How to Choose a 0% APR Credit Card

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Zero percent APR credit cards let you avoid paying interest on purchases, balance transfers, or both for a limited time. However, card details vary a bit from there, with some offering longer introductory offers and considerably more benefits than others.

Fees may also vary, including annual fees and balance transfer fees. For these and other reasons, you’ll want to compare all the best 0% APR credit cards to find the best deal for you.

Top Features to Evaluate

When evaluating zero rate offers, you must first think about what you want to accomplish. Are you hoping to avoid credit card interest on new purchases for a year or more? Or do you need a low-interest credit card to consolidate high-interest debt from other cards?

It’s important to answer these questions because your goals will help you determine which credit card is right for you. Once you know what you hope to accomplish, you can decide which card to apply for based on the following key factors.

Duration of the offer

One of the most important details to keep in mind is how long each card offers 0% APR. While most cards in this niche offer zero interest for at least 15 months, some credit cards offer 0% annual interest for up to 21 months.

The length of the zero percent offer is important because that’s how long you’ll avoid interest. It describes the amount of time before your credit card interest rate resets to the regular variable APR.

If you have a smaller purchase to make and only need a year or a little more to pay it off, for example, any number of 0% APR credit cards with offers of introduction for 15 months might work. If you have thousands of high-interest credit card debt that you need to pay off, you should probably look for the longest 0% introductory offer you can find.

Type of offer

Also keep in mind that 0% APR credit cards extend their offers to purchases, balance transfers, and sometimes both. In some cases, the cards will even extend zero interest to purchases and balance transfers on different time frames.

For example, you could get 0% interest on purchases for 12 months with the same introductory rate on balance transfers for 18 months.

Either way, you want to know the details ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.

fine print

Also, keep an eye out for the fine print and limitations, mostly because you don’t want to miss out on a great offer because you didn’t follow the rules.

Avoid late payments

For example, the Wells Fargo Reflect℠ card comes with an introductory APR of 0% for 18 months from account opening on eligible purchases and balance transfers. However, you can benefit from up to 3 additional months with 0% APR if you make minimum payments on time during the introductory and extension periods (13.24% to 25.24% APR variable thereafter) .

Also be aware that in most cases, missing a minimum payment on your credit card will void the intro APR offer. In the fine print of the Wells Fargo Reflect℠ card, for example, it clearly states the following:

“We may end your introductory APR and apply the regular purchase and balance transfer APR if you make a late payment.”

Awards

Many credit cards with introductory APR offers also earn rewards, although you typically sacrifice the length of your zero rate offer for this benefit. That said, you’ll find plenty of cards with introductory offers and APR rewards if you’re okay with a shorter zero interest period (usually up to 15 months).

Examples of popular cash back credit cards with introductory offers include the Chase Freedom Flex℠, Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ card.

One of the most popular balance transfer credit cards available today, the Citi® Double Cash Card, also offers 2% cash back on all spend: 1% when you make a purchase and 1% extra when you pay it back.

Cardholder Benefits

Make sure any credit card you consider offers the benefits you want. Common benefits include extended warranties, cell phone insurance, purchase protection against damage or theft, and travel insurance.

Approval Ratings

While you are checking all the card details, you should also consider whether you have a chance of being approved for the 0% APR card you want. The best cards in this niche generally require good or excellent credit, so not everyone can qualify.

It’s helpful to get a free snapshot of your credit score so you know where you stand before you apply.

Costs

Finally, make sure that any credit card you’re considering has fees you’re comfortable with.

  • Annual subscription. Most credit cards with 0% APR won’t charge an annual fee, but that’s not always the case.
  • Balance Transfer Fee. This only matters if you plan to use your new 0% APR credit card to consolidate your debt. While most cards in this niche charge a 3% balance transfer fee, a handful of cards charge 5% instead. By choosing a card with the lowest fees you can find, you can minimize the costs of transferring a balance.
  • Foreign transaction fees. This is only important if you plan to use the card overseas or with non-US companies online.

The bottom line

Once you start comparing the best credit card deals, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There are almost too many good 0% APR cards out there today, many of which don’t even charge an annual fee.

Just keep in mind that, in the vast majority of cases, more than one 0% APR credit card could meet your needs. Once you’ve done your research thoroughly and made sure your credit is good enough to qualify, you should find a card you like and apply before the offer disappears.

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