The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Monday, April 19, 2021

Best Credit Cards With Waived Annual Fees of 2021

Best Credit Cards With Waived Annual Fees

credit card advice

Ashley Dull
By: Ashley Dull
Posted: March 24, 2021
Advertiser Disclosure

No one likes paying fees — and the best credit cards with waived annual fees make it easy to maximize your credit while minimizing your charges.

We have you covered no matter where your credit score currently sits. Whether you have good credit, bad credit, no credit, or need to build business credit, we’ve found the best cards with no annual fee to get you going in the right direction.

And not only will these cards give you access to a revolving credit line, but some will also offer cash back or other rewards that make the card even more valuable.

Good Credit (670+ FICO) | Fair Credit (580-669) | Bad Credit (<579)
Businesses | Students | FAQs

Best Cards For Good Credit With Waived Annual Fees

Your FICO score can range between 300 and 850. Any score at or above 670 is considered good credit. You’ll find that the higher your score and the closer you get to excellent credit territory, the easier it becomes to qualify for even better cards.

The cards below offer great rewards while minimizing all of the fees that eat away at your earnings. That makes them a double-win in our book.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

GOOD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • #1 Most Trusted Credit Card according to Investor’s Business Daily.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent

GOOD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

GOOD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

As you can see above, consumers with good credit can gain access to many valuable credit offers that not only waive annual fees, but also reward them for their business. You’ll also likely qualify for a prime variable APR that reduces your overall cost of credit.

Best Cards For Fair Credit With Waived Annual Fees

A fair credit score is any score that falls between 580 and 669. With fair credit, you may qualify for credit cards that are slightly better than subprime credit card offerings, but not quite as lucrative as those offered to consumers who have good credit.

Still, the cards below offer a great opportunity to build — or rebuild — your credit score without paying hefty annual fees along the way.

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card with Cash Back Rewards Review

at Credit One'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Qualified applicants will receive exclusive benefits such as 1% cash back rewards on all purchases, no annual fee, and a competitive APR. Terms apply.
  • Manage your account quickly and easily from your mobile device by using the Credit One Bank mobile app.
  • Use your Apple device to make purchases securely through Apple Pay®. Apple Pay is a registered trademark of Apple, Inc.
  • Your account is safeguarded against unauthorized charges with Zero Fraud Liability at no additional charge.
  • Take advantage of free online access to your Experian credit score and credit report summary so you can track the key factors impacting your credit health. Terms apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.99% to 23.99% Variable
$0 - $99
Bad/Poor/Fair/Good
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® Review

at Credit One'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability
  • Qualified applicants will receive a card with a competitive APR and no annual fee along with 1% cash back rewards on all purchases, terms apply
  • View updates to your Experian credit score with free online access, terms apply
  • Make paying your bill easier with the ability to choose your payment due date, terms apply
  • Access your account on-the-go with the Credit One Bank mobile app
  • Never miss an account update with customizable text and email alerts
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.99% to 23.99% Variable
$0 - $99
Bad/Poor/Fair/Good

Each credit card issuer listed above will report your balance and payment history to each of the three major credit bureaus. That means that with responsible behavior, you can improve your credit score over time. And since these banks all offer credit cards for consumers who have good credit, you could eventually upgrade to a better card once you qualify.

Best Cards For Bad Credit With Waived Annual Fees

A FICO score of below 580 is considered a bad credit score, though many banks consider a score of below 600 to be bad credit. This means that you’re a greater risk to the bank and will often have to pay higher fees for any credit or loan products — if you qualify at all.

