Comparing Low Interest Credit Card Offers
Updated: October 15, 2019
Although it's usually best to pay off the balance each month, sometimes that isn't possible. That's where low interest cards come in. If you want to look at how interest rates work on credit cards, look no further. We crunched the numbers on more than 800 credit cards to determine the best credit cards with low interest rates, and also included information on how to best utilize these cards. Whether you want to understand the mechanics of our best low interest cards or the difference between interest and APR, we can help. Here, we look at:
Wondering if you qualify? Want to understand how your score affects your interest rates? We look at that and more.
Editor's notes on the best low interest credit cards
Discover it® Cash Back
The ongoing rewards and the first-year bonus feature are unsurpassed. Add to that, there is no annual fee.
There's no sign-up bonus on this card, and the purchase and travel benefits are nonexistent.
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
If you are looking for a starter travel rewards card, this is a good one to pick. It has great hotel rewards when purchasing on Hotels.com/venture through January 2020 and the sign-up bonus and ongoing rewards are pretty good.
While the Capital One VentureOne carries a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months (then 13.74% - 23.74% variable), no such luck with balance transfers, making it an unfortunate choice if you want to pay off another card's balance over time with no interest charges.
Discover it® Balance Transfer
The Discover it Balance Transfer not only has the same great rewards of the Discover it Cash Back, it also has a robust 0% intro APR on balance transfers of 18 months (it's 13.74%-24.74% variable after that).
The 0% intro APR offer on purchases is rock-bottom in length at only 6 months, and like the Discover it Cash Back, the travel and purchase benefits are nowhere to be seen.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Nowhere else will you find the sign-up bonus of this card with no annual fee. Add to that, the ongoing rewards are unparalleled.
If you are really looking for a balance transfer or purchase offer with a long intro APR, this might not be the card for you.
Citi® Double Cash Card
This card's ongoing rewards of 1% cash back when you spend then another 1% when you pay for the purchase make it top-of-line among flat-rate cash back cards.
As superior as the Citi Double Cash's rewards are, its lack of a 0% intro APR on purchases (then 15.74% - 25.74% variable) may give you pause. Also, there's no sign-up bonus.
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Quicksilver does double duty as both a rewards card and a 0% intro APR card, making it a good option for the long haul.
While this card's regular APR starts out below the national average, it's not by much. After the 0% intro APR offer ends, the rate is 15.74%-25.74% variable. The Discover cards are much better in this realm.
BankAmericard® credit card
The 18-billing cycle intro 0% APR offer on both purchases and balance transfers made in the first 60 days is excellent (after that it's 14.74% - 24.74% variable). There is also no penalty APR.
Unfortunately, the BankAmericard has no sign-up bonus or ongoing rewards, which makes this not a good option for a seeker of rewards.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
The best of the tiered cash back credit cards, the Blue Cash Preferred now offers boosted rewards on such categories as select U.S. streaming services, at U.S. supermarkets and multiple forms of transit.
While this card has a 0% intro APR offer on both purchases and balance transfers for 12 months (then 14.74% - 25.74% variable), neither offer is long, making it not a top choice for paying down balances.
Wells Fargo Platinum card
The purchase and qualifying balance transfer offers of 18 months each with 0% intro APR are top-notch, making this card a first stop for paying down balances.
The Wells Fargo Platinum card has no sign-up bonus or ongoing rewards, and the regular APR that kicks in after the 0% offers starts higher at 17.24%-26.74% variable.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card
This card is competitive in all sorts of ways, from the sign-up bonus to the ongoing rewards to the 0% intro offer on both purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 15 months (then 15.74% - 27.74% variable).
The balance transfer fee heads into the upper range of 5% (with a minimum of $5) if you make the transfer after 120 days from opening your account. It's 3% or $5, whichever is greater, up to 120 days. Also, there's a foreign transaction fee of 3%.
