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What is Annual Percentage Rate or APR?

APR stands for annual percentage rate. It's the amount of interest you pay annually on any money you borrow.

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What is Annual Percentage Rate or APR?

APR stands for annual percentage rate. It is the amount of interest you pay annually on any money you borrow. When you successfully apply for a credit card you will be told the APR you will pay.

Why is Annual Percentage Rate or APR important?

APR is the annual percentage rate of interest you are charged to borrow money. All loan products must show the APR rate so you are able to compare them fairly.

A high APR means that you will be paying a higher interest rate on any money you borrow and do not repay on your credit card.

What does APR mean?

The APR quoted on a card means the interest rate you will pay. It is not the only cost that you might pay on a credit card, but it is important.

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Use the credit card calculator to help work out the costs of owning a credit card.

What is APR on a credit card?

APR should be advertised on all borrowing products, from credit cards and loans to mortgages.

As part of industry regulations, all lenders calculate APR the same way. To make it easier to compare loan products, APR takes into account any additional fees and how often you're charged interest.

Use our credit card calculator

Our repayment calculator shows you:

  • The total cost of your credit card

  • How much interest you'll pay on the debt

  • How quickly you could clear the balance by changing your monthly repayment amount

How does APR work?

How APR works is best explained with an example:

If you borrow £1,000 on a credit card with a 12% APR (and you do not repay any of the debt), it will cost you £120 in interest over the course of a year.

The APR is typically added to your debt on a monthly basis. To find the monthly interest rate, divide the APR by 12. The monthly rate on a 12% APR is 1%. If you owe £1000, you will be charged £10 interest each month.

The longer the period over which you spread your repayments, the lower the monthly cost... but the higher the overall interest paid.

Low APR credit cards

Find a credit card with a low rate of interest to handle your regular payments

What does typical or representative APR mean?

When you compare credit cards, the APR is advertised as either a 'typical' or 'representative APR'.

Representative or typical APR refers to the rate that at least 51% of those accepted for that product will get. 

Up to 49% of the remaining applicants may be charged a higher APR. This can understandably be a bit confusing, given you do not know if this is the APR you will actually receive. It means most people will receive this, but not all.

Put simply, the typical APR is a guide to the amount of interest you are likely to be charged. However, it may be higher depending on your personal financial circumstances and your credit rating.

Find out more about how your personal credit rating or credit score affects the interest rate you will be charged with our guide to credit scoring.

How can I find the best APR on loans?

To get the best APR rate, you will need to have a good credit score.

Despite the advertised APR, you will not know the exact APR rate you'll get until you apply and are told you are successful in your application.

The better your credit score, the lower risk you present to a lender that you will default and not pay back the money you have borrowed. So lenders charge higher APR rates to customers that they consider higher risk.

Find out more about how to understand and calculate credit card interest rates with Uswitch

Why should I be careful about not making too many applications for credit?

Every time you apply for credit, the loan provider performs a hard credit check. This leaves a mark on your credit file. Lots of applications can make you look desperate for credit. It is unwise to apply for too many credit products at the same time.

In order to get the representative APR, you may have to meet certain conditions and credit score criteria. To see what you could get based on your circumstances, always read the small print first.

Check your credit report before you apply for credit. You may need to improve it to be eligible for the top credit products. You're more likely to be offered the advertised APR if you have a good credit rating. A lower APR is a great motivation to improve your credit score.

Find out more about how to check your credit report

What is a 'good' or low APR?

0% purchase credit cards often charge around 18%-20% APR after the interest-free period ends.

Anything lower than 18% is cheap relative to the market trend. Anything dramatically over 20% is towards the expensive side. 

If you pay your balance off each month the APR will not be as important. However, if you forget to pay it off and you are paying a high APR, the interest charges will rack up.

Some store cards have higher APR rates than traditional credit cards.

Higher rates for credit cards are usually more likely for bad credit and credit builder cards, which can have anything between 24%-50% APR. If you have to get one of these cards, try to repay in full to avoid having to pay these high rates.

Premium credit cards that offer big rewards on your spending often have high APR rates too.

Where can I find low APR credit cards?

There are several low APR credit cards to choose from. You can compare them here.

Consistently low APR cards will help keep your costs down in the long term, so they could be a good choice if you need to borrow over a year or more.

Find out more about low APR cards

What other costs do credit cards have?

APR should not be the only thing to think about when borrowing money or choosing a credit card.

Other things to consider are:

  • Monthly fees

  • Late payment charges

  • Benefits

  • Your credit rating

Take a look at our video on the other costs of having a credit card:

What types of credit cards are available?

Choosing the right type of card for you depends on what you need it for. Check your credit score to make sure your credit file is in the best state possible before you apply.

Use our eligibility checker to see if you're likely to get the card you want. We only perform a soft credit check, so it will not harm your credit rating. Checking your eligibility could reduce the chance of being rejected.

Find out more about how to check your credit report

Why should I look for a low APR card?

Low APR credit cards are good for steady and planned borrowing and are useful cards to have in your wallet for the long term.

To borrow without paying any interest, consider a 0% purchase card. The 0% interest is only applicable for a limited period of time. After that, the card reverts to a relatively high APR.

Find out about low APR cards and compare them here

Can I transfer from a high APR credit card to a low APR credit card?

If you are being charged a high amount of interest on existing credit card debts, you may benefit from switching to a credit card with a lower APR and interest rate.

If that is the case, a 0% balance transfer card could help. Like with 0% purchase cards, the 0% on balance transfers only lasts for a fixed period.

Is APR always the most important aspect of a credit card?

For those planning to use a credit card mostly for shopping, and who know they can pay off your balance in full each month, a rewards or cashback credit card could be a good choice. The APR is often high on these cards, but that should not matter provided you clear the balance each month.

Compare and choose low APR cards

How can I find a credit card if I have a poor credit history?

Anyone with a poor credit rating or little credit history may be better off choosing a credit builder card.

You can avoid interest charges while improving your credit score by borrowing responsibility and repaying on time every month. Once your score has improved, consider a different credit card with a lower APR.

Find out more about how to understand your credit score

What is the difference between APR and AER?

APR and AER have completely different meanings.

AER stands for annual equivalent rate. It is the amount of interest you will earn on your savings and deposits over the course of a year.

The representative AER allows you to compare different savings products. Think of APR as a cost (as you will be paying interest) and AER as a saving (as you will be earning interest).

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