Your best bet to avoid annual fees is to consider a secured credit card that requires a refundable security deposit for approval. The amount of your deposit will often match your new card’s credit limit, which gives you flexibility in determining your spending limit.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee
  • Unlike a prepaid card, there is regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • Accepted at millions of locations worldwide
  • Make the minimum required security deposit and you'll get an initial credit line of $200. Plus, deposit more money before your account opens to get a higher credit line
  • Access to an authorized bank account is required to make your $49, $99 or $200 refundable security deposit
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Secured credit card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★
4.4

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • A minimum refundable security deposit of $300 (maximum of $4,900) is required to open this account
  • Access your FICO® Score updated monthly for free, within your Mobile Banking app or in Online Banking
  • Optional overdraft protection option helps prevent declined purchases, returned checks or other overdrafts when you link your eligible Bank of America® checking account to your credit card. Transfer fees may apply.
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
23.99% Variable
$0
Bad/Limited
BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★
4.4

OVERALL RATING

4.3/5.0
  • A secured credit card designed to help establish, strengthen or rebuild credit
  • A minimum refundable security deposit of $300 (maximum of $4,900) is required to open this account
  • Access your FICO Score updated monthly for free within your Mobile Banking app or in Online Banking
  • Your account will periodically be reviewed, and, based on your overall credit history (including other credit cards and loans), you may qualify to have your security deposit returned. Not all customers will qualify.
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
22.99% Variable
$0
Bad/Limited

Just like an unsecured credit card, a secured card will report your payment and balance history to each credit bureau, which can help you improve your credit score over time. Once you’ve made the necessary improvements, you can attempt to qualify for an unsecured card. When that happens, your secured credit card company will transition your account and send you a refund or statement credit for your security deposit.

Best Business Cards With Waived Annual Fees

You can’t run a business without capital. But getting access to a loan or credit card without business credit isn’t easy. The business credit cards below will require a personal guarantee, which means you’ll use your personal credit score to qualify for the card. But qualifying for these cards means you don’t have to worry about annual fees.

The cards below will also provide handsome rewards that can add some valuable cash back or bonus reward points to your bottom line just for making the charges that you’re already making for your business.

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
  • No Annual Fee
  • Redeem rewards for cash back, gift cards, travel and more through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn rewards faster with employee cards at no additional cost. Set individual spending limits for greater control.
  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A 12 months
13.24% - 19.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back for your business on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions
  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Save on interest with 0% intro APR on purchases for 9 months; 13.99% - 23.99% variable APR after that
  • No annual fee
  • Free employee cards, which also earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 9 months
N/A
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year
  • Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring.
  • With Zero Liability you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information.
  • No Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A 12 months
13.24% - 19.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

Business credit cards are a great way to gain access to a revolving line of credit that you can use to purchase new inventory, pay for services or travel expenses, or treat clients to a meal. These cards can also help you build business credit with responsible use.

Best Student Cards With Waived Annual Fees

Student life is expensive enough. With tuition, books, lab fees, and late-night pizza runs, who can afford a credit card annual fee?

Student credit cards often provide valuable rewards and perks, while offering a competitive variable APR on all eligible purchases and flexible approval standards. And with the right card, like those listed below, you can get your credit score in shipshape well before graduation.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • Earn rewards while building your credit history that can help you after graduation. And, get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they’re approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.2/5.0
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • Earn $5 per month for 12 months on Select Streaming Subscriptions when you pay on time. *Exclusions Apply
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
Discover it® Student chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • Earn rewards while building your credit history that can help you after graduation. And, get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they’re approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

Higher education is all about setting yourself up for a bright and prosperous future. Your student credit card should do the same. With the cards listed above, you can work your way to great credit before you even get your diploma.

That puts you in a prime position to qualify for a lucrative rewards credit card as soon as you graduate. That’s a perfect way to get to the head of your class.

What Does No Annual Fee Mean?

A no annual fee credit card is a card that does not charge you every year just for having an account. Not all credit cards charge an annual fee.

Two reasons why a credit card issuer may charge an annual fee are to balance out rewards earnings or to offset risk.

Cards that offer very rich rewards, such as a high cash back rewards rate or other card membership perks, may add an annual fee to cover the cost of those rewards. While this may seem counterproductive, you can still make money from some cards despite the fee if you take advantage of all of the perks.

For example, a card may charge a $300 annual fee but also offer a $200 annual travel credit for all cardholders. Once you use that perk, you’ve only paid $100 — an amount that many consumers can easily recuperate through cash back or bonus reward point earnings alone.

