The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Wednesday, July 15, 2020

APR vs. Interest Rate: Is There a Difference?

APR vs. Interest Rate: Is There a Difference?

credit card advice

Marcie Geffner
By: Marcie Geffner
Posted: December 9, 2019
Advertiser Disclosure

Borrowing money often involves fees. One such fee is interest, which is calculated as a percentage of the amount you owe. The percentage is the interest rate.

For example, if you borrowed $1,000 for one year with an interest rate of 4%, you’d owe $40 of interest. An interest rate that’s calculated on a yearly basis is known as an annualized percentage rate (APR).

An APR always includes interest. It may also include other fees related to the loan. For example, if you applied for a home mortgage, your APR would include the lender’s fees as well as the interest rate.

With credit cards, the APR typically doesn’t include other fees, such as an annual fee, balance transfer fees, late payment fees, or foreign transaction fees, which may also be charged. When an APR includes interest, but no other fees, the APR and interest rate will be the same — this is true for most card rates.

The 4 Types of Card APRs

Most cards have more than one type of APR. Four common card APRs are:

  • Purchase APR. This APR is applied to new purchases you make with your card and your card balance if you don’t pay it in full every month and you’re not paying an introductory or penalty APR.
  • Introductory APR. This APR is applied to your card balance for a specific period. It may also be applied to new purchases during that time period. The introductory period is usually at least six months and may be up to 18 months or longer. An introductory APR may be as low as 0%. This type of APR is sometimes called a promotional rate or promotional APR.
  • Cash Advance APR. This APR applies if you use your card to get cash, such as from an ATM or with cash advance checks. A cash advance is a form of debt. The APR for a cash advance is typically higher than the card’s purchase APR.
  • Penalty APR. This APR may be applied if you make a late payment or miss a payment. Like the cash advance APR, this APR is typically higher than the card’s purchase APR.

The differences between APRs can be substantial. For example, if you carried a $5,000 balance for one year, you’d pay no interest with a 0% APR, $389 of interest with a 14.99% APR, and $631 of interest with a 24.99% APR. If your balance was higher or you carried the debt longer, you’d pay even more interest with the same APRs.

Most card APRs are variable, which means they can change over time. An APR may change because market rates changed, or your credit score went up or down. If your card’s APR increases, you’ll have to pay more interest to carry the same balance.

A card’s APRs must be disclosed in the cardholder agreement. APRs may also be shown on your monthly statement.

How to Use APR to Calculate Interest

Although APRs are annualized rates, card issuers don’t actually charge interest annually — they charge interest daily. That’s why you should be aware of your card’s Average Daily Periodic Rate (ADPR) as well as its APR.

If you carry a balance, it’s the ADPR that will be used to calculate how much interest you’ll be charged.

Your ADPR should be printed on your statement. This rate is typically rounded, so 16.987% would be shown as 16.99%, for example.

If your card’s ADPR isn’t equal to one 365th of its APR, it may be because your issuer uses a 360-day year rather than a 365-day year for its calculations. That may sound odd, but some issuers reportedly do it that way.

A “Good” APR Depends on Your Credit Score

Some cards charge a lower range of APRs while others charge a higher range. To qualify for the lowest ranges of card APRs, you’ll generally need good or excellent credit.

Your card’s APR may be higher than average if your credit rating is fair or poor. Whether a specific card has a “good” APR depends on the range of APRs for that card and your credit history.

Chart of Estimated APRs by Credit Score

For example, if you have excellent credit, a 30% card APR probably wouldn’t be considered a good APR for you. If you’ve had some issues with credit, that same 30% APR may be the best you’ll be offered.

How To Get a Lower Credit Card APR

A low APR may save you a lot of money if you carry a balance on your credit card. Here are four ways you may be able to get lower APR:

Apply for a new balance transfer card with a 0% introductory balance transfer offer. You may have to pay a balance transfer fee to move your balance to the new card, and the introductory 0% APR may not apply to new purchases with that card, but your APR could drop significantly, making it easier for you to pay off your balance.

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balances, are paid in full
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • 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.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 21 months
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balance, are paid in full.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% 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.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 21 months
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice. 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.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
13.99% - 23.99% (variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

Apply for a new card with a lower APR. If you didn’t shop for a card with a low APR when you applied for the cards you have or if you’ve improved your credit since then, a new card could be your ticket to a lower APR.

If your credit isn’t good, you may need to raise your credit scores by making your payments on time before you’ll be approved for a card with a low APR.

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • 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 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.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)
$0
Good/Excellent

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balance, are paid in full.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% 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.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 21 months
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice. 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.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
13.99% - 23.99% (variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

Apply for a new secured card. Secured cards don’t always have the lowest APRs, but you may find some with lower APRs than the cards you already have. To get a secured card, you’ll have to make a deposit, which serves as security, or collateral, for your card debt.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card Review

at Capital Bank'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

2.9/5.0
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
  • We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search “OpenSky Card” in Facebook.)
  • OpenSky provides credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on our website to support you along the way.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.39% (variable)
$35
Poor
First Progress Platinum Prestige MasterCard® Secured Credit Card Review

at First Progress'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★
3.9

OVERALL RATING

2.9/5.0
  • Invest your tax refund to improve your credit by making the refundable deposit for your new secured card today
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • Monthly Reporting to all 3 Major Credit Bureaus to Establish Credit History
  • Credit Line Secured by Your Fully-Refundable Deposit of $200 -- $2,000 Submitted with Application
  • Nationwide Program though not yet available in NY, IA, AR, or WI *See Card Terms.
  • Apply in just a few moments with no negative impact to your credit score; no credit inquiry will be recorded in your credit bureau file
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
9.99% (V)
$49
Bad / No Credit
The First Progress Platinum Elite MasterCard® Secured Credit Card Review

at First Progress'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★
3.8

OVERALL RATING

2.3/5.0
  • Invest your tax refund to improve your credit by making the refundable deposit for your new secured card today
  • Receive Your Card More Quickly with New Expedited Processing Option
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • Quick and Complete Online Application
  • Full-Feature Platinum MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
  • Nationwide Program though not yet available in NY, IA, AR, or WI *See Card Terms.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% (V)
$29
Poor/Limited/No Credit

Call your credit card company and ask. If you’re a good customer, you may be able to get a lower APR just by reaching out and requesting it. If you usually carry a balance and you typically make your payment on time, this one phone call could save you a lot of money and help you pay off your balance sooner.

Pay Your Balance to Avoid Interest Charges

If you don’t carry a balance, APRs aren’t relevant to you. If you do carry a balance, you should pay attention to APRs when you shop for new cards.

A card with a lower APR or 0% balance transfer offer could be a better card for you than one with more perks or rewards. The choice is yours.

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