Low introductory rate credit cards

By updated on April 20, 2014

If you are planning a major purchase in the next few months and want an easy way to spread the payments out, you may want to consider applying for a zero APR or low introductory rate credit card.  Financing new purchases with a low intro rate credit card can result in big savings.  The introductory period on these credit cards typically ranges from 6 months to 18 months or more.  You'll need an excellent to good credit score to qualify for most low introductory rate offers.

What are low introductory rate credit cards?

Credit card companies know that savvy consumers are looking for the best rates on credit cards, so sometimes they offer a low interest rate for a limited time period to attract new cardholders. After the initial period, the interest rate will usually rise to a standard interest rate. Often, there are different interest rates charged for balance transfers versus new purchases, so make sure you truly understand the interest rate structure, fees and minimum finance charge to decide whether one of these credit cards works for you.

How do you qualify for a low APR credit card? Credit card companies assign you an interest rate according to the perceived risk that you will default, or fall behind on repaying your credit card debt. If you have poor credit or a history of problems with credit card debt, you may not qualify for a low intro rate credit card. Find out your credit score before you apply and see if you need to improve your credit before you can qualify for zero APR credit cards. Most cards that come with zero or low intro APR require excellent credit.

What should I look for in a low introductory rate credit card offer?

Before you can choose the best credit card for your needs, you must identify your goals. If you have credit card debt to pay with a balance transfer, you should compare the following features:

  1. Initial interest rate
  2. Length of introductory term
  3. Interest rate after the introductory term ends
  4. Balance transfer fee
  5. Annual fee, and whether it is waived the first year

The best low rate credit cards have the longest introductory period with the lowest interest rate and the lowest (or no) annual fee. After checking these elements, be sure to check the minimum finance charge so you can estimate your monthly payments. There are plenty of credit card offers on this page to choose among.

How can I compare the best low rate cards for a balance transfer?

You can use a credit card payoff calculator to estimate the size of your payments and how long it will take you to reduce your balance to zero at various interest rates and payment plans. While it may seem to make sense to jump at a zero percent interest rate, you may be better off with a slightly higher interest rate for a longer period if you won't be able to pay your balance in full before the introductory period ends.

For instance, if you want to pay off a $1,500 credit card bill and find a card with zero percent interest for six months, you would need to make a payment of $250 per month to pay it off in time. If you are charged a balance transfer fee of 5 percent, that adds another $75 to the balance. You may want to look into a card with a low interest rate of 3 percent or 4 percent for 12 months to give yourself more time to completely pay off your credit card debt.

Are there any drawbacks to a low introductory rate credit card?

There are two main pitfalls with a low introductory rate credit card. The first comes along with the word "introductory". This means that the low interest rate that is enticing you to apply for the card is temporary. Make sure you read the fine print and know when the interest rate will rise and how much it will go up before you sign on for a new card. That's why it is so important to compare credit card offers.

The second pitfall is that these cards are generally only available for consumers with good or excellent credit. Before you apply, check out your credit report and see if you need to improve your credit first.

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Discover it® card

Editor's Rating

  • Fair. No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. Pay up to midnight ET online or by phone on your due date without a fee. Plus, paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Generous. 5% cash back at Home Improvement Stores, Furniture Stores and Bed Bath & Beyond® on up to $1,500 in purchases from April through June 2014.*
  • Human. 100% U.S.-based customer service available any time. *Click "Apply" to see rates, rewards, and free FICO® Credit Score terms and other information.
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Purchase Intro

APR: 0% Intro APR on purchases

Period: 14 months

Purchase APR

10.99% - 22.99% Variable*

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% Intro APR

Balance Transfer Intro Period

14 months

Annual Fee

$0 

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Editor's Rating

  • Get 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 18 months. After that, the APR will be 11.99%-21.99% based upon your creditworthiness.*
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer.
  • Citi® Easy DealsSM Get what you want for less. Earn Citi Easy Deals Points for the purchases you make with your card. Redeem your points for great online deals on name-brand merchandise, gift cards and even local deals.
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Purchase Intro

APR: 0%*

Period: 18 months on Purchases*

Purchase APR

11.99% - 21.99%* Variable

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0%*

Balance Transfer Intro Period

18 months on Balance Transfers*

Annual Fee

$0* 

Chase Slate®

Editor's Rating

  • Pay less interest. Save on balances and new purchases
  • $0 balance transfer fee -- introductory offer!
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
Apply Now Credit Needed Good

