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Comparing Zero Interest Credit Card Offers
Updated: September 11, 2019
The best of us get into trouble with our credit cards. We might have had back-breaking medical bills. Or the car broke down again. The fact is, while credit cards are partly for convenience, sometimes they can seem rather inconvenient because of a steep balance.
One of our surveys shows that amongst those who don’t have a plan to tackle their credit card debt, though, 42% gave this as their reason: "I just don’t know where to start."
That's where 0% intro APR offers come in. While not a cure-all, a card with a 0% APR offer on purchases, balance transfers or both can help pull you up out of ever-building debt by halting the interest charges that come with carrying a balance. We evaluated over 1,000 credit cards with a 0% intro APR offer and calculated the estimated savings of each offer and the other benefits for each card. Here, we look at:
To understand how a 0% APR offer can work for you, read on.
CreditCards.com's Best 0% APR Credit Cards
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
With a decent 0% intro APR length of 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers, this card matches its competitors in terms of intro length. While it is a decent 0% APR card, the CFU's greatest draw is its elevated cash back of 3% on all purchases (up to $20,000 spent) in the first year. Afterwards, it's a competitive 1.5% cash back on all purchases. There are no rotating categories or required quarterly sign-ups to keep up with.
With a high variable go-to rate of 16.99%-25.74% APR, the Freedom Unlimited isn't the best choice for carrying a balance after the intro offers end. You can also do better with 1.5% back for certain categories of purchases.
Bottom Line: The Chase Freedom Unlimited's 0% intro APR offer is the right choice for a consumer with a moderate amount of debt. The first-year and ongoing rewards are competitive, but the regular APR isn't ideal for someone who plans to carry a balance beyond the end of the 0% offer.
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Quicksilver Card has increased its 0% intro APR period to 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, which is competitive. After the intro period, the APR goes to the regular variable APR of 16.24% - 26.24%.
This card doesn't have the high cashback rate of the Chase Freedom, which offers 5% back on rotating categories, although you don't have to think about rotating categories when you're using the Quicksilver.
Bottom Line: With no annual fee and unlimited cash back, this card also doubles as a 0% APR card, which means it can be good for the long haul.
Discover it® Cash Back
With a fun double your cash back at year end, this card can earn you up to $600 in cash back your first year with its 5% back on select categories up to the quarterly maximum of $1,500 in purchases after activating. That's $75 back each quarter with a $500 monthly spend and $300 at the end of the year. Categories for the rest of 2019 include: gas stations, Uber and Lyft (Q2); restaurants and PayPal (Q3); and the always popular categories of Amazon.com, Target, and Walmart.com (Q4).
While decent, 14 months of 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers isn't the longest offer out there – if your primary concern is to pay a sizeable balance off while avoiding interest charges, you may want to look elsewhere. There also isn't a lot in the way of purchase and travel benefits with this card.
Bottom Line: The Discover it Cash Back has one of the lowest variable APRs among 0% cards, with 13.99% - 24.99%, which is handy if you think you may carry a balance after the 0% offer ends. Also, the rewards are strong, even with no sign-up bonus.
BankAmericard® credit card
The BankAmericard has one of the longest offers on both purchases and balance transfers at 18 billing cycles before the regular APR of 14.99% - 24.99% (variable) kicks in. Not only does it come with no annual fee, but it also has no penalty rate. It also lets you access your FICO score for free.
There is a time limit to when you must make your balance transfers in order to take advantage of the introductory rate offer: within the first 60 days. Otherwise, there are not many drawbacks to speak of as this card is quite straightforward.
Bottom Line: With no annual fee and a generous offer, the BankAmericard is more than viable as a no-interest credit card.
Looking for a 0% intro APR offer that also has a strong rewards offer? The Chase Freedom is worth a look, with its competitive sign-up bonus and 5% cash back on rotating categories.
Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, this card carries foreign transaction fees, making it not advantageous for foreign travel or purchases transacted through a foreign bank.
Bottom line: With a pretty good 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers and a strong rewards offer, the Chase Freedom is a fine choice.
Wells Fargo Platinum card
The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa features a 0% offer of 18 months for purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then 17.49% - 26.99% variable APR. With 18 months of 0 interest on balance transfers, you can pay $100 a month in 6 months with no interest for that staycation planned for the fall. Buying season tickets to fall and winter shows coming to town? You can pay 0% interest until 2021.
