Comparing Low Interest Credit Card Offers
Updated: October 17, 2018
With the average credit card APR climbing to an all-time high of 17.07%, low interest credit cards can save you hundreds of dollars while paying down debt. 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.
CreditCards.com's best low APR credit cards
|Credit Card||Best For:||0% Purchase APR Period||Regular APR||CreditCards.com Rating|
|Discover it® Cash Back||Low variable APR and online shopping||14 months||13.99% - 24.99% Variable||3.9 / 5|
|Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card||Low variable APR and travel with no annual fee||12 months||13.74% - 23.74% Variable||3.0 / 5|
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Card||Low balance transfer fee||15 months||14.74% - 24.74% Variable||3.9 / 5|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||Long 0% purchase APR period and flat-rate cash back||15 months||16.74% - 25.49% Variable||2.4 / 5|
|Citi Simplicity® Card||Low variable APR and very long intro 0% offer||12 months||15.99% - 25.99% Variable||4.5 / 5|
|U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card||Low variable APR on purchases and balance transfers||20 billing cycles||11.99% - 23.99% Variable||4.4 / 5|
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card||Low variable APR and and high rewards value||12 months||14.49% - 26.99% Variable||N/A|
|Discover it® Balance Transfer||Low variable APR and rotating rewards||6 months||13.99% - 24.99% Variable||2.2 / 5|
|BankAmericard® credit card||Low variable APR and long balance transfer offer||18 billing cycles||14.99% - 24.99% Variable||3.1 / 5|
|Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card||Long intro 0% APR offer and free FICO score||18 months||17.49% - 26.99% Variable||N/A|
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
Editor's notes on the best low interest credit cards
Discover it® Cash Back
In addition to excellent rewards (5% back on rotating categories up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate, plus double your cash back at the end of your first year), this card offers 0% intro APR for 14 months on both balance transfers and purchases. The regular APR is 13.99%-24.99% variable.
What we like about this card – The low regular rate of this card gives it oomph when it comes to paying down debt. Add to that the BT and purchase introductory APRs, and it's a card you'll love.
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
While this card has no 0% intro APR on balance transfers, and only 12 months on purchases, its ongoing APR is worth looking at, at 13.74%-23.74% variable. Also, this card offers a sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months of card membership and 1.25X miles on all eligible purchases.
What we like about this card – This card's regular APR is one of the lowest among major cards, making it a good choice for attacking your balance.
Capital One® Quicksilver® Card
Comparable in many ways to the Freedom Unlimited, this card has the advantage of no foreign transaction fee, while the Freedom Unlimited has a fee of 3%. In addition to a $150 sign-up bonus after spending $500 within the first 3 months, there's the 1.5% back on all eligible purchases.
What we like about this card – If you are looking for a card to travel with that will earn you cash rewards and you want the ability to defer interest on purchases and balance transfers (15 months, 0% intro APR), this is a good choice. The regular variable APR is 14.74% - 24.74%.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
This card's reliable rewards of $150 back after a $500 spend within the first 3 months and 1.5% back on all purchases makes it a favorite among cash back cards.
What we like about this card – While the regular APR isn't the lowest, with a variable of 16.74%-25.49%, the 0% intro APR offers are solid, at 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers.
Citi Simplicity® Card
The Citi Simplicity Card features one of the best introductory offers out there, with 21 months of 0 interest for balance transfers and 12 months interest-free for purchases. Afterwards, the regular APR is 15.99% - 25.99%. It also boasts no annual fee, no penalty APR, and no late fee. Unfortunately, the balance transfer fee is quite high at 5% of the amount of each transfer, with a minimum of $5.
What we like about this card – An excellent choice for those with good credit, the Citi Simplicity has a very long 0% APR period.
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
This card carries a remarkably low regular APR of 11.99% - 23.99% variable. Its 0% APR intro offer stands as 12 billing cycles on purchases and a very long 20 billing cycles on balance transfers, for which it is an especially strong option.
