The 6 Best Low-Interest Credit Cards
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Having a low-interest credit card helps keep expenses that lead you to carry a balance from putting you too deep in a credit hole. The lower the APR, the less interest you’ll pay — and after looking at 80 options, we found that some of the best low-interest credit cards even offer additional benefits, such as cashback rewards, travel points, and 0% intro APR rates.
A whopping 21 interest-free months.
Discover it® Cashback Match™
With 0% intro APR for 12 months.
We know that every credit expert is going to tell you to pay off your credit card balance every month so you don’t pay interest. We also know that real life doesn’t work that way. There are times you have to carry a balance — maybe you’re in the middle of an expensive life change, like moving to a new city, or maybe this is the month your car’s transmission goes bust — and having a card with low interest means you’ll spend less to get your balance back to zero.
The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® has a low APR: only 13.99% (variable). It’s also one of the only cards that doesn’t offer an APR range, meaning if you qualify for it, you’ll know exactly what rate you’re getting. We like the idea of keeping this guy around in the event of surprise expenses that didn’t make their way into your budget planning.
If you can plan around some of the big spending that could mean carrying a balance, you should factor 0% intro APRs into your decision — as well as other perks. With these cards, you pay zilch in interest for a set amount of time, and the best ones follow that with an APR that’s still relatively low. We like the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card, which gives you nearly two years(!) of zero-interest payments on both new purchases and balance transfers, followed by a decent 12.49% – 22.49% variable APR.
If you’re looking for cash back, we like the Discover it® Cashback Match™ card best. It offers a 0% intro APR for a full year, followed by 11.49% – 23.49% APR. Even better are its rewards: 5% on categories that change every quarter, 1% on everything else, and a cashback match on everything you earned your first year.
How We Found the Best Low-Interest Credit Cards
This one was pretty easy, because we could look directly at the numbers. We looked at 80 potential low-interest contenders and narrowed our picks to cards with variable APRs at 12.24% or lower. (CreditCards.com recently reported that the average APR issued to new credit cardholders is 15.22%, so if you can get an APR below that, you’ll be in decent shape — but enough cards offered APRs at 12.24% or below that we didn’t need to look at anything higher.)
From there, we parsed through the benefits each card offered and sorted our list into a few top cards plus a few honorable mentions. One thing to note: We only looked at the big names, and didn’t consider credit cards from smaller or regional banks, although there are plenty that offer credit cards with low APRs. If you have a neighborhood bank or credit union, it’s definitely worth checking the rates and terms of those cards, too. Just use this review as your jumping-off point.
Our Picks for the Best Low-Interest Credit Cards
If you’re just looking to get the lowest APR possible, check out the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®. This card gets you a variable APR of 13.99%. This isn’t just the low end of an APR range; if you get accepted (this card is designed for people with excellent credit) you’ll get that 13.99% APR.
You also get access to the Barclaycard Ring™ online community, where members swap tips on personal finance and vote on features they’d like to see added to the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® — such as eliminating foreign transaction fees, which is currently one of its benefits.
Just how low is an 13.99% APR? It’s important to look at this number in terms of “how much money you’ll save in interest every month.” Granted, it’s tricky to calculate exactly how much interest you’ll earn on a credit card: APR stands for your annual percentage rate, but credit cards factor the actual interest on a daily basis, depending on your average daily balance.
But let’s say, for the sake of simplicity, that you have an average daily balance of $1,000. With an 13.99% APR, you’d end up paying around $11.13 in interest at the end of the month. (That’s an estimate, but you can get the idea by dividing the APR by 365 and then multiplying that percentage by the days in the month and your average daily balance. So, 13.99% divided by 365 is 0.038%, times 30 days in the month and a $1,000 average daily balance.)
If you’re going for the trifecta (low interest, 0% intro APR, and rewards), you should look into Discover it® Cashback Match™. This card’s variable 11.49% – 23.49% APR puts it on the low end of the cards we researched, but you also get a full year with a 0% intro APR on purchases as well as on any balance transfers made in the first four months.
