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A 0% APR credit card has the potential to save you money on interest charges for a set period of time. Yet it’s how you use an interest-free credit card promotion that determines whether it benefits or hurts you in the long run.

When you mismanage an interest-free credit card offer, those actions could trigger negative financial and credit consequences. Responsible use of a 0% APR introductory promotion, however, could help you pay down debt, save on large purchases, and might even improve your credit score by reducing your credit utilization ratio.

Recommended Low-Interest Credit Cards

Credit Card Intro APR APR Learn More

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

0% intro APR for 15 months More Info

0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers. 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR thereafter; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3% then a BT fee of up to 5%, min: $5.

20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% (Variable)

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

0% Intro APR for 15 months More Info

This card allows new cardholders to save money with an introductory 0% interest rate on new purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months of account opening. After the introductory period, a 20.49% - 29.24% variable rate will apply. Balance transfers made within the first 60 days of account membership will be charged a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer. After 60 days, that balance transfer fees increases to either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

20.49% - 29.24% (Variable)

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card

0% intro APR for 21 months More Info

0% intro APR for 21 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers. 18.24%, 24.74%, or 29.99% variable APR thereafter; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate, BT fee of 5%, min $5.

18.24%, 24.74%, 29.99% (Variable)
Citi Double Cash

Citi Double Cash® Card

0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers More Info

New cardholders enjoy 0% introductory APR on all balance transfers for the first 18 months of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 19.24% - 29.24%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers do not earn cash-back rewards and are charged an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first four months of account opening. After that, the fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5).

19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)

Below are five mistakes you should avoid when using a 0% APR credit card. It’s important to familiarize yourself with these details before you apply for this type of offer.

1. Not Reading the Fine Print

When you open a 0% APR credit card, it’s essential to pay attention to the terms and conditions of the promotion. Some of the key details you’ll want to look for include the following.

  • Understand whether the 0% APR applies to new purchases, balance transfers, or both types of transactions. 
  • If the 0% APR promotion applies to balance transfers, you’ll want to learn the deadline that applies to those types of transactions. 
  • Find out if there is a balance transfer fee and, if so, what the cost is for the amount you want to transfer. (Tip: A balance transfer calculator can help you estimate the expense of moving your debt to the new account.)
  • Discover when the interest-free period on the new account ends.

Every zero-interest promotion is different. So, review the fine print of any offer you’re considering, and don’t make the mistake of assuming they’re all the same.

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2. Making Late Payments

With any credit card account you open — whether it includes an interest-free promotion or not — making late payments is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Missing your due date not only has the potential to cost you in the form of late fees, but it could trigger other problems as well.

When you pay late or fall far enough behind on payments to your credit card issuer, you risk facing a variety of negative consequences, including: 

  • Early loss of your 0% APR promotion
  • Triggering the penalty APR on your account
  • Account closure
  • Negative credit reporting
  • Charge-off
  • Collections activity

It’s not impossible to come back from a credit catastrophe, but it takes work. Late payments, collections, and other negative items could remain on your credit report for up to seven years. And as long as you’re struggling with bad credit, it could be harder to qualify for credit cards, to rent an apartment, and to be eligible for competitive interest rates from lenders and credit card issuers. 

3. Getting Into More Debt

credit card debt


The right 0% APR introductory offer could be a great way to consolidate high-interest debt, like credit card balances. But running up balances on your original accounts (or on other credit cards) after you use an interest-free balance transfer is a common pitfall that you’ll want to avoid.

If you continue overspending after a balance transfer, you risk setting yourself up for severe financial and credit problems in the future. As your balances grow, you might struggle to keep up with the minimum credit card payments. Plus, higher credit card utilization ratios could drive your credit score downward even if you pay your credit card bills on time each month.

As a result, you should only consider applying for a balance transfer credit card if you’re confident you can avoid the temptation to create new debt after you open the account. Updating your budget might help you stay on track with your spending goals and steer clear of overspending as well.

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4. Not Creating a Payoff Plan

No matter which 0% APR credit card you open, the interest-free period on the account will only last for a certain amount of time. Introductory periods on these types of credit card offers may last for as long as 21 months. Yet ignoring the fact that the regular APR on your new credit card will kick in at some point in the not-so-distant future is a mistake.

It’s important to create a payoff plan for your 0% APR card from the first day you use your new account for purchases or balance transfers. Doing so should enable you to make the most of the introductory offer on your account before it expires.

5. Not Choosing the Right 0% APR Credit Card

If you decide that a 0% APR credit card is right for you, you probably shouldn’t just apply for the first zero-interest credit card offer you see online. Instead, it’s wise to compare offers from multiple credit card companies.

As you compare low interest credit cards, here are some factors you may want to consider:

  • The length of the 0% APR introductory period
  • Additional fees (like the balance transfer fee, annual fee, etc.)
  • Minimum credit score requirements
  • Extra perks like rewards or welcome bonuses

Although there’s no such thing as a perfect credit card offer, taking the time to shop around and see what different credit card issuers have to offer can help you make sure you find the best deal for your situation.

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Bottom Line

A credit card that features a long introductory 0% APR may not come with the biggest welcome bonus available or the highest rewards rate on your everyday spending.

Yet this type of credit card offer may be worth considering if you need to consolidate high-interest debt or if you want to save money on large purchases. After all, the potential to save money on credit card interest is the biggest perk that 0% APR cards have to offer.

Just remember, it’s important to avoid shortcuts and common mistakes when you use these types of credit card offers. Otherwise, the 0% APR credit card you open to save money could backfire and lead to bigger financial problems and credit score damage in the long run.

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Michelle Lambright Black

Michelle Black is founder of and Michelle is a leading credit card journalist with over a decade and a half of experience in the financial industry. She’s an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, identity theft, budgeting, small business, and debt eradication. Michelle is also a certified credit expert witness and personal finance writer.