The variable go-to rate is 17.49% - 26.99%. That range is on the higher end of cards in this category. Also, there are no ongoing rewards or a sign-up bonus.
Bottom Line: Although there are no rewards, the Platinum Visa card is outstanding as a 0% card and you can continue to build credit with it in the long term.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
The Cash Wise card offers a solid sign-up bonus and on-going rewards which is not common among zero interest cards.
The zero interest period is not a standout compared to other cards in this category.
Bottom Line: 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers and purchases (15.99% - 27.99% variable thereafter) is a standard offer among zero interest cards. The sign-up bonus and on-going rewards make this card a contender.
HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card
The HSBC's Gold Mastercard's 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers and purchases is more than competitive, and this card also carries a super low starting regular APR, of 12.99% - 20.99% variable.
This card has no sign-up bonus or ongoing rewards, which can put a damper on your long-term plans. If rewards are a long-term priority, you might want to look elsewhere.
Bottom Line: If you are on the hunt for a 0% intro APR card that will allow for a couple of months of carrying a balance, this card is the right choice.
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
As a dining card, the Capital One SavorOne is a great option, particularly since there's no annual fee. The sign-up bonus is also competitive, as is the intro 0% offer of 15 months on balance transfers and purchases (it's 16.24%-26.24% variable after that).
There's not a lot to dislike here, although you may want to opt for a card with a longer intro APR if your debt is sizeable. You'll likely be sacrificing rewards, however.
Bottom Line: This no-annual-fee card offers tiered rewards that are among the best of its class, and there are no foreign transaction fees, which is helpful.
Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
Arguably the best credit card for balance transfers, the Citi Simplicity's 21 month 0% intro APR on balance transfers and 12 months on purchases are tough to beat (16.74%-26.74% variable after that). Plus, the card also offers no annual fee, no late fees and no penalty rate.
Unfortunately, this card has no sign-up bonus and no ongoing rewards.
Bottom Line: If you are acquiring the Simplicity for the 0% intro APR offer, the fact that this card has no rewards shouldn't be a deal breaker.
Comparing 0% intro APR Credit Cards
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||Cash Back Rewards||15 months||15 months||16.99% - 25.74% Variable||3.9 / 5|
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card||Flat-rate Rewards||15 months||15 months||16.24% - 26.24% Variable||4.0 / 5|
|Discover it® Cash Back||Sign-up Bonus||14 months||14 months||13.99% - 24.99% Variable||3.9 / 5|
|BankAmericard® credit card||0 Penalty APR||18 billing cycles*||18 billing cycles||14.99% - 24.99% Variable||3.9 / 5|
|Chase Freedom®||Rotating Category Rewards||15 months||15 months||16.99% - 25.74% Variable||3.9 / 5|
|Wells Fargo Platinum card||0% Intro APR||18 months*||18 months||17.49% - 26.99% Variable||4.4 / 5|
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card||No Annual Fee||15 months||15 months||15.99% - 27.99% Variable||2.8 / 5|
|HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card||Low Regular APR||18 months||18 months||12.99 - 20.99 Variable||3.5 / 5|
|Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card||Low Balance Transfer Fee||15 months||15 months||16.24-26.24% variable||3.8 / 5|
|Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever||Balance Transfer||21 months||12 months||16.74% - 26.74% Variable||3.7 / 5|
*for balance transfers made in the first 60 days
**for qualifying balance transfers
0% intro APR credit cards analyzed: 1,002
Criteria used: 0% intro APR period for purchases, 0% intro APR period for balance transfers, balance transfer fee, regular APR, other rates and fees, rewards rates, extra benefits and features, customer service, credit needed, ease of application, security
What are 0% APR credit cards and what does 0% intro APR mean?
What are 0% APR credit cards?
A 0% intro APR card is a product that offers no interest for a set amount of time, sometimes up to 18 months or longer. These are great cards for paying off a card balance (or two) without incurring more interest charges. They are also good for consolidating debt into a single payment. These cards can sometimes offer 0% APR on purchases for a limited time.
What does 0% intro APR mean?
A 0% intro APR means that you pay no interest for a set amount of time on balance transfers on credit cards, purchases or both. With balance transfers, you can avoid the debilitating costs of interest fees, which can number in the thousands of dollars over time. For example, if you have a $3,000 balance on a card and you're paying 17% APR, it would take you 126 months to pay the minimum payment each month. That includes the $3,000 plus $2,241 in interest fees. By using a 0% intro APR card, you can avoid the $2,241 charges, provided that you pay off the debt before the offer ends. A 0% intro APR card can sometimes be used for purchases, as well, which is handy if you have a big purchase coming up.
