How I Used a 0% intro APR Credit Card to Pay for New Floors

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One of the benefits of a strong credit score is the ability to qualify for a credit card with 0% interest.

A pet-loving family owned the home we purchased three years ago. According to neighbors, several large dogs lived in the house before we bought it -- naughty creatures who chewed on doorframes, did their business on carpets, and put deep scratches in the hardwood floors. No judgement here. My husband and I are known to have complete conversations with our dogs. We get what it's like to consider pets full-fledged members of the family. We don't allow our dogs to misbehave, but it's impossible to know what was going on with the previous owners. They were selling the house due to divorce, so maybe life was too chaotic to keep the four-legged family members under control.

By the time we first viewed the house, it had been stripped of everything. The walls were freshly painted, scratches on door frames hastily doctored, and carpeting throughout the house replaced. All I can say is, they had one smart real estate agent. She knew that the home needed a facelift if they hoped to sell.

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She instructed them to empty the house of everything. There was no furniture, no photos, and no personal effects when we toured the property. They even stripped the 12 windows in the living room of blinds damaged by the dogs. Again, that was fine when we were house hunting. It allowed us to get a better sense of the space and see all those little things usually hidden by furnishings.

Their agent told our agent that she paid for many of the repairs herself, going so far as to replace the carpeting. She made a smart choice. It was a blend of neutral colors, sure to fit anyone's color scheme, and it was inexpensive. Inexpensive, as in the cheapest thing she could find at a local home improvement store.

That carpeting looked great for months after we moved in, and then it began to shed and buckle. One day, as I was vacuuming the living room, I was horrified to watch an entire chunk tear away, leaving behind a hole the size of an orange. Our plan had always been to refinish the wood floors that already existed in part of the house and replace the inexpensive carpeting with more hardwoods. Of course, we didn't think we'd have to do it quite so soon.

Some home improvement projects are tough to get excited about. For example, replacing our furnace last year did not offer me a single thrill. Hardwood floors, though -- just the thought made my heart flutter. I was a little concerned about the price but was comforted by the fact that installing hardwoods can raise the value of a property from 3% to 5%. For us, that meant an increase of anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000. We live in a desirable part of the city, so I convinced myself that it was probably closer to $20,000.

We have different savings accounts earmarked for different goals. For example, we have one account that covers birthday and holiday gifts, one for vacation, and another for medical expenses not covered by insurance or our flexible spending account (FSA). We also have a savings account for household upgrades. However, at the time, we didn't have enough in it yet to pay for the entire hardwood floor project.

Within days of losing a chunk of the living room carpet to vacuuming, I applied for a credit card with a 0% intro APR promotional rate and was immediately approved. By the time we got bids on the job and decided what kind of floor we wanted, our new card had arrived. To keep expenses low, we decided to have hardwoods installed only on the first floor, with a plan to put them upstairs sometime before summer 2021. The carpet upstairs experiences less wear and tear, and will undoubtedly (maybe) last six or seven more months. I paid for part of the job with cash we'd been saving for household upgrades and put the rest on the card.

Here's the brilliance of a 0% promotional rate. We ended up with a $3,600 balance on the credit card with 18 months to pay it back, equating to what would be equal monthly payments of $200. If we'd taken out a personal loan instead and wanted it paid off in 18 months, the interest rate would have probably been around 6%. The payment would have been $210 a month and cost us $173 in interest, plus any fees tacked onto the loan. Or imagine we used a credit card with a standard interest rate (around 17%) and made equal monthly payments of $200. We would pay the project off in 21 months but pay a total of $585 in interest.

Even better, an unexpected bonus at work allowed us to pay the credit card off before the 18 months was up. If that "found" money had not appeared, though, we would have paid off the credit card in full before the interest shot up to the standard rate.

Though we didn't take advantage of the entire 18-month promotional period, faithfully making monthly payments further enhanced our credit score. That's a benefit that may help us down the line. And because we make it a point to keep our debt-to-income (DTI) ratio low, we never had to worry about the extra debt hurting our score.

The truth is, the stronger your credit score, the more options you have when you need to borrow money. If your credit is not where you'd like it to be, there are foolproof ways to boost your credit score. It may take time and effort, but the next time part of your carpeting gets sucked up into your vacuum, or your central air conditioner sputters and dies, there's no need to panic. Even if you haven't saved quite enough to cover the expense, you will likely have access to some pretty sweet borrowing options -- including credit cards with a 0% promotional rate.

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