There are very few good reasons you should ever pay to use your credit card.An annual fee accompanies some of the best travel rewards credit cards and “elite” cards, such as the legendary $2,500-a-year American Express Centurion “Black” Card.
If you take advantage of a card’s benefits and rewards, which includes private jet services and hotel room upgrades that reportedly cover the cost of the Black Card, then perhaps the annual fee is justified.
But paying extra for your plastic is an unnecessary cost for most consumers, especially when there are outstanding no annual fee cards that offer great rewards and card perks.
If you’re in the market for a new credit card, consider a card that provides valuable extras without costing extra. We did the research for you to find the best no-nonsense, no annual fee cards to nab airline points, luxury travel benefits, low interest rates, and excellent terms, without the $2,500 price tag.
Best Card for Travel Perks and Bonus Flights
The PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card stands above other popular travel rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire and Blue Sky from American Express because it has no foreign transaction fees, which can save international jetsetters a significant amount of money. The rewards program gives one point for every purchase and five points for airfare purchases, and cardholders can redeem points for flights, hotels, resorts, tickets to exclusive events and more. The card also provides Travel Privileges brought to you by American Express, so it’s the closest you can get to the AmEx Black Card’s famous luxury travel perks without the hefty annual fee.
Pros: Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $650 in the first three months of opening the card, which is enough for a free round-trip ticket to many destinations.
Cons: The only catch is that you must be a Pentagon Federal Credit Union member to apply. Check out the qualifications here.
Approval Range: Excellent credit score of 720 or higher
Best Card to Earn Cash
The Chase Freedom Card is a perennial favourite, and with good reason. It’s a solid, all-around rewarding card that pays 1% cash back on all purchases without limits or expiration, and 5% cash back on seasonal categories such as gas and groceries. If you want to earn a little bit back for every time you spend, the Chase Freedom will quickly become your go-to plastic.
Pros: For a limited time, earn $200 bonus cash back after you spend $500 in purchases in your first three months.
Cons: The APR starts at 15.99% and can be as steep as 22.99%, depending on your credit. If you tend to carry debt month-to-month, the interest charges will cancel out your cash back earnings.
Average Approved Credit Score: 701*
Best No Hassle Credit Card
Ever seen a credit card with absolutely no fees? Neither have we, until the PenFed Promise VISA Card. In PenFed’s second appearance on this list, PenFed Promise VISA is the epitome of low maintenance with high value, with no fees and a remarkably low APR of 9.99%. If you want a simple, straightforward card to use daily without worrying about penalties, this is the best no-frills card on the market.
Pros: The card has no annual fee, late fee, penalty APR, foreign transaction fee, balance transfer fee, cash advance fee and over credit limit fee.
Cons: Cardholders must be a Pentagon Federal Credit Union member to apply.
Approval Range: Excellent credit score of 720 or higher
Best Card For Carrying Debt
A balance transfer credit card is one of the best money-saving tools for consumers carrying debt across multiple cards, and the Citi Platinum Select MasterCard is as good as it gets. Cardholders can qualify for a 0% APR for balance transfers and purchases for up to 18 months, which allows them to consolidate debts and pay it off without paying additional interest. If you’re juggling several credit cards with debt, consider this card’s savvy payment strategy.
Pros: Once the promotional term expires, the APR resets to a low 11.9%.
Cons: The card has a 3% balance transfer fee.
Average Approved Credit Score: 702
Best for Consumers with Poor Credit
Establishing and building credit shouldn’t have to cost you. While almost all secured cards come with an annual fee and application fee, Golden 1 Credit Union’s Secured Visa has neither. Your spending activity is reported to all three credit bureau so you can establish and build credit fee-free, and the card requires no credit check and has guaranteed approval as long as you meet deposit requirements. This card is recommended for those with little to no credit history and those who need to rebuild their credit after a major financial setback.
Pros: Credit line ranges from $250 – $1,500 and is based on the funds you deposit in a Golden 1 Regular Savings account, where funds will earn savings dividends.
Cons: The funds in your Golden 1 Regular Savings account must equal to 1 ½ times the card’s credit line. Also, you must be a Golden 1 Credit Union member and meet these qualifications for membership.
Approval Range: Guaranteed approval
If your current credit cards are charging an annual fee, take the time to contact your card’s customer service centre and request to have the annual fee removed. If you are a long-time customer with a solid payment history, issuers are more willing to compromise with you. Otherwise, consider these credit card recommendations if you have the good credit to qualify. After all, you shouldn’t pay additional fees to swipe if you don’t have to.
Justine Rivero is the Credit Advisor for CreditKarma.com, a free credit management website that helps more than 5 million consumers access their truly free credit score.
*Average approved credit scores based on CreditKarma.com credit card data