How to avoid paying interest on a financial product
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Most financial products charge interest (credit cards, car loans, mortgages, etc.), but there are ways to avoid interest charges altogether or keep them to a minimum.
I have 10 credit cards and a car loan, and I never paid interest on any of them. In order to avoid interest charges, I follow a few rules that help me spend within my means, so that I can pay each bill on time and in full.
While I can avoid interest charges, I understand that it is not something that everyone can do. Carrying a balance and incurring interest can be inevitable at times, especially at this time when the country is facing high unemployment rates.
Paying interest isn’t the worst thing if it’s necessary to help you make ends meet. But the goal should be to avoid paying high interest charges – I’m sure there are a lot of things you’d rather do with your money than give it to the bank.
Hopefully, the four financial rules I’ve outlined below can help you minimize interest charges and possibly avoid interest altogether.
Here are the rules I follow to make sure I never pay a dime of interest.
One of my golden rules is to find the best deal. This applies to everyday shopping – I like to compare the price of flour, toothpaste, or clothes before I buy. I do the same with financial products to find the best rates and fees.
Before I apply for a credit card or loan, I do my research online to find the best deals. For credit cards, this means looking at the annual fee, interest rate, 0% APR introductory period, and rewards. When I applied for a car loan, I looked for one that offered an APR as low as 0%.
Many financial products allow you to prequalified, which allows you to determine whether you will be eligible for a product or not. Prequalification does not guarantee that you will actually be approved once you submit a formal application, but it is a useful tool to see where you are at.
It’s too easy to make impulse purchases these days, so it’s very important to create a budget. I have a full spreadsheet that lists how much money I earn each month, what expenses I can’t budge on (like insurance and loan payments), and how much I can afford to spend on everything else (like take out and other non-essential purchases).
If you don’t want to create your own spreadsheet, you can sign up for a budgeting app, like mint or You need a budget (YNAB). With an app or your own spreadsheet, you can track your monthly spending and make adjustments until you spend less than you earn
After setting a budget, the next step is to stick to it and hold yourself accountable.
the most important factor in your credit score is the payment history, so it is essential that you always make an effort to pay your bills on time. In addition, you must pay your balance in full to avoid interest charges.
I always make a point of paying on time and in full, by setting up automatic payment on all my accounts for the entire statement balance. The only time I carry a balance is when I have an active 0% APR introductory period. Even then I still pay at least the minimum due to keep my account up to date.
If you have a credit card with a 0% APR offer, you will not pay interest on certain transactions, which may include new purchases, balance transfers, or both. You must make the minimum payments each billing cycle or you risk voiding your 0% APR.
Other financial products, such as auto loans, typically advertise 0% APRs. When I bought a car last year, I was able to take advantage of the 0% APR offer which allows me to pay off my auto loan without interest for 63 months. These types of loans and credit cards generally require good at excellent credit.
If you have a balance on a credit card that bears interest, consider transferring the balance to a balance transfer card. You can enjoy up to 20 interest-free billing cycles with some of the best cards, like the American bank Visa® Platinum card. After the introductory period, a variable APR of 14.49% to 24.49% applies. Good at excellent credit is often needed, although there are maps for fair / average credit.
I have been fortunate enough to have a stable job that allows me to pay my bills on time, but there is no guarantee that a job will last forever. You should always have a back-up plan if you find yourself facing an unexpected cash flow problem.
In the worst case, it is good to have a emergency fund to type. I keep at least six months of spending in my emergency fund, so I have a safety net if unforeseen situations arise.
You will also want to reduce your expenses to a simpler budget. Think about expenses you can cut, like streaming, music, and workout subscriptions, as well as ways to cut back on your fixed expenses, like groceries and potentially even housing costs.
You may need to find other ways to make money. If you are made redundant, unemployment benefits can provide some income, but they are often not enough to cover all of your expenses. Consider scrambling to help make ends meet until you find a new job.
Sometimes paying interest is unavoidable, but there are steps you can take to avoid these costly charges. In order to get the best rates and fees – and a lower or 0% APR – you need to have a good or an excellent credit rating.
The good news: There are steps you can take to increase your credit score. Start by paying at least your minimum due on time each month, keeping your balances and dispute credit report errors. Another option is to obtain credit for on-time payments of utility, telephone and streaming service bills through the Experian Boost ™ functionality.
Good financial habits lead to a good credit rating which in turn leads to access to better financial products. These small steps can save you a lot of money in the long run, and it’s worth the time and investment it takes to improve your score.
Editorial note: Any opinions, analysis, criticism or recommendations expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the editorial staff of Select and have not been reviewed, endorsed or otherwise approved by any third party.