BEST CREDIT CARDSBEST CREDIT CARDSBEST LOW INTEREST CREDIT CARDS OF JULY 2024
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11 Best Low Interest Credit Cards of July 2024

Updated: Jul 19, 2024
Erin Hurd
Written by
Assigning Editor
Caitlin Mims
Reviewed by
Content Management Specialist
Paul Soucy
Edited by
Fact Checked
Lead Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
Erin Hurd
Written by
Assigning Editor
Caitlin Mims
Reviewed by
Content Management Specialist
Paul Soucy
Edited by
Fact Checked
Lead Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
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NerdWallet's Best Low Interest Credit Cards of July 2024

Best Low Interest Credit Cards From Our Partners

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Find the right credit card for you.

Whether you want to pay less interest or earn more rewards, the right card's out there. Just answer a few questions and we'll narrow the search for you.

Find the right credit card for you.

Whether you want to pay less interest or earn more rewards, the right card's out there. Just answer a few questions and we'll narrow the search for you.

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Long intro period + straightforward benefits

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All-around cash back

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Flat-rate cash back

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Long intro period + low intro fee

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Simplicity + relationship rewards

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Grocery and gas rewards

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Travel rewards

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Customizable cash back

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Longest 0% intro APR period

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FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS: BEST LOW INTEREST CREDIT CARDS

Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.

» CREDIT CARDS WITH AN INTRODUCTORY APR PERIOD

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card

Our pick for: Longest 0% intro APR period

The Wells Fargo Reflect® Card has one of the longest intro APR periods on the market — approaching almost two years. You'll be hard-pressed to find a longer interest-free promotion, and it applies to both purchases and balance transfers. Read our review.

BankAmericard® credit card

Our pick for: Long intro period + straightforward benefits

The BankAmericard® credit card isn't flashy, nor does it aim to be. You get one of the better introductory APR periods available, providing plenty of time to whittle down debt or finance a large purchase. And that's about it. Read our review.

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Our pick for: Long intro period + low intro fee

A lengthy introductory APR period for both purchases and balance transfers has made the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card a NerdWallet favorite. Read our review.

Chase Slate Edge℠

Our pick for: Long intro period + interest-saving incentives

The $0-annual-fee Chase Slate Edge℠ is light on flash but features an excellent intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers, plus some other potential incentives for paying on time. Read our review.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Our pick for: Travel rewards

One of the best no-annual-fee travel cards available, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card gives you a solid rewards rate on every purchase, with points that can be redeemed for any travel purchase, without the restrictions of branded airline and hotel cards. Bank of America® has an expansive definition of "travel," too, giving you additional flexibility in how you use your rewards. Read our review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Our pick for: All-around cash back

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® was already a fine card when it offered 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Now it's even better, with bonus rewards on travel booked through Chase, as well as at restaurants and drugstores. On top of all that, new cardholders get a 0% introductory APR period and the opportunity to earn a sweet bonus. Read our review.

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Our pick for: Flat-rate cash back

Among flat-rate cash-back cards, you'll be hard-pressed to beat the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card. It earns an unlimited 2% back on all purchases, which is excellent. But in addition, the card offers a rich sign-up bonus and a generous intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers. That's an impressive, hard-to-find combination of features on a card with a $0 annual fee. Read our review.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Our pick for: Food and entertainment

Love the night life but dead-set against paying an annual fee? Consider the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card. It pays a lower cash-back rate on dining and entertainment than the regular Savor card, but the rewards are nevertheless quite good (see rates and fees). The sign-up bonus is smaller than on the annual-fee version, too, but it's still solid (see rates and fees). Read our review.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Our pick for: Uncomplicated cash back

The original 1.5% flat-rate cash-back card still holds its own in a now-crowded field. The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a compelling combination of a good rewards rate, redemption flexibility, sign-up bonus and introductory APR period (see rates and fees). Read our review.

