A good credit card allows you to borrow money affordably while paying minimal fees and enjoying rewards for your spending. Then, you can build up your credit score, have credit available when you need it and afford to pay back the money that you borrow. Many cards are available with a variety of benefits making for a competitive environment and great options for you. It’ll benefit you to know which credit cards with interest-free introductory periods at this time.
In an effort to win the business of customers, many credit card companies have cards with enticing offers. One such offer is an interest-free introductory period in which you don’t have to pay interest on your purchases for a set period. This can be helpful when you want to make a big purchase but you can’t pay for it in cash or if you just need to carry over a balance for a few months.
Here’s a guide to our top picks for the best credit cards with interest-free introductory periods, how the promotion works and what to look for when shopping for a card.
Best credit cards with interest-free introductory periods
We have vetted dozens of credit cards with interest-free introductory periods and here are our top picks.
Chase Slate is arguably the best balance transfer credit card available. It has a 15-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases, no balance transfer fee for the first 60 days and no annual fee. That combination is extremely rare. In fact, Slate is the only major 0% APR balance transfer credit card that doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee. This can lead to significant savings.
To illustrate, say you transfer $10,000 and plan to pay it off within the intro rate period. With Chase Slate you wouldn’t pay a transfer fee, but with other balance transfer credit cards, you would have to pay a balance transfer fee of $300.
Once Chase Slate’s intro rate expires, the standard APR is 12.99% to 22.99%, depending on credit. These rates are reasonable but there are credit cards with much lower standard APRs. So you may want to switch to another credit card if you’re still carrying a balance after the 15-month 0% APR period ends.
As with most balance transfer credit cards, the catch is that you must have good to excellent credit in order to qualify, and it doesn’t have a rewards program. Also note that the balance transfer fee is only waived on transfers made within the first 60 days of opening an account. After that, there is a 3% (with a minimum of $5) transfer fee.
This card offers one of the longest promotional periods and minimal fees. Citi Simplicity is an excellent balance transfer credit card. It has a stellar 21-month 0% APR introductory rate on balance transfers and purchases, no annual fee, and no late fees or penalty APRs. Some credit card experts rate it even higher than the Chase Slate. However, it does have a 3% balance transfer fee with a minimum of $5. So if you have a substantial credit card debt blob, you may want to apply for a Slate Chase credit card first. On the other hand, if you don’t currently carry a balance but you’re planning to make large purchases and pay them over time, this is probably the best credit card for you.
The Discover it is another great balance transfer/cash back hybrid credit card that combines a 0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers with a cash back rewards program. It gives up to 5% back on purchases made in categories that change every quarter. The card includes complimentary access to customers’ FICO credit score and there is no over-the-limit fee, foreign transaction fee or annual fee. The card’s standard APR ranges from 10.99% to 22.99% once the trial period ends and there is a 3% balance transfer to think about. If you don’t have a credit card balance to transfer and mostly interested in having a 0% APR on purchases and a decent cash back rewards program with no annual fee, this is the card for you.
With this BankAmericard option, you get an average length promotional period, cash-back rewards, low fees and extra rewards for Bank of America customers.
The Blue Cash Preferred credit card from American Express® combines a 15-month 0% APR on balance transfers and purchases with the most generous cash back program for everyday purchases. Cardholders receive 6% cash back on US supermarkets, 3% cash back at US gas stations and participating department stores. All other purchases receive 1% cash back. New members also receive a $150 signup bonus, if they spend $1,000 within the first three months. Once the intro rate ends, there is a standard APR that ranges from 12.99% to 21.99%.
The only catch with the Blue Cash Preferred is it has a $75 annual fee and a 3% balance transfer fee. However, the signup bonus and the cash back you can earn, particularly if you’re planning to make large purchases during the 15-month 0% APR period, will easily cover two or more annual fees.
The Citi Diamond Preferred is another superb balance transfer credit card. Like the Citi Simplicity, it has a 21-month 0% APR intro rate on purchases and balance transfers, and no annual fee to worry about. It does have late payment fees and a 29.99% penalty rate, but the standard APR is a little lower at 11.99% to 21.99%. This card also includes special access to events and a 24/7 concierge service.
Like the Citi Simplicity, the Citi Diamond Preferred has a 3% ($5 minimum) balance transfer fee to consider. If you’re only interested in the 0% APR for purchases and you aren’t worried about late payments or penalty rates, the Citi Diamond Preferred is the best 0% APR card for you.
