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What Does 0% APR Mean?

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated February 28, 2022 . Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

When you have a credit card with a 0% introductory APR, that means you won’t be charged interest during the introductory period. Once that introductory period expires, any balance remaining will be subject to the card’s ongoing APR or interest rate.

APR stands for “annual percentage rate.” With some financial products, your APR and your interest rate differ, but credit cards keep it simple — APR and interest rate are interchangeable in regard to a credit card.

What is a 0% APR on a credit card?

Many credit cards offer new cardholders a 0% intro APR period, ranging from 12 to 21 months long typically. This intro period means that no interest will be charged during the promotional period and can apply to purchases, balance transfers or both, depending on terms set by the credit card issuer.

How do 0% intro APR credit cards work?

Before applying for a new credit card to take advantage of a tempting 0% intro APR, make sure to read the offer carefully to determine if it applies to purchases, balance transfers or both.

If you get a card offering a 0% intro APR on purchases, that means you won’t accrue interest on new spending for the duration of the intro period. This can be helpful if you need to pay for a big-ticket item, such as furniture or electronics, and need to spread out the payments over time.

Meanwhile, if you get a credit card offering a 0% intro APR on balance transfers, that means you won’t accrue interest during the intro period on debt moved over from another account. While balance transfers can be used to pay off a variety of debts — such as loans or medical debt — they’re typically used to move debt from a high-interest credit card to a balance transfer card offering a low or 0% introductory offer. A balance transfer offers breathing room when you’re struggling to pay off high-interest credit card debt, as 100% of your payment goes toward the principal of the debt instead of the principal plus interest during the promotional period.

Note that many credit cards offering long intro periods charge a balance transfer fee of 3% to 5% of the amount transferred, which added to the amount moved to the new balance transfer card.

What happens when my 0% APR ends?

When your 0% introductory APR ends, any balance you’re still carrying on the card will begin to incur interest charges at the regular APR you were approved for when you applied for the card. To avoid incurring interest, you’ll have to pay off your balance within the promotional time frame.

If you decide to use the card on an ongoing basis once the intro APR ends, you can avoid interest charges entirely if you pay off what you charge in full every month. Typically, there’s a grace period between the end of your billing cycle and your payment due date — this means if you pay the card in full by the due date, you should be able to avoid interest charges.

Is deferred interest the same as a 0% APR?

It’s important to read the fine print to see if a “no interest” credit card offer involves deferred interest or a 0% intro APR. Both offer the opportunity to avoid incurring interest charges, but deferred interest deals are much more risky.

With a deferred interest offer — which is typically associated with store or retail credit — it’s very important to pay off what you’ve charged to the card before the promotional period ends. If you don’t, you’ll be charged interest on the full purchase amount from the date of the purchase. That can be expensive, especially since deferred interest offers are often found on store cards with high APRs.

Plus, just making a minimum payment each month with a deferred interest offer typically won’t be enough to pay off your full purchase amount within the promotional period. If you decide to utilize a deferred interest deal, make sure you know exactly when it ends and how much you’ll need to pay each month to zero out the whole balance before that deadline.

In contrast, 0% intro APR cards start charging interest at the regular APR only on any balance remaining once the intro period ends. So, even if you end up paying interest on any unpaid balance, it’s likely to be less expensive than what you’d be charged on a deferred interest card.

Pros and cons of a 0% APR credit card

  • A 0% APR on purchases is good for financing big-ticket items
  • A 0% APR on balance transfers can help you get out debt faster
  • Avoid interest entirely if you pay in full during the intro period
  • Interest is charged only on any balance remaining after the intro period expires
  • Typically there are no annual fees on intro APR cards
  • Requires good to exceptional credit to qualify
  • Might charge a 3% to 5% balance transfer fee

Choosing the best 0% APR credit card for you

There are currently many credit cards offering 0% intro APR periods for purchases and balance transfers, but the best card for you will depend on factors such as how long of an intro APR period you need, whether you intend to make a big purchase or transfer debt from another account and whether you’re willing to pay a balance transfer fee.

Based on our research of cards available through LendingTree, as well as top cards offered by major issuers, we picked some of the top 0% APR card offers available depending on your needs. Just know that if you’re planning a balance transfer, make sure to select a card from a different issuer than you currently have, since you can’t transfer debt between two cards from the same issuer.

Best For Long intro APR for both purchases and balance transfers

Wells Fargo Reflect<sup>®</sup> Card

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card

Apply Now
on Wells Fargo's secure site
Introductory APR 0% intro APR up to 21 months from account opening
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 16.74% - 28.74% variable APR
Credit Score Needed
660 850
Excellent/Good

The Wells Fargo Reflect® Card offers long 0% intro APR periods on both purchases and balance transfers.

