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Should you use a 0% APR card to cover an emergency?

You may have considered using a 0% annual percentage rate credit card to cover an emergency, as it gives you time to pay off your card without incurring interest costs.

But is there a right and wrong time to use a 0% APR credit card? And how does the process work when the time comes? Here’s what you need to know.

When to use a credit card to cover an emergency

If you have a zero- or low-interest credit card and a history of responsibly using credit, it might make sense to use credit to cover an emergency — provided you can still pay off that amount in a reasonable time frame.

The important thing here is to weigh all your credit card options, factoring in the item(s) you’re buying, how much you’ll be spending, and how you plan to pay off your purchase. The latter is especially important because if you can’t pay off your balance before the promotional period ends, you’ll be right back where you started: paying interest.

When to consider other options

On the other hand, if you feel you can’t pay off your balance on time or have a spotty track record regarding credit usage, you might be better off finding another way to cover your emergency.

A customer browses through a home improvement store

For example, if you have an urgent home renovation but don’t want to risk paying credit card interest, consider other options. You could use a retailer’s installment plan, use a buy now, pay later service, or borrow money from family and friends.

The right financial solution will ensure you don’t pay interest or other fees.

Avoid interest whenever possible

It goes without saying that you should avoid paying credit card interest — life is expensive enough as it is. Having a plan to pay off your purchases in a reasonable period means you’ll save money, remain in good standing with your card issuer and protect your credit score.

young man sitting on a sofa talking on the phone with a credit card in his hand

Bottom line

Like any large purchase, using a 0% APR card to cover an emergency can make sense — provided you’ve found the right card for your purchase and can pay off your balance without paying interest.

With emergencies in particular, though, you’ll obviously have enough things to stress about without wanting to add an interest-heavy credit card bill to the list. Finding a financial option that works for you ensures you can cover that emergency promptly and return to living in the black as soon as possible.