Why Everyone Should Have a No-Annual Fee Credit Card

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Update:   The Citi Forward for Students is no longer available.

Additional Reading:

Having a personal credit card with no-annual fee which you will keep for a long time is very important for two reasons:

1.   Helps Increase Your Credit Score

According to the FICO website, 15% of your credit score is determined by the Length of Credit History.

Best No Annual Fee Credit Card

Fico Score Calculation (Image from MyFico.com)

So it helps to have a credit card with no-annual fee which you keep for a very long time because it helps increase the average age of your credit accounts.  This is especially important if you apply for & cancel cards frequently.

2.   Builds a Relationship With the Bank

Having a credit card with a bank for a long time also helps establish you as a long term customer with the bank.  I regularly let the folks on the reconsideration line know for how long I’ve had a credit card or checking account with their bank.

Emily had her oldest Bank of America card cancelled because she didn’t use it once within 2 years.  Other banks may have similar policies so it helps to charge something to the no-annual fee card.

I usually put a small recurring purchase (such as a Netflix subscription etc.) on my old credit cards and then set up the bill to automatically pay from my checking account.  That way I don’t have to worry about paying the bill manually.

No Annual Fee Strategy

Emily & I have a no-annual fee card from Chase, Citi and American Express.  I also have no-annual fee cards from Capital One and Bank of America which are among my first credit cards when I didn’t know about miles and points!

It could make sense to have at least one no-annual fee card from the banks which you want to establish a relationship with.  And then have another no-annual fee card from other banks such as Discover, Capital One or Penfed which have good no-annual fee cards.

That way, you always have a back-up no-annual fee card from other banks.  This could be helpful if you are forced to cancel a no-annual fee card to get approved for a card from some of the banks which are more active with miles and points cards.  For example, American Express only lets you currently have 4 open credit cards (charge cards are not counted towards this limit) and at some point you may decide to cancel an existing American Express no-annual fee card.

However, no-annual fee cards usually have low sign-up bonuses and some (but not all) charge foreign transaction fees.

No-Annual Fee Cards – Chase

My favorite no-annual fee Chase card is the Chase Freedom Visa or Chase Freedom MasterCard card.  I prefer earning 5X Ultimate Rewards points on rotating categories on the Chase Freedom card to the 2X points on dining on the Chase Sapphire (different from Chase Sapphire Preferred).

However all the Chase no-annual fee cards have a 3% foreign transaction fee so I wouldn’t use them for foreign purchases.

1.   Chase Freedom

I love the Chase Freedom Visa and Chase Freedom MasterCard because it makes it really easy to earn 5 times the number of Ultimate Rewards points (up to $1,500 or 7,500 points a quarter) for purchases which Emily and I would make in any case.

Here’s the list of changing categories for which you can earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points or 5% cash back.

You can either redeem the points earned for cash back (5% cash back isn’t too shabby and some folks prefer cash back).  Or you can transfer the Ultimate Rewards points to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus or theJP Morgan Select card and from there to airline or hotel partners such as Hyatt, Southwest, British Airways, or United.

You also get access to discounted car rentals via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal where I usually find the cheapest rates for rentals.

2.   Chase Sapphire

The Chase Sapphire card offers double Ultimate Rewards points on dining.

Just like the Chase Freedom, you can transfer the Ultimate Rewards points to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus or the JP Morgan Select card and from there to airline or hotel partners such as Hyatt, Southwest, British Airways, or United.  Or you can redeem them for cash back.

You also get access to discounted car rentals via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

 3.   Chase Slate

The Chase Slate card has no-annual fee and often has o% APR offers with no-annual fee.  You shouldn’t be applying for miles and points cards if you carry a balance on your cards because you’ll never get ahead paying high interest rates.

But if you already have a Chase Slate card, you can call Chase and ask to switch to a Chase Freedom card which is a better card with which to earn miles and points because of the 5X points on rotating categories.

Emily’s oldest card was a Chase Slate card which she opened in college to buy a laptop with a 0% APR offer.  We called Chase and had the card converted to a Chase Freedom card.  We didn’t get the sign-up bonus since we switched cards, but we didn’t want to cancel the card and lose the credit history associated with the card.

4.   Other Chase No-Annual Fee Cards

The Disney Rewards, Amazon.com, Amtrak Guest Rewards & the BP gas cards are personal credit cards with no-annual fee.  I don’t have any of these cards, but they could be interesting to some.

