What happens when your 0% intro APR period ends?

Credit cards with 0% intro APRs can be very appealing, especially if you want to pay off old debt, fund a large purchase, or cover a few months’ worth of expenses interest-free.Credit card interest rates currently average more than 20%, so applying for a credit card with a promotional 0% interest rate could save you a lot of money.

But what happens when your 0% introductory APR expires? When a credit card promotional rate expires, you may be stuck with higher interest rates and a balance you are unable to pay off.

Here’s everything you need to know about 0% interest credit cards, including how to find out when your 0% APR offer will expire and how to avoid paying interest after your promotional APR period ends.

What happens when your 0% APR period expires?

Typically, the promotional period lasts 12 to 21 months. When the promotional period expires, you will begin to accrue interest on any unpaid balances. Balances charged or transferred to the credit card during the promotional APR period are included, not just new charges.

Make sure you understand when your promotional APR expires and what the standard variable APR will be after that, so you don’t end up with a large balance on a credit card that is about to begin charging interest.

What will your new APR be when your intro period expires?

When your introductory interest rate expires, your APR will revert to a standard variable APR set by your lender. You can find the standard interest rate on your credit card by reviewing your credit card agreement.

Check your most recent credit card statement to see when your introductory APR expires. It should include both your current APR and the duration of any promotional APR.

If you can’t find the expiration date of your intro APR on your credit card statement, check your online account or mobile app. If you’re still unsure, call the number on the back of your credit card and request that a customer service representative look into your account.

In some cases, missing or making a late credit card payment may cause your 0% intro APR period to end sooner. Some credit card companies revoke the promotional interest rate as a penalty for late or missed payments, so read the fine print on your credit card to see if a late payment will cost you your introductory interest rate.

The distinction between 0% APR on purchases and 0% APR on balance transfers

If your credit card only has a 0% introductory APR on purchases, any balance transfers you initiate will be charged interest. Similarly, if your credit card only offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers, any purchases made with the card will incur interest.

Fortunately, many of the best 0% APR credit cards offer an introductory APR on both purchases and balance transfers. However, it is usually best to choose one or the other. If you’re trying to pay off debt, avoid charging new purchases on your card because you might end up simply replacing old debt with new debt. A 0% APR on purchases, on the other hand, is great for paying off a large purchase over time, but loading up the same card with a transferred balance may limit your spending power.

Purchases with introductory APR

If you have a 0% interest credit card with an intro APR on purchases, any purchases you make will not accrue interest until the promotional APR period expires. If you pay off your purchases in full before the 0% intro APR period expires, you will not be charged interest.

If you transfer a balance to a credit card that only offers 0% interest on purchases, your credit card company will charge you interest on the transferred balance.

Introductory APR for balance transfers

If you have a balance transfer credit card with a 0% intro APR on balance transfers, you can use the promotional period to pay off high interest debt. However, keep in mind that most credit card companies charge a balance transfer fee of 3% to 5% of the transferred balance.

Also, keep in mind that some balance transfer credit cards apply the promotional interest rate only to balance transfers made within a specific time frame, such as the first four months of card membership. Balance transfers made after that time will accrue interest from the date of transfer. Any purchases made with a credit card that only offers an introductory APR on balance transfers will be charged interest at the standard interest rate.

Introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers

If your credit card has a 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers, you will not be charged interest on either purchases or transferred balances until the promotional APR period expires.

What if you still have a balance after your introductory APR period has ended?

Don’t worry if you still have a balance after your intro APR period ends; you have options.

  • Pay off any outstanding balances as soon as possible. This may seem obvious, but see if you have enough money in your budget to pay off your remaining balance before your next credit card billing cycle ends (or at least within the next few months) to reduce the interest charged.
  • Ask for a lower interest rate. Call your credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate. If you have a positive credit history (no late payments, for example) and have kept your credit account in good standing for years, you may be more likely to get a lower rate — so keep that in mind before you make the call.
  • Think about transferring your balance. Transferring your balance to another card may provide you with a new 0% intro APR period during which you can pay down your balance interest-free.

Finally, if you are experiencing financial difficulties that are making it difficult to pay down your credit card balance, you can request to be considered for a credit card forbearance program. Some of these hardship programs provide lower interest rates, while others allow you to defer payments for a set period of time.

Should you cancel your credit card when the 0% introductory APR period expires?

The promotional 0% APR period is one of the main benefits of a balance transfer card. If you’ve paid off your balance at the end of that period, you might think it’s a good idea to cancel the card because it’s served its purpose.

Even if you don’t intend to use the card in the future, it’s probably better to keep the account open unless you pay an annual fee. Keeping that line of credit open helps two of the most important factors that go into your credit score: credit utilization and credit history length.

Closing a credit card, on the other hand, may reduce your available credit and shorten your credit history, both of which may temporarily lower your credit score.

You might even want to keep using your credit card — not to avoid interest, but to make purchases on a regular basis. Many 0% intro APR credit cards also offer cash back rewards, making them a valuable addition to your wallet even after the 0% intro APR expires. Here are our recommendations for the best cash back credit cards.

In conclusion

When your introductory APR expires, your credit card’s regular APR will apply to any remaining balance and any new balances. It’s critical to understand when your promotional period ends so you can plan ahead of time to pay off your balance and avoid being surprised by mounting interest on a residual balance.

If you still have a balance at the end of the introductory APR period, you can double down and work on repaying it before it accrues a lot of interest, request a lower interest rate to keep interest charges to a minimum, or transfer the entire balance to a new credit card to take advantage of a new 0% intro APR period.

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