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card

Our pick for: Simplicity + relationship rewards

The Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card is one of many 1.5% flat-rate cash-back cards on the market. It comes with a decent sign-up bonus, a generous intro APR period, and the potential to supercharge your earnings through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards® program. Read our review.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Our pick for: Grocery and gas rewards

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express pays elevated rewards at U.S. supermarkets, at U.S. gas stations and on U.S. online retail purchases. The rewards might not be as rich as on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, but this card doesn't charge an annual fee either. New cardholders get a decent welcome offer and an introductory APR period. Read our review.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card

Our pick for: Customizable cash back

The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card gives you a little more control over your credit card rewards by letting you choose which category earns the highest cash-back rate, from a list that includes gas stations, restaurants, travel, home improvement and more. You also get bonus rewards at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, plus a great new-cardholder bonus offer. Read our review.

» CREDIT CARDS WITH A LOW ONGOING INTEREST RATE

It's always best to pay your credit card bill in full each month; when you do that, you never get charged interest, so the APR on your credit card doesn't really matter. But life happens and sometimes it's necessary to carry debt, which can get expensive. In fact, the average rate on accounts that accrued interest was 22.76% as of May 2024, according to the Federal Reserve.

Credit cards from major issuers commonly offer 0% introductory APR periods, as you can see from the list above. But their ongoing rates — the rates that apply after that introductory period runs out — tend to be high, even for cardholders with good credit.

True low-interest cards are available, but they're typically offered by regional banks and credit unions. Not everyone will be eligible for such cards, whether because of membership requirements, geographic restrictions on the product or the bank that issues it, or a credit history that's not good enough to qualify for a card's lowest rate. But if think you'll end up carrying a balance, here are some cards to consider that feature low ongoing interest rates.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Ongoing credit card interest rates are typically tied to the prime rate, which is the interest rate that banks charge their best customers. No credit card is going to have an ongoing, non-promotional APR lower than the prime rate, and even the lowest-rate cards will be at least a few points above it. For example, in early 2024, the prime rate was 8.5%. It was common for cards from major issuers to be charging 15 to 20 percentage points above prime. Low-interest cards were charging about 3 points over prime.

AFCU Platinum Visa® Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: $0

APR: As of February 2024, this card was advertising ongoing APRs as low as 11.15%, which was just 2.65 percentage points above the prime rate on 8.5%.

In addition to a low potential ongoing rate, this card also earns competitive cash-back rewards on everyday spending, which puts it on par with some of the best rewards credit cards on the market. But you must be a member of Aerospace Federal Credit Union to apply for the card. Being an employee of The Aerospace Corp. is one membership path, among other specific options. Immediate family members of those who are eligible to join the credit union can also apply for the card.

Air Force Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Credit Card

Annual fee: $0.

APR: As of February 2024, this card was advertising an ongoing APR of 16.5%, which was 8 percentage points above the prime rate on 8.5%.

While an Air Force Federal Credit Union membership is required, you don't have to be affiliated with the military to join and get the card. In addition to military association, you can become a member by being a volunteer at a number of eligible companies, living or working in certain Mississippi counties or donating to an eligible foundation, among other requirement options.

Andrews Federal Simplicity Visa Credit Card

Annual fee: $0.

APR: As of February 2024, this card was advertising a 6-month introductory rate of 0% on all purchases made within the first 90 days, and then an ongoing APR of 13.24% to 18%, which would be 4.75 to 9.5 points above the prime rate of 8.5%

The introductory period isn't as long as what other cards offer, but the card's ongoing regular APR is still relatively low. Despite potentially low rates, though, you may not qualify due to eligibility requirements. Andrews Federal Credit Union serves eligible members who live in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey only.

Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Card

Annual fee: $0.

