A man pointing to credit card interest

Credit Card Interest Rates

Learn how credit card interest rates work so you can find a card that suits your needs.

When you use a credit card, you're essentially borrowing money based on the account's credit limit. So just like any other loan, interest may be charged on the balance. How and when this interest is charged can have a huge impact on what you'll pay for your credit card.

So to make sure your credit card works for you, here you'll find answers to the most common questions about interest, including the different rates that may apply and when it's charged. We also look at how you can compare credit card interest rates and take advantage of interest-free days so you can avoid interest charges on your card.

What are credit card interest rates and how do they work?

Interest rates are a type of fee that's charged when you borrow money. With credit cards, interest rates are calculated as a percentage of your balance and shown as an annual or per annum figure. For example, a card could have an interest rate of 17.99% p.a. (per annum) or 21.99% p.a.

Most credit cards also have different interest rates for different types of transactions, with the most common being a purchase rate and a cash advance rate. You can learn more about different types of interest rates below.

How is credit card interest calculated?

The interest rate on credit cards is normally shown as an annual figure. But most credit card companies calculate interest on a daily basis and then add the charges to your account at the end of each statement period. So to determine your credit card interest amount, your daily outstanding balance is multiplied by the daily interest rate on your credit card. These daily calculations are then added together at the end of the statement period to get the total interest due. The daily interest rate is calculated by dividing the APR by 365 days.

Compound interest costs

The way credit card interest is charged is known as "compound interest" because it is calculated daily. This means that you could end up paying interest on your interest charges. But the good news is that you can cut down on interest costs any time you make a repayment, because that will also affect the daily interest calculation.

Types of credit card interest rates

ccf-interest-woman-250x250Here are the most common types of interest rates you'll find on credit cards:

  • Purchase interest rate. This is the interest you are charged when you use your credit card for making payments in retail outlets or online.
  • Cash advance interest rate. This is the interest rate you are charged when you use your credit card for withdrawing cash from ATMs.
  • Balance transfer interest rate. This is the interest rate you are charged when transferring an existing credit card debt to a new card.
  • Promotional interest rate. Many credit card companies offer new customers a promotional interest rates for purchases or balance transfers. This promotional interest rate is only available for a limited time, with the standard interest rate applying after that. For example, a card may offer you 0% interest on balance transfers for the first 12 months. If you didn't pay off the balance transfer during the first 12 months, the standard rate for balance transfers would apply to the debt.

Even the smallest difference in credit card interest rates can have a huge impact on your account costs. So when you're looking for a new card, make sure you compare both the standard and promotional interest rates to help you find one that suits your needs.

Comparing credit card interest rates

To show you how important it is to compare interest rates, let's say you have a balance of $1,000 on a credit card that charges 20.99% p.a. If you only made minimum payments of 3% on this debt, it would take you 11 years and 6 months to pay off your balance and cost you a total of $1,103.42 in interest.

But if you had credit card with an interest rate of 19.99% p.a., it would take 10 years and 11 months to pay off the balance and cost a total of $989.53. So in this case, an interest rate difference of just 1% could actually save you $113.89 in interest and 7 months of repayments. The bigger the difference in rates, the greater these potential savings would be.

What else do I need to know?

As well as interest rates, make sure you also consider the following when you're looking for a new credit card:

  • Interest-free days. Many credit cards offer a up to a certain number of interest-free days on purchases when you pay your account balance in full by the due date on your statement. For example, up to 55 days interest-free. This gives you a way to avoid interest charges for spending on your credit card.
  • 0% interest rate offers. If you get a credit card with a promotional 0% interest rate, it may only apply for certain types of transactions. For example, you could get 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months but still have to pay the standard variable interest rate for purchases. There is also a range of credit cards that offer introductory 0% interest rates on both purchases and balance transfers, although standard rates will apply at the end of the promotional period.
  • Annual fee. Most credit cards charge an annual fee, which could also add to your account balance. Remember to factor this cost in when your comparing credit cards and also when you're budgeting for interest costs and repayments.
  • Other features. Many credit cards offer complimentary extras such as insurance or rewards, which could help offset the cost of the annual fee and interest charges. Just remember to weigh the value of the benefits against potential costs so you can decide if a card is worth it based on your spending habits and goals.

Compare credit cards

If you're looking for a new credit card, you can use our tables to compare your options based on interest rates. Just click on the "Purchase rate" or "Balance transfer rate" column and the table will update to show you cards with the lowest to highest rates.

