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It’s usually the high-end credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Platinum Card from American Express that get most of the attention but I’m a big fan of a few of the cheapest cards available…..so cheap that they’re free!
There are two primary reasons I like credit cards that come with no annual fee:
- They cost nothing (ok, that was a little obvious)
- They’re great for increasing the average age of the credit cards I hold
I’ll, just expand on that second point before I go any further.
The average age of the credit cards you hold will have an effect on your credit score. It may not have as big an effect on your score as your payment history or how much outstanding debt you have but it’s effect is still significant.
Credit cards with no annual fee by definition cost nothing to hold. I can hold on to them for years without paying a cent and use them to help offset the effect any new cards I bring in to my portfolio have on my portfolio’s age.
No Annual Free Credit Cards Don’t Have To Be Passive
I may like credit cards which come with no annual fee because they help me age my credit score but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be useful in other ways too…..and some can be very useful indeed.
Here are four no annual fee credit cards that I hold and which I use for more than just ageing my credit score.
The Chase Freedom Visa Credit Card
This credit card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spending made in rotating quarterly categories (you can find out about this quarter’s categories here) and, because I hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, that 5% cash back is converted to 5 Ultimate Rewards points/dollar spent.
I love Chase’s Ultimate Rewards currency and, although it can be converted to a number of other useful loyalty currencies, my preference is to convert my balance to World of Hyatt points and use those to book some great stays (like the suite at the Andaz West Hollywood I recently stayed in)
Also, just in case I don’t feel like converting my points to Hyatt or any other of the transfer partners available to me, I can use my balance at Chase’s online portal to book rental cars, hotels or flights.
Thanks to my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card each of my points is worth 1.5 cents towards whatever I spend on travel at the Chase portal but, even if I held the cheaper Sapphire Preferred card, I would still get 1.25 cents/point at the portal.
The Amex EveryDay Credit Card
This card offers 2 Membership Rewards Points (MRPs) for every dollar spent at US grocery stores (up to a spending limit of $6,000/year) and 1 MRP on all other spend. If you make 20 or more transactions on the card in any given billing cycle Amex adds a 20% bonus to all your spending.
Making 20 or more purchases on this credit card in a single billing period isn’t hard so, essentially, this card allows me to earn 2.4 MRPs per dollar I spend at grocery stores.
I value Membership Rewards Points at a conservative 1.5 cents each (I know a lot of people who value them higher) so this card effectively allows me to earn 3.6% back on all my purchases at US grocery stores.
In addition, as this is an Amex Card, it also gives me access to the numerous offers Amex has running at any given time. A lot of these offer very easy ways to earn more points or cash back at retailers I would have used anyway.
That’s 3.6% back and access to free points or cash back via Amex Offers from a card that costs me absolutely nothing to hold – what’s not to love? 🙂
The Hilton Honors Credit Card From American Express
This may seem like an odd choice of card for someone who doesn’t stay at Hilton properties all that often but I have my reasons for liking this card as much as I do.
This is the basic Hilton Honors American Express Card and it doesn’t come with any amazing benefits. From a spending point of view this is what the card offers:
- 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
- 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at U.S. grocery stores, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations
- 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on all other eligible purchases
- Complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status; Earn Gold status after spending $20,000 in purchases on the Card in a calendar year
Like I said, that’s not all that exciting but, as of January, this credit card no longer charges foreign transaction fees and that makes it special.
Yes, there are a few other no fee cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees but, as far as I’m aware, this is the only one that allows you to earn points in a specific hotel’s loyalty program.
I also like the fact that this card earns bonus points at grocery stores as it comes in useful when I go over the $6,000 annual spending limit imposed by the Amex EveryDay card.
Lastly, just like the Amex EveryDay credit card above, the Hilton Honors Amex get me yet more access to Amex Offers….so that’s more cash back from a card that costs nothing for me to hold.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited Visa Card
This card is fantastic in a very similar way to the regular Chase Freedom credit card at the top of this list….but it’s also slightly different.
Unlike the regular Chase Freedom card the Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% cash back on everything you use it for – there are no quarterly rotating bonus categories.
Paired with a Chase Sapphire credit card the Chase Freedom Unlimited essentially earns me 1.5 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points per dollar every time I use it and Ultimate rewards points are my favorite loyalty currency.
I value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at around 1.5 cents each (another conservative valuation) so the Freedom Unlimited will earn me 2.25% back in value for every dollar I spend. That’s free money.
Like two of the three other cards in this list the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card charges foreign transaction fees so it doesn’t travel with me when I go abroad. However, when I’m home, it’s the card I use whenever I’m spending in a category where another credit card I hold won’t get me a bonus (like when I buy through Amazon for example).
There are plenty of other credit cards that don’t charge an annual fee but these are four that I really like and can’t imagine giving up.
My Chase Sapphire Reserve card may be my favorite card of all but my no annual fee cards have a very big part to play in my miles and points strategy too.