APR: As of February 2024, this card was advertising an ongoing APR of 11.5%, which was just 3 percentage points above the prime rate of 8.5%.

s far as ongoing rewards and benefits go, the card offers none. But individuals who plan on carrying a balance from month to month will find its unusually low interest rate appealing. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll need excellent credit (FICO scores of at least 720) to qualify for the card's lowest rate. And beyond that, you'll have to join Lake Michigan Credit Union to get this card, although doing so isn't that difficult.

NASA Federal Platinum Advantage Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: $0.

APR: As of February 2024, this card was advertising ongoing APRs as low as 14.65%, which was 6.15 percentage points above the prime rate of 8.5%.

The card’s rewards are a bit lackluster (1 point for each $1 spent), but its lowest possible APR may make up for it, if you can qualify for that rate. The NASA Federal Credit Union offers a number of other cards with reasonably low interest rates. But you must be a member of the NASA Federal Credit Union to qualify for these cards.

Navy Federal Credit Union® Platinum Credit Card

Annual fee: $0.

APR: As of February 2024, this card was advertising ongoing APRs of 11.24% to 18.00, which was as little as 2.74 percentage points above the prime rate of 8.5%.

Beyond its low regular APR, the card doesn't come with any rewards or ongoing benefits. Navy Federal Credit Union offers additional cards that come with potentially low ongoing APRs. But as with other military-affiliated credit unions, Navy Federal Credit Union has membership requirements that can be tough to meet.

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Annual fee: $0.

APR: As of February 2024, this card was advertising an ongoing APRs of 17.99%, or 9.5 percentage points above the prime rate of 8.5%.

Beyond its relatively low rate, this card also offers fairly rich rewards. You have to be a member of the PenFed Credit Union to apply, but you don’t have to be affiliated with the military. You can also join simply by making a $5 deposit into a PenFed savings account.

Simmons Bank Visa

Annual fee: $0.

APR: As of February 2024, this was was advertising an ongoing APR as low as 15.5%. or 7 percentage points above the prime rate of 8.5%..

Unlike with cards from credit unions, you don’t have to be affiliated with any group or be a member to get the Simmons Bank Visa.

• • •

OTHER RESOURCES

Understanding interest rates and APRs

The annual percentage rate, or APR, is the interest rate your credit card issuer charges on any debt you carry on your card. Some cards charge a single rate for all debt on the card; others charge different rates for different kinds of debt (purchases, cash advances, etc.). APRs are listed on your monthly credit card statement.

Issuers commonly set their rates at a certain number of percentage points above the prime rate, which is the rate big banks charge their best customers. For example, your rate might be "prime + 12 points." If the prime rate was 5.5%, your APR would be 17.5%. With the exception of promotional periods with a 0% or super-low "teaser" rate, you're not going to find a credit card APR lower than the prime rate.

Although interest rates are expressed in annual terms, they're usually charged on a daily basis. An annual rate of 19.25%, for example, would translate to a daily rate of about 0.0535%. So for every $1,000 in debt, you'd pay about 54 cents a day in interest. That doesn't seem like much ... but over the course of a month and a year, it really adds up.

How to avoid paying credit card interest entirely

Most credit cards offer a "grace period" that allows you to avoid paying any interest at all.

  • If you pay your balance in full each month, then you will not owe any interest on your purchases.

  • If you carry debt over from month to month, then interest will start accruing on purchases as soon as they're posted to your account.

If you're what the credit card industry refers to as a "transactor" — someone who uses their card for convenience and rewards and pays the bill in full every month — then your APR is pretty much irrelevant, because you'll never pay a dime in interest.

On the other hand, if you're a "revolver" — someone who uses cards to float purchases they can't pay off all at once and carries debt from month to month — then your APR is very important, because it dictates how much you pay in interest.

What's the difference between interest and APR?

When you're talking about credit cards, there is no difference between your interest rate and APR. They're the same thing.

That leads to another question: Why do credit card issuers refer to it as the "APR" rather than the interest rate? Mostly because federal truth-in-lending laws require it. The APR is the “real” annual cost of borrowing money, and it takes into account not just interest on the money you borrow, but also fees and other charges.

