Best 0% intro APR credit cards of November 2020
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- Chase Freedom Unlimited® - Best for Cash-Back Rewards
- Chase Freedom Flex℠ - Best for Rotating Categories
- Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card - Best for Purchases With Digital Wallets
- Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express - Best for Everyday Purchase Categories
- Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card - Best for Dining and Entertainment Rewards
- Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - Best for Flexible Categories
- Citi Rewards+℠ Card - Best for Rewards/Points
- Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card - Best for Traveling Abroad
- Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card - Best for the Longest 0% Intro APR Period
- BankAmericard® credit card - Best for the Longest 0% Intro APR Period With Excellent/Good Credit
- Ink Business Cash® Credit Card - Best With Cash Back for Businesses
- American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card - Best With Flat Rate Cash Back for Businesses
Finding the best introductory 0% APR credit card could make a major purchase in your future a lot easier to swallow. Before you consider a store credit card or an outside loan, it's a smart move check out our 0% intro APR interest credit card offers from our partners. Pick the right card and you can spread out your payments over time without paying interest or fees.
Many balk at opening a new card, but it can actually be cheaper than dipping into your savings account since you'll allow that money to remain untouched and still earning interest. And, if done correctly, it's certainly cheaper than taking out a separate loan on which you'l be paying interest.
This course should be carefully considered, though. If you don't pay off the balance before the zero-interest introductory period ends, the standard rate kicks in, and standard credit card rates are rarely cheap forms of a loan. And, if you're seriously late making a monthly payment, you could find the whole deal scrapped and standard or even penalty rates applied. But, for the right person, diligent with managing money, these deals could be too good to pass up. Think of them as interest-free (for a time, at least) loans.
Here are some of our expert picks for the best 0% APR credit cards:
Why We Like It: If you're an excellent money manager, you may not be intrigued by promises of no late fees or penalty rates that some cash-back cards offer – you're probably never going to pay those anyway. But you may be very interested to know you can earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants, 3% at drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases. PLUS, new cardholders can earn 5% on the first $12,000 spent at grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart) in your first year and a $200 bonus just for spending $500 in your first three months as a new cardholder.
The Bonus: Earn $200 cash back once you spend $500 in your first three months as a cardholder. You can also earn 5% cash back on the first $12,000 spent at grocery stores your first year as a cardholder.
0% Interest Details: Chase Freedom Unlimited® features a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases (then, 14.99% - 23.74% Variable).
The Annual Fee: $0
The Rewards: Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants, 3% at drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases - a great opportunity for someone who appreciates a credit card with rewards but who doesn't want to jump through a bunch of hoops to get them.
Credit Needed: Excellent, Good
Cardholder Ratings: Overall score = 86.2; See additional cardholder ratings for this card
- No-annual-fee credit cards don’t always come with a welcome bonus, but this one offers new cardholders who spend at least $500 in the first three months of opening an account $200 cash back. This is a nice way to get membership started.
- Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, no matter the category. Plus, earn 5% cash back on the first $12,000 spent at grocery stores in your first year.
- There’s no cap on the amount of rewards you can earn (besides earning that 5% on grocery store purchases up to $12,000 spent in the first year) and points don’t expire.
- Earning 1.5% cash back on all purchases is great, but if you spend a lot in select categories you might stand to earn more with a rotating or tiered category card that offers higher rewards in those categories.
- If you frequently travel abroad, this might not be the card for you as it charges a 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars fee on all foreign transactions.
Read our full review of Chase Freedom Unlimited®.
Why We Like It: You not only get a 0% intro APR for new purchases for 15 months, then 14.99% - 23.74% Variable but you also get an opportunity to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in quarterly bonus categories, 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1% cash back on other purchases, all without an annual fee.
The Bonus: Earn a $200 bonus, worth 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, after spending $500 within the first three months of account opening.
0% Interest Details: 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases (then, 14.99% - 23.74% Variable).
The Annual Fee: $0
The Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal and 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in categories that rotate quarterly (activation is required each quarter). You can also earn 3% cash back at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases.
Credit Needed: Excellent, Good
- It’s rare to find a credit card with no annual fee that offers bonus cash back in multiple categories. This card covers more categories than many others, especially if you’re looking for a card to use on day-to-day purchases.
- It’s also rare for a card to offer a welcome bonus. You can earn a bonus worth $200 just by spending $500 with the card in the first three months of opening the account. This is not only a valuable bonus, but it also has a fairly low spending threshold to meet.
- This is one of the only credit cards offering cell phone insurance if you use the card to pay your phone bill.
