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Your guide to choosing and using the best 0-interest credit cards
Credit cards with 0% introductory APR offers can help you temporarily avoid paying high interest rates on purchases and balance transfers for anywhere from several months to a year or more.
The more you know…
As debt continues to be an issue for many Americans, 13% of U.S. adults reported losing sleep over paying off credit card debt, according to our study
As of June 2, Bankrate estimates the average credit card interest rate at 16.09% variable. If you’ve ever carried a balance on your credit card, you know how much APR can cost. One possible remedy is a credit card with a 0% intro APR offer.
Below you’ll find more information about limited-time, interest-free credit card offers and how to use them for making a large purchase or transferring a balance while getting a temporary reprieve from interest charges. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the best introductory zero-interest cards with the best offers.
In this guide:
Compare Bankrate’s top 0% intro APR credit cards
A closer look at our best 0% intro APR credit cards
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best for unlimited cash back
- This card is best for: People looking for a simple way to earn unlimited cash back while they enjoy a temporary break from interest with an introductory APR offer on purchases.
- This card is not a great choice for: Those who make the length of the intro offer their primary concern. The Quicksilver offers 0% intro APR for 15 months (then 15.49% – 25.49% variable APR), but other cash back cards highlighted on this page have equally long or longer terms.
- What makes this card unique? You’ll earn a $200 sign-up bonus after spending just $500 within the first 3 months of opening your account — a good proportional relationship between the bonus and how much you have to spend to earn it.
- Is the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card worth it? Even without the introductory offer, the Quicksilver is among Bankrate’s highest-rated cash back cards. The chance to temporarily avoid APR on new purchases is icing on the cake.
Read our full Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
Best for excellent credit
- This card is best for: Anyone who values function over flash. This card’s main selling point is the length of the introductory offers: 18 months of 0% intro APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, followed by 14.74% – 24.74% variable APR.
- This card is not a great choice for: Those with good-but-not-great credit scores. An excellent credit score above (740 or so) improves your chances of approval and getting a competitive regular APR.
- What makes this card unique? Most major credit card issuers scaled back their balance transfer offers over the past year, but the Citi lineup has remained pretty consistent in spite of economic upheaval.
- Is the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card worth it? This card doesn’t do sign-up bonuses or rewards programs, but it can help you temporarily avoid APR for as long as 18 months.
Read our full Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card review.
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
Best for automatic bonus category
- This card is best for: Those who want to earn generous cash back rates without having to enroll in bonus categories or plan out a spending strategy in advance.
- This card is not a great choice for: People mainly interested in getting the longest introductory APR offers possible. This card offers 15 months of 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (13.99% – 23.99% variable APR after based on creditworthiness), which is solid but not exceptional.
- What makes this card unique? The automatic bonus category adjusts to your spending, not the other way around. It’s an interesting, low-maintenance approach to bonus cash back.
- Is the Citi Custom Cash Card worth it? The cash back program outshines the introductory APR offers, but this card is still an intriguing option for people who spend a lot in the eligible bonus categories. Just make sure your spending doesn’t complicate your plan to pay off your purchases or balance transfer.
Read our full Citi Custom Cash℠ Card review.
Citi® Double Cash Card
Best for double cash back
- This card is best for: Anyone in the market for a lengthy introductory balance transfer offer with a card that also earns up to 2 percent cash back.
- This card is not a great choice for: Those who want an introductory offer on new purchases. The Citi Double Cash Card’s intro APR offer is for balance transfers only.
- What makes this card unique? The “double” in “Double Cash” refers to a two-part system. You earn 1 percent when you make purchases, then another 1 percent as you pay for them on your credit card bill.
- Is the Citi® Double Cash Card worth it? The balance transfer offer is among the longest currently available. Also, you might find that the cash back program provides extra motivation to make timely payments in full — a good habit that could help you avoid the need for a future balance transfer.
