How your credit card interest-free period works

Learn exactly how your credit card interest-free period works to avoid paying any interest.

Credit card interest, statement cycles and billing periods can be confusing concepts. As a result, people may unknowingly incur interest fees which could then lead to serious debt. One way to avoid these charges is to take advantage of the interest-free days offered by many credit cards. Use this guide to understand how the interest-free period works and how you can use your credit card to manage your cash flow without accruing debt.

Hawaiian shirts and interest free days

When does the interest-free period start?

Your interest-free period begins on the first day of your credit card statement cycle and ends on the payment due date for that statement. For example, if your card offers an interest-free period of 55 days and your billing or statement cycle begins on 1 April, you will get 55 days for purchases made on that day, 54 days for purchases on 2 April and so on. This means that at the end of April (which is a 30-day month) you will have 25 interest-free days left to pay for your eligible transactions. The due date for your statement would be 25 May in this scenario. So if you have a purchase in mind and want to take full advantage of the interest-free days, try to make the purchase as early in the statement period as possible.

How can I use interest-free days on my credit card?

It is crucial that you fulfill these two key requirements in order to enjoy your interest-free period:

  • Pay your statement in full. You must clear your entire credit card balance by the payment due date on each statement to be eligible for this interest-free period. Once you have an outstanding balance, the interest-free period no longer applies, and interest will accrue each day on all your transactions.
  • Make eligible purchases. Your interest-free period applies to purchase transactions, but excludes balance transfers, cash advances, and most utility payments and government charges. Interest accrues on those types of transactions from the moment they take place.

Case Study

karen-case-study

Here’s an example of how someone can take full advantage of their interest-free period. Karen’s credit card offers her 44 interest-free days, and her billing cycle starts each month on the 5th. Karen diligently pays off her full account balance every statement cycle, and enjoys the interest-free period because of this.

On 5 September, Karen bought a new computer for $2,000 – a purchase which would be eligible for the full 44 interest-free days (until the statement due date on 19 October). On 30 September, her car breaks down and Karen charges the purchase of parts to her card for $3,000. This purchase will only get 19 interest-free days. This means Karen will have to pay her card balance of $5,000 before 19 October in order to enjoy her interest-free period for September.

interest-free-days-cc-diagram

Compare up to 55 days interest-free credit cards

Rates last updated December 11th, 2017
Name Product Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee Product Description
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 22 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$129 p.a.
Receive a 0% p.a. for 22 months balance transfer offer and earn 1 Reward Point per $1 of eligible spend. Plus, complimentary travel insurance.
St.George Vertigo Platinum - Online Offer
12.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Platinum card benefits plus 0% p.a. for 24 months on balance transfers (with no BT fee) and $0 annual fee in the first year. Ends 13 December 2017.
ANZ Platinum Credit Card - Exclusive Offer
0% p.a. for 3 months (reverts to 19.74% p.a.)
0% p.a. for 12 months
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($87 p.a. thereafter)
Exclusive to finder, get 0% p.a. interest on purchases for 3 months and 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 12 months. Ends 17 December 2017.
Citi Rewards Platinum Credit Card
20.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
Earn reward Points per $1 spent, take advantage of a 0% p.a. for 24 month balance transfer offer, plus complimentary international travel insurance.
Bankwest Breeze Classic Mastercard
12.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$79 p.a.
Receive a long-term balance transfer offer of 0% p.a. for 24 months, a low ongoing purchase rate and up to 55 interest-free days on purchases.
Westpac Low Rate Card - Online Only Balance Transfer Offer
13.49% p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$59 p.a.
Take advantage of 0% p.a. for 24 months on balance transfers with a 2% balance transfer fee when you apply online by 31 January 2018.
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($425 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 75,000 bonus Qantas Points and 75 Bonus Status Credits. Plus, unlimited Véloce airport lounge access and a $0 annual fee for the first year.
St.George Vertigo Visa - Online Offer
13.24% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($55 p.a. thereafter)
Take advantage of 0% p.a. for 18 months on balance transfers (with no BT fee). Plus, $0 annual fee in the first year. Ends 13 December 2017.
Bank of Melbourne Vertigo Visa Credit Card
13.24% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($55 p.a. thereafter)
Save with a $0 first year annual fee and a 0% p.a. for 18 months balance transfer offer. Plus, up to 55 days interest-free on purchases.
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
12.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$99 p.a.
Receive a 0% p.a. interest rate on balance transfers for 24 months, complimentary travel insurance and 0% foreign transaction fees.
NAB Low Rate Credit Card
0% p.a. for 6 months (reverts to 13.99% p.a.)
4.99% p.a. for 6 months
$59 p.a.
Receive an introductory 0% p.a. interest rate for 6 months on purchases, Visa Entertainment offers and a competitive $59 ongoing annual fee.
Commonwealth Bank Business Gold Awards Credit Card
20.74% p.a.
5.99% p.a. for 5 months
$150 p.a.
Earn up to 2 Awards points per $1 spent, receive an unsecured credit limit of up to $50,000 and up to 55 days interest-free on purchases.
ANZ Frequent Flyer Platinum
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($295 p.a. thereafter)
Receive 65,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $2,500 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months. Plus, a $0 annual fee for the first year.
American Express Velocity Platinum Card
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$375 p.a.
Receive 50,000 bonus Velocity Points, a complimentary Virgin Australia return Economy domestic flight each anniversary year, plus, 2 lounge passes.
Citi Simplicity Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 15 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a.
Earn 5% cashback on eligible purchases (capped at $50 per month) for the first 90 days from card approval. Plus, a 15 month balance transfer offer.
Westpac 55 Day Platinum Credit Card
19.84% p.a.
0% p.a. for 20 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($90 p.a. thereafter)
Receive a 20 month balance transfer offer, up to 55 days interest-free on purchases, a platinum concierge service and a $0 first year annual fee.
St.George Amplify Platinum
19.49% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Receive 60,000 bonus Amplify or Qantas Points when you spend $3,000 within 90 days and earn up to 1.00 Amplify point per $1 spent.
ANZ Low Rate Platinum
11.49% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Get $250 back to your new ANZ Low Rate Platinum when you spend $500 on eligible purchases within the first 60 days from card approval.
American Express Essential Credit Card
14.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 3% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a.
Get Smartphone Screen Insurance of up to $500 when you pay for your phone or contract with this card. Plus, a $0 annual fee for life.
HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months
$199 p.a.
Receive 60,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $3,000 within 3 months of card approval and enjoy complimentary travel insurance.

