FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS: BEST 0% APR AND LOW INTEREST CREDIT CARDS
Click the card name to read our review. Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.
BankAmericard® credit card
Our pick for: Longest 0% intro APR period
The BankAmericard® credit card isn’t flashy, nor does it aim to be. You get one of the longest 0% introductory APR periods available anywhere, providing plenty of time to whittle down debt or finance a large purchase. And that’s about it. Read our review.
Wells Fargo Reflect® Card
Our pick for: Longest 0% intro APR period
The Wells Fargo Reflect® Card has one of the longest 0% intro APR periods on the market — approaching almost two years. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a longer interest-free promotion, and it applies to both purchases and balance transfers. Read our review.
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Our pick for: Longer 0% intro APR period
A lengthy 0% introductory APR period for both purchases and balance transfers has made the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card a NerdWallet favorite. Read our review.
Chase Slate Edge℠
Our pick for: Long 0% intro APR period
The $0-annual-fee Chase Slate Edge℠ is light on flash but features an excellent 0% intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers, plus some other potential incentives for paying on time. Read our review.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Our pick for: Travel rewards
One of the best no-annual-fee travel cards available, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card gives you a solid rewards rate on every purchase, with points that can be redeemed for any travel purchase, without the restrictions of branded airline and hotel cards. Bank of America® has an expansive definition of “travel,” too, giving you additional flexibility in how you use your rewards. Read our review.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Our pick for: Ongoing cash back
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® was already a fine card when it offered 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Now it’s even better, with bonus rewards on travel booked through Chase, as well as at restaurants and drugstores. On top of all that, new cardholders get a 0% introductory APR period and the opportunity to earn a sweet bonus. Read our review.
Citi Custom Cash® Card
Our pick for: Bonus category cash back
The Citi Custom Cash® Card offers a lot of value for a $0 annual fee: 5% back automatically in your eligible top spending category on up to $500 spent per billing cycle (1% back on other spending). The list of eligible 5% categories is varied and includes biggies like restaurants, grocery stores and more. And unlike with its competitors, there’s no activation schedule or bonus calendar to keep track of. Read our review.
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Our pick for: Highest flat-rate cash back
Among flat-rate cash-back cards, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card. It earns an unlimited 2% back on all purchases, which is excellent. But in addition, the card offers a rich sign-up bonus and a generous 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers. That’s an impressive, hard-to-find combination of features on a card with a $0 annual fee. Read our review.
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Our pick for: Flat-rate cash back
The original 1.5% flat-rate cash-back card still holds its own in a now-crowded field. The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a compelling combination of a good rewards rate, redemption flexibility, sign-up bonus and introductory 0% APR period (see rates and fees). Read our review.
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card
Our pick for: Flat-rate cash back
The Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card is one of many 1.5% flat-rate cash-back cards on the market. It comes with a decent sign-up bonus, a generous intro APR period, and the potential to supercharge your earnings through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards® program. Read our review.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Our pick for: Grocery and gas rewards
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express pays elevated rewards at U.S. supermarkets, at U.S. gas stations and on U.S. online retail purchases. The rewards might not be as rich as on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, but this card doesn’t charge an annual fee either. New cardholders get a decent welcome offer and an introductory 0% APR period. Read our review.
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Our pick for: Bonus category cash back
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers bonus cash back in quarterly categories that you activate, as well as on travel booked through Chase, at restaurants and at drugstores. Category activation can be a hassle, but if your spending matches the categories — and for a lot of people, it will — you can rack up hundreds of dollars a year. There’s a fantastic bonus offer for new cardholders and a 0% intro APR period, too. Read our review.
Discover it® Cash Back
Our pick for: Bonus category cash back
The Discover it® Cash Back earns bonus cash back in quarterly categories that you activate. In past years, those categories have included common spending areas like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and specific major retailers. Category activation can be a hassle, but if your spending aligns with those categories (and for most households, it probably will), you can rake in serious rewards. You also get the issuer’s signature “cash-back match” bonus in your first year. Read our review.