When is it beneficial to have a credit card with no interest?
- Major purchase. Pay for that furniture for your new home with a 0% intro APR for purchases.
- Consolidation. Some consumers use a 0% APR card to consolidate debt, placing multiple balances on a single card for one easy payment.
- Balance transfer. This is the most common use of a 0% interest card. Transfer balances on high-interest cards to a card with a 0% intro APR.
- Non-card debt. You can use the 0% offer for debt other than card balances, however, a loan with low interest may not be worth your while to transfer if you may not pay it off before the offer ends.
- Emergencies. When a sudden bill comes your way, such as a fridge on the fritz, this is a way to cover costs in the short term.
- Rewards. If the card has good ongoing rewards, a 0% APR card can be a good choice for the long haul.
Here's a shocker: Two-thirds of consumers we polled said they had never applied for a credit card to pay 0% on a new purchase. Yet, used correctly, they are a great way to defer paying off debt temporarily while paying no interest.
Have you ever applied for a credit card to pay 0% on a new purchase?...
What is the average interest rate on a credit card? What is good?
The national average APR has been hovering around 17.70%. The average rate among low interest credit cards is currently just under 14.70%. Usually, your credit cards' interest rates are variable and depend on the Federal Reserve's rates as well as your payment habits. In the case of 0 APR cards, the lower rate on the scale is often below the national average.
0% Offers with Go-to Rates That Are Below Average
|Card||0% Offer||Go-to Rate||Annual Fee|
|Chase Freedom||15 months, BT & purchases||16.99%-25.74% variable||$0|
|The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express†||15 months, BT & purchases||15.24%-26.24% variable||$0|
|Discover it® Cash Back||14 months, BT & purchases||13.99%-24.99% variable||$0|
How higher interest rates can cost you money
You know now that paying down your debt is optimal, but high interest rates can increase the total amount you pay in interest and delay your payoff timeline. Most credit cards have a variable rate, anywhere from 14%-27%. The rate you are given by the card issuer depends in part on your creditworthiness.
- Say you owe $5,000 and you are assigned a 14% interest rate. If you pay down $300 each month, it will take you 19 months and you will pay $592.79 in interest.
- Now, take that same $5,000 but with 27% interest. If you pay the same $300 each month, if will take you 22 months and it will cost you $1,337.32 in interest.
- As you've probably figured out, the sooner you pay the debt, the less in interest you'll pay. But the interest rate is another huge factor, as you've seen. Check out our handy-dandy calculators to crunch the numbers yourself and see how you can minimize your interest charges.
If you are assigned a higher rate on the card's range, don't be shy about asking for a lower rate. We found that 56% of consumers who asked were granted a lower interest rate.
And for heaven's sake, know your interest rate. We found that half of balance-carrying consumers are clueless about how much their card charges in interest. Not sure about your rate? Simply call the number on the back of your card.
What determines the APR on a credit card?
Credit card issuers assign an APR to your account, based in part on the Federal Reserve's rates, your payment habits and your credit score. The card issuer's interest for that card also influences your rate. Typically, issuers offer a variable rate and you are assigned a rate within that range. If you have been paying on time and you have been keeping your balances low, you have a higher chance of a lower rate.
APRs on credit cards
You aren't charged a single rate with a credit card, unlike other types of loans. Here are the primary types of APRs you can face when you use your credit card:
- Purchase APR – This APR is applied when you make a purchase. When you allow the balance to carry over past the grace period, you face interest charges. This is the most common interest rate on a credit card.
- Balance transfer APR – When you transfer a balance to a new card, you can be charged this rate, although there are many cards on the market that don't charge interest for a limited time when you transfer a balance. It is possible for this rate to be greater than the purchase APR, although that's unusual.
- Penalty APR – If you aren't making payments – in other words, you are delinquent – you can face this rate. This rate is quite a bit higher than the other rates. Some cards, such as the Discover cards, don't have a penalty APR.
- Cash advance APR – When you take out a cash advance, such as when you make an ATM withdrawal, you are charged this rate. While not as high as the penalty rate, it is typically higher than purchase or balance transfer APRs. There is no grace period with a cash advance, so count on being charged interest from day one.
- Go-to APR – A go-to APR, typically the regular APR, is the rate you pay once a 0% intro APR period ends.