On purchases, enjoy a 0% intro APR up to 21 months from account opening with a 16.74% - 28.74% variable APR applying after that time — that’s almost two years to pay off your next high-end purchase with no interest.

And on balance transfers, take advantage of a 0% intro APR up to 21 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers; after, a 16.74% - 28.74% variable APR applies.

The balance transfer fee is 3% for 120 days from account opening, then up to 5%; min: $5.

Note that at first, cardholders get 18 months of 0% intro APR, and can then earn an extension of up to three months with on-time minimum payments.

You won’t earn rewards or a sign-up bonus with the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card, but the annual fee is $0.

And if you’re traveling abroad, be aware of the card’s 3% foreign transaction fee.

This card has the longest 0% intro APRs on both purchases and balance transfers that we’ve found anywhere. If you need to finance an expensive purchase or move debt from a non-Wells Fargo credit card, the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card is one of the best cards you’ll find.

However, due to the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card‘s lack of sign-up bonus, you might be better off with the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card if you can get by with a shorter 0% intro APR period.

  • Cellphone protection up to $600 (with a $25 deductible)
  • 24/7 access to roadside dispatch by calling 800-847-2869. Terms apply

The Wells Fargo Reflect® Card offers long 0% intro APR periods on both purchases and balance transfers.

On purchases, enjoy a 0% intro APR up to 21 months from account opening with a 16.74% - 28.74% variable APR applying after that time — that’s almost two years to pay off your next high-end purchase with no interest.

And on balance transfers, take advantage of a 0% intro APR up to 21 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers; after, a 16.74% - 28.74% variable APR applies.

The balance transfer fee is 3% for 120 days from account opening, then up to 5%; min: $5.

Note that at first, cardholders get 18 months of 0% intro APR, and can then earn an extension of up to three months with on-time minimum payments.

You won’t earn rewards or a sign-up bonus with the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card, but the annual fee is $0.

And if you’re traveling abroad, be aware of the card’s 3% foreign transaction fee.

This card has the longest 0% intro APRs on both purchases and balance transfers that we’ve found anywhere. If you need to finance an expensive purchase or move debt from a non-Wells Fargo credit card, the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card is one of the best cards you’ll find.

However, due to the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card‘s lack of sign-up bonus, you might be better off with the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card if you can get by with a shorter 0% intro APR period.

  • Cellphone protection up to $600 (with a $25 deductible)
  • 24/7 access to roadside dispatch by calling 800-847-2869. Terms apply

Best For Long intro APR on balance transfers

Citi Simplicity<sup>®</sup> Card

Citi Simplicity® Card

Apply Now
on Citibank's secure site
Introductory APR 0% for 12 months on Purchases
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 17.74% - 28.49% (Variable)
Credit Score Needed
690 850
Excellent/Good

Take advantage of an intro APR of 0% for 21 months on balance transfers with the Citi Simplicity® Card; after, a 17.74% - 28.49% (variable) APR applies. But know that a high there is an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. then a balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum. Still, it’s worth considering for almost two years of no interest.

Unfortunately, the intro APR on purchases is much shorter: 0% for 12 months on purchases, after which a 17.74% - 28.49% (variable) APR applies.

You won’t earn rewards or a sign-up bonus with this card. The annual fee is $0, though, so you don’t have to pay to carry it.

But if you’re traveling abroad, take note there’s a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each purchase transaction after its conversion into U.S. dollars.

The Citi Simplicity® Card is consistently among our top picks for balance transfer cards. It offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers as long as we’ve seen anywhere. And while the  balance transfer fee is a bit on the high side, thanks to the lengthy intro period, it can still help you save money on interest charges.

  • Use your card with Apple Pay®, Google Pay™ or Samsung Pay
  • No late fees and no penalty APR
  • Citi® Identity Theft Solutions

Take advantage of an intro APR of 0% for 21 months on balance transfers with the Citi Simplicity® Card; after, a 17.74% - 28.49% (variable) APR applies. But know that a high there is an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. then a balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum. Still, it’s worth considering for almost two years of no interest.

Unfortunately, the intro APR on purchases is much shorter: 0% for 12 months on purchases, after which a 17.74% - 28.49% (variable) APR applies.

You won’t earn rewards or a sign-up bonus with this card. The annual fee is $0, though, so you don’t have to pay to carry it.

But if you’re traveling abroad, take note there’s a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each purchase transaction after its conversion into U.S. dollars.

The Citi Simplicity® Card is consistently among our top picks for balance transfer cards. It offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers as long as we’ve seen anywhere. And while the  balance transfer fee is a bit on the high side, thanks to the lengthy intro period, it can still help you save money on interest charges.