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
Our pick for: Customizable cash back
The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card gives you a little more control over your credit card rewards by letting you choose which category earns the highest cash-back rate, from a list that includes gas stations, restaurants, travel, home improvement and more. You also get bonus rewards at grocery stores and supermarkets, plus a great new-cardholder bonus offer. Read our review.
Understanding interest rates and APRs
The annual percentage rate, or APR, is the interest rate your credit card issuer charges on any debt you carry on your card. Some cards charge a single rate for all debt on the card; others charge different rates for different kinds of debt (purchases, cash advances, etc.). APRs are listed on your monthly credit card statement.
When you see a reference to a “0% APR credit card” or a “zero percent credit card” it doesn’t mean the card will never charge any interest. Rather, it means that the card has an introductory rate of 0% for a certain period of time. That zero percent rate may apply to purchases, balance transfers or both, but it doesn’t usually apply to cash advances.
Issuers commonly set their rates at a certain number of percentage points above the prime rate, which is the rate big banks charge their best customers. For example, your rate might be “prime + 12 points.” If the prime rate was 5.5%, your APR would be 17.5%. With the exception of introductory periods with a 0% or super-low “teaser” rate, you’re not going to find a credit card APR lower than the prime rate.
Although interest rates are expressed in annual terms, they’re usually charged on a daily basis. An annual rate of 19.25%, for example, would translate to a daily rate of about 0.0535%. So for every $1,000 in debt, you’d pay about 54 cents a day in interest. That doesn’t seem like much … but over the course of a month and a year, it really adds up.
How to avoid paying credit card interest entirely
Most credit cards offer a “grace period” that allows you to avoid paying any interest at all.
If you pay your balance in full each month, then you will not owe any interest on your purchases.
If you carry debt over from month to month, then interest will start accruing on purchases as soon as they’re posted to your account.
If you’re what the credit card industry refers to as a “transactor” — someone who uses their card for convenience and rewards and pays the bill in full every month — then your APR is pretty much irrelevant, because you’ll never pay a dime in interest.
On the other hand, if you’re a “revolver” — someone who uses cards to float purchases they can’t pay off all at once and carries debt from month to month — then your APR is very important, because it dictates how much you pay in interest.
Whats’s the difference between interest and APR?
When you’re talking about credit cards, there is no difference between your interest rate and APR. They’re the same thing.
That leads to another question: Why do credit card issuers refer to it as the “APR” rather than the interest rate? Mostly because federal truth-in-lending laws require it. The APR is the “real” annual cost of borrowing money, and it includes not just interest on the money you borrow, but also fees and other charges. With some financial products, such as mortgages, the APR can be significantly different from the stated interest rate. Those other charges are not included in the credit card APR calculation, in large part because issuers cannot predict who will have to pay them or how much they will pay. And as discussed above, if you pay your bill in full every month, you won’t pay any interest at all, so the stated APR on your account isn’t even charged to you.
How do 0% APR offers work?
Say you have a card with an introductory 0% purchase APR for 15 months. A “0%” rate means no interest at all will be charged on purchases, in this case for the first 15 months you have the card. Once that introductory period runs out, interest will be charged at the ongoing APR — but only on your balance going forward. There is no “retroactive” interest. (One note of caution, though: If you have a 0% offer, make sure you pay your bill on time every month; a late payment can cancel your 0% rate and immediately move you to the ongoing rate.)
Zero-percent periods on credit cards are different from the “no interest for 12 months” offers you see in stores. Those are what’s known as “deferred interest.” In those offers, you don’t have to pay interest during the promotional period, but interest is silently being calculated in the background. If you have any balance remaining at the end of the period, you will be charged interest on your whole purchase, going all the way back to the time of purchase. That could cost you hundreds of dollars.
Glossary of APR terms
Purchase APR. This is the rate your card charges when you pay for things with the card. Most credit cards offer a grace period: If you pay your balance in full every month, you won’t have to pay interest on purchases. If you roll over debt from one month to the next, then interest will start adding up on a purchase as soon as you make it.
