Best 0% APR Credit Cards – Zero Interest Intro Period Until 2021

Credit cards that offer a 0% introductory APR period can help you avoid paying sky-high interest rates on purchases and balance transfers, for up to a year or even longer. Personal finance experts from Bankrate have compared dozens of options to bring you a list of the best 0% interest credit cards available from our partners.

Best Intro Zero Interest Credit Cards - Top Offers August 2020:

Need more information?

Skip down to read our card profiles and expert advice.

Best 0% APR card for excellent credit

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Rewards Rate:
N/A
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 18 months on Purchases
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer. After that the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Get free access to your FICO® Score online.
  • With Citi Entertainment®, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
  • Shop with confidence knowing that you have dependable protection benefits, including $0 Liability on Unauthorized Purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best 'earn as you go' 0% intro APR card

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi® Double Cash Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% - 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for overall versatility

Chase Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Chase's secure website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Rewards Rate:
Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
14.99 - 23.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for low variable APR

Pentagon FCU Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Pentagon FCU's secure website

PenFed Gold Visa® Card

Rewards Rate:
N/A
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 12 months
Regular APR:
7.49% - 17.99% Variable

Card Details

  • $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 in purchase transactions within the first 90 days of account opening.
  • 0% promotional rate for 12 months on balance transfers made between now and September 30, 2020. After that, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be a non-variable rate of 17.99%. 3% balance transfer fee per transaction. Subject to credit approval. If you take advantage of this balance transfer, you will immediately be charged interest on all purchases made with your credit card unless you pay the entire account balance, including balance transfers, in full each month by the payment due date.
  • Rate and offers current as of August 1, 2020 and subject to change.
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No cash advance fees
  • Chip and Contactless 'Tap to Pay' enabled for added security, ease and convenience at the point of sale
  • Click and Pay eligible, via Secure Remote Commerce, so you can enjoy easy and secure online buying checkout
  • Purchase variable Rate As Low As 7.49% APR and capped at 17.99%
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best 0% intro APR on purchases for everyday cash back

American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Rewards Rate:
3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% back on other purchases
Welcome Offer:
Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
13.99%-23.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
  • 2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores.
  • 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%.
  • Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee and no interest.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Best 0% APR credit card for rewards

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro for 15 months on Purchases
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro for 15 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)

Card Details

  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap.
  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfer fee — either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best 0% intro APR on purchases for flat-rate cash back

American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

American Express Cash Magnet® Card

Rewards Rate:
Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on your purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
13.99%-23.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on your purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, currently 13.99% to 23.99%.
  • Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee and no interest.
  • Amex Offers rewards you at places you like to shop, dine, travel, and more. You can add as many Offers as you’d like to your Card, then just use that Card to pay, and enjoy rewards directly on your statement.
  • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.


Author: Barry Bridges | bbridges@bankrate.com


This page includes information about the Discover it® Balance Transfer product which is no longer offered by Discover. This page includes information about Discover products that are not currently available on bankrate.com and may be out of date.

Bankrate helps you choose (and use) the right 0% intro APR card

Why do 0% intro APR offers matter? Because credit card interest rates matter. As of July 29, Bankrate estimates the three-month trend for variable credit card interest rates at 16.04 percent. Although rates have followed a downward trend for months, interest charges can still cost a considerable amount of money.

Fortunately, a credit card with a 0% intro APR offer on purchases, balance transfers or both can help you temporarily avoid high interest charges well into the year 2021 or beyond.

Below you’ll find more information about limited-time zero-interest offers and how to use them for making a large purchase or transferring a balance. You can keep reading or skip down to the profiles of our top introductory zero-interest APR credit cards.


Compare Bankrate’s top 0% intro APR credit cards

Card Purchase offer Balance transfer offer Regular APR (Variable)
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card 18 months 18 months 14.74% – 24.74%
Citi® Double Cash Card  N/A 18 months 13.99% – 23.99% variable
Chase Freedom Unlimited® 15 months N/A 14.99% – 23.74%
PenFed Gold Visa® Card N/A 12 months (17.99% fixed after intro) 7.49% – 17.99%
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express 0% intro APR for 15 months N/A 13.99% – 23.99%
Citi Rewards+℠ Card 15 months 15 months 13.49% – 23.49%
American Express Cash Magnet® Card 0% intro APR for 15 months N/A 13.99% – 23.99%
Citi Simplicity® Card (not currently available) 12 months 21 months 14.74% – 24.74%
Wells Fargo Platinum card (not currently available) 18 months 18 months (on qualifying) 15.49% – 24.99%
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card (not currently available) 15 months 15 months (on qualifying) 13.99%-25.99% variable
BankAmericard® credit card (not currently available) 0% APR for first 18 billing cycles 0% APR on BT during first 18 billing cycles (*made in first 60 days) 14.49% – 24.49%
Discover it® Cash Back (not currently available) see terms see terms see terms
Discover it® Balance Transfer (not currently available) see terms see terms see terms

