Keeping a balance on your credit card is an excellent way to build your credit score. However, interest charges can quickly add up. If you want to leave a balance on your card, consider getting a low-interest credit card.
Our team at Insurdinary is here to share the 7 best low-interest credit cards in Canada. We will talk about the unique features of the cards and their pros and cons. We will also cover some tips on how to reduce credit card interest.
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Based on our research and rankings, one of the best low-interest credit card in Canada is the MBNA True Line Gold Mastercard. The True Line Gold card offers extremely low rates with an APR of 8.99%—less than half the standard APR of 19.99%. If you rely on your card and plan to carry a balance from month to month, the True Line Mastercard can help you save hundreds on interest charges.
Additionally, the True Line has the same low 8.99% APR on any balance transfers, making it the perfect credit card for consolidating existing debt. Transferring existing debt to the Gold Mastercard can help you pay off high-interest debts faster. It does have a 24.99% cash advance rate, however.
In addition to the rock-bottom interest rates, cardholders get 24/7 customer service, free fraud protection, and options for extended warranty, rental car theft, and purchase protection insurance. Unfortunately, there is no introductory discount rate for the balance transfer option.
The True Line Gold Mastercard doesn’t have income requirements for applying. However, it has a minimum recommended credit score of approximately 660 or higher, as well as a $39 annual card fee. The card fee is not very high but will eat into the gains from the low interest rates.
Very low 8.99% APR on purchases and balance transfers
Three options for purchase insurance are available
The BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard has a 12.99% purchase interest rate in addition to a 12.99% balance transfer rate and a 15.99% cash advance rate. The BMO is a good choice for people who want a low-interest card but also want to stick with a larger bank, which comes with all the amenities of a traditional financial institution.
The BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard also features a 0.99% APR introductory period for balance transfers and a 2% transfer fee for the first nine months. This introductory period makes the card useful for consolidating and paying off existing debt. The nine-month introductory period is longer than the typical six-month period most cards offer.
The BMO card has a respectable $20 annual fee that you can eliminate if you open a BMO chequing account. You also have options for extended warranty and purchase protection insurance.
There are a few downsides, though. Once the intro period expires, the original 15.99% APR on balance transfers is relatively high compared to some other cards on this list. The card also doesn’t have any rewards programs or additional insurance protections.
Very low 0.99% balance transfer intro APR period for nine months
You can eliminate the annual account fee by opening a BMO bank account
If you are looking for a card with low interest rates across the board, the HSBC +Rewards Mastercard is a great choice. The +Rewards features 11.99% interest rates across the board for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances, making it a very well-rounded card for low-interest purposes.
The HSBC +Rewards has a moderate $25 annual fee, with an additional $10 per additional issued card. In addition to warranty insurance and travel insurance, you can also get price protection insurance that covers price differences if you find a lower price on a purchase within 60 days.
One of the main draws of the HSBC +Rewards is the extensive rewards program. You can get between one to two reward points per qualifying purchase and exchange those points for gift cards, retail goods, and travel accommodations. You can also apply the points to your HSBC home mortgage. During the introductory period, you can earn up to 35,000 points and get a rebate for the $25 annual fee if you spend more than $2,000 in six months.
The card does not have a minimum income requirement, but it does have a high recommended credit score of 725. So unless you already have good credit, it might be difficult to apply for this card.
Low 11.99% interest rate for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances
$200 welcome value between points and fee rebates
Purchase protection insurance available
11.99% is a higher interest rate than other cards on this list
No lower interest rate period for balance transfers
High credit score requirements
Interest: Prime + 4% (P) / Prime + 8% (CA) Annual Fee: $35 Top Perks:
Low interest rate (10.95% for purchases; 14.95% for cash advance)
Purchase protection and extended warranty benefits
The prime rate means the annual variable interest rate posted by National Bank, from time to time, and used by the Bank to determine the interest rates on the demand loans it grants in Canadian dollars in Canada.
The interest rate for the SYNCRO card consists of a variable prime rate set by National Bank plus a fixed adjustment rate of 4% for purchases and 8% for balance transfers and cash advances. Please note that the annual interest rate for the SYNCRO card will not be less than 8.9% for purchases and 12.9% for balance transfers and cash advances.
