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Information written by Rhiannon Philps Last updated on 11 April 2022.

What is a 0% purchase credit card?

A 0% purchase credit card is a type of credit card that is designed for spending, unlike a balance transfer card, for example. You can use the 0% purchase card to buy goods and services in store or online, without needing to pay any interest for a limited period.

Whether you want to buy an expensive item such as a washing machine or TV, cover any emergency expenses or pay for a holiday, a 0% purchase credit card can allow you to defer payment and spread the cost of a purchase.

If you repay your credit card balance in full before the 0% rate expires, you can avoid paying interest completely. If you don’t pay off your balance before this interest-free period ends, interest charges will then apply.

Some purchase credit cards also come with 0% balance transfer deals. This means that, as well as using the card for purchases, you can transfer a balance from an existing credit card to your new card without paying interest.

However, the 0% period may be different for purchases and for balance transfers, and you often need to pay a balance transfer fee.

» COMPARE: 0% purchase and balance transfer credit cards

How do 0% purchase credit cards work?

0% interest purchase credit cards work just like any other standard credit card. The main difference is they won’t charge any interest for a certain period, as long as you follow the terms set by your provider.

When you have a 0% purchase card, they will typically work like this:

  • You spend with the card, either online or in person.
  • There will be a credit limit, which limits the balance you can have on the card.
  • You won’t pay any interest on your credit card balance during the 0% interest period.
  • Even though you won’t face any interest, you still need to make minimum payments each month. These will be set by the provider and you can check you much you owe and by what date on your card statement.
  • You should aim to pay off your credit card before the end of the 0% interest period. After this period, interest will start being charged on your credit card balance, and this may be at a fairly high rate.

Bear in mind that if you break the terms of your credit card agreement, such as going over your credit limit or missing a payment, you could lose your 0% interest deal.

» MORE: How do credit cards work?

What are the pros and cons of 0% purchase credit cards?

Before applying for an interest-free purchase credit card, it’s important to be aware of the potential advantages and disadvantages of using one of these cards.

Advantages of 0% purchase credit cards

Some of the benefits of a 0% purchase credit card are:

  • You can spread the cost of expensive purchases and delay payment.
  • You won’t need to pay any interest, as long as you keep to the terms of your agreement and clear your credit card balance before the 0% rate ends.
  • Some purchase cards may come with extra perks, such as reward or cashback schemes. Some cards will also offer 0% balance transfers.
  • As with other credit cards, if there is a problem with any goods or services you purchase that cost between £100 and £30,000, they may qualify for protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

Disadvantages of 0% purchase credit cards

An interest-free credit card has its benefits, but there are some potential downsides to consider.

  • You will pay interest after the 0% period ends. Any outstanding balance you have on the card and any further purchases you make on the card will be subject to the standard interest rate. This can be expensive, so you should make sure you clear your balance to avoid paying it.
  • An interest-free purchase card could encourage you to overspend and get into debt. If you spend more than you can afford to repay, you risk getting into debt that you might struggle to get out of.
  • You may be charged for certain transactions on a 0% purchase card. For example, you may face charges for cash withdrawals and for using your card abroad. Unless your card is a combined 0% purchase and balance transfer card, you may also need to pay interest on any balance you transfer.
  • You could lose your 0% rate and be charged at a much higher interest rate if you miss your minimum payments or go over your credit limit, for example.

How can I choose the best 0% purchase credit card for me?

If you’re thinking of getting a 0% interest purchase credit card, there are several points to consider to make sure you choose a card that meets your requirements.

  • How long is the interest-free period? Make sure you would be able to pay off your credit card by the end of the 0% period. Bear in mind that, depending on your individual situation, you may get a shorter 0% period than the one advertised once you formally apply for the card.
  • What is the interest rate after the 0% introductory period? Even though you would ideally have paid off your credit card before interest charges apply, it’s still worth knowing what you could be charged. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will give you an idea of how much the card could cost.
  • Does the card offer 0% interest on balance transfers? If you want to transfer a balance to the card as well as use it for spending, make sure you choose a card that offers 0% interest on both. Bear in mind the 0% period for balance transfers may be different to the 0% period for purchases.
  • Are there any fees? Make sure you know if the card comes with an annual or monthly fee, and if there are any extra charges for withdrawing cash, foreign transactions, and making transfers, among others. You should also be aware of the penalty fees for late payments, for example.
  • Does the card offer cashback or any other reward scheme? Some cards may allow you to earn points or cash when you spend, so it’s worth seeing if you can get any benefits from your spending.

