Do 0% Credit Card Deals Really Mean Free Money?

By Susan Tompor

Credit card companies are once again offering free money — or it sure looks free when you see a huge 0% plastered on the envelope.

Open that new plastic, buy now and get 0% until August 2014? Yes, you’re not imagining things. Credit card experts say we’re seeing the best promotions for plastic ever since the Great Recession.

“It was free money to me in some sense,” said Donald Grimes, an economist at the University of Michigan.

Grimes jumped at a 0% deal that runs 18 months to buy an Apple laptop. But he plans to pay off the purchase before an 18% annual percentage rate kicks in, retroactively on this deal, if the purchase is not paid off in 18 months.

“I’ve played that game, and I know how to do it,” Grimes said.

MONEY QUICK TIPS: Make your credit cards work for you

The latest run of 0% offers — including 0% financing deals at stores and 0% introductory-rate major credit cards — is one more sign that the worst is over for the economy.

“The economy is definitely coming back, and the credit card industry is definitely making a bet on that,” said Tim Chen, CEO of, which compares everything from credit cards to checking accounts to airline fees.

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