[UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
Getting a low-interest credit card can be a smart choice if you carry a balance or plan to finance a large purchase with a plastic. Finding the right card means comparing offers and card terms carefully, because a card marketed as low interest may not necessarily be the best one for you.
Pinpointing Interest Rates
When comparing credit cards, you want to look for the annual percentage rate (APR) to see what interest rate you would pay on a balance. Sometimes it’s a fixed percentage, but other times you’ll see a range of percentages, and the rate you pay will be determined by the issuer when you apply.
You may not know what your interest rate will be beforehand, but you can compare APR ranges among different cards to see what may be the best. Low credit scores will translate into higher interest rates, so it helps to take a look at your scores before applying, so you know what to expect. You can also check your credit scores for free using tools that are available online (Credit.com’s Credit Report Card is one, for example).
What Else to Look for
Your research should go beyond finding out the APR. A low interest rate may seem ideal, but it’s important to note if it’s a promotional rate, meaning it may increase after a certain period of time. If the regular APR is high, it may cancel out the value of the initial low rate and defeat the purpose of getting a low-interest credit card. An exception would be if you’re opening the card specifically to finance a particular large purchase and are confident you won’t keep a balance on the card after paying that item off. You must understand your own needs in order to select the right product.
Don’t overlook fees. The fine print may not be enthralling reading material, but you should never apply for a credit card without reading the terms.
Where to Search
There are scores of resources for consumers looking for a credit card, and you can accomplish a lot in an Internet search. Not all credit card offers are junk mail, so take a look at those options, too. Credit.com also has a comparison-shopping tool for low-interest credit cards, to make the process a bit simpler.
The important thing is to filter search results by low-interest cards, because you don’t want to get distracted by products you don’t need. For instance, if you’re a balance-carrying consumer, you shouldn’t get a rewards credit card. Those typically have higher interest rates, and the rewards could encourage you to spend money you may not have.