- You can earn 3% and 5% cash back in multiple categories but at least for the 5% you’ll need to remember to activate rotating categories. This, along with all of the different bonus cash back categories can be overwhelming and difficult to manage.
- This isn’t a card you want to use on purchases you make outside of the U.S. because of the 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars fee on all foreign transactions.
Read our full Chase Freedom Flex℠ review
Why We Like It: Not only does this card offer you an introductory period of 0% APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 15 months from account-opening (transfers must be made within 120 days to qualify), it also allows you to rack up a simple-to-understand 1.5% cash back on all your purchases AND up to $600 worth of cellular phone protection when you pay your bill on your card.
The Bonus: Earn a $150 cash rewards bonus after you spend $500 on your card in the first three months. Also, you'll earn 1.8% cash back on your qualifying digital wallet purchases such as Google Pay™ or Apple Pay®, for the first 12 months from account-opening.
0% Interest Details: With this card you can take advantage of an introductory period of 15 months no interest on purchases and qualifying balance transfers made within the first 120 days (then, 13.99%-25.99% Variable); balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee.
The Annual Fee: $0.
The Rewards: Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase with no caps or categories to keep up with. Earn 1.8% back on eligible digital wallet purchases for the first 12 months.
Credit Needed: Excellent, Good
Cardholder Ratings: Overall score = 81.0; See additional cardholder ratings for this card
- New cardholders earn an introductory cash-back bonus of $150 after spending $500 in the first three months of card membership.
- Enjoy a bonus reward rate of 1.8% cash back for the first 12 months when making qualifying digital wallet purchases, otherwise it's 1.5% on all purchases.
- Pay your cellular bill with your card and get up to $600 of protection on your cell phone (subject to a $25 deductible) against covered damage and theft.
- The reward percentage boost for making qualifying digital purchases is nice, but this offer is only good for the first year. After that, those purchases drop to the normal earn rate of 1.5%.
- Simplicity might be what you're after; however, if you spend a lot on particular purchases you might stand to earn more with a rotating or tiered category card that offers higher rewards in those areas.
- This might not be the card for you if you frequently travel abroad as it charges a 3% fee on all foreign transactions.
Read our full Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card review
Why We Like It: The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers cardholders a solid introductory no-interest period on purchases, but also comes with a healthy cash-back rewards program. American Express is a CardRatings advertiser.
The Bonus: Earn 20% back on purchases at Amazon.com on the card in the first six months, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within that same time frame.
0% Interest Details: The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express features a 0% introductory APR of 15 months on purchases (then, 13.99% - 23.99% Variable).
The Annual Fee: $0
The Rewards: Cardholders earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores and 1% back on other purchases.
Credit Needed: Good, Excellent
- For a credit card with no annual fee, Blue Cash Everyday® has high ongoing rewards: 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 spent annually), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% cash back for all other purchases.
- This card offers really solid rewards in a category that benefits the majority of people: U.S. supermarkets.
- Amazon.com is a great place for everyday purchases, and with this card, you can earn 20% back on those purchases for the first six months of card membership, up to $200 back.
- The earn rate on U.S. supermarket purchases is great, especially for a card with no annual fee; however, that earn rate is capped annually at $6,000. After that, users will only earn 1% on those purchases. For many people though, this might not be a problem.
- Be sure to pay attention to what American Express considers a supermarket. For example, superstores such as Walmart and Target do not qualify for 3% back.
- Though the fee is better than some, this might not be the card for you if you frequently travel abroad as it charges a 2.7% fee on all foreign transactions.
Why We Like It: A lengthy 0% APR period, a welcome bonus and generous ongoing rewards make the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card a winner in our book.
The Bonus: New cardholders can earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
0% Interest Details: Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, then 15.49% - 25.49% (Variable).
Annual fee: $0
The Rewards: Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores, and 1% on all other purchases.
Credit needed: Excellent, Good
Cardholder Ratings: Overall score = 87.6; See additional cardholder ratings for this card
- Finally, a card for foodies! We love that this no-annual-fee card offers 3% cash back on dining and entertainment purchases, rewarding us for something we all have to do – eat!
- Not only is this a good card for dining out, but it’s great for eating in as well thanks to 2% earned at grocery stores.
- You can earn a tasty $200 cash bonus after spending just $500 in the first three months after opening your account.
- This is an excellent no-annual-fee card for people whose spending is largely on food, whether dining out or shopping at grocery stores. If that isn't you, you'll want to search for a cash-back card with higher earn rates in other categories.
