Updated Jul 20, 2021 | Published Sep 20, 2018 • 9 min read
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If you absolutely have to carry a credit card balance and can’t get a 0% APR offer, a card with a low interest rate is your next best bet. Several options exist, though some feature APR ranges, so you may receive a higher APR depending on your creditworthiness.
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What Is a Low-Interest Credit Card?
Put simply, it’s a credit card with a lower-than-average interest rate. That could be all the way down to 0%, or just lower than the average — which is about a 17% APR (annual percentage rate).
Most credit cards have an APR range, like 14%–24%. The APR you get in these cases will depend on your creditworthiness: The better your credit, the lower your interest rates will be. For cards like these, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the lower end of the APR range.
Some cards come with a specific APR rather than a range, like 19%. With these cards you’ll know exactly what your interest rate will be if you’re approved.
Cards with very low interest rates, below 10% or so, are rare. In some cases, low APRs are used to entice people to apply for cards that have bad terms otherwise, like high fees and no rewards. Since you don’t actually have to accrue interest on your credit card purchases, as we explain below, these card offers are not very valuable and we suggest avoiding them.
This post is all about credit cards with low interest rates, rather than 0% interest rates (although some of the cards also have 0% rates).
Take note that credit card APRs tend to change over time. We endeavor to maintain accurate reporting for every card, but occasionally you may find an APR that’s out of date. Be sure to check the card terms before applying for any credit card.
Low-Interest Credit Cards
With all that being said, there are some credit cards that can have lower-than-average interest rates, which are still higher than 0%. Low-APR credit cards may be useful for carrying a balance if you can’t qualify for a 0% card, but they’re not ideal for this purpose.
We’ve focused on the APRs for the cards selected on this page. But keep in mind that the best low-interest credit cards may have other valuable features as well, like rewards and cost-saving benefits.
0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 14.49% - 24.49%.
Great offer from U.S. Bank, a 2021 World's Most Ethical Company® - Ethisphere Institute, February 2021.
No Annual Fee*
Flexibility to choose a payment due date that fits your schedule.
Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your U.S.Bank Visa® Platinum Credit Card. Certain terms, conditions, and exclusions apply.
Foreign Transaction Fee2% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in U.S. Dollars 3% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in a Foreign Currency
Key Terms & Features
Regular Purchase APR: 14.49% - 24.49%* Variable
Regular Balance Transfer APR: 14.49% - 24.49%* Variable
Cash Advance APR: 25.99%
The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card (Review) also has a pretty low potential interest rate. But in this case there’s a range, which means you could wind up with the higher end depending on your creditworthiness.
Regular Balance Transfer APR: 8.40%–25.40% Variable
Cash Advance APR: 8.40%–25.40% Variable
The USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® (Review) can provide an exceptionally low rate, as the name implies. But it offers an APR range, so you could also get a rate over 20% depending on your creditworthiness.
Intro Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: See Terms for See Terms
Regular Purchase APR: See Terms
Regular Balance Transfer APR: See Terms
Cash Advance APR: See Terms
The Discover it® Cash Back (Review) has an APR range that dips a bit lower than your average rewards credit card. This card offers 5% cash back in rotating categories that change every 3 months, and include different places like grocery stores, gas stations, and Amazon.com. There’s no limit to the total cash back rewards you can earn, but you’re limited to a quarterly maximum of $1,500 in spending at the 5% rate, and activation is required.
To get the intro offer, balance transfers must be completed within 3 months of account opening. Discover cards have no penalty APRs.
There are a couple other Discover cards that share this same APR range, in fact:
Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on your purchases.
Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, currently 13.99% to 23.99%.
Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee.
Amex Offers rewards you at places you like to shop, dine, travel, and more. You can add as many Offers as you'd like to your Card, then just use that Card to pay, and enjoy rewards directly on your statement.
Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.
$200 cash rewards bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
New Offer: Maximize your cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement /furnishings
Now earn 3% cash back in your choice category and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
You can update your choice category for future purchases once each calendar month using the Mobile banking app or Online banking, or do nothing and it stays the same.
No changing categories and no expiration on rewards
0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then, 13.99%–23.99% Variable APR. 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers.
If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%. Click “Apply Now” to learn more about Preferred Rewards.