A bank may also charge an annual fee for credit cards designed for consumers who have bad credit. These cards come with a lot of risk to the issuing bank, which is why it may charge extra fees and a higher interest rate to offset that risk.

A no annual fee card will not charge any membership or other yearly fees, but that doesn’t mean the card will have no fees at all. You may encounter other account charges after you activate your card, including:

  • Interest fee: Every credit card will charge interest for any money you borrow by using your card. The bank adds these charges every month to your account balance. If you don’t have a balance, you won’t incur these charges.
  • Late fee: If you submit your payment after the due date, you will likely find a late payment fee on your next statement. This typically ranges between $15 and $25 for each occurrence.
  • Foreign transaction fee: Some cards will charge a foreign transaction fee if you use your card to make a purchase in a currency other than your own. This fee covers the cost of converting the transaction into another currency. Some cards charge no foreign transaction fees.
  • Cash advance fee: You’ll encounter this fee if you withdraw cash from your credit card account at an ATM or bank teller window as you would with a debit card. Not only will you pay a cash advance fee, but you’ll also pay a higher interest rate for money removed this way — and there’s no grace period for when interest charges kick in. You may also have a cash advance limit on your card.
  • Balance transfer fee: You may see this fee if you conduct a balance transfer that moves debt from an existing card to your new card. The fee may be worth it if the new card has a lower interest rate or a 0% balance transfer offer.
  • Card replacement fee: If your card is lost or stolen, you may have to pay a fee to replace the lost plastic. This is typically a flat fee of between $10 and $25.

Fees are a part of any financial product. After all, that’s how banks make money and stay in business. But if you’re smart with how you shop for your credit cards — and even smarter with how you use them — you can avoid most of these charges and greatly reduce your overall cost of credit.

How Do I Get a Credit Card With No Annual Fee?

Applying for a no annual fee card is no different than applying for any other credit card. Once you decide which card you want to add to your wallet, you can follow these steps:

  1. Find the bank’s online application: The card’s application form is available on the bank’s website. You can click on the “Apply Now” button for the card you like above and it will take you directly to the card’s official website, where you can begin filling out the form.
  2. Fill out the required information: Most applications take less than five minutes to complete and can provide a credit decision in a minute or less. For your application, you’ll need to provide your name, Social Security number, home and email addresses, phone numbers (home, work, cellphone), employment and income history, and your monthly rent or mortgage payment.
  3. Get your approval decision: Once you submit your application, the bank will use automated underwriting programs to make a decision in a matter of seconds. You’ll receive a response on the same screen you applied on after it refreshes following the underwriting.
  4. See your card’s credit limit and APR: If you’re approved, the screen will display your new account information and credit limit. The bank will then print your card and you’ll receive it in the mail in seven to 10 business days. If you aren’t approved, the bank will send you an adverse action notice in the mail that outlines why it denied your application.

There are times when the automated underwriting service can’t make an instant credit decision. If this happens, the updated screen will tell you that the bank needs more time to review your application. This is when a manual underwriting employee will review your submitted form.

This isn’t always bad news. Perhaps the address you submitted doesn’t match the one on your credit report. The bank may simply need to crunch a few numbers to see whether you qualify for the card. In some cases, you may have mistyped other data on your application — including a misspelling in your name or an incorrect Social Security number.

The bank will typically contact you via email within two to three business days with a final decision.

Even if you’re denied, you can contact the card’s issuing bank and request a reconsideration. You’ll get to speak to a customer service representative and state the reasons why you think the bank should reconsider your application. This doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a shot.

Do You Have to Pay an Annual Fee For Credit Card Rewards?

A credit card company will not charge you an annual fee solely for access to cash back, travel rewards, or rewards points, but some rewards credit cards will charge an annual fee for card membership.

Not every cash rewards card charges an annual fee. In fact, most do not. The cards that do either provide a high rewards rate or are designed for consumers who have bad credit.

If you choose a no annual fee card that offers rewards, you can access those rewards at no extra charge. That means you can redeem your cash back, reward points, or travel rewards without paying for the privilege.

