The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
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2020's Best 0% Intro APR Credit Cards

Below are our picks for 2020's best 0% introductory offers. These cards allow cardholders to carry a balance interest-free for a number of months before the regular APR kicks in.

Average APR
17.74%
Average Annual Fee
$3.90
Rate Trend
0.17%
since last month
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Advertiser Disclosure

The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which CardRates.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers.

Review Breakdown: 0% Credit Card Offers

Ready for a great low interest rate on a credit card? Below we've compiled a summary of all the top 0% introductory offers from the major card issuers, along with our expert ratings for each offer. To read more about a particular card, simply click on its name to visit the issuer's official website.

Here are 2020's best 0% APR credit cards:

Best 0 APR Credit Cards
RankCard NamePurchase Intro APRRegular APRExpert Rating
1Chase Freedom Unlimited®0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months14.99% - 23.74% Variable ★★★★★ 4.9
2Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card0% for 15 months15.49% - 25.49% (Variable) ★★★★★ 4.9
3Wells Fargo Platinum Card0% for 18 months16.49% - 24.49% ★★★★★ 4.9
4Cash Magnet® Card0% for 15 months13.99% - 23.99% ★★★★★ 4.8
5Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card0% for 15 months14.49% - 24.99% ★★★★★ 4.8
6Chase Freedom Flex℠0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months14.99% - 23.74% Variable ★★★★★ 4.8
7Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card0% for 12 months13.99% - 23.99% ★★★★★ 4.7
8Citi Rewards+℠ Card0% for 15 months13.49% - 23.49% (Variable) ★★★★★ 4.7
9Amex EveryDay® Credit Card0% for 15 months12.99% - 23.99% ★★★★★ 4.7
10Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Card0% for 15 months12.49% - 25.49% ★★★★★ 4.7
11Wells Fargo Rewards® Card0% for 15 months12.49% - 25.49% ★★★★★ 4.7
12Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card0% for 12 months15.49% - 25.49% (Variable) ★★★★★ 4.6
13Citi Simplicity® Card0% for 12 months14.74% - 24.74% (Variable) ★★★★★ 4.6
14Blue Business Cash™ Card from American Express0% for 12 months13.24% - 19.24% ★★★★★ 4.6
15Blue Cash Preferred® Card0% for 12 months13.99% - 23.99% ★★★★★ 4.6
16Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students0% for 12 billing cycles14.99% - 22.99% ★★★★★ 4.6
17Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students0% for 12 billing cycles13.99% - 23.99% ★★★★★ 4.6
18Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card0% for 12 months14.49% - 24.99% ★★★★★ 4.6
19Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months13.24% - 19.24% Variable ★★★★★ 4.5
20Citi® Diamond Preferred® Credit Card0% for 12 months13.74% - 23.74% (Variable) ★★★★★ 4.5

18 FAQs About 0% Intro APR Credit Cards

Erica Sandberg
By: Erica Sandberg
Personal Finance Expert
Updated:
18 FAQs About 0% Intro APR Credit Cards
CardRates.com Guide: 0% Intro APR

The best 0% APR credit cards can make your life much easier, and not just for the few months the introductory period lasts.

When you take advantage of an interest-free introductory period at the start of your card membership, you can make a large purchase, consolidate high-interest debt, or cover the cost of an emergency without paying finance charges or other exorbitant fees.

That will help you immediately, and continue to pay dividends long after you’re settled the debt and moved on with life.

Depending on the card you choose to apply for, you may be able to enjoy a year or more during which no interest is added to your purchases. To obtain a 0% intro APR credit card offer — and use it effectively — it’s important to know at least a few key facts about these products. Let’s get started with the basics:

1. What is a 0% APR Credit Card?

No credit card will offer interest-free financing forever, but several cards will offer an introductory APR period for new cardholders that lets you make purchases or transfer existing balances without paying any interest for a set amount of time.

“Intro” is short for introductory, and it’s an indication that the deal occurs at the beginning of the account’s lifespan. In other words, intro-APR offers are time-sensitive deals that are typically only available for new accounts.

The acronym “APR” stands for annual percentage rate. In the case of credit cards, the APR refers to the interest rate that the credit card issuer will charge on balances that are not paid in full by their specific due date.

