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 May 23rd, 2018
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
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Offers a 0% p.a. for 22 months balance transfer, $0 annual fee for the first year and an annual fee refund each year when you spend $6,000.
St.George Vertigo Platinum - Online Offer
12.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Platinum card benefits including complimentary insurance, plus first year annual fee waiver and 0% p.a. for 24 months on balance transfers.
Citi Rewards Platinum Credit Card
20.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 26 months with 2.5% 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 26 month balance transfer offer, plus complimentary international travel insurance.
American Express Platinum Edge Credit Card
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$195 p.a.
Receive a yearly $200 Travel Credit and complimentary domestic and international travel insurance, plus 0% p.a. for 12 months on balance transfers.
St.George Amplify Signature - Qantas
19.49% p.a.
$279 p.a.
Receive 90,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $4,000 within 90 days and receive two complimentary Qantas Club lounge invitations per year.
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($425 p.a. thereafter)
Get 75,000 bonus Qantas Points when you meet the spend requirement, a $0 first year annual fee & 2 yearly complimentary Qantas Club invitations.
American Express Velocity Escape Card
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a.
Earn uncapped Velocity Points on purchases, pay $0 annual fee for life and take advantage of a 0% p.a. for 12 months balance transfer offer.
St.George Amplify Platinum
19.49% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Receive 50,000 bonus Amplify or Qantas Points when you spend $2,000 within 90 days and earn 0.5 Qantas Points or 1 Amplify Point per $1 spent.
Bank of Melbourne Vertigo Visa Credit Card
13.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$55 p.a.
Enjoy a 0% p.a. for 18 months balance transfer offer. Plus, up to 55 days interest-free on purchases.
NAB Low Rate Credit Card
0% p.a. for 6 months (reverts to 13.99% p.a.)
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$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.
St.George Vertigo Visa
13.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$55 p.a.
Enjoy a 0% p.a. for 18 months balance transfer offer. Plus, 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.
Citi Simplicity Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 15 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
$0 p.a.
Save with 5% cashback on eligible purchases (capped at $50 per month) for the first 90 days from 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.
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.
28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard
21.99% p.a.
4.99% p.a. for 6 months
$0 p.a.
Designed for travel, benefit from 0% foreign transaction fees on purchases, a $0 annual fee for life and a personal concierge service.
ANZ Low Rate Platinum
11.49% p.a.
0% p.a. for 15 months
$99 p.a.
Enjoy 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 15 months with no BT fee, combined with platinum card privileges and complimentary insurances.
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, plus enjoy complimentary travel insurance.
ANZ Low Rate
12.49% p.a.
0% p.a. for 15 months
$58 p.a.
Save with a 0% p.a. introductory rate on balance transfers for 15 months with no BT fee. Plus a low 12.49% p.a. interest rate on purchases.
Bank of Melbourne Amplify Signature
19.49% p.a.
$279 p.a.
Get 90,000 bonus Amplify or Qantas Points when you spend $4,000 within 90 days and earn up to 1.5 Amplify or 0.75 Qantas Points per $1 spent.

Compare up to 4 providers

Compare up to 44 day interest-free credit cards

Rates last updated May 23rd, 2018
Name Product Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee Product Description
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Take advantage of 0% p.a. on balance transfers for up to 18 months. $64 in the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter), plus, bonus Velocity Points.
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.
NAB Low Fee Card
19.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$30 p.a.
Receive complimentary purchase protection insurance, a 18 month balance transfer offer and special offers from Visa Entertainment.
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 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.
Offers a discounted annual fee, $100 cashback when you meet the spend requirement and 0% p.a. for 14 months on balance transfers.
NAB Qantas Rewards Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$95 p.a.
Receive 30,000 bonus points when you meet the spend requirements and earn 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 on your everyday spending.
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.
Buy now and pay later with 0% p.a. interest on purchases for 14 months. Plus, 0% p.a. on balance transfers for up to 6 months.
NAB Low Fee Platinum Card
19.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$90 p.a.
Offers 7 complimentary insurance covers, a 0% p.a. for 24 month balance transfer and access to a 24/7 concierge service for a $90 p.a. annual fee.
NAB Qantas Rewards Premium Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$250 p.a.
Offers 60,000 bonus points when you meet the spend requirements and Qantas Points for your everyday spending. Plus a 24/7 personal concierge.
Qantas American Express Ultimate Card
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$450 p.a.
Receive 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.
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.
ANZ First Visa Credit Card
19.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$30 p.a.
Get up to 18 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 with 2% balance transfer fee
$95 p.a.
Get 30,000 bonus points when you meet the spend requirement, 0.75 NAB Rewards Points per $1 spent and a 0% p.a. balance transfer offer.
NAB Rewards Platinum Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$195 p.a.
Collect 60,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 within 60 days of account opening. Plus, receive complimentary travel and purchase insurances.
NAB Rewards Business Signature Card
18.50% p.a.
$175 p.a.
Earn 100,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on everyday business purchases in the first 60 days of account opening.

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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Westpac Low Rate - Online Offer
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HSBC Platinum Credit Card
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NAB Low Fee Card
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