Last summer, when banks scrambled to comply with waves of new capitalization requirements and credit card regulations, it looked like 0% APR promotions were facing the chopping block. After all, in the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse and investors' reluctance to purchase collateralize debt, credit card issuers tried to shake customers loose instead of their usual routine of adding new accounts.
The strategy may have worked a little too well.
Federal Reserve statistics show that Americans owe about 15% less on their credit cards than they did two years ago. And while some of that drop in credit card debt has come from defaults, most of us have used the recession as an excuse to buckle down and pay off our outstanding balances. Now that banks have adjusted to the "new normal," we're seeing the return of some great 0% APR credit card offers, like these:
Citi® Platinum Select® MasterCard®
Editor's Note: This limited-time offer has expired.
If you're the kind of consumer that just wants to save money without a lot of frills, consider checking out the Citi Platinum Select MasterCard. While most card issuers save their zero percent offers for prospects with excellent credit, Citi has reportedly been fairly generous with approvals for this product. You're giving up the opportunity to earn points, miles, or cash back rebates with this platinum card. However, you're gaining a hard-to-find, 18-month, 0% APR on new purchases.
Why so generous? Because the 18-month, no interest balance transfer offer carries a 3% service fee. If you intend to pay down that balance transfer before the promotional period expires, you'll still save money compared to any card that's charging you over 3% interest. Don't miss your due date, though. The bank still runs a kind of internal universal default program that can hike your interest rates on all your Citigroup credit cards to 29% or higher if you fail to pay any of your Citi cards on time.
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
During 2008's credit card crunch, Capital One gained some fans by becoming one of the first banks to adopt easier-to-read statements and "plain language" mailers. Now, they're trying to lure more jetsetters to their brand with the VentureOne Rewards card. You'll need a pristine credit score to get this card, but you'll get a bunch of great perks.
Like other cards under the Venture umbrella, this product gives you flexible travel rewards and plenty of bonus opportunities. Travelers already love that Capital One doesn't charge foreign transaction fees for overseas purchases. And with a fixed-date, 0% APR promotional period for new purchases, you can spread out the cost of your next trip without worrying about finance charges.
Slate® from Chase
Chase has mounted an aggressive media campaign to promote its Blueprint account management services. Until now, consumers have been used to a pretty simple relationship with their credit card companies: buy stuff, get bill, pay bill, repeat. Chase has leveraged online technology to help cardholders take their account management to a new level. Their Web site can help you budget to pay off your debt on a timetable you select, or to manage major purchases in ways that minimize your finance charges.
If you want to get some of your credit card debt from other banks onto Chase's new platform, their Slate card offers an attractive balance transfer option. Most approved customers can qualify for fifteen months at zero percent introductory APR for balance transfers. And zero introductory balance transfer fee on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that the balance transfer fee is listed as: either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. Even if you need to pay that transfer down beyond the promotional period, Blueprint can still help you save money compared to your current credit card. You'll also enjoy zero percent introductory APR on new purchases for a fifteen months, with Blueprint tools that remind you how much you'll need to send in to avoid paying interest.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
Like the Citi Platinum Select card, Citi's Diamond Preferred Card offers new cardholders an 18 month zero introductory APR on balance transfers with only a 3% fee, and a variable APR beyond the promotional period currently at 11.99% to 21.99% based on creditworthiness. This card also offers 24/7 access to personalized concierge service, unforgettable live entertainment experiences through Citi Private Pass, and $0 liability on unauthorized purchases with Citi Identity Theft Solutions.
Like Capital One's VentureOne card, the Citi Diamond Preferred Card requires applicants to maintain very high credit scores. And like Citi's other cards, this product isn't ideal if you tend to press your luck with payment due dates. Use this card to manage a balance transfer along with everyday purchases, and you could end up ahead on the deal.
Offers like these send encouraging signs to consumers that credit card issuers still want to compete on both price and service. With recent concerns in the press about the sudden competitive advantages of community banks and credit unions, it's great to see three of the major players in consumer lending offering ways to save money while managing credit responsibly.