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- Some 0 percent APR credit cards offer zero interest on purchases, whereas others include a 0 percent APR offer for balance transfers only.
- There are many cash back credit cards that offer a 0 percent intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers for a limited time.
- Intro APR offers don’t last forever. Most 0 percent intro APR offers range from 12 months to 21 months and include a high variable interest rate after the intro offer ends.
Credit cards that offer a 0 percent intro APR for a limited time can be an incredibly valuable tool if you use them in a reasonable, responsible way. After all, cards in this niche only give you zero interest for a limited time, and a card’s regular variable APR applies to remaining balances thereafter. This means you’ll want to have a plan in place to pay off the debt you accrue on a 0 percent APR credit card before the introductory APR offer ends.
There are also some incredibly important questions you’ll want to ask yourself before you settle on a specific 0 percent APR credit card. Read on to learn about our best 0 percent APR credit card tips and questions to ask yourself before you move forward with this type of card.
1. Do you want a 0% APR for purchases, balance transfers or both?
First off, you should know that some 0 percent APR credit cards offer zero interest on purchases, whereas others apply a 0 percent APR to balance transfers only. There are also a large number of 0 percent APR credit cards that include a 0 percent intro APR for both purchases and balance transfers for a limited time.
With these details in mind, you’ll want to ask yourself if you want a 0 percent intro APR offer for new purchases, balance transfers or both. This will help you narrow down the list of acceptable credit cards with 0 percent APR offers dramatically. Then, you’ll need to ask yourself some additional questions before you pick.
2. How long does an intro APR offer last?
Next up, you’ll want to figure out how long a credit card’s 0 percent intro APR offer lasts, keeping in mind that the intro rate may be longer for purchases or balance transfers.
For example, the popular Citi Simplicity® Card* offers a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months on transfers made within the first four months of account opening, along with a 0 percent intro APR on purchases for just 12 months from the date of account opening (both followed by a variable APR of 19.24 percent to 29.99 percent).
How long an intro APR offer lasts may not matter too much to you if you want to pay off your balance in a relatively short amount of time (for instance, 12 months or less). If you have a lot of high-interest debt to consolidate, however, you should know that longer offers give you more time to make progress. Further, some balance transfer credit cards include a 0 percent intro APR offer for only 15 or 18 months, whereas others offer an intro APR for up to 21 months.
3. Do you want to earn rewards?
Also note that some 0 percent APR credit cards offer rewards for spending, although their introductory 0 percent APR offers tend to cap out at 15 or 18 months when that’s the case.
For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited®* and the Chase Freedom Flex℠* offer rewards for spending as well as intro APR offers. Both offer a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (followed by a variable APR of 20.49 percent to 29.24 percent).
For the most part, earning rewards while you enjoy a 0 percent intro APR on purchases can be a nice combination as long as you have a plan to pay off your balances before the introductory APR offer ends and rates reset to the regular variable APR.
However, you should know that using credit cards to earn rewards after you use them to consolidate debt can create a tricky situation where you’re working against your own goals. After all, it’s a lot harder to pay off your balances when you’re continuing to use credit cards for purchases.
4. What variable APR applies after the intro offer ends?
You’ll also want to know what variable rate applies after the intro APR offer ends, and you should brace yourself for the fact it will probably be high. This is true even if you have good credit, but it’s especially true if your credit is fair or poor and you wind up qualifying for interest rates on the higher end of a credit card’s advertised range.
How high can credit card interest rates go? Recent data from the Federal Reserve shows the average interest rate on credit card accounts assessed interest came in at 22.16 percent as of May 2023, but many of the best cards with a 0 percent intro APR can charge even higher rates than that. Currently, the average credit card interest rate is above 20 percent.
5. What fees apply?
In addition to checking on the variable APR that applies after the 0 percent intro APR offer ends, you should also check for fees like annual fees. And if you plan to use a credit card to consolidate debt at 0 percent APR, you’ll want to look at (and compare) cards based on their balance transfer fees. These fees are normally 3 percent or 5 percent of the amount of debt you transfer, and it’s always better to pay a lower fee if you have the option.
Also, check whether a penalty APR applies if you make a late payment, and remember that late payments can trigger a higher penalty APR. Meanwhile, many credit cards with 0 percent intro APR offers will effectively end your intro APR offer abruptly if you make a payment on your account that is late enough per card issuer rules. For example, the fine print on a card may state that your intro APR offer will end if you’re 60 days late on a minimum payment and that a penalty APR will apply.
6. Is this a credit card you can keep for the long haul?
Finally, remember that your credit score is made up of a range of factors including your payment history, how much debt you have and how much new credit you have. Another factor that impacts your FICO score is the average length of your credit history, and this is one area where keeping accounts open can help you in the long run.
In fact, getting a 0 percent APR credit card you can see yourself using (or at least keeping open) for a long stretch of time has the potential to help your credit score the most. With that in mind, it can help to pick a credit card with perks you can use, or at least one with no annual fee so you won’t have to weigh the pros and cons of keeping the account open each year.
The bottom line
“Should I get a 0 percent APR credit card?” is a common question for people who want to avoid paying interest on purchases but want a line of credit they can use for a while. That said, the additional questions we outline in this guide are important to ask if you want to avoid long-term debt while maximizing the benefits of the card you choose.
Also, be aware that not all 0 percent APR credit cards are created equal, so you’ll want to compare the best options to find the right fit. When you do, you’ll find cards with incredibly long intro APR offers as well as cards with shorter intro APR offers and rewards. There’s no “right” or “best” card to fit everyone, so you’ll need to do some research to find the right one for your needs and goals.
*The information about the Citi Simplicity® Card, Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Freedom Flex℠ has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.