Guide to 0% Purchase Credit Cards

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0% APR credit cards can be great for those looking to make a big purchase (or several rather-large purchases). On this page you’ll find more information about how to pick a 0% purchase card that’s right for you.

What is a 0% new purchase credit card?

A 0% purchases credit card gives you an introductory period in which you can make new purchases without having to pay any interest.

The standard rate on a typical credit card can quickly run into double digits, which means that interest charges can pile up quickly. But with a 0% purchases credit card, you don’t have to worry about interest charges for the introductory period. This could mean a potential saving of hundreds of pounds.

How does a 0% purchase card work?

With a 0% purchase card, you get a specified period of time (the ‘introductory period’) of 0% interest on your new spend. This period usually starts from just when you are approved for the card, not when you actually receive it.

During the introductory period, you’re not charged interest on any balances that you carry on that card. But there are some things to keep in mind. You are still responsible for paying at least the minimum payment every month. Failing to do so could mean getting charged fees or even losing that wonderful 0% introductory period.

In addition, you must be aware of when your 0% introductory period ends. As soon as that introductory period ends, the card’s regular APR will kick back in. And if you haven’t paid off your balance, that could mean suddenly racking up interest.

How much can you save with a 0% purchase APR?

A card with a 0% introductory APR on purchases could potentially save you hundreds of pounds in interest compared with carrying the same balance at a typical APR of 19%. The table below shows how much you would save in interest by paying off a £5,000 balance during a 0% introductory APR period rather than paying off new purchases over the same time at an 19% APR.

Interest saved by paying off a £5,000 balance with a 0% introductory APR card:

Length of introductory 0% APR periodAmount saved
12 months£529.39
15 months£656.53
18 months£785.51
21 months£916.35

The interest you save is dependent on the duration of your 0% introductory APR on purchases offer, the interest you pay on your existing debt, and how much debt you have to repay. That said, most people will find that a 0% introductory offer on purchases will save them hundreds in the long run compared with carrying a balance on a standard APR credit card.

What can you use a 0% interest card for?

A 0% interest card can be used for new purchases – either one large purchase or several smaller ones. Generally, the 0% deal will not apply to cash withdrawals or balance transfers, unless specifically offered.

What are the longest intro periods on 0% interest credit cards?

The interest-free period on popular 0% purchase cards can be anything from three months to several years. However, your credit score and individual circumstances will decide the interest-free period you’ll be offered.

What happens after the interest-free period ends?

Introductory periods will usually offer you a 0% APR for a certain period of time. Depending on the card you’re applying for, this interest rate may apply to purchases, balance transfers or both.

Once the 0% interest period is over, however, you’ll be charged a new interest rate (agreed when you signed the contract) and this interest will be applied to any unpaid balance on the card.

Advantages of 0% credit cards

There are many advantages to a 0% interest credit card. Here are the key benefits:

  • No interest for a set time: You’ll pay no interest on purchases during the introductory period. This period can be anything from a few months to several years and applies to purchases, and sometimes balance transfers as well.
  • Ideal for a large purchase: If you want to make a large purchase, for example a car or a holiday, but would like to pay it off over time, a 0% interest credit card can help. For a certain time, you can pay off this balance with no added interest charges.

Disadvantages of 0% credit cards

Cards that have a 0% interest introductory period are a great tool if used correctly. But even with this wonderful interest-free period, missteps can be costly.

  • Remaining balance when the 0% period ends: The biggest risk with a card like this is having a remaining balance on the card when the interest-free introductory period ends. Any balance left on the card will incur interest charges at the card’s standard rate.
  • Minimum monthly payment: In order to keep your promotional introductory rate, most cards require you to make your minimum monthly payments. If you miss any payments, you could lose your 0% APR offer. At that point, interest on balances will be charged at the standard APR.
  • Credit score: Although your debt is temporarily not accruing interest, it is still a debt and will affect your credit score. This means that if you apply for other credit cards or loans, the balance on your 0% card will show up for these lenders when considering your application. If it’s a reasonable sum, it may not be a problem. But if you’ve racked up a lot of debt on your 0% card, it could lead to a higher interest rate on your new loan, or mean that you don’t get approved at all.

What to consider when choosing a 0% purchase credit card

As we mentioned above, not everyone’s personal situation is the same. So while our ratings are a good starting place for picking out a 0% new purchase credit card, it’s important to know how to compare cards yourself. That way, you can make sure that a given card is right for your situation.

