Comparing Zero Interest Credit Card Offers
Updated: November 13, 2018
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.
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. But these offers aren't forever – they can range from 6 months to as high as 18 months or longer, depending on the card.
To make the offer work for you, you need to figure out how you got into this situation; plan your way out of the debt by figuring out how many months it will take you to pay it off; and take steps to avoid this situation again. But, we're here to help. 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. Below are our top picks for the best zero interest credit cards along with other helpful information on choosing the card right for you and avoiding interest payments. Here, we look at:
To understand how a 0% APR offer can work for you, read on.
CreditCards.com's Best 0% Intro APR Credit Cards of 2018
These are our favorite credit cards that offer lengthy 0% intro APR offers on either purchases or balance transfers. Many of them also have great rewards, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which offers a 15 month interest free intro period and 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
|Credit Card||Best For:||0% Intro APR - Purchases||Regular APR||CreditCards.com Rating|
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card||No annual fee||15 months||14.74% - 24.74% Variable||3.9 / 5|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||Flat-rate cash back||15 months||16.99% - 25.74% Variable||3.2 / 5|
|Discover it® Cash Back||Cash back match||14 months||13.99% - 24.99% Variable||3.9 / 5|
|Citi Simplicity® Card||No late fees||12 months||15.99% - 25.99% Variable||3.2 / 5|
|Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card||Long 0% intro APR period||18 months||13.49% - 26.99% Variable||4.2 / 5|
|U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card||Low regular APR||20 billing cycles||11.99% - 23.99% Variable||4.4 / 5|
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card||Sign-up bonus||12 months||15.99% - 26.99% Variable||2.6 / 5|
|Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card||Earning miles||12 months||13.74% - 23.74% Variable||3.0 / 5|
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card||Travel purchases||12 months||14.49% - 26.99% Variable||3.9 / 5|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||Outstanding value||15 months||14.99% - 25.99% Variable||3.6 / 5|
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?
Here's a shocker: Two-thirds of consumers polled in October 2018 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 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 0% interest credit card?
- Major purchase. Buying a surprise 50-inch TV for your significant other's Christmas gift, but not sure where the funds will come from? If you have a planned big purchase, a card with a 0% intro APR for purchases can allow you to pay over time while paying no interest.
- Consolidation. Some consumers use a 0% APR card to consolidate debt, placing multiple balances on a single card for one easy payment. This is helpful when you are having trouble making bills. In fact, our most recent poll shows that 42% of cardholders have missed a payment at least once, make this an even stronger reason to use a 0% card for consolidation:
- 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, although make sure you will pay it off before the go-to interest rate kicks in. A car loan with 3% interest may not be worth your while to transfer, for example, because the interest is already so low and you don't want to risk having the balance on a card with a considerably higher go-to rate.
- 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. If you time it correctly, you can pay for emergencies within the offer's term.
- Rewards. If the card has good ongoing rewards, a 0% APR card can be a good choice for the long haul. Look at any rewards a card may have that will make the card worth hanging onto after the balance is paid off.
Reasons why consumers miss a card payment...
- Didn't have enough money
- Too busy
- CreditCards.com study
Pros and Cons of the Best 0% APR Credit Cards
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, effectively competing with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. After the intro period, the APR goes to the regular variable APR of 14.74% - 24.74%.
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 what 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.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
With a decent 0% intro APR length of 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers, this card matches its competitors and even surpasses in one respect – its ability to partner with Chase Sapphire cards and benefit from those cards' point boosts on the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. The $150 cash back after a $500 spend in 3 months is also competitive. Also, there are no rotating categories to contend with or required quarterly sign-ups.
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 sign-up bonus and ongoing rewards are competitive, but the go-to rate isn't ideal for someone who plans to carry a balance beyond the end of the 0% offer.
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. Make sure to take advantage of this if you plan on doing your Christmas shopping on Amazon.com this year.
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.
The Citi Simplicity has one of the longest intro 0% APR periods on balance transfers at 21 months before the regular APR of 15.99% - 25.99% variable kicks in. In terms of pure length, there are few other options that can stand toe-to-toe with the Simplicity. It also spurns many common fees: there's no annual fee, late fee, or penalty rate.
The Citi Simplicity, even with its superior 0% offer, has no sign-up bonus or ongoing rewards, which can be a disadvantage when you consider the long-term value of the card. Also note that the balance transfer fee of 5%, minimum $5, per transfer is definitely on the higher side. The Simplicity's 0% period on purchases lasts for 12 months, which is serviceable but not stellar.