Compare up to 4 providers

Compare up to 44 day interest-free credit cards

Rates last updated December 11th, 2017
Name Product Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee Product Description
NAB Premium Card - Exclusive Offer
19.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 25 months
$90 p.a.
Exclusive to finder.com.au, enjoy a no BT fee, 0% balance transfer offer for 25 months and seven complimentary insurance covers.
Qantas American Express Discovery Card
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a.
Save by not having to pay annual fees, and earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points at the rate of 1 point per dollar spent on eligible purchases.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - 0% Interest Offer
0% p.a. for 14 months (reverts to 20.74% p.a.)
0% p.a. for 6 months
$129 p.a.
Save with 0% p.a. on purchases for 14 months and 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 6 months. Plus, earn up to 0.66 Velocity Points per $1 spent.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Bonus Points Offer
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Earn up to 60,000 bonus Velocity Points in the first 3 months on eligible spend and enjoy a discounted annual fee of $64 for the first year.
Virgin Money Low Rate Credit Card
11.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 14 months
$49 p.a.
Receive a discounted annual fee, $100 cashback when you meet the spend requirement and up to 14 months interest-free on balance transfers.
NAB Qantas Rewards Card
19.99% p.a.
4.99% p.a. for 6 months
$95 p.a.
A Visa card that offers 0.5 Qantas points per $1 spent, complimentary purchase protection insurance and up to 44 days interest-free on purchases.
Bankwest More Platinum Mastercard
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$160 p.a.
Earn 2 More Rewards Points per $1 spent, 75,000 bonus points when you meet the spend requirement and save with 0% foreign transaction fees.
Virgin Australia Velocity High Flyer Card - 80k Bonus Points offer
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 15 months
$289 p.a.
Take off sooner with up to 80,000 bonus Velocity Points and earn up to 1 Velocity Point per $1 spent. Plus, complimentary travel insurance.
NAB Velocity Rewards Premium Card
19.99% p.a.
4.99% p.a. for 6 months
$150 p.a.
Offers up to 0.66 Velocity Points per $1 spent on purchases, combined with complimentary insurance covers and a concierge service.
NAB Velocity Rewards Card
19.99% p.a.
4.99% p.a. for 6 months
$95 p.a.
This Visa card offers 0.5 Velocity Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases, up to 44 interest-free days on purchases and Visa Entertainment offers.
NAB Qantas Rewards Premium Card
19.99% p.a.
4.99% p.a. for 6 months
$250 p.a.
Offers 25,000 bonus points when you meet the spend requirements and Qantas Points for your everyday spending. Plus a 24/7 personal concierge.
NAB Low Fee Card
19.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 16 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$30 p.a.
Receive complimentary purchase protection insurance, a 16 month balance transfer offer and special offers from Visa Entertainment.
Qantas American Express Ultimate Card
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$450 p.a.
Take advantage of 55,000 bonus Qantas Points, a $450 Qantas Travel Credit each year and 2 yearly complimentary Qantas Club lounge invitations.
Qantas American Express Premium Card
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$249 p.a.
Enjoy 30,000 bonus Qantas Points, 2 complimentary Qantas Club lounge invitations per year and the protection of complimentary insurance covers.
Bankwest Qantas Platinum Mastercard
20.49% p.a.
2.99% p.a. for 9 months
$160 p.a.
Enjoy 0% foreign transaction fees, complimentary travel insurances and earn 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases.
ANZ First Student Card
19.74% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($30 p.a. thereafter)
An ideal, low limit credit card for full-time tertiary students with up to 44 days interest-free on purchases and a $0 annual fee for the first year.
Bankwest More World Mastercard
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$270 p.a.
Earn 115,000 bonus points when you meet the spend requirement, receive complimentary travel insurance and a LoungeKey membership.
Bankwest Qantas World Mastercard
20.49% p.a.
2.99% p.a. for 9 months
$270 p.a.
Earn uncapped Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases, pay 0% foreign transaction fees and receive complimentary travel insurance.
ANZ First Visa Credit Card
19.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 16 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$30 p.a.
Get up to 16 months interest-free on balance transfers and save with a low $30 annual fee. Plus, up to 44 days interest-free on purchases.
NAB Rewards Classic Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months
$95 p.a.
Receive 0.75 NAB Rewards Points per $1 spent and complimentary purchase protection insurance. Plus, a 0% p.a. for 6 months balance transfer offer.