  • Use your card with Apple Pay®, Google Pay™ or Samsung Pay
  • No late fees and no penalty APR
  • Citi® Identity Theft Solutions

Best For No-frills card offering long intro APR periods

U.S. Bank Visa<sup>®</sup> Platinum Card

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Apply Now
on U.S. Bank's secure site
Introductory APR 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on Purchases
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 18.24% -28.24% (Variable)
Credit Score Needed
680 850
Excellent/Good

The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers long 0% intro APRs on both purchases and balance transfers.

Enjoy a 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on Purchases; after, a 18.24% -28.24% (variable) APR applies.

And if you need to transfer a balance, there’s a 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on Balance Transfers, after which a 18.24% -28.24% (variable) APR applies. The balance transfer fee is reasonable at either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater.

The annual fee is $0. Unfortunately, there is a foreign transaction fee: 2% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in U.S. Dollars; 3% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in a Foreign Currency.

In addition, you won’t earn rewards or a sign-up bonus with the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card.

This is a relatively no-frills credit card. However, it comes with lengthy 0% intro APRs on purchases and balance transfers — just a month shorter than the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card. Whether you need to spread out payments on a costly purchase over time or move debt from a non-U.S. Bank credit card, the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card is a strong choice.

  • Cellphone protection of up to $600 (with a $25 deductible)
  • Free access to your VantageScore

 

The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers long 0% intro APRs on both purchases and balance transfers.

Enjoy a 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on Purchases; after, a 18.24% -28.24% (variable) APR applies.

And if you need to transfer a balance, there’s a 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on Balance Transfers, after which a 18.24% -28.24% (variable) APR applies. The balance transfer fee is reasonable at either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater.

The annual fee is $0. Unfortunately, there is a foreign transaction fee: 2% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in U.S. Dollars; 3% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in a Foreign Currency.

In addition, you won’t earn rewards or a sign-up bonus with the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card.

This is a relatively no-frills credit card. However, it comes with lengthy 0% intro APRs on purchases and balance transfers — just a month shorter than the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card. Whether you need to spread out payments on a costly purchase over time or move debt from a non-U.S. Bank credit card, the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card is a strong choice.

  • Cellphone protection of up to $600 (with a $25 deductible)
  • Free access to your VantageScore

 

Best For Intro APR card with a sign-up bonus and cash back rewards program

Wells Fargo Active Cash<sup>®</sup> Card

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Apply Now
on Wells Fargo's secure site
Introductory APR 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 18.74%, 23.74%, or 28.74% variable APR
Credit Score Needed
660 850
Excellent/Good

The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card offers a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, after which a 18.74%, 23.74%, or 28.74% variable apr APR applies. Plus, earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.

If you need to transfer a balance, there’s a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers. After, a 18.74%, 23.74%, or 28.74% variable apr APR applies. The balance transfer fee is 3% intro for 120 days from account opening, then up to 5%; min: $5.

This card is worth keeping around after you pay off your initial balance, too. You’ll earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases, making this one of the top flat-rate cash back cards around.

The annual fee is $0. However, there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Though the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card‘s 0% intro APRs are shorter than what you’ll find on some of the cards listed here, this card is still an excellent choice if you want to earn a sign-up bonus and get ongoing value in the form of cash back rewards.

Your cash back can be redeemed in a variety of ways:

  • To offset past purchases (redemptions must be for at least $1)
  • As a credit to an eligible Wells Fargo account
  • For cash in $20 increments (with a Wells Fargo debit or ATM card)
  • To get gift cards in $25 increments
  • Cellphone protection of up to $600 (with a $25 deductible)
  • 24/7 access to the Visa Signature® Concierge
  • Benefits at properties in the Visa Signature Hotel Collection

The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card offers a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, after which a 18.74%, 23.74%, or 28.74% variable apr APR applies. Plus, earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.

If you need to transfer a balance, there’s a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers. After, a 18.74%, 23.74%, or 28.74% variable apr APR applies. The balance transfer fee is 3% intro for 120 days from account opening, then up to 5%; min: $5.

This card is worth keeping around after you pay off your initial balance, too. You’ll earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases, making this one of the top flat-rate cash back cards around.

The annual fee is $0. However, there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Though the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card‘s 0% intro APRs are shorter than what you’ll find on some of the cards listed here, this card is still an excellent choice if you want to earn a sign-up bonus and get ongoing value in the form of cash back rewards.

