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What are Low Interest Credit Cards?

Aug 17, 2007
One bit of advice you'll often get when you're thinking of applying for a credit card is to look for one with a low rate of interest, or a low APR. It used to be traditional wisdom that your best option in a credit card was always the one with the lowest interest - but not anymore. It also used to be an accepted maxim that you couldn't get both low interest and great rewards in the same credit card - but that's changing as well. How do you judge the lowest interest credit card?

Credit cards are notorious for their high interest rates. Typically, credit card interest rates run about ten percentage points higher than secured or personal loans. Plastic offers the convenience of what's called revolving credit - you can continue borrowing against your credit account as long as you keep it under the stated credit limit and make regular payments on your account. You pay for the convenience of not having to reapply for a loan every time you use your credit card by paying higher interest on it than you would for a one off loan.

As credit card use has increased and the range of available cards has kept pace, the law of supply and demand comes into play. According to recent surveys by the FSA, there are currently enough active credit cards in circulation for every single adult in the UK to have four cards in his or her wallet. With the market for credit cards reaching saturation point, the companies that issue them have had to get more creative in marketing their products. That's meant interest rates coming down - the typical APR on a standard credit card these days is about 12%, down from 15+% just a few years ago.

That's just the start of the good news for users of credit cards, though. More importantly, issuers of cards have devised various schemes aimed at the way people use their credit cards in an effort to increase their use. Depending on exactly what your needs are, you can find credit cards with typical APRs of below 10% - and that's AFTER an introductory period at 1-5% APR on new purchases and balance transfers.

If you're shopping for a new or first credit card, there are a few things you should know about interest rates and APRs.

1. The higher your credit score, the lower APR you'll qualify for. The credit cards with the lowest APRs are usually reserved for those with good to excellent credit. If your credit is a bit rum, then you'll likely be offered a credit card with a lower credit limit or a higher rate of interest - or both.
2. Introductory rates are just that - introductory. Be sure to read all credit card offers carefully to find out just how long the introductory period lasts, and what conditions you have to meet in order to keep the introductory rate intact.
3. A low interest credit card can flip into one with an outrageously high rate of interest if you're not careful. Late payments often carry not only a one time penalty charge, but also a rise in interest rate that's permanent. Even worse, if you're late with a payment on one credit card, the interest rates on your OTHER credit cards may also rise.
4. Knowing your credit rating can help you apply for appropriate cards. When you compare credit cards at comparison sites, you can see at a glance whether the card issuer is aiming for those with excellent credit, or those with no credit or poor credit.
5. Don't apply based just on a low APR. Be sure to compare credit cards on all fronts, not just interest rates. Check application fees, annual membership fees, processing fees, late fees, balance transfer fees - the whole ball of wax. And remember that these days, there ARE low interest credit cards that offer great rewards. Balance all the information you can find to decide which is the best credit card for your wallet.
About the Author
Jon Francis has been involved with finance for many years! With an in-depth knowledge of the credit card UK market help helps others get the best from a credit card.
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