A no annual fee credit card is a great way to take advantage of the benefits of using a credit card without the extra cost.
This guide explains what a no annual fee credit card is, outlines the common fees associated with no annual fee card, and includes a comprehensive comparison table. Learn the mistakes you should avoid when using no annual fee credit cards, and get answers to the most commonly asked questions.
No Annual Fee Credit Card Deals
Rates last updated January 21st, 2017.
- Barclaycard Ring Platinum MasterCard
APR for purchases, BT and cash advance are all 8.25%
January 8th, 2016
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
50k bonus miles + 0% APR for 12 months on BT + APR for purchases of 16.24% or cash advance of 25.49%
September 17th, 2016
What’s in this guide?
- What is a no annual fee credit card?
- How to choose a no annual fee credit card
- Fees you could face
- Mistakes to avoid
- Frequently asked questions
What is a no annual fee credit card?
Some credit cards charge an annual fee to cardholders just for having the credit card. Annual fees can be as low as $30 or as high as $500 depending on the credit card. The fee is charged automatically each year, typically during the credit card’s anniversary month. Some credit cards waive the annual fee in the first year, giving cardholders 12 months to enjoy the credit card at no cost. In some cases, the benefits of the credit card are enough to justify paying the annual fee.
A no annual fee credit card, on the other hand, does not charge an annual fee to cardholders each year. No annual fee credit cards are a great option for consumers who do not want to pay extra for having a credit card, no matter how great the perks seem. Avoiding an annual fee helps you minimize the cost of using a credit card.
Some credit cards come in no annual fee version and an annual fee credit card. Often, the no annual fee credit card has fewer perks, like a lower rewards earning rate or lower credit card sign up bonus.Back to top
How to choose a no annual fee credit card
From low interest rates to rewards, no annual fee credit cards have a variety of attractive features. With so many great options, choosing a no annual fee credit card can being difficult. Here are some tips to help you compare and choose a credit card.
- Credit card issuer. Personal experience or consumer reviews may sway you toward one particular credit card issuer. If you have a favorite bank, look through their no annual fee credit card offerings first. It will certainly help you narrow down your options.
- Interest rate. Interest rate is often one of the most important determining factors for a credit card, particularly for people who may carry a balance. A low interest rate will help you minimize the amount of interest that you pay on the credit card. If this is the case for you, pay close attention to the APR of the credit cards you’re comparing. Keep in mind that you typically need to have a good credit score to qualify for a low interest rate.
- Promotional rates. The next best thing to not paying an annual fee is not paying any interest. Many no annual fee credit cards have promotional interest rates on balance transfers, or purchases, or both. Check out the credit cards with long introductory periods. If you qualify, you’ll have several months to enjoy your credit card without paying any interest. The promotional period will let you save money existing credit card balance that you transfer to the card. Or, you can use your card to make interest-free payments on a big balance. Make sure you also consider the post promotional interest rate, as this will be the interest rate you pay once your promotional period has ended.
- Credit card rewards. Don’t assume that you can’t get great rewards unless you pay a high annual fee. Many no annual fee credit cards also have great rewards programs, paying cash, points, and miles on qualifying transactions. To narrow down your options, consider the type of rewards you prefer to earn. Cash is the most versatile; you may get more benefit if you choose a credit card that pays miles or points. Scan the rewards program of each credit card you’re considering and choose the credit card that pays rewards in the categories in which you spend the most.
- Sign up bonus. Many rewards credit cards offer a sign-up bonus for new cardholders. Earning the signup bonus is as simple as spending a certain amount of money in the first few months of having your credit card. The signup bonus alone can push a credit card to the top of your list. Keep in mind that you may not be able to earn a sign-up bonus if you already have a credit card with that credit card issuer or if you’ve earned a sign up bonus within the past few years.
Fees you could face
While a no annual fee credit card lets you avoid one of the biggest credit card fees, there are other credit card fees you should know about. The good news is most of the fees are avoidable. Depending on how you use your credit card, you can dodge most of these fees and enjoy your credit card at no cost.
- Late fee. The terms of your credit card require that you make at least the minimum payment by the due date each month. If you’re late or you pay less than the minimum, you’ll be charged a late fee, even if your credit card payment is just a few minutes late. The late fee can be up to $35 depending on whether you have been late in the past 6 months. Paying on time is the only way to avoid a late fee.
- Returned payment fee. If your bank returns your credit card payment, your credit card issuer will charge a returned payment fee and your payment will still be due. The exact fee will vary depending on the credit card issuer but can be up to $35. To avoid paying a returned payment fee, make sure that you have funds available in your checking account before you write a check for your credit card payment. This also means taking into account any outstanding transactions may post to your account before your credit card payment clears.
- Finance charges. If you start the billing cycle with a zero balance, you’ll have a certain amount of time, the grace period, to pay in full and avoid interest charges. Otherwise, you’ll be hit with interest in the form of a finance charge. The finance charge is based on your annual percentage rate and your balance. You can avoid a finance charge by paying your full balance each month before the grace period ends. (Check your credit card agreement for the length of your grace period).