How interest-free introductory periods work
Normally, when you use a credit card, you will have an annual percentage rate (APR) applied to your account. After your billing cycle closes for a month, you will receive a bill. Credit card companies only require you to pay a percentage of your bill, known as the minimum payment due. However, if you do not pay the amount off in full, you will pay interest on the balance that carries over. You typically have a grace period of 25 days to pay off the full balance before interest charges begin.
When you get a credit card with an interest-free introductory period, no interest will be charged on your balance during the promotional period, even if a balance is carried over. However, once the period ends, interest charges will begin.
This can come in handy when you are going to use a credit card for a sizeable upcoming purchase, for example, furniture. If you open the card, make the purchase and pay it off by the end of the promotional period, you won’t have to pay any interest.
What’s the catch?
The term “introductory period” means the deal is offered for a limited amount of time after opening the card. After the introductory period, your rate will adjust to its actual amount and you will be charged interest on your balances that carry over. So if you are going to use the card to make a big purchase, you’ll want to ensure you can pay off as much as possible during the no-interest period.
The other catch is that you do have to get approved. Credit card companies will run a credit check to determine the level of risk involved in lending to you. You will need to have a sufficient credit score to get approved.
Length of the promotional introductory period
One of the first things to look for when shopping for a credit card with an interest-free introductory period is how long the promotional period will last. This can vary greatly from as little as six months to 21 months or more. The longer the offer, the better. However, offers with longer periods will usually have stricter approval requirements.
Fees and penalties
Every card has fees and penalties, which you should determine before signing up for a card. You don’t want to be lured in by a great promotional offer only to find out there are expensive fees and penalties you are subjected to. The fees and penalties to check include the following:
- Annual fee: An amount owed each year for owning the card.
- Transfer fee: An amount owed for transferring balances to your account. It is usually a percentage of the transfer.
- Cash advance fee: An amount owed for taking out a cash advance. It can be a flat rate or a percentage of the amount.
- Late payment fee: An amount owed if you pay your monthly minimum payment late. It is usually a flat rate fee.
- Foreign transaction fee: An amount owed if you make a transaction with a non-U.S. retailer.
- Return payment fee: An amount owed if you make your payment and it doesn’t clear.
- Over-the-limit fee: An amount owed if you go over your limit.
APR after the promotional period
All good things must come to an end and the interest-free introductory period is no exception. Once it ends, the APR you are given will become very important. Credit card companies will have a range of APRs and will decide which one applies to your account based on your creditworthiness. Check the range offered by the card companies you are considering and be sure to note what rate you qualify for if you are approved.
Each credit card company sets its own credit requirements. Some are more lenient and accept fair credit, while others are more strict and only accept excellent credit. Check your credit score and then be sure to look for the credit requirements of companies you are interested in.
Rewards are returns a card offers you for your spending. For example, cash-back reward programs offer you back a percentage of your purchases in cash. You might earn 1% cash back on all purchases, so you would get $100 back if you spent $10,000. Sometimes the cash-back reward is based on a percentage of all purchases, while other times the percentage earned is based on spending in specific categories such as gas or groceries. Another example is an airplane mile reward system in which you earn miles in return for your spending. You can then purchase airplane tickets using the miles you have racked up.
Not all cards with 0% introductory periods will have a rewards program in place, but if they do, you will save on interest costs while gaining the additional returns. So shop and compare credit cards and the rewards programs on offer.
Reviews from other users
Last but not least, you want to check reviews from other users. You can find out important details about credit card companies by checking what past customers say. Look for comments on the approval process. Was it easy? Did others find it was hard to get approved? Also, look for reviews on a company’s customer service and how easy it is to manage a user account. All of these will be important when using the card so it’s good to identify any red flags with a card company before signing up.
If you would like to review your options, you can head over to our Personal Credit Card Review Page and tick the box for “0% Introductory APR.” You will find a wide range of credit cards as well as ratings and reviews from past users. Compare the options and find the right fit for you.
Jessica Walrack is a personal finance writer at SuperMoney, The Simple Dollar, Interest.com, Commonbond, Bankrate, NextAdvisor, Guardian, Personalloans.org and many others. She specializes in taking personal finance topics like loans, credit cards, and budgeting, and making them accessible and fun.