Compare the best low APR credit cards of 2019
|Credit Card||Best For:||0% Purchase APR Period||Regular APR||CreditCards.com Rating|
|Discover it® Cash Back||Low interest||14 months||13.74% - 24.74% Variable||3.7 / 5|
|Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card||Low fees||12 months||13.74% - 23.74% Variable||3.0 / 5|
|Discover it® Balance Transfer||First year bonus||6 months||13.74%- 24.74% Variable||4.5 / 5|
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card||No annual fee||12 months||15.74% - 27.74% Variable||3.5 / 5|
|Citi® Double Cash Card||Cash back||N/A||15.74% - 25.74% Variable||1.4 / 5|
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card||Low balance transfer fee||15 months||15.74% - 25.74% Variable||3.3 / 5|
|BankAmericard® credit card||Long balance transfer offer||18 billing cycles||14.74% - 24.74% Variable||3.6 / 5|
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||Rewards||12 months||14.74% - 25.74% Variable||3.2 / 5|
|Wells Fargo Platinum card||0% intro APR||18 months||17.24%- 26.74% Variable||4.4 / 5|
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card||Digital wallet purchases||15 months||15.74% - 27.74% Variable||2.8 / 5|
Research methodology: how we picked the best cards
Low interest credit cards analyzed: 869
Criteria used: Regular APR, intro APR, other rates and fees, rewards rates, rewards categories, redemption options, miscellaneous features and benefits, customer service, security, credit needed, ease of application
What are low interest credit cards and how do they work?
Low interest credit cards can be cards with intro offers for purchases and balance transfers, usually at 0%, or they can be simply a card with a low regular interest rate, as in the case of some of the Discover cards. Here, we answer your most common questions about interest rates and credit cards.
What is the average interest rate on a credit card?
The national average interest rate is currently just under 17.50%. That rate can go up and down in part because of the Federal Reserve increasing or lowering interest rates, which they did on July 31 when they dropped rates for the first time since 2008. In that case, it caused many card issuers to in turn drop their rates, bringing the national average to the current level. Rates can go as high as 26.01% for all retail store cards, our October 2019 study found, which even beats the average rate of cards that allow bad credit.
What is considered a low interest rate?
Typically, a low interest rate is considered a figure that is below the national average. According to CreditCards.com's weekly rates survey, the low interest average is currently just under 14.70%.
How does your credit score affect your interest rate?
Card issuers in part look at your credit risk when deciding what interest rate to give you. One of those metrics is your credit score, which primarily looks at payment history and your balance-to-available-credit ratio. That's one reason why it's important to pay attention to your score.
What consumers know and don't know about their cards' APRs...
- Carried a balance on at least 3 cards
- Balance-carrying cardholders who knew the interest rate on all of their cards
- Were unsure or unaware of their cards' APRs
- Men who weren't sure about the interest rate on all their cards
- Women who weren't sure about the interest rate on all their cards
What is the difference between interest and APR?
While the terms "interest rate" and "APR" are often used interchangeably, they can be different according to the lending product. For credit cards, the terms "APR" and "interest" are synonymous.
Interest simply reflects the annual cost of borrowing the principal balance on a loan, says Discover.
Meanwhile, APR, which stands for annual percentage rate, often includes fees charged in association with the loan and is designed to reflect the total cost of the loan over time, says Discover.
How to calculate credit card interest
While you are quoted an APR, or annual percentage rate, your interest is calculated at the end of each day. To find out how much will be accrued each day, divide the APR by 365 days. Then, multiple that amount by the amount owed, and add that with the amount owed.
For example, a $13,000 balance at a daily periodic rate of .02805 percent would add $3.6465 in finance or interest charges to your balance, making the next day of the billing cycle's balance $13,003.65.
To calculate interest on a credit card, use our handy-dandy interest calculators, which allow you to figure out how long it will take you to pay off a balance with the minimum payment; how much you can save by speeding up the payment process; and more.
Types of APRs
Here are the typical APRs charged by card issuers:
- APR for purchases. The most common APR, this rate is applied when you carry a balance. Some cards, such as The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express†, offer a 0% intro offer for a set time, in the case of the EveryDay, for 15 months. Then, the balance is charged at the go-to rate of 15.24% - 26.24% variable, which is usually the standard rate for the card.