Example Card Terms for Introductory Offer

Introductory offers providing 0% APR will revert to a higher APR at the end of the offer term.

Almost all credit card accounts come with interest-free grace periods that give you at least 21 days to pay your balance to avoid interest fees. The grace period is the time between when your statement closes and when the bill for that statement is due; basically, if you pay your full statement balance before the due date, you won’t be charged interest.

If you don’t pay off your full balance, or you carry over a balance from a previous billing cycle, you will be charged interest on that balance at the rate outlined in your terms and conditions. You’ll continue to accrue interest until your full balance has been paid — unless, of course, you’re enjoying an active 0% APR offer.

As the name implies, these offers effectively drop your interest rate to 0%. This means you won’t pay interest on your new purchases even if you carry a balance beyond your grace period.

Just to be clear, you are still responsible for the debt you incur as well as the monthly payments, but no interest will be added to the amount you owe during the introductory period.

2. How Does a 0% APR Credit Card Work?

The length of your 0% APR introductory period will depend on the card you apply for. Even during this period, you may still have to pay an annual fee or other recurring charges the card issuer passes on to cardholders. Some cards will offer a short interest-free period of six months, while other card issuers may extend the intro APR period to as many as 18 months.

By law, any card issuer who offers an introductory APR rate has to allow for at least six months of interest-free financing.

During your promotional period, you will still have to pay your monthly payment. For your best results, you should pay more than the minimum monthly payment — as that minimum will likely not eliminate all of your debt during the interest-free period.

Any new purchases you make during the promotional period will qualify for interest-free financing.

3. What Happens When the 0% Period is Over?

No matter how long your introductory offer lasts, it will expire eventually, so it’s important to know what your new APR will be when your offer ends. Not only will this be the rate charged on any balance that remains after your promotional period expires, but it will also be the rate for any new balances you carry in the future.

For example, if you make $2,000 worth of purchases during the introductory period and have a $200 balance at the end of the promotional period, you’ll start accruing interest on that $200.

However, some credit cards — primarily store credit cards — will offer “special financing” or another form of a promotional rate that uses deferred interest. If your promotional interest rate was from an offer with deferred interest, you’ll need to pay off your full financed amount before the end of the promotional period or you’ll be charged interest on the whole amount from the time you made the purchase.

So, with a deferred interest offer, if you financed a $2,000 purchase, you’ll need to pay off the full $2,000 before the end of the promotion. If so much as 2¢ is left, you’ll be charged interest on the entire $2,000.

If you reach the end of your promotional APR period with a $0 balance on your card, you’ll continue on as you would with any other credit card. You’ll receive interest charges on any new purchases that you do not pay off before the end of your grace period. You also won’t be eligible for a new promotion — as those are typically only reserved for new cardholders.

The issuer may also bar you from receiving a promotional period if you sign up for another card with the same company. This will vary by the issuer, so check with the bank before you apply.

If you finish your promotional time frame and still maintain a large balance on the card, consider one of the following three options:

  • Transfer the balance again: If your credit score allows it, you could attempt to qualify for another promotional APR card and transfer the existing balance to the new card. Be sure to do this before your current card’s promotional APR expires if you want to avoid potential interest charges.
  • Make a large payment to pay off the existing balance before the promotion ends: This will put you in the clear as far as accruing interest. But it could also set you back a substantial amount of money all at once since you’ll have to pay everything off.
  • Maintain the balance and pay interest: You can keep the balance on your current card after the promotion ends. You will incur interest charges on your remaining balance. This may be your only option if you’re unable to qualify for a new credit card with an introductory APR period.

You may consider closing out your credit card after the promotion ends. While that can negate the temptation to spend on a card with few rewards or benefits, it could also increase your credit utilization — which accounts for 30% of your overall FICO Score.

You should only consider closing out a credit card if it contains a high annual fee and it is a card that you rarely use. Don’t pay for access to an unnecessary credit line. But if you aren’t paying an annual fee or maintenance charge for the card, it wouldn’t hurt to stash the card somewhere other than your wallet and use it only in case of emergencies.

The extra available credit will help your credit score and you’ll have access to cash if times get tough.