No Annual Fee Cards – American Express

American Express no-annual fee cards have a 2.7% foreign transaction fee so I wouldn’t use them outside the US.

American Express reports ALL your personal accounts as opened on the same date since your FIRST personal card with American Express (if you still have that first card open).

For example, let’s say that I have a no-fee American Express Hilton card which I opened in 2011.  American Express will report all future cards as opened from 2011 even if I applied for them in 2013 or later!  This is a great way to increase the average age of your accounts.

1.   American Express Hilton

You earn 6 Hilton points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels, supermarkets, drugstores, gas stations, phone/internet/cable & 3 points per $1 for everything else with the American Express Hilton card.  After May, you will earn 7 points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels, and 5 Hilton points per $1 spent at US restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets, and 3 points on everything else.

You also get free Hilton Silver elite status with the card.

2.  Blue Cash Everyday

You get 3% cash back on the first $6,000 of purchases with the Blue Cash Everyday card at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets in a calendar year & 1% after you cross $6,000 in spending.

You also get 3% cash back at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets (usually not super-stores), 2% cash back on gasoline at U.S. stand-alone gas stations and at certain major department stores & 1% cash back on everything else.

3.   Other American Express No-Annual Fee Cards

The Blue from American Express & the Clear card are personal credit cards with no-annual fee.  I don’t have any of these cards, but they could be interesting to some.

No-Annual Fee Cards – citi

Citi no-annual fee cards have a 3% foreign transaction fee so I wouldn’t use them outside the US.

1.   Citi Hilton

The Citi Hilton card doesn’t have an annual fee and offers 6 Hilton points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels, 3 points at supermarkets, drugstores & gas stations & 2 points per $1 for everything else.

2.   Citi Thank You Preferred

You earn 1 point per $1 spent on the Citi Thank You Preferred card.  There is a 1%, 2% & 3% bonus on all points earned in your 1st, 2nd & 3rd year, but that is insignificant in the big picture.

If you have the Citi Thank You Premier card, you can Thank You points for 1.33 cents towards travel.  You also get access to discounted car rentals via the Citi Thank You Portal which has some of the cheapest car rental rates in my experience.

3.   Other Citi No-Annual Fee Cards

[Update:   The Citi Forward for Students is no longer available.]

The Citi Forward for students offers 1 Thank You points per $1 spent on restaurants, books, entertainment, & movies.

The Citi Simplicity and the Diamond Preferred cards are personal credit cards with no-annual fee.  I don’t have any of these cards, but they could be interesting to some

No-Annual Fee Cards – Capital One

All Capital One cards have NO foreign transaction fees so you can use them for foreign purchases.

1.  Capital One Cash Rewards

You earn 1% cash back on all purchases with the Capital One Cash Rewards and get a 50% bonus on the points you earn, for a 1.5% cash back at the end of the year.

2.   Capital One Venture One

You earn 1.25 points per $1 spent with the Capital One Venture One card when you redeem for travel.

No-Annual Fee Cards – Discover

1.   Discover it card

The Discover it card gets you 1% cash back on all purchases and 5% on certain rotating categories.

You can get additional discounts through the Discover online mall and there are NO foreign transaction fees!

No-Annual Fee Cards – Penfed

Penfed has a series of cards which have no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

The most interesting to me is the Penfed Platinum rewards card which gets you 5 points for gas purchases and 3 points for supermarket purchases.

No-Annual Fee Cards – Barclays

The Barclays Travelocity, Arrival and Priceline cards pique my interest with no-fee Barclays cards.

No-Annual Fee Cards – Bank of America

1.   BankAmericard

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card has no annual or foreign transaction fees and earns 1.5 points per $1 on every purchase, every time with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

The BankAmericard Cash Rewards(TM) credit card earns 2% at grocery stores and 3% on gas for the first $1,500 in combined grocery store and gas purchases each quarter.

2.  Fidelity Investment Rewards

You earn 2% on ANY purchase with the Fidelity Investment Rewards and once you spend $2,500 you can transfer the points to your Fidelity Cash Management account and then withdraw the money. No annual fee and a 1% foreign exchange transaction fee.

