Use this guide to compare low rate credit card features and offers available now and learn how low interest rate cards work so you can find a credit card that is affordable for you.
Compare low-rate cards
What is a low interest rate credit card?
Low interest rate cards offer you a lower ongoing interest rate for purchases than standard credit cards. While credit cards in New Zealand typically have interest rates that range from 16.95% to 20.95% per annum (p.a.), low rate cards offer standard variable rates as low as 9.90% p.a.
A low rate credit card makes sense if you regularly pay with plastic and know you won’t always pay off the balance in full each month. It gives you the flexibility to pay off your balance over time, without the higher interest charges of some other cards.
But if you have a large existing credit card debt and want to pay it off, you may want to consider a balance transfer card instead. If you always pay your balance in full, then a card with a low annual fee or extra benefits such as reward points might make more sense.
Who are low interest rate credit cards best suited to?
Low interest credit cards are designed to help you save on interest costs. As most cards have 44-55 days interest-free, you’ll only pay interest if you carry a balance from month to month. So these cards can help if you often struggle to pay your balance in full by the due date on your statement.
🗓 What is the interest-free period?
This is the maximum number of days where interest is not charged on new purchases. For example, if your credit card offers 55 interest-free days and you make a purchase on the first day of your statement period, you’ll have 55 days to pay it back before you’re charged interest. If you make that purchase on the twelfth day of your statement period, you’ll have 43 interest-free days, and so on. This only applies if you pay the amount required by the provider by the specified due date as listed on your statement.
Cards that offer a 0% purchase interest rate for an introductory period are ideal if you’ve got some large purchases, like a holiday, wedding or renovation, coming up. These offers allow you to pay no interest during that period and can give you the breathing room you need as long as you’re making the minimum repayment.
How to compare low interest rate credit cards
With a range of low rate credit cards on offer in New Zealand, comparing your options will help you to find one that suits your needs. Here are the key factors you should consider:
Credit card interest rates are usually advertised based on the annual rate that applies to the account, shown as “per annum” or p.a. However, interest on your account is typically calculated daily, based on your existing balance and then charged monthly on the statement due date.
Put simply: the lower the rate, the less interest you will pay. But when it comes to your rates, these factors can all impact on your potential savings and costs:
Promotional interest rates. Some credit cards give you an introductory low or 0% interest rate for purchases or balance transfers. This can be useful if you have planned purchases or an existing debt you want to pay off. However, you need to keep in mind that when the introductory period ends, a higher percentage rate will then apply.
Purchase interest rate. The purchase or standard interest rate is the rate that you are generally charged for purchases on your credit card. Purchases include groceries, regular bills such as Netflix or your gym membership, in-store and online shopping.
Cash advances. The interest rate for cash advances is usually higher than the rate applied to purchases. This rate is charged for transactions such as ATM cash withdrawals, foreign currency purchases, and gambling. Cash advances aren’t eligible for interest-free days.
Interest-free days. If there is an interest-free period for purchases (and you are eligible for it), interest won’t be calculated for those purchases until after that period ends. However, the interest will apply in full if you don’t pay off the total owed by the due date on your statement. Learn more about how this works in our guide to interest-free days.
Annual fee. Try to find a card with a low annual fee, but don’t make this your sole deciding factor. A $0 annual fee isn’t helpful if the base interest rate on purchases is a lot higher. Annual fees can range from $0 for cards with basic features to up to $390 for prestige cards. The more features and benefits a card has, the higher the annual fee tends to be.
Other fees and charges. Fees may apply when you use your card at an ATM, overseas, online with international retailers or even when you apply for a balance transfer. Make sure you are aware of the relevant charges that apply to your card.
While most low rate credit cards have limited features, more premium cards could offer extra perks. Some of the most popular include:
Complimentary extras. Gold or platinum low rate credit cards may include perks such as travel insurance, purchase protection insurance or concierge services. If you know you will use these extras, they have the potential to offset the cost of any annual fee you pay.
Rewards. Most low rate credit cards don’t offer rewards points for your spending, as they are somewhat conflicting propositions. There are currently no New Zealand providers that offer low rate credit cards that earn rewards.