Grace period: No interest will be charged on purchases made during the month, provided the client pays the balance in full within twenty-one (21) days of the statement date. This grace period does not apply to cash advances or balance transfers. Minimum payment: If your account balance is lower than $10, you must pay the entire balance. If you reside in the province of Quebec, your minimum payment will correspond to 5% of the credit card account balance plus any overdue payment or $10, whichever amount is higher. If you reside outside of Quebec, your minimum payment represents 2.5% of the credit card account balance plus any overdue payment or $10, whichever amount is higher. Account statement: A statement is sent monthly.
Annual interest rate
*Variable interest rate in effect on September 1, 2021
Balance transfer and cash advance are subject to credit approval by National Bank. Each balance transfer must be at least $250.
Purchase protection and Extended warranty
This coverage applies to purchases charged to the National BankSyncrocard. Extended warranty coverage applies to most new items purchased with the card, in Canada or abroad, as long as the manufacturer's warranty is valid in Canada. Certain conditions and restrictions apply. For more information and for details of your insurance coverage, please consult the insurance certificate associated with your card.
National Bank Syncro Mastercard
The National Bank Syncro Mastercard is a low-interest credit card with some unique features. Instead of a fixed rate, it has a variable interest rate for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances that changes according to National Bank’s prime rate. Interest rates for purchases are 4% + the current prime rate, while interest rates for balance transfers are 8% + the current prime rate.
With the current prime rate of 6.95%, you could have an APR potentially as low as 10.95%, though there is a chance of interest rates rising. The Syncro card's annual interest rate can change due to the variable prime rate, but the rates will not be less than 8.9% for purchases and 12.9% for cash advances or balance transfers. The card features low credit limit options that are easier to apply for.
In terms of amenities, the Syncro Mastercard does not offer many. You can get additional purchase protection and extended warranty insurance, but there is no option for travel insurance. However, you can take advantage of National Bank’s Priceless Cities program, which provides benefits for qualifying dining and travel purchases.
This card makes the most sense when prime rates are low so you can get the lowest APR for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. Otherwise, you’ll pay a $35 annual fee without options for introductory APR rates.
Variable interest rates mean a chance to get below-average interest rates
No income requirements to apply
Priceless Cities program gives benefits in certain cities
Variable interest rates can get high if the prime rate increases
The CIBC Select Visa Card features a 13.99% APR across the board for purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers. Minimum income requirements are $15,000 per year, and the minimum recommended credit score is 660. The CIBC card also has an affordable $29 annual account fee.
The real draw of the CIBC Select is the lengthy 10-month introductory period with a 0% APR on balance transfers after a 1% transfer fee. You can also add three additional users to the card for free and receive up to $100,000 in carrier accident insurance for travelling.
As two additional features, cardholders can get 25% off at qualifying Budget and Avid rentals and get free CIBC global money transfers, making this card a great choice for frequent travellers.
Promotional period with ten-month 0% APR on all balance transfers and a 1% transfer fee
Meant for those with a low credit score, the Home Trust Secured Visa features a 14.90% purchase APR and 14.90% cash advance for paying an annual fee of $59. The card is a secured credit card, meaning that you have to put down a deposit to use it. The amount of the deposit you pay becomes the credit limit.
The real benefit of the Home Trust Secured card is the low credit requirements. You can apply for this card with poor or no credit, making it a good starter card for people to build credit. You can still apply for the card and get accepted even if you have declared bankruptcy.
Unfortunately, the card has relatively few other benefits. The carrier doesn’t offer a rewards program, warranty insurance, or purchase protection. The card makes a good low-interest option if you have poor credit or no credit and need to build your score.
Low credit (300+) requirements and no income requirements
Variable interest rates
Good for establishing or rebuilding credit after bankruptcy
Last but not least on our list of the best low-interest credit cards is the Scotiabank Value Visa Card. The Value Visa has a $12,000 minimum income requirement and fair to good credit requirements. The card offers a flat 12.99% APR for purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers. These low rates across the board make it a solid all-around card for everyday and emergency purchases.
The Scotiabank Value Visa also has an excellent promotional period with 0% APR for six months on balance transfers and cash advances, as well as a first-year fee rebate. Unfortunately, the card doesn’t have any rewards programs, but you can get 25% off qualifying AVIS rentals when you pay with the card. Otherwise, the Scotiabank Value Visa card is a good multipurpose credit card for daily purchases and bills.
