What does “up to 55 days interest-free” really mean?

Most credit cards come with up to 55 or 56 days of 0% interest on your purchases. So what do you need to do to take advantage of this significant perk?

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When you start making purchases on your new credit card, you’ll receive your monthly statement with a date before which you must pay at least a minimum payment towards your outstanding balance. But if you clear the full balance (rather than making a part-payment towards it), you usually won’t pay any interest at all on your purchases. As such, a purchase made right at the start of your billing cycle could remain interest-free for as much as 56 days.

How to use your interest-free days

  1. Make eligible purchases. Your interest-free period applies to purchase transactions, but usually excludes balance transfers, cash advances (using your credit card to withdraw cash or get cash out at the till) and sometimes utility payments and government charges. Interest usually starts to accrue on those types of transactions from the moment they take place.
  2. Pay your statement in full. You must clear your entire credit card balance by the payment due date on each statement to be eligible for this interest-free period. Once you have an outstanding balance, the interest-free period no longer applies, and interest will accrue each day on all your transactions, backdated to the date on which you made the purchase.

It’s easy to get confused about this though, because many cards also come with an introductory, one-off interest-free promotion. So the card you’re thinking of getting might come with 24 months 0% interest on purchases AND up to 55 days 0% interest on purchases. In that scenario, the 55 interest-free days probably wouldn’t be of interest to you until after your introductory offer had expired.

You can use this guide to find answers to the most common questions about interest-free days, compare credit cards with interest-free days and learn about the key factors to be aware of when using an interest-free card.

Making use of interest-free days

Let’s assume you have a credit card that offers “up to 55 interest-free days” and its billing cycle begins on the 1st of each month and ends on the 30th. Given the 55 interest-free days, the due date on your credit card statement would be the 25th of next month. So if you were making purchases in June, here’s how it would look:

  • 1st June. First day of the statement
  • 30th June. Last day of the statement
  • 25th July. Due date of your payment for June

In this case, the 55 interest-free days begin on 1st June and end on the 25th July when your payment is due. So here’s how your interest-free period would work as you make purchases throughout the month:

  • You make a £100 purchase on 1st June. You don’t have to pay any interest towards this purchase until 25th July, which gives you 55 interest-free days.
  • You make a £50 purchase on 20th June. This is the 20th day of your billing cycle, so you don’t have to pay any interest towards the purchase until 25th July. This means you get 35 interest-free days.
  • You make a £150 purchase on 30th June. This is the last day of your billing cycle but the purchase won’t attract any interest until 25th July, giving you an interest-free period of 25 days.

When your statement is issued for June, you’ll owe £300. So as long as you pay this in full by the 25th July, you won’t be charged interest on your purchases and can continue to enjoy interest-free days for the next billing cycle.

The dos and don’ts of interest-free days

Do

  • Spend within your credit limit.
  • Set up a direct debit to clear your balance in full each month.
  • Keep an eye on your card statements to make sure your transactions aren’t incurring interest.

Don’t

  • Withdraw cash on your credit card (if it can be avoided).
  • Carry a balance from month-to-month (if it can be avoided).
  • Use your card for ineligible transactions.

Paying your card bill by direct debit

When you get a new credit card, you’ll usually be given the chance to set up a direct debit to make repayments. It’s advisable to do so, because it guarantees that you won’t miss a payment, which would get you into hot water with your card issuer and damage your credit record.

You’ll usually be given two options:

  1. Set up a direct debit to repay the minimum amount payable each month. The minimum payment, as specified in your terms and conditions, is typically a percentage of your outstanding balance or a specified figure – whichever is greater. For example “3% (minimum £5)”. If you only pay the minimum required amount, you won’t benefit from interest-free days and your debt will take longer to clear.
  2. Set up a direct debit to repay the full balance each month. This option will allow you to benefit from interest-free days on eligible transactions.

Other key definitions you need to know

When you’re learning about interest-free days, you’ll often come across a number of other terms that relate to this feature. Here are some of the major ones to take note of:

  • Statement period/billing cycle. The statement period usually runs for one month, or from when your last statement was issued to when the next one is issued.
  • Statement issue date. This is the date on which the bank issues your monthly credit card statement.
  • Payment due date. The date by which you must pay the balance to avoid late charges/fees. If you want to get interest-free days, you’ll usually have to pay your full balance by this date.
  • Purchase rate. The interest rate charged on purchases, also referred to as the “standard” rate. Interest-free days help you avoid this cost.

What else do I need to know when using a credit card with interest-free days?