Bottom Line: If your sole reason for getting a new card is to pay off a balance without interest, this is the card for you. It has no annual fee and a generous 0% APR offer.
Wells Fargo Platinum Visa®
The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa features a 0% offer of 18 months for purchases and balance transfers – as well as up to $600 protection on your cell phone ($25 deductible, fees apply) against covered damages or theft when you pay your monthly bill with this card. Also, with 18 months of 0% APR on purchases, you can buy that $300 trampoline for the kids for Christmas and pay it off in 6 months at $50 a month with no interest. Have a pricier item you plan to purchase on Black Friday or Cyber Monday? You can pay 0% interest until late 2019 for your new family computer, for instance.
The variable go-to rate is 13.49% - 26.99%, which is nice on the lower end but quite high on the upper end. Also, there are no ongoing rewards or a sign-up bonus.
Bottom Line: Although there are no rewards, the Platinum Visa is outstanding as a 0% card and you can continue to build credit with it in the long term.
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
This card's balance transfer and purchase 0% offer is tough to beat, with 20 billing cycles for each. Also, the variable go-to rate is a low 11.99% - 23.99%, just right for paying down after the 0% offer ends. One of the better hidden perks about this card is the $600 cellphone protection ($25 deductible), which comes in handy during unexpected emergencies.
This is another card without a sign-up bonus or ongoing rewards, making it a bit of a dubious offer for the long haul.
Bottom Line: This card should be one of your top picks if you need a long time to pay off an existing balance or big purchase.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
You get 1.5% back on all purchases, which is standard among unlimited cash back cards. The bright spot of the Cash Wise is its decent sign-up bonus of $200 for spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.
An intro 0% APR offer of 12 months is mediocre, and is followed by an uninspiring regular APR of 15.99% - 26.99% variable. Furthermore, while the lower range of the Cash Wise's regular APR is below the national average, the higher end is very high.
Bottom Line: The Cash Wise is lackluster as a zero interest card and we do not recommend carrying a balance past the intro period. However, its sizable sign-up bonus may make up for some of these shortcomings.
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards
With a sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months and ongoing rewards of 1.25X miles on all purchases, the VentureOne is a good travel card without an annual fee. It also offers 10X miles on purchases made through hotels.com/venture, ideal for that trip to NYC for New Year's.
There is no balance transfer intro APR and the purchase intro APR of 0% is for only 12 months (then 13.74% - 23.74% variable). Also, it doesn't have the rewards of its sister card, the Venture Rewards, although that card carries an annual fee.
Bottom Line: While this may be a good choice for the occasional traveler, it's not an option if you want to save money by avoiding interest charges on balance transfers or if you have a sizeable purchase coming up that you want to spread out over more than a year in payments.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
If your spending is primarily on travel and dining, consider the Propel which earns 3X points back for purchases in these categories. The sign-up bonus is sizable: 30,000 points, worth $300, is yours after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Finally, there is no annual fee.
An intro 0% APR offer of 12 months is mediocre, and is followed by a regular APR of 14.49% - 26.99% variable, which is serviceable on the lower end of the range but very high at the maximum.
Bottom Line: The Propel shines if chasing rewards is your primary goal and the zero interest offer is a secondary concern.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
The Blue Cash Everyday's 0% intro APR period stands at 15 months for both purchases and balance transfers, after which the regular APR of 14.99% - 25.99% variable applies. This is quite a long offer, and the regular APR is also reasonable if you are able to land on the lower end of that range. Most importantly, the BCE offers a tremenedous amount of rewards value compared to other 0 interest credit cards. You'll earn a phenomenal 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%. That's in addition to 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, 1% back on all other purchases, and a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
There are a couple of notable restrictions. 1) In order to take advantage of the 0% APR intro offer on balance transfers, you must complete your transfers within the first 60 days. 2) Balance transfers are capped at $7,500 or 50% of your credit limit, whichever is less.
Bottom Line: The Blue Cash Everyday is notable for its long and flexible intro APR offer and stands out from the pack with its top-tier rewards.
What is a go-to APR?
A go-to APR, or regular APR, is the rate you pay once a 0% intro APR period ends. The go-to rate can easily be 16% or more, so it's in your best interest to work on paying off the balance before the introductory offer ends. That means paying considerably more than the minimum payment.
