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What happens at the end of the 0% interest purchase period?

There are ways to avoid the standard rate if you carry a balance.

Updated

A 0% intro APR period on purchases means you only have a limited time to carry an interest-free balance on things you buy. You should aim to pay off your balance before the intro period expires, so you won’t be charged interest on these purchases. However, if you do end up carrying a balance, there are a few options to help you avoid the standard purchase rate.

What you’ll find in this guide

What happens when my 0% APR on purchases period ends?

What happens after your intro APR period ends depends on whether you still carry a balance or not.

What happens when you’re still carrying a balance

If you haven’t paid off your balance yet, the standard purchase rate starts to apply. The standard rate applies only to the outstanding balance and not the balance you have paid off. Also, new purchases made on the card you don’t pay in full by the due date will accrue the standard APR.

  • What should I do? Simple. Pay off your balance as soon as possible to avoid paying additional interest.

What happens if you’re not carrying a balance

In this case, you saved money on interest. But new purchases made after the intro APR period will accrue interest at the standard APR. However, you can still avoid debt if you pay off your purchases before the due date.

  • What should I do? Try to pay your new purchases during your grace period, which is usually between 21 and 25 days after the close of the billing cycle.

What can I do if I still owe money at the end of the 0% purchase rate period?

Sometimes it’s not possible to pay everything off before the end of the introductory period. If that’s the case, it’s important to realize that the interest-free period has still given you some relief from credit card charges. The next step is to decide how you want to deal with the debt. Below are the different options you can consider:

  • Pay off your balance on the existing card. This is the simplest option because all you need to do is continue transferring money to the existing credit card account whenever you can make a payment. You can use a repayment calculator to work out how long it will take to pay off based on the interest rate and what’s affordable for you.
    • Apply for a balance transfer credit card. If you owe a lot of money on the card, consider moving your debt to a credit card with a 0% intro APR period on balance transfers. This could give you up to 21 months to pay off your debt without being charged interest. Note that you’ll have to get another credit card and likely pay a fee on the amount transferred.
    • Consider other finance options. If you feel like the temptation to spend is getting out of hand, you may want to look at other debt consolidation options, such as a personal loan. This would give you a way to cancel the card and pay off the debt at a pace that works for you.

    How can I tell when the 0% intro APR period on purchases ends

    The quickest way is to check your credit card statement or to call your credit card company and ask.

    If you haven’t applied for a 0% intro APR card yet, you can check how long the introductory period is by looking at the advertised offer. For example, a card might give you “0% intro APR period on purchases for 12 months”, which means the introductory period would last for the first 12 months you have the card.

    Can I extend my 0% intro APR period?

    Unfortunately, no. Once the intro period expires, standard rates apply. You can set a reminder when the intro APR period ends, so you can budget your payments accordingly and avoid paying interest.

    Check when the introductory period begins

    The 0% intro APR period begins from the date that your application is approved or when you activate your card.

    Should you keep your 0% APR credit card?

    Once you paid off your balance and saved money on interest, you may wonder whether it’s worth keeping the card. Here’s what to consider before you decide:

    • Credit history. Having paid off your balance will leave a positive mark on your credit. Closing your account will remove it from your credit report.
    • Credit limit. Having additional credit limit positively affects your credit score as it provides enough buffer to keep your utilization rate low.
    • Length of your credit. If the credit card account has been open for a long time, it will positively affect your credit score as it provides a longer credit history. Closing it will have the opposite effect.
    • Annual fee. Most credit cards with an intro APR period come with no annual fee. If this is the case, it will cost you nothing to own the card and enjoy the positive effect on your credit. But if the card has an annual fee, weigh in the pros and cons of paying a fee and getting the credit score benefits.

    Compare 0% purchase rate credit cards

    Name Product Purchase APR Balance transfer APR Annual fee Filter values
    Citi® Double Cash Card
    13.99% to 23.99% variable
    0% intro for the first 18 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
    $0
    This one of the most valuable flat cashback cards. It comes with 2% cash back (1% when you buy plus 1% when you pay) and 18 months months to pay off transfers.
    Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
    0% intro for the first 12 months (then 13.74% to 23.74% variable)
    0% intro for the first 21 months (then 13.74% to 23.74% variable)
    $0
    A market-leading balance transfer intro APR of 21 months and 12 months on purchases. Plus Citi Entertainment℠ for deals on dining and going out.
    Citi Rewards+℠ Card
    0% intro for the first 15 months (then 13.49% to 23.49% variable)
    0% intro for the first 15 months (then 13.49% to 23.49% variable)
    $0
    Earn rewards and enjoy a long intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers.
    CardMatch™ from creditcards.com
    See issuer's website
    See issuer's website
    See terms
    Use the CardMatch tool to find cards you're likely to qualify for with your credit score, without a hard pull on your credit.
    TD Cash Credit Card
    0% intro for the first 15 billing cycles (then 12.99%, 17.99% or 22.99% variable)
    0% intro for the first 15 billing cycles (then 12.99%, 17.99% or 22.99% variable)
    $0
    3% on dining and 2% on groceries make this a valuable card for food purchases. Use it while traveling, too, with no foreign transaction fees. Available in: CT, DC, DE, FL, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, SC, VA, VT
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    Compare up to 4 providers

    Bottom line

    If you need to make a lot of purchases in a short amount of time, or if you have big-ticket items to buy, getting a card with a 0% intro APR period on purchases can potentially save you money on interest charges. But there is also a risk you’ll pay more when the introductory period ends and standard rates apply.

    Before you get one of these cards, make sure you compare different credit card offers. Take note of when the introductory period starts and plan your repayments so you can avoid interest charges or at least keep them to a minimum.

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