The best way to avoid paying interest on a credit card is to never carry over a balance on that card in the first place.
However, in real life, things happen — an unexpected home or car repair, a large medical bill, or even a last-minute trip to attend a funeral can have you spending more than you planned.
Regardless of the reason, carrying large balances on your credit card can cost you dearly when interest is added to the debt and you’re unable to pay it off in a timely manner.
The good news is that there are several credit cards with zero-interest offers out there that can help you get the cost of that debt under control while you focus on paying it off. It’s even possible to earn rewards on purchases you make with 0% APR cards.
Let’s look at how 0% APR cards work, how you may be able to earn rewards while saving on interest charges, and some of the best options for introductory 0% APR credit cards.
How Does a 0% APR Credit Card Work?
0% APR Explained
Is there really such a thing as a credit card that doesn’t charge interest? It would be wishful thinking to believe any credit card never charged interest — but the next best thing might actually be a 0% interest credit card.
A 0% interest credit card (frequently referred to as a “0% APR credit card”) is just a normal credit card that offers a special introductory period when no interest is charged on purchases made and/or on balances transferred from other credit cards.
4 Reasons To Consider a 0% APR Credit Card
How do you know if a 0% APR credit card is right for you?
If you have a solid credit history but any of these scenarios would potentially put you in a financial bind, you might want to consider a 0% APR credit card.
- An emergency arises: Whether it’s a large medical bill, a major car repair, or the furnace stops working in subzero temperatures, you know you’re going to have to shell out a lot of money. Being able to repay that large expense over time can soften the financial blow of an unexpected emergency.
- You have high-interest credit card debt: Perhaps you’ve run up some credit card debt, and you’re making payments on high-interest credit cards. If you know you could pay off the entire balance within the 0% APR period, it makes sense to transfer those balances to a 0% APR card.
- You’re faced with a large purchase or several large purchases: We tend to buy new appliances all at once (when moving into a new home, for example), so it does make sense that they tend to break down around the same time. Whether you’re replacing appliances or needing a new riding lawn mower, several large purchases can send any budget into a tailspin. A 0% APR credit card gives you a little breathing room to pay for those purchases over time.
- Tuition is due: If your educational institution takes credit cards, you can utilize your 0% APR card to make that tuition payment and repay it over time instead of having to come up with a large lump sum payment or take out a student loan.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how a 0% APR card works and why you’d want to consider the option, let’s look at some of the best credit cards with introductory 0% APR periods that also earn rewards.
The Best 0% APR Personal Consumer Credit Cards for Purchases
If you’re looking for a 0% APR credit card, you’ll want to consider the repayment period that best fits your needs and any associated fees that might be charged. Another consideration, especially if you’re making a large purchase, is whether the card will earn travel rewards, cash-back, or have a generous sign-up bonus.
With so many variables to consider, you might need a little help — so we’ve put together all the information you need to select the right card for your situation.
Let’s get started with some suggestions for 0% APR cards to consider for purchases.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® & Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card — Best for Earning Travel Rewards
If repaying the cost of a major purchase over time is your priority, you’ll enjoy a 15-month 0% APR period (from the date of card approval) with the Freedom Unlimited card or the Freedom Flex card. After the 15-month period, normal variable rates apply.
Both cards offer 5% cash-back earnings on travel via the Chase travel portal and 3% cash-back on dining and at drugstores. The Freedom Unlimited card then earns 1.5% on all other purchases while the Freedom Flex card has quarterly bonus categories earning 5% cash-back, then 1% on all other purchases.
Cardholders can receive their cash-back at a rate of 1 cent per point via a statement credit to offset purchases made or opt to receive a direct deposit straight into their bank account.
While both cards earn cash-back, when paired with a premium Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, that cash-back can be converted to valuable Ultimate Rewards points to redeem for up to 50% more value when redeemed for travel.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express — Earn Cash-Back on Everyday Purchases
One common reason to utilize a 0% APR offer is for making a large purchase you would like to be able to pay back over time. The Amex Blue Cash Everyday card could serve you well for this purpose as you’ll have 15 months from card approval to pay back the amount of your purchase(s). After that, a regular variable APR will apply.
Depending on the nature of the large purchase, you could fare well if you use the Amex Blue Cash Everyday card with 2% cash-back at select U.S. department stores. This might be a card you would keep after your purchase is paid off, too, since it earns 3% cash-back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%), and 2% cash-back at U.S gas stations.
There’s also a welcome bonus that can be earned on this card, and depending on the amount of your large purchase, the welcome bonus (earned as cash-back) might be used to offset part of the cost of that purchase.
To learn more about utilizing cards for large purchases, we also have an entire post dedicated to the best rewards credit cards for high-spend and large purchases if you want to dig deeper into this topic.