However, life sometimes gets in the way of our best intentions. There may be a need for you to carry a balance after the offer ends. In that case, it's a good idea to know what variable rate is offered by the card you are eyeing.
One thing to note – there can be a difference between the APR and the interest rate:
Interest rate – With a credit card, the APR, or annual percentage rate, is the same figure as the interest rate. With other products, such as mortgages, your APR reflects not only the interest rate but also any points, mortgage broker fees and other charges that you pay to get the loan. For that reason, your APR is usually higher than your interest rate, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says.
APR – While APRs are designed to reflect the cost of a loan over time, in the case of a credit card, it's used to calculate interest that accumulates daily. You can have different APRs associated with your credit card, such as for cash advances or balance transfers.
Prime rate – The U.S. Prime Rate is a commonly used, short-term interest rate in the banking system of the United States. All types of American lending institutions (traditional banks, credit unions, thrifts, etc.) use the U.S. Prime Rate as an index or foundation rate for pricing various short- and medium-term loan products, says FedPrimeRate.com.
Variable APR – An APR range that card issuers offer in which you are issued a rate based in part on your credit rating.
What is the average interest rate on a credit card? What is good?
The national average was at 17.14% the week of October 29, a historical high for credit cards. The average rate among low interest credit cards is currently 14.23%. Usually, the 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||14.99%-25.99% variable||$0|
|Citi ThankYou Preferred||15 months, BT & purchases||15.49%-25.49% variable||$0|
What determines the APR on a credit card?
According to a CreditCards.com poll on debt, 28% of consumers carry a balance on their credit card, 43% for 2 or more years and 23% for 5 or more years. And each month they carry that debt, the interest charges climb ever higher.
That's because the card issuer has assigned an APR rate 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.
So if you have been paying on time and you have been keeping your balances low, you have a higher chance of a lower rate.
APR Rates on credit cards
You aren't charged a single rate with a credit card, unlike other types of loans. Here are the 4 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.
- 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.
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?
Some 52% of consumers with a card have carried credit card debt in the last year. Of 838 current cardholders polled in October 2018, YouGov PLC found for us that fewer than a quarter had never carried a balance.
As a cardholder, when was the last time you carried debt?...
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.
- Keep using the old card. You should still use your old card, putting a small charge on it and paying in full each month. As with the balance transfer card, this helps you continue to build your credit.
- 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.
Should you use a 0% APR card for holiday shopping?
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching, you may be thinking of getting a new credit card to fund your purchases. For example, you might be planning a holiday party, shopping for gifts, or planning a New Year's trip to a paradise vacation spot. But is a 0 APR credit card really your best option? The answer is, it depends.
If you know you're going to pay off all of your purchases (even the big ticket items) right away, you may want to find the best cash back card instead to get the most rewards out of your holiday spending. If you know you will need several months to fully pay for your purchases, limit your search to credit cards with a 0% purchase APR offer that covers that amount of time. If you have no idea how you're going to pay off your purchases, hold off on getting a credit card until you've done the math.
We asked savvy consumers how they have used their 0% APR cards for the holidays and what the benefits and pitfalls might be. Here is what they have to say.
Advantages of 0% APR cards for holiday spending
Lucas of Valeria Fine Jewelry in Dallas used a 0% APR card to go to Jamaica for New Year's trip one year for a $3,500 trip that he paid off in about 6 months.
"I have used introductory 0% interest cards to avoid paying any interest on multiple large purchases," says Lucas. "Currently, I have one that I put my website on. But I have also used them to pay for a CAD program, new air conditioners, as well as getting wood floors in my house."
"I was paying interest on an FCU credit card for 4 years before I was introduced to this way of paying off accounts without paying interest by a friend who had gotten himself in a little bit of a financial snafu," says Alex of Schimiggy.com. "With decent or good credit, you will get 0% APR offers in your mailbox weekly."
Pitfalls of 0% APR cards for holiday spending
Ahmed of YourTripGuru.com warns that you should not spend money if you don't have the ability to pay off the balance in full at the end of the month. That said, a 0% APR offer can give you the breather that you need, he says, as happened to him recently when he needed to build 2 custom closets and buy furniture for a condo he and his wife had just bought.
"The key to success is to not make a purchase that you can't legitimately pay off in the introductory period," says Lucas. "If you are not 100% sure you will be able to pay it off, then consider the future interest as a possible part of the cost."
Alex notes that there can be a balance transfer fee, which you need to be mindful of.