Compare up to 4 providers

What happens if I carry a balance?

Unfortunately the short answer is that you may have to pay interest through the nose. Carrying a balance not only affects the interest-free period for that statement cycle, it also affects the next one because the next cycle will inevitably start with an outstanding balance on your card. This means that until you clear the full balance on your next statement cycle, you will not be eligible for interest-free days, and interest will be charged immediately from the transaction date of every purchase you make.

Important: Note that this situation also applies if you transfer a balance to your new credit card. As long as there’s an outstanding balance on your card, you will not enjoy the advertised interest-free period.

Learn what happens when you carry a credit card balance

Other types of interest-free periods

As well as the interest-free period on purchase transactions, there are some other interest-free offers you may find on your credit card:

  • Promotional 0% purchase rate offers. This type of deal provides you with a 0% interest rate on purchases for the first 3-12 months. After that, the standard variable rate of interest will apply to purchases (unless you take advantage of interest-free days).
  • Promotional 0% balance transfer offers. A balance transfer credit card promotion could offer an interest-free introductory period for between 3 and 24 months. While this means you can enjoy paying 0% interest on your transferred balance for that stipulated period of time, you may have to pay a balance transfer fee initially, and you’ll still have to make minimum repayments on your balance each month. Other fees may apply (e.g. annual fee, late fee, etc.) and, as explained earlier, you will not enjoy the interest-free period on purchase transactions until you’ve paid your balance in full.
  • Interest-free payment plans. Some credit cards provide interest-free options for selected purchases. Examples of some of these are the Gem Visa, Myer Visa and the David Jones American Express credit cards.

Tips for using the interest-free period

Consider the following tips if you want to take advantage of interest-free days on your credit card:

  • Plan your purchases. Interest-free periods may vary from 14 to as long as 62 days. Whatever the case, it’s a good idea to make larger purchases at the beginning of a billing cycle so that you’re getting the greatest number of interest-free days.
  • Look at your statement regularly. Stay on top of your credit card bill by checking your online statement regularly. This will help you plan your repayments and better manage cash flow.
  • Prioritise repayments over purchases. If you have an outstanding balance, focus on paying it off in full before making any new purchases. This strategy will help reduce the amount of interest you incur and help you meet the requirements for interest-free days in future billing cycles.
  • Only buy what you can afford. As you’ll need to pay off your balance in full each month, it’s important to only use your card for expenses you can afford to repay by the statement due date.
  • Set a budget. Creating a budget for your credit card expenses and repayments will help ensure that you can settle your monthly balances and continue to take advantage of the interest-free period on your card.

Armed with this knowledge of how your credit card interest-free period works, you can now plan your purchases and repayments to make the most use of those interest-free days. Always remember the bottom line though: pay your balance in full!

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