Why are credit card rates so high?
Credit card issuers don't just charge high rates because they want to gouge the consumer ‐ they face significant risk when they issue a credit card.
Why? Because they are committing to lending you money, just as when a bank grants you a mortgage or car loan. However, cards differ because they are what is called an unsecured product, while a loan to buy a car or house is secured. That means that with a card, there is no collateral, or an asset the lender can recover if you don't pay them their money back.
Also, unlike a lending product such as some student loans in which the federal government may back the loan, no one is backing the loan you are taking out with a credit card every time you make a charge.
How do you calculate interest on a credit card?
When you carry a balance from month to month, you face an interest rate called the Annual Percentage Rate, or APR. The rate depends on several factors including your credit score and the card's variable rate.
You are charged interest when you carry a balance, once the grace period ends. In some cases, such as when you take out a cash advance, there is no grace period. There are two balances on your card when you have a 0% intro offer: the one with the offer and the one without.
While your APR is expressed in a year, according to Discover, card issuers use that figure to calculate charges over your monthly statement period. The easiest way to calculate the interest you owe is to check out the CreditCards.com calculators.
With these calculators you can figure out how long it will take you to pay off a balance with the minimum payment; how to maximize paying off the balance within a specified amount of time or amount each month; or figure out your payoff with a balance transfer calculator.
How Interest Works
If you want to understand the mechanics of how interest is calculated, here's what Discover has to say about calculating the APR on a credit card:
"To find out how much interest you're paying on your balance each day, you can convert your APR to a daily percentage rate. To do so, divide your APR by 365, the number of days in a year. At the end of each day, the card issuer will multiply your current balance by the daily rate to come up with the daily interest charge. That charge is then added to your balance the next day, a process called compounding.
"If your credit card has an APR of 15%, it will have a daily rate of .041096%. Let's say a cardholder has a balance of $1,000 at the 15% APR standard interest rate. The next day, interest is added and the balance becomes $1,000.41, plus any additional purchases and minus any new credits or payments. This process occurs each day until the end of the cardholder's monthly statement cycle. So, at the end of the month, the beginning $1,000 balance becomes $1,013 when interest charges are applied at 15% APR."
How do you avoid paying interest on a credit card?
Credit card debt is on the rise, according to the Federal Reserve of New York. In fact, in Q4 of 2018, 4.99% of card accounts were delinquent for 90 days or more, compared to 4.80% the previous quarter. Also, debt was up by $36 billion in Q4 of 2018 compared to the previous year, according to the New York Fed.
With credit card debt hanging over you, you also face the struggle of incurring additional debt in the way of ever-building interest charges.
The best way to avoid paying interest on a credit card is to pay in full before the due date each month and don't put a charge on your card that you don't already have the money for.
Another way to avoid paying interest is through the use of a 0% intro APR card. With these cards, you have a set amount of time when you can pay off the balance without incurring interest charges. But heads up: You'll need to pay more than the minimum.
If you are trying to get out from under an existing balance with a 0% offer, there are a number of things you can do to make sure you don't make the same mistake again. With the right steps, you can also work toward building your credit and avoid other bad habits. Here are some tips:
What to do when your 0% intro period ends
- Don't transfer to a new card. If you have a balance left over after the 0% intro offer ends, avoid temptation to just transfer the balance again, partly because you aren't solving the problem by doing that, but also because lenders may see what you are doing and deem you a risk.
- Keep the card. Once the debt is paid off, don't close the account. Also, put a small charge on it each month and pay in full to keep the account active. This helps you build your credit. Be sure to pay on time, every time.
- Is there an annual fee? One reason to close the account is if there is an annual fee that isn't counterbalanced by rewards that you'll use. That said, keep in mind that closing the account can harm your credit if you have a card balance elsewhere.
- Stick to your budget. There's no point in paying off the balance if you haven't addressed what got you there in the first place. Create a realistic budget with room for fun and savings, so you'll stay true to it.
How to compare two cards with a 0% APR offer
Because there are so many factors when choosing a 0 interest card, you need to make sure you are comparing apples with apples. Is there a balance transfer fee? Do the cards offer sign-up balances? What's the 0% APR offer? The answers to these questions will help inform your decision, which we look at below.
Factors to consider about 0% APR cards with no balance transfer fee
- What is the 0% offer's term? There's no point in getting a card with no balance transfer fee if the offer's term isn't long enough for you to be able to pay back the debt before the offer ends. In that case, another card may be worth your while.