0% APR on cash advances and balance transfers for the first six months
Annual fee rebate for the first year
25% off AVIS and Budget car rentals at qualifying locations
No rewards program
Minimum $500 credit limit
Useful Credit Card Terminology
Below are some useful terms to help you understand how credit cards work.
APR stands for “annual percentage rate” and determines how much interest you owe on your credit card balance. APR represents interest rates as an annual calculation, but the actual interest the issuer charges depends on the length of the debt. For example, if you have a balance on your card for only six months, your actual interest rate would be roughly 10% (19.99%/2). APRs can differ depending on the specific kind of transaction.
Purchase interest refers to the interest the credit provider actually charges to your card. This is the kind of interest most people mean when they talk about credit card debt. Companies only charge the purchase interest rate if you have an active balance, so if you pay off your card in full, you won’t owe any interest. If you don’t pay off your balance within 21 days, the carrier charges interest on purchases.
Intro rates are temporary periods where cardholders receive lower interest rates. For example, many balance transfer credit cards offer a 12-month 0% APR intro rate before reverting back to the typical rate.
Balance transfer rates are the interest rates you pay when you use the card to move a balance from one card to another. Most of the time, companies charge the same balance transfer rate as the purchase interest rate, but there is no interest-free grace period.
Cash advance rates refer to interest rates for cash advances from using a credit card at an ATM. Banks charge cash advance rates immediately until you pay off the balance. In many cases, cash advance rates are higher than typical purchase interest rates. The TrueLine Mastercard, for instance, has a 24.99% cash advance rate but an APR of 12.99%.
How Do Credit Card Companies Calculate Interest?
APR represents the annual interest rate you pay on your card for various types of transactions. The term “annual” might make it sound like banks only charge interest once a year, but this is inaccurate.
Banks calculate interest daily and charge interest every month. Here is an example of how this type of interest works:
Say you have a credit card balance of $2,500 and an APR of 19.99%. Dividing the APR by 365 (365 days in a year) gives you your daily interest rate:
19.99%/365 ≈ 0.055%
After a single day, you would owe about $1.25 in interest charges (original balance $2,500 x 0.055% daily interest rate) and a total of $2,501.25 (original balance of $2,500 + $1.25 in interest). After the second day, you would owe an additional $1.38 in interest ($2,501.25 x 0.055%) for a total balance of $2,502.63 ($2,501.25 + $1.38).
Notice that on the second day, the credit card company charges interest on the interest they charged the previous day. This feature of interest is why high-interest rates can cause your debt to balloon quickly.
A few dollars of interest from one day to the next might not seem like much, but it can add up over time. If you pay off your balance within the 21-day grace period, your issuer won’t charge interest, and you won’t owe additional money.
This example assumes no credit card usage during the time period. Actual interest charges account for your average daily balance across the billing period.
Fixed vs Variable Interest
Low-interest credit cards have two kinds of interest rates: fixed and variable. The differences between the two are simple but crucial.
Fixed interest rates, as the name implies, stay the same and won’t change from billing cycle to billing cycle. Variable rates, on the other hand, can change depending on your credit score and the bank’s current prime rate—i.e., the underlying rate that determines all other bank interest rates.
The main benefit of fixed interest rates is they are predictable and won’t change, making it easy to calculate paying back debt. Fixed rates also won’t change if your creditworthiness drops.
The main benefit of variable rate cards is they can provide very low interest rates if you have good credit. Conversely, poor credit can get you a very high interest rate.
How to Calculate Credit Card Interest
Below is a quick method for estimating how much interest your issuer will charge after each monthly billing statement.
Go through your most recent statements and mark down your credit card balance for each day in the billing period. Add all these numbers together and divide the large number by the total number of days in the billing cycle. This number is your average daily balance.
Multiply your average daily balance by the daily interest rate, which you can calculate by dividing the APR by 365. The resulting figure is the average interest charge per day.
Multiply your average daily interest charge by the total number of days in the billing cycle. The resulting number is the total amount of interest for that billing cycle.
Adding the total interest charge to your existing balance gives you the amount of your new balance at the beginning of the next billing cycle.
Keep in mind this method is just an estimate. Actual interest charges depend on if the card provider compounds the interest (adds the interest to your unpaid balance) daily or monthly. You also need to factor in APR for different types of transactions.
How Much Money Can I Save With a Low-Interest Credit Card?