You should review your card’s perks and limitations to decide if it’s worth the cost of the annual fee. Most rewards cards for bad credit simply aren’t worth the upfront cost. That’s because these cards come with low credit limits that make it hard to earn back the money you spent on an annual fee.

For example, consider a card that starts new members out with a $300 credit limit, offers 1% cash back, and charges $99 each year as an annual fee.

With that cash back rewards rate, you’ll earn $1 for every $100 you charge. That means you’ll have to charge $9,900 each year just to break even with the card — and that’s if you pay your balance in full each month and avoid interest charges. If you pay interest, you’ll instantly negate any rewards you earn.

This also means that you’ll have to charge, on average, $825 per month to hit that mark — meaning that you’d have to max out and pay off your card nearly three times every month just to earn back your annual fee.

Cash Back Chart

Instead of falling for the glitz of potential rewards, consider a standard credit card for bad credit that won’t charge you an annual fee, but can still help you rebuild your credit score.

Still, that doesn’t mean that an annual fee is all bad. Many rewards cards for good credit and excellent credit offer such lavish perks and rewards that they’re worth the cost of the card.

Some cards charge you an annual fee but give you the opportunity to earn much more over your year of membership. Whether you’re looking to rack up a big welcome bonus, earn extra Citi ThankYou Points or cash back with the Citi Double Cash Card, or maximize your Chase Ultimate Reward earnings with the Chase Sapphire line of cards, paying an annual fee is sometimes worth it.

Is it Worth Paying an Annual Fee For a Credit Card?

You should only consider paying an annual fee if you will use the perks that come with the card and can at least earn back the amount of your fee through the perks and rewards offered by the credit card company.

A card may offer a big sign up bonus for new cardholders, but that’s only a one-time perk that won’t help you when you’re paying your annual fee at the start of the second year. Instead of looking at the upfront benefits of a card, consider the long-term value the card provides to your life.

Many of the cards with the highest annual fees are focused on travel rewards and frequent flyer miles. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, for instance, charges a three-figure annual fee, but you can quickly recoup that cost if you travel frequently. If you don’t leave the house much, though, the card will cost you more than it will save you.

For that large fee, you’ll earn an annual statement credit to cover travel costs, a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®, and access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select.

POINTS & GIFTS RATING

★★★★★

4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. Through December 31, 2021, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99%-23.99% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

The perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® alone offset the annual fee. But when you also factor in the elevated Chase Ultimate Reward earnings potential for everyday purchases, you can easily make money with this card. This card often comes with a very generous welcome bonus that makes it even more appealing.

But if a weekend on the couch is more appealing to you than a weekend on the road, you can find many rewards cards that won’t charge an annual fee and still provide all the benefits you need.

This is especially true if you have a good credit score. Those who have fair credit or bad credit may want to consider a non-rewards card that skips the annual fee and still gives them an opportunity to improve their credit score — and eventually qualify for a more lucrative and less expensive rewards credit card.

Can You Get Credit Card Companies to Waive an Annual Fee?

In some cases, a credit card company may agree to waive your annual fee. But you’ll never know if this applies to you unless you ask.

While annual fees are typically set-in-stone charges that a bank applies to all cardholders, the institution may reconsider the fee if it wants to retain your business.

Many great credit cards are on the market, and it seems like a new one pops up every week. Banks know this and want to do whatever it takes to keep you as a customer (and keep you from moving to the competition).

If you contact your bank and tell them you’re considering canceling your credit card account, the customer service rep may get authorization to offer you a perk to stick around. This may be a reduced interest rate, a card upgrade, or a fee waiver. If you make it known that the annual fee is your reason for leaving (and maybe list a few competitor cards that don’t charge an annual fee), the representative may be inclined to waive the fee for you to keep your business.

After all, losing a little bit of money by waiving the fee is way better than losing a customer entirely.

Make sure to lay out a convincing argument for why the bank should waive your fee. Leverage any years of loyalty you have to the company. Mention your positive track record of low balances and on-time payments. Don’t leave out anything that may prove that you’re important to the bank’s bottom line.

