0% APR Credit Cards: How They Work & How to Use Them Wisely

These cards can provide significant savings, but some have some potential pitfalls.
Last updated Aug. 12, 2022 | By Ben Luthi
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There are several different types of credit cards on the market, each with its own unique features. Depending on your financial situation and needs, the right credit card can be a valuable financial tool.

Zero percent intro APR credit cards, in particular, can provide significant savings if you need to make a large purchase or transfer a balance from another credit card, then pay off the debt over time. If you’d like to learn more about what 0% APR means and how these cards can benefit you, we’ve got you covered.

In this article

What is a 0% APR credit card?

A 0% APR credit card is a card that offers a 0% interest rate for a set promotional period. Among major credit cards, these promotions can last anywhere from six to 21 months. You can carry a balance on your credit card during the introductory period and pay no interest charges, as long as you make at least the minimum payment every month.

Once the introductory period ends, your interest rate will jump to the credit card issuer's regular APR, and you’ll start paying interest on the remaining balance unless you pay it in full.

It’s important to note that 0% APR deals are a bit different than deferred interest promotions. The latter is common with store credit cards and retail financing in general, and both offer no interest for a set period. The difference is that with deferred interest promotions, you have to pay off the balance in full before the promotional period ends, or you’ll owe interest retroactively based on the original debt amount.

It’s best to avoid deferred interest promotions unless you know for certain that you’ll be able to pay off the debt within the prescribed time. Even then, you’ll take on less risk with a 0% APR credit card.

How does a 0% APR offer work?

There are two different types of 0% APR offers and depending on the credit card you apply for, you may get one of the two or both.

Purchases

When you use a credit card normally, you’ll have until your monthly due date to pay your balance from the previous month in full — otherwise, you’ll owe interest on the amount you carry over to the new month.

A 0% introductory APR on purchases allows new cardholders to use a credit card during the promotional period without paying any interest on the balance, even if you carry it from month to month. The catch is that you need to pay at least the minimum amount due every month. Otherwise, you could lose your 0% APR promotion.

You can use a 0% intro purchase APR promotion for anything you can charge to your credit card. That includes things like home improvements, major appliances, tuition, or even everyday expenses. There are no fees or other costs attached to the promotion, which helps you maximize your savings.

Balance transfers

The average credit card interest rate is 16.61%, according to February 2020 data from the U.S. Federal Reserve, and many cards charge variable APRs that range upward of 20%. With a balance transfer 0% APR deal, you can use one credit card to pay off some or all of the balance from another, then pay it off interest-free over a set period.

As long as you pay off the debt before the promotion ends, you won’t pay any interest on the balance. If there’s a balance left over at the end of the promotional period, you’ll pay interest only on the amount that remains.

Balance transfer credit cards are solid options if you’re looking to consolidate credit card debt, and the best balance transfer cards may even allow you to transfer other forms of debt.

That said, there are some catches to 0% intro balance transfer APR deals:

  • Transfer fees: Most cards that offer balance transfer promotions charge an upfront balance transfer fee, which typically ranges from 3% to 5% of the transfer amount. This fee is rolled into your balance, which you’ll pay off over time. You can, however, find credit cards that don’t charge a balance transfer fee, and some even offer 0% APR promotions.
  • Limitations: The amount you can transfer is often limited to your credit limit on the card you want to use. So if you have $10,000 in debt on one card and get a balance transfer card with a $3,000 limit, you’ll only gain interest savings on $3,000 of the initial debt. Also, some balance transfer cards may offer only a 0% APR on transfers requested within a certain time frame after you open your account — that’s typically four months or less.
  • Other interest: If you have a 0% APR balance transfer promotion on your credit card but not a 0% APR on purchases, you may not get a grace period on your purchases until you’ve paid the balance transfer in full. As such, it’s best to avoid putting new purchases on a new balance transfer card unless there’s a comparable 0% APR benefit on purchases.
  • Foreign transaction fees: These cards often come with foreign transaction fees, generally between 3-5%. They are not the best option if you plan to use them abroad.

Who can benefit from a card with a 0% APR offer?