A closer look at our top zero APR credit cards

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Why it’s the best 0% APR card for excellent credit

With an outstanding 18-month 0% APR introductory period on balance transfers (14.74% – 24.74% variable APR after the intro offer), the Citi Diamond Preferred is one of the industry’s best options for paying off transferred debt. The combination of the 0% intro offer and the competitive regular APR makes this card an intriguing choice if you want to maintain your excellent credit score while reducing your exposure to high interest charges.

What’s its long-term value?

The card has no rewards program, but if you’re looking to avoid interest on a big purchase or a balance transfer, rewards are probably not your top priority. Still, the regular variable APR could help excellent-credit consumers save money on interest if they keep the card after they’ve taken advantage of the 0% intro offer.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Why it’s the best ‘earn as you go’ 0% intro APR card

It’s important to note that (1) the Citi Double Cash Card’s intro APR offer is for balance transfers only, not purchases, and (2) balance transfers don’t earn rewards. This card still has a lot of potential for utility and value. Just be sure to make paying off your transferred balance the main priority and focus on earning cash back later.

What’s its long-term value?

You can earn up to 2 percent cash back with this card — 1 percent when you make purchases, then 1 percent as you pay for them. You might find that this two-part system offers extra motivation to make timely payments in full so that you can reap the full rewards.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Why it’s the most versatile 0% intro APR card

The 15-month introductory period on new purchases (14.99% – 23.74% variable APR thereafter) is solid. Plus, you’ll earn 1.5% unlimited cash back on all eligible purchases. The potential as an intro APR card and a cash back card make the Chase Freedom Unlimited truly stand out.

What’s its long-term value?

While a number of cash back cards have higher rewards rates, 1.5% unlimited is still respectable. You’ll want to use this as a supplemental card (preferably with one of Chase’s Sapphire options) after the intro offer ends.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

PenFed Gold Visa® Card

Why it’s the best 0% intro card for low variable APR

This card’s standard APR (or go-to APR, as it’s sometimes called) is strikingly low, at 7.49% – 17.99% variable. It means that if your credit is very good or excellent, your APR on purchases could be in the single digits with this card. The introductory offer on balance transfers (12 months at 0% APR, then 17.99% fixed) is pretty run-of-the-mill but potentially useful if you want to transfer a smaller balance and temporarily avoid interest.

What’s its long-term value?

You need to be a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union to apply for this card, although you don’t have to be in the military. The card’s long-term value is tied to its military-friendly benefits along with the generous standard APR.

Learn more and find out how to apply.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Why it’s the best 0% intro APR on purchases for everyday cash back

The 15-month 0% introductory APR on purchases is a great perk, but that’s not all the card offers (13.99% – 23.99% variable APR thereafter). The Blue Cash Back Everyday® Card provides a generous cash back program that allows you to earn rewards with the purchases you make every day, like gas and groceries. To make it even better, the cash back you earn won’t expire for the length of the account, so the rewards that you earn will always be yours.

What’s its long-term value?

If you decide on this card for the lengthy introductory APR offer, you’ll want to stick around for the rewards program. This card offers considerable benefits to those who spend a lot on items such as groceries, gas and clothing. Spending $6,000 per year in the U.S. supermarkets category alone punches your ticket for $180 in cash back, and the cash back earnings in the other categories are unlimited.

Annual Fee: $0

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

Why it’s the best 0% APR credit card for rewards

A credit card doesn’t have to be part of an extravagant lifestyle. The Citi Rewards+ can help you do a couple of simple but smart things. One is earning rewards (2X ThankYou Points at supermarkets and gas stations on up to $6,000 in combined purchases per year, plus 1x ThankYou Points on all other purchases). The second is temporarily avoiding interest on purchases and balance transfers (0% intro APR for 15 months, then 13.49% – 23.49% variable APR).

What’s its long-term value?

