How to Get a 0% Intro APR without Paying a Balance Transfer Fee

AwardWallet receives compensation from advertising partners for links on the blog. Terms Apply to the offers listed on this page. The opinions expressed here are our own and have not been reviewed, provided, or approved by any bank advertiser. Here's our complete list of Advertisers.

Offers for the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card are not available through this site. All information has been independently collected by AwardWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. Some offers may have expired. Please see our card marketplace for available offers.

If you’re paying down the balance on a credit card over time, the interest costs can be astronomical! While it’s always best to pay your balance in full each month, at some point, you may end up in a situation where you need some extra time—especially after the holidays. The common-sense solution is to move your high-interest balance to a card with a 0% balance transfer offer.

In today’s post, we’re going to try to talk you out of that plan by sharing a strategy where you can get the same 0% intro APR rate, without the huge fees and other restrictions that come with balance transfers.

Why Balance Transfers Aren't a Great Option

There are four key reasons why balance transfers aren't the best way to cut your interest expenses:

  1. The Balance Transfer Fee — Most credit cards charge between 3-5% to transfer a balance. If you need to pay off a $6,000 balance over time, the initial fee will take $180-300 out of your pocket.
  2. No Rewards Earned on the Transfer — Even if you transfer a balance to a rewards card that earns points or cashback on purchases, the amount transferred won't earn any rewards.
  3. No Signup Bonus — Most cards with balance transfer offers don't come with a signup bonus. As far as the bank is concerned, the 0% introductory APR is the new cardmember offer. Even if there is a welcome offer, it's usually not a good idea to make purchases with a card that has a transferred balance at an introductory APR.
  4. Transfers to the Same Bank Aren't Allowed — You can't transfer a balance between cards from the same issuer. If you're carrying a balance on a Chase credit card, Chase balance transfer options are off the table.

If you do want to explore a traditional balance transfer, the Citi® Double Cash Card is a great place to start. You can see our roundup of the top balance transfer offers here. But first, check out the strategy below to see if it could work for you.

Save on Interest, Earn Rewards, and Skip the Fees

Fortunately, there is a great strategy that will solve all four of the problems above. You can get an extended 0% intro APR period, earn rewards on each purchase, earn a signup bonus, and you can even open a new card issued by the same bank where you currently hold the high-interest balance.

The solution is to take advantage of a 0% introductory APR on purchases and use your normal monthly budget to pay off the high-interest balance. Here’s how it works:

  1. Rather than applying for a balance transfer card, apply for a card featuring a 0% intro APR offer on purchases
  2. Charge all your monthly expenses to the 0% intro APR card for the first 2-3 months, keeping in mind the minimum spend required to reach the signup bonus
  3. Use the money in your normal monthly budget to pay down the high-interest credit card debt while making minimum payments on the new card.
  4. Pay down the intro 0% APR card over the 12-15 month introductory period

For example, let’s say you are carrying a $6,000 debt on a high-interest credit card. If you transfer that balance, a 3% to 5% fee would cost you $180-300.

Instead, you can apply for a card with a 0% intro APR on purchases—like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® or Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees). Place all of your monthly expenses on the new card to get the signup bonus. Then, use the cash you would typically put aside for monthly expenses to pay down the $6,000 credit card debt.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Annual Fee$0
Welcome Bonus Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
The everyday workhorse of the Ultimate Rewards family of cards earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day of the week. While the Freedom Unlimited earns cash back on its own, the points earned become even more valuable when you hold an Ultimate Rewards card with the ability to transfer points to partners.
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase
  • Earn 3% on dining at restaurants
  • Earn 3% on drugstore purchases
  • Earn 1.5% on all purchases

Provided your monthly expenses are in the range of $2,000 to $2,500 per month, over the initial 2-3 months you’ve effectively transferred your $6,000 high-interest balance to a 0% intro APR offer without paying a balance transfer fee. Plus, you’ve earned a signup bonus and additional points in the process.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Apply Now
Rates & Fees
(Terms apply)
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Annual Fee$0
Welcome Bonus Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Memebership (issued as a statement credit).
The Blue Cash Everyday is a solid, no-annual-fee, cashback card for anyone who spends a lot on groceries and gas.
  • Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card membership, up to $150 back.
  • Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months of card membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
  • 2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores.
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%.
  • Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Rates & Fees
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
  • 2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores
  • 1% back on other purchases
  • Cash back is issued as a statement credit.