No Annual Fee Cards – US Bank

The Club Carlson Visa card has no annual fee, but a lower sign-up bonus than the version which does have an annual fee.  But you still get 1 night in a Club Carlson hotel for free if you redeem for 2 or more nights.

Bottom Line

Having a no-annual fee credit card which you will keep for a long time is a good way to increase your credit score and build a relationship with a bank.

But make sure to choose a no-annual fee card which makes sense for YOU.

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108 responses to “Why Everyone Should Have a No-Annual Fee Credit Card

  1. The Penfed card with 5% on gas, 3% groceries, and 1% on all other spend is my favorite no annual fee card.

  2. Darius you stated that amex will report cards opened as they year when you first opened. I had a JetBlue Amex opened in 2009 closed in 2011 since then I recently opened a Starwood and delta amex but my credit report shows my credit history as since 2012? Why is that?

  3. You should also write an article comparing the cost benefit analysis of getting a card with an annual fee.
    I still have not brought myself to ever get a card that imposes an annual fee or does not excluded the annual fee for the first year. I am sure I have left many miles/points on the table by not getting some Bank of Hawaii card or another card (Southwest) that requires the payment of an annual fee.

    ..and if I ever did pay an annual fee, I certainly would not hold onto it for second year after getting any bonus points or miles, especially to maintain longevity of a card for my credit report.

    * Maybe I should have wrote this reply on yesterday’s posting!

    😉

  4. I have quite a few no annual fee cards that I keep for credit history, however, I never use them. Is it okay to just have the card and never use it after the first few purchases or should I be using it once and a while?

  5. Great post Daraius! Personally this is part of my strategy – one of the first things I did when I started the miles/points/credit card game was to get no fee versions of credit cards for the main issuers so I could build a relationship with the banks, have a clear point in time to anchor my average age of accounts to, and have credit accounts I can sweep excess credit line to when I decide to close a fee card I don’t want anymore.

    In fact the no fee Amex Hilton has been very useful when it comes to Vanilla Reloads. If only Amex weren’t ending 6x for pharmacies and Hilton hadn’t drastically devalued their award chart…..

  6. @ Meir – from my personal experience and that of other friends, my sense is that you always have to keep at least one card open with Amex for your history to go back all the way to when you opened your first personal card. (Anyone, please correct me if I’m wrong here)

  7. Yesterday, my husband received a letter in the mail from his Citi Sears card. It said there has been no activity for more than 21 months and if he didn’t make a purchase by June 1st, they will be lowering his credit line. One way that we keep one of our oldest credit cards active is we use it for one of our small reoccurring charges ($9.81 per month).

  8. I have been trying to do this by converting cards when the annual fee is due. This way I do not get extra inquiries for useless cards. It has been extremely hit and miss.
    Chase said no on co branded cards (continental), ok to convert sapphire preferred to sapphire.
    BOA said fine on virgin atlantic to some free crap card
    Barclays actually suggested it for airtran to arrival card, but then would not convert us airways to anything three months later and I had to cancel.
    Citi said “no such current promotion” when I asked about converting citi thankyou preferred (or premier I forget) to a free version so I had to cancel.
    FIA was the most ridiculous; tried to convert BOH hawaii card to something else … no. Tried to move the credit limit over to my 2% amex … only with hard inquiry… lame.

  9. OMG OMG OMG! Daraius have you sold out? LOL You dropped a link for the DISNEY card!!! George please come along and do a tear-up for me 🙂 PenFed rewards and Discover are excellent no fee credit cards, a lot of the rest feels like filler/link promo

  10. Where are you seeing the BoA 1.5% cash back? They have a Travel Rewards card that offers 1.5 back when redeemed as a reimbursement for a travel expense on the card. The one with the 1%, 2%, and 3% categories is the Cash Rewards. These two aren’t the same card.

  11. Where did AMEX state “After May, you will earn 7 points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels, and 5 Hilton points per $1 spent at US restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets, and 3 points on everything else.”? Is it targeted?

    • @Jack – That’s a very strong card as well.

      @Meir – That’s strange and you could call or message AMEX to ask about it. I closed my earlier AMEX cards, but all my AMEX accounts get backdated to when I opened my earlier AMEX accounts.

      @BillyBob – It usually is worth paying the annual for the first year to get a card with a large sign-up bonus if you know that you will use the miles/points from the card.

      @Sarah – I’d use use them occasionally otherwise it may be cancelled.