If you spend $6,000 or more at supermarkets and gas stations each year, you’ll maximize the value of that 2X Points category. Also, the Citi Rewards+ rounds up all rewards to the nearest 10 points and offers 10 percent points back on the first 100,000 points you redeem every year.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

American Express Cash Magnet® Card

Why it’s the best 0% intro APR on purchases for flat-rate cash back

The American Express Cash Magnet® Card is a great choice if you list simplicity and ease of use as top priorities. Not only can you save on interest thanks to the card’s 0 percent intro APR for 15 months on new purchases (13.99%-23.99% variable thereafter), but you also earn 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases. There’s no need to juggle bonus categories, and your cash back does not expire for the life of your account.

What’s its long-term value?

Even after you’ve taken advantage of its intro APR purchase offer, the American Express Cash Magnet® Card earns its keep. While the card’s flat 1.5 percent cash back rate isn’t the highest rate available on a rewards credit card, it offers nice flexibility: You’ll earn cash back at the same rate, no matter where, when or what you buy, and there’s no limit to how much you can earn. If you want to put most of your spending on a single card, the Cash Magnet makes for a great all-purpose rewards card.

Annual Fee: $0

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

Citi Simplicity® Card (not currently available)

Why it’s the best 0% intro APR card for long balance transfers

The Citi Simplicity Card is a very useful option for transferring or consolidating debt. With a 0% APR period of 21 months on balance transfers (14.74% – 24.74% variable thereafter), you could save thousands of dollars by paying off debt without interest. This card also does not charge a late fee, although you don’t want to make it a habit to pay late because of the impact on your credit score.

What’s its long-term value?

If you’re looking for a credit card to use far beyond the intro APR period has ended, this is not the right card for you. However, this is one of the best cards on the market for balance transfers and paying down debt — which can help you boost your credit score if you’re sitting in the excellent range and want to apply for cards in the future that require “excellent” credit.

The information about the Citi Simplicity® Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

Wells Fargo Platinum card (not currently available)

Why it’s the best 0% intro APR card for personal finance management
The main reason to get a zero-interest credit card is to pay off a big purchase or a balance transfer during the introductory period and avoid paying APR. The Wells Fargo Platinum can help you reach that goal thanks to its 18-month 0% APR offer on qualifying balance transfers (15.49% – 24.99% variable APR after), but it can also help you pursue the larger goal of better financial health with the My Money Map system.

What’s its long-term value?
Although this card doesn’t offer a rewards program, using the My Money Map resources to improve your spending and budgeting habits could prove rewarding in the long run. You also get up to $600 protection on your cell phone against covered damage or theft (a $25 deductible applies) when you pay your monthly cellphone bill with the card, and the Wells Fargo Platinum doesn’t charge an annual fee.

The information about the Wells Fargo Platinum card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card (not currently available)

Why it’s the best 0% intro APR card for digital wallet users:
If you regularly reach for your phone instead of your wallet when it’s time to pay, this card could be the zero-interest option you’ve been looking for. The introductory APR offer lasts 15 months, after which you’ll pay 13.99% – 25.99% variable. The added incentive for digital wallet users is the 1.8 percent cash rewards rate on qualified purchases such as Apple Pay® or Google Pay™, during your first 12 months. (The rate for regular purchases is 1.5 percent.)

What’s its long-term value?
The 1.8 percent cash rewards on qualified digital wallet purchases goes away after your first 12 months, but the regular rate of 1.5 percent on all purchases can still provide a reliable source of rewards. Don’t forget that using the card to pay your monthly cellphone bill makes you eligible for up to $600 protection against covered damage or theft, with a $25 deductible.

The information about the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

BankAmericard® credit card (not currently available)

Why it’s the best 0% intro APR card for simple debt solutions

The introductory APR offer makes this card ideal for anyone looking for a solution to paying off a large balance. With a 0% introductory APR for 18 billing cycles for both purchases and balance transfers made in the first 60 days, the zero interest period is one of the most lengthy (variable APR 14.49%-24.49% after). Also, there’s no penalty APR, so your interest rate won’t be raised if you accidentally make a late payment (terms apply). Although simple, this card may be what you need to finally tackle that looming debt or that large purchase.

