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Author: Madison Blancaflor
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Bankrate helps you choose (and use) the right 0% intro APR card
Below you’ll find more information about limited-time zero-interest offers and how to use them for making a large purchase or transferring a balance. You can keep reading or skip down to the profiles of our top introductory zero-interest APR credit cards.
What is a 0% intro APR credit card? A useful financial tool
Cash is king, but sometimes even a king can be less than convenient.
Instead of stopping by the bank beforehand to withdraw an envelope of large bills, a typical consumer would probably find it a lot easier to go straight to the appliance store and put that new washer and dryer on a credit card.
The convenience of making a large purchase on credit could come at a price, however. With the average credit card APR (annual percentage rate) nearing 18%, the potential for steep interest charges comes into play. If you don’t pay your balance in full before the next billing period, interest on your new washer and dryer could put you through the wringer.
Fortunately, a 0% intro APR credit card might provide a solution for large purchases and big balances alike:
Zero-interest APR for purchases
If you have a large purchase planned, getting a credit card with a zero-interest APR offer ahead of time can truly pay off. Putting your big-ticket item on the 0% intro APR credit card instead of your regular card means a chance to avoid paying interest for the length of the intro period. The choice between 0% interest and the average 18% interest should be an easy one.
Learn more with Bankrate: Should you use a credit card for large purchases?
Zero-interest APR for balance transfers
If you don’t pay your monthly credit card balance down to zero, the unpaid portion is subject to interest charges, or APR. One remedy for the escalating cost of unpaid balances involves moving that debt to a credit card that offers 0% intro APR on balance transfers. By paying off the balance you’ve transferred to the new card before the introductory zero-percent rate ends, you can save money that would otherwise go to paying high interest charges.
Learn more with Bankrate: How to do a credit card balance transfer
Purchase or balance transfer? Get the right card for the job
Most of the cards we’ve chosen offer an introductory 0% APR rate on both purchases and balance transfers, for the same period of time. If you’re only interested in transferring a balance, you can check out our list of Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards.
Also, don’t forget that some balance transfer cards work with more than just credit card debt. In addition to credit card balances, you might be able to transfer debt from personal loans, student loans and other types of credit accounts.
How to use them: Examples of zero APR cards in action
You could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars with the help of a 0% intro APR card, whether it’s for a big purchase or transferred debt from one or more credit accounts. Here we show you how the process might work.
Financing large purchases
Let’s say you’re planning a spring renovation for your home, and you want to charge all new kitchen appliances to a credit card. You can sign up for a credit card with a 12-month zero percent introductory offer and (if your credit limit allows) charge the $10,000 for those appliances on that card.
If you pay the balance off in full before the end of that 12-month promotional period, you won’t owe any additional amount in interest. If you spent that same $10,000 on a card with an APR of 18% and took a year to pay off the balance, you’d tack another $1,001 in finance charges onto what you already owed.
Compare 0% intro purchase APR to regular rate
Similarly, you can transfer $10,000 worth of credit card debt to a card with a 12-month balance transfer offer. Rather than being charged a steep APR, you’ll be charged a balance transfer fee (typically 3% – 5% of each transfer) and avoid interest if you pay off that balance before the offer expires.
Compare 0% intro APR balance transfer offer to regular rate
||Balance transfer fee
How to choose the right zero interest credit card
Which type of credit card you should get depends on your long-term goals for the card. Are you just wanting to consolidate debt? Is building your credit score your ultimate long-term goal? Do you want to be able to earn rewards long after the welcome offer for the card ends? The answers to these questions will determine which credit card is right for you.
If you’re looking for a debt consolidation tool, the length of the balance transfer offer and the balance transfer fee are the two features you should look out for. The more debt you want to pay off, the longer the intro APR period you’ll want. The Citi Simplicity, for example, offers a great intro period length to give you time to pay off debt.