With some financial products, such as mortgages, the APR can be significantly different from the stated interest rate. Credit card APR calculations, however, don’t include those other charges, in large part because card issuers cannot predict who will have to pay which fees or how much they will pay. And as discussed above, if you pay your bill in full every month, you won't pay any interest at all, so the stated APR on your account isn't even charged to you.

How do low interest credit card offers work?

As mentioned at the top of this page, there are really two ways to define a low interest credit card:

  • A card with a promotional APR period. This is the most common interest-saving feature on credit cards today. The promotional period typically starts when you open the account. But card issuers will sometimes offer a promotional APR on a card you’re already carrying, as an incentive to get you to use it more often. 

  • A card with a low ongoing interest rate. The ongoing interest rate is the card’s “regular” APR — the rate that applies in the absence of any promotion.

A “low” ongoing rate isn’t easily defined, because credit card APRs go up and down with interest rates in general. Cards with low ongoing rates were more widely available during the mid-2010s, when interest rates in general sat at historic lows for a prolonged period. But as interest rates have risen, so has the definition of a low rate.

As a rule of thumb, if you can get a rate lower than prime + 5%, that’s a great rate for a credit card, and less than prime + 10% is a very good rate. However, this emphasizes just how high credit card interest rates are. The average rate on credit card accounts charged interest was 22.76% as of May 2024.

A key point to understand about the difference between cards with a low promotional APR and cards with a low ongoing rate is that in the first case, the interest savings are big but last for only a limited time, while in the latter case, the savings might be smaller but are available for the long term. So a card with an introductory APR promotion is better for a big purchase you’ll need time to pay off, while a low ongoing rate is better for someone who expects to consistently carry debt.

Say you have a card with an introductory 0% purchase APR for 15 months. A "0%" rate means no interest at all will be charged on purchases, in this case for the first 15 months you have the card. Once that introductory period runs out, interest will be charged at the ongoing APR — but only on your balance going forward. There is no "retroactive" interest. (One note of caution, though: If you have a 0% offer, make sure you pay your bill on time every month; a late payment can cancel your 0% rate and immediately move you to the ongoing rate.)

Zero-percent periods on credit cards are different from the "no interest for 12 months" offers you see in stores. Those are what's known as "deferred interest." In those offers, you don't have to pay interest during the promotional period, but interest is silently being calculated in the background. If you have any balance remaining at the end of the period, you will be charged interest on your whole purchase, going all the way back to the time of purchase. That could cost you hundreds of dollars.

Glossary of APR terms

  • Purchase APR. This is the rate your card charges when you pay for things with the card. Most credit cards offer a grace period: If you pay your balance in full every month, you won't have to pay interest on purchases. But if you roll over debt from one month to the next, then interest will start adding up on a purchase as soon as you make it.

  • Balance transfer APR. This is the rate on debt that you've moved to the card from somewhere else. To attract your business, card issuers often offer a low rate, even 0%, on transferred debt.

  • Cash advance APR. This is the rate charged when you use your credit card to get cash from an ATM. Interest usually starts adding up on cash advances immediately. Grace periods don't apply.

  • Introductory APR. Sometimes called a promotional rate or "teaser rate," this is a low interest rate offered when you first open your account. Many credit cards offer people with good credit an introductory rate of 0% on purchases for a year or more.

  • Ongoing APR. This is the "regular" rate that goes into effect once any introductory APR period expires. In the absence of an intro APR promotion, this is the rate that applies from the start.

  • Variable APR. Most credit card interest rates are tied to the prime rate. When the prime rate goes up (or down), your credit card's interest rate will usually go up (or down) an equal amount. "Variable APR" just means your current rate is not permanent and could change if the prime rate does.