- APR for balance transfers. Similar to the purchase APR, balance transfer cards will usually offer a 0% intro APR for a set amount of time, then revert to the go-to rate.
- Cash advance APR. This rate usually kicks in immediately after you take out the cash.
- Penalty APR. Some cards, such as Discover products, don't have this type of APR, while others do. It can be considerably high and some issuers reassess your payment history regularly to decide if this rate continues.
How to save money with a low interest credit card
A high interest rate is one of the biggest culprits in attaining card debt. If you owe $3,000 and you are paying a rate of 16.5% APR, then it would take you 124 months to pay the minimum amount, and you would end up paying $2,122 in interest alone.
Card debt rose by $20 billion in the second quarter of 2019, according to the New York Fed. Also, seriously delinquent accounts (more than 90 days past due) have been rising since 2017 and continued to do so in Q2.
How can I avoid paying interest on a credit card?
To avoid that debt, the best thing you can do is to pay in full each month. Also, avoid putting charges on your card that you can't pay in full by the due date. Want that big-screen TV but don't have the cash? Start setting aside the money rather than paying with your card without a plan.
If you're already stuck in debt, you can avoid paying some interest by paying more than the minimum amount. Remember that $3,000 at a 16.5% rate, in which you end up with more than $2,000 in interest charges because you paid the minimum? Well, if you paid $200 a month, those interest charges would drop to $383.
If you pay more than the minimum...
|Rate||Monthly payment||Months to pay off||Amount owed||Interest to pay off|
|16.5%||3% or $25, whichever is greater||124||$3,000||$2,122|
Another way to save money on interest is to transfer an existing balance to a balance transfer card or a low interest card.
With a lower interest rate, and even better, 0% intro APR, you can pay off that card debt at a faster rate. Also, you save hundreds of dollars in interest charges.
Comparing payoff with low interest vs. higher interest...
|Card||Regular APR||Rate||Monthly payment||Months to pay off||Amount owed||Interest to pay off|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards||13.74%-23.74%, variable||13.74%||3% or $25, whichever is greater||113||$3,000||$1,651|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards||13.74%-23.74%, variable||23.74%||3% or $25, whichever is greater||187||$3,000||$5,031|
As you can see, even when you are paying the minimum, with the same card but the lowest and highest interest rate offered, the difference in the amount paid in interest is considerable, with the lowest rate paying more than $3,000 less in interest charges than the highest rate.
Can you ask for a lower credit card interest rate?
The most direct way to lower your interest rate on your credit card is to simply ask. We found in a 2018 survey that 56% of consumers who asked for a lower interest rate got it. And it's important to stay mindful of what your interest rate is, although another of our polls found that one-third of cardholders with a balance didn't know their interest rate.
Common scenarios with low APR credit cards
The stars may not be aligned for you when it comes to using a low interest card – you may not have the best credit or you already have a ton of cards. Well, we'll take you through a few scenarios and how to make that card work for you.
Your credit limit is too low
You've landed your low interest credit card, but the limit you've been granted is too low to pay the charge you had planned for it.
Here's what you do: Pay for the charge with 2 cards – the bulk goes on your new card and the rest goes on the card you have with the lowest interest. Then, pay off that card first, while budgeting to pay off the low interest card before any special offer ends.
Your credit score is too low
If your credit is too low to get a 0% or low interest card, which typically requires good or excellent credit, there's another way.
Here's what you do: Have your spouse check his or her credit. If it's within the acceptable range, ask him/her to take out the card and make you an authorized user. Just make sure you have an agreement in place on how it will be used.
You are also looking for rewards
You may have a big bill to pay, but you also want to get in on the rewards action.
Here's what you do: Some rewards cards also have great introductory offers on balance transfers and purchases, such as the Bank of America Cash Rewards and the Capital One® SavorOne®. Take out one of these cards, and have your spouse take out the other, then make each other authorized users. Arrange to purchase gas and wholesale club purchases with the Bank of America card, then shop at grocery stores and restaurants with the SavorOne. Be sure to coordinate spending – one way is to look at your accounts every weekend to make sure you aren't going over the limits.