The Best 0% APR Personal Consumer Credit Cards for Balance Transfers
Transferring high-interest credit card balances to 0% APR cards can save you plenty in interest charges. Here are a couple of examples of cards that earn rewards and offer the 0% APR option for balance transfers.
Citi® Double Cash Card — Earn 2x Points on Every Purchase & Get 18 Months 0% APR on Balance Transfers
The Double Cash card offers an introductory 0% APR on balance transfers made within the first 4 months after card approval. The 0% APR period is one of the best available as the period extends for 18 months from the date of transfer. Terms apply.
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card — Earn on Everyday Spending
|Credit Card||Benefits & Info|
|Bank of America Cash Rewards card|
- $200 welcome bonus after spending $1,000 in first 90 days after card approval
- 3% cash-back on your chosen bonus category including gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores, home improvement/furnishings
- 2% cash-back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs for the first $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter
- 1% cash-back on all other purchases
- Introductory 0% APR period for 15 statement closings for both purchases and balance transfers made within the first 60 days after card approval
Have the best of both 0% APR worlds with introductory 0% APR offers for both purchases and balance transfers for 15 billing cycles on the Bank of American Cash Rewards card. A standard fee of $10 or 3% of the balance transfer amount, whichever is greater, will apply.
Hot Tip: Many credit card issuers allow you to transfer student loan balances to a 0% APR credit card. You’ll want to make sure the amount you transfer can be paid off during the 0% APR promotional period, and that you consider transfer fees in the calculation to determine if it’s a good deal for you.
Best 0% APR Business Credit Cards for Purchases
Making a large business purchase and having a 0% APR period to pay back the purchase amount over time can help manage your business cash flow. Fortunately, these 2 business credit cards offer a way to earn rewards on your purchases and offer repayment flexibility with no interest charges.
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card & Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card — Best for Earning Travel Rewards
Plan your next large business purchase(s) with 12 months to repay with no interest charges with either of these Chase business credit cards.
You’ll find that both of these business cards offer a generous welcome bonus, have similar redemption options, and come with several travel and shopping benefits.
You’ll also be able to transfer Ultimate Rewards points earned on either card to premium Chase credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or Chase Sapphire Reserve card for up to 50% more value for travel redemptions.
To find out more about how these 2 cards compare, we’ve done the homework for you in this article.
Best 0% APR Business Credit Cards for Balance Transfers
While few business credit cards offer 0% APR periods for balance transfers, especially rewards-earning cards, you may find these offers periodically on several cards. Here is an example of 1 card that currently offers 0% APR on balance transfers:
U.S. Bank Business Cash Rewards World Elite™ Mastercard® — Earn Cash-Back Rewards on Every Purchase
With introductory 0% APR periods for both purchases and balance transfers, you’ll have several options to save on interest charges with the U.S. Bank Business Cash Rewards card.
The card offers 12 months of no interest charges for either purchases or balance transfers. There is a 3% or $5 minimum fee on balance transfers, whichever is greater.
You’ll also earn 3% cash-back at gas stations, office supply stores, cell phone/service providers, and 1% on all other purchases. The card does not charge an annual fee.
Best 0% APR Credit Cards — Summary
Now it’s time to review our list of 0% APR cards and look at how the cards currently stack up for offers on purchases and/or balance transfers.
|Card||0% APR Period for Purchases||0% APR Period for Balance Transfers|
|Freedom Unlimited card||15 months||15 months|
|Freedom Flex card||15 months||15 months|
|Amex Blue Cash Everyday card||15 months||N/A|
|Double Cash card||N/A||18 months|
|Bank of America Cash Rewards card||15 months||15 months|
|Ink Business Cash card||12 months||N/A|
|Ink Business Unlimited card||12 months||N/A|
|U.S. Bank Business Cash Rewards card||12 months||12 months|
Now that we’ve reviewed some examples of cards that have 0% APR offers, let’s dig deeper into how 0% APR cards work and tips for maximizing these offers.
While there are plenty of introductory 0% APR offers available, these offers may only be temporary offers. In addition, 0% APR periods can change as well as subsequent interest rates. You’ll want to review pricing and fee information on any card you’re considering before applying.
How Much Can You Really Save With a 0% APR Credit Card?
Transferring Balances From High-Interest Credit Cards
One of the primary reasons for securing a 0% APR credit card is not having to pay interest for a specific period of time. Let’s say you have a $2,400 balance on a credit card that has a 16% APR. You currently pay the minimum of $96 a month on the card.
Each month you’ll pay about 4% of the balance as a minimum payment. In this scenario, it will take you 99 months to pay off the card completely, during which you’d pay $1,096.66 in interest. This may seem shocking, but there are some caveats to consider before you immediately make a balance transfer.