Read our full Citi® Double Cash Card review.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Best for cash back on everyday purchases
- This card is best for: Heads of households who spend a lot of money keeping the pantry stocked, the gas tank full and the kids outfitted, and are also in the market for an introductory zero-interest offer.
- This card is not a great choice for: People who want a balance transfer that helps them temporarily avoid interest. The card currently has an intro offer for purchases (15-month 0% introductory APR,13.99% – 23.99% variable APR after) but not balance transfers.
- What makes this card unique? The American Express brand is often associated with luxury travel and business, but the Blue Cash Everyday is a no-annual-fee card that rewards family-friendly purchases.
- Is the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express worth it? The rewards rates, the introductory offer and the lack of an annual fee make this card a worthy candidate to add to your financial family.
Read our full Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express review.
Wells Fargo Platinum card
Best for personal finance management
- This card is best for: People looking for a card with a lengthy introductory offer that also provides resources designed to help them chart a better financial future.
- This card is not a great choice for: Anyone with reason to believe that their current need for an introductory offer on purchases or qualifying balance transfers is just a one-time situation.
- What makes this card unique? Wells Fargo offers a set of tools called My Money Map to help you better manage your personal finances. If you’re looking into a balance transfer, My Money Map could offer some useful advice on budgeting and spending.
- Is the Wells Fargo Platinum card worth it? The main reason to get an intro offer credit card is to pay off a big purchase or a balance transfer during the introductory period and temporarily avoid paying APR. The Wells Fargo Platinum can help you reach that goal while also providing money management tools.
Read our full Wells Fargo Platinum card review.
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
Best for choice of rewards category
- This card is best for: People who want a card that combines introductory APR offers with the freedom to choose a high-earning cash back category.
- This card is not a great choice for: Anyone whose spending isn’t concentrated in the rewards categories. They offer a lot of variety, but not everybody spends heavily in areas such as travel, online shopping or home improvement.
- What makes this card unique? While cash back cards with rotating bonus categories change every quarter, it’s still the card issuers that decide where you’ll earn the higher rates. The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card puts some of that decision-making power in the cardholder’s hands.
- Is the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card worth it? Selecting the right choice category based on your spending habits is the key to getting the most out of the rewards program. If you can manage that part of the card effectively, and make responsible use of the introductory offers, the potential benefits are considerable.
Read our full Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card review.
Discover it® Cash Back
Best for rotating category cash back
- This card is best for: People who are open to a compromise between cash back earnings and the length of the introductory APR offers.
- This card is not a great choice for: Anyone who prefers to earn their cash back with minimal effort. Taking full advantage of the rotating bonus categories requires enrolling every quarter and targeting your purchases toward the current categories.
- What makes this card unique? Discover Cashback Match. Discover will match the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year owning the card.
- Is the Discover it® Cash Back worth it? This card is among the highest-rated cards available from Bankrate’s credit card partners. The introductory APR offers aren’t as long as other top cards in this category, but the long-term value of the cash back program helps compensate.
Read our full Discover it® Cash Back review.
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best for dining and entertainment
- This card is best for: Devotees of food and fun looking to capitalize on generous cash rewards and an introductory APR offer for purchases.
- This card is not a great choice for: People looking to offload a high-interest balance with a temporary break from interest. The current intro APR offer applies to new purchases only.
- What makes this card unique? While a lot of other cards offer rewards on dining, the SavorOne also includes entertainment in its 3 percent cash rewards category.
- Is the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card worth it? This no-annual-fee card has a lot to offer for people who want cash rewards tailored to their enjoyment of simple pleasures like meals, movies and music. The length of the introductory offer more or less meets the industry standard, but be aware of the regular APR (15.49% – 25.49% variable).
Read our full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Best for rewards versatility
- This card is best for: Those who want an introductory APR offer on purchases paired with a rewards program that provides lots of possibilities in how they earn and redeem their rewards.
- This card is not a great choice for: People simply looking for a tool to manage existing debt. The Chase Freedom Unlimited has an intro offer on purchases, not balance transfers.
