What is APR on a Credit Card? 9 Best Low-Interest & 0% APR Cards

credit card advice

Linsey Knerl
By: Linsey Knerl
Posted: May 31, 2017
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Site may be compensated through the issuer affiliate programs.

If you’ve been considering applying for a new credit card, you’ve likely heard a lot about the term “APR”. This term is perhaps the most critical factor in deciding which card to get, and it can be used to put you in a better overall financial situation – if handled correctly.

Here are the facts about APR, why it matters, and what you can do to make it work for you.

Low APR | 0% Intro APR | 0% Balance Transfer APR

APR Stands for Annual Percentage Rate

One of the most important features in deciding which credit card to apply for is the APR. This term refers to the “annual percentage rate” – or interest — you’ll pay for anything you purchase with that card. While each card may have a slightly different method of calculating this rate, there is usually a grace period after each purchase before the rate goes into effect. Once the grace period is over (commonly between 20 and 30 days), the total balance of your card’s purchases is subject to this additional APR fee.

APRs are Variable, Meaning They Change Often

It is very important to keep an eye on your accounts over time, as the interest rate (or APR) can and will change. There are many reasons why a percentage rate will go up. Some of these may not be your fault, such as when the FED (Federal Reserve) raises prime rates. This is a standard rate for all lending institutions, and your card may have no choice but to pass that rate change on to you. When this happens, your card will send you a notification, usually 45 days or more in advance, to warn you of the change.

You may also see your APR go up if a special low-rate offer has expired. Many balance transfer offers, for example, start you at a low rate and then bump you back up to your normal rate after the offer is over. Anything not paid off before the promotional offer expires will be charged the higher APR. Your credit card company does not have to notify you in advance of this promotion expiration, so it’s up to you to keep track and pay your balances before they become more expensive.

Screenshot of APR Types

Consider the types of APR when selecting a new credit card. Photo credits: bettermoneyhabits.com

Other actions can negatively affect your Annual Percentage Rate. They include making late payments to your account. If you go more than 60 days without paying your minimum due, your card can impose what is called a “Penalty APR.” This may be as high as 29.99%! It’s always in your best interest to make every attempt at paying your minimum and always communicate with your card company if you find it difficult to do so.

Additionally, cards are allowed to raise rates after 12 months of your being a customer. While this doesn’t happen as often, it is perfectly legal. Your card issuer will need to notify you in advance of the change, however, and allow you to pay your balance before the change kicks in.

How Your Credit Score Affects Your APR

Another way that APRs often change is directly related to your spending and payment habits. As a result, a credit score is one of the most common influencing factors in card interest rates. The banks see it as the most important piece of information they can obtain to decide your ability to pay back charges.

A significant positive change in your score can open doors to rates as low as 0% for promotional offers, and 13.99% after. A negative credit score will likely make it difficult to get such great rates. Expect to pay the high end in this situation; 22% or more is not unheard of for less-than-stellar credit.

If you’ve been taking good care of your finances, and have earned a good credit report, you are likely eligible for one of these three top low-APR offers. Use them to pay less interest on your purchases!

Discover it® - Cashback Match™ Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Our Take: "One of our favorite cards, with long 0% intro APRs, low ongoing APRs, awesome cash back rewards, and lots more.
  • 5% cash back in categories that rotate quarterly, up to $1,500 per quarter when you sign up for the quarterly bonus
  • 1% cash back on all your other purchases
  • With Cashback Match you could turn $200 into $400, as the card matches the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers)
  • No limit to the amount of cash back that can be matched"
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Discover it® chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Our Take: "What's not to love? Great intro rates, low ongoing APR, cash-back rewards, and great customer service make this card a solid choice
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, up to $1,000 per quarter
  • 1% cash back on all your other purchases, with no limits
  • Matches the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers)
  • No limit to the amount of cash back that can be matched"
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Our Take: "With a ridiculously good deal on balance transfers, low APR's, and a generous cash-back program, we can see why this card is so popular.
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months
  • 5% cash back in rotating categories that rotate quarterly, up to $1,500 per quarter when you sign up for the quarterly bonus
  • 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
  • Matches the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers)
  • No limit to the amount of cash back that can be matched"
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
0% for 18 months
11.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+See More Low APR Offers

