If you’ve ever shopped around for a credit card, then you’ve probably seen promotional APR offers. These tend to say things like “0% introductory APR!” and “no interest for the first 12 months!”
But how exactly does an APR work, and is it actually important when choosing a credit card? Well, the answer might surprise you. Here’s everything you need to know about credit card APR.
What is a credit card APR?
APR stands for annual percentage rate. It essentially describes how much interest you’ll pay on outstanding balances.
If you have a 15.00% APR, then you can expect to pay interest valued at 15 percent of your unpaid debt over the course of a year.
Sounds simple, right?
Well, that’s not quite the whole story. An APR gives us a general sense of our yearly interest rate. But with credit cards, we don’t pay interest on a yearly basis.
Instead, credit card interest is calculated every day with a daily periodic rate. To calculate most daily periodic rates, you divide the APR by 360 or 365, depending on the credit card issuer.
Therefore, using the above example, a credit card with a 15.00% APR that’s divided by 365 has a daily periodic rate of 0.041%.
This daily accumulating interest will stick to any unpaid balance at the end of the month. And since interest is calculated every day, the longer you wait to pay off your credit card debt, the more interest you’ll end up paying.
So does your APR stay fixed, or can it change from year to year? Well, that all depends on whether you have a fixed APR or a variable APR.
How to compare fixed vs. variable APR
As the terms suggest, variable APRs can fluctuate while fixed APRs tend to stay the same. Each credit card company calculates its own annual percentage rate.
To determine a variable APR, a card issuer adds its margin to a reference rate, like the U.S. Prime Rate. As of December 2016, the U.S. prime rate was 3.75%.
When the prime rate changes, variable APRs change with it. Therefore, credit card companies update variable APRs on a monthly or quarterly basis.
A fixed APR, on the other hand, doesn’t rely on the U.S. prime rate. It’s more stable, though companies can make changes from time to time. They just have to tell you first.
One credit card can have several APRs
Not only are there two types of APRs, there can also be several different APRs attached to a single credit card.
Most credit cards have different APRs for each type of transaction. They may also have a promotional APR, like a 0% balance transfer offer that lasts for several months after opening.
A credit card could have a penalty APR as well. A penalty APR charges extra if you violate the terms of the credit card agreement.
To gain a clearer sense of all these interest rates, let’s take a look at the Chase Freedom Unlimited®* card. Here are its three main APRs as of this article’s publication, all of which are variable.
- Purchase APR: 0% Intro APR for 15 months. After that, an APR of 16.74 - 25.49% Variable applies.
- Balance Transfer APR: 0% Intro APR for 15 months. After that, an APR of 16.74 - 25.49% Variable applies.
- Cash Advance APR: 26.74% Variable
For more details on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®* or to browse other credit cards offers, check out the Student Loan Hero Marketplace. You’ll see that the marketplace credit cards, like Chase Freedom Unlimited®*, give a range of rates “based on your creditworthiness.”
Why your APR depends on your creditworthiness
You and your friend may both have a Chase Freedom Unlimited®*, but you could have two different APRs. Why is that the case?
Issuers offer you a credit card APR based on your “creditworthiness.” Therefore, when you apply, they take a hard look at your credit score.
As you may know, your credit score is based on a number of factors, including your repayment and credit history. The stronger your credit score is, the lower your APR will be. If you have a weak credit score, then you’ll get slapped with a high APR.
*The information related to Chase Freedom Unlimited® has been collected by Student Loan Hero and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply.
Does credit card APR really matter?
While it’s great to understand all these terms before committing to a credit card, how important is credit card APR? Should it really determine what credit card you choose?
Here’s the thing about credit cards — even a relatively low APR is pretty high. Credit card interest rates are so heavy, you want to do everything you can to avoid credit card debt.
A good rule of thumb is this: don’t spend more than you can pay off every month.
If you follow this rule, then you’ll never have to deal with worrying about an APR. You’ll pay off your purchases in full, so interest becomes a non-issue.