Those who want to keep their card long after the intro period is over should look for a card that offers great rewards. For example, the Citi Rewards+ Card comes with generous rewards and long-term value that goes well beyond the intro APR offer.
Recap: Bankrate’s top picks for 0% intro APR credit cards
How Bankrate scores and evaluates zero-interest APR credit cards
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to credit cards, so it’s important that you factor in all the variables of your unique situation to find the best card for you. To help you achieve your goals, we focus on specific areas when scoring 0% intro APR credit cards:
Length of the introductory offer
Generally, for zero-interest cards, the longer the period without APR, the better. Make sure you consider the introductory offer for both purchases and balance transfers. A 0% introductory purchase APR can be helpful if you plan to make a large purchase with your new card and can’t completely pay it in a single month. If you want to transfer a balance to help pay off debt, you should look for a 0% introductory balance transfer APR. Always ensure each introductory period aligns with your goals and ability to pay off your balances.
Regular variable APR
Regular variable APR, or standard APR, refers to the interest rate you incur on a credit card’s outstanding balance after the introductory zero-interest period ends. Standard APR can range from below 10% to over 20% and the current average for credit cards is nearly 18%. While you shouldn’t carry a balance on your card, choosing a card with a low APR can help ease the burden if you find yourself in a situation where you must.
“Should you keep this card after it has served the initial purpose?” That’s a key question we ask when evaluating a zero-interest card. Several cards on this list have rewards programs and other features that can make them worth keeping even after you’ve paid for a big purchase or paid off transferred debt.
How much can you save with a 0% intro APR offer?
Take a look at a comparison of some of our top zero interest cards:
||0% APR offer period for new purchases
||How much you’ll save in interest charges
|Capital One Quicksilver
||16.24% – 26.24% (Variable)
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®
||17.24% – 25.99% (Variable)
|Discover it® Cash Back
||14.24% – 25.24% (Variable)
||16.74% – 26.74% (Variable)
|Capital One VentureOne
||14.24% – 24.24% (Variable)
|HSBC Gold Mastercard credit card
||13.24%, 17.24% or 21.24% (Variable)
|BankAmericard® credit card
||18 billing cycles
||15.24% – 25.24% (Variable)
|Citi Rewards+℠ Card
||15.49% – 25.49% (Variable)
**Savings calculated using the top of the variable APR range and a $3,000 balance. Citi Double Cash not included because it does not offer an intro period for new purchases.
Should you use your 0% APR card to finance larger purchases?
Ideally, large purchases — both planned and unexpected — are paid for with money you’ve saved up over time. However, sometimes that’s just not possible. If you have to charge a larger purchase, a 0 APR credit card is typically a good choice. It allows you to spread out payments over time without worrying about interest.
The downside to these credit cards is that the regular APR that takes effect after the intro offer period ends might be a little higher than your average rewards card. Make sure you have a plan for paying off your balance within the offer period, because those interest charges can add up quickly. Calculate how much you should be paying off each month by simply taking your intro APR purchase balance and dividing it by the length until your intro period ends.
So, if you charge $1,500 on a card that has a 15-month intro period for new purchases, you need to pay $100 a month at minimum. It’s actually probably a good idea to plan to pay just a little extra each month so that you get the balance paid off a month or so early.
When a 0% APR credit card might not be right for you
Sometimes, a 0% intro APR card isn’t the best choice when looking at funding options. If you are looking to make a purchase you know you won’t be able to pay off within the offer period, it might be better to look at your personal loan options.
For example, it’s probably feasible for you to pay off plane tickets for an upcoming vacation or a new set of tires for your car over the course of a year to a year in and a half. Charging an entire home renovation or a large medical bill to a 0 APR credit card, on the other hand, might not be the best choice if you don’t have a realistic plan for paying off the charges within a year to a year and a half (depending on which card you apply for). Personal loans charge a much lower interest rate than credit cards, so even if you have to pay some money in interest, you’ll still be saving hundreds.