Plus, you get access to the Cashback Match program, which has the highest cashback potential of any of the cards on this list. With Cashback Match, you get 5% cash back on categories that change every quarter, such as restaurants, home improvement stores, or Amazon purchases. (You have to activate these categories to earn the money, so watch your email for activation announcements.) Your 5% cash back tops out after you make $1,500 in purchases per quarter, but you still get 1% cash back on all additional purchases. So, if you spend $1,500 in those 5% categories, you can earn $75 that quarter — plus 1% cash back on everything else you buy. Cashback Match also matches the rewards you earn in your first year as a cardmember. It literally doubles your money.
Be aware that Discover is not accepted by all merchants, so you might want to keep another credit or debit card handy just in case you find yourself in a situation where someone doesn’t take Discover. There are several options that offer similar cashback perks and 0% introductory APRs — their long-term APRs just aren’t as great. That won’t really matter if you can pay off your balance during the intro APR period, so if that sounds like you, take a look at these cards as well:
0% Intro APR Period
APR After Intro Period
15.49% - 24.24%
5% on rotating categories on up to $1,500 per quarter
1% on all other purchases
13.49% - 23.49%
3% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%)
2% at U.S. gas stations
1% on other purchases
- Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
- Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
- Plus, unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
- 100% U.S. based customer service.
- Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements and online.
- No annual fee.
- Click “Apply Now” to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
If you like the sound of a long 0% intro APR period, and aren’t concerned with earning rewards, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card will be right up your alley. It boasts a whopping 21-month 0% intro APR period — that’s nearly two years! — followed by a decent variable 12.49% – 22.49% APR.
Picking between a few extra months of 0% introductory APR and cashback rewards will be easiest if you craft a budget and see what you can afford to pay off. If you can swing just 12 months of 0% introductory APR, we think you’ll be happier with the perks of the Discover it® Cashback Match™ card, the Chase Freedom®, or Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.
- 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 21 months; after that the variable APR will be 12.49% – 22.49%, based on your creditworthiness.
- Our lowest intro APR
- VIP treatment with 24/7 access to a personalized concierge service
- No Annual Fee
Other Low-Interest Credit Cards to Consider
If you’d prefer your rewards to be dedicated strictly to travel, there are a couple of good low-interest cards you might like. First up is the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards, which has a similar perks structure as the Discover it® Cashback Match™: a 12-month 0% intro APR followed by a decently low APR of 12.49% – 22.49%. You earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase (those miles can be applied to any airline and any hotel), plus get the equivalent of $200 (20,000 miles) if you spend $1,000 in the first three months you own the card.
- Earn unlimited 1.25 miles on every purchase, every day
- No annual fee
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $200 in travel
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
- Enjoy a low intro APR on purchases
- Travel when you want—no blackout dates
- Miles don’t expire
- No limit to the miles you can earn
If you’re a JetBlue-or-bust traveler, the JetBlue Card may be a good fit. It also has a year-long 0% intro APR period, followed by a similar 12.99% – 25.99% APR as the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards, but its travel perks are doled out in TrueBlue points: You earn 3x points on all JetBlue purchases, 2x points on restaurant and grocery store purchases, and 1x points on all other purchases, plus an additional 5,000 points if you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening. You also get 50% off eligible JetBlue inflight purchases, such as food, cocktails, and entertainment. (Not WiFi, though — which is disappointing.)
How many TrueBlue points does it take to book an Award Flight? It’s tough to say. We reached out to JetBlue to see if it would share an estimated points value, and learned that it varies — so we can’t give you an exact number. Various sites estimate a TrueBlue point is worth about 1.4 cents, so let’s look at it this way: If you spend $1,000 on JetBlue purchases and get 3x points per dollar, you’ll get 3,000 points, or roughly $42. (If you spend that $1,000 within the first 90 days of the account opening, you’ll get an additional 5,000 points, worth about $70.)
