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If you go to the Apple website or into an Apple store, you’ll see them: offers to finance an iPad at 0% interest, for six, 12 or 18 months, depending on how much you spend.

And we’re close to the holidays . . . and there’s the new Air model, or the Mini with Retina display. You know you want one, or somebody on your shopping list does. And though paying for an iPad would put a big dent in your holiday budget, dividing it into six or 12 payments sounds a lot more manageable. (But, forgive the sacrilege: Does the new tablet have to be an iPad? Your answer might keep you from needing to finance in the first place.)

Apple’s Financing Method

Before you decide to bite on the Apple offer, here’s what you need to know.

First, the offer at Apple stores and on its website is from the Barclaycard Visa. You’ll pay 0% interest if you pay it off in full and without late payments during the promotional period. If you slip up, interest is charged — back to the date of purchase. That interest is currently at 22.99% and varies with the prime rate. (Such terms are typical of 0% offers.)

Second, depending on the type of iPad you choose (WiFi-only or WiFi plus cellular), you may also need to sign up for a monthly data plan. That’s another cost to consider.

Third, you might want to insure your iPad. If you drop it and break it, or it gets stolen, you will still have to pay as agreed (though you might be able to cancel your data plan).

Finally, check to see if you are better off paying with a credit card that’s already in your wallet. (Some traditionally offer low or no interest on purchases made during the holiday season.) Are you willing to look at other cards with no-interest introductory offers? That takes more time, but you may find a deal that works better for you.

Before you apply for any new credit card, though, you want to be almost certain you will be approved. When lenders check your credit file for the purposes of extending credit it will result in a small, temporary drop in your credit scores. You can get an idea of what lenders will see before you apply by using a free credit monitoring tool, like Credit.com’s Credit Report Card. The Report Card takes a soft pull of your credit, so it won’t hurt your credit score to check it.

Other Ways to Get an iPad

If you don’t qualify for a new credit card (or you’re not interested in getting one), you have options. Here are a few:

  • Taking out a personal loan. This requires planning and filling out an application, so it’s not as quick and easy as the application on Apple’s website, which says you may get an answer in as little as 30 seconds. On the other hand, you won’t be buying on impulse, and that’s always a good thing. Another advantage, if you’re looking to raise your credit score, is that a personal loan can help diversify your credit if you only have credit cards, or revolving credit. A personal loan is an installment loan, and you agree to fixed monthly payments over a certain time frame (thus, there is no chance you’d end up making minimum payments and paying more interest, as with a credit card). Also, personal loans generally have lower interest rates than most credit cards.
  • Saving up for it. If you are unable to buy an iPad with your disposable income or holiday budget, it’s possible that it’s not affordable for you right now. (And good for you for not raiding your emergency fund to buy a tablet — you do have an emergency fund, right?)
  • Putting it on a rewards card. You should do this only if you can pay the balance in full (so your financing would be very short term). This option burnishes your credit profile, because you are using credit and paying as agreed. And, it builds rewards points.

Image: iStock

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