Best top low-interest credit cards online and offline for use
If you’re planning to carry a credit card balance – or if you’re already grappling with a significant amount
of debt – you’ll want to steer clear of high-yield rewards cards that charge enormous annual fees in exchange
for plump rewards and benefits. Instead, personal finance experts recommend sticking to a basic, plain
vanilla credit card that pairs relativel y low rates with lengthy interest-free promotions.
The best low interest credit cards let you carry a balance for as long as a year or more without paying
any interest. That way, you can pay off big purchases over time without getting saddled with extra charges.
A good low interest credit card should also offer an affordable standard APR so that you can continue to
maintain control over your credit card balance long after the card’s interest-free promotion has expired.
To help you narrow your options, CreditCards.com evaluated some of the top-rated cards in the low interest card category and asked a panel of judges to rate the CreditCards.com staff’s top three picks. Judges for the
Best Low Interest Credit Card were personal finance expert Ginger Dean (girlsjustwannahavefunds.com),
millennial personal finance expert Stefanie O’Connell (stefanieoconnell.com), Kiplinger’s Personal Finance contributing editor Lisa Gerstner, CreditCards.com Editor-in-Chief Daniel P. Ray and CreditCards.com
senior industry analyst Matt Schulz.
Winner: U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card
Read our review
Other features: $600 cellphone protection, car rental insurances
One of the few cards available nationwide that charges a minimum rate below 12 percent, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card won first place in the best low interest rate credit card contest.
For cardholders who need to carry a balance, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card is a rare find: It offers one
of the lowest rates you can get on a big bank credit card and also gives cardholders a substantial amount
of time to make purchases and pay off transferred balances without paying any interest.
The U.S. bank card charges a minimum APR of just 11.24 percent, which is unusually low for a bank-issued
credit card. Most cards from major banks charge new cardholders at least 12 percent or more – even if
you have excellent credit. According to our weekly rate report, the average low interest credit card charges a minimum APR of 12.87 percent.
Lengthy interest-free promotion
The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card also offers one of the most generous interest-free offers available, says CreditCards.com senior industry analyst Matt Schulz, making it a good pick for cardholders who need to
pay down a large balance or finance a major purchase.
“That’s what makes the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card appealing,” says Schulz. “It offers an 11.24 percent
APR to those with the best credit and it also gives you 18 months of zero interest on both purchases
and balance transfers. That’s one of the longest offer periods on the market.”
Most general market credit cards that advertise a 0-percent interest rate give cardholders just 12 to 15
months to carry a balance interest-free.
No penalty rate
Judges also liked that the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card doesn’t charge a penalty rate, making it a safer
card for consumers who may occasionally fall behind on payments.
According to personal finance expert Stefanie O’Connell, the U.S. Bank’s consumer-friendly terms
could help win over cardholders who sometimes have trouble staying on top of bills and are concerned
about driving up their interest payments.
A “penalty APR is typically imposed when you miss the deadline for making a minimum monthly
payment by more than 60 days, and can impact how much you pay in interest on your balance,” says
O’Connell. “For example, PNC Core Visa and the Citi Diamond Preferred card both have a penalty of
APR of 29.99 percent. If you get hit with a penalty interest rate like that, it could take you longer and
cost you more to pay off your credit card debt, which is why U.S. Bank’s Visa Platinum card with no penalty
interest rate can be an appealing alternative. The less money you have to pay toward interest, the easier it
will be to make on-time payments in the future and eventually, get your credit card balance down to zero.”
The U.S. Bank card does charge a late payment fee as high as $38, though, so missing a payment on this card
can still get pricey.
Potentially high APR for cardholders with lower scores
Not everyone who qualifies for a U.S. Bank card will be offered an exceptionally low rate either. U.S. Bank also advertises a maximum APR as high as 23.24 percent, which is slightly above average for a low interest
credit card. According to CreditCards.com data, the average low rate credit card charges a maximum
APR of 22.79 percent.
If you can qualify for the U.S. Bank card’s lowest rate, though, judges say that it’s a solid choice for carrying
a balance – especially in the card’s first 18 months.
Second Place: Citi Diamond Preferred card
Read our review
Other features: Choose your payment due date, worldwide car rental insurance, purchase protection, extended warranty, trip cancellation/interruption protection
Slightly more expensive than the U.S. Bank Platinum Visa, the Citi Diamond Preferred card won second
place in the best low interest card contest.
The Citi Diamond Preferred card doesn’t offer nearly as low an interest rate as some of its competitors;
but it offers the lengthiest 0-percent promotional offer you can get on a plain vanilla credit card, making
it a good choice for cardholders who need to carry some longer term debt.