- If you like to accumulate miles for travel or like to redeem your rewards for merchandise, this is likely not the card for you. It's technically possible to redeem your rewards for things like gift cards, but it's really designed as a cash-back card and the value of redemption changes when you start looking at other redemption options.
Read our full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review.
Why We Like It: When you can pair a solid intro 0% APR period with the opportunity to earn top cash back in a category of your choosing (from a list of six options), you're looking at a winner of a credit card.
The Bonus: Earn a $200 online cash rewards bonus after making $1,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 90 days.
0% Interest Details: Take advantage of an introductory 0% APR period of 15 billing cycles on purchases and on balance transfers made within the first 60 days (then, See Terms)
The Annual Fee: $0
The Rewards: Earn 3% cash back in a category of your choosing from the following list: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings; earn 2% back on your grocery store and wholesale club purchases (3% and 2% earnings apply to the first $2,500 spent quarterly on combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases, then earn 1%); and 1% back on everything else.
Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
Cardholder Ratings: Overall score = 84.1; See additional cardholder ratings for this card
- This card allows you to maximize your cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings. That kind of opportunity is impressive.
- Earn a $200 online cash back bonus after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days after account opening.
- If you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client you could earn 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase made. That means the 3% choice category rewards could be worth as much as 5.25% and the 2% categories could be worth as much as 3.5% back! That’s excellent rewards-earning for any card, but especially for a card with no annual fee.
- One potential downside of this credit card depends on your spending habits. You do get to choose the category you want your cash back rewards in, but the cap is $2,500 per quarter. Do the math, do your homework, and make sure it's worth it for you. You don't want to leave money on the table if you could earn more with another card.
- A balance transfer fee applies of either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.. This is pretty standard for balance transfer credit card offers, though.
- This card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, so if you frequently travel abroad, you might want to consider bringing another card along for your international purchases.
Read our full Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card review.
Why We Like It: With this card you're able to rack up points fast as it essentially rewards points in increments of 10. You'll earn two points for every dollar spent at supermarkets and gas stations (up to $6,000 in purchases each year) and one point for every dollar spent on all other eligible purchases. However, since Citi rounds up points on every purchase to the next highest 10, you'll get a bit more than that. For example, buy a $3 cup of coffee and get 10 points instead of three. Spend $41 at the supermarket and get 90 points instead of 82. Plus at 15 months long, the intro 0% purchase APR offer is good too (after the intro period 13.49% - 23.49% (Variable) APR will apply). Citi is a CardRatings advertiser
The Bonus: Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within three months of opening an account; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com.
0% Interest Details: Enjoy 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months (then, 13.49% - 23.49% (Variable); balance transfers are subject to a fee of $5 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater.
The Annual Fee: $0
The Rewards: Earn 2X ThankYou® points at supermarkets and gas stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X point thereafter. Plus, earn 1X point on all other purchases.
Credit Needed: Excellent
- Rounding up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase is a unique feature that means your points could add up quite quickly.
- An intro 15 months of no interest on purchases and balance transfers is a nice length of time to pay off a transfer or big purchases interest-free.
- Since this cards awards accumulate as ThankYou® points, you can use your rewards for travel, cash back or a number of other redemption options.
- Don't overlook the balance transfer fee of 3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum. That's in-line with other cards' fees, but you should still consider it if you're making a transfer.
- Speaking of fees, this card isn't great for traveling overseas as you'll be charged foreign transaction fees of 3% on every purchase while abroad.
- Keep an eye on the spending cap to earn your 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations – if you'll spend well over that $6,000 per year in those categories combined, you could miss out on higher rewards through another card that doesn't cap those purchases.
Read our full Citi Rewards+℠ Card review.
Why We Like It: We like a card that offers a 0% intro period on both purchases AND gives you the opportunity to earn rewards. This card also makes a great international travel companion as it doesn't charge any foreign transaction fees.
The Bonus: Receive a $200 cash-back bonus after you spend just $500 on purchases within the first three months.
0% Interest Details: The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card offers you an introductory period of 15 months of no interest on purchases (then, 15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)).
The Annual Fee: $0
Rewards: This is a simple card to use and earn rewards. Rack up 1.5% cash back on every purchase, no matter the category and without caps to worry about.
Credit Needed: Excellent, Good
Cardholder Ratings: Overall score = 85.0; See additional cardholder ratings for this card
- New cardholders can easily pocket $200 cash by spending just $500 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account.
- If you’re a relatively light credit card user this is a great card as you won’t have to worry about rotating categories, and the 1.5% cash back you’ll earn on every purchase will really add up fast.