4. How Do I Get a 0% APR Credit Card?

We’ve listed our choices for the best 0% APR credit cards above. Once you’ve researched the lot, you can apply for the card that best suits your needs and financial situation.

Many card issuers provide a prequalifying form where applicants can initiate a soft credit pull to see whether they qualify for the card. This type of credit inquiry will not affect your credit score and will give you a better idea of your approval odds before you formally apply.

Screenshot of Capital One Pre-Approval Page

Many issuers will let you prequalify online to get an idea of your approval chances before submitting an application.

While a prequalification is not an approval guarantee, it typically does mirror the outcome of a formal application.

If you submit an application and are approved, you will receive your new credit card in the mail within seven to 10 business days and can begin using it as soon as you activate the card. Some issuers provide instant access to your new credit account via a temporary card number that is available through the bank’s mobile application.

While you can’t use this temporary number in stores or at the register, you can use it to make purchases over the phone or online at just about any retailer or service provider.

5. Can an Introductory APR Offer Help with Credit Card Debt?

While an introductory APR offer that’s only good on new purchases won’t impact your existing credit card debt, it can be useful if you want to reduce interest fees on new purchases while paying down existing debt.

On the other hand, many credit cards that offer an introductory rate on new purchases also apply an introductory offer to balance transfers. This allows you to transfer an existing balance to the new card and enjoy a promotional period of 0% interest on the transferred balance.

Balance transfers can be a good way to save money if you have a high interest rate on an existing card or you’re having trouble reducing debt as quickly as you’d like. The key to taking full advantage of a balance transfer is to only move debt from a credit card with a higher interest rate onto a card with a lower interest rate.

If you’re moving debt onto a card with a higher APR, you will spend more money on monthly charges if you’re unable to pay the debt off before the end of the introductory-APR offer.

The downside to balance transfers is that most credit cards will charge a balance transfer fee of 3% to 5% of the total transferred amount. That said, transfer fees can be worth paying if an introductory APR offer will significantly reduce your interest rate.

For example, suppose you owe $10,000 on a credit card with a 22% APR. If you make monthly payments of about $935, you’d pay the balance in full after a year, but you’d also pay a total of $1,231 in interest fees.

However, if you were to transfer the balance to a credit card offering 0% APR for 12 months and you paid it off within one year, you would save more than $700, even after paying a 3% to 5% balance transfer fee.

Chart of Potential Balance Transfer Savings

There are a few catches, though. You need to have a healthy credit rating to qualify for a 0% intro APR balance transfer credit card. You must also be conscious of account management.

If you pay late, the interest rate will escalate prematurely. Plus, any debt that you carry over after the end of the introductory period will be subject to the regular interest rate, and it could be higher than what you had on the original account.

Some credit cards that offer a 0% introductory APR will also end the promotion early if you miss a payment or pay late. The card’s promotion rules are typically outlined in the cardholder agreement you receive when you apply.

If you’re looking to use a new card with an introductory APR period to improve your credit score, consider these important tips before proceeding:

  • Know when the promotional period expires: Longer introductory rates are always nice, but time can slip by and you can lose track of when the promotion ends. That may leave you with a big deferred interest bill if you’re not careful.
  • Keep track of your new purchases and balance transfers: Quite often, a new card will offer a 0% APR promotion on new purchases and balance transfers, but each has a different promotional period. For example, you may have a card that offers 15 months of 0% APR for new purchases and 12 months of 0% APR on balance transfers. Make sure you have a plan to tackle both debts before the promotional periods expire.
  • Make your payments on time: This is vital to keep your promotion active. If you’re late on a payment, the card issuer can impose a penalty fee or even end your promotion early. That could leave you with a large debt that starts accruing interest immediately. Or worse, you could have a large deferred interest bill added to your next statement.

By following those three guidelines, you can make sure that you’re set up for success with your card and that you won’t find yourself saddled with a large and unexpected interest bill because your promotion ended without your realizing it.

6. How Long is the Typical Introductory Period?

Introductory 0% periods range dramatically. Legally, credit cards cannot offer promotional interest rates with periods that extend less than six months, so the shortest introductory APR offer you’ll find will be six months long. There’s no cap on how long it can go for, however, and it’s fairly easy to find 0% APR deals of up to 18 months or longer.