Balance transfer APR. This is the rate on debt that you’ve moved to the card from somewhere else. To attract your business, card issuers often offer a low rate, even 0%, on transferred debt.
Cash advance APR. This is the rate charged when you use your credit card to get cash from an ATM. Interest usually starts adding up on cash advances immediately. Grace periods don’t apply.
Introductory APR. Sometimes called a “teaser rate” this is a low interest rate offered when you first open your account. Many credit cards offer people with good credit an introductory rate of 0% on purchases for a year or more.
Ongoing APR. This is the “regular” rate that goes into effect once any introductory APR period expires.
Variable APR. Most credit card interest rates are tied to the prime rate. When the prime rate goes up (or down), your credit card’s interest rate will usually go up (or down) an equal amount. “Variable APR” just means your current rate is not permanent and could change if the prime rate does.
How credit card issuers set interest rates
Credit card issuers are required by law to clearly state the interest rate on a credit card before you apply. You can find the interest rate (or rates) charged by a card in its “terms and conditions sometimes referred to as the fine print. When looking at a card online, look for a link that says something like “See terms and fees” or “View rates and fees” or “Offer details.” The rate will be prominently displayed in a large chart known as the Schumer box.
With some cards, everyone has the same APR. This is common especially with cards for people with bad credit (in which the rate is very high) or super-low-interest cards for people with good credit.
Many cards charge a range of APRs. It’s common to see a card saying it charges something like “15.99% to 23.99%.” When a card has a range of available APRs, the rate you get will usually depend on your creditworthiness. See below for how your credit score affects your interest rate.
Rewards cards tend to charge higher APRs. Cash-back and travel-rewards programs are expensive, and one of the ways credit card issuers pay for them is by charging higher interest rates on balances on rewards cards.
How your credit score affects your interest rate
The interest rate you pay on your credit card is heavily dependent on your credit history, which is summed up in your credit scores. Interest rates are how issuers put a price on risk:
When you have a low credit score, lenders see a higher risk in lending you money. As a result, the interest rate charged by your credit card will be higher.
When you have a high credit score, the risk is lower that you wont repay borrowed money. So the interest rate on your credit card will be lower.
If a card advertises a range of APRs, a lower score will put you toward the higher end of that range (or you might not qualify for a card at all), while a high score will put you on the lower end of the range.
As a very general rule of thumb:
If you have good or excellent credit (a score of 690 or more), look for prime + less than 12 points.
For average credit (630 to 690), you’ll likely see prime + 15 to 20 points.
For bad credit (below 630), expect to find APRs more in the range of prime + more than 20 points.
Improving your credit to qualify for a better rate
As with most financial products, the best interest rates on credit cards are available to those with the strongest credit profiles. Improving your credit is the first step toward improving your rate. Steps to take:
Make 100% of your payments on time. This applies not only to credit cards, loans and other lines of credit, but also to utility bills and other accounts. Unpaid bills that that go into collections can seriously hurt your credit.
Keep your credit utilization low. Don’t let your balance on any card (or all cards put together) exceed 30% of the total credit limit.
Limit your credit applications. New accounts lower the average age of your open lines of credit, which makes up part of your credit score. Multiple credit inquiries from applications can also ding your score.
Keep accounts open. Unless a card has an annual fee, keep it open and active, even if for only one bill a month. This will help both your credit utilization and the length of your credit history.
Check each of your credit reports each year for errors and discrepancies.
The high cost of a higher interest rate
A higher APR costs you money in two ways:
First, obviously, it increases the amount of interest charged on your purchases.
Second, because you are paying more in interest, you have less money available to pay down the principal — the debt you actually put on the card. That means you could stay in debt (and pay interest) for a longer time.
Let’s walk through an example and see how a higher APR affects you at every turn.
1. Your interest charges are higher
If you have excellent credit, you might qualify for a credit card with a super-low rate, let’s say 8%. Meanwhile, a person with bad credit or no credit history at all might only qualify for a “starter” card with an APR of 26%. Let’s say each person carries a $1,000 balance from one month to the next:
The 8% APR card produces an interest charge of about $6.58 in the first month.