- This card makes a great traveling companion as it doesn’t charge a fee on foreign transactions. This is somewhat rare for no-annual-fee cash-back credit cards.
- This card is best for people who value simple rewards earning over maximum rewards earning. If you're willing to keep up with some categories or spending caps, you can earn much more with a card that offers bonus rewards for certain purchases.
- There is no introductory offer for balance transfers, just purchases. So, if you need to transfer a balance from a high APR card, this isn't the best card to do that.
Read our full Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review.
Why We Like It: The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card is a favorite because it combines an exceptionally long 0% interest period with credit health through FICO Score monitoring.
The Bonus: This is a card that doesn't have a rewards program, but you can think of the money you're saving on interest as your reward.
0% Interest Details: The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card features 0% introductory APR for 18 months from the date of first transfer on balance transfers (all transfers must be made within the first four months), and for 18 months from the date of account opening on new purchases. There is a balance transfer fee of 3% of the amount of each transfer (or $5, whichever is greater). This intro period gives you a year and a half to spread out your payments without paying interest (then, 14.74% - 24.74% Variable).
The Annual Fee: $0
The Rewards: There are no traditional rewards offered with this card.
Credit Needed: Excellent
- If you have a large purchase that will take a while to pay off, this is a clear winner for the task.
- This is an excellent card for those who are looking to consolidate high interest credit card debt, with no annual fee.
- The length of the intro 0% APR period this card offers is fantastic. This intro period gives you a year and a half to spread out your payments without paying interest. After the intro period, 14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR applies.
- There is no traditional rewards program offered with this card.
- This card charges a 3% fee on foreign transactions so it’s probably not the best choice for frequent international travelers.
- It’s all about priorities when determining if this card is right for you. If you’re looking for a low interest card for balance transfers and purchases, this is a great choice. If you’re looking for high-ongoing perks like cash back or airline miles, this isn’t the card for you as it doesn’t earn points on purchases.
Read our full review of the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card.
Why We Like It: For 18 glorious billing cycles, you can get See Terms, as well as balance transfers made within the first 60 days of opening an account. If you're looking to pay off debt by doing a balance transfer, or you want to buy something big and pay it off over time, without being hobbled by interest, this could be your card. Another nice thing, if you pay late, your interest rate won't be automatically raised. This is a nice perk; but before you get too excited, it's important to know that there's still a fee (Up to $40) for paying late – and, of course, if you are super late, you could eventually hurt your credit. If you are only a few days late however, it shouldn't cost you a fortune in the long run.
The Bonus: Paying late won't automatically raise your APR. Be aware, though, that there is still a late fee (Up to $40) for late payments.
0% Interest Details: Enjoy 0% intro APR for your first 18 billing cycles for purchases and for any balance transfers made within the first 60 days of opening your account. After that, See Terms and balance transfers. Balance transfer fees apply.
The Annual Fee: $0
The Rewards: There are no traditional rewards offered with this card, however, you could easily consider the extra money you'll save on interest charges thanks to that 18-month no APR period, as a reward.
Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
Cardholder Ratings: Overall score = 77.4; See additional cardholder ratings for this card
- Having 18 billing cycles of 0% intro APR is impressive, and this time frame is for both new purchases AND balance transfers. After that, See Terms and balance transfers.
- Access your FICO® score for free within the Bank of America online banking app or your mobile banking app.
- No penalty APR. Paying late won't automatically raise your interest rate. Other account pricing and terms apply.
- This is a no-frills card that does not offer rewards for cardholders.
- There is a balance transfer fee of either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.. This is not unusual for balance transfer credit cards, however.
See our full BankAmericard® credit card review.
Why We Like It: As a top rewards card for small businesses, this card offers cash back on all purchases without any limit on how much you can earn. You can request employee cards at no additional cost and set individual spending limits on these as well. Of course, the card also comes with a solid intro 0% APR offer on purchases, at 12 months long. Better still? There’s a cash-back bonus for new cardholders, AND no annual fees.
The Bonus: Earn a $750 cash back bonus after spending $7,500 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account.
0% Interest Details: Enjoy 0% introductory APR on purchases made within 12 months of the account's opening. After that, a 13.24% - 19.24% Variable APR rate will apply.
The Annual Fee:: $0
The Rewards:: Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year; 2% back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year; and 1% back on all other purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn.
Credit Needed:: Excellent, Good
Cardholder Ratings: Overall score = 83.2; See additional cardholder ratings for this card
- This card is routinely among our top picks for small business credit cards without an annual fee thanks in large part to its rewards of as much as 5% cash back in popular small business spending categories.