Can I get a 0% purchase credit card with bad credit?

Having a bad credit history doesn’t necessarily exclude you from getting a 0% purchase credit card, as certain providers may offer introductory 0% deals on cards designed for people with poorer credit histories. However, the cards with the longest interest-free periods are likely to be more readily available to those with better credit histories.

Those with bad credit are likely to find it more difficult to get accepted and you may find the selection of credit cards on offer is more limited than for someone with a better credit score.

Credit card companies use your credit history to help them make a decision on whether to approve your application for a credit card. If accepted, your credit score may also affect the terms of the credit card deal you are offered.

If you have a less-than-perfect credit history, providers may offer you credit cards with a shorter interest-free period, a lower credit limit, and a higher interest rate once the 0% rate expires.

If you’re struggling to get a credit card because of your poor credit history, you may want to consider a credit builder card or a specialist credit card for those with bad credit.

» COMPARE: Credit cards for bad credit

How do I apply for a 0% purchase credit card?

Applying for a 0% purchase credit card should be fairly straightforward. As with all credit card applications, you’ll need to tell the company some key personal and financial information, including your:

  • name
  • current address and address history
  • date of birth
  • contact details
  • income
  • employment status

Providers will also check your credit score during the application process. This is known as a hard credit check and it will be recorded on your credit history.

Before applying for a credit card, it’s worth checking your eligibility to see what cards you are likely to qualify for. This reduces your chances of applying for an unsuitable card and getting your application declined.

Checking your eligibility only involves a soft credit check, which won’t affect your credit history.

» COMPARE: Check your eligibility for 0% purchase credit cards

0% Purchase Credit Cards FAQs

What does 0% on purchases mean?

When you see a credit card that offers 0% on purchases, it means that the interest rate for purchases made on the card is 0% for a limited period. So, essentially, you won’t be charged any interest for any purchases on the card, as long as you clear your card balance before the 0% rate ends and keep up with minimum repayments.

There may be some exceptions though, so it’s important to check the terms of your card. You should also bear in mind that many 0% credit cards will still charge for withdrawing cash.

What is the purchase rate on a credit card?

The purchase rate on a credit card is simply the rate of interest you need to pay on any purchases you make. On an interest-free purchase credit card, the purchase rate will initially be 0%. After the 0% period, the purchase rate would increase so you would then face interest charges on your credit card purchases.

What can I use a 0% interest purchase credit card for?

You can use a 0% interest purchase credit card to pay for a range of different things, including:

  • an expensive item, e.g. appliances, electronics, furniture, car
  • flights and holidays
  • home improvements
  • unexpected emergency costs, e.g. car repairs, boiler repairs
  • shopping

Whatever you use the card for, you should make sure you only spend what you can afford to pay off.

It’s worth checking the terms of your card agreement to see if there are any restrictions on what transactions qualify for the 0% rate.

Am I eligible for a 0% purchase credit card?

Only individual credit card providers can decide whether you’re eligible for a credit card. Each provider will set different requirements, but as a minimum you will typically need to be at least 18 years old and a UK resident to qualify for a credit card. Some providers may require you to be 21.

Providers may set additional criteria. For example, you may need to be employed, earn a minimum income, and have a good credit score to qualify for certain purchase credit card offers. However, there may be providers that can offer you 0% interest purchase credit cards even if you have a less-than-perfect credit score or don’t meet the criteria for other cards.

You can use an eligibility checker to see what credit card deals you could qualify for.

Is a 0% purchase credit card right for me?

Beyond meeting a lender’s eligibility criteria, only you are in a position to say whether a 0% purchase credit card is the best option for you. If you need to make a large purchase or you often spend with a credit card, a 0% purchase card may be worth considering as you can borrow money without paying any interest.