Keep in mind that cards with extremely long introductory periods will likely offer few additional perks. These cards will also tend to require at least good credit, with excellent credit required to receive the best credit limits.

FICO Score® Ranges

And those credit limits may not be as high as you’re used to on a non-promotion credit card. One way card issuers offset the 0% APR period is by offering slightly lower credit limits. These allow you to maintain your promotion without taking too much advantage of the interest-free perk.

That doesn’t mean you still won’t find generous credit limits on promotional APR credit cards. Since these cards only consider applicants who have good credit or excellent credit, you’ll likely see healthy credit limits that allow you to make a large purchase or transfer existing debt over to your new card.

Just as important, the promotion will apply to any purchase you make during the promotion’s set time frame. So if you pay off your existing card balance, you can continue to enjoy the promotion on further purchases or balance transfers.

Credit card issuers began offering these rates as a way to entice new customers to sign up for their cards. As the offering gained popularity, cards began extending the promotional period to stand out from the competition.

Before you apply for a credit card for its introductory period, you should map out your finances to determine how much time you’ll need to fully take advantage of your promotion. If you need to transfer a small debt over that you can pay off fairly quickly, you may want to consider a credit card that has a shorter introductory offer, but more robust cash rewards or other benefits.

If you need more time to pay off your debt, you may opt instead to forego the cash back and other perks and choose a card with a longer introductory APR period.

7. Which Credit Card Offers the Longest Intro Period?

The interest rate offer with the longest introductory period will vary greatly from month to month, as credit card issuers are constantly changing their card offers to better compete with other issuers. So, the best offer this week may not be the best offer next week.

In general, the best introductory-APR deals come from cards that issuers intentionally design to be used for the purpose of saving money on interest. That’s why the longest offers will typically come from cards that don’t offer additional benefits, like purchase rewards, nor will these cards usually offer a large signup bonus.

If you want to both earn rewards and enjoy a 0% interest offer, the promotional period will likely be much shorter — 12 to 15 months is standard — and the signup bonus will often be much smaller than similar cards without 0% offers.

You may also find that some credit cards will offer both rewards and an introductory APR rate, but the promotional interest-free period will come with caveats. This could include a rate that only covers new purchases, or limits itself only to balance transfers.

That’s why the length of the introductory offer isn’t always as important as the terms. You can often find the key details of the promotion you’re offered in the Schumer box. This is the table in your cardholder agreement that discloses important information about the card — including interest rates, fees, payment schedules, terms and conditions, and promotion details.

Graphic of Cardholder Agreement APR Listing

This is an example of a Schumer box — the place where issuers are legally required to disclose  you can find your card’s APRs and fees.

Credit card issuers must present you — either in hard-copy or digital form — with the paperwork before you accept and activate a card.

The legislation mandating Schumer boxes was enacted in 1988 but did not take full enforceable effect until 2000. The laws surrounding this paperwork not only stipulate what information is displayed, but it also states that the interest rate must be presented in large font (18 pt) and the remaining terms in 12-point font.

Key points to look for when examining your promotion terms include:

  • Your Purchase APR: This reflects the interest rate the credit card issuer will charge you on every new purchase you charge to the card. If your card includes a promotional APR for new purchases, you’ll see the terms reflected here.
  • Balance Transfer APR: This the percentage of interest the card issuer will charge you for any balance transfers you initiate. Check closely to make sure your promotional APR period extends to balance transfers — and how long the period lasts for. If it doesn’t, you could end up paying a heavy balance transfer fee along with interest charges. That can quickly negate the benefits of consolidating debt.
  • Penalty APR: Your credit card issuer can impose a higher penalty APR on you if you have even a small infraction of its rules. This could include a payment that’s one day late, an online payment that’s declined by your bank, or a payment that doesn’t meet the minimum amount. This penalty APR can negate your promotional APR and increase your ongoing interest rate as high as 20% to 35%
  • Cash Advance APR: A cash advance rarely fits into a promotional period. In fact, you often pay a substantially higher APR for each cash advance — and interest begins accruing as soon as you receive your funds.