Your cash back can be redeemed in a variety of ways:

  • To offset past purchases (redemptions must be for at least $1)
  • As a credit to an eligible Wells Fargo account
  • For cash in $20 increments (with a Wells Fargo debit or ATM card)
  • To get gift cards in $25 increments

  • Cellphone protection of up to $600 (with a $25 deductible)
  • 24/7 access to the Visa Signature® Concierge
  • Benefits at properties in the Visa Signature Hotel Collection

Best For No balance transfer fee

Navy Federal Platinum Credit Card

Navy Federal Platinum Credit Card

Introductory APR N/A
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 8.99% to 18.00% (variable)
Credit Score Needed
670 850
Excellent/Good/Fair

The Navy Federal Platinum Credit Card has a relatively short "0.99% introductory APR for 12 months* *Applies to balance transfers requested within 60 days of account opening", after which a 8.99% and 18.00% (variable) APR applies. However, this card stands out thanks to its $0 balance transfer fee.

There’s no intro APR on purchases, so you’ll start out at the regular 8.99% to 18.00% (variable) purchase APR. If you get an APR on the lower end of that range, that’s exceptionally low — so this card is worth keeping for when you have an unexpected expense and would like to put it on a low interest credit card.

You won’t earn rewards or a sign-up bonus, but the Navy Federal Platinum Credit Card charges a $0 annual fee and a $0 foreign transaction fee too.

This card requires membership in Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) to apply. Membership is open to active duty and retired United States military members, veterans, family members and U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees.

If you qualify for NFCU membership and you’re looking for a no-balance-transfer-fee credit card, the Navy Federal Platinum Credit Card is one of the best options around. Plus, once the intro APR ends, the low regular APR makes it worth keeping around for unexpected situations where you have to carry a balance and want to keep interest charges low.

  • Free access to your FICO® Score
  • Collision damage waiver
  • Travel and emergency assistance

The Navy Federal Platinum Credit Card has a relatively short "0.99% introductory APR for 12 months* *Applies to balance transfers requested within 60 days of account opening", after which a 8.99% and 18.00% (variable) APR applies. However, this card stands out thanks to its $0 balance transfer fee.

There’s no intro APR on purchases, so you’ll start out at the regular 8.99% to 18.00% (variable) purchase APR. If you get an APR on the lower end of that range, that’s exceptionally low — so this card is worth keeping for when you have an unexpected expense and would like to put it on a low interest credit card.

You won’t earn rewards or a sign-up bonus, but the Navy Federal Platinum Credit Card charges a $0 annual fee and a $0 foreign transaction fee too.

This card requires membership in Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) to apply. Membership is open to active duty and retired United States military members, veterans, family members and U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees.

If you qualify for NFCU membership and you’re looking for a no-balance-transfer-fee credit card, the Navy Federal Platinum Credit Card is one of the best options around. Plus, once the intro APR ends, the low regular APR makes it worth keeping around for unexpected situations where you have to carry a balance and want to keep interest charges low.

  • Free access to your FICO® Score
  • Collision damage waiver
  • Travel and emergency assistance
The information related to the Navy Federal Platinum Credit Card has been collected by LendingTree and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply.

How to get the most out of a 0% APR card

There aren’t many downsides to 0% intro APR credit cards when used responsibly. To get the most value from your introductory 0% APR period, take the following actions:

  • Don’t let more debt build up. If you’ve transferred debt from another credit card, don’t make new purchases on your balance transfer card until the balance is paid off, and don’t start spending again on the old card either.
  • Always pay your bill on time. When you’re using a 0% intro APR period, a late payment can cause you to lose your intro APR. Plus, paying on time is the most important factor to keeping a good credit score.
  • Stick to a repayment budget. You’re required to make at least the minimum monthly payment even when in an intro APR period, but really, it’s smart to budget more than that. Paying off the full balance before the intro APR ends will ensure you save money on interest that you’d be charged otherwise.

Glen Luke Flanagan

  • Expertise: Personal finance, credit scoring, credit cards
  • Education: Radford University, East Carolina University

 


 

Glen Luke Flanagan is a senior credit card writer for LendingTree. He joined the team in June 2019, and covers topics including new credit cards, how your credit score works and what you need to know about credit card interest.
 
Before joining LendingTree, Glen worked in journalism and government communications. As a journalist at newspapers in North Carolina and South Carolina, his reporting won awards from the North Carolina Press Association and the South Carolina Press Association, respectively.
 
Glen earned his bachelor’s degree in media studies with a concentration in journalism from Radford University, graduating summa cum laude in May 2014. He also earned a master’s degree in English with a concentration in technical and professional communication, as well as a graduate certificate in marketing, from East Carolina University in May 2022.

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The above offers and/or promotions may have since changed, expired, or is no longer available. Check the Issuers’ website for more details.