- “Office supplies” doesn’t just mean ink refills and staplers. Big ticket items like computers, software, and office furniture all earn 5% as well, offering you the chance to profit big.
- New cardholders can jump start their rewards earning with $750 bonus cash back after spending $7,500 in the first three months of card membership.
- Be mindful of the cap on bonus cash back. If you know you'll spend more than $25,000 in the 2% and 5% categories, you might be better off with a card with a higher limit, or no limit, instead.
- This isn’t the best card for frequent international travelers as it charges a fee on all foreign transactions.
Read our full Ink Business Cash® Credit Card review.
Why We Like It: From workflow to inventory to floor plans, your business is constantly changing. This card gives you the power to spend beyond your credit limit with Expanded Buying Power. Just remember, the amount you can spend above your credit limit is not unlimited. It adjusts with your use of the card, your payment history, credit record, and other factors. And this is all in addition to the introductory APR offer and cash back on eligible purchases.
The Bonus: There's no traditional bonus offered with this card.
0% Interest Details: Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from account opening, then 13.24% - 19.24% Variable.
The Annual Fee: No annual fee
The Rewards: Earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1%. Cash back earned is automatically credited to your statement.
Credit Needed: Good, Excellent
Cardholder Ratings: Overall score = 86.6; See additional cardholder ratings for this card
- There is an annual spending cap on the amount of bonus rewards you can earn, yes, but it’s quite high for a card with no annual fee.
- Your business needs likely change all the time. From office supplies to airfare, this card rewards you for it all.
- This card offers Expanded Buying Power, which allows you to spend beyond your credit limit. Just remember, the amount you can spend above you credit limit is not unlimited. It adjusts with your use of the card, your payment history, and credit record.
- Though the annual spend cap on bonus rewards is quite high, it could be prohibitive. If you know that your business spends more than $50,000 each year, you might want to consider another card.
- This isn’t the best card for frequent international travelers as it charges a 2.7% fee on all foreign transactions.
Read our full American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card review
Read the full Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review
Read the full Chase Freedom Unlimited® review
Read the full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review
Read the full Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card review
Read the full Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card review
Read the full Discover it® Balance Transfer review
Read the full review of the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever.
Read the full BankAmericard® credit card review
Read the full Ink Business Cash® Credit Card review
Read the full American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card review
WHAT IS A 0% INTRO APR CREDIT CARD?
It might seem obvious but let's drill down a little bit into what a 0% intro APR credit card is. Let's say you get a credit card that offers 0% interest for 12 months and over the next 12 months you pay off a sofa that you purchased for $1,500.
Meanwhile, your best friend buys a sofa for $1,500 (use your imagination; there's a sofa sale going on) and pays everything off over the same period with a credit card that has a 13.99% APR.
With your no interest credit card, you've spent $1,500. Your best friend spent more like $1,723.84 (the $1,500 plus roughly an extra $223.84 in interest).
So you can see that a 0% intro APR credit card can be a great money-saver. If you want to make an expensive purchase and don't want to (or can't) pay it all off in that billing cycle, you can spread out the payments and keep your cash flow manageable. But, of course, that's assuming you paid off the $1,500 within 12 months.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you paid off $1,000 of the sofa and you still have $500 left over - and that you also bought a TV, a computer, some lawn furniture and a pizza. Once the zero-interest period ended, let's say you're left with a balance of $2,114.56. And your interest shoots up to a 13.99% APR, just like your best friend's (which is actually a pretty low APR, by the way). Well, you can see how suddenly the zero-interest period on your credit card isn't as useful as you thought it would be. Suddenly, even if you're diligent and pay off that balance within the next 12 months, you'll pay an extra $315.55 in interest for those purchases.
And let's say that two months later, you have some car trouble, and you have to shell out a lot of money to get it fixed, and you miss a credit card payment, and your APR shoots up over 20% as a result. Do you really want us to show you the numbers for that? It isn't pretty.
Obviously the math and money only work out well if you pay off what you owe before the zero-interest period is over. If you struggle with money, paying for a big purchase with a zero-interest credit card and hoping that you can manage to pay it off before the interest period ends is a huge gamble.
WHAT IS THE BEST 0% APR CARD?
The best 0% introductory APR credit card is usually the card offering both a 0% APR on purchases and balances, for the longest period of time. In this case, it would be the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card because it offers a 0% introductory APR for 18 months on balance transfers (from the date of first transfer - balance transfers must be completed within four months of account opening) and for 18 months from account opening on new purchases. After the introductory periods, regular APR will apply (14.74% - 24.74% Variable.)
