Credit card rule number one: Pay on time and pay your balance in full if you can. When you avoid carrying a balance, you avoid paying interest.
Most cardholders in the United States, however, can’t follow this rule. Paying on time is tough enough, and if you’re not careful about your spending, then paying in full will be impossible. If you’re in that boat, then the most important consideration when choosing a credit card is the interest rate. You need a low annual percentage rate if you’re going to carry a balance for months or years. With rising interest rates and disappearing promotional introductory rates, how do you know what the best rates are? Use this list of the ten lowest APR cards.
Background on Credit Card Interest Rates
Before we get into the list, consider two key points as background:
- More and more cards are based around variable rates instead of fixed rates. Specifically, most of the lowest available APRs are variable rates that fluctuate based on the Prime Rate, generally as a percentage above or below this rate. The Prime Rate represents the best rate major banks are willing to offer their best customers, which is roughly 3% above the rate that the United States government is willing use in loaning them money. While variable rates give you a chance to see your rate come down depending on national economic policy, they also make it tough for you to rely on a card to stay at particularly low rate.
- Credit card companies used to offer a particular rate and then either accept or decline people who apply for a card. While some companies and cards still work that way, most banks have switched to a model in which they list multiple rates, and if you apply for a card they’ll assign you a rate based on your credit score. For most of the cards on this list, you’ll need a very high credit score to get the lowest available rates, so keep your own score in mind.
Top 10 Lowest APR Credit Cards
Now, with that basic background information and armed with the knowledge of your own credit history and habits, find your best pick among the ten lowest APR credit cards:
A rewards card would normally be out of place on a list of the lowest APR credit cards, but you shouldn’t have to miss out on perks just because you’re looking for a good rate. The Capital One Venture Rewards card comes with a respectable reward program, and offers a variable APR of 13.9% – 20.9%. As an added bonus for travelers, this card comes with no foreign transaction fees.
See our Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Review for more information.
Though you won’t earn any rewards points, the best rates on this Capital One card can get even lower than their Venture Rewards Card: 10.9% – 18.9% variable. The Capital One Platinum Prestige card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. If you know you’ll carry a balance, your best move is to take the low rate and forego the rewards program. A 1% lower interest rate is almost always better than 1% cash back.
This card comes from the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which was originally created to provide financial services to members of our nation’s armed forces and their families. Today, anyone who is related to a current or retired member of the military can join, and many other organizations qualify as well. Even those who wouldn’t technically qualify on that primary basis can join an eligible charity with a small, one-time donation.
The PenFed Promise Card offers an outstanding 7.49% introductory APR for three years, and the rate can only change twice a year if the Prime Rate increases. Even after that increase, this card’s standard APR is an exceptional 9.99%. Lastly, PenFed hates fees. This card has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, no balance transfer fee, no cash advance fee, no late fees, no over credit limit fee, and no penalty APR.
See our PenFed Promise Credit Card Review for more information.
With the Chase Freedom card, you’ll start out with a 0% introductory APR on purchases for 15 months and $100 cash back. The most qualified applicants may receive an APR as low as 12.99%.
Chase Freedom cardholders are eligible for the bank’s amazing Blueprint payment program, which allows you to avoid interest charges on some purchases by paying specific items off in full, while carrying a balance on other charges. If you take advantage of Blueprint by paying off all new charges as you pay down your balance, you will only pay interest on a portion of your balance, saving you more than you would with a lower interest rate. You will also receive 1% cash back on purchases, and there is no annual fee for this card.
See our Chase Freedom Credit Card Review for more information.
With the Chase Slate card, Chase one-ups its own Freedom card by offering a 0% introductory APR for up to 15 months. In exchange for the longer introductory APR, however, cardholders will give up the opportunity to earn rewards. This card offers a variable APR of 11.99% – 21.99%.
As with the Freedom card, if you’re a Slate cardholder you can enroll in Blueprint to manage your finances and lower your interest payments. Plus, there’s no annual fee.
See our Chase Slate Credit Card Review for more information.
Despite its unwieldy name, the BankAmericard is a simple product. The most qualified applicants will receive an APR equal to Prime plus 7.74%. You may also qualify for a 0% introductory APR for 9 or 12 months. There is no annual fee for this card.
The Citi Platinum Select card offers a 0% introductory APR for a whopping 18 months. Citi cards like this one are also eligible for the cutting-edge Google Wallet service, allowing you to pay with your phone.
See our Citi Platinum Select Credit Card Review for more information.
Simmons First may be the least familiar bank on this list, but they make up for it by offering the lowest APR. This Arkansas-based bank was founded in 1903, and with history that long, they don’t appear to be a fly by night operation.
The Simmons First Visa Platinum product offers an astounding rate equal to Prime plus a mere 4%. Better yet, they are not playing the game in which your rate is based on your score and might be higher than they advertise. They run it the old-fashioned way: You either receive this rate or you don’t. This is a simple card; there are no introductory rates and no rewards, but no annual fees either.
Iberia Bank is a Louisiana-based institution that has been around since the 1880s. Like Simmons First, they also offer a card (i.e. Iberia Bank Visa Classic) with a rate of Prime plus 4%. Unlike Simmons, however, this rate only represents the lowest of several APRs that you might qualify for, depending on your credit history. They also offer a 1.99% introductory APR on balance transfers.
See our Iberia Bank Classic Credit Card Review for more information.
You should avoid carrying a balance, but if you know you’ll carry some from month to month, then you’re off to a good start by looking for a low APR. Getting the best rate, though, isn’t as simple as applying for the card with the lowest rate.
Always keep in mind that with most of these products, only applicants with the best credit histories will get the lowest available rates. Also, you still need to stay on top of your payments once you get a good rate. Your dream APR will vaporize the first time you’re late with a payment. You’ll get stuck with not just the hefty late payment fee, but you’ll also see your rate skyrocket to the penalty APR.
Nevertheless, each one of these ten credit cards comes with its own unique features and benefits that you should consider within the context of their low interest rates.
What are you looking for in a credit card: a reasonably low interest rate and a rewards program, or the absolute lowest rate with no fringe benefits?
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