You can use a credit card with interest-free days to save on your account costs when you meet specific requirements. Here are the key details to keep in mind so you can make use of your interest-free days:

  • Minimum monthly payments. You usually can’t get interest-free days for purchases if you only pay the minimum amount required on your statement, as most credit cards only offer this benefit when you pay your balance in full by the due date.
  • Eligible purchases. Interest-free days are only available for “eligible purchases” made on your card. While this usually includes everyday spending at the supermarket, petrol station, restaurants and so on, exclusions typically apply for cash advance transactions, government payments and some bill payments. Check with your credit card provider for details on what is considered an “eligible purchase” for your card.
  • Dates vary. Don’t expect all your credit cards to come with similar billing cycles and due dates. These dates can vary from one card to the next, even when issued by the same card issuer.
  • Balance transfers. Usually, if you have a debt on your credit card from a balance transfer, you won’t be eligible for interest-free days on new purchases. If you want to transfer a balance and make purchases without interest, you could also consider a card with an introductory rate of 0% for purchases and balance transfers.

Compare cards by type

Table: sorted by representative APR, promoted deals first
Updated October 21st, 2019
Name Product Balance transfers Balance transfer fee Purchases Rep. APR Incentive Representative example
0% for 12 months reverting to 19.9%
3% (min. £3)
19.9%
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn Asda vouchers every time you shop - 1% cashback on all Asda spend, 0.2% on all other transactions and 10% on selected insurance products. Once £2.5 is earnt a voucher can be downloaded to spend in Asda stores.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
0% for 23 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for transfers in first 3 months
0% for 3 months reverting to 19.9% p.a. (variable)
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
0% for 23 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for transfers in first 3 months
0% for 3 months reverting to 19.9% p.a. (variable)
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
2.9% (min. £5)
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
0% for 12 months reverting to 15.9%
0% for 3 months reverting to 2.4% (min. £5)
0% for 12 months reverting to 15.9%
15.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 15.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 15.9% APR (variable).
0% for 12 months reverting to 17.9%
0% for 3 months reverting to 2.4% (min. £5)
0% for 12 months reverting to 17.9%
17.9% p.a. (variable)
Customers will be able to earn commission-free purchases abroad by using their Credit Card each time they make a purchase in Sterling. The calculation will be based on a 5:1 ratio - for example, £5 spent in Sterling will earn an allowance of £1 commission free-purchases abroad. Purchases abroad beyond the earned amount will be charged 2% commission.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 17.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 17.9% APR (variable).
0% for 18 months reverting to 18.9%
0% for 18 months reverting to 3% (min. £5)
0% for 3 months reverting to 18.9%
18.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
0% for 18 months reverting to 18.9%
2.9% (min. £5)
0% for 9 months reverting to 18.9%
18.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent in store or online at John Lewis, Waitrose and John Lewis Insurance. Earn 1 Point for every £2 spent elsewhere. Vouchers issued once customer reaches 500 points in Feb, Jun or Oct when vouchers are automatically issued to customers. Every 500 points is worth £5.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
0% for 27 months reverting to 18.9%
2.29% (min. £5) for 3 months reverting to 2.9% (min. £5)
18.9%
18.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
0% for 18 months reverting to 18.9%
1.4% (min. £5)
0% for 9 months reverting to 18.9%
18.9% p.a. (variable)
A selection of rewards from a range of partners. Earn 1 point for every £1 spent within the UK and earn 2 points for every £1 spent outside the UK. Points can be redeemed for shopping vouchers and frequent flyer miles.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).