Best 0% Intro APR Cards for Purchases

Below, you’ll find a few of our favorite personal and business cards featuring 0% intro APR periods on purchases. Each card listed offers a generous signup bonus (particularly the two Chase Ink Business cards) and provides a decent return on everyday spending, helping you to maximize this strategy.

If a longer intro APR period is a higher priority than earning rewards or a signup bonus, you can find some additional options with an intro period of up to 18 months in our post on the best current 0% purchase APR offers.

CREDIT CARD0% INTRO APR PERIODREG APRWELCOME OFFERANNUAL FEE
Chase Freedom Unlimited®15 months14.99% - 23.74% - VariableEarn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.$0
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express15 months13.99% - 23.99% - Variable (Rates & Fees)Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months of card membership (issued as a statement credit).$0 (Rates & Fees)
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express12 months13.99% - 23.99% - Variable (Rates & Fees)Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership (issued as a statement credit).$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. (Rates & Fees)
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card12 months15.49% - 25.49% - Variable20,000 Miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening$0
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card15 months15.49% - 25.49% - VariableEarn $200 Cash Back after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.$0
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card15 months15.49% - 25.49% - (Variable)Earn $200 Cash Back after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.$0
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card15 months14.49%-24.99% - VariableEarn a $150 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months$0
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card12 months13.24% - 19.24% - VariableEarn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.$0
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card12 months13.24% - 19.24% - VariableEarn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.$0
Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business9 months14.49% - 22.49% - VariableEarn 20,000 Miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening$0

Potential Drawbacks

The main challenge with this strategy is that it may take some time to fully transition your outstanding balance to the new card offering 0% APR on purchases. If your normal monthly budget is only $500, it probably doesn't make sense to slowly pay down a large balance in $500 increments—by the time you execute the process, you may be close to the end of your intro 0% purchase APR period.

It's also worth noting that you'll still be paying interest on the original credit card for the first few months. In most cases, you'll still come out far ahead, but you should run the math for your situation before you decide. Don't forget to consider the value of the points or cash earned from spending and the welcome offer before comparing it with the balance transfer fee.

How to Evaluate Intro Purchase vs. Balance Transfer Costs

Here's some quick math for the example above with a $6,000 balance which you expect to pay down in $2,000 increments over three months:

If you assume a 20% annual interest rate on the high-balance card, you can approximate the monthly interest by dividing the rate by 12. In this case, we get 1.66% monthly.

  • Month 1: You'll pay interest on $6,000 ~$100
  • Month 2: You'll pay interest on $4,000 ~$67
  • Month 3: You'll pay interest on $2,000 ~$33

Total interest costs here are ~$200

If you opt for a balance transfer offer with a 3% fee, you'd pay $180 to move your balance.

If you look at the Freedom Unlimited intro offer, you'll earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. You'll also be earning a minimum 1.5X rewards as you accumulate $6,000 worth of purchases on the new account.

That means the minimum rewards you'll earn, without factoring in points earned via bonus categories, will be $290 ($200+$90). Remember, if you have one of the Chase cards that can transfer Ultimate Rewards to partners, you have 29,000 points, which could easily be worth $500-600 with the right redemption.

Final Thoughts

There is a widespread view that balance transfer cards are the most efficient method of paying down unwanted debt on a high-interest credit card. However, if you are comfortable putting in a little extra work, a card with a 0% intro APR on purchases can do the same job without the transfer fees—and you can earn a boatload of rewards in the process.