How does a 0% APR card affect your credit?
Any time you apply for a new credit card, the credit card issuer will check your credit report to determine your creditworthiness. This is called a hard inquiry, and it can temporarily affect your credit score. Typically, as long as you aren’t applying for multiple lines of credit within a short period of time, there shouldn’t be any lasting negative effects to your credit score.
However, there are multiple ways a 0% APR card can affect your credit depending on how you use the card. If you’re using your card to consolidate debt, it can actually help boost your credit score over time. A large factor in determining your credit score is your credit utilization ratio. By consolidating and paying down credit card balances, you’re lowering that ratio.
Furthermore, if you use a zero APR credit card to pay off a large purchase over time, you can boost your credit score just by showing lenders that you can consistently make on-time payments.
Should you cancel the card after the purchase or transfer is paid off?
Once a zero-interest APR credit card has served its initial purpose, you might assume you don’t need it anymore. Don’t be too quick to act on that assumption.
Canceling a credit card could have a negative effect on your credit score. The reason involves credit utilization, the relationship between two numbers: how much available credit you have vs. how much of that credit you’re using. A canceled credit card lowers the first number, which means you’ll use more of the credit left available to you.
Why is higher credit utilization potentially a problem? It could give lenders the impression that you’re having financial difficulties and make it seem like you’re more of a credit risk.
If you’ve used a 0 interest card for a credit card balance transfer, you should also think carefully before canceling the original card — yes, the one that got you into debt in the first place. Even with a card that doesn’t get much use, putting it in a drawer while leaving the account open could keep your credit score from taking the hit from a cancellation. Also, longstanding accounts generally look good on your credit score.
A closer look at our top zero APR credit cards of 2019
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
This card currently offers a 15-month introductory period for both balance transfers and new purchases (then 16.24% – 26.24% variable APR thereafter). Plus, you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases and a $150 bonus after spending $500 within the first 3 months of account opening. If you’re looking for a simple way to earn rewards while you save on interest with a 0% APR offer, you’ve found the right card.
The rewards structure on this card is simple and straightforward. Let’s say you spend $1,200 on your Quicksilver each month. At the end of each year, you’ll have racked up over $200 in cash back rewards.
Read the full review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.
Discover it® Cash Back
The Discover it® Cash Back is a rotating category cash back card that gets you 5% cash back in different areas each quarter, like gas stations and grocery stores, and an unlimited 1% cash back on everything else. You do have to enroll in the new categories each month and 5% cash back is reduced to 1% after you spend $1,500 each quarter. You’ll get a 14-month 0% APR introductory period for purchases and balance transfers (14.24% – 25.24% variable thereafter), and Discover matches all of the cash you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
The intro APR offer isn’t as long as other top cards in this category, but the long-term value you can get from the Discover it® Cash Back makes the shorter offer period worth it for the consumer with a moderate balance. Long after you take advantage of the intro APR period, you can enroll in 5% cash back in different categories each quarter to help you maximize cash rewards (up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly, and 1% on everything else). This is a card for the shopper who likes to time her purchases according to the card’s rotating schedule, not the consumer looking to set it and forget it.
Read the full review and apply on Discover’s secure website.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
This card currently offers a 15-month introductory period for both balance transfers and new purchases (then 17.24% – 25.99% variable APR thereafter). Plus, you’ll earn 3% cash back on the first $20,000 in purchases your first year with the card and 1.5% unlimited cash back on all other purchases. If you’re looking for a simple way to earn rewards while you save on interest with a 0% APR offer, you’ve found the right card.
While the annual value of the card’s rewards is lower after the first year is over, 1.5% unlimited cash back is still a generous rewards offer. You’ll want to use this as a supplemental card for years after the intro offer ends.
Read the full review and apply on Chase’s secure website.
