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I remember way back in 2001 when I had a ton of credit card debt – I’m talking $100,000 in credit card bills alone.
I know it sounds awful, and it was. But in my late 20s and early 30s, I was a classic over-spender who’d been mismanaging credit even though I didn’t fully realize it.
In fact, I was in denial about my debt and credit woes for several reasons.
For starters, I had a good job with a nice, six-figure income. Second, I never, ever missed any payments, so bill collectors were not calling me at work or home nor did I ever get dinged with late payment fees or super high-interest rates. Finally, I was doing a lot of other things right: investing in mutual funds, socking away money in my 401(k) plan and protecting my family by having life insurance and disability coverage.
All these things helped me to rationalize my debt issues and made me think I was doing just fine. Until, of course, I realized I wasn’t.
One day, after maxing out my cards – and later getting rejected for new credit card offers – I finally decided to take a cold, hard look at my debts and to tally up all my bills.
After I listed everything in black and white, I’ll admit it was more than a little unnerving to realize I’d amassed just more than $100,000 in credit card debt.
Fortunately, I didn’t panic. I simply resolved to start chipping away at my credit card debt, little by little.
It took me three years to become debt-free, and I’m proud to say that I paid back every penny that I owed – all without ever missing a single payment. In 2004, I wound up writing a book about what I did to knock out my debts. That book, “Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom,” became a New York Times bestseller. It’s sold more than 100,000 copies and is currently in its third edition.
To help pay off my debts, one of the smartest things I did was to start shopping around for the best 0% APR deals available.
I knew that if I could knock my interest rates down dramatically, I would substantially lower the finance charges I’d been paying – and that money could go toward reducing the principal balances on my credit cards.
So, I went on the prowl for credit card offers with a 0% introductory APR. Honestly, back then, doing a balance transfer with a 0% intro rate was often the only way to afford all my payments – and I was mostly making minimum payments.
But because I had an excellent payment history, I was eventually able to get several credit card offers at 0% and to negotiate with my creditors, knocking down my other credit card rates to 2.9% and 4.9%.
These days, if I take advantage of a 0% APR credit card offer it’s not because I’m struggling to make minimum payments. It’s because I’m using my credit cards strategically in some way that will help – and not hurt – my overall finances.
Besides learning the art of delayed gratification and not spending money on things I couldn’t afford, my past experience taught me three important lessons.
First, in a competitive marketplace, banks, credit unions and other credit card issuers will always compete for your business to keep you as a customer or attract you as a new client. So it pays to shop around and always know the latest offers available.
Second, you have a lot more power than you think when it comes to negotiating with financial services firms and getting better deals than you probably thought possible.
And third, a 0% credit card deal can be greatly advantageous to lots of people, even those who aren’t deep in debt.
No matter what your goal, here’s how to use 0% credit card offers to your financial advantage – and where to snag the best 0% intro APR credit card deals.
How you can benefit from a 0% credit card offer
You should seriously consider taking a 0% APR deal if you fit into any of these categories:
- You have existing credit card debt that you are currently unable or unwilling to repay in full.
- Your current interest rates are average to high: 12% to 22% APR or more.
- You are planning to make a large purchase on a credit card and need some time to pay it off. In that case, consider a card with an intro 0% APR on new purchases as opposed to using a balance transfer offer.
- You want to get aggressive about paying off credit card bills and have your future payments go toward the principal, not interest.
- You want to better manage your monthly cash flow and having a 0% offer would help.
- You have a good to excellent credit score (or even just decent credit) and would like to lock in a competitive 0% introductory rate for near-term or future flexibility.
If any of the scenarios above describe you, here are five good credit card offers that feature a 0% intro APR:
Citi is a CardRatings advertiser
Even if you ultimately decide not to take advantage of a new 0% APR credit card deal, such an offer can still benefit you.
How? You can use it as leverage in talking to and negotiating with your existing creditors, just like I did.
There’s nothing to stop you from calling up your current credit card company and saying something like: “I received a lower rate credit card offer from your competitor, XYZ company. Can you match or beat this offer?”
Even if they say “No,” you’re not in any worse position. But chances are, you’ll probably get a sweeter deal.
A survey from LendingTree revealed that 76%% of customers who called their credit card companies to request a lower interest rate get a better deal right there on the spot. So that lower rate – or even better, a nice 0% intro APR from one of the recommendations mentioned above – is often yours for the asking.