The Schumer box will lay out all of the details — including the length — of your promotional period. Before you decide on a credit card to apply for, make sure you’re familiar with the terms of every card you consider.

While one card may offer a longer promotional period than the others, there may be other details hiding in the cardholder agreement that make it less attractive than the competition.

8. How Do You Find the Ongoing APR/Regular Purchase APR?

The easiest way to find the regular purchase APR for your credit card — sometimes called the ongoing rate — is to check your card statements, which are required to show your interest rate alongside your balance and minimum payment amounts.

Alternatively, you can check your cardholder agreement, which will usually list your regular purchase APR, as well as any other rates, such as those charged for balance transfers or cash advances. Your cardholder agreement is sent out along with your new card and is available digitally through your online banking platform.

For a card you don’t already have, the general interest rate available to potential cardholders will be listed in the card’s Terms & Conditions — also called the “Disclosure,” or “Rates & Fees” documentation.

These documents can generally be found on individual card pages located on an issuer’s website. Rates should also be disclosed during the application process.

The card issuer will list the most important information in a Schumer box within your card disclosure document. You can find this information in any credit card disclosure document — be it a student credit card, consumer credit card, or business credit card.

This is the series of boxes where you will find your ongoing APR for new purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. You’ll also have a more detailed explanation of any promotional periods and penalty rates.

Some of the info that the bank may list — but isn’t required to do so — will include:

  • A more detailed explanation of the period for which any penalty rate will remain in effect. This may include wording such as, “until you make three timely payments.”
  • A detailed description of the card’s grace period, including a breakdown of how long the period lasts and when you can make payments for a purchase without incurring a finance charge.
  • Fees for applying for a card, even if your application is denied. Some issuers will charge an application fee regardless of your qualifications. This fee, by law, isn’t required to appear in the Schumer box because it isn’t considered a fee for the issuance or availability of credit.

The law requires a list of all other fees, charges, and penalties in a specific bold font. Every card issuer must provide consumers with a copy (either a hard copy or access to a digital version) of its card disclosure document before they submit an application.

9. Is the Purchase APR Always the Same as the Balance Transfer APR?

For most credit cards, the interest rate you’re charged will vary based on the type of transaction that led to the balance, be it a new purchase, a balance transfer, or a cash advance. Some credit cards also charge what’s known as a penalty rate, which is a higher purchase APR that kicks in when you make a late payment — sometimes even if the payment is only one day late.

In practice, many cards charge the same APR for new purchases and balance transfers, but there is no requirement for them to do so. Introductory APR offers can apply to both new purchases and balance transfers, or only to one or the other. The APR for each type of transaction will be listed in your card’s terms and conditions or rates and fees documentation.

An important detail to remember when you’re using a balance transfer promotional APR is that the length of the 0% APR offer is just one detail that dictates the quality of the promotion. Very often a card issuer will offer a longer interest-free period for balance transfers, but only if you initiate the transfer within a short window after card activation.

This may mean that you can have 18 months without interest to pay off any balance that you transfer within your first six weeks with the card. The window in which you can initiate the balance transfer and still enjoy the promotional rate is important because a balance transfer takes time.

According to our research with each of the major credit card issuers, you can expect your balance transfer to take:

  • American Express: five to seven business days
  • Barclays: As long as three weeks, though it usually completes faster
  • Capital One: Between three and 14 business days
  • Citi: Between two and 21 business days
  • Discover: Between seven and 14 business days
  • Chase: Between seven and 21 business days

As you see, some issuers may take several weeks to complete a balance transfer. You must factor that into any transfer request you initiate under a promotional period.

This delay in processing also leads to one of the biggest mistakes consumers make with balance transfer credit cards: they stop making payments on their old card too soon.

Even after you initiate a balance transfer, you must still make payments on your old credit card until it shows a $0 balance. Otherwise, you can incur late payment penalties — including fees and credit score damage — if you stop making payments.

If your payment and pending balance transfer equal more than what you owe on the card, the card’s issuer will send you a refund check for the difference if you close the account or apply it as a statement credit if you decide to use the card again.

