CNBC Select may receive an affiliate commission when you click on the links for products from our partners. Click here to read our full advertiser disclosure.
CNBC Select

The best low interest credit cards of August 2020

We analyzed 234 credit cards to find the cards with the lowest interest rates that are best based on your consumer habits.

Getty Images

If you carry a balance on your credit card, odds are you're being hit with high interest charges. The average APR for all credit card accounts is 14.87%, and rises to 16.88% for accounts assessed interest, according to the latest data from the Fed.

Maybe those rates seem manageable, but consider the math. Say your card has a 17% interest rate and you have a $1,000 balance. If you just pay a minimum of $20 each month, it will take you 90 months (that's more than seven years) to pay off your debt, and you'll incur $794 in interest charges. That's almost like paying your original balance twice.

Carrying a balance is never ideal, but it can happen to the best of us. An unexpected expense, such as a medical bill or home repair, may arise and cause you to fall into debt. Unless you're taking advantage of an intro 0% APR offer, you'll rack up interest, which can make it hard to pay off debt.

Low interest credit cards are a great way to avoid high interest charges if you carry a balance month-to-month. Many of the cards that offer low interest rates come from credit unions, which require membership. However, we only chose cards from financial institutions that allow anyone to join. To qualify for the lowest interest rate, you typically need to have good or excellent credit.

When you're carrying a balance on your card, it's smarter to focus on paying off your balance rather than trying to optimize the points you can earn. Some of the cards of this list do offer a rewards program, but that wasn't a main criteria we considered when choosing the best low-interest credit cards. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards.)

Below, CNBC Select reviews the top credit cards with low interest rates that can save you on interest charges while still earning rewards and enjoying other perks. Just know, many of the cards below have APR ranges, and depending on your credit score you may not qualify for the lowest rate. Typically, a good or excellent score is required to receive the best rates.

Here are CNBC Select's picks for the top low interest rate credit cards:

Winner

Titanium Rewards Visa® Signature Card from Andrews Federal Credit Union

Titanium Rewards Visa® Signature Card from Andrews Federal Credit Union
Information about the Titanium Rewards Visa® Signature Card from Andrews Federal Credit Union has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    3X points on gas and grocery purchases and 1.5X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 10,000 points when you spend $1,500 within the first 90 days

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    N/A for purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    8.49% to 15.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    1.50%, $50 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    N/A

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Low 8.49% to 15.49% variable APR
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • Credit union membership required, though it’s free
  • No special financing on purchases or balance transfers
  • 1.5% balance transfer fee, with a $50 minimum fee
  • Estimated return after 1 year: $543
  • Estimated return after 5 years: $2,314

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? The Titanium Rewards Visa® Signature Card from Andrews Federal Credit Union tops our list thanks to the low interest rates, strong rewards program and no foreign transaction fees — all at no annual fee.

This card offers a low variable APR of 8.49% to 15.49%. If you carry a balance, you can benefit from low interest charges compared to other cards that have high interest rates. Balance transfers do incur a 1.50% fee per transfer, with a $50 minimum.

Beyond interest rates, the Visa® Titanium Signature Rewards Card offers a generous rewards program: Earn 3X points on gas and grocery purchases and 1.5X points on all other purchases. Plus, there's a welcome bonus of 7,500 points after you spend $500 within the first 90 days.

In order to open this card, you need to join Andrews Federal Credit Union, but anyone can join. If you don't meet the qualification requirements, you can opt to join the American Consumer Council (ACC) for free with the promo code "Andrews."

Best Low Interest Card for Balance Transfers

Platinum Mastercard® from First Tech® Federal Credit Union

Platinum Mastercard® from First Tech® Federal Credit Union
Information about the Platinum Mastercard® from First Tech® Federal Credit Union has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 billing cycles on balance transfers processed within 90 days of account opening date

  • Regular APR

    6.99% to 18.00% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    None

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    N/A

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • No balance transfer fee
  • 0% APR for the first 12 billing cycles on balance transfers
  • 6.99% to 18.00% variable APR

Cons

  • Balances must be transferred within 90 days from account opening
  • No rewards program

Who's this for? The Platinum Mastercard® from First Tech® Federal Credit Union provides cardholders with a generous balance transfer offer: 0% APR for the first 12 billing cycles and no balance transfer fee. After the intro period, there's a low competitive 10.49% to 18.00% variable APR.

Balances need to be transferred within 90 days of account opening to qualify for the interest-free financing, but this is a typical requirement.

This card doesn't come with any rewards, but there's no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

You need to be a member of First Tech Federal Credit Union to qualify for this card, but anyone can join at no added cost. Become a member through affiliation with select organizations or employers, a relationship with a current member, working or living in Lane County, Oregon, attending Cogswell Poly Technical College or by joining the Community History Museum (CHM) or Financial Fitness Association (FFA). The membership fee for the CHM and FFA is paid by First Tech.

Best Secured Card with Low Interest

DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card

DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card
Information about the DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the cards prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    13.00% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    None

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    No credit history

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • 13.00% variable APR
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • $500 minimum security deposit, which is higher than average
  • Credit union membership required, which may cost a minimum of $10 if you don’t qualify
  • No rewards program
  • No clear timeline to upgrade to an unsecured card

Who's this for? The DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card has one of the lowest interest rates for a secured card at 13.00% variable. It also has no annual fee, which allows you to maximize savings.

If you carry a balance on this card, interest charges will be smaller compared to some secured cards that have interest rates upwards of 20%. In addition to a competitive interest rate, cardholders can benefit from travel insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver and extended warranty protection.

A $500 minimum security deposit is required to access credit, which is higher than the average $200.

