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Travel reward credit cards and 0 percent introductory APRs on purchases and balance transfers don’t often co-exist. Having both travel rewards and 0 percent APR are incredible perks on their own, but when you combine the two, you have the makings of a credit card with potential for substantial savings.
The best travel rewards credit cards make it possible to significantly save on travel-related expenses, while 0 percent introductory APR saves you money on costly interest charges. During a recession and high inflation, both of these benefits can make a huge difference with your budget.
The 5 best travel cards with 0% introductory APR
We picked the following credit cards and found our list of top contenders, each of which offer at least 12 months 0 percent APR on purchases or balance transfers, plus earn high rates of travel rewards.
Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card: Best for simple travel rewards program
The Wells Fargo Autograph Card offers a 0 percent introductory APR for purchases for 12 months from account opening (then 19.99 percent, 24.99 percent or 29.99 percent variable). Additionally, you earn 3X points on restaurant, travel, gas station, transit and streaming purchases, plus 1X points for all other purchases. Points are worth 1.0 cents each, which means 3 cents per dollar for the bonus categories. With no annual fee, it’s a low-cost card with which you can rack up serious rewards quickly.
If you want a simple rewards program where you have broad category coverage for everyday spending, then the Autograph card may be a great fit.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: Best for zero-interest purchases and balance transfers
You’ll often find credit cards offering 0 percent APR for either purchases or balance transfers, but not always both. The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card offers 0 percent APR for 15 months for both purchases and balance transfers (then 19.99 percent to 29.99 percent variable), giving you even more options with the card. Plus, the no annual fee makes it a low-cost travel rewards card. You can earn a decent amount of travel rewards too, with a 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, and 1.25X miles for all other purchases.
Capital One Miles are currently worth 1.7 cents each, which means the current welcome offer of 20,000 miles if you spend $500 in the first three months is worth $200 of travel booked through Capital One Travel. If you need 0 percent APR on both purchases and balance transfers, you’ll want to consider this one.
Discover it® Miles: Best for no annual fee
The Discover it Miles credit card offers a flat-rate, unlimited 1.5 miles for every dollar spent, without an annual fee. Plus, you can enjoy a 0 percent APR on both purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then 16.74 percent to 27.74 percent variable). With the flat-rate earnings, it acts more like a cash back card than a traditional travel rewards, since you don’t have to keep up with any bonus or rotating categories, which may appeal to people who want an uncomplicated rewards structure.
No matter what you redeem your miles for, the Discover miles are worth 1.0 cents each. While this may be appealing to some, it makes it harder to earn luxury travel perks, such as free hotel stays or upgrades on flights.
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card: Best for automatic 5% cash back categories
The Citi Custom Cash Card is a general cash back card, but it earns up to 5 percent cash back on select categories, which includes airlines, hotel and cruise purchases. You automatically earn the 5 percent in your top spending category each quarter, so if travel happens to be your top category, then it rivals the earning potential of other travel rewards cards. It also offers 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then 19.24 percent to 29.24 percent variable) and has no annual fee.
Currently, the Citi ThankYou points vary in value, depending on how you redeem them. Basic points are worth 1.0 cents each, but if you pool your points with other eligible Citi travel cards, you may be able to boost the value to 1.6 cents each through high-value Citi transfer partners.
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card: Best for lengthy zero-interest time period
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card is also a cash back credit card. As the name suggests, you can customize the category you earn the maximum 3 percent cash back in—and travel purchases are one of these categories. You earn two percent cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs plus one percent on all other purchases (up to $2,500 of combined 3 and 2 percent category purchases each quarter, then 1 percent). But the best part may be the 0 percent APR for both purchases and balance transfers in the first 60 days for 15 months (then 18.24 percent to 28.24 percent variable, 3 percent fee applies), making it one of the longer zero-interest options available.