Although this card offers the longest balance transfer and purchase 0% intro APR combo, there are other cards offering longer periods for one or the other. Deciding which 0% intro APR credit card is the best for you will depend on factors such as whether you need to transfer a balance from another higher APR card, whether you need a longer 0% intro APR for a large purchase you need to make or whether you need both.
WHAT DOES 0% INTRO APR MEAN?
Most simply put, a credit card with 0% APR means that it does not charge interest. You read that right: zero interest. Sound too good to be true? It's not; however, not all 0% APR cards operate the same way. Credit card issuers typically offer a 0% introductory APR for purchases or balance transfers (or both) allowing you to transfer a balance from a high APR card or make a large purchase and pay it down within a specific period of time without paying interest. This can help you pay off debt without the additional expense of interest.
HOW DO 0% INTRO APR CREDIT CARDS WORK?
Most often, 0% APR is an introductory rate. That means you won't have to pay any interest on purchases or balance transfers for a specific number of months after you open an account. Some cards limit the offer to only purchases or balance transfers while others offer 0% APR on both. Some issuers will even offer a few months on one, and an extra few months on the other, so just be sure to pay close attention to the offer details.
However, there can be caveats to 0% APR cards. For instance, a card may offer 12 months of zero interest, but that could only apply to balance transfers made within the first 60 days. What's more, even if you aren't being charged interest, you might still have to pay a balance transfer fee. Read the fine print before transferring money since the terms for each card can be different.
Also, be aware that if you miss a payment or are late, there could be a penalty such as increased APR, so you’ll want to be sure to still complete your payments on time. And furthermore, if you have a balance on your account when the introductory 0% APR period expires, you’ll be charged the regular APR rate on that balance, so be sure you pay your card off or at least down as much as possible before the introductory period expires.
WHICH CREDIT CARD HAS THE LONGEST INTRODUCTORY INTEREST-FREE PERIOD?
The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card and the Citi Simplicity® Card have some of the longest interest-free periods of any offers we've ever seen. The Simplicity® card offers 0% introductory APR for 21 months from the date of your first balance transfer (balance transfers must be completed in the first four months of opening an account) and 12 months of no interest on new purchases from date of account opening, while the Diamond card offers a slightly shorter, though still impressive, 18 month intro 0% APR offer on balance transfers (from the date of first transfer - balance transfers must be completed within four months of account opening) and for 18 months from account opening on new purchases. After the introductory periods, regular APR will apply (14.74% - 24.74% Variable for Diamond Preferred® and 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable) for Citi Simplicity®).
The BankAmericard® credit card is another solid choice. At 18 billing cycles, the intro 0% APR period for balance transfers AND new purchases that this card offers makes it a solid competitor to the Citi options. After the intro period, regular APR of See Terms will apply.
GET TO KNOW YOUR 0% INTRO APR CREDIT CARD
Read the fine print. You should do that with any credit card, of course. If you do read it, you may learn that some assumptions you had are wrong. For instance, zero-interest doesn't always apply to balance transfers (and so you may transfer that $7,000 debt only to discover your interest rate is higher than what it was on the old card), and there's likely no credit card that exists where you can have zero-interest on a cash advance. So especially if you intend to use the no-interest credit card for something other than new purchases, read through that contract with all of the legalese - or call customer service with a lot of questions prepared.
Don't miss a payment. Never a good idea to miss any payment with any credit card (it will ding your credit), but if you miss a payment with a zero-interest period credit card, it may mean that your zero-interest period comes to a screeching halt far sooner than you expected. Remember - it's zero interest for a certain period of time NOT zero payments for a certain period of time. In all seriousness, if you're new to the world of credit cards, it can be easy to forget that.
Be on top of the APR. Yes, the APR is zero. But what about afterward when it's no longer zero? If the APR jumps to some crazy percentage, or a percentage you consider crazy, will you be okay with that? Especially if you sometimes carry revolving debt? And if you plan on buying something big that will take you awhile to pay off, what happens if you don't pay it off? Is the interest actually deferred, meaning that if you don't pay off the debt, you'll be charged with retroactive interest for the full balance? Store branded credit cards are infamous for doing that.
Be aware of any fees. The term 0% intro APR might fool you into thinking your credit card has zero fees. But you want to look at the annual fee, the foreign transaction fee, balance transfer fee and so on. The fees may not be a big deal to you. Many credit cards have annual fees, for instance, but the rewards that come with them are so appealing that it negates the cost. But everyone's financial situation is different, and if zero interest is your main reason for applying for this card, a hefty annual fee may mean that this isn't the right card for you, even with a zero-interest period.