- What makes this card unique? It offers more ways to redeem rewards than the typical cash back card. Options include redeeming for statement credits and gift cards but also travel, online shopping at Amazon.com and charitable contributions. You can also combine your rewards with one of Chase’s premier Ultimate Rewards cards.
- Is the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card worth it? The introductory offer is solid if not spectacular, but the cash back rates and the versatility in how you can use the rewards program make this much more than a typical intro APR credit card.
Read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited® review.
BankAmericard® credit card
Best for no penalty APR
- This card is best for: Someone whose main priorities are getting a temporary reprieve on interest charges for purchases or qualifying balance transfers and avoiding penalty APR.
- This card is not a great choice for: People who always pay their full credit card bill on time. When you never carry a balance, penalty APR becomes a distant worry.
- What makes this card unique? Although the BankAmericard doesn’t have a standard rewards program, eligible cardholders might be able to earn cash back on limited-time offers through BankAmeriDeals.
- Is the BankAmericard® credit card worth it? With its introductory APR offers, the BankAmericard is most useful for temporarily avoiding interest on purchases or balance transfers. Still, don’t let the lack of penalty APR encourage complacency. The card does charge penalty fees (up to $40 for late payment, up to $29 for returned payment).
Read our full BankAmericard® credit card review.
What is an introductory 0% APR credit card?
They go by different names — 0% APR credit cards, zero-interest credit cards — but they all have the same purpose: to provide a temporary break from interest charges as you steadily pay off large credit card purchases or balance transfers.
APR (annual percentage rate) determines how much interest applies to a credit card account for transactions in a particular billing cycle, including purchases and balance transfers. The interest doesn’t take effect if you keep your balance paid off in full every month, but a balance that remains unpaid past the grace period after the end of a billing cycle could be subject to APR. Even worse, penalty APR could apply if you have a late payment more than 60 days overdue.
The good news is that you could use a 0% intro APR credit card to temporarily avoid the cost of interest charges during the introductory period before the regular rate takes effect.
Pros and cons of 0% intro APR credit cards
Even if you’re generally familiar with the concept, you might not know some of the key details about 0% APR credit cards. It’s important to understand how they work and consider the advantages and disadvantages, which include:
- You could potentially save hundreds of dollars on interest charges by temporarily avoiding the cost of APR on purchases and balance transfers.
- Having several months (or even longer) to pay off a balance during the introductory period could result in lower monthly payments.
- Responsibly managing debt can help your credit score in the long run and show lenders that you’re a low-risk borrower.
- Some balance transfer cards allow you to transfer different kinds of debt — not just credit card balances but also personal loans, student loans and so on.
- If you miss a payment on your new 0% APR card, the issuer could consider it a violation of the introductory offer terms and start charging the standard APR immediately.
- Using a 0% intro APR credit card to transfer a very large balance can affect your credit utilization (how much of your available credit you’re currently using), which in turn could cause a dip in your credit score. Fortunately, you can improve that ratio by continuing to pay down your transferred balance.
- Most credit card issuers charge a balance transfer fee, usually 3% or 5% of the amount transferred.
Whether you use it for purchases or balance transfers, a 0% intro APR credit card isn’t a quick fix or a silver bullet. You’ll still need to hold up your end of the bargain, making regular monthly payments and erasing the debt before the intro offer expires, to reap the full benefits.
Who should get a 0% intro APR credit card?
Is a credit card with an introductory 0% APR offer a good idea? If any of the following situations apply to you, the answer could be yes.
- Are you planning an essential purchase? Maybe you need to replace your broken-down washing machine and dryer or an old personal computer that’s undergone one too many software updates.
- Do you have a big expense on the horizon? It could be an upcoming medical procedure that’s not covered by your health insurance, or just partially covered.
- Do you want to transfer a balance from a high-interest credit account? You might be looking for a break from high APR on a credit card balance or loan.
Paying for a purchase or expense on a 0% intro APR credit card would let you pay the entire price upfront and chip away at the balance interest-free for the duration of the introductory offer. With a balance transfer, you can move debt from an existing, high-interest account to a new credit card with an introductory 0% APR offer.
