Here’s What 0% intro APR Means (And How You Can Benefit from It)

A 0% intro APR offer can help you save a lot of money, but is it as good as it seems?
Last updated Nov. 17, 2022 | By Matt Miczulski | Edited By Yahia Barakah
Smiling woman with a credit card

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Borrowing money usually comes at a cost. Whether it’s a loan or a credit card, lenders profit from charging interest on the money they lend. For credit cards, this interest rate is typically calculated as a yearly rate, known as the annual percentage rate — or APR.

Sometimes, however, credit card issuers will provide new and existing cardmembers the chance to avoid accruing interest on the money they borrow for a certain amount of time. This is often referred to as a 0% APR intro period, and it can be hugely beneficial.

Whether it’s for new purchases or transferring an existing balance from another card, a 0% intro APR offer is a great way to save money by avoiding those pesky interest charges. Here’s all you need to know so you can determine if a 0% intro APR offer is right for your situation.

In this article

The two types of 0% intro APR offers

There are two types of 0% APR introductory offers: one for new purchases and one for balance transfers. While both allow you to avoid paying interest for a certain amount of time, each works differently.

0% intro APR on balance transfers

A 0% intro APR offer for balance transfers gives cardmembers the ability to avoid accruing interest for a certain amount of time on balances transferred from other credit cards. After the promotional APR period ends, remaining balances are typically subject to a variable APR that’s based on your creditworthiness, which includes your FICO score, credit history, credit utilization, and more. While this promotion is often targeted towards new cardmembers, existing cardholders are sometimes provided this type of credit card offer as well.

Promotional periods for balance transfers will vary from card to card, but it’s not uncommon to see a 0% intro APR offer for 15 months — or even up to 21 months. For new cardmembers, this period of time begins at account opening. So if you open a new credit card that has a 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers for 15 months and you don’t take advantage of this perk until five months in, you’ll only have 10 months left to avoid paying interest while making monthly payments.

While this gives you the freedom to avoid paying interest for a set amount of time, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll be charged interest on any remaining balance when the promotional period ends. Since the APR after the promotional period ends is often variable and based on your credit, the 0% introductory APR you came to enjoy could jump significantly higher.

Additionally, balance transfer credit cards often charge a balance transfer fee. This fee can be different from one card to another, so make sure you're aware of the fees involved.

A 0% intro APR balance transfer offer can be a great option if you have a credit card balance you’re trying to pay down, but it’s costing too much in interest. Transferring this balance to a card with a 0% intro APR offer will allow you to chip away at the balance without getting sidelined by interest charges.

0% intro APR on purchases

For new purchases, cardmembers can avoid paying interest by utilizing 0% intro APR credit card offers on purchases. Similar to balance transfer offers, this promotional period often begins for new cardmembers the moment an account is opened. Likewise, any remaining balance when the promotional period ends will likely also be subject to a variable APR based on your credit.

Credit cards that offer 0% purchase APR periods can be a huge help if you need to make a large purchase but don’t have the funds to immediately pay it off. These cards allow you to make that purchase and avoid paying interest on it for the duration of the promotional period.

Compare credit cards with a 0% intro APR for balance transfers

Several credit card companies issue cards with 0% introductory APR offers on balance transfers, but these promotional periods can vary from card to card. In addition to promotional periods, you should also take other factors into consideration to determine which card is best for you. This can be anything from the card’s annual fee to how the card aligns with your normal day-to-day spending.

Here are the best balance transfer cards with a 0% introductory period:

Card name Balance transfer offer Annual fee
Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, then 17.74% to 27.74% (variable) $0
Citi Simplicity® Card 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months, then 17.74% to 28.49% (variable) $0

Compare credit cards with a 0% intro APR for purchases

Just like balance transfers, several credit cards offer a 0% introductory APR period for purchases. Aside from the duration of this promotional period, you also want to consider card specifics, such as the annual fee and how you might continue to benefit from using the card for normal spending outside the 0% intro APR offer.

Here are five credit cards offering a 0% introductory APR period for purchases:

Card name Purchase offer Annual fee
Discover it® Cash Back 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, then 14.99% to 25.99%% (variable) $0
Chase Freedom Unlimited® 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, then 17.99% to 26.74% (variable) $0
Chase Freedom Flex℠ 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, then 17.99% to 26.74% (variable) $0
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, then 17.99% - 27.99% (Variable) $0
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, then 17.74% to 28.74% (variable) $0 (Terms apply)

The bottom line on 0% intro APR offers

Whether it’s for new purchases or balance transfers, taking advantage of a 0% intro APR period can help you save a significant amount of money in interest that you’d otherwise have to pay. If you are a small business owner, you also might want to check out the best 0% intro APR business credit cards. It just depends on your situation as to which one is best for you.

Remember that the 0% intro APR offer you receive eventually ends, and the APR on your remaining balance can jump significantly. For balance transfers, the standard APR might even be higher than the APR you were initially being charged before you made the transfer, depending on your credit score, balance-to-credit-limit ratio, and other factors on your credit report. This is why it's essential to make more than minimum payments to ensure your entire balance is paid off before the intro period ends and regular APR rates kick in. 

Keep all this in mind as you determine the best credit card and 0% intro APR offer for you. If you pay your balance in full before the promotional period ends, you should find a 0% intro APR offer can help you save a significant amount of money.

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

Current Offer

Introductory APR on Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, then 17.74% - 27.74% variable APR after that

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 up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay for those purchases
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, then 17.74% to 27.74% (variable) APR
  • No annual fee

Drawbacks

  • Foreign transaction fee
Card Details
  • Introductory APR on Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, then 17.74% - 27.74% variable APR after that
  • 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 17.74% to 27.74% (variable)

Author Details

Matt Miczulski Matt Miczulski is a personal finance writer specializing in financial news, budget travel, banking, and debt. His interest in personal finance took off after eliminating $30,000 in debt in just over a year, and his goal is to help others learn how to get ahead with better money management strategies. A lover of history, Matt hopes to use his passion for storytelling to shine a new light on how people think about money. His work has also been featured on MoneyDoneRight and Recruiter.com.