First, there may be transfer fees (usually the greater of $5 or 3%), even when transferring balances during the 0% promotional period. Second, if you continued to pay the $96 a month versus a 4% minimum payment on the high-interest card balance, you would pay off the $2,400 in closer to 32 months — not 99 months.
In this case, even paying a $72 fee to transfer this $2,400 balance to a 0% APR card would still net you significant savings. Paying $155 per month for 18 months toward the $2,400 balance on the 0% APR card would result in saving over $300 in interest charges.
Bottom Line: Be sure to consider transfer fees in your calculation before moving balances from high-interest credit cards to a 0% APR credit card. Do not transfer more than you can pay off completely before the end of the 0% APR promotional period! Also, note that you cannot transfer balances between credit cards issued by the same financial institution.
Utilizing a 0% APR Credit Card for a Large Purchase or Expense
When you utilize a 0% APR credit card for a large purchase, you’re basically just spreading out the repayment of the original purchase price over time. For this reason, 0% APR cards can serve an important role in managing your finances when an unexpected or large expense arises.
For example, let’s say you need a new washer and dryer. You found a set for $1,500 and decide to charge the purchase on your credit card that has an APR of 16%. You pay $94.28 per month for 18 months until the debt is repaid. The total interest paid would be $197.12.
However, you’d save this entire $197.12 if you made the purchase on a 0% APR credit card with an 18-month introductory 0% APR period.
Bottom Line: Using a 0% APR card for a large purchase and paying off the debt completely before the 0% interest period expires can be an effective way to save hundreds of dollars in interest.
How To Compare and Select a 0% APR Credit Card
Before jumping in and selecting a 0% APR credit card, you’ll want to consider the following and ask yourself a few questions:
- What is your primary reason for getting the 0% APR card?
- For instance, will you be utilizing the card to pay off high-interest debt or for a large purchase?
- How many months do you need to completely pay off the balance?
- 9, 12, and 18 months are common options
- Are there fees associated with the transactions you plan on making?
- For example, does the card charge an annual fee or balance transfer fees?
- Will you be making additional purchases on the card while you’re paying down a transferred balance or large purchase?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you select the right 0% APR credit card to fit your situation.
Example 1: Let’s suppose you’re selecting a card because you have $2,000 in high-interest credit card debt you’d like to eliminate. You’re comfortable paying off the balance in 18 months, and you’d prefer a card that doesn’t charge any balance transfer fees. You plan on not using the card for additional purchases until you pay off the debt.
Example 2: Now let’s imagine a different scenario where you plan to purchase a $2,000 riding lawn mower to make your weekend chores a bit easier. Your priorities for selecting a 0% APR credit card have changed.
You won’t have to consider transfer fees — only that you’ll get a 0% APR period to repay your purchase. In this case, you might select the Freedom Unlimited card that offers 15 months to pay off your balance interest-free.
Note that none of the cards in our example charge an annual fee, and we’re not factoring any welcome bonuses, cash-back rewards, or other benefits into the comparison.
Hot Tip: You can benefit from 0% APR cards that have welcome bonuses and earn rewards or cash-back. If you’re making a large purchase, you’ll generally want to receive rewards or cash-back for that purchase. Balance transfers do not earn rewards or cash-back.
Everything Else You Need To Know
Interest Rates on 0% APR Credit Cards
It’s common to hear people ask, “What’s the interest rate on that credit card?” The problem is, there’s no simple answer to this — credit cards can charge a different interest rate for different types of transactions. Interest rates can also change periodically as they are based on the prime rate.
- Purchases — Interest is charged on purchases when the full balance is not paid off at each statement period. This does not happen during the 0% APR period when payments are timely, but any balance remaining after the period has expired will incur current interest rate charges.
- Balance Transfer — After the 0% APR period has expired, any remaining balance will be subject to a special balance transfer APR. This APR can also be applied if payments are not made on time.
- Cash Advance — Cash advances may incur fees and a separate APR, which is frequently higher than the purchase APR.
- Penalty APR — If you miss a payment or make a late payment during the 0% APR period, you could be subject to a penalty APR that is higher than the current purchase APR.
Bottom Line: Credit card issuers are required to disclose all of the terms, conditions, fees, pricing, and interest rates associated with each credit card. Before applying for any credit card, you should review this information carefully. There is always a link to this chart on the credit card information page and/or the application page.
Cautions When Using a 0% APR Credit Card
It might sound like a 0% APR credit card is a really great solution for paying off high-interest debt or spreading out the repayment of a large purchase over time, and it can be.
If you use the card correctly and follow the rules (better known as “terms and conditions” in the credit card world), a 0% APR credit card can be a real asset in managing your finances.