Then, instead of worrying about the APR, you can look at other parts of a credit car offer. For instance, you could choose a credit card based on rewards like cash back or travel points.
That being said, promotional periods of 0% APR can be useful if you need to make a big purchase and pay it back in installments. I bought a Macbook Air during a promotional period, and I was able to pay it back over several months without incurring any interest.
The bottom line is if you’re using a credit card, you shouldn’t carry a balance over from month to month. Then, you don’t have to worry about APR at all.
In effect, your APR will always stay at 0%, right where you want it.
Looking to open a new credit card? This guide will help you choose the best credit card for your spending habits.
Interested in a personal loan?Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2019!
|Lender||APR Range||Loan Amount|
|1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Opploans.
Direct Deposit required for payroll.
Opploans currently operates in these states: . *Approval may take longer if additional verification documents are requested. Not all loan requests are approved. Approval and loan terms vary based on credit determination and state law. Applications processed and approved before 7:30 p.m. ET Monday-Friday are typically funded the next business day.
3 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.
4 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.
5 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
6 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.
7 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.
All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.95% to 35.89%*. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% of the original principal balance and is deducted from your loan proceeds. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at the time of application. The average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. In Georgia, the minimum loan amount is $3,025. In Massachusetts, the minimum loan amount is $6,025 if your APR is greater than 12%. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months. Borrower must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or be in the United States on a valid long term visa and at least 18 years old. Valid bank account and Social Security number are required. Equal Housing Lender. All loans are subject to credit approval. LendingClub’s physical address is: LendingClub, 71 Stevenson Street, Suite 1000, San Francisco, CA 94105.
†Per reviews collected and authenticated by Bazaarvoice in compliance with the Bazaarvoice Authentication Requirements, supported by anti-fraud technology and human analysis. All reviews can be reviewed at reviews.lendingclub.com
**Based on approximately 60% of borrowers who received offers through LendingClub’s marketing partners between January 1, 2018 to July 20,2018. The time it will take to fund your loan may vary.
8 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
9 Important Disclosures for Avant.
*If approved, the actual loan terms that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination, state law, and other factors. Minimum loan amounts vary by state.
**Example: A $5,900 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,619.75, repayable in 36 monthly installments, with an APR of 29.95% would have monthly payments of $250.30.
Based on the responses from 11,574 customers in a survey of 210,584 newly funded customers, conducted from 1 Feb 2018 – 1 Aug 2019 95.05% of customers stated that they were either extremely satisfied or satisfied with Avant. 4/5 Customers would recommend us. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.
* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.
Upgrade Bank Disclosures
* Personal loans made through Upgrade feature APRs of 6.98%-35.89%. All personal loans have a 1.5% to 6% origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Lowest rates require Autopay and paying off a portion of existing debt directly. For example, if you receive a $10,000 loan with a 36-month term and a 17.98% APR (which includes a 14.32% yearly interest rate and a 5% one-time origination fee), you would receive $9,500 in your account and would have a required monthly payment of $343.33. Over the life of the loan, your payments would total $12,359.97. The APR on your loan may be higher or lower and your loan offers may not have multiple term lengths available. Actual rate depends on credit score, credit usage history, loan term, and other factors. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. There is no fee or penalty for repaying a loan early. Personal loans issued by WebBank, Member FDIC.
** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.
|5.99% – 17.88%1||$5,000 - $100,000|
|5.69% – 35.99%||$1,000 - $50,000|
|6.98% – 35.89%*||$1,000 - $50,000|
|99.00% – 199.00%2||$500 - $4,000|
|5.99% – 24.99%3||$5,000 - $35,000|
|5.99% – 29.99%4||$7,500 - $40,000|
|6.79% – 20.89%5||$5,000 - $50,000|
|15.49% – 35.99%6||$2,000 - $25,000|
|6.95% – 35.89%7||$1,000 - $40,000|
|5.99% – 17.24%8||$5,000 - $75,000|
|9.95% – 35.99%9||$2,000 - $35,000|