If you have good credit, this is a great time to find a low-interest credit card.
Credit card companies are in a pitched battle to attract new customers and lure you away from your existing cards. That’s why it’s easy today to find cards with attractive rewards programs, sign-up bonuses and even 0 percent introductory rates.
Some issuers also are offering super-low standard annual percentage rates to entice consumers whose top priority is finding cheap financing. You may even find the best rate available is on a card you already own.
Here are five easy ways to get the best credit card rate.
1. Comparison shop
With thousands of choices, it’s wise to take your time and look at a variety of credit cards. Know what you’re looking for going into your hunt.
Most credit card offers state an APR range. If you spot a card that offers a standard APR of 12.99 percent to 23.99 percent, for example, know that the better your credit is, the lower your rate should be on that range.
If you have excellent credit, you should qualify for the lowest rate on any card’s range.
You’ll know you’ve spotted a good deal if the lowest rate available is at least several percentage points below the average credit card interest rate.
They’re not easy to find, but there are a few credit cards that still offer APRs under 10 percent.
What’s more, many of the best cards offer introductory 0 percent APR financing on purchases for 12 months or longer.
2. Transfer your debt
If you’re unsatisfied with your interest rate, you may consider transferring your balance to another card with a lower rate. This can be a smart move, especially if you have good to excellent credit.
There are a number of balance transfer cards that include introductory 0 percent APR offers for up to 21 months.
But not all 0 percent offers are the same. You may find the best deal is a no-interest offer with a shorter introductory period that also waives any balance transfer fee. That could save you hundreds of dollars, as most balance transfer cards charge a fee of 3 to 5 percent of the balance you plan to move from your old card.
You’ll need to decide if having longer to pay off your balance interest-free is more important than saving a bit more money on the front end.
Additionally, you can transfer other loan balances with higher interest rates — like a personal loan — to a card with a lower rate. The more high-interest debt you have, the more you can save by moving it to a card with no interest for the first year or more.
3. Ask for it
Your credit card interest rate is negotiable. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.
Credit card companies often are willing to lower cardholders’ rates in order to keep their business, so don’t be afraid to speak up. Your chances of getting that reduced rate go up if you pay your bill on time and have a positive history with your credit card company.
Every percentage point counts when it comes to saving money, so even if you negotiate your rate down to 18 percent from 20 percent, that’s still a win. For example, $2,000 in credit card debt with a 20 percent APR calculates to approximately $352 in interest over one year if you make the minimum monthly payments. Contrast that with an 18 percent APR, which brings your annual interest down to $314.
If you can lower it even more — to about 15 percent, then you end up paying $259 in interest per year. That’s almost $100 in savings. If you spend 30 minutes on the phone negotiating a lower rate, then it’s probably worth your time to call.
4. Improve your credit score
If your APR falls on the high end of a credit card’s range, it might be time to take action and improve your credit. While credit repair isn’t a quick fix, it will pay off in the long run. People with above average credit scores enjoy the benefits of lower rates and better credit card offers.
The first thing you should do is to check your credit report for errors, which directly affects your credit score.
Then, reduce your debt — but don’t cancel your cards. A long credit history with the same institution is a plus. Now, you’ll have a better argument to make to the card company for reducing your credit card APR.
5. Pay off your card each month
Getting the best interest rate can be as easy as maintaining a zero balance. As long as you pay off your debt in full each billing cycle, that short-term loan you get from your credit card is free. That means someone with a 24 percent interest rate and a zero balance pays less than someone with a 14 percent interest rate and a $100 balance.
Something to beware of, however, is residual interest, also known as trailing interest. If you carry a balance on your card and then use the “balance due” amount to pay off your debt, you will likely end up with a residual interest charge. What happens is that you will accrue interest between the date the statement went out and the date your credit card company actually receives your payment.
To avoid this, call your issuer and find out what the “full payoff amount” is for the date that you will make the payoff payment. This is the surest way to avoid those pesky lingering interest payments.