However, you should proceed with caution and be aware of triggers that could potentially make your decision to utilize a 0% APR card an expensive one.
Missing a Payment or Making a Late Payment
Missing or making a late payment on a 0% APR card can trigger a penalty interest rate that can significantly exceed the regular interest rate on the credit card. In some cases, this can be close to 30%.
Not all 0% APR cards charge a penalty interest rate — only the regular interest rate when a payment is late during the 0% APR period. This is still a costly mistake, though, so you’ll want to make every payment on time.
The penalty interest rate can be temporary and removed at the credit card issuer’s discretion after a specific period of time, like after 6 months of subsequent on-time payments.
Hot Tip: Set up automatic payments to your 0% APR credit card that are scheduled to be applied well before the due date, and follow up to make sure they’re credited to your account. If for any reason the payment isn’t processed correctly (and this does happen), you will still have time to make an on-time payment.
Failure To Repay the Balance by the Deadline
Not paying off your balance prior to when the 0% APR period ends can trigger interest to be charged on the amount of the balance left. Paying interest on that balance diminishes the value of getting the 0% APR card at all, so you’ll want to plan effectively.
Using the Card for New Purchases
Say you made a large purchase or transferred a large balance to the 0% APR card, and created a plan to pay off this balance by the end of the 0% APR period. If you use the card for new purchases, you could get into trouble if you don’t have a plan to pay off those purchases as well.
Bottom Line: To gain the most benefit from a 0% APR card, you’ll want to manage the card wisely by ensuring all payments are made on time, your balance is paid off by the expiration of the 0% APR period, and new purchase amounts (if any) are included in your repayment plan.
0% APR Versus Deferred Interest
A lot of unfamiliar terminologies are thrown around in the credit card world, and it can be confusing. For example, when you hear similar terms such as a 0% APR period or deferred interest period referred to in various credit card offers, pay attention as there is a huge difference.
When we discuss 0% APR credit cards, we’re referring to credit cards that have an introductory period (commonly starting when you are approved for the credit card) where there is no interest charged on purchases you make on the card. There may also be a 0% APR for transferring balances.
Other credit cards — usually co-branded retail store credit cards like those offered by Comenity Bank or Synchrony Bank — may offer an introductory period where interest is deferred on specific purchases. With these cards, interest is still accumulating during the interest-free period… it’s just not charged to your account.
If a deferred-interest purchase is not paid off by the deadline, interest is added retroactively back to the date the purchase was made. The interest is also calculated on the entire amount of the purchase — so you can imagine the interest charges would be significant!
0% APR credit cards work differently, and they do not incur interest during the 0% APR promotional period. 0% APR credit cards also do not charge interest retroactively if you do not pay off your balance by the expiration of the 0% APR period.
You will, however, be charged the current interest rate in effect at the time on any purchase balance remaining when the 0% APR promotional period expires.
The 0% APR Period Has Expired — Now What?
If you paid off your balance by the end of the 0% APR, congratulations! You’re probably wondering what you should do with the credit card now.
Should you continue to use it? If you selected a rewards-earning credit card and it fits your current spending habits, you’ll benefit from continuing to use the card. Just make sure you pay off your balance monthly to avoid incurring any interest charges.
Should you close it? There is no real reason to close the credit card unless it has an annual fee. When you are approved for a credit card, your credit history clock starts ticking… and a long credit history is good for your credit score.
Also, keeping the card even if you don’t use it often can help your credit utilization, which is the amount of credit you’re using compared to the total amount of credit you have available.
Hot Tip: To learn more about credit utilization and how it affects your score, read our in-depth article about credit scores.
What if you failed to pay off the balance on the card by the end of the 0% APR period? No need to panic — only the amount you haven’t paid off will incur interest charges. Although these charges can be hefty, you’ve hopefully paid down the balance enough so you can focus on eliminating the remaining balance quickly.
Considering whether to apply for any credit card is a decision you should take seriously; how you manage that card can affect your financial future. Using a 0% APR credit card adds an additional layer of responsibility.
Just like with a regular credit card, you’ll need to make timely payments — but you’ll also need to make sure your balance is paid off before the 0% APR period expires. If not, you’ll incur interest rate charges that negate the benefit of having a 0% APR card at all.
You’ll also want to judiciously manage new purchases on the 0% APR card to make sure you’re able to pay those off prior to the expiration of the interest-free period.
A 0% APR credit card is a fine tool to help you manage your finances and potentially earn a lot of rewards. If you have the discipline to manage the card well, you’ll come out on the other side reaping the benefits a stronger credit history can bring.
The information regarding Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card, Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card, Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card, and U.S. Bank Business Cash Rewards World Elite™ Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, click here.