How credit card issuers set interest rates

Credit card issuers are required by law to clearly state the interest rate on a credit card before you apply. You can find the interest rate (or rates) charged by a card in its terms and conditions, sometimes referred to as the “fine print.” When looking at a card online, look for a link that says something like "See terms and fees" or "View rates and fees" or "Offer details." The rate will be prominently displayed in a large chart known as the Schumer box.

  • With some cards, everyone has the same APR. This is common, especially with cards for people with bad credit (in which the rate is very high) or super-low-interest cards for people with good credit.

  • Many cards charge a range of APRs. It's common to see a card saying it charges something like "15.99% to 23.99%." When a card has a range of available APRs, the rate you get will usually depend on your creditworthiness. See below for how your credit score affects your interest rate.

  • Rewards cards tend to charge higher APRs. Cash-back and travel-rewards programs are expensive, and one of the ways credit card issuers pay for them is by charging higher interest rates on balances on rewards cards.

How your credit score affects your interest rate

The interest rate you pay on your credit card is heavily dependent on your credit history, which is summed up in your credit scores. Interest rates are how issuers put a price on risk:

  • When you have a low credit score, lenders see a higher risk in lending you money. As a result, the interest rate charged by your credit card will be higher.

  • When you have a high credit score, the risk is lower that you wont repay borrowed money. So the interest rate on your credit card will be lower.

If a card advertises a range of APRs, a lower score will put you toward the higher end of that range (or you might not qualify for a card at all), while a high score will put you on the lower end of the range.

As a very general rule of thumb:

  • If you have good or excellent credit (a score of 690 or more), look for prime + less than 12 points.

  • For average credit (630 to 690), you'll likely see prime + 15 to 20 points.

  • For bad credit (below 630), expect to find APRs more in the range of prime + more than 20 points.

Improving your credit to qualify for a better rate

As with most financial products, the best interest rates on credit cards are available to those with the strongest credit profiles. Improving your credit is the first step toward improving your rate. Steps to take:

  • Know your credit score. You can get free access to your score through NerdWallet. Get your free score here.

  • Make 100% of your payments on time. This applies not only to credit cards, loans and other lines of credit, but also to utility bills and other accounts. Unpaid bills that that go into collections can seriously hurt your credit.

  • Keep your credit utilization low. Don't let your balance on any card (or all cards put together) exceed 30% of the total credit limit.

  • Limit your credit applications. New accounts lower the average age of your open lines of credit, which makes up part of your credit score. Multiple credit inquiries from applications can also ding your score.

  • Keep accounts open. Unless a card has an annual fee, keep it open and active, even if for only one bill a month. This will help both your credit utilization and the length of your credit history.

  • Check each of your credit reports each year for errors and discrepancies.

The high cost of a higher interest rate

A higher APR costs you money in two ways:

  • First, obviously, it increases the amount of interest charged on your purchases.

  • Second, because you are paying more in interest, you have less money available to pay down the principal — the debt you actually put on the card. That means you could stay in debt (and pay interest) for a longer time.

Let's walk through an example and see how a higher APR affects you at every turn.

1. Your interest charges are higher

If you have excellent credit, you might qualify for a credit card with a super-low rate, let's say 10%. Meanwhile, a person with bad credit or no credit history at all might only qualify for a "starter" card with an APR of 28%. Let's say each person carries a $1,000 balance from one month to the next:

  • The 10% APR card produces an interest charge of about $8.22 in the first month.

  • The 28% APR card produces an interest charge of about $23.01 in the first month.

2. Your minimum payments are higher

The minimum payment on a credit card is typically made up of all the accrued interest, plus any fees, plus a percentage of the principal (the money you actually spent on the card). In this case, let's say that percentage is 1.5%.

  • The 10% APR card will have a minimum payment of $23.22 in that first month.

  • The 28% APR card has a minimum payment of about $38.01 the first month.