Remember that this isn’t a guaranteed tactic, but it’s worked for some people. Don’t go all-in on canceling your card because the customer service representative could call your bluff. Although the representative may waive your fee for one year, that doesn’t mean you’ll never have to pay an annual fee. The charge will likely kick in when the next year begins — and the bank may be less willing to waive it a second time.

Do Secured Credit Cards Charge an Annual Fee?

Some secured credit cards charge an annual fee, but many cards do not. All credit card fees and charges are at the discretion of the card issuer.

A secured credit card is a form of credit card that requires a refundable security deposit for approval. These cards are typically designed for consumers who have bad credit or no credit at all.

Banks prefer these types of cards for those consumers because it removes most of the risk associated with extending credit to someone who has previous financial mistakes on their credit report. You may find that some banks add an annual fee to these cards, but the best secured cards do not have an annual fee.

Unsecured vs Secured Credit Cards

Your secured card’s deposit does not act as payment. Instead, the issuing bank will hold your deposit in a separate account for as long as you maintain your account. The amount of your deposit will typically determine your card’s credit limit.

Your secured card’s issuing bank will refund your deposit when you close your account as long as you have no outstanding debts to the company. If you do, the bank will use your deposit to cover any balance on your card and refund the overage.

In the meantime, you can use your secured card as you would an unsecured card — to make online or in-store purchases, to rent a car or hotel room, pay bills, or anything else you choose.

The bank will also report your payment and balance history to at least one major credit bureau. With responsible behavior, you can use this card to improve your credit score and eventually upgrade to an unsecured card that does not require a deposit.

If you need to rebuild your credit and repair previous mistakes, you should look for a secured card that does not charge an annual fee. With so many quality cards on the market, you shouldn’t have to pay an annual fee on top of your upfront deposit costs.

Do I Get My Annual Fee Back if I Cancel My Credit Card?

Many issuers will allow for a refund of your annual fee if you close your account within 30 to 60 days of incurring the charge. You can contact your card issuer using the phone number on the back of your card and request to be refunded the recently charged fee.

Issuers do not usually prorate your annual fee to only cover the time your card was active, so you likely won’t qualify for any sort of refund if you close your account months after the fee was charged.

What Type of Credit Cards Typically Charge an Annual Fee?

Two types of credit cards typically charge an annual fee — cards with exceptionally lucrative rewards and perks, and cards designed for consumers who have bad credit or no credit history.

Banks take on substantial risk when issuing credit to someone who has bad credit. Between 2% and 3% of credit cardholders default on their debt each year, on average, which leaves the bank taking the hit for the lost money.

To offset that risk, banks often add higher interest rates and sizable annual fees to cards that have a higher default rate. By collecting these annual fees, the bank can make back some of the money it will lose on the accounts that end up in collections.

If you’re the type who will have the discipline to pay your balance in full and on time each month, you’re essentially paying a fee to cover the mistakes that someone else makes. That should be enough of a reason to work on your credit score and eventually qualify for an upgrade to a credit card that does not charge an annual fee.

You may also see an annual fee attached to some cards with great rewards and perks. This isn’t a punishment, as the fee for bad credit may seem. Instead, this is how banks can cover the cost of some of the incredible benefits they offer — including cash back, travel rewards, and bonus points. In many cases, the card’s value greatly exceeds the cost of the annual fee.

Rewards Comparison Chart

Cards with exceptional rewards programs, including those listed in this chart, charge annual fees.

A card may offer annual travel vouchers that act as a statement credit to cover the cost of all, or part, or a recent travel expense. That voucher alone can sometimes cover the cost of your annual fee.

That same card, or another like it, may also offer a membership that gives you access to premium airport lounges around the world. You may also earn an elevated rewards rate or have access to special events or promotions.

If you’re a frequent traveler, and you take advantage of your rewards and other perks, these cards are certainly worth the cost of the annual fee. But if you don’t tap into the card’s lucrative offerings, you’ll find yourself paying an annual fee with very little return for your investment.

Can You Get a No Annual Fee Credit Card With Bad Credit?

