Key takeaways

  • If you run out of time to pay off your balance within a 0 percent APR window, you can develop a payoff plan and negotiate your variable APR or transfer your remaining balance to another 0 percent APR card
  • Most balance transfer cards for businesses offer introductory APR offers between nine and 18 months
  • If you opt for another balance transfer, be sure to pay off your balance within the intro period so that you are not back to square one

The beauty of 0 percent APR business credit cards is that they allow business owners to charge and maintain a balance without interest being applied to the debt. All you have to do is send at least the minimum payment required by the due date. It’s no surprise, then, that these products are very attractive to business owners who want to borrow for necessary expenses without having to worry about financing fees increasing the cost.

Unfortunately, few good things last forever — and this benefit ends when the 0 percent APR period ends. Depending on the business card, the interest-free time frame typically lasts between nine and 18 months, starting when the account is first opened. After that, the regular rate kicks in.

Thankfully, there are at least two sound methods to manage zero-interest business credit cards when you can’t pay off the entire balance during the introductory APR period.

Develop a payoff plan

There are plenty of great 0 percent APR business credit cards. Let’s say you have the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card, which comes with a 0 percent intro APR on purchases for 12 months, then a regular variable APR of 18.49 percent to 24.49 percent thereafter. And, let’s say you owe $8,000 when the introductory rate expires.

Using Bankrate’s credit card payoff calculator, you’ll know how much the debt will cost you under certain payment scenarios (assuming a 19 percent APR):

Time frame Monthly payments Total interest paid
12 months $737 $847
6 months $1,408 $449
3 months $2,751 $254

We didn’t provide a scenario where you would pay the balance off over more than one year because, in normal circumstances (when interest is applied), credit card debt is not meant to be long-term. If you want to finance something for more than a year, a loan is usually the more appropriate choice.

Avoid using the credit card as you are paying the balance off. In this circumstance, you won’t get the 0 percent APR on any new purchases, so the regular APR will be applied to anything you buy. Do pick up the phone, though, and ask the card issuer to lower the new rate. The worst that can happen is it denies your request; the best is you pay less in fees.

Transfer the balance to a new 0% APR card

The other option is to use a business credit card balance transfer. This method can buy you more time, though there is an upfront fee — generally 3 percent to 5 percent of the transferred amount. You also have to approach this realistically and strategically. Most issuers require applicants to have credit scores that are at least 670, too.

However, by opening another business balance transfer card and shifting the remaining outstanding balance to the new card, you’ll enjoy that 0 percent intro APR again. Here are just two examples of how it can work for you:

PNC Visa Business Credit Card

The PNC Visa® Business Credit Card* offers a 0 percent introductory APR on balance transfers for 13 billing cycles after account opening, on transfers made within 90 days of account opening. After that, the variable APR will increase to between 14.99 percent and 24.99 percent. The balance transfer fee is 3 percent (with a minimum of $5).

Example:

$8,000 balance + $240 fee = $8,240

$8,240 / 13 months = monthly payments of $633.85

U.S. Bank Business Platinum Card

The U.S. Bank Business Platinum Card* offers a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for your first 18 billing cycles. After that, the variable APR will increase to between 17.24 percent and 26.24 percent. The balance transfer fee is 3 percent (minimum $5).

Example:

$8,000 balance + $240 fee = $8,240

$8,240 / 18 months = payments of $457.77

It may seem obvious to take the longest intro APR period you can get, but that’s not necessarily the best idea. You may not need that much time, and the rewards may be better on one card over the other. So, research the offer that best serves you, not just for this circumstance, but also into the future.

If you choose to use a balance transfer card, be conscious of making your payments on time. If you’re late, the deal can expire prematurely, and you’ll have paid the transfer fee for nothing.

Make a plan for after the balance is repaid

It’s a good idea to get the best small-business card for yourself and your company and to use it effectively. With a 0 percent APR card, plan ahead for the upcoming rate increase. Mark your calendar with the date it will rise and prepare to pay the balance off before it does.

Once the regular rate of interest does go into effect, keep revolving debt to a minimum. Paying the entire bill during the interest-free grace period is great because the 25 or 30 day loan will be free, but there’s nothing wrong with charging an expensive purchase and paying it off in a few installments. Yes, you’ll be charged financing fees, but they won’t be too much if you pay the balance off within a few months.

The bottom line

That zero-interest loan your business credit card grants you has conditions, like any other business loan. Take full advantage of those terms, but strategize your next move in advance. In short, when you realize your business credit card’s 0 percent introductory rate will soon adjust upward, don’t panic — plan!

*The information about the PNC Visa® Business Credit Card and U.S. Bank Business Platinum Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.