t make timely payments or pay off your balance in full before the 0% period expires, you can incur hefty interest charges. You can also get into trouble if you make extensive new purchases on the card and do not budget to pay them off by the deadline.
Yes, you will find 0% APR periods on cards with no annual fee. The cards featured in this article do not charge an annual fee.
If the card has an annual fee and you’re not going to use it, you should close the card. If the card has no annual fee, you may want to keep it open and continue to build your credit history.
Whatever balance you have on the 0% APR credit card at the time the 0% APR period expires will incur interest charges.
You are not charged any fees for making purchases on the 0% APR credit card. You may incur fees if you transfer a balance from another credit card to the 0% APR credit card.
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