3. Your debt shrinks more slowly

Now say that each person has only $50 a month to put toward credit card debt. That's more than the minimum (and paying more than the minimum is always good), but it's not enough to cover their debt entirely. This is a common way people use credit cards — they're "revolvers" who pay down slowly over time.

  • With a $50 payment on the 10% APR card, $8.22 goes to interest and $41.78 goes to reduce the debt. The cardholder now has $958.22 in debt left to repay.

  • With a $50 payment on the 28% APR card, $23.01 goes to interest and only $26.99 goes to reduce the debt. The cardholder now has $973.01 in debt left to repay.

After just one month, the person with the lower APR is about $15 ahead of the person with the higher APR in the "race" to eliminate their debt.

4. You're in debt longer and pay more to get out

Say they continue like this, each paying $50 a month. For each cardholder, the interest charges will shrink each month as they pay down the principal. But the one with the lower APR will get out of debt more quickly and pay less in interest:

  • After a year's worth of payments, the person with the 10% card has reduced their debt to about $475. That means $600 in payments has reduced their debt by about $525. They'll be debt-free after 23 months, and they'll pay a total of about $97 in interest.

  • After a year, the person with the 28% card has reduced their debt to only about $631. That means $600 in payments has cut the debt by only about $369. They'll need 28 months to get debt-free, and they'll pay a total of $355 in interest.

Reducing your interest costs

As discussed, you can avoid interest entirely by paying your balance in full every month. But that's not always possible for everyone. Sometimes carrying a balance is unavoidable. Here are some options.

Pay more than the minimum due

The minimum payment shown on your billing statement is the absolute least you can pay without incurring a penalty. It won't get you very far toward paying off your debt, though, as the above example makes clear. To see real interest savings, you need to pay interest on less money, and that means attacking the principal by paying more than the minimum.

We've created a calculator to help you see how much you could save in interest by paying down your credit card balance. Enter your balance and choose an interest rate, then see your savings if you reduced the balance by 5% to 50%. See the calculator here.

Ask if you qualify for a lower rate

This may be an option if your credit score has improved considerably since you opened the account. The issuer might knock some points off your rate, or move your account to a card with a lower rate. You issuer might say no to your request, but you don't know unless you ask.

Move debt to a 0% interest credit card

Transferring high-interest debt to a credit card with an introductory 0% APR period can save you hundreds of dollars in interest. You may have to pay a fee of around 3% of the amount you transferred, but you'll get breathing room to pay down your debt. Keep in mind, though, that 0% interest credit cards are generally available only to people with good or excellent credit.

How to compare low interest credit cards

When choosing a low interest credit card, let your specific needs be your guide:

  • If you have a big purchase coming up and will need time to pay it off, your best bet is a card with a lengthy introductory APR period. Many rewards cards offer a year or more at 0%, which allow you to collect rewards on your purchase, then pay it off interest-free.

  • If you find you're consistently carrying a balance a from month to month, look for a card with a low ongoing interest rate. Cards with an introductory 0% period tend to charge higher rates down the road.

  • If you want to transfer a balance to pay it down at a lower cost, you'll want a card with a 0% intro period and a low balance transfer fee. Many of the cards on this list are good for transfers, but check out our best balance transfer credit cards for further options.

Once you've decided what type of card to look for, compare cards based on the following factors.

Introductory APR period

Dozens of cards offer newcomers a 0% period of a year or more when they first open the account. This includes a number of popular rewards cards with introductory rates as long as 15 months. If you've got a big purchase coming up and will need time to pay it off, a 0% offer is perfect. In general, the longer the 0% period, the better, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you're late with a payment, the issuer can cancel your 0% rate, leaving you paying high interest on a big balance.

  • Some cards offer long 0% periods for balance transfers, but shorter ones (or no 0% period at all) for purchases. Read the fine print before applying.

  • The cards with the longest 0% periods — 18 months or more — generally don't offer rewards, so once the introductory APR period runs out, there's not a lot of incentive to use the card, unless the card offers a low ongoing rate.