Pay attention to the length of time you'll receive zero interest. More than obvious, right? Still, it should probably be said. Some cards offer zero interest for six months. Others for 12. Some for 18. Some do it for billing cycles rather than months. All the more reason to compare credit cards and not apply for the first zero-interest period credit card that you see. Furthermore, some offer 0% interest for 18 months on balance transfers, but only for 12 months on purchases, for instance. Getting those confused could mean a hefty chunk of interest appearing on your statement.
DO I NEED A 0% INTRO APR CREDIT CARD?
That's the big question, isn't it? Are you looking at 0% intro APR credit cards because you have superior credit and you'd simply like to save even more money by not paying interest for a period of time? Then you're probably a fine candidate for getting a zero-interest period on a credit card. As you probably know, when you have stellar credit, and your paychecks are plentiful, it can become even easier to save money, if you're looking for opportunities.
But just as positive money momentum can build on itself and save you even more money, you can create negative money momentum as well. And so if you're looking into getting a zero-interest credit card as a way to make a bad situation less bad, as noted earlier, you could be playing a risky game. What you don't want is for the no-interest credit card to eventually help your debt get worse.
Mainly, ask yourself - do you have a reason you want this card? If you're thinking of getting a zero-interest credit card as a way to manage holiday spending, for instance, in order to buy family and friends gifts without paying any interest, that's arguably a solid financial strategy and a perfectly good reason for getting a zero-interest credit card, assuming you know you can easily make your payments and your economy isn't likely to collapse in the near future.
Or maybe you know your car is on its last legs, and so you're not planning on spending anything, or anything major, with your zero-interest credit card unless you wind up at the mechanic's. That, too, seems like a sound plan. You'd be smart to also start putting money aside as well, but, hey, a zero-interest credit card could be a very helpful safety net - for the six months, 12 months or however long the zero-interest period lasts.
But if you just want a zero-interest credit card because it sounds like a good idea and you're already dreaming about your zero-interest shopping spree, well, that isn't necessarily a bad reason. But it's best to have a plan. Maybe it would be better to wait until you have a good reason before you start looking for some 0 percent APR credit cards.
Think of 0% intro APR cards as tools that have a specific purpose rather than a toy to play with on a rainy day.
WHEN SHOULD YOU USE A 0% INTRO APR CREDIT CARD?
This is a pretty easy, almost self-explanatory question, so we'll just run through the basics. When should you use your 0% intro APR credit card? When you…
…want to rack up your rewards. If you have a 0% APR period on a credit card, you can spend more (within a budget you can pay off in the zero-interest period!) with that freedom of not having to pay interest for awhile. So while typically it's not a good idea to spend money you normally wouldn't spend just to get rewards, in this case, it might not be a bad plan. Obviously, you shouldn't use your credit card to pay for things you don't want, simply to get rewards. That would be pretty dumb. But if you're buying things you want and will need sooner or later, and you know you can pay everything off, this might be a good time to utilize your credit card to maximize your rewards as much as possible.
…want to avoid paying interest on necessary but expensive purchases that are going to take some time to pay off. The imagination can run wild here, why you might want to use your zero-interest period. Your home's heating unit broke down, and it's going to cost a mint to fix it. Your kid's college tuition bill is due, and you'd rather pay it now and then pay back your credit card slowly, over several months. It's the aforementioned holidays, and you have a lot of spending ahead of you, or your car broke down and needs expensive repairs. You want some new furniture and don't want to dip into your savings for it; you're financially responsible and would rather pay it off over several months and skip the interest. That, too, is reasonable. Life is expensive, and a zero-interest period on a credit card can help with that, for a limited amount of time.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT 0% INTRO APR CREDIT CARD
OK. So you're thinking that you're going to look around for a 0% intro APR credit card offer. But, as is hopefully already clear, don't just zero in (pun only slightly intended) on the first credit card that you see. You'll want to think through a few issues first.
What's your credit score? Why does this matter? Because as a general rule, credit cards only offer zero-interest credit cards to people with extremely good credit. It may not seem fair since the people who are struggling with their money could use zero-interest credit cards the most. But people with good credit have the best track records for paying back loans, and credit card issuers, because they want customers who are likely to pay them back, reward them with the lowest interest rates - and you can't get lower than zero.
All of this means that if you have a fair or poor credit score, you might struggle to find a zero-interest credit card for which you'll qualify. Local credit unions or a bank with which you already have a relationship are likely your best options for a zero-interest card if you're in the fair/average credit range (roughly 630-689); a score below 630 likely means you won't qualify for a zero-interest card.