You need to be a member of the Digital Federal Credit Union to open this card, but anyone can join in one of several ways: friend or family member of a DCU member, live in select communities, work for select employers or make a one-time contribution (as low as $10) to a participating organization.

Best Low Interest Card for Rewards

Choice Rewards World Mastercard® from First Tech® Federal Credit Union

Choice Rewards World Mastercard® from First Tech® Federal Credit Union
Information about the Choice Rewards World Mastercard® from First Tech® Federal Credit Union has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    Earn 2X points on groceries, gas, electronics, medical, household goods and telecommunications, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 20,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first two months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 billing cycles on balance transfers processed within 90 days of account opening date

  • Regular APR

    8.25% to 18.00% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    None

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    N/A

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Good rewards program for everyday purchases
  • 20,000 points when you spend $3,000 in your first 2 months
  • 8.25% to 18.00% variable APR
  • 0% APR for the first 12 billing cycles on balance transfers
  • No balance transfer fee

Cons

  • Balance must be transferred within 90 days of account opening date
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $344
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $1,720

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? The Choice Rewards World Mastercard® from First Tech® Federal Credit Union offers a rewards program geared toward everyday expenses, such as groceries and gas. Cardholders earn 2X points on groceries, gas, electronics, medical, household goods and telecommunications, and 1X points on all other purchases. Plus, there's a welcome bonus of 20,000 points when you spend $3,000 in your first two months from account opening.

This card has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, no balance transfer fee and offers no interest on balance transfers for the first 12 billing cycles. You must complete your transfer within 90 days from account opening to qualify for the interest-free period. After the intro period, there's a reasonable variable APR of 11.49% to 18.00%.

Membership to First Tech Federal Credit Union is required, but anyone can join through affiliation with select organizations or employers, a relationship with a current member, working or living in Lane County, Oregon, attending Cogswell Poly Technical College or by joining the Community History Museum (CHM) or Financial Fitness Association (FFA). First Tech pays the membership fee for the CHM and FFA on your behalf.

Best Low Interest Card for Travel

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Information about the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠, 1.25X miles per dollar on every purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for 12 months

  • Regular APR

    14.49% to 24.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠
  • 0% APR for 12 months
  • Miles never expire for the life of the account

Cons

  • No Global Entry or TSA PreCheck statement credit offerings
  • No airport lounge access
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $500
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $1,699

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? Anyone looking to book hotel rooms before the end of the year should consider the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card and its impressive offer of 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠. This no-annual-fee card also gives cardmembers an unlimited 1.25X miles on all other purchases, making it a solid choice for everyday use.

Another perk is the intro 0% APR period, which lasts for 12 months for new purchases. After that, the APR is 14.49% to 24.49% variable.

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card offers new users a strong welcome bonus: 20,000 bonus miles after they spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months. You can redeem miles for past travel expenses using the Purchase Eraser®, which is essentially a statement credit. Or you can book new travel reservations through the Capital One Rewards Center.

Additionally, with this card, it's possible to transfer your miles to any of Capital One's partner airlines, including JetBlue, Emirates Skywards, Air Canada and Air France.

Cardholders can also redeem their miles for cash in the form of a check or account credit, gift cards and more, though rates for these other redemption options vary.

Learn more: CNBC Select's Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card review

Best Low Interest Card for Intro 0% APR on Purchases

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Information about the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 20 billing cycles on balance transfers and purchases

  • Regular APR

    13.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2% to 3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 20 months of no interest on balance transfers and purchases
  • No annual fee
  • Cell phone protection plan

Cons

  • No rewards program
  • 2% to 3% foreign transaction fee
  • Balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening
  • Transfer timeline: Balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening
  • Estimated total fees and interest on debt repayment: $388

Who's this for? If you're looking to transfer debt and finance new purchases, consider the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card, which provides one of the best overall intro APR periods: 0% for the first 20 billing cycles on balance transfers and purchases (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR). This is one of the longest interest-free periods for both balance transfers and purchases.

Balance transfers incur a typical 3% fee (minimum $5) and need to be transferred within the first 60 days from account opening to qualify for the interest-free period. There's no annual fee.

The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card has higher interest rates than other cards on this list, but they are still lower than many credit cards that offer a 0% introductory APR. With such a long intro period, ideally you can pay off your debt within that time frame and not have to pay additional interest. Read more about how to make the most of your balance transfer.

This card doesn't offer a rewards program, but it does come with a cell phone protection plan. When you pay your cell phone bill with your card, you receive coverage for damage or theft up to $600, with a $25 deductible, for up to two claims ($1,200) per 12 month period.

Best credit cards with low interest rates

Best for… Credit Card
WinnerTitanium Rewards Visa® Signature Card from Andrews Federal Credit Union
Balance transfersPlatinum Mastercard® from First Tech® Federal Credit Union
SecuredDCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card
RewardsChoice Rewards World Mastercard® from First Tech® Federal Credit Union
TravelCapital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Intro 0% APR on purchases U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Our methodology

To determine which credit cards have the lowest interest rates and offer the best value, CNBC Select analyzed 234 of the most popular credit cards offered by the biggest banks, financial companies, and credit unions that allow anyone to join.

We compared each card on a range of features, including: annual fee, rewards program, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee, welcome bonuses and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available.

CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

CNBC Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

It's important to note the value of a point or mile varies from card to card and based on how you redeem them. When we calculated the estimated returns, we assumed that cardholders are redeeming points/miles for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)

Our final picks are weighted heavily toward the highest five-year returns, since it's generally wise to hold onto a credit card for years. This method also avoids giving an unfair advantage to cards with large welcome bonuses.

While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.