- What is the deadline? Often, cards require you to make the transfer within a set amount of time to get the balance transfer fee waived. Make sure it's a deadline you can meet. If you plan to transfer the balance after the offer ends, make sure you budget the balance transfer fee.
- Is there an annual fee? Cards with no balance transfer fee often have no annual fee. If there is an annual fee, that cuts into your savings with the waived balance transfer fee.
- Do you plan to make a large purchase soon? Check if the card with no balance transfer fee has a 0% intro offer for purchases if you plan to use the card to make a major purchase, such as plane tickets to Europe in the fall. Otherwise, using the card for new purchases and not paying in full can undercut the savings from having the fee waived.
Comparing 2 zero interest cards...
|Card||0% offer||BT fee||Welcome offer||Ongoing rewards||Annual fee||Go-to rate|
|Blue Cash Preferred||0% intro APR for 12 months, balance transfers and purchases||$5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater (see rates and fees)||$250 after $1,000 spend in 3 mths||6% at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%), 3% at U.S. gas stations and select streaming services, 1% on everything else.||$95||Ongoing APR 14.99%-25.99% variable|
|Chase Slate††||0% intro APR for 15 months, balance transfers and purchases||$0 if transfer made within 60 days, 5% or $5 minimum after that||N/A||N/A||$0||16.99%-25.74% APR variable|
As you can see, both cards have similar 0% offers. The Slate has a $0 BT offer but no welcome offer or ongoing rewards, while the BCP has no $0 BT fee offer, but has rewards ideal for the small family that eats at home.
If you spend $500 a month on groceries, you can earn $360 in cash back for the year, plus $250 with the welcome offer when it comes to the BCP. Contrast that with the Slate's $0 BT fee offer, which would save you $150 in the BT fee for a $5,000 transfer. If you don't have plans to use the card much for spending, the Slate is the best choice, but if you are going to take advantage of the rewards on the BCE, that might be the card for you.
Tips on using 0% credit cards
Zero interest credit cards are among the best weapons in your financial arsenal when you are trying to pay down debt. But they can beat you down if you don't use them correctly. Here, we look at what happens when they are used incorrectly and the right way to use them.
It's all too easy to get behind on your credit card debt. In fact, our survey found that a third of those polled reported having had more than $5,000 in card debt. Don't fall down that path; use our tips to help you pay down your debt and avoid it in the future.
What was the highest amount of credit card debt you've carried?...
What can go wrong when you use 0% interest cards incorrectly?
- You fail to pay your monthly bills on time. If you violate the agreement, for example you don't pay on time, you can lose the 0% offer. Always pay on time and don't go over the limit.
- You don't pay off the balance in time. If you don't pay off the balance by the time the offer ends, you will incur interest charges for the leftover amount.
- You use the card for new purchases. If you use the card for new purchases outside of a 0% offer for purchases, you will incur new interest charges, basically negating the savings you'd otherwise enjoy.
What is the right way to use 0% interest cards?
- Budget for the balance transfer fee. In most cases, there's a balance transfer fee of 3%-5%. Make sure you'll benefit from the balance transfer even with the fee. Some cards, such as the Amex EveryDay†, waive this fee within a set amount of time.
- Read the terms. Make sure you are clear about how much time you have to make a purchase or transfer. Also, check the fine print for details about fees and penalties.
- Plan your payoff schedule. Figure out how many months it will take you to pay off the debt so that you get the right card with the right terms. Let's say you owe $3,000. With the Amex EveryDay† card, for example, you get a 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (then 14.99% - 25.99% variable), which means you pay $200 a month to pay it off before the offer ends. Contrast that with the Discover it Balance Transfer, with an 18-month 0% offer on balance transfers (then 13.99% - 24.99% variable), which means you only pay $166.67 a month before the offer ends. (Keep in mind that while the Amex EveryDay† has no balance transfer fee, the Discover it Balance Transfer 3% fee means you will pay $90 upfront.)
- Pay it off quickly. Pay off as quickly as possible, because your credit score looks at both your individual and combined available credit, so a maxed-out balance transfer card can negatively influence your score.
- Avoid new purchases. Avoid new purchases on the card unless you have a plan to pay it off before the purchase terms end. If there is no purchase intro APR, don't put new charges on the card, because you can end up incurring interest with those charges.
† 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.
†† All information about The Chase Slate Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. The Chase Slate Credit Card 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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