Here are some tips for considering the different features of a 0% purchase credit card:

  • The length of the 0% period – It might seem obvious to simply look for the card with the longest 0% period. But there can be drawbacks of focusing just on the 0% period. For one, the cards with the longest 0% periods often don’t include other features or benefits that may be useful to you. In addition, the longest interest-free periods could encourage you to rack up more debt than is prudent or put off paying down your balance.
  • The standard APR – The APR you’re offered will depend a lot on your credit rating. And it’s important to remember that the representative rate that you see for a card is only guaranteed to 51% of applicants. So, you may get offered a higher standard APR than the representative rate. As a general rule, looking for a lower APR is better. This can make it a bit less painful if you don’t clear your balance by the time the interest-free period runs out.
  • 0% balance transfer period – If you have an existing balance that you’re currently paying a high rate of interest on, this could be a nice addition on your new card. Do bear in mind that having a card with two 0% offers of differing lengths can get tricky as you try to keep track while paying them down. For that reason, we tend to view the best options as either finding a card with equal 0% APR periods for both purchases and balance transfers or simply getting separate cards — that is, a 0% purchase card and a separate balance transfer card.
  • Annual fee and other fees – The good news is that 0% spending cards rarely have an annual fee. So if you find yourself considering a card that does have a fee, it might be a good idea to keep looking. You can likely find an offer just as good that doesn’t have an annual fee. On the other hand, most 0% cards do have foreign transaction fees. There are a few 0% purchase cards that do offer no fees on foreign transactions, but you can also consider a travel card for when you’re heading abroad. Finally, if you’re considering a 0% purchases card that also has a 0% balance transfer period, you should take note of the balance transfer fee as well.
  • Other perks – When choosing between a few cards with similar 0% interest offers, this can be a great differentiator, help you save money or even put cash in your pocket! Rewards are most commonly seen with retailers, but, depending on the programme, many of the rewards schemes have gotten much more flexible in recent times. Some cards also offer discounts on travel money and holiday bookings or travel insurance.

Who is eligible for a 0% new purchase card?

Whether or not you are eligible for a 0% purchases credit card will depend on several factors:

  • Your income
  • Your employment status (some cards won’t accept someone who is self-employed)
  • Your credit score

If you have a chequered credit history, you may struggle to qualify for the most competitive 0% deals. In order to be eligible for the top cards on the market, it could be a good idea to work on improving your credit score before applying.

Is a 0% purchase card offer right for you?

It could be a good choice for you if…

You’re making a large purchase: If you are looking to make a large purchase, would like to spread the cost over a period of time and have a good or excellent credit score, then a card that offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases could be the right choice.

You want payment protection: Another point in favor of a 0% purchase card is that it gives you payment protection for purchases between £100 and £30,000 — which, if you are planning to use the card for a large purchase, could come in handy.

Consider an alternative if…

You have an existing balance: If you are struggling with an existing credit card balance that already has interest, then it may be better to look at a good 0% balance transfer offer.

You want to avoid debt: As with any credit card, it is possible to find yourself in difficulty, so the key things to be aware of when taking out a 0% purchase card are that you know when the introductory interest-free period expires and are confident you can repay your balance before that date. Additionally, work out what your minimum monthly payments would be in advance. Then you can keep to your repayment schedule and protect any promotional rates that you have been given.

Planning on making purchases for your business? Have a look at our business cards and start comparing today!

Frequently Asked Questions

If making a large transaction (or more) that will need several months to pay off then a 0% new purchase credit card is well positioned for this purpose, since it will have a period of zero interest for new spending.

These cards offer a promotional period of 0% interest on new purchases. While you have to continue at least making the minimum payment on these credit cards, you won’t be charged interest during the 0% promotional period.

Yes, and it’s important that you not only take note of the minimum payment, but make sure to pay at least the minimum payment every month. Failure to pay the minimum payment could lead to losing the 0% promotional offer.

No. If you are paying high interest on an outstanding credit card balance on another card, you can use a balance transfer credit card to help with that. For a loan though, a money transfer credit card may be a good choice. A credit card with a 0% APR period for purchases is only good for avoiding interest on new purchases.

This depends on what you are looking to use a card for. If you plan to use the card solely for making a large purchase and then paying it off, having a 0% introductory APR on purchases would suffice. If you already have an existing balance on another card, it could be worth getting a card that also includes 0% on balance transfers, so that you can consolidate your debt. Just make sure to check for any balance transfer fees and the length of the interest-free period for balance transfers.

Each credit card is designed to appeal in a particular way. If one needs a credit card for a different purpose than the initial reason, then it follows that a brand-new card better meeting one’s current requirements would likely be more suitable than keeping the original.

While it’s not often possible, you can try to request an extension by speaking directly to the card provider. What the company might do instead is offer you a lower interest rate rate for a period than the one due to kick in after your introductory 0% APR rate ends, but that’s at the provider’s discretion.

When a card offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases, it means you will not be charged interest on any balances you incur by making a purchase with the card for a certain period of time after opening the account.

You may also see 0% interest offers for balance transfers. In this case, any credit card balances you transfer to your new card will not be subject to interest charges for some pre-determined period of time. 

Some cards offer both a 0% APR on purchases and a 0% APR on balance transfers, although the introductory periods may differ in length.