17 Cheap Credit Cards with Low Interest and $0 Fees

By: Brittney Mayer • 5/24/2018

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When you think about it, fees are a lot like the ninjas of the credit card world. They’re excellent at hiding, they can sneak up on you when you least expect it — and they can cost you a limb if you’re not careful. But while ninjas are notoriously difficult to best, most credit card fees can be defeated simply by choosing the right card (and using it wisely).

The key to minimizing the costs of your credit card is to select a cheap card to begin with. This means choosing a card with a low APR to avoid high interest fees if you’re prone to carrying a balance, or keeping a low (or, better, $0) balance on a card with no annual or service fees to avoid extra costs altogether.

Low APR | No Fee

Compare the Best “Low APR” Credit Cards

Unlike one-and-done annual and service fees, interest rate charges aren’t temporary house guests; every billing cycle you carry a balance can mean more interest fees added to the pile. And while you can avoid interest charges by paying off your balance during the card’s grace period (i.e., before your due date), it simply isn’t an option for every cardholder on every statement.

Thankfully, there are ways to skip the interest fees — or, at least, minimize them — with the right credit card. Whether you have a big purchase coming up, want a lower rate on a balance you already carry, or just want a card that always offers a low APR, you can find a way to cut your credit card interest costs.

Intro-APR New Purchases | Intro-APR Balance Transfers | Low Ongoing APR

Best Credit Cards with 0% Intro-APR on New Purchases

Credit cards can be a fantastic way to make a big purchase, both because of the ease of use — no bulky stacks of cash to carry to and fro — and the awesome rewards you can earn. What’s less fantastic are the high interest charges that big purchase can accrue if you fail to pay off your balance before the end of your billing cycle. That’s where introductory 0% APR credit card offers can save you a bundle.

Though the best intro-APR credit card offers will require good to excellent credit to qualify, they can provide up to 18 months of interest-free financing. Plus, you’ll still earn rewards on all of your eligible new purchases. Many of our favorite intro-APR new purchase deals, such as the ones listed below, also come free from annual fees, making them truly cheap credit cards.

+See More Intro-APR New Purchases Credit Cards

An important thing to remember about introductory-APR deals is the “introductory” part. Once your promotional period expires, your purchase APR will revert to the default APR, which can be found in the cardholder agreement. Be sure to pay off your new purchases before the end of your intro-APR period to avoid being charged interest on those purchases.

Best Credit Cards with 0% Intro-APR on Balance Transfers

While lower-APR credit cards are certainly out there (several are listed in the next section, in fact), cards with high APRs are just as — if not more — abundant in the modern marketplace. Whether you had poor credit once upon a time, are paying a penalty APR for an old mistake, or otherwise got trapped with a high-interest credit card, you may have a way out: an introductory 0% APR balance transfer deal.

The best intro-APR balance transfer credit card deals last 15 months or more, during which time you’ll pay no interest on eligible transferred balances. Although most credit cards will charge a balance transfer fee to transfer a balance onto that card, our list of top-rated balance transfer cards includes a fee-free option.

+See More Intro-APR Balance Transfer Credit Cards

There are a few things to note when it comes to balance transfers, starting with the fact that you won’t earn rewards on transferred balances; only new purchases typically earn rewards. Additionally, balance transfers aren’t subject to the new purchase grace period that allows you to avoid interest fees. This means your transferred balance can start accruing interest right away if you don’t have an intro-APR deal.

Best Credit Cards with Low Ongoing APRs

For all that intro-APR offers can save cardholders tons of money in interest fees, they are, by nature, temporary deals. Once your introductory period expires, you’ll be charged the default interest rate for that purchase type, be it new purchases or transferred balances. If you’re prone to carrying balances over the long term, you may fare best with a credit card that offers a low ongoing APR.

The APR you are offered for a specific card depends on your credit score and the card’s available APR range. Those with the best credit scores will be offered the lowest interest rates, but you can skew the odds in your favor by applying for a card with a low APR range in the first place. Our favorite low-APR cards offer rates as low as 11.99% to qualified applicants.

+See More Low Ongoing APR Credit Cards

Since your credit score is the major factor that decides your interest rates, the best way to get better (read: lower) rates, is to improve your credit score. Depending on your initial score, something as simple as paying down current credit card balances could lead to a credit score increase and allow you to get a lower interest rate.