Now with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
Foreign Transaction Fee3% of the U.S. dollar amount of each transaction.
Key Terms & Features
Intro Purchase APR: 0% for 7 billing cycles
Regular Purchase APR: 10.24% - 21.24%
Regular Balance Transfer APR: 10.24% - 21.24%
Cash Advance APR: 24.24% Variable APR for Cash Advances and Convenience Checks
Business credit cards tend to have APRs that are pretty comparable to regular consumer cards. But the Platinum Plus for Business Credit Card by Bank of America has an APR that could be quite low, well below the average. But it’s possible to get the higher end of that range as well. This card offers no spending rewards, but it does feature a statement credit bonus for spending a certain amount.
Bank of America issues two other business cards, which each have an intro purchase APR of 0% for 9 billing cycles. But they may have slightly higher regular APRs than the Platinum card:
Credit unions are known for issuing cards with lower-than-average credit card interest rates and fees, although they’re usually lacking in rewards and benefits. If you can live with this trade-off, you may prefer to use a credit union card rather than a typical rewards card or travel card from one of the major card issuers.
There’s actually a federal law limiting most credit union interest rates to 18% APR, and this includes credit cards. So you can trust that your rates will be no higher than that for credit union cards.
Credit unions typically have some membership requirements, like living in a certain area or being a member in certain organizations. To join the Alliant Credit Union, for example, you need to live or work in specific parts of Chicago, donate to Foster Care to Success, or meet other criteria. You can use this credit union locator tool to find one you can join, although not all credit unions offer credit cards.
Regular Balance Transfer APR: As low as 8.5% Variable
This card’s full terms aren’t disclosed to non-members, but your interest rates could be very low with this card, depending on your creditworthiness. You aren’t guaranteed this low rate. There are no balance transfer fees with this card.
Lake Michigan Credit Union offers another low-rate card with rewards, the Max Rewards Visa. It has an APR that could be as low as 11.75% Variable, and offers 3% cash back on gas, with 2% back at grocery stores and restaurants.
Regular Balance Transfer APR: 10.00%–18.00% Variable
Cash Advance APR: 10.00%–18.00% Variable
The Digital Federal Credit Union offers a few different cards, and the Visa Platinum has the lowest rate. It also issues the DCU Visa® Platinum Rewards, which has an APR as low as 13% Variable and offers one reward point per dollar for new purchases. DCU cards have no balance transfer fees and no foreign transaction fees.
Regular Balance Transfer APR: 5.99% - 18.00% Variable
Cash Advance APR: 2% above your variable APR. This APR will vary with the market based on the U.S. Prime Rate
The Navy Federal Credit Union offers several other credit cards too, although none of them have rates as low as the NFCU Platinum. All NFCU cards have no balance transfer fees or foreign transaction fees, and some of them have introductory APRs as well. They include:
Regular Balance Transfer APR: 9.99%–18.00% Variable
Cash Advance APR: 2% above your Variable APR
Special Low-Interest Rates for Active Duty Military
Active-duty members of the military are eligible for special low interest rates due to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
The SCRA covers more than just interest rates, but when it comes to credit cards the main benefits are:
A cap of 6% APR for any credit card debts owed before entering active-duty service (debts incurred after beginning active duty are subject to the regular APR)
Credit card issuers are barred from reducing credit limits or dropping customers as a result of entering active-duty service
Take note that these benefits only apply to accounts and balances opened before entering active duty. If you’re already on active duty and you get a new card or build up new debt on existing accounts, the regular APR will apply.
SCRA benefits can basically turn any credit card into a low-interest card. And some card issuers go even further for cardholders who qualify for the SCRA: Barclays and Citi both provide 0% APRs, while Chase, Capital One, and USAA all provide a 4% APR. Many card issuers will even waive the fees associated with their cards, including annual fees.
If you’re on active duty or will be, take some time to review all the benefits that card issuers provide under the SCRA. Remember that these benefits don’t apply to accounts opened after beginning active duty, so you’ll need to plan ahead a bit.
Sub-Prime Credit Cards with Low Interest Rates
There are a few sub-prime credit card offers with low interest rates, although we generally recommend staying away from these.