Purchase Intro

APR: 0% Intro APR on purchases

Period: 15 months

Purchase APR

12.99%, 17.99%, 22.99% Variable

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% Intro APR

Balance Transfer Intro Period

15 months on balance transfers

Annual Fee

$0 

Capital One® Platinum Prestige Credit Card

Editor's Rating

  • Transfer a balance for 0% intro APR until July 2015
  • Get 0% intro APR on all purchases until July 2015
  • Enjoy no annual fee
Apply Now Credit Needed Good

Purchase Intro

APR: 0% intro on purchases

Period: until July 2015

Purchase APR

10.9% - 18.9% (V) 

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% intro on balance transfers

Balance Transfer Intro Period

until July 2015

Annual Fee

$0 

Discover it®

Editor's Rating

  • Fair. No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. Pay up to midnight ET online or by phone on your due date without a fee. Plus, paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Generous. 5% cash back at Home Improvement Stores, Furniture Stores and Bed Bath & Beyond® on up to $1,500 in purchases from April through June 2014.*
  • Human. 100% U.S.-based customer service available any time. *Click "Apply" to see rates, rewards, and free FICO® Credit Score terms and other information.
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Purchase Intro

APR: 0% Intro APR on purchases

Period: 6 months

Purchase APR

10.99% - 22.99% Variable*

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% Intro APR

Balance Transfer Intro Period

18 months

Annual Fee

$0 

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Editor's Rating

  • Earn unlimited 1.25 miles on every purchase, every day
  • No annual fee
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $200 in travel
Apply Now Credit Needed Good

Purchase Intro

APR: 0% intro on purchases

Period: until April 2015

Purchase APR

11.9% - 19.9% (V) 

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro Period

N/A

Annual Fee

$0 

Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard® - Earn 2x on All Purchases

Editor's Rating

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. 40,000 bonus miles equates to $400 off your next travel redemption!
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months after account opening. After that, variable APR, currently 14.99% or 18.99%, based upon your creditworthiness.
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Purchase Intro

APR: 0% Intro APR on Purchases

Period: 12 months

Purchase APR

14.99% or 18.99% Variable

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% Intro APR on balance transfers

Balance Transfer Intro Period

12 Months

Annual Fee

$89 - Waived first year 

Citi Simplicity® Visa® Card

Editor's Rating

  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 12.99% - 21.99% based on your creditworthiness.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • No late fees - EVER
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Purchase Intro

APR: 0%*

Period: 18 months on Purchases*

Purchase APR

12.99 - 21.99% Variable

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0%*

Balance Transfer Intro Period

18 months on Balance Transfers*

Annual Fee

$0* 

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Editor's Rating

  • One-time $100 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories and no sign ups needed to earn cash rewards
Apply Now Credit Needed Good

Purchase Intro

APR: 0% intro on purchases

Period: until January 2015

Purchase APR

12.9% - 22.9% (V) 

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% intro on balance transfers

Balance Transfer Intro Period

until January 2015

Annual Fee

$0 

Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard® - Earn 1x on All Purchases

Editor's Rating

  • Start by earning 20,000 bonus miles when you make $1,000 or more in purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. 20,000 bonus miles equates to $200 off your next trip!
  • 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases for the first 12 months after account opening. After that, variable APR, currently 14.99% or 18.99%, based upon your creditworthiness.
  • Earn 2X miles on travel and dining purchases
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Purchase Intro

APR: 0% Intro APR on Purchases

Period: 12 months

Purchase APR

14.99% or 18.99% Variable

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers

Balance Transfer Intro Period

12 Months

Annual Fee

$0 

Capital One® Classic Platinum Credit Card

Editor's Rating

  • 0% intro APR on purchases until January 2015
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
Apply Now Credit Needed Average/Fair

Purchase Intro

APR: 0% intro on purchases

Period: until January 2015

Purchase APR

22.9% (V) 

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro Period

N/A

Annual Fee

$39 

Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card

Editor's Rating

  • Earn $100 cash back after $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back every quarter in must-have categories. Right now, on purchases at The Home Depot®, home furnishing and home and garden stores from 4/1/14 through 6/30/14.
  • Enrollment each quarter is quick and easy
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Purchase Intro

APR: 0%

Period: 12 months on Purchases*

Purchase APR

12.99% - 22.99%* Variable

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0%

Balance Transfer Intro Period

12 months on Balance Transfers*

Annual Fee

$0* 

These quotes are from credit card issuers which have paid for a link to their website. Offers are subject to change without notice and may not be the same for all consumers.