Remember too that your credit score generally goes down slightly when you apply for any credit card. That means applying for the wrong card is likely to mean that not only will you be declined, your score may drop a bit as well.
What's the length of time of the zero-interest period? It's best to try to get a credit card with a long period of zero interest. Some credit cards offer as long as 21 months to pay for products and services without interest. Can you imagine if you applied for a six-month card without realizing that there were some that will let you pay without shelling out interest for 12 months, or 18 or 21 months? You'd be kicking yourself.
Now, your credit, again, has to be stellar to be approved for a credit card with a 21-month zero-interest period. Another reason to comparison shop: If you're planning on buying something big, you'll want to figure out how much money a month you'll like spend to pay it off. For that, you can use a payoff calculator (or any calculator, really). That said, what you spend a month to pay something off also depends on your card's monthly minimum payment.
Are there other features that the credit card has that you like, or dislike? That's important, too. If the APR is insane after the zero-interest period is over, or there aren't rewards you are likely to use, or you think the annual fee is too high, well, those are all good reasons to look for a better zero-interest credit card. After all, you're presumably going to keep using the card for years after the zero-interest period is over. It would be smart to like your credit card. Think of it as dating someone. The zero-interest feature is attractive, akin to someone's soulful eyes or appealing physique, and it may be what draws you in. But if you want a real relationship that goes the distance, your credit card better have some substance (i.e., brains and a personality).
Think about your long-term goals. Again, why are you doing this? Are you mostly thinking about getting a rewards card and using the zero interest to help you rack 'em up before you pay everything off within the intro period? OK, sounds good. Are you buying something big, and you want to help pay for it over the long haul instead of within a month? Again, that sounds great. Is this a Hail Mary pass to help you get you out of debt? Yikes. This may not go too well.
APPLYING FOR A 0% INTRO APR CREDIT CARD
Once you find a no-interest introductory period on a credit card that you're excited about, applying for it is the easiest part of the process.
You'll need the usual information, like your name, address, Social Security number and annual income. You'll likely be asked if you're employed and how much your mortgage or rent is. You submit your information, and usually, within seconds, you'll have an answer. Or you may be told that you'll have your answer in a week or so. Which, unfortunately, as you know if you've been turned down for credit cards before, is also an answer.
But assuming your answer is that you were accepted, you should have your zero-interest credit card before you know it.
TIPS FOR USING A 0% INTRO APR CREDIT CARD
Ok, now that you've decided you need a 0% intro APR card and you've applied for the one that best meets your needs and fits within your credit score, you need to make a plan for using it well. Here are a few tips:
Don't max out the card. It could be tempting to treat this card like it won't have any impact on your credit score since it's basically a free loan during that zero-interest period. But that would be wrong. This card will still impact your credit utilization percentage. - the number that refers to how much of your available credit are you using at any given time; it's a significant part of what makes up your credit score.
Now, if you opened the card specifically to make a large purchase and pay it off over time and you don't anticipate needing to apply for a loan anytime soon, the hit your credit score takes when you all but max out the card probably won't be significant enough to matter. Just be laser-focused on paying off the card and bringing down that balance, and by extension improving your credit utilization. Which brings us to our next tip.
Make a plan for paying off the card within the zero-interest period. Whether you have six months or 21 months of zero interest, you'll want to do your best to have it totally paid off in that time frame.
Among the WORST things you can do with these cards is bask in the beauty of a zero-interest period only to wake up suddenly and realize you only have one month to pay off the balance before the APR shoots up.
Instead, do the math and figure out how much you need to pay each month in order to get the balance taken care of in time. Then start going after it right away. If your income and budget are steady, consider setting up a couple of automatic payments each month for a set amount that you know will more than take care of that balance within the 0% time frame. For instance, if you've put $10,000 on a card with a 12-month 0% period, you'll want to pay at least $834 on the card each month to pay down the balance in time.
If your income isn't regular enough for automatic payments, at least set an alert in your phone or on your calendar so that you remember to make at least the minimum payment each month before your due date.
Speaking of minimum payments. Don't rely on the minimum payment due amount to get your balance paid off within the 0% period; it simply won't do the trick. As noted in the tip above, you'd need to pay just under $834 each month to pay off that $10,000 balance in 12 months. There's no way your minimum payment on the card is $834. In fact, credit card minimum payments are often only 1-5 percent of the balance due plus whatever interest has accrued in that month (issuers also set a bottom minimum payment amount that it will never fall below). That means the minimum payment on a $10,000 balance with 0% interest could be as little as $100. No chance that pays off your balance within the 0% period.
To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express(See Rates and Fees); American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card (See Rates and Fees)
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