The 26% APR card produces an interest charge of about $21.36 in the first month.
2. Your minimum payments are higher
The minimum payment on a credit card is typically made up of all the accrued interest, plus any fees, plus a percentage of the principal (the money you actually spent on the card). In this case, let’s say that percentage is 1.5%.
The 8% APR card will have a minimum payment of $21.58 in that first month.
The 26% APR card has a minimum payment of about $36.36 the first month.
3. Your debt shrinks more slowly
Now say that each person has only $50 a month to put toward credit card debt. That’s more than the minimum (and paying more than the minimum is always good), but it’s not enough to cover their debt entirely. This is a common way people use credit cards — they’re “revolvers” who pay down slowly over time.
With a $50 payment on the 8% APR card, $6.58 goes to interest and $43.42 goes to reduce the debt. The cardholder now has $956.58 in debt left to repay.
With a $50 payment on the 26% APR card, $21.36 goes to interest and only $28.64 goes to reduce the debt. The cardholder now has $971.36 in debt left to repay.
After just one month, the person with the lower APR is about $15 ahead of the person with the higher APR in the “race” to eliminate their debt.
4. You’re in debt longer and pay more to get out
Say they continue like this, each paying $50 a month. For each cardholder, the interest charges will shrink each month as they pay down the principal. But the one with the lower APR will get out of debt more quickly and pay less in interest:
After a year, the person with the 8% card has reduced their debt to about $460. That means $600 worth of payments has reduced their debt by about $540. They’ll be debt-free after 22 months, and they’ll pay a total of about $76 in interest.
After a year, the person with the 26% card has reduced their debt to only about $613. That means $600 in payments has cut the debt by only about $387. They’ll need 27 months to get debt-free, and they’ll pay a total of $318 in interest.
Reducing your interest costs
As discussed, you can avoid interest entirely by paying your balance in full every month. But that’s not always possible for everyone. Sometimes carrying a balance is unavoidable. Here are some options.
Pay more than the minimum due
The minimum payment shown on your billing statement is the absolute least you can pay without incurring a penalty. It won’t get you very far toward paying off your debt, though, as the above example makes clear. To see real interest savings, you need to pay interest on less money, and that means attacking the principal by paying more than the minimum.
We’ve created a calculator to help you see how much you could save in interest by paying down your credit card balance. Enter your balance and choose an interest rate, then see your savings if you reduced the balance by 5% to 50%. See the calculator here.
Ask if you qualify for a lower rate
This may be an option if your credit score has improved considerably since you opened the account. The issuer might knock some points off your rate, or move your account to a card with a lower rate. You issuer might say no to your request, but you don’t know unless you ask.
Move debt to a 0% interest credit card
Transferring high-interest debt to a credit card with an introductory 0% APR period can save you hundreds of dollars in interest. You may have to pay a fee of around 3% of the amount you transferred, but you’ll get breathing room to pay down your debt. Keep in mind, though, that 0% interest credit cards are generally available only to people with good or excellent credit.
How to compare 0% and low interest cards
When choosing a 0% APR credit card, let your specific needs be your guide:
If you have a big purchase coming up and will need time to pay it off, your best bet is a card with a lengthy 0% introductory APR period. Many rewards cards offer a year or more at 0%, which allow you to collect rewards on your purchase, then pay it off interest-free.
If you find you’re consistently carrying a balance a from month to month, look for a card with a low ongoing interest rate. Cards with an introductory 0% period tend to charge higher rates down the road.
If you want to transfer a balance to pay it down at a lower cost, you’ll want a card with a 0% intro period and a low (or no) balance transfer fee. Many of the cards on this list are good for transfers, but check out our best balance transfer credit cards for further options.
Once you’ve decided what type of card to look for, compare cards based on the following factors.
Introductory APR period
Dozens of cards offer newcomers a 0% APR period of a year or more when they first open the account. This includes a number of popular rewards cards, where you can get 0% interest for as long as 15 months. If you’ve got a big purchase coming up and will need time to pay it off, a 0% offer is perfect. In general, the longer the 0% period, the better, but there are a few things to keep in mind:
If you’re late with a payment, the issuer can cancel your 0% rate, leaving you paying high interest on a big balance.