What we like about this card – This card has some of the lowest interest rates available while also carrying one of the best balance transfer offers.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
The Propel's primary purpose is as a rewards card, where it excels with its 3X points per dollar spent on travel purchases and sign-up bonus of 30K points for spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months. It has a regular APR of 14.49% - 26.99% variable. The lower end of this interest range is a decent distance below average; unfortunately the upper end of 26.99% is quite high.
What we like about this card – If your credit can land you on the lower end of its variable APR range, the Propel can be a viable low interest card.
Discover it® Balance Transfer
This card has the same regular APR as the Discover it Cash Back: 13.99% - 24.99% variable. Where it differs is that it carries a longer intro 0% APR period for balance transfers (18 months) but a shorter one for purchases (6 months). If you are primarily looking for a balance transfer card, go for the Discover it Balance Transfer; for purchases, go for the Discover it Cash Back.
What we like about this card – It has a low regular APR coupled with a very attractive balance transfer offer.
BankAmericard® credit card
This credit card is very straightforward. It doesn't have any rewards or bells and whistles, but it is designed specifically for people looking to minimize interest payments. Both purchases and balance transfers get an intro 0% APR for 18 billing cycles, then 14.99% - 24.99% variable. Balance transfers must be made in the first 60 days in order to qualify for this intro offer. There's no annual fee and no penalty APR. As a handy benefit, the BankAmericard gives you free access to your FICO credit score.
What we like about this card – This card recognizes that it has one job, and does that job well.
Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card
We recommend this card for its long 0% intro APR period of 18 months on purchases and balance transfers, but this comes with a major caveat. After the intro period, the Wells Fargo Platinum's regular APR goes up to 17.49% - 26.99% variable. Even the lowest possible APR is still higher than the national average for credit cards, so it is absolutely imperative that you pay off your entire balance before your 18 months are up.
What we like about this card – As long as you can pay off all balances in a timely fashion, this card's long intro offer makes it a solid choice.
Additional expert opinions
Stephanie O'Connell, millennial personal finance expert
Favorite low interest card: U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card
“In addition to the 0-percent introductory APR offer on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles, the U.S Bank Visa Platinum card has no penalty APR, which can be a particularly attractive feature for consumers who may have difficulty staying on top of their payments and are concerned about racking up additional interest.”
Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards
Favorite low interest card: U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card
“When you’re paying down debt, every percentage point counts. That’s what makes the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card appealing.”
Daniel Ray, editor-in-chief at CreditCards.com
Favorite low interest card: U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card
“If you want to avoid interest like the plague, then the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card gives you the best odds.”
What's the difference between interest and APR?
For credit cards, the terms "APR" and "interest" are synonymous. APR, or annual percentage rate, is the cost of credit expressed as an annual percentage. To determine the monthly periodic rate, divide the APR by 12 months, says Chase. To determine a daily periodic rate, divide the APR by 365 days.
"An interest charge is the sum of interest on your credit card account," says Chase, with the interest charge broken down by transaction type, such as purchases, cash advances and balance transfers. "If you pay less than the full balance, pay after the payment due date (or if your credit card does not have an interest free period) then you will pay interest on those purchases. Cash advances and some balance transfers have no interest free period. This means they start accruing interest as soon as the transaction is made. This will result in interest due, even if your balance is paid in full."
What is the average interest rate on a credit card?
The national average for credit card interest rates is just over 17%, although averages for categories can be considerable lower or higher. For example, low interest is near 14%, while bad credit is over 24%. Here are the most common categories, with their average rates:
|Credit Card Category||Average Interest Rate|
Retail cards are among the highest in interest rates, although they have advantages such as loyalty rewards and they will often require lower credit. Retail cards had an average rate of 24.99% in late 2017, according to a CreditCards.com poll. Store-only cards' rates were even higher, at 26.38%, while co-branded cards were at 22.51%. A co-branded card is typically a card within one of 3 major card networks (Visa, Mastercard, American Express) that also carries the store's logo. But it's the rewards programs that make retail cards competitive.
What counts as a low interest rate?
What makes a low interest rate is relative. If you are looking at car loans or mortgages, you might shoot for something below 5% and even lower. With credit cards? A low interest rate below 10% is rare and something to treasure.
