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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 Sept. 15, 2021, Bankrate estimates the average credit card interest rate at 16.21% variable. If you’ve ever carried a balance on your credit card, you know how much credit card interest 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.
Compare Bankrate’s top 0% intro APR credit cards
A closer look at our best 0% intro APR credit cards
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.
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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 13.74% – 23.74% variable APR.
- This card is not a great choice for: Those with good-but-not-great credit scores. An excellent credit score above (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 credit card interest for as long as 18 months.
Read our full Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card review.
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U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Best for longest 0% intro APR offer
- This card is best for: Someone looking for the longest 0% intro APR possible: 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles. After that, the APR is variable 14.49% to 24.49%.
- This card is not a great choice for: Those interested in earning rewards as there is no base rewards program.
- What makes this card unique? Cardholders who pay their cell phone bill with this card are automatically eligible for cell phone protection, which protects against damage or theft up to $600 (with a $25 deductible).
- Is the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card worth it? If your goal is to obtain the longest possible intro APR period, this card is worth going after. If you’re willing to compromise on the offer length in exchange for earning rewards and better long-term value, you’ll do better with a different card.
Read our U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card review.
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Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card
Best for 2% cash rewards
- This card is best for: People looking for a card that earns unlimited cash rewards at an outstanding rate while also offering a chance to temporarily avoid APR on new purchases and qualifying balance transfers.
- This card is not a great choice for: People who make a lot of international purchases, whether in person while traveling or at home from overseas-based vendors. The card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, which can chip away at its overall value and usefulness.
- What makes this card unique? Very few cards earn unlimited cash rewards on purchases at a comparable rate. The lack of an annual fee can also help ensure your cost of owning the card remains low.
- Is the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card worth it? If you commit to using the introductory APR offers responsibly, you can save money on interest in the short term while reaping generous cash rewards for the long haul.
Read our full Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card review.
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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 interest charges. The Wells Fargo Platinum can help you reach that goal while also providing money management tools.
Read our full Wells Fargo Platinum card review.
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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. As a welcome offer, 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 make up for that.
Read our full Discover it® Cash Back review.
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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% to 25.49% variable).
Read our full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review.
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Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best for 1.5% 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 a 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months (then 15.49% to 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 interest on new purchases is icing on the cake.
Read our full Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review.
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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.
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Citi Simplicity® Card
Best for no late fee
- This card is best for: Someone who has a big purchase on the horizon and wants a long reprieve from paying credit card interest, as well as a permanent break from late fees and annual fees.
- This card is not a great choice for: Short-term debt managers looking for long-term utility. Since the card doesn’t have a rewards program, its main value lies in the introductory APR offer.
- What makes this card unique? Although most major issuers have cut back on the length of scope of their 0% intro APR offers over the last year or so, Citi has remained more or less consistent.
- Is the Citi Simplicity Card worth it? If you want to avoid paying interest on purchases or balance transfers for a lengthy period, this card’s offers have some of the most favorable terms currently available. Since it doesn’t have a rewards program, your best bet for long-term value is probably the extra layer of protection provided by Citi® Quick Lock and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions.
Read our full Citi Simplicity® Card review.
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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% to 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.
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Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card
Best for Bank of America customers
- This card is best for: People looking to earn consistent, low-hassle flat-rate rewards.
- This card is not a great choice for: Shoppers who spend considerably in certain spending categories, as you could be missing out on higher rewards rates.
- What makes this card unique? The unlimited 1.5 percent flat-rate cash back you get with this card makes it easy to earn cash back with minimal effort. If you fit the criteria for Preferred Rewards status, you can boost your cash back rewards rate by 25 to 75 percent.
- Is the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card worth it? If Bank of America is your top choice bank and you have a qualifying balance across all of your Bank of America accounts to earn Preferred Rewards status, this card offers some of the highest cash back rewards on all purchases.
Read our full Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card review.
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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 a 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, a 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 a penalty APR encourage complacency. The card does charge penalty fees (up to $40 for late payment, up to $29 for returned payment). Plus, late payments still hurt your credit score.
Read our full BankAmericard® credit card review.
What is a 0% intro APR credit card?
They go by different names — 0% APR credit cards, zero-interest credit cards, introductory APR 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.
An APR (annual percentage rate) determines how much interest applies to a credit card account for transactions in a particular billing cycle. Interest is money you must pay in addition to the initial amount you borrow, so the lower the APR, the better. 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 of a billing cycle will accrue interest in accordance with your APR. Even worse, a penalty APR could apply if you have a late payment that’s more than 60 days overdue. Your APR for purchases may be different from your APR for balance transfers. (Learn how credit card interest works.)
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. A 0% intro offer may apply to new purchases, balance transfers or both.
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 via an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers.
- 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 an introductory APR credit card?
Generally, if you’re trying to delay accruing or paying credit card interest, a 0% intro APR card makes sense. Consider one of these cards if you find yourself in the following situations.