The Bank of America cash back rewards are worth 1.0 cents. So your chosen 3 percent cash back category earns three cents per dollar, up to the spending cap. If you need a longer 0 percent APR promotional period and want to earn cash back for travel purchases, then this card may be the most rewarding match.
The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card last updated on August 14, 2023.
How to choose the best 0% APR travel credit card
Finding the right 0 percent APR travel credit card may be easier than finding your next travel destination. To make it as simple as possible, try comparing several different cards and consider what’s most meaningful to you as a cardholder.
How long do you want a break from interest?
Find out what the time period is for the 0 percent APR offer and if it applies to purchases, balance transfers or both. Is the time period long enough for you to accomplish your financial goal? For example, if you have a large purchase to make, then 12 months may be ample time to make monthly payments and pay the entire balance. Or you may need a longer period to consolidate and pay down a balance transfer from a high-interest credit card.
Are you willing to pay an annual fee?
Some credit cards have no annual fee, while others may charge several hundred dollars per year simply to carry the card. However, higher annual fees typically mean a more robust rewards program and other benefits — such as an attractive welcome offer — which can offset the cost of the annual fee if used wisely.
What’s the ongoing APR?
The ongoing APR is the interest applied to your credit card, once the promotional zero-interest rate is over. This rate is actually set when you open the account, even if it’s not in effect for several months. Keep in mind that many credit card issuers use a variable APR instead of a fixed one, which means the rate is subject to change.
What are the travel rewards worth?
You’ll want to know how much the travel rewards are worth when you redeem them. The value of the points or miles depends not only on the rewards program you’re enrolled in, but also how you redeem them. For example, Wells Fargo points are worth 1.0 cents each on average and are typically only redeemable for cash back. On the other hand, Capital One miles are worth an average of 1.7 cents each and can vary based on the travel partner you transfer them to.
How to calculate your points and miles value
You can calculate the points and miles value of a reward by dividing the cost of the travel in cash (such as the hotel room or flight) by the cost in points or miles. For instance, if you find a flight that costs $300, or 25,000 points, then the value of the points for this flight would be 1.2 cents per point ($300 ÷ 25,000 = 0.012, or 1.2 cents).
Once you’ve estimated the general value, you can compare it to the rewards points values listed with Bankrate, to see if the value is equal or better than the standard. Bear in mind the value of your points or miles depends not only on the program you’re enrolled in, but also what you’re booking.
How to make the most of your zero-interest period
If your travel rewards card does offer a zero-interest period, there are ways to maximize the benefit, including:
- Don’t miss a payment due date: Most often the zero-interest offer is canceled if you miss a payment and the APR reverts to the ongoing APR, resulting in costly interest charges. This usually applies even if you miss the payment by a day, so set a reminder to pay before the due date.
- Pay off a balance transfer before the period is over: If the zero-interest applies to a balance transfer, your best approach is to pay the entire balance before the end of the promotional period. Usually, whatever balance is remaining once the time period ends is subject to the ongoing APR interest. Set a reminder in your calendar and pay off the entire balance before the end date.
- Make and stick to a budget: It’s important to stay on top of the monthly payments for the zero-interest card and make it a part of your ongoing budget that you plan for each month. Missing a payment or paying less than the minimum amount due may forfeit the zero-interest.
- Know your credit card’s ongoing APR: The ongoing APR is the interest rate you can expect to pay once your card reverts from its promotional APR. If you think you may carry a balance on the card or will have a remainder after a balance transfer, then look for a card with as low of an ongoing APR as possible.
The bottom line
While earning travel rewards with a credit card and taking advantage of a 0 percent introductory APR may not seem likely, it’s actually quite doable with several credit card options. It’s beneficial to you to compare multiple cards, so you can see which one suits your financial needs the most. If you take advantage of the zero-interest period and maximize your potential travel rewards, you could end up with significant savings.
Learn more: Check out Bankrate’s travel toolkit for tips and tricks on how to maximize travel with a credit card.