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
- Earn 3 points per $1 on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per $1 at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
- No blackout dates on JetBlue-operated flights & redeem for any seat, any time on JetBlue-operated flights. Points required for an Award Flight will vary based on the published base fare at the time of booking.
- Points awarded in your TrueBlue account don’t expire.
- Earn and share points together with Family Pooling.
- 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases like cocktails and food on JetBlue-operated flights
- No foreign transaction fees
- Chip technology & $0 Fraud Liability protection
Cash Back vs. Travel Points: The Great Debate
It can be tough to choose between travel-specific rewards and generic “cash back.” Take for example the JetBlue Card and the Discover it® Cashback Match™ card.
If you spent $1,000 on the 5% cashback category with a Discover it® Cashback Match™ card, you’d get $50 in rewards. With the JetBlue Card, you’re looking at a max of around $42, and that’s only if you spend that $1,000 on JetBlue purchases, which are worth the most points.
Your benefits are potentially higher with the Discover it® Cashback Match™ card, but the JetBlue Card makes sense if you travel with JetBlue often and are ready to really maximize your rewards.
If you or someone in your family has a military affiliation, you might be eligible for the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® card. You get a variable APR of 12.40% – 26.40%, plus 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
You also get additional military-related benefits, such as a 12-month 4% APR on all balances during deployment or PCS. If you enter active duty while carrying a balance, you get 4% APR on that balance until one year after you complete active duty. Any finance charges you receive while serving in a qualified military campaign are rebated.
- Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase
- There’s no limit on the amount you can earn
- Redeem your rewards anytime online or with the USAA Mobile App.
Our Top Picks at a Glance
0% APR Intro Period
Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®
15 months on balance transfers and purchases
12 months on balance transfers and purchases
11.49% - 23.49%
5% cash back on categories that change every quarter
1% cash back on all other purchases
Cashback doubled in first year
21 months on purchases and balance transfers (made in first four months)
12.49% - 22.49%
12 months on purchases
12.49% - 22.49%
1.25x miles on every purchase
20,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
12 months on balance transfers made in the first 45 days
12.99% - 25.99%
3x points on JetBlue purchases
2x points on restaurants and grocery stores
1x points on all other purchases
5,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
12.40% - 26.40%
1.5% cash back on every purchase
None of the cards featured above requires an annual fee.
Did You Know?
Think about your long-term spending — and your debt — before choosing a card.
If the only credit cards you’ve got have high interest, it makes sense to apply for a low-interest card. Having a good low-interest card is ideal for those times when you need to carry a balance for a few months as you pay off an unexpected expense — especially if that expense occurs after a 0% intro APR period has expired. That’s where something like the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® comes in handy.
However, if you’ve got long-term debt that you’re trying to pay down, it might be smarter to consider a balance transfer credit card with a long 0% intro APR period. Granted, there is some overlap: Several of the low-interest credit cards we recommend include 12-month or longer 0% intro APRs. You can transfer your balance and use the 0% intro APR period to pay your debt without paying interest, then use the low APR rate to quickly pay off any new balances.
If you know you’re going to be carrying a new balance for a long time — that is, you’re going to be making a major purchase that you can’t pay off in one or two months — you’ll want to make sure that your credit card’s 0% intro APR applies to both balance transfers and new purchases, like the Discover it® Cashback Match™ or the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card. That way, you can pay down both your old and new debt interest-free.
Want a better APR? Build your credit.
The best way to bring your APR down is to get your credit score up. Credit card issuers use a number of factors to determine your interest rate, many of which are out of your control — the “variable” part of “variable APR” essentially means, “We can change this at any time, based on market rates and other factors” — but the better your credit, the lower the interest rates you’ll get offered.
If you can’t pay your credit card debt off in full, even something as simple as making the minimum payment every month on time can help your credit score. You can also use online credit report services to learn more about your credit and how to make it better.