Approval for any credit card will depend on your status. The representative APRs shown represent the interest rate offered to most successful applicants. Depending on your personal circumstances the APR you're offered may be higher, or you may not be offered credit at all. Fees and rates are subject to change without notice. It's always wise to check the terms of any deal before you borrow.
What are 0% purchase credit cards?
A credit card with 0% on purchases allows you to make purchases and pay zero interest on them during a promotional, introductory period. When this period ends, the standard purchase rate will be charged for any remaining balance on your card. If you have some big-ticket purchases to make, a 0% purchase credit card can temporarily keep your interest costs low, which could help you pay off the balance faster.
Credit card jargon explained
APR. The annual percentage rate (APR) is designed to be a benchmark for consumers, providing an annual summary of the cost of your card. As well as the interest, the APR also takes into account any compulsory charges – like an account fee (if there is one). However, crucially, providers only have to award the advertised APR to 51% of those who take out the credit card – the other 49% could be offered a different (higher) rate, at the provider’s discretion. That’s why it’s often referred to as the representative APR.
0% purchase period. This is the initial amount of time you’ll have to pay off purchases on your card without incurring any interest charges.
Variable rate. A variable rate is the opposite of a fixed rate, and can increase or decrease over time at the lender’s discretion. Typically, variations occur as market conditions generally shift – for example in increase or decrease in the Bank of England base rate.
How is a 0% purchase credit card different to a regular credit card?
While a standard credit card typically has an interest rate between 12% and 22% p.a. for purchases, credit cards offering interest-free purchases provide zero interest on all eligible purchases made during the promotional period.
How to compare 0% purchase credit cards
There is no one single leading 0% interest credit card on the market, because each offer is designed to suit different spending habits and budgets. But you can find a 0% purchase credit card offer that works for you by comparing the following features:
Length of the 0% purchase promotional period. As the 0% purchase period can range from three to as many as 30 months, it’s important to ensure that the promotional period is sufficient for you. Consider how much you’re going to spend, divide it by the number of months in the promotional period and calculate whether you can repay that much each month to clear the balance before the standard interest rate applies. If not, you might want to apply for a card with a longer promotional period or be prepared to collect some interest when the offer ends.
Annual fee. Some 0% purchase credit cards charge an annual fee. To determine whether or not the card is worth the cost, consider how much you’ll save with the 0% interest offer and any other perks to see whether the benefits outweigh the cost.
Standard purchase interest rate. If you’re unable to pay your balance in full by the end of the introductory period, your purchases will begin attracting the standard purchase rate. Depending on the card, this will typically be between 12% and 22%, but can be significantly higher. If you don’t think you can repay the entire balance before the promotion ends, look for a card with a lower ongoing purchase rate. Otherwise, you could enjoy another interest-free period by transferring your debt to a card with a 0% balance transfer offer.
Extra benefits. Does the card come with complimentary travel insurance? Do you want to earn rewards points on your purchases? Will your purchases be covered by purchase protection and an extended warranty? Can you access a 24/7 concierge service? If you will be using the card for more than just the 0% offer, comparing these features can help set the cards apart.
Your eligibility. Unfortunately, the 0% purchase cards with the longest offer periods and features are often only available to those with excellent credit history. Thankfully, you can use an eligibility checker to confirm the types of card you’re likely to be approved for before applying.
What is APR?
Credit card promotions have to include an Annual Percentage Rate (APR), which all card issuers must calculate in the same way.
Credit card fee structures can get fiddly, so the APR’s designed to benchmark the yearly cost to borrow, with a view to helping consumers compare cards against each other. It takes into consideration the default interest rate plus any mandatory, regular account fees.
There’s a big catch though: the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) states that this rate must be what 51% (or more) of people accepted for a card receive. That means that up to 49% of those accepted for a credit card may end up paying a higher rate. This is why it’s often called “Typical” or “Representative” APR.
When it comes to 0% purchase credit cards, keep in mind that APR is only relevant once the introductory 0% period expires. Before that, you won’t be charged any interest at all, so it’ll be more useful to look at how long the 0% period is or to the other perks that come with the card.
Credit card cost comparison
Credit card limit: £1,000
Outstanding balance: £800
Interest rate: 19.9%
Monthly repayment: £25
Total interest: £305
Credit card limit: £1,000
Outstanding balance: £800
Interest rate: 29.3%
Monthly repayment: £25
Total interest: £577
Types of 0% purchase credit cards and extra features
While each of these cards offers 0% on purchases, there are several types of interest free purchase credit cards. You can compare the additional benefits and features to determine which type of 0% purchase credit card is right for you.
0% purchase offer type
Standard 0% purchase offer
Includes the 0% promotional purchase rate for a specified promotional period, which will revert back to the standard purchase rate once the offer has ended. Extra benefits such as interest-free days, travel benefits and complimentary insurances may also be available.
0% purchases with frequent flyer benefits
Earn frequent flyer points for every dollar spent on your card for the life of the card and also take advantage of an interest-free purchase promotional period.
