Zero percent APR offers nearly went extinct during the last financial crisis, as banks struggled to maintain revenues from credit card customers. However, shareholder pressure has changed the minds of many banking executives, who now realize that offering a no-interest deal is one of the best ways to lure the least risky consumers to their brands.

Zero percent promotional offer periods can vary from months to years, even on cards bearing the same name. Our credit card tables can help you tell the difference between competing offers, separating the very best deals from similar accounts with lots of strings attached.

Credit Needed
Excellent
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  • 0% intro APR on purchases & balance transfers for 14 months--then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 10.99% - 22.99%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.
  • Over 5,000 cardmembers rated 4.8 out of 5 stars* and now Discover "Ranked Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Credit Card Companies in a Tie" by J.D. Power+
  • 5% cash back for online shopping and department store purchases on up to $1,500 - Oct. through Dec. 2014 when you sign up for 5%*. 1% cash back on all other purchases.
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Credit Needed
Excellent
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  • Earn 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days - that's enough to redeem for a $200 travel statement credit
  • Earn 2X miles on travel and dining and 1X miles on all other purchases
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
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Credit Needed
Excellent
X

  • Earn 25,000 Bonus Points when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days* as part of our Industry - Leading Rewards Program
  • Exclusive 24-Hour Concierge Service
  • VIP Treatment at over 3,000 Properties
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Disclaimer:*These quotes are from credit card issuers which have paid for a link to their website. Offers are subject to change without notice and may not be the same for all consumers.

Find the Best 0% APR Credit Cards

How do banks make money on 0% APR credit cards?

Don't think for a second that banks are letting your balance float at no interest out of the goodness of their hearts. They're looking for something in return for your application. Even if you intend to pay your balance off completely before your promotional period expires, your credit card company will still earn a portion of the fees that retailers spend to process each of your transactions.

Credit card companies also hope that you'll investigate some of the special offers from their retail and travel partners. Many zero percent interest credit cards now feature online shopping portals that save you some money, even if yours isn't a cash back rewards account. Banks enjoy a small kickback whenever they refer you to their preferred vendor, so your purchases could help cover the overhead required to maintain your account.

Chasing the lowest "go-to rate"

Of course, even the most generous credit card program manager will admit that banks really do want to earn some finance charges from your balance. Your "go-to rate" determines how much interest you'll pay each month at the end of your special promotion. Typically, longer "teaser" periods lead to higher APRs.

Read the fine print on your credit card application carefully. Some zero percent interest credit card offers penalize you for failing to pay off your balance before the end of the teaser period, especially on retail purchases. In a nightmare scenario, you could actually be on the hook for all the interest you would have paid at your "go-to rate" for the entire time you've had the card! Use our credit card tables to look for offers that charge interest only on the remaining balance after your promotion expires.

Getting the most from a balance transfer offer

0% balance transfer credit cards can help you consolidate multiple bills into a single monthly payment. If you keep your monthly budget the same, you'll knock down your debt quickly. Balance transfers now typically charge upfront fees of 3 to 5 percent, but you can often track down special offers that can shave one or two percentage points from those service charges. Look for deals that will let you consolidate multiple bills over the first few weeks with your card, instead of limiting you to just one or two balance transfers.

Maintaining a good credit score

Accepting a no-interest credit card can help you spend less on finance charges, but your new account could cause some unintended consequences in other areas of your financial life. A sudden drop in your credit score could hamper your attempts to get the best rates on a mortgage or an auto loan, even when banks are prepared to fight each other for your credit card business.

Credit scoring algorithms measure credit utilization across all of your accounts. If you use more than half of the available credit limit on your new card, your score may drop a few points. Likewise, if you cancel an older credit card after your balance transfer, you'll have reduced the length of your active credit history and incurred another penalty. Do your homework first and then apply for the best credit card deals you can find, so the "hard pulls" on your credit report don't spook other lenders.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company.