How to choose the right zero-interest credit card
Choosing the best 0% intro APR credit card for you depends on a few key factors.
Purchase or balance transfer?
There are two types of introductory zero-interest offers. If you have a large purchase planned, you want a credit card with an intro offer of 0% interest on new purchases to get a temporary reprieve from purchase APR. If you’re looking to move debt from a high-interest account, you want a credit card with an introductory 0% APR offer on balance transfers.
Some cards have one type of introductory offer while others have both. The offers apply to different kinds of transactions, but both can help you achieve the same goal of temporarily avoiding interest charges.
Length of the introductory offer
The longer the 0% intro offer, the better. A lengthy APR offer will give you more time to take advantage of the zero-interest window as you gradually make payments, whether it’s on a large purchase or on a transferred balance.
Credit score requirements
Most 0% intro APR credit cards require a good or excellent credit score. In most cases, the recommended credit score ranges would be:
- FICO Score: 670-850
- VantageScore: 661-850
Other factors that come into play during the application process include annual income, the number of delinquencies on your credit report and your overall credit history. Make sure to take all factors into account when you apply for a credit card.
Although some 0% interest cards are short on extras, a good number of them have rewards programs and other benefits We recommend that you focus on paying down debt while you’re taking advantage of the introductory zero-interest offer. Once you’ve cleared your debt, you can turn your attention to earning rewards.
Learn more: What is good APR on a credit card?
Are there alternatives to a 0% interest credit card?
Sometimes a 0% intro APR credit card might not be your best option. Here are some possible alternatives:
- If you think you can’t qualify for a zero-interest introductory offer, consider a low-interest credit card with a standard APR that’s lower than the rate on your current card.
- Getting approved for a balance transfer card with bad credit can be difficult. You might be eligible only for a low-interest introductory offer rather than a zero-interest offer. A personal loan could be easier to qualify for.
- As a last resort, you could contact your credit card issuer to ask for a lower interest rate on your current credit card. This strategy is probably a longshot unless you’re a longtime customer with an established history of paying off your balance on time and in full.
At the same time, facing difficult questions about big purchases and debt repayment could be a sign that you need to look at the bigger picture. A long-term strategy for managing debt might be in order.
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:
- Pay off the entire monthly balance, including the large purchase, and face no APR charges.
- 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.
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:
A $3,000 purchase with your regular credit card
The average credit card interest rate is currently about 16% variable. If you were to isolate $3,000 spent on a vacation, for example, and pay it off in equal installments over a year’s time on your regular credit card, the payment schedule would look like this:
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.
A $3,000 purchase with a 0% intro APR 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:
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 $22 less, too.
How to avoid paying credit card interest
A credit card is a type of loan, and virtually every loan involves interest. It’s possible to avoid paying credit card interest, but only under a few well-defined conditions.
- Paying your statement in full and on time. Keeping up with your monthly credit card payments so that no money carries over into the next billing cycle is the simplest, most effective way to keep from paying credit card interest.
- Using a 0% interest intro offer. A zero-interest card can help you avoid paying interest on purchases and balance transfers, but only as long as the introductory offer lasts. When the 0% intro APR period ends, the card’s regular APR applies.
- Using a grace period. Most credit card issuers offer a grace period that provides a temporary reprieve from interest for a short period of time after a billing cycle ends. However, the key word is “temporary.” The typical grace period is 21 days.
Introductory rates are sometimes called promotional rates, but they mean essentially the same thing: a temporary interest rate that’s available from the day you open your account to the end of the offer period, as defined by the lender’s terms and conditions.
What’s the best 0% intro APR credit card?
Even though no single choice will be a perfect fit for everyone, the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card has the edge over many other options.