What’s its long-term value?
If you’re looking for a financing option, the BankAmericard® credit card can help get the job done. However, due to not having a rewards program, this card doesn’t have much that yields long-term value. You will, however, have access to your FICO Score for free, which is a beneficial tool for monitoring your credit and financial health. This card’s overall value is truly found in the generous intro APR offer, but it doesn’t offer the long-term value that other cards can after paying off your balance.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

The information about the BankAmericard credit card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Discover it® Cash Back (not currently available)

Why it’s the best 0% intro APR card with rotating cash back

You’ll get a see terms introductory period for purchases and balance transfers before the a variable APR between see terms takes effect (with see terms; up to see terms, see terms*), and Discover matches all of the cash you’ve earned at the end of your first year. The Discover it® Cash Back is a rotating category cash back card that gets you 5% cash back in different areas each quarter, like gas stations and grocery stores, and an unlimited 1% cash back on everything else. You do have to enroll in the new categories each month and 5% cash back is reduced to 1% after you spend $1,500 each quarter.

What’s its long-term value?

The intro APR offer isn’t as long as other top cards in this category, but the long-term value you can get from the Discover it® Cash Back makes the shorter offer period worth it for some consumers. It’s ideal for the shopper who can time his or her purchases according to the card’s rotating schedule and remember to activate each quarter.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

The information about the Discover it Cash Back has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Discover it® Balance Transfer (not currently available)

Why it’s the best 0% intro APR card for overall balance transfer value

Few cards can match the intro offer for balance transfers: see terms, then see terms variable (see terms; up to see terms on future balance transfers, see terms*). Fewer still combine that kind of balance transfer offer with a rewards program that earns 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories up to $1,500 each quarter after activation and 1% back on everything else. However, we don’t recommend the Discover it Balance Transfer for paying off a big purchase. The introductory see terms for purchases is just see terms, after which variable APR goes to the regular see terms.

What’s its long-term value?

Much like the Discover it Cash Back, the rewards program holds the key to this card’s long-term value. The potential earnings in bonus categories make the Discover it Balance Transfer well worth considering for a long engagement after the intro APR period ends. The card also features Discover’s Cashback Match™, a dollar-for-dollar match of the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

The information about the Discover it Balance Transfer has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.


What is a 0% intro credit card? A useful financial tool

Cash is king, but sometimes even a king can be less than convenient.

Instead of stopping by the bank beforehand to withdraw an envelope of large bills, a typical consumer would probably find it a lot easier to go straight to the appliance store and put that new washer and dryer on a credit card. The convenience of making a large purchase on credit could come at a price, however.

With the average credit card APR (annual percentage rate) around 16 percent, the potential for steep interest charges comes into play. If you don’t pay your balance in full before the next billing period, interest on your new washer and dryer could put you through the wringer.

Fortunately, a 0% intro APR credit card might provide a solution for large purchases and big balances alike:

Zero-interest APR for purchases

If you have a large purchase planned, getting a credit card with a zero-interest APR offer ahead of time can truly pay off. Putting your big-ticket item on the 0% intro APR credit card instead of your regular card means a chance to avoid paying interest for the length of the intro period. The choice between 0% interest and the average 16 percent interest should be an easy one.

Learn more with Bankrate: Should you use a credit card for large purchases?

Zero-interest APR for balance transfers

Results of a recent Bankrate.com survey found that 16 percent of Americans have more debt than they did just a few months ago. One possible remedy for unpaid debt involves transferring it to a 0% APR credit card with an introductory balance transfer offer. If you pay off the debt before the introductory zero-interest offer expires, you could save money that would otherwise go to paying interest charges.

Learn more with Bankrate: Try out the Credit Card Balance Transfer Calculator.

Purchase or balance transfer? Get the right card for the job

Most of the cards we’ve chosen offer an introductory 0% APR rate on both purchases and balance transfers, for the same period of time. If you’re only interested in transferring a balance, you can check out our list of Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards.

Also, don’t forget that some balance transfer cards work with more than just credit card debt. In addition to credit card balances, you might be able to transfer debt from personal loans, student loans and other types of credit accounts.

Regardless of what kind of debt you’re transferring, though, you might have to pay the credit card issuer a fee. The typical balance transfer fee can range from 3 percent to 5 percent of the amount being transferred. A small number of cards charge no fee for balance transfers, but in some cases the trade-off might be a shorter intro period or an offer of low interest rather than zero interest.

Card Tricks: A zero-percent intro offer in action

Last December, a consumer named Carol emailed me for advice. She was considering a 0% intro APR credit card to pay for some upcoming dental work that would cost $8,000.

Using some basic math and Bankrate’s Credit Card Payoff Calculator, I was able to simulate what would happen if she got a credit card with a 12-month zero percent introductory offer to pay for the procedure. Then I compared that outcome with another where she used a regular credit card with a typical APR, which at that time was 18 percent.