Anyone who qualifies can take advantage of a 0% APR offer, so the list of the type of people who can benefit from one is long. However, here are three specific examples in which a 0% APR offer can make a significant difference:

  • People with emergency expenses: If you’ve lost a job, experienced a short-term disability, or dealt with expensive car or home repairs, a 0% APR credit card can help you cover the cost of your emergency expenses and give you time to pay for them interest-free.
  • People with crippling credit card debt: If you’re struggling to get ahead on paying down your credit card debt, high interest rates could be part of the problem. If you can qualify for a balance transfer credit card, you can remove interest costs from the equation, at least for a time, while you focus on eliminating your debt.
  • Small business owners: If you’re a new business owner with a lot of expenses and little revenue or you’re experiencing fluctuations in your sales, using one of the best 0% APR business credit cards could help you cover important expenses while you build your business. These offers can be especially valuable if your business isn’t established enough to qualify for a traditional small business loan.

What are some of the top 0% APR credit cards?

If you’re looking for a 0% APR credit card, there are plenty of options from which to choose. However, some cards stand out above the rest based on the length of their promotions and the other features they provide to cardholders.

Here are some of the best 0% APR credit cards available:

Card name 0% introductory APR offer Credit needed Additional perks
Citi Simplicity® Card
  • 0% APR on purchases for 12 months (then 16.99% to 26.99% (variable))
  • 0% on balance transfers for 21 months (then 16.99% to 26.99% (variable))
  • Excellent
  • Good
  • $0 annual fee
  • No late fees
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
  • 0% APR on purchases for 12 months (then 15.99% to 25.99% (variable))
  • 0% on balance transfers for 21 months (then 15.99% to 25.99% (variable))
  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Access to Citi Entertainment deals
  • $0 annual fee
Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer
  • 0% on balance transfers for 18 months (then 16.24% to 26.24% (variable))
  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay for those purchases
  • $0 annual fee
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
  • 0% APR on purchases for 15 months then 14.49% to 25.49% (variable)
  • Excellent
  • Good
  • $0 annual fee
  • Offers rewards and a welcome bonus
  • Terms apply
BankAmericard®️ credit card
  • 0% APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles (then 15.24% - 25.24% variable)
  • 0% on balance transfers for 18 billing cycles for any qualifying balance transfers made in the first 60 days (then 15.24% - 25.24% variable)
  • Excellent
  • Good
  • $0 annual fee
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
  • 0% APR on purchases for 12 months (then 14.74% to 20.74% (variable))
  • Excellent
  • Good
  • $0 annual fee
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • 1.5% cash back on all spending

Citi Simplicity® Card

The Citi Simplicity® Card is best suited for people who want a long time to pay off a balance transfer. The card’s 0% introductory APR promotion lasts 21 months (then 16.99% to 26.99% (variable)), which is a competitive length when it come to major credit cards.

You also get a 0% APR on purchases for 12 months (then 16.99% to 26.99% (variable)). That means you have a long time to make and pay down purchases with the card. Just don’t plan to make any purchases after that period if you’re still working on paying off your balance transfer. This will help you avoid having interest accrue immediately on new charges.

In addition to a great balance transfer deal, the Citi Simplicity also charges a $0 annual fee and no late fees. That said, paying your bill late could cause you to lose your introductory APR, and it could also wreck your credit score.

One major downside to the card is that it doesn’t offer a rewards program. This means that once the intro APR promotion is over, there are few incentives to keep using this card. But if maximizing your savings with a long into balance transfer offer is a top priority, the lack of rewards may not matter.

No annual fee & 0% Intro APR

Citi Simplicity® Card

Citi Simplicity® Card

Citi Simplicity® Card

Intro Offer

Long 0% APR period on purchases and balance transfers

Annual Fee

$0

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months, then 16.99% to 26.99% (variable)
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months, then 16.99% to 26.99% (variable)
  • FICO Credit Score monitoring
  • No late, penalty, or annual fees

Drawbacks

  • No signup bonus
Card Details
  • Long 0% APR period on purchases and balance transfers
  • Intro purchase 0% APR offer: 0% for 12 months then 16.99% to 26.99% (variable)
  • Intro balance transfer 0% APR offer: 0% for 21 months then 16.99% to 26.99% (variable)

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Similar to the Citi Simplicity, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card offers a 0% APR on purchases for 12 months (then 15.99% to 25.99% (variable)). It also offers a 0% on balance transfers for 21 months (then 15.99% to 25.99% (variable)).

