0% intro APRUpdated: June 7, 2018

When it comes to credit cards, there are a lot of misconceptions or rumors about how they function, and credit cards that offer 0% intro APRs are no exception to this rule. To help you get a better idea of what you’re signing up for when you apply for a 0% intro APR credit card, we debunk the myths and explain what actually happens when your intro APR runs out.

Common misconceptions

Before we explain what happens when your 0% intro runs out, we’ll first need to address two common misconceptions.

1. You’ll be charged back-interest. A lot of consumers believe that if you still owe a balance on the card after the allotted 0% interest months have passed, you’ll be required to pay back interest for all previous months. Although this is the case with some store credit cards, as detailed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, this isn’t the case with most major credit cards, like the ones we review. Instead, these cards allow you to get the stated amount of months with no interest, then when the 0% intro APR period expires, you’ll be charged interest on all months moving forward. This means if you sign up for a card with a 12-month 0% intro APR, you’ll start paying interest for month 13 and on.

2. There are always hidden fees. Another common misconception many people have about 0% intro APR credit cards is that you’re going to be charged a bunch of hidden fees, as they believe the credit card provider needs to find a way to make up for the interest it isn’t charging you. While there may be some fees, such as balance transfer fee or an annual fee, you can easily spot these fees under the card’s terms and conditions. And if you’re not sure where to look, you can always check our credit card reviews, as we make sure to point out such fees.

What actually happens when my 0% intro APR runs out?

As the section above somewhat described, nothing too dramatic occurs when your 0% intro APR period runs out. Even though you will have to pay interest for every month from that date on, you are not expected to pay back-interest on any balance owed or anything like that. Ideally, you’ve already paid the balance off by the time the 0% intro APR runs out, but if you haven’t, there are some options for you. It should be noted that before you take a look at any options, you want to evaluate your current situation. Make sure you look at how much you still owe and determine if you can reasonably have it paid off within the next month or so. If not, you can transfer the balance to a card with a 0% intro APR on balance transfers. Even though most cards will charge you a balance transfer fee, which is usually 3% to 5% of the total transferred, it may be worth it since you won’t be paying anything in interest.

Are all 0% intro APR cards the same?

Although it may not seem this way, all 0% intro APR credit cards are not created equal, as they are designed to give the cardholder different perks for varied purposes. For example, if you’re making a large purchase or plan to fund a major event like a wedding, a card with a 0% intro APR on purchases is the best option for you because you’ll get an extended period of time to pay off any purchases you make completely interest free. On the other hand, if you’re carrying a balance on a high-interest credit card, you’ll want to opt for a card that offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers because you can transfer the balance from the high-interest card to the new card without paying interest for an extended period of time. Those who want to transfer a balance and make some charges to the card without paying interest on either transaction will want to choose a card with both a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers. With so many cards on the market, it can be hard to know which cards fit each of these criteria, which is why we detailed the top options.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

intro APRWant a card that offers a little more than a 0% intro APR on purchases balance transfers? If so, Chase Freedom Unlimited may be the card for you because it earns you cash back on all purchases you make. To start, this relatively new credit card gives you a 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (with a 3% balance transfer fee, $5 minimum). Next, you’ll get an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — it’s automatic, so there’s no need to worry about signing up for rewards or rotating categories. And if you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months, you’ll get a $150 bonus. As if that isn’t enough, this card has no annual fee and your can redeem your rewards anytime for any amount.

Discover it Cash Back

intro APRAnother great option for those looking to get a 0% intro APR with cash back rewards is the Discover it Cash Back card, which can essentially earn you 10% cash back in rotating categories for your first year of card membership since Discover matches all of the cash back you’ve earned in the first year  — meaning if you earn $400, Discover will turn it into $800. This card offers a 14-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (with a 3% balance transfer fee) — after the 0% intro APRs expire, a go-to variable rate applies — as well as some top-notch cash back rewards. The Discover it Cash Back card earns you 5% cash back in new bonus categories up to $1,500 every quarter you activate. Categories for 2018 include gas stations and wholesale clubs from January to March, grocery stores from April to June, restaurants from July to September, and Amazon.com and wholesale clubs from October to December. It should be noted that you’ll need to enroll in the 5% categories each quarter, but this can be done easily through Discover’s online portal. Rounding out the card is 1% cash back on all purchases, which is 2% for the first year after Discover matches your rewards, no annual fee and it’s available to those with excellent, good or average credit.

Discover it Balance Transfer

intro APRIf you’re looking for a 0% intro APR card to complete a balance transfer, Discover it Balance Transfer may be the card for you. That’s because this card gives you an 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers (with a 3% balance transfer fee) and a 6-month 0% intro APR on purchases (after the 0% intro APRs expire, a go-to variable rate applies). Similar to Discover it Cash Back (detailed above), the Discover it Balance Transfer card also earns you cash back rewards — 5% cash back on up to $1,500 on purchases within select categories that rotate quarterly and an unlimited 1% on all other purchases. And at the end of your first year, Discover will match any cash back you’ve earned. For example, if you earned $100 cash back, it will become $200. No annual fee and a required credit rating of excellent, good or average make the Discover it Balance Transfer card a great option for nearly anyone.

Check out our credit card reviews to learn more about the cards detailed in this post and see how they compare to other top names on the market.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.