Key takeaways

  • Zero-percent APR credit cards can help you save on interest and pay off debt more quickly by eliminating interest on certain purchases or balances for a set period of time.
  • However, many 0 percent interest cards come with tradeoffs, such as higher credit score requirements and limited rewards.
  • To choose the right 0 percent APR card, do your due diligence when evaluating the options available to you.

Zero-percent APR credit cards let you avoid paying interest on purchases, balance transfers or both for a limited time. However, individual card details vary quite a bit from there, with some offering longer introductory periods and 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 applying for a 0 percent intro APR credit card.

How long is the offer?

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

The length of the 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.

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

What is the type of offer?

Also, keep in mind that 0 percent intro APR credit cards extend their offers to purchases, balance transfers or 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, as well as a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for a full 18 months.

Either way, learn the details ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.

Are there any limitations?

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

As an example, the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card comes with a 0 percent intro APR for 21 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (balance transfers must be made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate; a balance transfer fee of 5 percent applies, minimum $5), followed by a 18.24 percent, 24.74 percent, or 29.99 percent variable APR.

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 is 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 20.49 percent to 29.24 percent variable APR after that introductory period ends. Additionally, a 3 percent intro balance transfer fee (minimum $5) applies for transfers made in the first 60 days.

Another one of the most popular balance transfer credit cards available today is the Citi Double Cash® Card, which 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 a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, followed by an 19.24 percent to 29.24 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 to excellent credit, so not everyone will 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, some of the most common types of fees associated with 0 percent APR cards include:

  • Annual fees. Most credit cards with a 0 percent intro APR won’t charge an annual fee, but this isn’t always the case.
  • Balance transfer fees. This only matters if you plan to use your new 0 percent intro APR credit card to consolidate debt. Whereas 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’ll 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 to 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 intro 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 intro APR 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 intro APR credit card could meet your needs. Once you do your research and ensure your credit is good enough to likely qualify, be sure to apply before the offer is gone.

*The information about the Chase Freedom Flex℠ has been collected independently by The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.