Finding the right 0% purchase card for you. 

0% purchase cards are interest-free for a certain period of time. Use our guide to learn about how they work and the ways to get the best interest-free credit cards for you. 

What is a 0% purchase credit card?

A 0% purchase card is a credit card that doesn’t charge interest for a certain period of time. Usually, with a standard credit card, you’ll have to pay interest on any balance you’ve not paid back within a month. 

This isn’t the case with a 0% purchase card. When you use the card to purchase goods, you won’t be charged interest as long as you’re in your interest-free period. 

The 0% interest period on these cards doesn’t last forever. When the interest-free period ends, these cards will start to charge you interest on any outstanding balance. 

Many credit card providers offer 0% interest on purchases as an introductory offer. How long your interest-free period lasts may depend on your credit history. 

How do 0% credit cards work? 

The main thing to remember with 0% purchase cards is they’re only interest-free when used for purchases. If you start to use other credit card features, such as withdrawing cash, transferring a balance, or using the card abroad, you’ll likely be charged a fee and pay interest on any balances other than purchases. 

One of the best reasons to use zero percent credit cards is to spread the cost of large purchases over the interest-free months, making your items more affordable while saving you money on interest. 

For example, imagine you use a 0 percent credit card that’s interest-free for 12 months. Instead of buying a new sofa for £800 and needing to have £800 upfront, you can use your purchase card to pay for it and then repay the borrowed balance monthly in more manageable instalments of £66.66. 

If you did this with a regular credit card, you’d have interest applied to the remaining balance each month, significantly increasing the overall cost of the sofa. 

This is why 0% cards can be a cheaper way to borrow; however, don’t let the interest-free period tempt you into overspending. 

It’s also worth noting that you’re unlikely to be told by your card provider when your 0% period ends. The responsibility is on you to make a note of this date and make sure your balance is paid back before this date to avoid paying interest. 

The best 0% credit cards will usually have an interest-free period of 18 months. Even if a card is advertised as having an interest-free period of a certain amount of months, you won’t necessarily be offered this. Lenders may change the 0% period according to your credit score.

What are interest-free purchase cards used for? 

0% APR credit cards are mainly used to help people pay for expenses they don’t have the money upfront for without earning interest. This makes them best suited for when you have to make a large purchase and would like to spread the cost, like when you need to buy new home appliances or book a family holiday. 

0% purchase cards can also be helpful if you need to make lots of purchases in a short period of time. For example when you’re moving house and need to buy new furniture. 

You can also use 0% credit cards cleverly to make your money go further. 

An example of this is if you’re booking flights for a trip that’s not for another 12 months and you have the money upfront to pay for the flights, you could instead put the flights on a 0% purchase card and put the money you had upfront in a savings account. 

That way, you’re earning interest on your money in your savings account rather than letting it sit in the airline’s account. Once the 0% period runs out, use the money from your savings to pay off the card, so you don’t get charged interest. 

What happens when the interest-free period ends?

When your interest-free period expires, your card will start to charge you interest on any remaining balance unless you pay it off in full. 

If you still have a balance you need to pay when your 0% period ends, you may be able to transfer that balance onto another card. Although you’ll probably have to pay a balance transfer fee, doing this may be cheaper than paying interest.

How do I know if I am eligible for a 0% purchase credit card? 

You will need a good credit rating to be approved for a zero-interest credit card. 

To make sure you’re applying for cards you’re eligible for, it’s worth using an eligibility checker, which will do a soft search of your credit report. 

Getting pre-approval for a credit card before you officially apply is a worthwhile thing to do. If you apply for a credit card and get rejected, it can harm your credit report. 

Even after finding suitable no-interest credit cards through an eligibility checker, you may still be denied a card after a hard search. Getting pre-approval isn’t a guarantee; it means you’re more likely to be accepted. 

What are the pros and cons of 0% purchase cards?

Pros

  • Helps to spread the cost of big purchases 
  • These cards have section 75 protection. This is where the card issuer can easily refund purchases between £100 and £30,000 if the goods are faulty or didn’t arrive
  • 0% interest credit cards are widely accepted throughout the world 
  • If used responsibly, it helps to build a good credit rating 
  • Some hotels and car rentals will only accept major credit cards as a holding deposit

Cons 

  • These cards can be expensive once your interest-free period expires
  • You’re not reminded when your 0% period is about to expire
  • You may need a good credit rating to be eligible
  • Can encourage overspending, so you need to be disciplined
  • Some may come with an annual fee
  • Fees for withdrawing cash 
  • Fees for missed or late payments 

What are the alternatives to interest-free purchase cards?

There are a couple of different options worth considering if interest-free or low APR credit cards aren’t right for you. 

Credit building card

If you’re not eligible for an interest-free credit card because your current credit rating isn’t good enough, you could consider a credit building card

These cards are intended to be used by those with a less than average credit rating or no prior credit history. When you use these cards well and make your repayments on time, they can help you build your credit history, making you more likely to be eligible for credit cards that offer rewards and incentives. 

These cards usually have a high APR and lower credit limits, but as your credit history improves, these restrictions could change improve. 

Cashback credit cards

If you have a good credit history and want a credit card that saves money and helps you earn some, it may be worth considering a cashback credit card

When you spend with these cards, you’ll receive a percentage of each transaction. These cards are a great way to reduce the cost of large purchases, especially if you have to make a lot at once.

0% purchase credit cards FAQs

What is APR?

The annual percentage rate (APR) is a percentage that shows you what you need to pay each year when borrowing money. This percentage includes the interest rate and any standard fees you’ll have to pay.

Is 0% APR good for your credit score?

Credit reference agencies don’t consider the interest rate of your credit cards when calculating your credit score.

Instead, lenders and credit providers are more interested in how you’ve managed your card. If you repay what you borrow on time and make regular monthly repayments, it can help improve your credit rating. 

As you’re not building interest, it can make how much you need to repay less expensive, potentially making it easier for you to repay.

Why do companies offer 0% APR?

Credit card companies have 0% credit card offers as an introductory offer to entice new customers. Eventually, a 0% period ends, meaning you’ll start paying interest on your outstanding balance, which is how card issuers make money.

Can you extend the interest-free period on a credit card?

In most cases, 0% offers are for a set period and can’t be extended once it’s about to expire. 

You can transfer your balance from an expiring 0% credit card onto a new one to extend the benefits and avoid paying interest, but you’ll likely pay a fee.

What credit score do you need for interest-free credit?

If your credit rating is above average, you’re more likely to be eligible for a 0% purchase credit card. You don’t need a perfect credit history to be approved for these cards; however, the poorer credit rating you have, the lower credit limits and shorter interest-free periods you may be offered. 

If your credit rating is below average, you may not be eligible for a 0% purchase credit card. If this is the case, you may need to work on improving your credit history.

 

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