Some cards offer long 0% periods for balance transfers, but shorter ones (or no 0% period at all) for purchases. Read the fine print before applying.
The cards with the longest 0% periods — 18 months or more — generally don’t offer rewards, so once the 0% interest period runs out, there’s not a lot of incentive to use the card, unless the card offers a low ongoing rate.
In general, you can get a card with a 0% introductory period or you can get a card with a low ongoing APR, but there aren’t a lot of cards that give you both. If you expect that you’ll be carrying a balance regularly, the ongoing APR is an important consideration.
Balance transfer fee
If you’ll need to transfer a balance, this fee is an important consideration. Most cards charge a fee of 3% to 5% of the amount transferred — equal to $30 to $50 for every $1,000 worth of debt moved to the card. Depending on the APR on the card you transfer the debt to and how long it takes you to pay it off, you could save more in interest than you pay in transfer fees. A few cards charge no transfer fee. Of course, if you’re only interested in purchases rather than transfers, this fee is irrelevant.
Required credit profile
You’re unlikely to qualify for a 0% APR credit card unless you have good credit, generally defined as a score of 690 or better. Some cards even require excellent credit, generally defined as 720 or better.
It’s important to pay your bill on time every month. Paying late usually results in a stiff fee (often nearly $40), and if you’re 30 days or more late, it can badly damage your credit score. Finally, a late payment can trigger a penalty APR, jacking up your interest rate as high as 30% in some cases. When you’re on a 0% period or have a low ongoing rate, being bumped up to a penalty rate can be disastrous. If punctuality is an issue for you, look into a card’s penalty policies (and, for your own sake, work on your punctuality).
Saving money is the primary reason to get a low-interest credit card, so you shouldn’t be paying an annual fee on such a card. However, some rewards cards with 0% interest periods do charge an annual fee; whether it’s worth paying depends on how much you expect to earn in rewards.
Free credit score
Most major credit card issuers and many smaller ones give cardholders free access to a credit score. When you’re looking to manage debt with a low-interest card, it’s smart to keep an eye on your score.
Rewards and bonus offers
As mentioned, many rewards credit cards — usually cash-back cards — offer a 0% interest period. When you’re using the card to finance a big purchase, those benefits can amount to an instant discount on the purchase. For example, say you’re facing a $3,000 expense, so you get a card that has 0% APR for 15 months, pays 1.5% cash back on purchases and offers a bonus of $200 if you spend $1,000 in the first three months. The $3,000 purchase earns $45 in rewards and qualifies you for the bonus, for a total of $245 cash back. The effective cost of the purchase is $2,755, and you have 15 months interest-free to eliminate the debt.
Making the most of your 0% or low interest card
If your card has a 0% intro period, strive to eliminate as much debt as possible before that introductory period ends and the interest resets to its ongoing rate. A 0% card should be a tool for getting rid of debt, not just a place to park debt and forget about it. If you find yourself moving debt from one 0% card to another but never paying it down, it’s time to consider other debt solutions.
Although a card with a low ongoing rate can save you a lot of money over time, you’re still paying interest. Apply those savings toward whittling down your debt faster. Saving, say, $20 a month on interest means you have $20 more you can use to reduce the balance on your credit card and move that much closer to freedom.
With any card, watch your balance. For the sake of your credit scores, it’s best to keep your balance under 30% of the credit limit on the card. Under 10% is even better. When balances rise above 30% of credit limits, scoring formulas start to interpret that as a sign of financial stress.
Other cards to consider
Looking to transfer a balance to save money? Our roundup of the best balance transfer cards evaluates cards — including many of the cards on this page — with that specific goal in mind.
Do you even need a 0% or low interest card? You might not. If you pay your balance in full every month, the APR on your credit card doesn’t matter, because you’re never actually charged interest. In that case, consider a rewards credit card, which gives you a little something back very time you make a purchase. Rewards cards fall into two major categories: cash back credit cards and travel credit cards.
To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, see this page.