10. Will an Introductory Offer Also Apply to the Balance Transfer APR?

When it comes to introductory APR offers, many will apply to both new purchases and balance transfers, offering the same 0% rate and the same promotional period. However, that’s not always the case.

Some offers may have different rates and/or promotional periods for each transaction type, or the offer may only apply to either new purchases or balance transfers, but not both.

Example Intro APR Offer for Balance Transfers

Some introductory offers will only apply to one type of transaction, such as only being for new purchases or balance transfers.

For example, a credit card may offer 0% APR for 12 months on new purchases, while providing only six months of 0% APR on balance transfers. Similarly, a card may offer 18 months of 0% APR for balance transfers, but no introductory APR offer for new purchases.

11. Will an Intro APR Offer Apply to a Cash Advance?

A 0% intro APR deal will not apply to cash advances in most cases. In fact, the opposite is true. The interest rate is often higher on cash advances than your regular purchase APR. And you’ll often start racking up interest on your cash advance as soon as you receive your funds because cash advances rarely include a repayment grace period.

Additionally, cash advances usually have a transaction fee that ranges from 3% up to 8% of the total advance.

One reason cash advances tend to have higher interest rates is the risk; credit card cash advances are usually used as alternatives to short-term loans, and that can be an indicator of financial trouble.

Another reason cash advances are more expensive than purchases is that transactions are the main source of revenue for credit card issuers. When you use your credit card at a store or online to buy something, the retailer pays a merchant fee to the credit card company.

By extracting cash, you bypass this fee, so the credit card issuer passes it on to you. Not only that, but interest starts to accrue as soon as you take the money out.

In general, the only exceptions to the rule are found at credit unions, as a small handful of credit union issued credit cards may offer intro-APR deals for cash advances. Some of these cards may also include waived cash advance fees, but check the terms and conditions to be sure.

Of course, as with any introductory rate deal, these offers will typically expire after six months or a year, so you should also check the rate you’ll be charged once the promotional period expires.

12. Which Credit Card Companies Have the Best Introductory Rates?

Each credit card issuer offers a variety of different products, and most offer their own version of a 0% intro APR credit card. You can’t get a lower interest rate than 0%, so to identify the best account for you, assess the other terms and perks that are associated with the card.

The most preferable 0% Intro APR credit cards come with:

  • Long introductory time frames. At least 12 months of no interest is ideal.
  • Low regular interest rates. Know what the rate will climb to when the introductory period expires.
  • Excellent benefits. Some 0% Intro APR credit cards are also a rewards card. With them, you can accumulate cash back or valuable points through bonus categories for your purchases. For example, travel rewards credit card may come with free checked bags and other desirable perks.
  • No annual fee. If you want to enjoy a credit card at the least possible cost, a card that does not charge an annual fee may be for you. There are circumstances where the value of the benefits outweighs the annual fee, but if you want to keep it simple, you may just want to concentrate on the accounts that don’t assess an annual fee at all.

Of course, the best features for you will vary based on your needs and qualifications. The lower your credit score, for instance, the harder it will be to qualify for a card with a 0% APR offer.

If you do qualify with a lower credit score, you may have to pay an annual fee for the card or accept a 0% APR offer with a shorter promotional period. The card may also forego any other rewards or perks, as these cards for consumers with fair credit or bad credit have to offset the risks they take by limiting the frills and maximizing the fees.

Before you accept any balance transfer credit card, make sure the interest rate is lower (or at least equal to) the rate on the card you’re moving the balance from. Also, note any annual fees or other charges that can quickly negate your savings and cost you more in the long run.

13. Can You Earn Cash Back or Rewards While Using an Intro APR Offer?

One of the great things about the introductory APR offers on most regular credit cards is that they don’t affect your ability to earn rewards. So long as your card already offers rewards, your purchases should earn rewards even if you’re enjoying a 0% APR deal.

Keep in mind that you’ll generally only earn rewards on net purchases; if you make any returns, you’ll forfeit those rewards.

There are two main exceptions to earning rewards during an introductory APR deal. The first is in the case of balance transfers — just about every rewards card does not offer cash back or points for balance transfers — with or without an interest rate deal in place.

