A credit card annual fee is usually charged when you first activate your card account, and then the fee will be charged around the same time every 12 months after that. If you have a card that waives the annual fee in the first year, the standard annual fee will be charged for the first time around 12 months from when you activated the card (and then every 12 months after that).
Use this guide to learn more about credit card annual fees, including ways to avoid and reduce the costs.
Compare credit cards with no annual fee
How can I avoid paying a credit card’s annual fee?
Cancel your card before the annual fee is charged. If you have a credit card that waives the annual fee in the first year, you can avoid this cost in the future by cancelling the account within the first 12 months. To do this, you’ll need to make note of the date you got the card, pay off your balance in full and then contact your credit card provider and ask to close the account before the anniversary of your account opening.
For example, say you got a credit card on 31 March 2019 that offered a $0 annual fee in the first year and then charges a $250 annual fee after that. If you decide the standard annual fee isn’t worth it for you, then you would need to cancel the card before 31 March 2020 in order to avoid being charged an annual fee.
Tip: Find out what date the annual fee is due
To make sure you leave enough time for the cancellation to be processed, contact your credit card provider and ask them when the annual fee will be charged. This will help you sort out your account and close it before the fee is added to your balance.
If you’ve had the same credit card for years and want to cancel it, you can also use this approach to avoid paying another annual fee before you close the account.
Other ways to avoid a credit card annual fee
- Choose a credit card with no annual fee for life. A wide variety of credit cards have no annual fees for the life of the card, giving you a way to avoid this cost on an ongoing basis.
- Apply for a card that waives the annual fee. Some credit cards offer to waive or refund the cost of the annual fee when you meet certain conditions, such as spending a set amount each month or year, or when you apply for more than one product with the provider. For example, if you have a tax free savings account and a credit card, the provider may waive the annual fee for your credit card.
Tips to save money on your credit card’s annual fee
If you have a credit card that charges an annual fee, here are some ways to keep the cost as low as possible:
- Pay the annual fee as soon as it’s charged. Once the annual fee is added to your balance, it will attract interest charges at the standard purchase rate for your card. You can avoid this added cost by paying off the annual fee as soon as it’s charged.
- Check if you’re eligible for a fee waiver. Call your credit card provider and ask if there are any options for fee waivers on your card. Sometimes it’s as simple as having more than one product with the company, such as opening a tax free savings account or a registered retirement savings plan alongside your credit card account.
- Take advantage of complimentary extras. If your card comes with benefits such as rewards or complimentary insurance, the value you get from using them could help balance out the cost of the annual fee. However, it’s a good idea to estimate the value of these perks to make sure they are actually worth it.
Example: Taking advantage of complimentary extras will balance out the cost of a card’s annual fee
Say you have a credit card with a $99 annual fee and complimentary travel insurance coverage. If you travel overseas every year and usually pay more than $99 for your insurance, then this perk alone would offset the card’s annual fee.
However, if you rarely travel overseas or tend to find cheaper travel insurance options, you might find a card with a lower annual fee that is more affordable for you.
While many credit cards come with annual fees, there are a wide range of no annual fee cards on the market or cards that simply waive the annual fee in the first year. However, other features such as interest rates, complimentary extras and rewards can also affect a card’s overall value, so consider your own personal spending habits and financial needs before applying for a credit card.
If you’re looking for a new credit card, make sure you think about what features are worth the most to you and then compare a range of options to help you find one that fits your goals.