Zero-percent APR credit cards let you avoid paying interest on purchases, balance transfers or both for a limited time. However, card details vary quite a bit from there, with some offering longer introductory offers and considerably more perks than others. Fees can vary too, including annual fees and balance transfer fees.

Here are some of the top features you should consider before you apply for a 0 percent APR credit card.

How long is the offer?

One of the most important details to keep in mind is how long each card offers a 0 percent APR. Where most cards in this niche extend zero interest for at least 15 months, some credit cards offer 0 percent APRs for up to 21 months.

The length of the zero-percent offer matters because it’s how long you’ll avoid interest; it describes the amount of time before your credit card interest rate resets to the regular APR.

If you have a larger purchase to make and only need a year or slightly longer to pay it off, for example, any number of 0 percent APR credit cards with intro offers for 15 months could work. If you have thousands in high-interest credit card debt you need to pay off, on the other hand, you should probably look for the longest 0 percent intro offer you can find.

What is the type of offer?

Also, keep in mind that 0 percent APR credit cards extend their offers to purchases, balance transfers and sometimes both. In some cases, cards will even extend zero interest to purchases and balance transfers on different timelines.

For example, you might get 0 percent interest on purchases for 12 months with the same intro rate on balance transfers for 18 months.

Either way, you want to know the details ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.

Are there any limitations?

Keep your eye out for fine print and limitations, mostly because you don’t want to miss out on a great offer because you didn’t follow the rules.

What are the consequences if you pay late?

As an example, the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card comes with a 0 percent intro APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (followed by a 17.24 percent to 29.24 percent variable APR). However, you can qualify for an additional 3 months of zero interest if you make on-time minimum payments during the introductory period.

Be aware that, in most cases, missing a minimum payment on your credit card will cancel out the introductory APR offer. In the fine print on the Wells Fargo Reflect card, for example, it clearly states the following: “We may end your introductory APR and apply the regular purchase and balance transfer APR if you make a late payment.”

Are there any rewards?

Many credit cards with intro APR offers also earn rewards, although you’ll typically sacrifice the length of your zero-interest offer for this perk. That said, you’ll find plenty of cards with intro APR offers and ongoing rewards if you’re okay with a shorter zero-interest period (usually up to 15 months).

An example of a popular cash back credit card with an intro APR offer includes the Chase Freedom Flex℠. The Freedom Flex offers a variety of cash back categories, including 5 percent on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent), along with a 15-month 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers. You’ll pay a 18.74 percent to 27.49 percent variable APR after that introductory period ends.

Further, one of the most popular balance transfer credit cards available today, the Citi® Double Cash Card, offers up to 2 percent cash back on all spending (1 percent when you make a purchase and another 1 percent when you pay it off). In terms of an introductory APR offer, you’ll get 18 months sans interest on balance transfers, followed by a 18.24 percent to 28.24 percent variable APR.

Are there any additional cardholder perks?

Make sure any credit cards you’re considering offer perks you want or could get the most use out of. Common benefits include extended warranties, cellphone insurance, purchase protection against damage or theft and travel insurance.

What credit score do you need to apply?

While you’re checking out all the card details, you should also consider whether you have a chance at being approved for the 0 percent APR card you want. The best cards in this niche typically require good or excellent credit, so not everyone can qualify.

Before you apply, check your credit score to ensure you stand a chance at being approved.

What kind of fees are included?

Finally, make sure any credit card you’re considering has fees you’re comfortable with. For example:

  • Annual fee. Most credit cards with a 0 percent APR won’t charge an annual fee, but this isn’t always the case.
  • Balance transfer fee. This only matters if you plan to use your new 0 percent APR credit card to consolidate debt. Where most cards in this niche charge a balance transfer fee of 3 percent, a handful of cards charge 5 percent instead. By choosing a card with the lowest fee you can find, you can minimize the costs involved with transferring a balance.
  • Foreign transaction fees. This is only important if you plan to use the card overseas or with non-U.S. companies online. If you do travel frequently, try and avoid cards that charge foreign transaction fees (or simply pull out another card in your wallet when abroad).

The bottom line

Choosing a 0 percent APR card can be overwhelming, but by taking into consideration the credit scores required for approval, fees associated with the cards, additional card perks and the offer length that best suits your payoff timeline, you can start to narrow down your options. Plus, Bankrate’s list of the best 0 percent interest credit cards lists out and compares the top picks for 2023, making it even easier to find the best card for you.

Just keep in mind that, in the vast majority of cases, more than one 0 percent APR credit card could meet your needs. Once you do thorough research and ensure your credit is good enough to qualify, be sure to apply before the offer is gone.