Credit Cards
November 16, 2020

What is interest and how does it work?

Understanding how interest rates work can help - you can save money month after month.

Do you know how much interest you pay on your credit cards every year? Credit cards are convenient, but every time you use them to make a purchase - and don’t pay it off in full and on time at the end of a billing cycle - you’re paying more than the purchase price. You’re also paying interest to your bank.

What is an interest rate?

An interest rate is either the cost of borrowing money or the reward for saving it. It’s calculated as a percentage of the amount borrowed or saved.

How do interest rates work?

When you don’t pay off your credit card balance in full, your bank applies your interest rate to the total unpaid portion of your balance. Following the terms you agreed to when you accepted your credit card, you’re required to pay at least the bank’s interest charges every month. 

Banks typically charge a higher interest rate on credit cards than other kinds of loans. Banks also charge higher rates to people they think are a higher risk. Banks determine your risk by reviewing your credit score. The higher your score, the lower the interest rate you’re likely to pay.

How is APR different from the interest rate?

Your credit card’s APR (or “annual percentage rate”) is different from its interest rate. Your card’s APR includes your bank’s interest rate plus their other fees and charges, many of which are charged only once or annually. 

With that in mind, weigh the difference like this: your interest rate tells you what you’re charged each month. Your APR includes all of the costs over the life of your loan or credit card.

What is an 0% APR credit card?

‍Many credit card issuers promote 0% APR cards to attract new customers. These “introductory” offers typically last between 6 months and 21 months, and they’re often promoted to encourage a balance transfer, where you transfer your balance from a card or a loan with a higher interest rate to a 0% APR card. 

Balance transfers sometimes require an extra fee (commonly 3% - 5%), but with 0% APR over the introductory period, you have more time and flexibility to pay off your debt. 

How can I lower monthly interest charges?

The easiest way to lower your interest charges is to avoid them in the first place: pay your credit card bills in full and on time every month. If you need help managing payments, use a debt management tool like Bright. 

A debt transfer card can also help - when you transfer balances from high-interest cards to a card with an introductory rate of 0% or a low interest rate. 

Another common approach is the debt avalanche method for managing card debt. With this payment strategy, you’ll identify which card is charging the most in interest and fees each month. After paying the minimum due on your other cards, you’ll pay as much as you can to clear this card. 

How can personal loans lower interest charges?

Some people use a personal loan to pay off their credit cards. If you can secure a personal loan with an APR lower than your credit cards, it can be an effective strategy. 

You’ll use the loan’s lump sum to pay off your card, then make one predictable loan payment each month at a lower interest rate. 

How can Bright help?

Bright offers a few solutions that can lower the interest you pay every month. 

Bright Balance Transfer provides a low-interest line of credit designed to pay off card debt fast while saving you from high interest charges. Once approved, Bright uses the funds from your Bright Balance Transfer to pay off your high-interest cards, moving those debts to our balance transfer program with its lower APR. Over the months ahead, Bright automates your new repayments, too, so you pay less in interest and it’s hassle-free. Bright Balance Transfers offers credit lines of up to $10,000 at APRs starting from 9.95%, depending on your eligibility.

Bright Credit Builder is an easy way to boost your credit score. With a healthy credit score, you can qualify for cards and loans with lower interest rates. Once you’re signed up, we’ll set up an interest-free, secured line of credit and use it to make automatic payments on your cards, building a positive payment history and lowering your credit utilization. Bright Credit Builder focuses on utilization and payment history because as they improve, your credit score goes up!

Bright can also help you pay less in interest by managing your card payments for you. With a personal Bright Plan, we’ll use our patented MoneyScience™ to study your finances, learn about your debt and make smart payments, always on time and optimized to save on interest charges.
If you don’t have it yet, download the Bright app from the App Store or GooglePlay. Connect your checking account and your cards, set a few goals and let Bright do the rest. With a personal Bright Plan, you can apply for Bright Credit Builder or Bright Balance Transfer or use MoneyScience™ to pay off your cards fast.

Recommended Readings:

How to Lower Credit Card Interest & Processing Fees

Is Credit Card Interest Tax Deductible?

Amit Bendale
Co-Founder & Head of Data Science
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