      @Points Surfer – Thanks!

      @Lively – I do the same thing with our cards and keep a small recurring charge on the card.

      @john – That FIA policy with a hard inquiry does seem a bit over the top!

      @MilesAbound
      – Ha! There are about 14 cards without affiliate links and about 14 cards with affiliate links. I’ll wait for George, but I was trying to be thorough.

      @flyerguy – Thanks!

      @Jesson – It was on my AMEX statement

      @Lisa – The Citi Forward is a good card, but I couldn’t find an application link to the regular version.

  12. The Citi Forward is a no AF card that earns TY points – 5x at Amazon(!) and other bookstores, 5x at restaurants.

    Jesson, when I got the Amex Hilton last month, a notice of the change in points earning was enclosed with the other paperwork.

    Meir, you sometimes have to message Amex to ask for this. I had an Optima card way back in 1995. When I opened the Blue Cash last year, the card said 2012. I secured messaged them to express my disappointment and say that I thought they recognized previous card membership when they calculated “member since” dates. The next day I got an email telling me my new card with “member since 1995” was in the mail.

  13. >>>”You get 4% cash back on the first $6,000 of purchases with the Blue Cash Everyday card at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets in a calendar year (…)”

    Hmm… I have BCE, but I’ve never heard of getting 4% CB on it anywhere – I thought 3% in stand-alone supermarkets is maximum you can get from this card.
    How did you come up with 4% number? Am I missing something?

  14. Old pal Mickey here ….LOL

    And what is your Member Since date? 2011?

  15. 36 credit card links, yes I count them. Should I count the Disney double? 🙂

    The record is 39. I believe this is your personal best, up from 35.

    Your disclosure policy keeps me from going off even though my readers want me too lol.

    And welcome back!

  16. I think fire sales like “May Not Last!!” are better than link farming from a business perspective. More and more farmers are getting exposed(yah most are not falling for the disclosure charades, except George) for link farming. If you are going to take advantage of the dumb readership, fire sale may be the way to go, as more retards are likely to fall for it thinking it is something special.

  17. @John – Which BOA card did you switch to? I tried to reallocate my credit preparing to ditch the Virgin Atlantic card and they refused to do so without as hard pull. I easily do this with Chase all the time though. So if I cannot move credit I might as well downgrade to a free card.

  18. I have a number of old open no af cards I keep around for history. Included are the following: (mid 1980’s–AU on 2 of wife’s Macy’s/Penney cards; 1990’s–2 CU CC’s, Sears CC), 2000’s–various CU cards plus others). I also have alot of paid off car loans/mortgages from the 1990’s/2000’s that help my scores. Being AU on my wife’s ancient retail cards keep my scores from dropping too much when I apply for alot of CC’s, etc. (being AU on wife’s retail cards from 1984/1985 increased my average of accounts alot!!).

    Now to work on getting off AMEX blacklist due to old chargeoffs. AMEX from what I heard blacklists for life. If successfulon getting off AMEX blacklist, I may be able to get backdating on AMEX cards going back to 1984.

    On my last series of applications (6 CC’s recently, 10CC’s in last 9 months, 3 mortgage refinances (rental houses), etc), my scores only dropped from low 800’s to 750+ due to my having a deep, diverse credit file. l will wait some time before applying for more CC’s.

    (note: Only do what I did above if one’s credit file is deep/diverse with very scores. My scores recover within a few months.

  19. Clarify: add “high credit” to very ____ _____ scores. inside note:

  20. How about the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express Card? It is a no annual fee card that gives 2% back on ALL purchases. That seems like a great option if you already have an account with Fidelity.

  21. BillyBob always cracks me up with his proud comments about how he doesn’t play the miles and points game. “I am sure I have left many miles/points on the table” is certainly an understatement. By not paying $69 for a Southwest card with 50K points, he missed out on $800 of Southwest travel. Get both personal and business cards, and with the companion pass that’s over $3300 of Southwest flights for $138.

    He might be willing to get the Priority Club card, because the first year is free. But by paying the renewal fee, I got a free night certificate good at the Brugge, Belgium Crowne Plaza this summer, which otherwise costs some $330.