You'll have a balance after the offer ends
Let's say you land a 0% card, but you can't pay it off before the offer ends. What to do?
Here's what you do: Figure out the maximum you can pay each month then continue to pay that amount even after the offer ends. That way, you minimize how much interest you pay.
You plan to close the card
Let's say you have more than enough cards, and you just need that new card to get you through a tough spot.
Here's what you do: Once your debt has been paid off, you may be interested in closing the card's account. Consider the Citi cards with long 0% or balance transfer offers without rewards. That way, you aren't tempted to spend, and there are no regrets when you close the account.
Why you should avoid keeping a balance on your credit card
Even with the best intentions, we can incur thousands of dollars on our credit cards within months. Amongst those who don’t have a plan to tackle their credit card debt, 42% stated they simply don't know where to start.
But it's not just the original expense that can impact your wallet – interest charges can actually run more than the original expense if you pay the minimum amount due each month.
And there's another reason why you should avoid keeping a balance on your card. The second most important factor of your credit score is your credit utilization ratio, or how much you owe on your cards compared to how much credit you have available. So, if you owe $500 and you have $5,000 in available credit, then your utilization ratio is 10%.
Figuring out your credit utilization ratio
|Card||Credit available||Amount owed||Credit utilization ratio|
|Bank of America Cash Rewards||$2,000||$200||$200/$2,000=10%|
|Capital One Quicksilver||$2,000||$300||$300/$2,000=15%|
|Discover it Cash Back||$1,000||$0||$0/$1,000=0%|
As you can see, there is a ratio for each card and a total ratio for all cards combined. Both matter. The industry standard is to keep the ratios under 30%, but it's best to keep them as close to 0% as possible, partly to avoid paying interest and partly to keep your credit healthy.
How do I pay off my credit card balance?
Maybe you've already incurred debt on your credit card. What to do?
Here, we look at the 6 steps you should take to dig out from under that balance:
- Make a budget. First things first: Create a budget with room for saving and fun. That way, you don't have such an austere plan that you give up in frustration.
- Calculate the interest. Based on your balance, figure out how much interest you will be paying.
- Figure out how much you can pay each month. Now that you know how much interest you will be paying, figure out how many months it will take you to pay the balance off, with your trusty budget in hand.
- Transfer the balance. Consider using a balance transfer card, which will allow you to pay 0% or low interest for a limited time.
- Stop spending. Resist the urge to keep spending on your card; that will only get you deeper into trouble. Only take out a rewards card if you have a firm handle on your spending (and budget).
- Keep the card. After you pay off the balance, consider hanging on to your card, putting a small charge on it each month and paying in full by each due date. This helps with keeping your credit healthy by having a higher available credit.
How to compare two low interest credit cards
Low interest credit cards are about more than just the APR. You'll want to also factor in the different types of APRs, the annual fee and more.
Compare low interest cards...
|Card||Purchase APR||Cash advance APR||Penalty||Annual fee||Rewards|
|Discover it Cash Back||13.74%-24.74% variable||26.74 % variable||No penalty APR; no late fee first time; return payment up to $37||$0||Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in rotating categories throughout the year; match cash back at end of first year|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards||13.74%-23.74% variable||23.74% variable||Late Payment Fee: up to $39||$0||20,000 miles/$1,000 spend in 3 mths; 1.25X miles on purchases|
As you can see, the cards' lowest rates and annual fees are comparable, while the cash advance rate is lower for the VentureOne. If you plan to pay off your balance, the rewards for either card can also be worth your while.
With our picks for the best low interest credit cards on this page, we cover a unique selection of credit cards with low regular interest rates. We have also curated and compiled a list of the best credit cards with long 0% APR offers and for balance transfers specifically — check them out:
You can read some individual reviews for low interest credit cards at our reviews section. You can use these to get a better idea of how products compare to one another and decide which offer is the best for your needs.
† All information about The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express is no longer available through CreditCards.com.
Laura is an editor and writer at CreditCards.com. She has written extensively on all things credit cards and works to bring you the most up-to-date analysis and advice. Laura's work has been cited in such publications as the New York Times and Associated Press. You can reach her by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @creditcards_lm.
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