Long story short, it looked like Carol could avoid several hundred dollars in interest charges with a 0% intro APR offer:

Balance Term Interest  Average monthly payment
0% intro APR $8,000 12 months $0 $667
18% APR $8,000 12 months $801 $733

The takeaways

  • If she paid off the balance in full before the end of that 12-month promotional period, Carol wouldn’t owe any additional money in interest.
  • If she were to put $8,000 on a regular card with 18 percent APR and pay off the balance in 12 months, she would face $801 in interest charges over time.
  • Her average monthly payment with a regular card would be $733 instead of $667, or about 10 percent higher.

I exchanged a few emails with Carol over the course of a week. She wound up getting a 0% APR card with a 12-month intro offer and made a plan to pay off the cost of her dental work on schedule to avoid interest.

If you have a question about using a zero-interest APR offer to save money like Carol, please email me at bbridges@bankrate.com.

How to choose the right zero interest credit card

Which type of credit card you should get depends on your long-term goals for the card.

  • To pay for a large purchase: The longer the 0% intro offer on purchases, the better. It will give you more time to take advantage of the zero-interest window as you gradually make the payments.
  • To transfer a balance or consolidate debt: Pay attention to the length of the balance transfer offer (the longer, the better) and the balance transfer fee.
  • To get long-term value out of the card. Do you want to be able to earn rewards long after the zero-interest intro offer ends? Look for a card that offers a generous rewards program for cash back or travel.

Sometimes, though, a 0% intro APR credit card might not be the best option. If you want to make a purchase you know you won’t be able to pay off within the offer period, it might be better to look at your personal loan options. Personal loans charge a much lower interest rate than credit cards, so even if you have to pay some money in interest, you’ll still be saving.

How much could you save with a 0% intro APR offer?

If you decide to put a big purchase on a credit card, you have another decision to make when the next bill comes due. You can:

  1. Pay off the entire monthly balance, including the large purchase, and face no APR charges.
  2. Make a partial payment on the monthly balance and pay APR on whatever amount is left over.

Of course, the problem with option B is that it could cost you a lot of money. The cost is likely to increase with every partial monthly payment you make. Over time, you’d have to devote more and more money to paying off not just the original purchase but also the mounting interest of rolling over unpaid debt from month to month.

You can contact your credit card issuer to ask for a lower interest rate. However, this strategy might be a longshot unless you’re a longtime customer with an established history of paying off your balance on time and in full.

A zero-interest credit card offer could help you avoid this kind of cycle by offering a temporary break from APR. Here’s an illustration of how it works, using Bankrate’s Credit Card Payoff Calculator:

The big buy

You spend $3,000 on a big purchase (a vacation, for example) using a credit card.

With your regular card

The average credit card interest rate is about 16 percent. If you were to isolate the $3,000 vacation purchase and pay it off in equal installments over a year’s time on your regular credit card, the payment schedule would look like this:

Total Principal Paid Total Interest Paid Monthly Payment Total Cost
$3,000 $266 $272 $3,266

In addition to the $3,000, you’d also pay $266 in interest. Interest (in the form of APR) would account for 8 percent of your total cost.

With a 0% intro credit card

In the second scenario, you get a new credit card with a 12-month zero interest offer and use that card to pay for your $3,000 vacation. The payment schedule (also one year of equal installments) would look like this:

Total Principal Paid Total Interest Paid Monthly Payment Total Cost
$3,000 $0 $250 $3,000

As long as you paid off the entire $3,000 before the 12-month offer expires, you wouldn’t be on the hook for the $288 in APR charges. Your monthly payment would be $24 less, too.

Your role in the zero-interest option

The whole point of a 0% intro credit card is not to help you avoid paying your debt. It’s to help you avoid interest. To meet that goal, you’ll need to abide by the terms of the offer — specifically, by paying off the entire debt before the zero-percent intro rate expires and the regular APR applies.

What to do when the zero-interest period ends

Should you cancel the card after the purchase or transfer is paid off? Once a zero-interest APR credit card has served its initial purpose, you might assume you don’t need it anymore. Don’t be too quick to act on that assumption.

Canceling a credit card could have a negative effect on your credit score. The reason involves credit utilization, the relationship between two numbers: how much available credit you have vs. how much of that credit you’re using. A canceled credit card lowers the first number, which means you’ll use more of the credit left available to you.

Why is higher credit utilization potentially a problem? It could give lenders the impression that you’re having financial difficulties and make it seem like you’re more of a credit risk.