    Since BillyBob is too smart to fall for such scams {sic}, he apparently only reads this blog to have a free place for his comments. Perhaps Daraius should charge a nickel per comment, and the BillyBob types would go somewhere else. 😀

  22. The absolute far and away best no-fee Bank of America card is the “BankAmericards Better Balance Rewards Card,” which was only released March 4. It appears that you can’t apply for it online, but I was able to convert my very very mediocre old Bank of America World Points to this card by using the online chat. The way this card works is that if you a. have a balance at the end of the month for each month in a quarter, and b. pay either the balance in full or an amount that exceeds the minimum payment, you will receive a $25 back, and if you have a Bank of America account you will get another $5 bonus, so if you have a balance (which can be as small as 1 cent), and pay it off in full each month, you can have $120 back each year. Amazing card, really. No annual fee.

  23. I am a newbie – could you explain what a “point” means and how to transfer points to miles?? If there is a blog on it, just direct me to it. Thanks!

  24. To Nancy:
    Airlines tend to use miles per $ for their CC’s and non airline CC use points per $.

    Note: miles (airline CC’s) /points (non airline) per $ can be for ongoing spend and/or signup bonuses.

    For some non airline CC’s (a few examples: AMEX membership rewards, Chase Sapphire, Ink products, etc) points can be transferred into airline miles, hotel points, travel products, gift cards, etc.

    The above sounds confusing but I hope this helps!!

  25. I meant to say Sapphire Preferred.

  26. How is average age on the credit report calculated? Is it by the oldest card that you have at each of the banks? So if you have 1 chase card that’s 6 years old and another Citicard that’s 8 years old and you have 3 other chase cards that are 1 year old and 3 other citicards that are 1 year old, and you cancel all but the oldest chase and oldest citi, does that make the avg age (6+8)/2 = 7 yrs? so all those younger cards don’t count toward average age? I wasn’t sure, I’d like to be clear on how avg age is calculated. Thanks.

  27. Here is the link to the Bank Americard Better Balance card: https://www.bankofamerica.com/credit-cards/products/better-balance-rewards.go

  28. @Lisa @MMS, the Citi Forward on the Citibank website works fine for anyone, even though it’s called Citi Forward for college students. My mom recently used the link no problem.

  29. I get the jokes about Disney but my wife and I were both targeted for the cards via snail mail. $200 gift cards after the 1st purchase x 2 = $400. We used it at the Disney Aulani in Hawaii. Saved us….well… $400. Speaking of snail mail solicitations, I had the Ink Business Bold, cancelled it 3 months ago, last month I got an invite from Chase to apply for the same card WITH the 50k bonus. Thought it was a joke, applied, heard nothing for 2 weeks. Called the reconsid line last week and got approved and yes I verified the 50k promotion applies again. This despite my understanding that you can’t get the same bonus twice from Chase at least that quickly. He didn’t even bring up the other card.

    So opting out of marketing offers may cost you. I did that a long time ago, hated junk mail, advertisements, credit card offers, etc. I stopped getting crap but I also missed out as I would later find out. After getting started on miles and points, I reversed my thought process and “opted in”. It’s easy to do. Not just with the credit card issuers on their own sites. Follow the info here and you can opt in to other offers.
    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/milesbuzz/1256659-how-opt-targeted-credit-card-offers.html

    So Disney worked out. You never know what might come your way if you’re willing to weed through all the Victoria Secret Catalogs. Some results are worth the effort. 🙂

  30. who’s matthew s. gough?

  31. Hey Daraius, I am new to your website and must thank you for such a valuable information filled website. Quick question on this topic – between Chase freedom and discover cards, which one would you prefer to keep long run? I have both but now would like to cancel one. Lately I have noticed that Discover has started giving some special offers like ” free 1 day shipping on amazon” etc. But then chase visa could be used more widely. Any feedback? Thanks in advance!

    • @chemist661 – I closed my store cards, but fortunately my oldest credit cards were older than my store credit cards.

      @Scott @Wedding Spend – I’ll add that to the post. Thanks!

      @Steven – Thanks! I like the 1 cent balance idea.

      @Peter – It includes both open and closed accounts (for up to 10 years). I’d check the MyFico and CreditBoard forums for more information.

      @Kent C – Emily also got the bonus on the Sapphire Preferred for a 2nd time.

      @Saurabh Kumar – I personally like the Freedom because of the 5X category bonuses, but it is also a Chase card which could limit the future number of Chase cards which you get. But do what makes sense for you. If it is a no-fee card, there is no harm in keeping both.