The other exception is for some store credit cards that offer special financing. In these cases, you’ll typically have a choice between receiving special financing or earning rewards on your purchase, but not both. For these offers, you should do the math to see if the interest rate savings is worth losing the rewards (or vice versa).

14. What Are the Best Rewards Cards with a 0% APR Intro Period?

Plenty of rewards cards come with a 0% APR intro period. Determining which deal is the best for you is highly subjective because the “best” card will be based on your individual needs and qualifications.

For example, if you need a 0% APR deal so you can make a large travel purchase, then you’ll want to find a card that offers both an introductory APR deal and travel rewards. Similarly, if your main objective is to spread out payments for a large purchase as long as possible — while you also earn a few rewards — then you’ll likely want to choose the card with the longest promotional period.

Many rewards credit cards offer slightly more lucrative rewards in exchange for a shorter interest-free period. On the flip side, a longer period will likely result is slightly less robust rewards.

If you need to transfer a large balance and know you’ll need time to satisfy the debt, you may have to forego certain perks in exchange for fewer finance charges. But if you’re not in need of a long interest-free period, you can shop with rewards in mind.

There are some cases in which you may not need a 0% APR card at all. In that case, you can skip the interest-free promotional periods and look for a card that offers rich rewards or a hefty welcome bonus. You may fall into this category if:

  • You pay your balance in full every month. Interest-free financing has little impact on you if you’re already avoiding interest fees.
  • You have a very small remaining balance on your old credit card. If you can pay your balance off in three months or less, then a balance transfer bonus won’t save you much. In fact, the potential balance transfer fees could cost you more than what you’d pay to keep the balance on your current card.
  • You don’t plan to make a large purchase any time soon. A big perk of 0% interest is that you can make a large purchase and take longer to pay it off without incurring finance charges. If you don’t need that, then you likely will have very little use for a 0% APR introductory rate.
  • The high balances on your existing credit cards are weighing down your credit score. Your current debt makes up 30% of your FICO credit score. If you have a lot of debt, and your score is low because of it, you may not qualify for a card that will offer you an attractive enough balance transfer promotion — or the balance on your new card may not allow you to transfer enough of your existing debt. If that’s you, try to spend some time paying down your current debt before taking the leap and applying for a balance transfer or 0% APR credit card.

Rewards are great — and they’re even sweeter when you don’t pay interest on everyday purchases or balance transfers for several months after activating your card. But there are times having both doesn’t make sense. Instead of sacrificing a little bit of each to have access to both, you can go heavy on one or the other and really maximize the card’s benefit to your wallet.

15. Do Any 0% APR Credit Cards Come with a Signup Bonus Offer?

Many cards these days come with a signup or welcome bonus for new cardholders. A signup bonus offer is usually a lump sum of cash or rewards that cardholders can earn after meeting certain spending conditions — usually by hitting a minimum spending threshold within a set period of time after opening the account.

How to Earn a Signup Bonus

While the credit cards with the longest promotional periods often won’t offer any rewards-based signup bonuses, that’s not true of all cards. Many cards offer both a 0% intro APR and a signup bonus of cash back, points, or miles.

That said, these bonuses are usually much smaller than those offered by cards without introductory credit card interest rate deals.

That’s because credit card issuers make money through collecting interest or an annual fee from consumers and transaction fees from retailers.

Banks lose money when offering a rewards credit card or an interest-free credit card — but it’s worth the loss to bring in new cardholders who will provide eventual interest and transaction fee revenue.

Only new purchases will count toward the spending requirement for most signup bonuses, so balance transfers won’t be eligible. Most cards also limit eligible spending to net purchases, meaning any returns could impact your progress toward the spending requirement.

16. Do You Need to Make a Monthly Payment with Intro APR Offers?

Although you won’t be charged any interest on purchases when you use the card during the introductory period, you will still have to adhere to the account’s payment terms. This means making at least the minimum required payment each month before the due date for that statement cycle.

Every month you will receive an account statement that lists the details of your charges. It will specify where you used the card, the transaction amount, the grand total of what you owe, the minimum amount you’re required to pay that month, and the date by which you need to make that payment.

