If you’re looking to cut down your interest costs and avoid racking up credit card debt, an interest-free credit card provides access to credit without the extra interest costs you’d usually have to pay. Whether you’re looking to save on interest on balance transfers, purchases or foreign transaction fees, you can use this guide to compare the different types of 0% interest offers in the market and to find the right credit card for you.
Our pick for 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers
American Express Cash Magnet® CardRead more
Compare 0% intro APR credit cards
Different types of 0% credit cards and how they work
0% purchase credit cards
This type of credit card allows you to make new purchases without paying interest during the introductory period. This period varies between cards but is usually the first 3 to 15 months. After that, the standard interest rates for that card will apply to any remaining balance.
A 0% purchase credit card can be useful if you have a large expense coming up, such as a big-ticket household item, an overseas holiday or the Christmas spending period. These interest-free offers are only in place for an introductory period, though. So make sure to check the standard interest rate and any other fees that may apply so you can budget for repayments when they are due.
When will I be charged interest on a 0% purchase credit card?
- The 0% offer only applies for a promotional period and will revert to the standard interest rate when the offer ends. So if the card comes with 0% for 6 months, the interest-free period will end 6 months after your card was activated and any remaining balances will begin to collect interest.
- If you use your card for a transaction that isn’t considered a “purchase”, such as a cash advance or a cash equivalent transaction.
- If you don’t maintain your credit card payments each statement period.
0% balance transfer credit cards
A 0% balance transfer card offers an interest-free period on existing credit card debt that you move onto the new card. The 0% interest rate can last anywhere from 3 to 24 months depending on the offer. This gives you the opportunity to repay your debt without collecting any additional interest, hopefully allowing you to repay your debt faster and save hundreds to thousands in interest.
Once the promotional offer ends, the card’s standard interest rate will apply to the remaining balance. This could be as high as 22% APR, so it’s important to pay off as much of the debt as possible during the interest-free period.
When will I be charged interest on a balance transfer credit card?
- If you make a purchase on the card, the purchase rate of interest will apply from the time the transaction is made.
- If you use your card for a cash advance or cash equivalent transaction.
- If the balance transfer interest-free period ends and you have an outstanding balance to pay.
0% purchase and balance transfer credit cards
There are also some credit cards that offer 0% interest on both balance transfers and purchases. However, the interest-free periods may be different lengths depending on whether you use the card for a balance transfer or purchases. For example, a card could offer 0% interest on balance transfers for up to 15 months, but only 0% interest on purchases for the first 3 months. Again, you have to pay the card’s standard purchase or balance transfer interest rates if there is still a balance after the introductory period has ended.
Credit cards with interest-free days
Many credit cards offer a certain number of interest-free days for each statement period. For instance, you may see “up to 55 days interest-free” included as a standard feature.
This 0% interest period is only available if you pay your balance off in full by the statement due date. If you carry a balance or make a late payment, you lose access to this feature and interest is applied for that statement period. You will only be able to access interest-free days again after you have paid your balance in full for at least one statement cycle.
When will I be charged interest on this card?
- If you don’t pay your balance back in full each statement period.
- If you use your card for a transaction that’s considered a cash advance or an ineligible purchase, unless otherwise specified.
0% foreign transaction fee credit cards
Most credit cards apply foreign transaction and currency conversion fees to purchases made overseas or online with an international merchant. The fees are usually between 2% and 3.5% of the total transaction cost and are in addition to any interest charges that may apply for the balance – even if you are using a credit card with 0% interest on purchases.
Credit cards with 0% foreign transaction fees allow you to use your credit card for international transactions without paying these fees. This type of card is ideal if you’re planning a trip overseas or if you want to use a credit card to shop online.
Similar to a credit card, a charge card gives you access to funds for a set amount of time and may include features such as rewards programs or complimentary insurance. But unlike credit cards, charge cards don’t apply an interest rate to the balance. Instead, you must pay off the total amount owing by each statement due date – and there are hefty fees and other penalties if you don’t.
While charge cards offer an interest-free way to make purchases with credit, they do not offer the same repayment flexibility as credit cards. They also have high income and credit rating requirements.
How to compare interest-free credit cards
While interest-free credit cards offer a number of benefits, there are a few factors that you’ll need to consider to help find the right one for you and your finances:
- Introductory period. Check how long the introductory period is available for so you can factor this into your repayments and budget. Consider the size of your debt or your budget and calculate whether or not you could repay that entire amount while the introductory offer is in place. If not, you might want to look for a card with a longer promotional period. Note that cards offering 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers may have different introductory periods for each option.
- Standard interest rates. The standard variable purchase and balance transfer rates for credit cards can be as high as 22% APR. Make sure you check the revert rate when comparing options in the event that you have a balance remaining when the introductory offer ends.
- Interest-free day requirements. Credit cards that offer up to a certain number of interest-free days for each statement cycle usually have specific conditions around eligible purchases and repayments. For example, cash advances are not eligible for interest-free days and you must pay your balance in full for each statement cycle.
- Rewards programs. Some cards earn rewards or frequent flyer points for every $1 spent on the card. These programs can provide extra value, particularly if you have an interest-free credit card for purchases. But be careful you don’t overspend in order to get more rewards, otherwise you may add unnecessary debt.
- Complimentary extras. Many cards offer complimentary extras such as international travel insurance, purchase protection, extended warranty coverage and concierge services. These perks may add value, but only if you think you will use them.
- Annual fees. These can range from $20 to over $700. However, some cards do not incur an annual fee for the first year, or even for the life of the card. Make sure that the cost of the annual fee doesn’t offset the interest savings you’ll make from the interest-free offer.
- Balance transfer fees. Some cards have a one-off processing fee of around 2% to 3% when you apply for a balance transfer. If you choose an interest-free card for your existing debt, make sure you look for this fee when comparing options so you can find one that’s affordable.
- Other fees. Be aware of fees such as cash advance charges, as well as late payment, overlimit and overseas transaction fees.
Interest-free credit cards can be a convenient and affordable way to access additional funds in a wide range of situations. But it’s important to compare your options to find the right type of card for your needs.