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees)

AwardWallet Tip of The Day
Did you know that you have a personal referral link in your AwardWallet profile? If you invite people to AwardWallet using your referral link, you will receive an AwardWallet upgrade coupon for every five members you invite. Also, if these users ever purchase an upgrade, we will credit your AwardWallet account with AwardWallet Bonus points, which can be redeemed for points and miles in your program of choice. We spend roughly 50% of the revenue we receive from those referrals to purchase those miles for you. All of this can be tracked via the Invite to AwardWallet widget in the left navigation bar on your Accounts page.
Show me how

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

**You may receive 5 bonus AAdvantage miles for leaving a comment (Details/FAQ)

Comments

  • Avatar

    Concept has been around for a long time, was hoping for something new.

  • Avatar

    Solid advice. I think one thing most of us can agree on, is that if you can’t manage money, you shouldn’t be in the miles/points game. You’ll lose in the end. Info like this helps everyone though. Thanks.

  • Avatar

    I’m on board with Brad here. Don’t carry a balance. Just pay your card each month and if you can’t don’t buy things!

  • Avatar

    Useful strategy if you do find yourself with a balance. I’m doing something similar with redemptions. So as not to book through the Chase portal, I buy my tickets directly from the airline with the Sapphire Reserve. I then use “pay yourself back” for a similar amount of purchases to get the 1.5 cent redemption amount. That way I’m not limited to the airfares in the portal but I still get the same value from the points. (And get status which is why I don’t exchange my Chase points for airline miles.)

  • Avatar

    My strategy is to never have a balance on my credit card or pay it right away. I’ve never had to pay interest to date.

    I would only carry a balance for an emergency, not a vacation. Even then, that’s why I have savings.

  • Avatar
    Harry Porter says:

    Novel strategy. I’m dubious about the suggestion that you might count the card welcome bonus and points earned as an offset to the residual interest costs associated with the 0% APR purchase strategy, as if these benefits are only attainable through that strategy but not as an “add on” to the 0% balance transfer strategy.

    In other words, if one takes advantage of a 0% balance transfer, the option to open a new account that features the welcome bonus and points earned through diversion of $6000 spending to the new card is still on the table. It’s not like this is only an option afforded should you also take advantage of the 0% purchase strategy.

    I’d only count the bonus and points as an offset to interest charges under the 0% APR purchase strategy if they couldn’t be earned otherwise. That’s not the case here.

  • Avatar

    This is a good roundabout way of getting a zero interest loan from the credit card company and getting rewards in the process.

  • Avatar

    That’s a really great strategy to keep cash in your accounts longer and earn more loyalty points more often.

  • Avatar

    Thank you for that valuable information. I never thought of that strategy before.

  • Avatar

    Sometimes it is necessary or more practical to carry a balance, particularly in uncertain financial times like these, if you even REMOTELY think you might lose your job, you have anything uncertain that may happen. Say you have an unexpected surgery come up, your portion of uncovered bill is $9,000. You could take it from emergency fund…but 3 people have been laid off at your company and you’re one of the older employees with a higher salary (i.e., most likely to be laid off or let go these days) and you have a pregnant wife who may not be able to go back to work right away because of complications she’s having with her pregnancy. Should you hold the cash? Maybe it would be a good idea. One thing I’ve learned over many years of self employment was that you never know what the future holds and the best laid plans can go to hell in a handbasket overnight. I once lost a $1,000,000+ contract in 24 hours when my customer who had the multi-million dollar contract had 3 of his employees have accidents on a jobsite in a 24 hour period. Nothing I did could have changed it but it taught me a valuable lesson about not counting on things until you have the check in the bank. Sometimes the peace of mind is worth a little juggling and having that extra cash in bank and taking the free time to pay the zero interest credit card…just my two cents worth.

  • Avatar

    Good idea, but better to never carry a balance

  • Avatar

    Balance transfer fee is sometimes the deal breaker for BT even with 0% APR

    • Avatar

      Exactly. But, this article is explaining how it’s possible to avoid that balance transfer fee by getting a 0% APR via a different route.