No international transaction fee. If you plan to use your credit card when you travel overseas, a low rate card that waives foreign transaction fees – such as the Westpac Low Rate Mastercard – could help you save even more money.
Pros and cons of low interest credit cards
Savings. These cards can be a cheaper option as you pay less interest on purchases, which will help you save money and avoid falling into unmanageable debt.
Low fees. Many low interest rate credit cards also have lower annual fees, which will also help you save.
Promotional offers. Low interest rate credit cards sometimes offer 0% promotions on purchases and/or balance transfers, allowing you to avoid interest altogether for an introductory period.
Less competitive rewards. If a low rate credit card offers a rewards programme, it usually has a lower earn rate and smaller bonus points offer than more expensive cards.
Fewer extra features. Lower rates generally mean fewer extra features, unlike platinum cards which often come with insurance covers and concierge services.
Revert rates. If your card charges 0% on purchases for a promotional period, it will revert to a higher purchase rate after that.
If you often carry a balance on your credit card, a low interest card could help you save on additional fees and charges. Just remember to consider the other features – such as introductory offers, annual fees, and complimentary extras – to help you find a card that best suits your needs.
How to get a low interest rate credit card
After you have compared your options, applying for a low interest rate credit card is easy. Click the “Go to site” button from the table above and you will be taken to the bank’s secure application page.
From there you will need to provide details about yourself, your employment, your financial situation and prove your identity. In order to prove your identity, you will usually need your driver’s licence or passport. Applications usually take about 15 minutes and you can expect to get a response within 1-2 business days.
Read these tips before you apply
If you haven’t already, obtain a copy of your credit report before you apply for a credit card. This will show you how healthy your credit score is and give you the chance to check if there are any incorrect defaults listed on your file.
Even though you have a low rate card, you will still incur interest payments that add up over time. Unless you have other debts with higher interest rates, prioritise paying off your credit card each month.
If you can’t pay your credit card off each month, try to pay more than the minimum monthly amount. Depending on your card, you will usually need to pay between 2-5% each month. Paying off a bit more than the minimum will help you to clear your debt faster.
Applying for a balance transfer card means that you’ll have less interest to pay. However, make sure to actually make repayments on this debt otherwise you’ll end up paying anyway when the special rate reverts to the standard rate.
This depends on the credit card and any applicable balance transfer offers. If the card allows balance transfers, it may come with a 0% interest rate for a promotional period before reverting to a standard rate. Read our guide to balance transfer revert rates to find out which providers apply the purchase rate.
There isn’t a single “cheapest” credit card option, because everyone uses credit cards differently. There are also other costs to consider beyond the purchase rate, such annual fees and interest rates for other charges such as cash advances or balance transfers. On the flipside, some people might find cards with high rates and fees “cheap” because of all the complimentary extras.
Simply put, the term “cheapest credit card” is subjective and varies from person to person. So when you are trying to find a credit card that is affordable, make sure you consider all the potential costs based on how you plan to use the account. That way, you will be able to find one with rates and fees that are affordable for you.
Most low rate cards offer an interest-free period on purchases, up to a set number of days in each statement period. However, interest-free days are only available for purchases if you pay your balance in full by the due date on each statement.
Yes, you will still have to pay at least the minimum amount for each statement period. Depending on your credit card provider, this is usually around 2-3% of your total balance. If you want to avoid interest charges, you will need to make higher repayments to clear your balance before the end of the promotional 0% interest period.
Most low rate credit cards do have an annual fee that you will have to pay each year you have the account. However, there are a few cards that offer low rates and $0 annual fees, as well as some that waive the annual fee in the first year. When you are comparing low rate cards, you can click on the “annual fee” column to compare them by this cost. You may also want to read our guide on no annual fee vs. low interest rate cards.
Typically, low interest credit cards or low fee credit cards are a good option for students to consider. Major banks offer tertiary packages to students that include low rate cards.
Sally McMullen is Finder's credit cards and frequent flyer editor by day and a music maven by night. She's also one half of the Pocket Money podcast. Her byline can be spotted on Yahoo Finance, Dynamic Business, Financy and Mamamia as well as Music Feeds and Rolling Stone. Sally has a first-class Honours degree in Communications and Media Studies (majoring in Journalism and Professional Writing) from the University of Wollongong.
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