Rates last updated October 18th, 2017
Name Product Purchase rate (p.a.) Interest Free Period Annual fee Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Product Description
St.George Vertigo Platinum
12.74% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$99 p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 2% balance transfer fee
Offers complimentary travel insurance, complimentary purchase insurance and access to a 24/7 personal concierge service.
Westpac Low Rate Card - Online Only Balance Transfer Offer
13.49% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$59 p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 2% balance transfer fee
Take advantage of 0% p.a. for 24 months on balance transfers with a 2% balance transfer fee. Plus, use of the Westpac mobile banking app.
HSBC Low Rate Credit Card
13.25% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$55 p.a.
0% p.a. for 15 months with 2% balance transfer fee
Add additional cardholders for $0 and pay using Apple Pay. Also enjoy exclusive offers with the home&Away Privilege Program.
Virgin Money Low Rate Credit Card
11.99% p.a.
Up to 44 days on purchases
$49 p.a.
0% p.a. for 14 months
Receive a discounted annual fee, $100 cashback when you meet the spend requirement and up to 44 days interest-free on purchases.
NAB Low Rate Platinum Card
13.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$100 p.a.
0% p.a. for 16 months with 2% balance transfer fee
Enjoy the protection of 7 complimentary insurances including overseas travel and purchase protection insurance.
ANZ Low Rate
12.49% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$58 p.a.
With a low minimum credit limit of $1,000, this no frills card allows you to add up to 3 additional cardholders for $0 and has Mastercard PayPass.
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
0% p.a. for 13 months (reverts to 12.99% p.a.)
Up to 55 days on purchases
$99 p.a.
0% p.a. for 13 months with 2% balance transfer fee
Receive complimentary international travel insurance, extended warranty cover and 0% foreign transaction fees.
ME frank Credit Card
11.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 p.a.
Available in black or white, this no-fuss credit card offers the same rate on purchases and cash advances, plus card lock technology.
Westpac Lite Card
9.90% p.a.
Up to 45 days on purchases
$108 p.a.
Keep credit card costs low with a maximum credit limit of $4,000 and no foreign transaction fees.
St.George Vertigo Visa
13.24% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$55 p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee
Receive a low annual fee and the ability to make contactless payments with Visa payWave technology.
Bank of Melbourne Vertigo Platinum
12.74% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$99 p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 2% balance transfer fee
Get a range of complimentary insurance covers, access to a 24/7 concierge and the convenience of Visa payWave contactless technology.
Bankwest Breeze Classic Mastercard
0% p.a. for 13 months (reverts to 12.99% p.a.)
Up to 55 days on purchases
$79 p.a.
0% p.a. for 13 months with 2% balance transfer fee
Receive up to 55 days interest-free on purchases and free worldwide emergency card replacement.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - 0% Interest Offer
0% p.a. for 12 months (reverts to 20.74% p.a.)
Up to 44 days on purchases
$129 p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months
Until 31 October 2017, save with 0% p.a. on purchases for 12 months. Plus, up to 0.66 Velocity Points per $1 spent.
American Express Essential®  Credit Card
14.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 3% balance transfer fee
Receive a $50 credit when you apply online, are approved and spend $750 on your new card within the first 3 months of card membership.
ANZ Low Rate Platinum
11.49% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$99 p.a.
Enjoy platinum benefits with exclusive discounts, complimentary travel and purchase insurances and a 24/7 personal concierge.
NAB Low Rate Credit Card
13.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$59 p.a.
0% p.a. for 16 months with 2% balance transfer fee
Offers a low $500 minimum credit limit, special offers from Visa Entertainment and Tap and Pay capabilities.
BankSA Vertigo Visa
13.24% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$55 p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee
A no-frills Visa with the protection of a zero liability policy and a 24/7 fraud monitoring service.

Compare up to 4 providers

When applying for a credit card, it’s important that you read the fine print to understand all the terms and conditions of your agreement. If you don’t take the time to understand the fees and charges associated with using your card, you could end up with a nasty financial surprise in the future. Do your research and read all paperwork thoroughly.

Pictures: Shutterstock

Frequently asked questions

APR is the acronym for Annual Percentage Rate, which is the standard way of expressing the cost of credit as an annual percentage.
An interest charge refers to the interest fee levied on your credit card account. This can be in the form of a purchase interest rate, cash advance interest rate or balance transfer interest rate.
If you contact us here at finder.com.au, we will be able to direct you on how to access the most competitive interest rates in Australia.
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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    KaruMay 26, 2013

    I have a Diamond MasterCard. My balance is $2700. I have paid $2500 on due date but charged $160. Is it correct? Why has this happened?

    • Staff
      JacobMay 26, 2013Staff

      Hi Karu. It’s difficult to speculate why you’ve been charged this fee. Best to consult your credit card statement when it next arrives, or you can check your online banking facility to see why you’ve been charged this fee. If you let us know the name of the fee, we can offer some insight into why it has been charged, how to avoid it in the future, and maybe how to dispute it with the lender. Jacob.

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