The top no-annual-fee credit cards with a 0% intro APR
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the latest credit card information and benefits.
While we don’t ever recommend carrying a balance on a credit card, there are times when a large purchase or emergency situation arises and having a 0% APR credit card can be a lifesaver. 0% APR credit cards sometimes also apply the 0% rate to balance transfers, which can give you time to pay down large debt and allow you to use one of these cards as a critical step in your debt-reduction strategy. But you must be disciplined and organized to ensure you don’t go beyond the 0% APR time period or miss making payments, both of which incur further fees.
Today, I’ll cover the best credit cards that offer 0% APR for an introductory period on new purchases. As an added bonus, none of these cards charge an annual fee, so you can focus on getting out of debt without incurring any additional costs.
The best no-annual-fee credit cards with 0% intro APR:
- Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (see rates and fees)
- Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants)
- Chase Freedom Unlimited
- Citi Simplicity® Card
- Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
The information for the Citi Simplicity, Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
|Card||Intro APR offer||Rewards|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||0% intro APR on new purchases for the first 15 months (13.99% – 23.99% variable APR after)||3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per calendar year; then 1%)
2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores
1% cash back on everything else
|Chase Freedom||0% intro APR on new purchases for the first 15 months (14.99%–23.74% variable APR after)||5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories (up to $1,500 per quarter; then 1%)
5% cash back on groceries (up to $12,000 spent in your first year; then 1%)
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||0% intro APR on new purchases for the first 15 months (14.99%–23.74% variable APR after)||1.5% cash back on all purchases
5% cash back on groceries (up to $12,000 spent in your first year; then 1%)
|Citi Simplicity® Card||0% intro APR for 18 months on new purchases and balance transfers (14.74% – 24.74% variable APR after); balance transfers must be completed within the first four months of account opening||N/A|
|Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card||0% intro APR for 18 months on new purchases and balance transfers (14.74% – 24.74% variable APR after); balance transfers must be completed within the first four months of account opening||N/A|
Before diving into the list, it’s important to note that if you’re applying for one of these cards in order to transfer the balance from a high-interest-rate credit card, you usually won’t get away scot free. Most cards will charge a 3-5% balance transfer fee. Balance transfers also do not count toward minimum spending to trigger sign-up bonuses, and you don’t earn rewards on balance transfers. Plus, many cards have stopped offering 0% intro APR offers on balance transfers because of the current economic downturn.
Finally, as a reminder to active duty U.S. military members, Barclays and Citi will lower your interest rate to 0% for all products opened prior to active duty for the duration of your active service. This can be a blessing and a curse, depending on whether you can withstand the temptation to spend with no interest, but it is an option to lower any debt you currently have.
Related reading: The best credit cards for active-duty military
If you’re looking for a 0% intro APR card that provides better cash-back earning on U.S. supermarket purchases, the Blue Cash Everyday may be your card. It provides 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per calendar year in purchases (then 1%); 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores; and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Plus, it offers a welcome offer of a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of account opening.
The Blue Cash Everyday has no annual fee (see rates and fees) and features 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 15 months, after which a variable APR of 13.99%-23.99% will apply (see rates and fees).
Related reading: Amex Blue Cash Everyday card review
This card carries no annual fees and can earn you significant Chase Ultimate Rewards points. The card offers a 0% APR for the first 15 months for new purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99% – 23.74% applies. When you apply directly with Chase, you can earn $200 (or 20,000 bonus points if you have a higher-tier Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card) after spending $500 in the first three months, plus get 5% (5x) back on grocery purchases (up to $12,000) in your first year. Note that balance transfers don’t count toward the $500 spending requirement.
The standard Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back (or 5x points) on rotating quarterly bonus categories, capped at $1,500 in spending per quarter (activation required), and 1% cash back (or 1x points) on all other spending.
Related reading: Maximize your wallet with these Chase credit cards
The Chase Freedom Unlimited, in the same card family as the Chase Freedom, earns 1.5% cash back (or 1.5x points) on spending, making it a great option if you don’t want to be bothered with tracking quarterly categories or if you make a lot of purchases that fall outside of a bonus spending category.
Otherwise, this card is pretty much identical to the Chase Freedom — with the same $200 sign-up bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months, 5% back on the first $12,000 spent at grocery stores in your first year and 0% intro APR offer for the first 15 months on new purchases (14.99% – 23.74% variable APR after).
To earn points rather than cash back with these cards, you also need to hold an Ultimate Rewards-earning card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
Related reading: Chase Freedom Unlimited review
The Citi Simplicity Card offers 0% intro APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 18 months. After the introductory period, a variable APR of 14.74% to 24.74% applies. Balance transfers must be completed within the first four months of account opening. Another advantage to the Simplicity is that the card doesn’t charge late fees or penalty APR rates, which can be great if you’re trying to pay down debt and increase your credit score.
The downside is that this card doesn’t earn rewards and doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus. If you have an excellent credit score, there are definitely cards out there (including those on this list) that will earn a bonus and rewards while giving you a solid intro APR period.
Related reading: The best Citi credit cards of 2020
Like the Citi Simplicity, the Citi Diamond Preferred offers an 18-month intro APR period on new purchases and balance transfers, with a 14.74% – 24.74% variable APR applying after the introductory period ends. Balance transfers must be completed within the first four months of account opening. It also doesn’t come with a sign-up bonus or rewards rate for purchases, and it doesn’t have the same no-fees promise as its sister card.
Generally, the Simplicity is a better card if you’re just looking for a 0% APR card and can’t apply for one that also earns rewards, or if you’re looking for a card with no fees.
Related reading: Citi Diamond Preferred Card review
How do 0% APR credit cards work?
These 0% APR credit cards work by offering new cardholders the opportunity to make purchases without incurring interest. These offers are generally good for anywhere from the first nine to 20 months of ownership, depending on the card issuer. A 0% APR offer usually takes the place of a traditional cash or points sign-up bonus, so don’t expect to earn any additional offer from these cards.
Your reward for signing up is the promotional 0% APR period, which depending on the size of your debt and your current interest rates could be worth much more than any points you would have received from other cards.
What are the main benefits of 0% APR credit cards?
While it should be obvious that making purchases without accruing interest is a major benefit all on its own, there are other opportunities for use of a 0% interest card. As mentioned above, in the event of an emergency, such as an unexpected health emergency, these cards can be a lifesaver while you catch up.
They can also be used to help finance one-time purchases, such as getting a new roof or remodeling the bathroom. Of course, as always, we heavily recommend you pay the balance off before the promotion expires in order to avoid paying any interest. You should also be careful not to use a 0% APR card as an excuse to spend beyond your means. Instead, you should treat this like one element of your emergency fund and only tap into it when necessary.
How to choose the best 0% APR card
Everyone’s needs are different, so you’ll need to choose the best credit card for you. This is especially true if you’re looking to earn rewards while you spend. All of the cards listed above offer varied amounts of rewards for the money you spend, and you can choose which is best for you depending on their fees, reward categories, and which bank issuers the card.
There are several solid credit cards offering a 0% APR for an introductory period, and you can earn valuable rewards or cash back — without paying an annual fee — as you work to pay down any outstanding debt. Just make sure you stay on top of your payments and know exactly when the introductory period ends to avoid getting hit with steep fees.
Featured image by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy.
Additional reporting by Katie Genter, Carissa Rawson and Madison Blancaflor.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday Card, please click here.
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