Low-rate credit cards typically charge an APR more than 3 percentage points lower than the national average for all cards. The Discover it Cash Back, for example, offers a starting variable APR more than 3 percentage points below the national average. That said, to qualify for such a low rate, you'll need to have excellent credit and other good credit habits.
Credit unions are a good place to look for low interest cards. You'll have to become a member, however, and you'll have to meet credit score and income requirements. Even then, there's no guarantee.
There are a number of tools in your tool chest – low interest cards, 0% intro APR offers and paying in full each month. By thinking strategically about how you plan to spend and pay, you can minimize your interest charges, build your credit and enjoy the convenience of a credit card.
Even though there are low interest rates to be had, consumers in the U.S. are woefully unaware of the APRs they do have. In a recent poll by creditcards.com, it was found that 48% of cardholders aren't so sure about the interest rates on their cards, Gen Xers carried a balance on more cards and consumers over 55 were more likely to not carry a balance.
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
While having multiple cards can actually be an advantage, if managed correctly, not knowing your APRs and carrying balances can be disastrous. If you find yourself in that situation, learn your APR and plug it into one of our handy calculators. That way, you'll know how much you'll need to pay down each month to pay off the credit card debt in a timely manner.
How does your credit score affect your interest rates?
The higher your credit score, the better your interest rate can be, depending on the product. This goes for both credit cards and installment loans such as mortgages and car loans. Some cards offer a range -- your credit score, payment habits and balance can affect the interest rate your receive.
In the case of installment loans, Forbes compares two neighbors, each with a refinance of $300,000 with a 30-year fixed mortgage. The difference is one has a 750 credit score, while the other has a score of 620.
Because of the score differences, the neighbor with the 750 score gets a 4.25% rate, paying $1,476 a month, while his neighbor gets a 4.75% interest rate, paying $1,565 a month.
Forbes points out that by paying 2 points or $6,000, the neighbor with the lower score can get the lower rate, a rate that the neighbor with a 750 score received at no extra cost, all because of having a great score.
In the same way, your higher credit score can get you a better APR on your card, typically from within a range. But how do you get a better credit score?
How to get a better credit score
Pay on time. This is your most important part of your FICO credit score. Always pay on time.
Pay in full. A part of the second most important aspect of your score, this is a habit that speeds up your chances of getting a better score.
Get a credit card. The fastest and easiest way to improve your score is with a credit card. If you don't already have one, get a card you are reasonably sure you will be accepted for, checking your credit score and credit files first.
Consider a small installment loan. This is tricky, because every time you take out a loan, your score gets dinged a little. But if you are careful about borrowing when you are reasonably sure you will get the loan, then it can actually help your score because scoring models like it when you have a variety of lending products.
No new cards, please. Yes, having a credit card helps your score, but that doesn't mean the more the better. There is one thing you want to do when expanding your credit horizons – resist the urge to take out new cards until your score is where you want it to be.
Be patient. Part of your score is based on length of credit history. That's why it's important to keep on plugging with your good credit habits.
Ask. Once your score has improved, simply ask your card issuer for a better rate. Our research shows that when consumers ask for better rates, they have a shot for getting what they ask for.
How do you calculate interest on a credit card?
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. Here's how you calculate how much you are paying each day:
- Divide 15% APR / 365 days = 0.041096%
- Multiply 0.041096% * $1,000 = $0.41
- Add $0.41 + $1,000 = $1,000.41
As can be expected, the amount you owe each day goes up considerably the higher your balance. Take this example:
As you know now, most creditors assess interest or finance charges based on your average daily balance, and the interest is accrued daily, says credit expert Todd Ossenfort.
"Each day the balance of your account is multiplied by the daily periodic rate and the interest calculated is added to your balance," he says.
"As an 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.
"The next day of the billing cycle your balance would be $13003.65 and multiplied by the daily periodic rate would add interest charges of $3.6475, which begins to add up," Ossenfort says.
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.
Our credit card calculators
Here, we offer 5 calculators to help you figure out which card is best for you, how long it will take you to pay off a balance and more.
How do APRs work?