While it varies by card and issuer, in general, the minimum payment is calculated as 3% of the balance or $35, whichever is greater. As long as you make at least the minimum payment, your account will be considered in good standing and you won’t be penalized with a fee (or credit damage if you skip the payment cycle entirely). Additionally, making at least the minimum payment by the due date will ensure the 0% APR introductory rate does not expire prematurely.

Of course, that minimum amount is just that — the minimum. It is not a wise idea to get into the habit of only paying the lowest amount possible, even if you’re not accruing interest thanks to an introductory deal.

That’s because the minimum payment isn’t designed to pay off your debt in a timely manner, it’s designed to earn interest fees for the issuer. So, unless you can make a lump-sum payment to clear your debt at the end of the promotional period, the regular interest rate will kick in — and could undo the work you’ve done to consolidate your debt or pay down balances on old credit cards.

Since the regular rate can easily be over the 20% mark, even with good credit, you may be faced with an overwhelming balance that will become quite expensive with the new interest rate. In other words, the freedom that a 0% Intro rate credit card provides is fantastic, but you need to maintain steady payments and work to pay your debt off as the expiration date nears.

17. What FICO Score Do You Need to Qualify for Intro APR Credit Card Offers?

Offering unsecured credit to someone is risky; offering unsecured credit to someone without charging interest is really risky. If a cardholder with a 0% APR offer racks up significant debt then defaults on that debt, the card issuer doesn’t earn a penny on that balance, making the loss even more significant than if the issuer had been earning interest fees on the debt for months.

As a result of the risk involved, most issuers require at least good credit to qualify for a card with a decent introductory APR offer. That said, consumers with fair credit and students can also find so-so introductory deals, particularly from local credit unions.

If you have a low credit score, it will be a big challenge to find an unsecured credit card that offers 0% APR. If your scores fall short of what’s required to obtain the 0% intro APR card of your dreams, don’t despair. Six months to a year of positive credit behavior can do wonders for a low credit score.

And some card issuers, including Capital One and Chase, will monitor your credit history and periodically check to see whether you qualify for a credit limit increase or card upgrade. If you do, you could eventually move up to the card you have your eye on with an improved credit limit.

If that’s your goal, just be certain that you’d still qualify for the 0% APR offer as an upgrade. Some promotional periods are limited only to new customers.

In the meantime, the two weightiest factors in FICO score calculations — 65% to be exact — are payment history and credit utilization.

FICO Credit Score FactorsBy paying all of your debts on time and keeping your balances low, you can improve your credit score and become eligible for a card with a good introductory APR offer.

18. Do Intro APR Credit Cards Charge a Penalty APR If You Make a Late Payment?

When you’re trying to keep track of about a million different things, making a late credit card payment can be all too easy. Unfortunately, if you’re currently enjoying an introductory APR deal, that late payment could be a disaster.

That’s because even a single late payment can trigger the credit card company to cancel the deal and revert you to the regular APR immediately. Moreover, some credit cards also have penalty rates, which is an even higher APR that will apply to your purchases for six months or longer.

And, yes, penalty APRs can kick in even if you have an APR deal in place. And the average penalty rate APR can bring your credit card interest rate to a staggering 20% to 35%. Some penalty rates never go away, whereas others return to the original APR after you make a set number of on-time payments.

Either way, you will not be able to return to your promotional period once it’s canceled by the bank.

In the majority of cases, the credit card issuer will also charge you a late payment fee, which is typically between $25 and $35. Skip an entire billing period and you’ll also damage your credit score.

But with the best 0% APR credit cards — and some responsible spending — you can skip the fees and eliminate debt without racking up large finance charges.

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

The information on this page was reviewed for accuracy on .

About the Author

Erica Sandberg Erica Sandberg Personal Finance Expert

Erica Sandberg is a consumer finance expert and journalist whose articles and insights are featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, MarketWatch, Forbes, and MSN Money.

An experienced media host, she's led many financial programs, including her podcast, "Adventures With Money." She's appeared on Fox, CNN, "EconTalk" and "The Dr. Drew Podcast," and has been the resident money and credit authority for KRON-4 News in San Francisco for more than 10 years. Her book "Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families" was first released in 2008, and the 2017 edition is out now.

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