You can find no annual fee cards for bad credit if you’re diligent in your research and you know what to look for.

Most credit cards created for consumers who have bad credit will have added fees to make up for the risk that banks take with these financial products. That could mean a higher interest rate, an annual fee, processing fees, maintenance fees, or any combination of these.

If you find a card that does not charge an annual fee, you may find other fees tucked away in the credit card disclosure document that makes up for that lack of a yearly charge.

Be sure to study all of the fees associated with any card and don’t choose one card solely because it doesn’t add an annual fee.

If you have bad credit, you may want to consider a secured credit card that does not charge an annual fee. These cards will offer you more flexibility than the average unsecured card for bad credit.

That’s because you can ultimately choose your own credit limit with a secured card based on the amount of your refundable security deposit. For example, a $1,000 deposit will net you a card with a $1,000 credit limit. You won’t find an unsecured card for bad credit with a starting credit limit that high. Most cards in this category max out with a credit line of between $250 and $500.

Aside from the deposit, there are few differences between secured and unsecured cards. They act the same way whether you’re purchasing online or in-store, and both have the ability to help you rebuild your credit with responsible use.

Many secured cards have a more competitive interest rate and won’t charge an annual fee for membership. That makes them a more affordable option for working on your credit score.

And if you choose a secured card issuer that also offers unsecured cards for consumers who have good credit, you can work your way to a card upgrade that won’t require you to apply for a new card. In most cases, the bank can upgrade you as soon as you qualify and refund your security deposit during the transition.

What’s the Difference Between a Secured and an Unsecured Credit Card?

A secured credit card requires a refundable security deposit for approval. An unsecured card will not require any deposit.

Unsecured vs. Secured Credit

The amount of your security deposit will often dictate your new card’s credit limit. Many consumers prefer this model because you can set a budget with a lower credit limit, or expand your credit capabilities with a large credit line.

Unsecured credit cards can’t provide this level of freedom. If you have bad credit, you’re most likely going to start out with a credit limit of between $250 and $500. If you need access to more credit than that, consider getting a secured credit card.

Both forms of credit cards allow you to make any type of purchase below your credit limit. Retailers and service providers that accept credit cards can take both secured and unsecured cards without a problem. In many cases, you can’t even tell the difference between a secured and unsecured card by looking at it.

What is the Easiest Credit Card to be Approved For?

The easiest credit card to get approval for is a secured credit card. These cards pose very little risk to the bank and often have very forgiving acceptance standards. Some secured cards won’t even require a credit check for approval. Others may need to see your credit history, but will still accept you with bad credit.

The most important factor in qualifying for a secured credit card is your ability to provide the necessary refundable security deposit.

In most cases, you can choose the amount of deposit you’d like to pay. Card issuers typically have a pretty wide span between their minimum and maximum deposits. While you can potentially place a deposit as large as $5,000 on some cards, most will have lower minimum deposit amounts that start around $200.

You can apply for a secured credit card in the same way that you would an unsecured card. The links to the cards above will take you directly to the card’s application page. You can also find applications through the website of any bank that offers a secured card.

The application will ask for your name, address (physical and email), phone number (home, work, and/or cellphone), Social Security number, employment and income information, and the amount you pay each month for your rent or mortgage payment.

Thanks to automated underwriting, the bank will likely make a credit decision in a minute or less. If you’re approved, the bank will require your bank account number and routing number to initiate a direct ACH transfer for your security deposit. Some banks may allow you to send your deposit via money order or check, though this may come with an added fee.

Once your deposit money clears, the bank will print and send your new card. It will arrive in the mail in between seven and 10 business days.

Do You Have to Pay an Annual Fee if You Don’t Use Your Credit Card?

A credit card charges an annual fee to maintain your active membership account with the card. This fee stays the same whether or not you use the card.

Venture Card Details

You’ll be charged your annual fee whether you use the card or not.

Annual fees typically post to your card account every year on your account anniversary. Consider it a maintenance fee for keeping your account open.

This is similar to a gym membership. You’ll still have to pay your dues even if you don’t go.