Many people fail to see how a low-interest credit card can help them save money. We are generally better at dealing with actual numbers rather than percentages.
Consider this example between three credit cards, one with a standard 19.99% APR, one with an 11.99% APR, and another with an 8.99% APR. You have a $4,000 balance and pay off $200 a month. The question is: How much interest will you end up paying on each card?
Avg. Daily Interest
Time to Pay Off
As you can clearly see, switching to a low-interest credit card can potentially save you hundreds of dollars in interest charges and help you pay off your debts faster.
Even if the higher-interest credit card didn’t have a monthly fee, you would still end up paying less after factoring in interest charges with a low-APR card. Considering how much you’ll save in interest charges, annual fees for low-interest credit cards can be worth it in the long run.
Reducing Credit Card Interest
The single best option to reduce credit card interest is paying off your card balance entirely before your monthly statement. If you have a balance of $0, your credit card company won’t charge interest. Having a balance on your card is basically borrowing money, which charges you interest.
If paying off your monthly balance in full isn’t a feasible option, here are some other tips for reducing credit card interest.
Use a Low-Interest Credit Card
Low-interest credit cards have rates lower than the conventional 19.99% APR. Stick to making purchases with the best low-interest credit cards primarily and only resort to higher-interest cards in emergencies.
Use Debit and Cash
Credit cards are very useful, but using them too much runs the risk of high credit card payments in the future. Stick to debit and cash for most purchases to avoid racking up a high credit card balance. The lower you keep your balance, the less interest you’ll have to pay. This becomes especially true with the new credit card interchange fees in Canada.
Exceed the Minimum Payment
Credit card companies calculate minimum card payments based on the total balance. You only need to pay the minimum to avoid a late payment charge, but only paying the minimum hurts you in the long run. Paying just $20 to $30 more every month can save hundreds in interest charges in the future. If you can pay more than the minimum payment, consider making multiple payments per period.
Set up Autopay
Autopay automatically makes payments to your card by each monthly deadline. You can set up autopay to pay as much as you want, from the minimum payment to the entire card balance. We recommend setting up an automatic payment on your paydays, so that money goes directly to debt before you can spend it on other things. Many subscription services also offer discounts for setting up autopay options with your card, reducing your total balance.
Consider a Balance Transfer
If you have high-interest debt, one way to manage it is a balance transfer. Balance transfer credit cards let you consolidate high-interest debt into a single low-interest monthly payment. Many balance transfer cards have a limited no-interest period—typically the first year after signing up for the card. Interested to go this route? Browse through the 5 best balance transfer credit cards in Canada right here.
Use the Snowball Method
The “snowball” method is a technique for paying off debt that involves paying off smaller debts first before progressing to larger ones, regardless of interest. The rationale behind the snowball method is paying off smaller debts first motivates you to continue paying off large debts. Trying to pay off large debts first can be discouraging because it may feel like you’re not making progress. This system is also quite useful for those who have lese than perfect credit scores, and are using credit cards specifically geared to bad credit.
Negotiate a Lower Rate
If all else fails, you can always call your bank and ask for a lower interest rate. Banks don’t want to lose customers, so they will sometimes give lower interest rates to keep you from going to another bank or credit card. If the person you are speaking to doesn’t have the authority, ask for a manager. The worst the bank can do is say no, so there is no harm in trying.
Is a Low-Interest Credit Card Right for Me?
Consumers might want to get all the fancy rewards that higher-interest cards provide, but those are only with it if you have the income to pay off the balance in full each month. Otherwise, you lose a lot more in interest charges than you would gain in reward points. For instance, a $1,000 balance on a 10.00% APR card would gain over $0.50 in interest charges every day.
Low-interest cards are a better idea if you plan to have a balance on your card from month to month. They are also a good choice if you need to consolidate high-interest debt into a single consolidated payment. The lower interest charges mean you can focus on paying off the debt without drowning in interest.
Low-interest credit cards are also a good idea if you want to build your credit. The low interest keeps monthly payments low, so you can make consistent payments to raise your credit score. Many low-interest credit cards have relatively relaxed credit and income requirements, so they are within reach of most Canadians. Many students find low-interest cards particularly attractive as they help to save valuable dollars which is important to those who are studying. Students however, can find value in all sorts of credit card perks, depending on their needs.
Want More Perks Other Than Interest Rates?
Here are our best overall credit cards for 2023 and 2024.
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