Also, like the Citi Simplicity Card, this card doesn’t have a rewards program. However, you can use it to get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including presale tickets and exclusive experiences. Depending on your lifestyle, this benefit could provide lasting value.

Another way the two cards differ is that this one doesn’t waive late fees on the account, so it’s best to pay at least the minimum amount due each month.

Extended 0% Intro APR for Balance Transfers

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Intro Offer

Long introductory APR period for balance transfers

Annual Fee

$0

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months, then 15.99% to 25.99% (variable) APR
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months, then 15.99% to 25.99% (variable)
  • No annual fee
  • Free access to your FICO® Score

Drawbacks

  • Does not earn rewards
Card Details
  • Long introductory APR period for balance transfers
  • Intro purchase 0% APR offer: 0% for 12 months then 15.99% to 25.99% (variable)
  • Intro balance transfer 0% APR offer: 0% for 21 months then 15.99% to 25.99% (variable)

Citi® Double Cash Card

The Citi® Double Cash Card isn’t just one of the best balance transfer credit cards on the market, it’s also one of the best cashback credit cards.

The card offers an introductory 0% on balance transfers for 18 months (then 16.24% to 26.24% (variable)). Additionally, you’ll earn up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay for those purchases. This rewards rate is one of the best you can get, and it means you’ll get value out of the card long after the 0% introductory APR promotion is over. Like the Citi Diamond Preferred Card, you’ll get access to Citi Entertainment deals with the Citi Double Cash Card.

That said, there is no 0% APR deal on new purchases, which means that interest will be charged on all new purchases unless you pay your full balance (including the balance transfer) on time every month. So it’s best to avoid using the card for anything other than the balance transfer promotion until you’ve paid off that debt.

Earn Cash Back Twice

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Intro Offer

Earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 in the first 6 months (limited time offer)

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay for those purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 in the first 6 months (limited time offer)
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, then 16.24% to 26.24% (variable) APR
  • Up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay for those purchases
  • No annual fee

Drawbacks

  • Foreign transaction fee
Card Details
  • Earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 in the first 6 months (limited time offer)
  • up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay for those purchases
  • Intro balance transfer 0% APR offer: 0% for 18 months then 16.24% to 26.24% (variable)

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card is unique because it provides significant value: you’ll get a 0% APR on purchases for 15 months then 14.49% to 25.49% (variable). Plus, you’ll earn rewards in the form of a welcome offer and ongoing rewards.

In addition to interest savings, you’ll earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first 6 months. You’ll also get 2X points per dollar (on the first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year, after that 1X), and 1X on everything else. Regular users will also earn 20% more points for every billing period in which you make 20 or more purchases.

This card can be a solid option for someone who’s looking for both upfront and long-term value. However, its incentives to use the card early and often for new purchases could cause you to rack up more debt, which can be negative if you don’t have a clear plan to pay off everything you owe before the 0% APR promotion ends.

Bonus Points at U.S. Supermarkets

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Intro Offer

Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards Points after making $2,000 in purchases in the first 6 months

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

2X points per dollar (on the first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year, after that 1X), and 1X on everything else

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 2X points at U.S. supermarkets
  • 20% point bonus when you use your card 20 times in a billing cycle
  • No annual fee. Terms apply.

Drawbacks

  • Foreign transaction fee
  • Other cards may offer higher reward rates
Card Details
  • Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards Points after making $2,000 in purchases in the first 6 months
  • 2X points per dollar (on the first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year, after that 1X), and 1X on everything else
  • Intro purchase 0% APR offer: 0% for 15 months then 14.49% to 25.49% (variable)
  • Terms apply

BankAmericard®️ credit card

If you’re looking for a card with no balance transfer fee and no temptation from rewards, the BankAmericard®️ credit card should be on your radar.

It offers a 0% APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles (then 15.24% - 25.24% variable) and a 0% for 18 billing cycles for any qualifying balance transfers made in the first 60 days (then 15.24% - 25.24% variable).

Beyond that, the card doesn’t provide any benefits of note. But if your ultimate goal is to save money on interest and fees, this one’s tough to beat. Also, if you’re the type of person who might be tempted to spend more on a card that offers rewards, the BankAmericard credit card can be a safe bet.

Pay No Annual Fee & No Interest for a Long Time!