Compare the Best “No Fee” Credit Cards

Of course, even if you diligently pay your balances and make use of introductory-APR offers to eliminate interest charges, you aren’t out of the proverbial fire. There are plenty more credit card fees waiting to inflate the cost of your card, including annual maintenance fees, as well as service fees for using specific features of your card.

However, just as you can avoid interest fees with the right card and a little diligence, so, too, can you reduce — or even eliminate — the myriad other fees that turn a cheap credit card into a costly one. And that doesn’t simply mean avoiding all of your card’s benefits and services; you can have your bells and whistles, and play them, too.

No Annual Fee | No Balance Transfer Fee | No Foreign Transaction Fee

Best Credit Cards with No Annual Fees

Credit card annual fees are an all-purpose type of fee, generally charged to cover various perks and rewards offered by the card, such as airline credits or cash back rewards. As such, the only real way to avoid paying an annual fee is to choose a credit card that doesn’t charge one.

Happily, a large number of credit cards are available that come annual-fee-free — and you won’t need to forfeit rewards for the privilege, either. Not only can you find no annual fee cards that provide awesome rewards rates, but also solid signup bonuses, including great intro-APR deals. Start comparing your options with our expert-rated picks below.

+See More Credit Cards with No Annual Fees

Although you certainly can find great cards without annual fees, sometimes that annual fee may be worth the cost. For example, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card charges a $95 annual fee, but provides 6% cash back rewards on your first $6,000 worth of grocery purchases each year. So, you’d only need to spend about $32 a week on groceries with your card to break even on the annual fee — less than a third of what a typical family spends.

Best Credit Cards with No Balance Transfer Fees

Balance transfers can be an excellent tool for reducing your interest rate and, thus, lowering (or, preferably, eliminating) your interest fees. Unfortunately, the vast majority of balance transfer cards offered by major banks come with a costly balance transfer fee. Since these fees are usually 3% to 5% of the total transferred balance, you could be looking at hundreds of dollars, depending on your balances.

While credit unions and smaller community banks may be more likely to offer cards free from balance transfer fees, most of the cards offered by major issuers will charge a fee — but not all. You can find a small handful of fee-free balance transfer cards that won’t charge a balance transfer fee or annual fee.

+See More Credit Cards with No Balance Transfer Fees

Something to keep in mind: most cards offering a break on the balance transfer fee will require that qualifying balances be transferred shortly after opening your account (generally within the first 90 days). Balances transferred after the exempt period will be charged a regular balance transfer fee.

Best Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees

Traveling abroad can be an exciting experience, full of new places, new people — and new currencies. But where each border crossing once required changing out one pocket of strange bills and coins for another, credit cards have made the currency transition almost painless — almost. The convenience of having your credit card deal with the currency conversion comes with a cost: foreign transaction fees.

Generally charged to cover the costs of converting your funds to and from American dollars, foreign transaction fees are typically between 2% and 4% of your purchase total, which can add up quickly. As with annual fees, the only real way to avoid foreign transaction fees (other than avoiding foreign transactions) is to choose a card that doesn’t charge them, starting with our top options below.

+See More Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees

When most people think of foreign transaction fees, they tend to picture an overseas trip and purchases made in a foreign land. In actuality, you can make foreign transactions right from your living room. That’s because most purchases made in a another currency (or that pass through a foreign bank) can qualify as a foreign transaction  — and be charged as one. Contact your issuer if you’re concerned a specific transaction may accrue fees.

Cheap Doesn’t Have to Mean Feature-Free

Credit card costs can be sneaky, tricky things, often hiding in the fine print like ninjas in shadows. But while you’d have to live a life on the lam to avoid a ninja out to get you, most credit card fees can be easily avoided with the right card and responsible credit card behaviors.

And, even better, you won’t need to live without perks and rewards to find a cheap credit card, particularly if your credit is good to excellent. With a quality credit score, you can say “Sayonara” to credit card fees without giving up the benefits of being a cardholder.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

About the Author

Brittney Mayer

Brittney is a Contributing Editor for Digital Brands, Inc., where she uses her extensive research background to develop comprehensive guides and in-depth company profiles for BadCredit.org and CardRates.com. Brittney specializes in translating complex ideas into readable, engaging content for B2C and B2B audiences.