  32. @Kent C
    Did you apply for your 2nd ink bold with the same business? Also did you apply for the same type of ink bold(there are 3 varieties)?

  33. @Mickey re: “I think fire sales like “May Not Last!!” are better than link farming from a business perspective. If you are going to take advantage of the dumb readership, fire sale may be the way to go, as more retards are likely to fall for it thinking it is something special.”

    On March 7 I read on VFW that the AMEX PRG card was upped from 25K points after $2K in spend to 50K points after $1K in spend “for a limited time only”. I wasn’t intending to do my next churn for a couple more weeks, but being a “dumb retard”, 😀 I applied that day because of the “May Not Last” warning. I was instantly approved for the card with those benefits. A week later, VFM again posted “Worth Grabbing 50,000 Points For American Express Premier Rewards Gold”. Why that headline? Because the post warned, the offer “may not last”. And indeed, by the end of the day it had been pulled. If I were to apply today, I would get half the number of points after making double the minimum spend. Except I was warned by the travel blogs that this offer was too good to last, and if I wanted it, which I did, I needed to “grab” it right away. As predicted, the offer was only available for one week, then it disappeared.

    This is especially ironic re your comment, since that offer was not an affiliate link for any of the bloggers that posted it. VFW even was careful not to list it’s normal {not as good} link, lest someone click on it by accident. Many travel bloggers went out of their way to post a link that paid them nothing, warning us all that it “would not last”, which it didn’t. Thanks to them, I got double the points for half the spend. Whereas from you, I got nothing but snark. 🙁

    What you fail to realise is that many of us purposely choose to use the affiliate links of our favorite bloggers. That’s our way of repaying them for all the benefits we have gotten from their blogs. Thanks again Daraius and Emily !

  34. @Pan
    Used the same business name. In fact the offer or invitation that was received in the mail, referenced the business. There was a special code on the invite. To be honest, Chase probably didn’t send me an invite because they were sad I cancelled the other card. I’m no elite card user or big spender, just have good credit over 750. Likely, they made a mistake. I really thought it would be a different Ink card when I got it in the mail but lo and behold it was identical to the other card I cancelled. Pulled them both out side by side and no difference, both Bold with same business name. Not Ink Plus or any other Ink. As Daraius mentioned Emily also was able to get another bonus on an identical card. But these things are probably not the norm. Now with Citi or BofA, you may get more results when reapplying.

    • @goals^n^dreams – The Fidelity card is actually issued by Bank of America, so you should be fine, though you need a Fidelity account to get approved for hte card. AMEX has a limit of 4 credit cards, but the Business Gold is a charge card, so you should be able to get 1 more card.

  35. @Pan,
    I’d also like to add they were both the same type, both M/C.

  36. goals^n^dreams

    I have 4 amex salready (Delta, Blue, Hilton, business gold). If I apply Pendfed card, will amex allow me to get another Amex? I want to apply SPG cards (personal,business) next 3 months. Will amex allow me to apply more cards? I have read some forums state that Amex has a limit that people can keep.

  37. goals^n^dreams

    oh sorry, I meant fidelity card, not Pendfed card. I see an amex logo on Fidility card.

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  41. You say don’t use Chase for foreign transactions because of the 3% fee; what cards do you recommend for foreign transactions? Thanks much!

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  44. Hey Daraius!
    New to this whole miles and points and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts, they have been very informative. I was just waiting for the right time and knowledge to start applying for 2 cards to start collecting but I came across this no-annual fee promotion. AMEX Blue Sky with 30,000 bonus points after $500 in purchases AND 0% APR for 15 months with 2.7% Foreign transaction fee. This seems like a really good deal, by getting this card would it hurt me in the long run when I start my churning adventures? Or do you recommend some other card that would be better?

    • @Jason – Thanks for reading! I prefer the Barclays Arrival card which will get you $400 in travel for spending $1,000 since you get a little more value than the AMEX Blue Sky. But I’d set a goal first, and then only apply for cards which help you get to that goal.

  45. Daraius, I have the amazon card and there is a bit of an unadvertised advantage that makes this a great no annual fee card. Although the sign up bonuses are usually lackluster, it has great bonus categories – 3x for amazon purchases, 2x gas, restaurants, drugstores (think CVS vanilla reloads), 1x everything else.