However, you should only take out a credit card if you are confident that you can manage it effectively. You need to make at least the minimum payments to keep your 0% interest rate, and you should be able to pay off your balance in full before the 0% rate ends else you could face high interest charges.

If you think a 0% card could tempt you to spend more than you can afford to repay, then it probably isn’t a good idea to get one.

» MORE: Should I get a credit card?

What is the longest 0% interest period I can get?

0% interest periods on credit cards can vary significantly in length. The cards with the longest 0% purchase rate will usually have stricter eligibility criteria and so may only be available to those in a strong financial position with good credit histories, who are viewed by providers as presenting the lowest risk.

0% interest periods on purchase credit cards can be up to two years or possibly even longer.

Do I still have to make payments on a 0% purchase credit card?

Yes, even though you won’t be charged interest, you still need to make minimum payments on a 0% purchase credit card. The amount you need to pay will be set out on your monthly credit card statement.

If you don’t make these minimum payments, you could face penalty charges and the provider may withdraw the 0% rate, which would mean you have to pay the standard interest rate.

Ideally, you would want to pay more than the minimum payment so you can clear your credit card balance quicker.

Can I withdraw cash with a purchase credit card?

You may be able to withdraw cash with a purchase credit card, but you are likely to face extra charges to do so. Even if you have a 0% rate on purchases, cash withdrawals won’t normally qualify for this so you would have to pay a fee or a higher interest rate on the amount you withdraw.

There are cash advance credit cards that are designed for withdrawing money.

Can I transfer money to my bank account with a 0% purchase card?

It might be possible to transfer money from a 0% purchase card to your bank account, but this is likely to come at a cost. Some purchase credit cards may offer 0% interest on money transfers, but you may still need to pay a transfer fee.

Unless the card states that you have 0% interest on money transfers, they won’t qualify for the 0% interest rate you get on your purchases so they would be subject to interest charges.

If you want to use a credit card to transfer money into your account, a money transfer credit card may be more suitable.

Can I get cashback with a 0% purchase card?

This depends on the card. Some 0% purchase credit cards may offer cashback, but others may not. Check the details and terms of a credit card to see if they offer any kind of cashback or reward scheme.

Bear in mind the credit cards that offer the most attractive cashback schemes may not come with 0% interest periods.

» COMPARE: Cashback credit card deals

What happens at the end of the 0% period?

Once the 0% interest period ends, you will start to be charged interest. This new interest rate can be expensive and it will be charged on any outstanding balance you have on the card, as well as any future purchases you make.

However, even when the 0% period ends, you could continue to use the card and avoid paying interest if you pay off the balance in full every month.

If you don’t manage to clear the balance on your 0% purchase card before the 0% interest rate ends, you may be able to move your balance to a 0% balance transfer credit card. You often need to pay a fee to do this, but it can give you more time to pay off your balance without facing any interest.

» MORE: Guide to 0% interest credit cards

Can I use a 0% purchase credit card for balance transfers?

That depends on the card. If you have a combined 0% purchase and balance transfer credit card, you can use the card for balance transfers. You may need to pay a balance transfer fee, but you won’t pay interest on the balance you move on to the card (as long as you pay it off before the 0% rate ends).

If your card doesn’t state that it offers 0% interest on balance transfers, then you are likely to pay interest on any balance transfers you make.

» COMPARE: 0% balance transfer credit cards

How should I manage a 0% purchase credit card?

To make the most of a 0% purchase credit card, you should stick to the terms of your agreement, including paying the minimum payments and staying within your credit limit. Setting up a direct debit can help ensure you make your payments by the deadline. If you break the terms of your credit card agreement, you could lose the 0% interest rate.

You need to have a plan to pay off your credit card in full before the end of the 0% interest rate to avoid paying any interest. Just making the minimum payments won’t help you to clear your balance in full, so you should aim to pay more than this each month.

The best way to manage a 0% purchase credit card is to only spend what you can afford to repay. Overspending could mean you can’t afford to pay off your credit card before the interest-free period ends, so you could end up facing high interest costs. This could leave you struggling with rising credit card debt that you can’t afford to repay.

About the author:

Rhiannon is a financial writer for NerdWallet, with a particular interest in personal finance and insurance guides for consumers. Read more

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