0% purchases with balance transfer offers
This type of card allows you to transfer and repay your existing credit card debt interest-free whilst also making purchases with zero interest.
0% purchases with rewards benefits
Pay no interest on your purchases and earn rewards points for every dollar you spend. Unlike a frequent flyer card, these are connected to your credit card’s rewards program and can be redeemed for flights, merchandise and cash back.
What's the difference between interest-free days and 0% interest credit card offers?
Most credit cards offer you up to a certain number of interest-free days each statement period, for example, up to 55 days. To take advantage of interest-free days, you usually need to pay off your full balance by the due date on each statement. As long as you meet these conditions, you can enjoy interest-free days on your card.
In comparison, credit cards that offer a promotional 0% interest on purchases give you a temporary period when you can make purchases without paying any interest. You only have to make minimum payments during the promotional period. But a standard interest rate will apply to any balance remaining at the end of that period.
4 common mistakes to avoid
Want to get the most out of a 0% interest period? Here are four things to avoid:
Ignoring the “revert rate”. At the end of the promotional period, the 0% interest rate will revert to the standard purchase rate (which usually sits between 12% and 22%, but be higher). Consider the standard interest rate before applying for the card so you understand how your debt will grow if you fail to repay your balance before the promotional period ends.
Only making the minimum repayment. You’ll be required to make minimum repayments, usually 2% or 3% of the total balance, each statement period. However, if you only match the minimum amount each month, you’ll be unable to repay your entire balance before the 0% offer finishes. If you make more than the minimum repayment, you’ll have a much better chance of repaying your balance before the standard rate applies and you start paying a higher interest rate. If you’re unable to repay your balance before the 0% purchase offer ends, a balance transfer might be the next step.
Ineligible transactions. The 0% offer only applies to eligible purchases. If you use your card for balance transfers, cash advances or other cash-equivalent transactions, they’ll usually be charged at the standard rate unless a separate promotional offer applies.
Not taking advantage of the entire offer period. The 0% offer is available as soon as your card is approved, not from when you make your first purchase. So if your card offers a 0% offer for six months but you don’t make a purchase or any repayments for the first month, you’ll only have five more months to make repayments without incurring interest. If you have a big purchase in mind, make it as soon as possible and start making repayments immediately to get maximum value out of the offer length.
The introductory 0% interest periods offered in these cards can be a great way to save money on planned purchases and big-ticket items that you need to buy. When you’re comparing these cards, pay attention to how long the promotional period lasts, what interest rate applies at the end of the promotional period and other features and fees so that you can find one that suits your needs.
Frequently asked questions from our users
As long as it’s an eligible purchase, overseas purchases will not be charged any interest during the promotional period. However, you may be charged foreign currency conversion fees. You can compare credit cards which do not charge currency conversion fees in our detailed guide.
All eligible purchases made once the card is activated until the end of the promotional period will not collect any interest. However, any remaining balances that haven’t been repaid by the end of the promotional offer will start to collect interest.
Please note that ineligible transactions (such as cash advances or balance transfers) will accrue the standard rate of interest.
The 0% promotion will begin either when your credit card application is approved or upon credit card activation, depending on the bank. It will generally take 3-5 business days for your card to be sent to your address after application approval. So if you want to take advantage of the full promotional period, you’ll need to remember that the offer period begins when you open the card rather than when you make your first purchase.
Your transactions need to qualify as an “eligible purchase” to be covered under the 0% purchase promotion. Eligible purchases are generally defined as everyday purchases which involve the exchange of goods or service for a payment. Transactions that do not qualify as eligible purchases generally include business expenses, balance transfers and cash advances. If you are unsure about whether your transaction will qualify, contact your bank directly for clarification.
After your 0% purchase promotion has finished, the balance outstanding on purchases made will be charged interest at the regular purchase rate, usually known as the “standard rate” or “revert rate”. You can consider moving your outstanding purchase amount to a 0% balance transfer credit card, which will give you more time to repay your debt interest free.
For the length of the 0% purchase promotion period, standard interest-free days offers do not apply. If your card comes with an interest-free days feature (say, for up to 55 days), then you’ll be able to take advantage of this when the promotional period ends and if you pay your entire balance in full by the end of the statement period.
Yes. You must make the minimum monthly repayment of the credit card even with a 0% purchase promotion available. This repayment is generally around 2%-3% of the full outstanding balance, or a set pound amount if the outstanding balance is below a certain level (usually £5). Please note that paying the minimum monthly repayment isn’t usually enough to repay the entire balance before the promotional period ends. So if you want to avoid collecting the standard interest rate, pay as much as you can each month to clear the balance in full before the standard interest rate applies.
Banks generally exclude bill and government payments from eligible purchases so they will not be considered an interest-free purchase. If you would like to inquire further, contact your bank’s customer service team directly.
Chris Lilly is a publisher at finder.com. He's a specialist in credit-based products including business and personal loans, mortgages and credit cards, and is passionate about helping UK consumers make informed decisions about their borrowing. In his spare time Chris likes forcing his kids to exercise more.
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