If You Have Good Credit, You May Qualify for a 0% Intro APR

One of the perks of having good credit is that you will have some amazing opportunities to use zero-interest promotional offers. New cards are always giving responsible consumers the chance to apply for cards with 0% APR on purchases, balance transfers, or both! These are limited-time offers, meaning they don’t last forever. (Remember that you are responsible for tracking their end dates, as well.)

Expect to see these excellent offers last between 12 and 18 months for new cardholders.
The following cards are top-rated by consumers for their 0% APR offers. They could be just what you need to pay off high-balance cards or invest in your home, auto, or other important expense.

Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card Review

at Wells Fargo'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a 16.15%-25.99% variable APR; balance transfer fees apply
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card
  • Free access to your FICO® Credit Score with Wells Fargo Online®
  • Zero Liability protection for promptly reported unauthorized transactions
  • Convenient tools to help create a budget and manage your spending with My Money Map
  • $0 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 18 months
0% for 18 months
16.15%-25.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter like gas stations, restaurants and drugstores
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
15.99% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
15.99% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good

+See More 0% Intro APR Offers

If You Carry Debt, Utilize 0% APR Balance Transfer Offers

A great intro offer, like the 0% APR many cards offer, is perfect for transferring the balances from high-rate cards. If you have found that your existing card issuer won’t work with you to bring down your APR, you can move some or all of that balance to your new card and watch the interest rate fall to nothing!

You can use an online calculator to see how much you’ll save by switching to a 0% interest rate over time. It can mean savings of up to hundreds of dollars. Just be sure to pay off that balance before the promotional rate expires to get the best value.

It’s also important to read the terms for any 0% APR offer. Most all will charge a balance transfer fee of 3-5% of the total amount transferred. That fee will be charged immediately upon transfer and will be added to your total due. Compare card offers to see if you can get the lowest transfer fee for additional savings.

The following cards are top-rated by consumers for their 0% APR offers. Use them to pay off high-balance cards and get rid of debt at a much lower rate.

Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Our Take: "With a ridiculously good deal on balance transfers, low APR's, and a generous cash-back program, we can see why this card is so popular.
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months
  • 5% cash back in rotating categories that rotate quarterly, up to $1,500 per quarter when you sign up for the quarterly bonus
  • 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
  • Matches the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers)
  • No limit to the amount of cash back that can be matched"
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
0% for 18 months
11.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
15.99% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good
Discover it® - Cashback Match™ Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Our Take: "One of our favorite cards, with long 0% intro APRs, low ongoing APRs, awesome cash back rewards, and lots more.
  • 5% cash back in categories that rotate quarterly, up to $1,500 per quarter when you sign up for the quarterly bonus
  • 1% cash back on all your other purchases
  • With Cashback Match you could turn $200 into $400, as the card matches the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers)
  • No limit to the amount of cash back that can be matched"
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+See More 0% Balance Transfer Offers

Pay Your Balance Each Month to Avoid Paying Interest

No matter how low your APR is, it’s important to pay your balance each and every month. If you have a low introductory offer that includes a balance transfer, additional purchases may not be subject to that low rate. That’s why you must pay any new balance in full to avoid paying the higher interest rate. (Check your statement monthly to see each interest rate category and work to always pay off the amounts subject to interest first.)

It is also common for people to allow their intro offer to expire before they have paid off their card. Use your card statement to determine how many payments you have left before the 0% offer is over, and pay extra – if needed – to beat the clock. The goal is to use the intro offer as a tool to paying off debt, without interest. Once that is paid, continue paying your full balance monthly, and never pay an APR again!