One of the most prodigious creatures of the insect world, the aphid is nothing short of a biological marvel. A single female can reproduce on its own, creating an entire army of daughters that can decimate a plant in days. And when a host plant has become overrun, the little bugs develop wings and search for a new victim.
Mimicking the bugs’ uncanny ability to multiply unchecked from a single progenitor, credit card interest fees may very well be the aphids of the consumer finance world. Compounding daily, the double-digit interest rates charged by credit cards can turn even the smallest purchase into a costly expense.
Fortunately, while it’s almost impossible to keep aphids from your garden, there are ways to avoid their financial doppelgangers with zero-interest credit card offers. Whether you need to transfer a balance, earn rewards, or avoid fees entirely, you can find a card to help you stay interest-free.
The Best No-Interest on “New Purchase” Offers
It often seems that many of life’s biggest moments are also the most expensive. And while some of those big expenses are ones you can plan for, such as needing new furniture when you finally buy your own place, just as many are completely unexpected — like needing a new air conditioner two weeks after you get moved in.
In the idealized world, we’d all have the cash on hand to deal with anything life decides to bring our way. In the real world, not only is simply throwing cash at the unexpected not always possible, but it may also cause you to miss out on reaping huge rewards. That’s where introductory 0% APR credit card offers come into play.
Offering no-interest credit to qualified applicants, 0% APR offers allow cardholders to carry a balance for the length of the introductory period, typically 12 to 18 months. This means any new purchases you make on your card during the offer period can be interest-free for more than a year. Our top offers won’t charge you an annual fee for the privilege, either.
Keep in mind that introductory interest rates are, by nature, temporary, and will increase at the end of your offer terms. Check your cardholder agreement to find out what your new rate will be when your 0% APR period ends, based on your creditworthiness.
Given that the regular purchase APR charged by most credit cards is over 15% — and can easily range into the mid-20% range or higher — be sure to pay your balance before the end of your introductory offer to avoid paying interest on your purchases.
On the plus side, most open-loop credit cards (read: not store cards) won’t use deferred interest, so you’ll only be charged interest on your remaining balance once your promotional period has ended.
Store cards are the most common exception — most store credit cards that offer financing deals charge deferred interest if you don’t pay off your full financed amount before the promotional period ends. Check your cardholder agreement to determine the nature of your interest deal.
The Best No-Interest “Balance Transfer” Offers
One of the trickier things about credit cards is that, in some cases, no matter how well-intentioned your repayment plan, your credit card balance can simply get away from you. This may be from one large purchase that couldn’t be helped, a series of unfortunate — and costly — events, or just a snowball effect from life’s everyday necessities.
Regardless of how your balance manifested, once it sits on your card for more than one billing cycle it starts to accrue interest. And like gamma rays hitting a mild-mannered scientist, those interest fees can turn your modest credit card balance into a hulking monster in no time if left allowed to multiply.
Short of paying your entire balance (which is always the best option), the easiest way to avoid the potentially dramatic impacts of credit card interest fees on your existing debt may be to take advantage of a 0% APR balance transfer offer. These introductory offers allow cardholders to transfer an existing balance to the new card, then carry that balance, interest-free, for the length of the offer terms.
When comparing balance transfer offers, you’ll want to take note of the exact offer terms, such as any annual fees, as well as the default APR you will be required to pay on balances remaining after the offer terms expire. Also look out for balance transfer fees, which are typically 3% of your transferred balance. Our top picks are all annual-fee-free and offer interest-free transfers for 15 to 18 months.
Some balance transfer offers may require you to transfer your balance within a certain amount of time after opening your account to qualify for the zero-interest offer. Additionally, cards that offer rewards, such as cash back or points, will probably not allow you to earn rewards on your transferred balance. Nor will you likely be able to count your transferred balance toward a minimum spending requirement for any signup bonus rewards.
The Best No-Interest “Charge Card” Offers
Although somewhat rare in the current marketplace, the charge card actually came before the modern-day credit card, with roots that stretch back to the Diners Club card of 1950. Today, few differences between charge cards and credit cards remain, with both offering things like rewards and travel perks to qualified cardholders.
For the most part, the only real thing separating the more popular credit cards from the traditional charge cards is the nature of the line of credit they represent. Credit cards represent a revolving line of credit, meaning cardholders can carry a balance on the card from month to month in exchange for paying interest.
Charge cards, on the other hand, require cardholders to pay their entire balance each month. While this may be less convenient in some cases, it also makes charge cards a perfect way to enjoy the benefits of paying with a card, including purchase rewards, without the burden of paying high interest fees on your purchases. As has been the case for decades, the most popular charge cards come from American Express.
7. The Platinum Card® from American Express
The top of the line of American Express charge cards, the Platinum card is chock-full of perks and purchase rewards aimed at frequent travelers.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after making $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
- Receive 5X rewards for flights & hotels with American Express Travel
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection
With a $550 annual fee, the Platinum card isn’t the most affordable charge card on the market, but its benefits could make it worthwhile for some cardholders.
8. Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
A little easier on the pocketbook, the American Express Gold card still provides a lot of bonus for your buck, although you won’t get access to the coveted Global Lounge Collection.
- Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after making $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
- Receive 3X points on flights booked directly with the airlines
- Receive 2X points at US restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets
While the Gold card charges a $195 annual fee, it’s waived for the first year.
9. American Express Green Card
The entry-level charge card from American Express, the Green card still has a variety of perks aimed at travelers, but without the high earning rates of the more expensive cards.
- Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
- Receive 2X points on travel booked through American Express Travel
- Pay no annual fee
In addition to the 2X rewards for travel, cardholders can earn an unlimited 1X rewards on other eligible purchases.
The Best No-Interest “Prepaid” Card Offers
Although not technically a credit card, prepaid cards can be used in much the same way as regular credit cards when it comes to making purchases and payments. Prepaid credit cards will carry an issuer logo, such as Visa or Mastercard, and can be used anywhere the issuer is accepted.
Unlike credit cards, however, prepaid cards require the user to pre-fill the card with money before it can be used to make purchases. Additionally, once the card’s initial funds have been exhausted, the card will need to be reloaded to continue being used.
As with charge cards, it’s the actual nature of prepaid cards, not a temporary zero-interest offer, which allows cardholders to avoid paying interest fees. Because they don’t actually represent a line of credit and, therefore, cardholders won’t be carrying debt on the card, prepaid cards don’t charge users interest fees to make purchases or payments.
It’s also important to note that, because they aren’t associated with an actual line of credit, prepaid card issuers won’t report any of your card behavior to any credit bureau. This means prepaid cards can’t help — or hurt — your credit score.
Instead of interest fees, the things to watch out for with prepaid cards are any monthly or annual fees, or other usage fees that may be charged per transaction. You may also run into fees for direct deposits or other additional services.
Win the Interest Rate Game with the Right Card
A financial infestation that can quickly take over your credit cards, interest fees are the bane of many a credit consumer. For many, the best way to avoid having your balance decimated by hungry interest fees is to use an introductory 0% APR offer for new purchases and balance transfers.
For others, the best plan is to prevent the metaphorical bugs from ever getting a foothold with the help of a quality charge or prepaid card. Whatever your method, be sure to use your new card responsibly to avoid credit trouble.
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.