If you don’t use your credit card often or if you simply maintain a credit card for emergencies, you should consider an unsecured card with no annual fee. These cards will still provide the same peace of mind, but won’t charge you for the convenience.

Just remember that many banks will close your account without notice if you remain inactive for too long.

Every card issuer has different rules surrounding inactivity. Some may cancel your account after six months, one year, or two years without a new charge. You can get around this by using your card every few months for a small purchase, and then paying the charge off as soon as it posts to your account.

Check with the bank to make sure you know how long you can go between charges.

How Can I Avoid Paying My Credit Card Annual Fee?

Annual fees aren’t for everyone. If you’re a frequent traveler or use your card for everyday purchases, you may be able to overcome any annual fee and make money with your card. But the average consumer can do just fine with a rewards card that has no annual fee.

As we spoke about in an earlier question, you can contact your card issuer and request a waiver for your annual fee. This isn’t guaranteed, but some consumers have reported success.

This won’t completely remove the fee from your account forever, though. You’ll still face the charge again a year later — and the bank likely won’t continue to waive the fee every year.

If you have a credit card that charges an annual fee and you don’t want to pay that charge, you can contact the bank to see whether you can initiate a product switch to a different card that doesn’t charge an annual fee. In most cases, you won’t have to pay any fees for this change, and your current balance — if any — will transfer over to the new card.

Before you initiate this change, make sure that any rewards you’ve accrued will stay with you and your new card. In some cases, moving to a new account will negate all of the rewards you earned with your old account.

But the very best way to avoid paying a credit card’s annual fee is to choose a card that doesn’t charge such a fee in the first place. This isn’t always a guaranteed method, but it generally keeps these pesky fees off your account statement.

According to the Credit CARD Act of 2009, a bank can change its fee structure whenever it chooses. That means it can increase your interest rate and add or remove fees at any time. But these changes shouldn’t catch you by surprise. According to the law:

“Generally, credit card companies must provide at least 45 days’ notice before changing fee structures, interest rates or any other material changes to your credit card terms,” Roger Ma, a certified financial planner, said. “Once a cardholder receives a notice, they have a right to cancel the card before any increased fees take effect.” — Credit CARD Act

So, choosing a card without an annual fee is a pretty solid way to assure that you’ll remain fee-free for the life of your account.

Can I Cancel My Card Before Paying an Annual Fee?

You can absolutely avoid an annual fee by canceling your credit card account before you pay the charge. Just be aware that this can have ramifications on your credit score.

Approximately 30% of your credit score depends on your credit utilization rate, or amounts owed. This measures how much of your available credit you’re using. You can calculate this by dividing your current balance by your overall credit limit.

FICO FactorsFor example, a card with a $500 credit limit and a $250 balance has a 50% credit utilization rate. Lenders tend to prefer a rate at or below 30%. When your rate creeps above 30%, you may see a drop in your credit score.

When you cancel a credit card account, you lose that available credit, which can create an immediate and severe increase in your credit utilization rate. This can cause more harm than the annual fee would to your budget.

Instead of canceling your account, you can ask the card issuer to waive the annual fee. In many cases, a bank will waive the fee instead of losing your business to a competitor. If that doesn’t work, you can check to see whether you qualify for a product change that will move your account into a new card that does not charge an annual fee.

Either of these options will keep your account open and won’t harm your credit score while still avoiding an annual fee or any unwanted charges.

Find the Best Credit Cards With Waived Annual Fees Online

You may choose to pay a membership fee to join a club, school, or another program — but paying for access to a credit card isn’t always worth it. Unless you’re cashing in major perks and rewards, an annual fee is a sunk cost that you’ll spend most of the year trying to break even on.

Instead, consider the best credit cards with waived annual fees. These cards provide access to rewards and other perks without charging you for membership. Even if you don’t qualify for a rewards card, you may still earn a welcome bonus, elevated credit limits, or other valuable perks — all with no annual fee.

Just be sure to study what other fees your card issuer charges. After all, a balance transfer fee or any other unexpected charge can quickly negate the savings you take on when you avoid an annual fee.

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