If you’ve used a 0 interest card for a credit card balance transfer, you should also think carefully before canceling the original card — yes, the one that got you into debt in the first place. Even with a card that doesn’t get much use, putting it in a drawer while leaving the account open could keep your credit score from taking the hit from a cancellation. Also, longstanding accounts generally look good on your credit score.

A 0% APR card can affect your credit in a number of ways, depending on how you use the card. If you’re using your card to consolidate debt, it can actually help boost your credit score over time. A large factor in determining your credit score is your credit utilization ratio. By consolidating and paying down credit card balances, you’re lowering that ratio.

Furthermore, if you use a zero APR credit card to pay off a large purchase over time, you can boost your credit score just by showing lenders that you can consistently make on-time payments.

What determines the APR on a credit card?

A number of factors play a part in credit card APR, including government regulators and banks’ lending standards. Rather than diving into a complicated analysis of the federal funds rate, the prime rate and the constant push and pull of various economic forces, try to focus on the one factor that you can directly influence: your credit score.

Generally, having a higher credit score means you can qualify for lower APR not only on credit cards but also on personal loans, auto loans, mortgages and other forms of credit. A solid track record of diligently paying what you owe tells potential lenders that they face less risk if they decide to do business with you.

With credit cards, different types of APR come into play. Some fluctuate with economic factors and others (such as penalty APR for making late payments) are set by credit card issuers. However, if you’re looking at one of the cards profiled on this page, you should pay particular attention to:

  • 0% intro APR on purchases
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers
  • Regular APR

The first two refer to offers for a temporary interest-free window on purchases or balance transfers, respectively. Regular APR, also known as go-to APR, represents the interest you would pay on any remaining balance after the intro period ends.

The whole point of a zero-interest offer is to avoid paying regular APR. To achieve that goal, you would need to pay off your large purchase (or balance transfer, as the case may be) before the offer expires.

How Bankrate evaluates zero-interest cards

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to credit cards, so it’s important that you factor in all the variables of your unique situation to find the best card for you. To help you achieve your goals, we focus on specific areas when scoring 0% intro APR credit cards:

Length of the introductory offer

Generally, for zero-interest cards, the longer the period without APR, the better. A longer intro period means more time for you to pay for a big purchase or pay off a transferred balance, whichever the case may be, without facing high APR charges.

Regular variable APR

Regular variable APR, or standard APR, refers to the interest rate you incur on a credit card’s outstanding balance after the introductory zero-interest period ends. While you shouldn’t carry a balance on your card, choosing a card with a low APR can help ease the burden if you find yourself in a situation where you must.

Long-term value

“Should you keep this card after it has served the initial purpose?” That’s a key question we ask when evaluating a zero-interest card. Several cards on this list have rewards programs and other features that can make them worth keeping even after you’ve paid for a big purchase or paid off transferred debt.

Zero-interest frequently asked questions

Does a 0% APR affect my credit?

Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) have no impact on your credit score. However, a zero-interest credit card can help you save money as you pay down your debt. As you reduce your debt, your debt-to-income ratio improves, thus improving your overall credit score. Learn the basics of how your credit score is calculated and how a higher credit score can benefit your overall financial health.

What’s the difference between a balance transfer and a zero-percent APR card?

With a balance transfer, you move high-interest debt from one or more cards to another card with low to zero-percent interest. A balance transfer can help you pay off your debt faster and save you money in the process. Most issuers charge a fee of 3 to 5 percent of the amount you are transferring.

With a zero-percent APR credit card, you’re exempt from paying interest on your balance during the promotional period, which usually runs between 12 to 18 months. Many people open a zero-percent APR card when they’re ready to make a large purchase, allowing them to pay off their balance over time and avoid interest charges.

Can you get a zero interest card with bad or fair credit?

Although you might be able to qualify for certain cards with bad or fair credit, you’ll probably have to settle for less in two critical areas:

  1. The introductory offer could be shorter than the 15- to 18-month range typical among the best zero APR cards.
  2. The intro offer could involve a low interest rate rather than a zero interest rate.

Credit card issuers typically reserve the top zero-interest intro offers for consumers with good to excellent credit scores (670 FICO and up). Your credit score helps issuers evaluate your ability to repay your debt and how much risk they would take on by adding you as a customer.

Before applying for a zero APR credit card, check your credit score and credit report. Make sure to fix any incorrect information on your report that could negatively affect your overall credit


Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, loans, mortgages and other personal finance products for Bankrate since 2018. His work has also appeared on websites including Nasdaq.com, Zillow.com and The Simple Dollar. He was previously an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to bbridges@bankrate.com.

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* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.