Compare up to 4 providers

Updated October 21st, 2019
Name Product Purchases Balance transfers Annual/monthly fees Rep. APR Incentive Representative example
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Double points on spend in M&S for first 12 months (2 points per £1). Then earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point or every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
0% for 27 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for 27 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Buy tickets for up to 3500 selected live events through Barclaycard entertainment and get 5% off tickets per year and exclusive pre-sale tickets on selected festivals with 10% off ticket prices.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
0% for 26 months reverting to 20.93%
0% for 26 months reverting to 20.93%
£0
20.9% p.a. (variable)
Introductory 0% purchase offer only applies to purchases made within 60 days of opening.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 20.93% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 20.9% APR (variable).
0% for 26 months reverting to 15.9%
0% for 26 months reverting to 15.9%
£3 per month
21.7% p.a. (variable)
0.5% after £1 of monthly spend. Cashback paid Monthly into Card Account. Maximum spend for cashback purposes is limited to credit limit.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 15.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £3 per month, your representative rate is 21.7% APR (variable).
0% for 25 months reverting to 20.95%
0% for 25 months reverting to 20.95%
£0
20.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn 750 bonus Nectar points each time £35 or more spent on Sainsbury's shopping, up to ten times in your first 2 months, up to a total of 7,500 points, offer available for new customers. Earn 2 Nectar points per £1 spent on Sainsbury's shopping and fuel. Earn 1 Nectar point for every £5 spent elsewhere.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 20.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 20.9% APR (variable).
0% for 24 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for 24 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
0% for 24 months reverting to 19.944%
0% for 3 months reverting to 21.814%
£0
19.9% p.a. (variable)
1 point per £4 spent (£4 minimum) in Tesco and 1 point per £8 spent (£8 minimum) outside Tesco. Must have available credit to earn points. Points are converted to Tesco vouchers or can be exchanged for Partner rewards to receive money off a variety of restaurants, entertainment or Avios points.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.944% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
0% for 22 months reverting to 20.95%
0% for 3 months reverting to 20.95%
£0
20.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn 750 bonus Nectar points each time £35 or more spent on Sainsbury's shopping, up to ten times in your first 2 months, up to a total of 7,500 points, offer available for new customers. Earn 2 Nectar points per £1 spent on Sainsbury's shopping and fuel. Earn 1 Nectar point for every £5 spent elsewhere.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 20.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 20.9% APR (variable).
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.95%
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.95%
£0
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).

Compare up to 4 providers

Updated October 21st, 2019
Name Product Purchases Annual/monthly fees Credit limits Rep. APR Incentive Representative example
0% for 1 months reverting to 5.94%
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit not specified.
5.9% p.a. (variable)
1 Tesco Clubcard point per £4 spent (£4 minimum) in Tesco and 1 Clubcard point per £8 spent (£8 minimum) outside Tesco in each purchase transaction. Exclusions apply. Clubcard points collection rates are subject to change. Must have available credit. Clubcard points are converted to Clubcard vouchers which can be used on your shopping in Tesco, or get even more value through Clubcard Rewards Partners.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 5.94% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 5.9% APR (variable).
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Double points on spend in M&S for first 12 months (2 points per £1). Then earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point or every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
19.9%
£0
Min. limit £100, max. limit not specified.
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn Asda vouchers every time you shop - 1% cashback on all Asda spend, 0.2% on all other transactions and 10% on selected insurance products. Once £2.5 is earnt a voucher can be downloaded to spend in Asda stores.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
22.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
22.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn 5,000 bonus Membership Rewards points when you spend £2,000 in your first 3 months, and 1 point for virtually every £1 spent thereafter.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.9% APR (variable).
22.9%
£0
Min. limit £700, max. limit not specified.
22.9% p.a. (variable)
5,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 within 3 months of account opening. Earn 1 Avios for virtually every £1 spent. Spend £20K in 12 months and get 2 for 1 travel when redeeming Avios for a BA reward flight. Earn up to 90,000 bonus Avios points per calendar year, 4,000 points per friend/family member that successfully applies for an American Express card (Excl. Basic card) and uses the Referral Programme.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.9% APR (variable).
22.9%
£0
Min. limit £700, max. limit not specified.
22.9% p.a. (variable)
5% after £1 of yearly spend for introductory period of 3 months. 0.5% on £1 to £5000 of yearly spend. 1% after £5001 of yearly spend. Cashback paid Anniversary into Card Account. 5% intro cashback in the first 3 months (max £100). Must spend £3K annually to earn cashback.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.9% APR (variable).
22.9%
Year 1 - £0, Year 2 onwards - £25 per annum
Min. limit £700, max. limit not specified.
28.2% p.a. (variable)
20,000 Nectar points when you spend £2K within 3 months of account opening. Earn 2 Nectar points for virtually every £1 spent at Nectar partners and elsewhere.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of Year 1 - £0, Year 2 onwards - £25 per annum, your representative rate is 28.2% APR (variable).
22.9%
£25 per annum
Min. limit £700, max. limit not specified.
28.2% p.a. (variable)
5% on £1 to £2500 of yearly spend for introductory period of 3 months. 1% on £1 to £10000 of yearly spend. 1.25% after £10001 of yearly spend. Cashback paid Anniversary into Card Account. 5% intro cashback (max £125).
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £25 per annum, your representative rate is 28.2% APR (variable).
34.9%
£0
Min. limit £100, max. limit £600.
34.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn Asda vouchers every time you shop - 1% cashback on all Asda spend, 0.2% on all other transactions. Once £2.5 is earnt a voucher can be downloaded to spend in Asda stores.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 34.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 34.9% APR (variable).