Credit cards can be valuable tools for budgeting and building credit. The right card can also help you pay down purchases or balance transfers over time without added interest fees. If your credit card has a 0% introductory APR offer, you can avoid paying high interest rates for a set period and save yourself money in the long run. Here’s what you need to know about 0% introductory APR cards — and extending that valuable intro APR period.
How 0% introductory APR cards work
When we use credit cards and pay off our balances, we’re borrowing money and then paying it back to the card issuer. It’s pretty simple, but it gets more complicated if we don’t pay off the balance completely by the time the payment is due.
At that point, the balance begins to accrue interest. This is a percentage of the balance still owed on the credit card and it’s added to the remaining balance each month. The average credit card interest rate varies, but it tends to be quite high and can cost you a lot of extra money.
So what does 0% APR mean, and how can it benefit you? With a 0% introductory APR offer, you can avoid paying any interest for a set period. If a card offers this benefit, the time period is outlined in the credit card’s offer details and can vary, but you can expect to see lengths ranging from around 12 to 21 months.
Introductory offers for 0% APRs are separated into two categories: purchases and balance transfers. Some credit cards offer either one of these benefits, and some of the best 0% APR credit cards offer both.
0% introductory APR on purchases
If a credit card offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases, you won’t have to pay any interest on new purchases made with the card during the promotional period. The introductory rate will normally start on the date of account opening.
Once the promotional period ends, a standard variable APR is established for all purchases moving forward. This APR is based on your creditworthiness and will likely be much higher than the 0% interest rate you may have become accustomed to.
0% introductory APR on balance transfers
You can effectively lower your credit card debt by taking advantage of balance transfers. By moving your existing debt from one credit card to another that has a 0% introductory APR, you can avoid paying any interest on the transferred balance during the credit card’s promotional period.
As with 0% APR on purchases, you will also have a variable APR on balance transfers once your credit card’s promotional period has ended. After the promotional period, balance transfers will take on a variable APR based on your creditworthiness. These high interest rates should be avoided when trying to pay down your debt quickly.
Can you extend your 0% introductory APR?
Paying off your credit card debt in full before the 0% introductory APR offer expires is the best-case scenario. And yet, it’s not always going to happen. If you’re still carrying a balance once the promotional period has ended, you can try extending the 0% APR on your card through these methods.
Call your issuer
Often, your card issuer won’t extend the 0% introductory APR on your credit card. Interest rates are a way for card issuers to make money, so if it looks like you won’t be able to pay off your debt before the variable APR kicks in, then the card issuer would likely be looking to profit on the interest.
If you’ve been paying off your debt and don’t carry a balance, the card issuer might think about extending the promotional period. There’s no interest on $0 balances, but the issuer still benefits when you make purchases on your card. Alternatively, the issuer may offer you a reduced interest rate for a certain amount of time.
Apply for a new card with a different issuer
Once your 0% introductory APR ends, it’s also unlikely that you can transfer a balance to a different card with an intro APR from the same issuer. Fortunately, there are multiple card issuers out there. So if you’re at the end of your promotional period but still have a balance to pay off, you might consider applying for a new 0% APR credit card with a different card issuer.
As you compare credit cards, make sure the new card comes with a similar 0% APR offer on balance transfers before you apply. If approved, you could be well on your way to extending your original period of no interest.
The Citi® Double Cash Card is a great choice if you’re looking for a credit card with a long balance transfer period. It offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months (then 18.99% - 28.99% (Variable)). You could also look into the Citi Simplicity® Card. This card comes with a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months (then 18.99% - 29.74% (Variable)). It also offers a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months (then 18.99% - 29.74% (Variable)).
Note: Watch out for balance transfer fees. Even the best balance transfer cards may come with balance transfer fees attached – generally around 3 to 5% of the total balance. This can make balance transfers costly, so make sure you check on these fees beforehand.
The final word on extending your 0% introductory APR
A 0% introductory APR on purchases or balance transfers may not be useful for everyone, but it can certainly help if you’re trying to minimize your credit card debt. Avoiding high interest rates is a sure way to save money over time, although you should always pay off your balance if that’s an option.
Although you can’t exactly extend a 0% APR promotional period, you can apply for a different credit card with a new 0% introductory APR offer. Just make sure you’re applying for a new credit card with a different issuer — and you can transfer your existing balance to that card.
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