Someone with a large expense planned
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. It could be an upcoming medical procedure that’s not covered by your health insurance or is just partially covered. In both scenarios, you’ll buy yourself some time to pay off those purchases and save on interest charges within the introductory period with a 0% intro APR card.
A balance transfer seeker
Do you want to transfer a balance from a high-interest credit account? Alternately, you might be looking for a break from high APR on a credit card balance or loan. In either case, a credit card offering zero interest on balance transfers can save you money. Just be sure to account for any applicable balance transfer fees.
The credit card newbie
If you want the benefits of a credit card, but you’re still learning how to best leverage one, a 0% APR card can provide a bit of a buffer as you get up to speed. Within the introductory APR period, you’ll have some leeway, and you may be able to skip interest charges altogether if you don’t stay on budget in a given billing cycle. (Note: It’s generally best practice to pay your credit card balances in full each month to avoid interest. If you do happen to revolve a balance, aim to pay it off by the time the intro APR expires. If you tend to carry a balance more frequently, consider a low interest credit card.)
Who should avoid getting an introductory APR credit card?
If you’re worried about your ability to control your spending, avoiding the added temptation of 0% interest is a good idea. It’s best to have your purchases and payments planned in advance when taking advantage of a 0% intro APR offer. That way, it’s easier to avoid the “buy now, worry later” mentality and leave the intro period with little to no debt left over.
How to choose the right 0% intro APR credit card
Choosing the best 0% intro APR credit card for you depends on a few key factors.
Are you interested in a 0% intro APR for purchases or balance transfers?
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 a high 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.
How long would you like your introductory offer to last?
The longer the 0% intro offer, the better. A lengthy 0% introductory 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.
What is your credit score?
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.
Is long-term value important to you?
Because the intro offer will expire after a few months, it’s worth considering what else the card brings to the table. 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 a good APR on a credit card?
Are there alternatives to an introductory APR 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 purchase on a credit card, you have two repayment options. You can:
- Pay off the entire balance and face no interest charges.
- Make a partial payment on the balance and pay interest on whatever amount is left over.
Of course, the problem with option 2 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 (the principal) 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 your regular APR. Here’s an illustration of how it works, using Bankrate’s Credit Card Payoff Calculator and the average credit card interest rate, which is currently around 16 percent:
A $3,000 purchase paid off over 12 months
|0% intro for 12 months
With the regular credit card, you’d pay $266 in interest in addition to your principal $3,000 balance. Interest would account for 8 percent of your total cost.
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. (Keep in mind, 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. Your monthly due date reflects the end of this period.)
- 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.
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% to 24.49% variable APR after. Many competitors vying for the title of “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% to 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% to 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.
In the news: 56 percent of Gen Zers and 59 percent of millennials don’t mind post-pandemic debt
During the pandemic, the unemployment rate multiplied from 3.5% in Feb. 2020 to 14.7% in April 2020. One would have thought that so many people suddenly out of work would run up unmanageable credit card balances, but in reality, total credit card balances actually fell 17%, from $927 billion in Q4 2019 to $770 billion in Q1 2021, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
After a year of living in the pandemic world, it’s no surprise that many want to live their best lives and splurge now that the world has started to open up. While this can be an expensive endeavor, more than half of millennials and Gen Zers don’t seem to be bothered by the prospect of taking on debt to fully enjoy themselves.
In fact, according to a survey by CreditCards.com, 56% of Gen Zers and 59% of millennials are willing to go into credit card debt to celebrate the end of the pandemic. The lack of vacation opportunities over the last year or so has created a sense of “travel fever,” as 38% of millennials and 39% of Gen Zers anticipate spending more on travel in the second half of 2021. These generations also want to take advantage of out-of-home entertainment like movie theaters, concerts and sporting events (34% of millennials and 36% of Gen Zers) and spend their money on clothing and accessories (33% of millennials and 34% of Gen Zers), among other categories. While going out, traveling and looking great while doing it sounds enticing, is it worth risking your financial health?
Fortunately, there are methods to project your finances and enjoy all the post-pandemic world has to offer. First, this is a perfect time to reevaluate your budget or create one if you haven’t done so yet. Carefully consider the categories you plan to spend on most and what types of expenses you could afford to cut or reallocate. Next, keep in mind that it’s never too late to start saving. It’s OK to ease into spending if you’re eyeing a big purchase or a dream vacation. It’s perfectly natural to want to treat yourself but your treat will be that much sweeter if it’s interest-free.
Finally, shop around for the right credit card that can fund your post-pandemic wants. A 0% introductory APR card offers a zero-interest promotional period (usually between 12 and 18 months) during which you can take your time paying off your balance — just be sure you pay the card off in full before this period ends or you’ll be responsible for APR charges.
Learn how to choose your next credit card.
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
A card’s 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.