Types of interest-free credit cards
There are a few different types of interest-free credit cards available. Take a look at the different options available in Australia.
0% purchase credit cards
The purchase rate is the amount of interest charged when you buy something with your card. Often confused with interest-free days, a 0% purchase credit card means you will be offered 0% interest on purchases for a set time period. This time will vary between lenders.
0% balance transfer rate credit cards
For any credit card debt that you are looking to minimise or pay off, a balance transfer card could be a good option. Options for balance transfer cards will vary but could include the offer of a 0% per annum (i.e. yearly) or a low-interest rate for a fixed period of time. This allows you to consolidate your debt into a single product, and then pay it off before it can snowball.
0% foreign transaction credit cards
Want to make purchases overseas without incurring the wrath of massive interest payments? Seek out a card that charges 0% interest for foreign transaction. An ‘international’ credit card works best when:
- it’s widely accepted (e.g. some countries don’t support AMEX or Diners Club),
- doesn’t burden you with unnecessary fees, and
- offers a fair (or no) currency conversion fee.
It’s worth noting that, while not strictly a credit product, debit cards are ‘interest-free’. This is chiefly because you’re shopping with your own money, not borrowing from a bank.
When will you be charged credit card interest?
Are you finding it difficult to tell when to make your credit card payments? It’s not difficult to figure out, and we’re happy to clear things up for you. There are two dates you need to be aware of.
- Statement period. The time in which the amount you owe is calculated. If you had no interest-free days, you’d most likely have until this period ends to pay your balance before interest is charged.
- Interest-free period. The time you have to pay your balance before you’re charged interest.
Let’s say you have an interest-free period of 55 days. You’ll typically receive a credit card bill every 30 days. Once you receive this statement, you have another 25 days to pay off your balance before you’re charged interest on any purchases you made, thanks to the 55 interest-free days you have.
Pay it late, and you’ll owe interest on those purchases. You should also be aware that interest owing is charged if you fail to pay off your previous months’ balances as well.
Mistakes to avoid when using an interest-free credit card
Your potential for maximising the interest-free period depends on how diligently you tend to pay it off. A common mistake that’s made is when customers believe the entire interest that is owed doesn’t apply to items already paid for. However, this may not necessarily be the case.
For example: say you make a purchase at the start of your statement date and have 55 days to pay off the balance. You make a payment to pay for this product. If you then make another purchase on day 54 of your interest-free period, you only have one day to pay off your new balance before interest is charged. Failure to pay your balance will result in interest being charged for both items.
The good news is you can make incremental repayments throughout the month, rather than lump sums at the end of each period. This will help you manage your spending and avoid nasty shocks at the end of your interest-free period.
Another mistake involves cash advances – i.e. withdrawing cash from an ATM using your credit card. More often than not you’ll be charged interest on this money straight away, so be mindful of this if you’re short of cash for dinner.
Finally, be aware that you may owe interest on any balance transfers you make, depending on the card you use.
How best to compare interest-free credit cards
Interest-free periods are a popular credit card feature. When used correctly, they can act as an important tool to stop mounting debt. To find the right interest-free card, follow our tips below.
- Take note of the revert rate. When comparing interest-free cards, be sure to check the interest rate charged after the interest-free period, known as the revert rate. All it takes is one bad month and you could end up owing hundreds more than you intended.
- Determine when your interest-free period begins. One card may apply the interest-free period from the first day of the next calendar month, while another starts from the first day of the statement date (which could be any day). This impacts when interest is charged, so keep this in mind when comparing your options – perhaps even make note of it in your calendar.