The annual percentage rate or APR is a financial term that is used by lenders to let you know how much interest you are being charged on a yearly basis for your loan, says Ossenfort. APR is fairly simple for the fixed-rate loan example, he says. It gets more complicated with outstanding credit card balances. That's because you may have several different APRs on one credit card account.
For example, you may have an APR for balance transfers of 1.9 percent, an APR for purchases of 12 percent and a much higher APR of around 25 percent for cash advances, he says.
"The key ingredient to getting the best possible APR for any loan is to have your credit in the best shape possible," Ossenfort says. That means paying in full and on time, every time, and regularly checking your credit reports and score.
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 14.99% - 25.99% 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 higher, as much as 29.99% (variable) in the case of the Amex EveryDay†, which reassesses your payment history every 6 months 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.
One of the biggest surprises about card debt, though, is who the debtor is. A CreditCards.com poll found that, surprisingly, consumers with higher incomes were more likely to have debt than those with lower incomes:
Higher income brackets are more likely to carry a balance...
- Income over $50k
- Income under $50k
...and for a longer time. After 5 years...
- Income over $75k
- Income under $75k
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||110||$3,000||$1,515|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards||13.74%-23.74%, variable||23.74%||3% or $25, whichever is greater||177||$3,000||$4,598|
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.
So, how do you get the lower interest rate? Card issuers look at a number of factors, including your credit score and your payment history, when deciding which rate to give you. Also, know that it's worth your while to simply ask for a rate decrease. A CreditCards.com poll found that of the 19% consumers who asked for a rate decrease, 13% were given what they asked for.
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. And often, it isn't because of an unexpected medical bill or car repair. Rather, everyday spending is the primary contributor to card debt, making up 32% of the reasons why cardholders have debt.
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|
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard||$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 you avoid card debt?
Carrying a balance does a double whammy on you – first, you owe not only for the charges you've made, but also any interest accrued each month you carry a balance. Then, when you have a high balance, that can affect your credit's health – credit score models want you to have low debt compared to your available credit.
So, now you understand why card debt can hit you hard. How do you avoid it? Here are 6 tips, with a sample budget:
Create a dual budget. Make a budget for all expenses, then create a column just for credit cards and a column for withdrawals from your checking account. Include everything, so that you don't come up short the next month.
Save. As you can see below, room has been made for savings. This isn't for a last-minute road trip – rather, this is for when your car breaks down or some other emergency occurs.
Check back each month. Check your budget each month to make sure you are on target. Adjust to ensure your budget is realistic.
Set a reminder. Create a reminder to pay the card bill before the due date. There's no point in having the money to pay the bill when you don't remember to pay it!
Enter the 21st century. There are a number of apps out there that can help you manage your finances, including YNAB (You Need a Budget) and Mint. Each differs in its approach, but it's a fair bet there's one that suits your style. Some, such as YNAB, sync with your bank, and most, such as Mint, help you track and pay your bills.
Set aside savings. If you don't have the money for an item you want, set aside savings. Even setting aside $200 a month will give you almost $2,500 at the end of your first year. Just make sure you are also setting aside money for emergencies. Many financial institutions will allow you to create subaccounts that you can use for putting money aside.
Sample budget, with credit card expenses...
|Credit card expenses||Item||Checking account expenses|
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.
- Keep the card. After you pay off the balance, hang 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||13.99%-24.99% variable||26.99% 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 $38||$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.
Who are low interest credit cards good for?
Whether you are carrying a balance or planning to get rid of one, a low interest credit card can be a good choice. Here are the people who might benefit from a low interest credit card.
- Good credit. Typically, the better your credit, the better your interest rate on a credit card, although there are other factors a card issuer also looks at.
- Carry a balance. Although carrying a balance on a credit card isn't ideal, if you must, a low interest card may be the best choice.
- Great habits. If you are in the habit of paying on time each month more than the minimum, that will speed up your ability to pay off the balance.
- Workable plan. Yes, you have a balance, but that doesn't mean you will always have one. Figure out how much you can afford to pay each month, stop incurring new debt, and keep your sights on the end goal.
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. 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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