Alex planned a Thanksgiving trip to the Bahamas and ended up paying a balance transfer fee: "I ended up getting myself Lasik (so that I could snorkel without having to wear glasses) and buying plane tickets. I put the expenses on a Chase Freedom credit card with 0% APR for 10 months. I got Lasik 3 months before my trip (also had to wait 3 months before I could immerse myself in water). I ended up spending $2,200 for both. For this expense, I unfortunately did not pay it off within 10 months. I did transfer it onto another 0% APR card for another 12 months and was able to avoid paying interest. I did have to pay an approximately 2% transfer fee to switch credit cards."
What about retail 0% APR cards?
Ahmed used a Container Store Credit card for $5,000 toward 2 custom closets. The terms were to spend $3,000 and get 0% APR for 24 months. He swears by it.
"My wife and I bought a condo which is very exciting, but the condo has only two closets (modern city living), so we wanted to maximize the closet space by ordering a custom closet," says Ahmed. "I have been successful in avoiding interest every time I have done this and will continue to use 0% APR cards as a tool," says Lucas. "These cards are an excellent way to finance a large purchase, yet not pay the finance fees."
As with any other time you would consider a zero interest credit card, keep our advice in mind as you search for the right card for your holiday shopping.
How to compare two cards with a 0% APR offer
Because there are so many factors when choosing a 0% APR 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 see Grandma on Thanksgiving. Otherwise, using the card for new purchases can undercut the savings from having the fee waived.
Factors to consider about 0% cards with sign-up bonuses
- What's the sign-up bonus? Some 0% APR cards offer a sign-up bonus of up to $200.
- What are the ongoing rewards? You can probably find a 0% APR card with rewards of at least 1% cash back.
- Is there an annual fee? An annual fee might be required, but it can be an indication that the rewards are superior.
- Does it have a 0% APR for purchases? Do you need it? Some cards don't have intro APR offers for purchases, so check, if you plan to make a big purchase soon.
Comparing two 0% APR cards with an intro bonus
|Card||0% Offer||Intro Bonus||Ongoing Rewards||Annual Fee||Go-to Rate|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||0% intro APR for 15 months, purchases & balance transfers||$150 bonus/$500 spend in 3 mths||1.5% back on all purchases||$0||Ongoing APR 16.99%-25.74% variable|
|Blue Cash Everyday||0% intro APR for 15 months, purchases & balance transfers||$150 bonus/$1,000 spend in 3 mths||3% back at U.S. supermarkets; 2% back at U.S. gas stations, select U.S. department stores; 1% everything else||$0||Ongoing APR 14.99%-25.99% variable|
As you can see, while the Freedom Unlimited is a good use-it-and-forget-it card, the Blue Cash Everyday is ideal for the family that cooks at home. With both offering 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, they provide cover for a little over a year.
Things to watch out for
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, we found in our October 2018 survey 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 if you transfer within the first 60 days of card membership, 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.
The average debt per cardholder was $5,644 in the fourth quarter of 2017, up from $5,486 in 2016, according to a TransUnion report released in February. Daunting debt imposes on our ability to plan and dream, and it behooves us to get a handle on it.
You'll sometimes hear someone blame the credit card for their debt, but it's important to instead identify how you got into that debt in the first place. And no, it's not because the 0% intro offer was too short; rather, you may not have budgeted for paying off the balance in time.
Credit cards are great for convenience, rewards and building credit. They're not so great for long-term debt. Have you been using your card correctly?
For example, do you have spending habits that need to be adjusted? Or is there a kind of spending that got you into trouble? A CreditCards.com poll from September 2017 found that 32% of those surveyed got into debt through spending on everyday purchases. Here are top reasons why consumers face a balance with their cards:
Common reasons for incurring credit card debt
- Day-to-day expenses - 32%
- Retail purchases such as clothing, electronics - 16%
- Medical bills - 12%
- Home repairs - 10%
- Vacation expenses - 10%
- Car repairs, expenses - 7%
- Something else - 7%
You might also be at risk because of your responsibilities. College, mortgage, big family – these factors can hit a wallet hard when piled on top of each other. The CreditCards.com poll found that middle-aged consumers – younger Baby Boomers and Gen X consumers – were more likely to have card debt and carry a balance, while consumers from the Silent Generation and older Boomers were least likely to have card debt.
- Gen X - 36%
- Young Boomers - 33%
- Millennials - 26%
- Older Boomers - 24%
- Silent Gen - 19%
† 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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