Sub-prime cards are marketed to people with bad credit scores or limited credit history. Their most attractive feature is the fact that they’re easy to get. If you don’t have excellent credit you may find cards like these appealing, but they’re also known for having poor customer service and ancient payment processing systems.
Most sub-prime cards are expensive, with high annual fees, extra fees for opening accounts or increasing credit limits, and, in most cases, very high interest rates. Some are so egregious they even appear among our picks for the worst credit cards available. But there are also a few with lower-than-average APRs.
The Green Dot card has a purchase APR of 19.99% Fixed, which is quite low. There’s also an annual fee of $39.
We don’t recommend the Green Dot card because using a secured card to carry a balance doesn’t make much sense. You’ll need to provide a security deposit for the card — so why not just put that money towards paying off your balance?
If you have a $500 balance to deal with, for example, you’d need to put down a deposit of at least $500 to carry it from month to month, accruing interest as you go. So why not just use the $500 to pay off the debt? You won’t accumulate that extra interest, and it will get the debt off your credit reports more quickly.
A more typical example of a sub-prime card is the First PREMIER® Bank Credit Card (Review). It has a one-time $95 “program fee,” an annual fee as high as $125, monthly fees that can be more than $10 per month, and a whopping 36.00% Fixed APR!
Who would want that?
Do Interest Rates Really Matter?
If you carry a balance on your credit card from month to month you’ll be charged interest at your given APR. This is an easy way to get into credit card debt, so we recommend always paying your statement balance in full every month.
By paying your full statement balance each month you’ll be able to completely avoid interest charges on purchases. Credit cards usually have a “grace period” during which you won’t be charged interest on purchases, as long as you continue to pay the statement balance on every bill. Grace periods are not legally required, but almost every credit card has one; all of the major credit card issuers provide grace periods.
So, pay your statement balance in full each month to prevent interest from accruing on your purchases. Or, if you have a card with a 0% introductory purchase APR, you can revolve that balance from month to month without interest charges.
Balance Transfers and Cash Advances
Balance transfers and cash advances are a bit different, however. This is because credit cards actually have different APRs for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances (but the APR for purchases and balance transfers is usually the same).
Balance transfers can potentially be a great way to pay off a balance. If you have a $3,000 balance on a card with a 24% APR, for example, you may be able to transfer it to a card with a lower interest rate. The best balance transfer cards have 0% APR introductory periods, letting you pay off the balance over time without accruing any interest. However, if the card provides a balance transfer offer, there’s usually a fee for the transfer, like 3%, and minimum monthly payments are still required to avoid a penalty rate.
Read moreBest 0% APR Credit Cards of August 2021
Cash advances, on the other hand, should only be used in true emergencies when you absolutely have to get some cash quickly. Cash advance APRs are typically very high, even when it comes to credit cards: often around 25%. And interest will start accruing on the same day you take out the advance. We recommend avoiding them, but if you have to take out a cash advance try to pay it back as quickly as possible.
To sum up, you usually don’t have to worry about accruing interest on your purchases as long as you pay your statement balance in full each month. But if you do plan to maintain a credit card balance, you should aim to get the lowest interest rate possible — preferably 0%.
Charge cards are a special type of credit card, which have no interest rates. Instead you’re required to pay the full statement balance each month or you’ll be charged a late fee. In some cases charge cards also provide the option to carry a balance from month to month at a given APR.
Most credit cards come with a range of interest rates, and the APR you get will depend on your creditworthiness. In these cases there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a low rate.
Other cards have a specific APR that you’ll get if approved, although these are less common.
Interest rates don’t have to matter at all for purchases, as explained above. As long as you pay your statement balance in full each month, interest won’t accrue on your purchases and your APR won’t have any effect.
If you decide that you need a card with a guaranteed low APR, for whatever reason, we recommend looking into the credit union cards above. But whatever you do, be sure to avoid sub-prime credit cards.
You didn’t find the right card for you? That’s OK! Check out our picks for the best credit cards in a variety of different categories.
Brendan has been writing about personal finance for over eight years, and is now taking on the challenge of bringing high-quality credit education to the masses. He makes sure that Credit Card Insider is covering the most important credit topics transparently and precisely, and that we have up-to-date reviews of credit cards so you can find cards that are right for you.
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