Advertiser Disclosure

Should You Get a 0% Interest Card if I Don’t Have Credit Card Debt?

Dec. 29, 2014
Credit Cards
Should I Get a 0% Interest Card If I Don’t Have Credit Card Debt?
At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Zero interest credit cards, also known as 0 APR cards, are primarily used for paying off debt. They can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest. However, there are a few other ways you could benefit from a 0% interest card.

The Basics

Before you apply for a zero interest card for any reason, you should understand how they work. They generally have only 0 APR for a limited introductory period, which is usually 6 to 18 months. Once that window ends, you’ll be hit with an ongoing interest rate. Some 0% interest cards offer rewards, bonuses and cash back, although not all do.

Many people use zero interest cards to pay down debt. They transfer their credit card balances from their high interest cards to the low interest one, and pay off their debt while enjoying zero interest during the introductory period.

Now that you understand the essentials, here are three reasons a zero interest card could be valuable if you don’t have credit card debt.

1. To finance a major purchase

If you’re buying a big ticket item such as an appliance, sofa or a vacation, a 0% interest card could help you pay for it. A zero APR period gives you time to make payments on the purchase without accruing interest. Make sure the introductory period is long enough that you can reasonably pay off your new item in that amount of time without overextending yourself. Otherwise, you’ll have to start paying interest on the remaining balance.

2. To boost your credit score from good to excellent

A 0% interest card can improve your credit score if you already have good credit. In general, opening a credit card boosts your score, as long as you aren’t opening new cards left and right. Be sure to make your payments on time — late fees could cancel out the money you save in interest. However, if you have poor credit (a FICO score below 630), you probably won’t get approved for a zero interest card. If you do get approved, it could be a scam, so be wary.

3. To supplement your emergency savings

A zero interest card can function as a rainy day fund. Use it only in emergencies, such as an unexpected car or home repair, or a trip to the hospital. It’s better to have an emergency savings account for these events, but if you don’t have the money saved up yet, a 0 interest card is a good alternative. It will allow you to pay for those hospital and repair bills over time without added interest.

The bottom line: Most people use 0% interest credit cards to pay off their debt, but there are a few other reasons why you might consider applying for a zero APR card. However, not all zero interest cards offer rewards, so shop around for other options too.

Image via iStock.