Ongoing APR

In general, you can get a card with a 0% introductory period or you can get a card with a low ongoing APR, but there aren't a lot of cards that give you both. If you expect that you'll be carrying a balance regularly, the ongoing APR is an important consideration.

Balance transfer fee

If you'll need to transfer a balance, this fee is an important consideration. Most cards charge a fee of 3% to 5% of the amount transferred — equal to $30 to $50 for every $1,000 worth of debt moved to the card. Depending on the APR on the card you transfer the debt to and how long it takes you to pay it off, you could save more in interest than you pay in transfer fees. (At one point, cards with no balance transfer fee were readily available, but they are exceedingly rare nowadays.) Of course, if you're only interested in purchases rather than transfers, this fee is irrelevant.

Required credit profile

You're unlikely to qualify for a low interest credit card unless you have good credit, generally defined as a score of 690 or better. Some cards even require excellent credit, generally defined as 720 or better.

Penalty policies

It's important to pay your bill on time every month. Paying late usually results in a stiff fee (often nearly $40), and if you're 30 days or more late, it can badly damage your credit score. Finally, a late payment can trigger a penalty APR, jacking up your interest rate as high as 30% in some cases. When you're benefiting from a promotional APR or have a low ongoing rate, being bumped up to a penalty rate can be disastrous. If punctuality is an issue for you, look into a card's penalty policies (and, for your own sake, work on your punctuality).

Annual fee

Saving money is the primary reason to get a low-interest credit card, so you shouldn't be paying an annual fee on such a card. However, some rewards cards with intro APR periods do charge an annual fee; whether it's worth paying depends on how much you expect to earn in rewards.

Free credit score

Most major credit card issuers and many smaller ones give cardholders free access to a credit score. When you're looking to manage debt with a low-interest card, it's smart to keep an eye on your score.

Rewards and bonus offers

As mentioned, many rewards credit cards — usually cash-back cards — offer an intro APR period. When you're using the card to finance a big purchase, those benefits can amount to an instant discount on the purchase. For example, say you're facing a $3,000 expense, so you get a card that has 0% APR for 15 months, pays 1.5% cash back on purchases and offers a bonus of $200 if you spend $1,000 in the first three months. The $3,000 purchase earns $45 in rewards and qualifies you for the bonus, for a total of $245 cash back. The effective cost of this $3,000 purchase is $2,755, and you have 15 months interest-free to eliminate the debt.

Making the most of your low interest credit card

If your card has an introductory APR promotion, strive to eliminate as much debt as possible before that introductory period ends and the interest resets to its ongoing rate. A low interest card should be a tool for getting rid of debt, not just a place to park debt and forget about it. If you find yourself moving debt from one 0% card to another but never paying it down, it's time to consider other debt solutions.

Although a card with a low ongoing rate can save you a lot of money over time, you're still paying interest. Apply those savings toward whittling down your debt faster. Saving, say, $20 a month on interest means you have $20 more you can use to reduce the balance on your credit card and move that much closer to freedom.

With any card, watch your balance. For the sake of your credit scores, it's best to keep your balance under 30% of the credit limit on the card. Under 10% is even better. When balances rise above 30% of credit limits, scoring formulas start to interpret that as a sign of financial stress.

Other cards to consider

Looking to transfer a balance to save money? Our roundup of the best balance transfer cards evaluates cards — including many of the cards on this page — with that specific goal in mind.

Do you even need a low interest card? You might not. If you pay your balance in full every month, the APR on your credit card doesn't matter, because you're never actually charged interest. In that case, consider a rewards credit card, which gives you a little something back very time you make a purchase. Rewards cards fall into two major categories: cash back credit cards and travel credit cards.

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NerdWallet's Funto Omojola contributed to this article.

To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, see this page.