Citi Simplicity® Card
The Citi Simplicity Card is the perfect option for consolidating debt. With a 0% APR period of 21 months on balance transfers (16.74% – 26.74% variable thereafter), you can save thousands of dollars by paying off debt without interest. This card also never charges a late fee, although you don’t want to make it a habit to pay late because of the impact on your credit files.
If you’re looking for a credit card to use far beyond the intro APR period has ended, this is not the right card for you. However, this is one of the best cards on the market for balance transfers and paying down debt — which can help you boost your credit score if you’re sitting in the “good” range but want to apply for cards in the future that require “excellent” credit.
Read the full review and apply on Citi’s secure website.
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Have a large travel-related expense coming up? You can finance your upcoming trip while earning travel rewards. The VentureOne card offers a low 12-month introductory 0% APR rate on purchases (14.24%-24.24% variable APR after that), plus 1.25x miles on every purchase and 10x miles on thousands of hotels (through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture). This is the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card’s sister credit card. It has a lesser rewards rate, but the card doesn’t charge an annual fee.
The Venture travel rewards program is valuable, and you can rack up a lot of miles on everyday purchases by using this card — all for no annual fee. For even more perks, you can upgrade the VentureOne® to the higher-earning Venture® as you ramp up travel spending to offset the Venture’s annual fee of $95 (waived the first year).
Read the full review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.
HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card
Everyone makes mistakes, including forgetting the due date for your credit card bill every now and again. Luckily, the HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card will forgive your first late payment penalty, so you can focus on paying off your balance instead of paying off additional fees. The card also offers an impressive 18-month introductory APR offer on new purchases and balance transfers (13.24%, 17.24% or 21.24% variable APR after).
The regular APR (13.24%, 17.24% or 21.24% variable after the intro period ends) is one of the best regular APRs on our top zero-interest credit cards list. If you know you might end up carrying a balance at any time past the intro offer period, this is a great card to have on hand to save on interest compared to other credit cards.
Read the full review and apply on HSBC’s secure website.
Citi® Double Cash Card
The Citi Double Cash Card offers one of the most competitive flat-rate rewards structures available. You’ll earn up to 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% back when you swipe and another 1% back when you pay for those purchases. While there is no introductory offer for new purchases, you can get 0% APR for 18 months on balance transfers (15.99% – 25.99% variable APR after the intro period ends).
You’ll get the most cash back from this card by using it for your everyday purchases and paying off your bill in full each month. That same strategy will also help you maintain or even improve your credit score over time, which can help you qualify for lower interest rates, more favorable loan terms and more.
Read the full review and apply on Citi’s secure website.
BankAmericard® credit card
This card’s introductory offer is 18 billing cycles at 0% APR for both balance transfers (made in the first 60 days) and purchases. Regular APR after the intro offer is 15.24% – 25.24% variable. Despite the lack of a rewards program or sign-up bonus, its short-term value gets a boost from no annual fee, no penalty APR and a low balance transfer fee of 3% ($10 minimum). The BankAmericard® credit card might not be flashy, but it can get the job done if you need to pay off transferred debt or a big purchase.
With no rewards program, the long-term value of this card takes a hit. The monthly FICO Score for free is a nice benefit but not at all uncommon for cards of this caliber. The card’s overall value and utility will diminish after you’ve completed the payoff of a purchase or balance transfer.
Read the full review and apply on Bank of America’s secure website.
Citi Rewards+℠ Card
For the introductory offer, cardholders receive 15 months of 0% APR for both purchases and balance transfers. After the offer expires, a variable APR of 15.49% – 25.49% applies. The card benefits from a reasonable balance transfer fee of 3% or $5, whichever is greater. As for rewards, the round-up feature helps you earn additional ThankYou Points with no extra effort.
In addition to ThankYou Rewards, this card’s value gets a boost from features such as Citi Private Pass and Citi Concierge. The lack of an annual fee means you don’t have to factor in a yearly charge as you weigh the benefits, either.
Read the full review and apply on Citi’s secure website.