The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Saturday, September 19, 2020

APR vs. Interest Rate: Is There a Difference?

Apr Vs Interest Rate

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.

Applied Bank® Secured Visa® Gold Preferred® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Better than Prepaid...Go with a Secured Card! Load One Time - Keep On Using
  • Absolutely No Credit Check or Minimum Credit Score Required
  • Automatic Reporting to All Three National Credit Bureaus
  • 9.99% Low Fixed APR - Your Rate Won’t Go Up Even if You Are Late
  • Activate Today with a $200 Minimum Deposit - Maximum $1,000. * Increase Your Credit Limit up to $5,000 by Adding Additional Deposits Anytime
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
9.99%
$48
Poor/Fair/Limited/Damaged
Platinum Plus® Mastercard® Business Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.3/5.0
  • Get a $300 statement credit when you make at least $3,000 in net purchases within 90 days of your account opening.
  • Unlimited employee cards at no additional cost
  • 0% introductory APR for 7 billing cycles from account opening
  • Manage your business with a suite of online services including automatic payments, transfers, and downloading transactions into QuickBooks
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 7 months
N/A
10.24% to 21.24%
$0
Good
Wells Fargo Cash Back College℠ Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn 3% cash back for up to $2,500 spent on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months
  • Earn 1% cash rewards for other purchases
  • Low intro APR helps you buy what you need while in college
  • Flexibility to use cash rewards toward travel, gift cards, merchandise, cash redemption options , and more
  • Access your FICO® Credit Score, credit education, and tools with Wells Fargo Online
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
0% for 6 months
11.15% - 21.15%
$0
None/Limited

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.

Applied Bank® Secured Visa® Gold Preferred® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Better than Prepaid...Go with a Secured Card! Load One Time - Keep On Using
  • Absolutely No Credit Check or Minimum Credit Score Required
  • Automatic Reporting to All Three National Credit Bureaus
  • 9.99% Low Fixed APR - Your Rate Won’t Go Up Even if You Are Late
  • Activate Today with a $200 Minimum Deposit - Maximum $1,000. * Increase Your Credit Limit up to $5,000 by Adding Additional Deposits Anytime
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
9.99%
$48
Poor/Fair/Limited/Damaged
Bank of America® Cash Back Secured Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings
  • Earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • A minimum refundable security deposit of $300 (maximum of $4,900) is required to open this account
  • Access your FICO® Score updated monthly for free, within your Mobile Banking app or in Online Banking
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
23.99%
$0
Bad/Limited

SECURED RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee
  • Unlike a prepaid card, there is regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • Accepted at millions of locations worldwide
  • Make the minimum required security deposit and you'll get an initial credit line of $200. Plus, deposit more money before your account opens to get a higher credit line
  • Access to an authorized bank account is required to make your $49, $99 or $200 refundable security deposit
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad

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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