Last updated on July 19, 2024

Methodology

NerdWallet's Credit Cards team selects the best low interest credit cards based on overall consumer value, as evidenced by star ratings, as well as their suitability for specific kinds of consumers. Factors in our evaluation include annual fees, the length of a card's introductory APR periods (if any) on purchases and balance transfers, ongoing APRs, balance transfer fees, bonus offers for new cardholders, rewards rates and redemption options, and other noteworthy features such as fee waivers or the ability to qualify with less than good credit. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.

Frequently asked questions

Both a 0% credit card and a low-interest credit card save you money on interest, but they do it in different ways — short-term versus long-term.

  • A 0% credit card doesn’t charge any interest at all for a period of time after you open the account, then it shifts to an often-high ongoing interest rate. Zero-percent cards are good for people who want to spread out payments on a large purchase or gain breathing room to pay down debt without interest.

  • A low-interest credit card charges an ongoing interest rate that's lower than other cards on the market. Low-interest cards are good for people who expect to roll over a balance most months (meaning they don’t pay off their balance in full every month).

Factors that affect the APR on your credit card include:

  • The prime rate. Credit card interest rates are often linked to the prime rate, which is the interest rate that banks charge their biggest and best customers. The APR on a credit card might be set as "prime + 10%" or "prime plus 12%." If the prime rate were 5%, those standards would equate to an APR of 15% or 17%. When the prime rate goes up, so do these cards' APRs. When the prime rate goes down, so do these cards' APRs.

  • Risk. Cards designed for people with subpar credit, or for people who are new to credit, will generally charge higher interest rates because lending money to these consumers is riskier than lending to people with excellent scores and established credit histories. Cards that advertise low ongoing rates are generally only available to those with good credit.

  • Rewards. Cards that offer rewards on purchases, such as cash back or travel points, generally charge higher interest.

  • Your credit score. Some cards charge a single interest rate; others charge a range of rates. The rate you get — either within a range or just by qualifying for the card in the first place — is influenced by your credit score.

  • Transaction types. A credit card might charge different APRs for different types of balances. Purchases may be charged interest at one rate, cash advances at another, and so on.

Purchase interest is a finance charge applied to purchases you put on your credit card. If you pay your credit card bill in full every month, you'll never have to pay interest on purchases because you have a grace period in effect. If you're carrying debt from month to month, however, interest begins accruing on purchases immediately. Learn more about purchase APRs.

If you had to choose between a card with a low interest rate or one that offers cash back, you would start by looking at how you use credit cards. If you pay your bill in full every month, you always have a grace period in effect, so you never pay interest. When that's the case, the interest rate on your card literally doesn't matter, so the cash back card is the easy choice. However, if you are regularly carrying debt on your cards, the interest you're paying will more than eat up the value of the rewards you earn. If that's where you are, a card with a low APR would probably be the better option.

How much your card payments will be with a low-interest card depends entirely on the balance on the card, the actual interest rate on the card and how much you are able to pay. Every issuer has its own formula for calculating your minimum payment. It's usually made up of the interest and fees that have added up over the past month, plus a small amount of the actual debt, say 1% or 2%. There may also be a minimum dollar amount for each payment, such as $40 (except in cases where the total statement balance is less than that).

If your credit cards' interest rate is tied to the prime rate, your APR will go down when the prime rate does. Otherwise, your best options for getting a lower APR are calling your card issuer and asking, or doing a balance transfer to move debt to a card with a lower rate.

About the author

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Erin Hurd

Erin Hurd is a credit card and travel rewards expert at NerdWallet. Her work has been featured in Yahoo, Nasdaq, TheStreet, International Living, the Daily Reckoning, Personal Finance and FinanceBuzz. Previously the director of strategic growth at a large financial publishing company, Erin is passionate about harnessing the power of credit card and loyalty rewards to travel the world. When she's not writing, she's planning the next adventure for her family of four using points and miles. Twitter: @ErinHurd1. Read more
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