The card’s current offer for new purchases and balance transfers is 20 billing cycles at 0% introductory APR, 14.49% – 24.49% variable APR after. Many competitors vying for best 0% APR credit card have introductory offers lasting 18 months. Having an extra two billing cycles could give you more cushion when you’re trying to pay off a big purchase or a transferred balance while avoiding interest. Also, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card’s regular APR range (14.49% – 24.49% variable) is lower than those of many other 0% APR cards.
However, some of its competitors offer things that the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum doesn’t: welcome offers and rewards programs. One example is the Discover it® Cash Back. Its introductory offer for purchases and balance transfers (14 months at 0% APR, 11.99% – 22.99% variable APR after) is significantly shorter, but it does have a cash back program that includes rotating bonus categories. You earn 5% cash back in the rotating categories on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter followed by 1% (enrollment required), as well as unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
While the introductory offers are the key feature of 0% intro APR credit cards, they aren’t the only feature. You might also consider the card’s long-term value, in which rewards programs and welcome offers play a big part.
CardSmart: A zero-percent intro offer in action
A consumer named Carol emailed me for advice on using zero-interest cards to save money on APR. 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 18% APR.
Long story short, it looked like Carol could avoid several hundred dollars in interest charges with a 0% intro APR offer:
|0% intro APR
- 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 email@example.com.
Survey: 44% of cardholders off-base about effects of carrying a balance
Findings from a Bankrate survey indicate that 44 percent of U.S. credit cardholders mistakenly believe that carrying a balance can improve their credit scores. In fact, carrying a balance on your credit card does just the opposite.
Knowing the facts about how credit card use affects your credit score is more essential than ever as thousands of consumers face financial challenges brought on by the pandemic’s effects on the national economy.
“There’s a lot of confusion surrounding credit scores,” says Bankrate industry analyst Ted Rossman. “To set the record straight: Try not to carry balances, try to keep old cards open and ask your lenders for help if you’re struggling. Assistance is available, but you need to ask for it.”
The survey also found that 33 percent of credit cardholders did at least one thing since March 2020, the start of the coronavirus outbreak, that could potentially hurt their credit scores. The findings included:
- 17 percent of U.S. adults added to their debt
- 12 percent paid a bill late
- 8 percent carried a balance on their credit card with the intention of improving their credit score
- 6 percent did not pay a bill at all
- 3 percent canceled a card specifically to improve their credit score
“In general, you want to show a long history of making on-time payments and keeping your debts low relative to your credit limits,” Rossman says. “Staying well below your limits is one of the best ways to improve your credit score quickly.”
Another possible remedy for a large credit card balance is a 0% intro APR balance transfer offer. You can transfer a balance from your current card to a new card that has an introductory zero-interest rate, providing you with a temporary reprieve from the APR you’ve been paying. If you pay off the transferred balance before the introductory offer expires, you could save hundreds of dollars in interest charges.
How to keep your credit score in good standing
You have the ability to take action to protect your credit score, a key component of your financial well-being. Here are three essential guidelines:
- Pay all your bills early or on time, even if you can only make minimum payments. Since your payment history makes up 35 percent of your FICO Score, even one late bill payment can cause your score to take a hit. Make sure you pay every bill you have on or before your due date.
- Pay down debt. The second most important factor that makes up your FICO score is your credit utilization. Keeping your credit card utilization below 30 percent of your available credit will boost your score. If you have the means to pay down debt, you should try.
- Keep old credit card accounts open. The length of your credit history makes up another 15 percent of your FICO score, so keep all accounts in good standing open as long as possible.
How we chose our best 0% intro APR credit cards
Bankrate uses a 5-star scoring system to evaluate the credit cards available from our partners. In selecting the cards featured on this page, we further refine the criteria to focus on qualities that define the best credit cards with 0% APR intro offers.
Length of the introductory offer
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 APR, sometimes called standard “go-to” APR, refers to the interest rate 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 reasonable go-to APR can help ease the burden if you find yourself in a situation where you have to.
Should you keep this card after it’s served the initial purpose? That’s a key question we ask when evaluating credit cards with 0% APR intro offers. 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.
Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.