- Balance transfer fee. A balance transfer fee is charged whenever you transfer a balance from one credit card to another. The balance transfer fee is either a flat fee or a percentage of the balance that you transfer, whichever is greater. For example, your credit card terms may specify that the balance transfer fee is the greater of $5 or 3% of the balance transfer. The balance transfer fee is typically unavoidable with balance transfer transactions, even when you have a promotional rate for balance transfers.
- Cash advance fee. A cash advance fee is assessed on cash advances. Depending on your credit card terms, this likely includes ATM withdrawals, transactions that results from overdraft protection, and other cash equivalent transactions like the purchase of a money order or purchase of foreign currency. Like the balance transfer fee, the cash advance fee is either a flat fee or a percentage of the cash advance.
- Foreign transaction fee. Using your credit card to make a transaction in something other than US dollars, will result in a foreign transaction fee. The foreign transaction fee is typically a percentage of the transaction. You can avoid a foreign transaction fee on a no annual fee credit card by avoiding transactions in other currencies or by using a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees.
While these represent the most common credit card fees, your credit card may charge other fees. To determine which fees are charged by your no annual fee credit card, read through the credit card terms and conditions. Once you’re aware of the fees your credit card charges, you can better figure out how to avoid them.Back to top
Mistakes to Avoid With a No Annual Fee Credit Card
With a no annual fee credit card, one of the most important things is to be sure you’re not using your credit card in a way that incurs unnecessary fees. This helps minimize the cost of using your credit card.
- Paying late. If you have trouble remembering your credit card payment, you can even schedule a payment to be made either from your bank or through your credit card issuer. Not only do late fees increase the cost of having a credit card, they can also affect your credit score and your ability to get approved for other credit cards in the future.
- Carrying a balance. Another way to increase the cost of having a no annual fee credit card is to carry a balance. The higher your credit card balance and the higher your interest rate the higher your finance charge will be. Paying your balance in full each month is the best way to avoid paying finance charges and minimize the cost of your credit card.
- Letting your credit card go unused. If you’re not using your credit card, not only do you miss out on the benefits of having the card, you also risk having your credit card closed. After a certain period of inactivity, many credit card issuers will cancel the credit card account. Once your credit card account is closed, you will have to reapply to open the credit card again.
- Ignoring notices from your credit card issuer. Make sure you read all the inserts that come with your billing statement and any other letters from your credit card issuer. If the terms of your credit card change, e.g. your credit card issuer introduces an annual fee, you’ll receive a letter letting you know of the change. It’s important to read and respond to this notice, especially if you want to reject the change.
Frequently asked questions
What kind of credit do you need to get a no annual fee credit card?
There are no annual fee credit cards that target everyone from excellent to fair credit. People with bad credit scores, however, will find limited options for no annual fee credit cards. If you’ve had trouble getting approved for credit in the past or you have a bad credit history, you may have to improve your credit before you can qualify for a no annual fee credit card.
Do no annual fee credit cards pay rewards?
You may expect that all the great rewards credit cards charge an annual fee, but fortunately, there are several great rewards credit cards without an annual fee. You can find a variety of no annual fee credit cards that pay cash, miles, and points rewards. You’ll typically need to have good credit to qualify for a rewards credit card, regardless of whether the card charges an annual fee.
Can the card issuer begin charging an annual fee later on?
Your credit card issuer can start charging an annual fee after you’ve already signed up for the card. If your card issuer plans to introduce an annual fee, they’re required to let you know well in advance of the time the annual fee will become effective. You’ll have the opportunity to opt-out, or reject, the addition of the annual fee. Your credit card issuer will have to allow you to pay your credit card off under the current terms (no annual fee), but may cancel your account or suspend your purchasing privileges. Unless your credit card has great rewards, opting-out of the new fee is typically best.
Are no annual fee credit cards completely free?
A no annual fee credit card can be completely free, but it depends on how you use the credit card. Paying on time and in full will help you avoid late fees and interest. Most other fees are transaction based, which means you’ll have to avoid specific transactions to avoid paying fees. This includes balance transfers, cash advances, and purchases made in foreign currencies.
How can I tell if a credit card charges an annual fee?
Most no annual fee credit card will prominently advertise that there’s no fee for the card. It’s one of the biggest selling points for a credit card. If you see the phrase “No annual fee” followed by an asterisk (*), check for a caveat in the fine print. You may learn that the annual fee is only waived in the first year of the credit card. The best way to figure out whether a credit card charges an annual fee is to read through the credit card pricing disclosure. All credit cards are required to include list the pricing associated with a credit card with each credit card offer.
What if my application is denied?
Credit card applications are denied for a variety of reasons from recent late payments to short employment history. You won’t know the specific reason or reasons you’re denied until the credit card issuer sends a letter in the mail letting you know why. Once you receive the letter, use the details to help you figure out how to proceed with your next credit application. You may need to improve your credit before you apply for a credit again.