    Now the hidden gem is when you redeem for airfare. You can find your own ticket on any website, and they will allow you to redeem 25,000 points for $400 used or a domestic flight. If the ticket costs more than $400, you can pay the remainder with your CC. They have similar redemption rates for international flights such as 50k for $800, etc…

    So you’re essentially getting 4.8% cash back when shopping at amazon, and 3.2% cash back at gas stations, restaurants and drugstores, 1.6% anywhere else. Only catch is you need to purchase airfare for it to be worth it.

  46. Wow, you’re kidding, I have a bunch of points saved up. Didn’t know I can transfer to UR. I will definitely do that. Makes this card even better. Thanks for the tip!

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  49. Keeping a “No annual fee card”. What if my oldest card (8 yrs. Citi AA card with $50 an. fee) has a fee attached? Is there a way to swap it for another Citi card without losing those years? I assume not and I should keep paying the 50 an.fee. Thanks for all your advise.

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  54. I signed up for a Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card and got denied. I don’t have a credit card with them. Plus I also just got approved for Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus and AMEX Blue Cash Preferred today. I also got denied for Citi Forward, they said I had one late payment from my Experian report. I said that was impossible because I never pay late but they said settle it with Experian. So I ordered my free credit report today and will get it in 2 days.

    Do you have any tips on how to get approved for Bank of America when I call the reconsideration line?

    Thank you!

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  58. Thanks for all the info – I love your site and will definitely be reading up on how to maximize my travel rewards!

    I have a Hilton HHonors account already and I am debating the no-annual-fee Hilton AMEX or Citi Visa. On paper it seems like the AMEX gives more rewards. Which would you recommend, and would you recommend either over the CapitalOne VentureOne card?

    Also, I can see the benefits of having multiple cards for your credit score (discussed in another of your articles), but from the perspective of accruing points – wouldn’t it be better to use one travel card and build up all your points there? (As opposed to splitting purchases between a Hilton AMEX or CapitalOne VentureOne, for example?)

    • @Marty – You accumulate more points from the sign-up bonus, so spending carefully on a few cards can help. I’d prefer the Citi Hilton card because you get free Gold status which gets you free internet and breakfast at most Hilton hotels. I’d decide on your goals, and then see which cards to apply for.

  59. hi there! i am wondering if there is a chart somewhere that lays out “downgraded cards” for when its time to deal with the annual fees. like for example, what is the United Mileage Plus card most commonly downgraded to? etc.
    or is there another strategy for this? are there cards where the fee is most likely waived and others where it is not (such as the saphire preferred?). am reading up on “using cards as bargaining chips for getting new ones later.” thanks!

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  62. Great info as always Daraius. I was trying to find a good fee-free card from each major bank for my wife so she can solidify her relationship with them for the long haul and was happy to find this post. It’s nice to google something and find out someone whose opinion you trust already did the heavy lifting by putting this info all in one place. Thanks again.

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  66. This site was… how do you say it? Relevant!!

    Finally I have found something which helped me. Thank you!

  67. Hi Darius, this was an informative/relevant article. Since these cards are likely just keep-and-hold since they don’t offer the same ROI on spend as their fee counterparts, good sign-up bonuses are highly attractive. What are the best picks for 2014 for someone with good credit who isn’t restricted by per bank card number limits?

    Perhaps an update to this article is in order. You’re good at making travel hacking accessible to the the novice, and this is pretty good 100 level material.

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  81. Thanks for the great article, very informative.
    I’ve have a Chase Sapphire card for the past 2 years and considering getting the chase freedom.

    I’m thinking of canceling the sapphire card and using the freedom. In your opinion, is this a good choice or should I keep both?

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  88. It’s a shame, the sapphire was a great card, yet just got phased out on Nov 30 2014, along with the bold, but NOT A SINGLE BLOG wrote about it, presumably because they don’t get paid to… I tried getting it December 3, when I discovered this… If I’d known, I’d have gotten it earlier!

    Those 2x UR points for dining with no AF…. I just missed that! :(((((

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  90. Doctor of Credit has posts about tons of No Annual Fee cards that actually give out bonuses for meeting minimum spend. There are many out there.

  91. @Daraius Re the Club Carlson Visa, I don’t think it offers 1 night free anymore when you redeem points for 2 nights.

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