“My top choice is the Citi Diamond Preferred card hands down,” says personal finance expert Ginger Dean.
“The 21 month 0-percent introductory period is very generous, giving those transferring balances almost
two years to reduce the debt with no interest,” she adds.
In addition, cardholders also get 21 months to carry over new purchases interest-free.
“This card also works well if you have a large purchase on the horizon and need to finance it without
having to pay interest over the course of several months during the repayment period,” says Dean.
With almost two years to pay off purchases over time, you could use this card to affordably finance a
number of major purchases, such as new appliances or electronics, without expanding the purchase price
“I’m not aware of a more generous 0-percent window on any other credit card,” says personal finance writer Lisa Gerstner. “For a family in need of a little extra cash to, say, finance a minor home renovation or cover a car
repair, the opportunity to avoid interest for close to two years is remarkably valuable.”
Just be sure to only charge what you can afford to repay in 21 months. The Citi Diamond Preferred card’s
standard APR is lower than what’s offered by some competitors, says Dean. But it’s still relatively high for
a plain vanilla credit card. New cardholders could be charged anywhere between 14.24 percent and 24.24
percent – well above average for a low rate card. “If you have any doubt that you’ll be able to pay off the
balance in 21 months, think twice before you apply,” says Gerstner. “Currently, the standard variable APR
ranges from 14.24 percent to 24.24 percent.”
Despite the higher rates, the Citi Diamond Preferred card’s extra generous promotion could still make it
worth an application, say judges – particularly since APRs on even the lowest rate credit cards are still
relatively high. By offering cardholders such a long period of time to revolve a balance without paying for it,
the Citi Diamond Preferred card makes it possible for many cardholders to never pay interest at all.
“Owing interest on even a low-rate credit card can hurt,” says Gerstner. “If you’re charged a below-average
rate of 10.99 percent on a $10,000 balance, for example, and pay only a monthly minimum of $25 or 1 percent
of the balance plus interest (whichever is higher), you’d fork over more than $8,400 in interest alone. Ouch.”
If you can manage to pay off that $10,000 balance in 21 months – knocking out just over $476 a month –
you’d be able to avoid that hefty interest payment altogether. And even if you could only afford to pay the
minimum amount due, you would still shave your interest payments significantly by shedding a substantial
amount of debt over a two-year period.
The Citi Diamond Preferred card also offers a number of ancillary benefits that aren’t always offered by
competitors and drive up the card’s overall value. “The Citi Diamond Preferred card is the best option
because of the generous introductory terms and access to premium features which gives customers
peace of mind and a safety net when making purchases,” says Dean. For example, the Citi card offers
identity-theft resolution services, travel accident insurance, and extended warranties on purchases.
It also offers consumer benefits, such as price protection and presale concert tickets.
“Although Citi Diamond Preferred offers no points or cash back on everyday spending, it comes with some
attractive benefits,” says Gerstner. “Cardholders get access to Citi Private Pass, through which they can
get presale tickets or VIP packages for concerts and sporting events, plus free movie screenings.”
In addition, “Citi Price Rewind, another card perk, tracks prices on qualifying items that you register for
60 days after the purchase,” she adds. “If Citi finds a lower price, you may get a refund of the difference.”
Third Place: PNC Core Visa card
Read our review
Other features: Travel and emergency protection, online account tools
Less flashy than its competitors, the PNC Core Visa placed third in the best low interest card contest
thanks to its extra low rate and solid promotional offer.
Exceptionally low APR
The PNC Core Visa doesn’t offer nearly as long a promotional period as some of its competitors.
It gives cardholders 15 months to pay off a balance or revolve new purchases interest-free. But its
exceptionally low standard APR makes it a winning choice for cardholders who want to pay as little as
possible in interest.
PNC Core Visa cardholders could pay a rate as low as 10.99 percent — which is one of the lowest rates
you can get on a widely available credit card. Usually the only other institutions that offer such low rates
are regional and specialty banks and credit unions. The PNC card’s maximum rate of 20.99 percent is also
lower than many of its competitors.
The PNC card’s low rates, combined with a valuable 15-month promotion, make it a good pick for revolvers
with good credit who are looking for a long-term credit card, say judges.
“The PNC Core Visa is a good card for those with balances hanging over their heads,” says CreditCards.com Editor-in-Chief Daniel P. Ray. “It’s a plain-vanilla card with no rewards – but you shouldn’t care about rewards if you have a balance. It has no annual fee, a lengthy 15-month balance transfer period and its ‘go-to’ rate tops out at 20.99 percent.”