How do 0% purchase credit cards work?
A 0% interest credit card has a set period where no interest is charged on the balance built up on the card with new purchases. This period usually begins from the moment you get the card.
The length of the 0% period is usually measured in months even for the cards that charge no interest for more than a year.
As well as 0% periods of as long as 21 months, several cards come with additional perks - letting you build up things like nectar or Clubcard points, airmiles, get free use of executive lounges in airports and more.
Advantages of an interest free credit card
Spread the cost of large purchases
You can effectively borrow for free by using a 0% purchase card to spread the cost of large purchases such as furniture, a car, or electrical goods.
Use the 0% interest credit card to make the purchase. Then divide the balance on the card by the number of months remaining on the 0% period. Set up a direct debit paying this amount each month to pay off the debt before the 0% deal ends.
Item cost - £3,000
0% introductory offer - 24 months
Total debt ÷ 24 months = £125
Monthly repayment to to clear balance within 0% period = £125
Purchase protection on items over £100
When you use a credit card to buy something costing between £100 and £30,000, both the card provider and supplier you’re buying from are responsible for your purchase.
This means you can claim your money back from either the provider or the supplier if the item is:
- Not as described
- Not delivered
It’s called Section 75 and is part of the 1974 Consumer Credit Act.
It is based on the cash price the item you pay for, and applies even if just £1 of the payment is made by card. Section 75 can be useful if the supplier goes bust. It applies in the UK or abroad.
Things to consider before applying for a 0% purchase credit card
A 0% purchase card can be a good way to borrow for free during the introductory period. But there are a few important things to remember before applying.
0% interest does not apply to cash withdrawals
The 0% interest free period only applies to purchases you make with the card. If you withdraw any cash with the card, you'll be charged a higher rate and additional fees and this could make an amount you thought would be free could now become very expensive.
You might lose the 0% offer
You will need to meet all your minimum monthly repayments or you might lose the 0% interest offer. And you must not go over the credit card limit set by the credit card provider.
The 0% interest free period will not last forever
When the 0% on purchases introductory period ends, the interest will rise to a more expensive standard rate.
To avoid paying high interest rates make a note of when the 0% interest rate ends. And make sure you've cleared the debt before this date.
Be careful. The 0% deal usually starts on the date the card is issued and it might not coincide with your usual repayment date.
A 0% purchase card might not be for you if you think you'll struggle to pay off your debt
You should only consider getting a purchase credit card if you know you can clear the debt before the 0% interest deal ends.
If you feel you will be unable to pay off the debt within the introductory period, you'll need a card that's more suitable for sustained borrowing. You might want to consider getting a low APR credit card.
You might get a shorter 0% introductory period than advertised
If you’ve had a poor credit history, credit card providers might offer you a shorter introductory period than you see advertised.
See how likely you are to be approved for a credit card using our credit card eligibility checker.
How to choose the best interest free credit cards
The longer the 0% purchase period, the longer you have to pay back your balance without being charged any interest.
But many cards offer more than just 0% on purchases. What makes the best purchase credit card for you will depend on your needs.
Longest 0% purchase period
The longer the 0% period, the longer you have to spread your repayments.
To get the most time possible to pay off your credit card before you're charged any interest, look for a card with the longest 0% period.
The annual percentage rate (APR) shows you what the credit card will cost you once your 0% introductory period ends. A higher APR means higher repayments.
Depending on your financial situation, the credit card provider might not give you the APR you see advertised. Credit card providers only have to give the typical APR they advertise to around 50% of successful applicants.
0% on both purchases and balance transfers
You can avoid interest on both your spending and existing credit card debts with just one card.
These cards are commonly called 'all in one' or 'all round' credit cards. They work by offering a 0% introductory period on both balance transfers and purchases.
But they can become expensive if you're unable to pay off what you owe once the 0% introductory period ends. If you transfer a balance and continue to spend on the card, you could end up with much more debt than you started with.
Find out more about 0% balance transfer and purchase cards.
0% credit cards with rewards
Some 0% purchase credit cards will offer you the chance to earn rewards on your spending. This includes things like loyalty card points, vouchers and air miles.
Find out more about reward credit cards.Learn more from our Credit Card Guides
What does 'most popular' mean?
When we use the term ‘most popular’ on Uswitch in reference to credit cards, these cards are ranked by the number of clicks they have received on the site in the past 48 hours.
The most clicked on cards are at the top, with the least at the bottom. This reflects how popular they are with visitors to Uswitch.com. Consequently, this is a good table to look at if you’re interested in seeing which cards most people think are worth getting.