Annual Fee

$0

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Intro APR on qualifying balance transfers and purchases
  • FICO Credit score monitoring
  • No annual fee

Drawbacks

  • Does not earn rewards
Card Details
  • $100 statement credit online bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • 0% Introductory APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 15.24% - 25.24% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers.
  • No annual fee.
  • No penalty APR. Paying late won't automatically raise your interest rate (APR). Other account pricing and terms apply.
  • Access your FICO® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

The Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card is designed for business owners, and its 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months (then 14.74% to 20.74% (variable)) can provide some valuable savings. What’s more, you can earn $750 bonus cash back after spending $7,500 in the first 3 months, plus 1.5% cash back on all spending.

These rewards only complement the card’s value 0% APR offer, and can be used to boost your bottom line. It doesn’t, however, have a 0% APR promotion on balance transfers.

Unlimited Cash Back

Intro Offer

Earn $750 bonus cash back after spending $7,500 in the first 3 months

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

1.5% cash back on all spending

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • New Offer: $750 cash back sign-up offer
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all spending
  • 0% APR for 12 months on purchases
  • No annual fee

Drawbacks

  • Has foreign transaction fee
  • No lucrative rewards categories
Card Details
  • Earn $750 bonus cash back after spending $7,500 in the first 3 months
  • 1.5% cash back on all spending
  • Intro purchase 0% APR offer: 0% for 12 months then 14.74% to 20.74% (variable)

FAQs about 0% APR credit cards

As we researched 0% APR credit cards, we came across several common questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions, along with their answers.

What is the best 0% APR credit card?

Because every card is different, there’s no single best 0% APR credit card out there for everyone. To find the right card for you, think about what you need and start with our top choices above to get an idea of which cards and features can best suit your needs.

Then compare these with other 0% APR credit cards to make sure you find the best one for you.

Does 0% APR mean no interest?

Yes, as long as you meet the requirements for the 0% APR promotion, you won’t pay any interest on your balance that coincides with the promotion. Just remember to pay off the debt before the 0% APR promotion expires, or else you’ll end up paying interest on the remaining balance.

What happens when a 0% APR offer ends?

When your 0% APR promotional period ends, your account APR will change to its regular APR, which was set when your account was opened. This may be a variable APR that takes into account your creditworthiness, or it may be a fixed APR. If you pay off your balance in full every month, you’ll continue to be able to use the card interest-free. But if you carry a balance from month to month, you’ll pay interest on that balance.

Which card has the longest APR offer?

Credit card offers change all the time, but the Citi Diamond Preferred and the Citi Simplicity Card are typically among those with the longest 0% APR offer on balance transfers. The Citi Diamond Preferred offers 0% on balance transfers for 21 months (then 15.99% to 25.99% (variable)). The Citi Simplicity also offers 0% on balance transfers for 21 months (then 16.99% to 26.99% (variable)). 

The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card also ranks high as a balance transfer card since it offers 20 billing cycles interest-free (then 16.74% to 26.74% (variable)). Other cards with decent intro APR offers include the Citi Double Cash, the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, and the Wells Fargo Business Platinum Credit Card (Rates and fees).

Can I lower my credit card APR?

If you have a credit card and want to try to get a lower APR without applying for a new 0% APR credit card, it is possible. Some credit card companies may be willing to lower your APR, either temporarily or permanently, if you call and ask.

Also, some card issuers may send balance transfer checks, which you can use to pay off other debts or make purchases.


The final word

Zero percent APR credit cards can provide some significant savings to people who need help with credit card debt. If you need to make a large purchase, pay some emergency expenses without the income to back it up or transfer a balance from a high-interest credit card, 0% APR deals can be just what you need to accomplish your goal.

Earn Cash Back Twice

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Intro Offer

Earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 in the first 6 months (limited time offer)

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay for those purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 in the first 6 months (limited time offer)
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, then 16.24% to 26.24% (variable) APR
  • Up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay for those purchases
  • No annual fee

Drawbacks

  • Foreign transaction fee
Card Details
  • Earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 in the first 6 months (limited time offer)
  • up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay for those purchases
  • Intro balance transfer 0% APR offer: 0% for 18 months then 16.24% to 26.24% (variable)

Author Details

Ben Luthi Ben is a personal finance and travel writer who loves helping people achieve their money goals. Along with FinanceBuzz, his writing has also been featured on U.S. News, NerdWallet, Experian, Credit Karma, and more.