Why It Pays To Have No Annual Fee Amex Cards

Why It Pays To Have No Annual Fee Amex Cards

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There are many reasons to pick up credit cards. Some are worth applying for due to generous welcome bonuses, others are worth acquiring for the return they offer on spending, and others are worth keeping for the ongoing annual perks they offer.

In terms of holding onto cards for ongoing perks, there are some specific co-brand cards that offer lucrative benefits. For example, the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card (review) and the World of Hyatt Credit Card (review) offer free night certificates on their account anniversaries, which more than justify the cards’ annual fees, in my opinion.

While some cards are worth holding onto for the specific benefits they offer, other cards are worth holding onto simply because of the card’s issuer. Specifically, I’m talking about American Express cards and the awesome Amex Offers program, which is one reason I always recommend having as many Amex cards as possible.

Why the Amex Offers program is so valuable

Amex Offers is a program run by American Express where you can earn bonus points, discounts, and other perks for making purchases with select retailers. Different cards are targeted for different offers, so it pays to have as many American Express cards as possible, so you can maximize the offers you have access to. Some offers are widely targeted, while others are much more narrowly targeted.

To me this is nearly free money, given the major retailers, hotels, and airlines, for which we frequently see offers. Personally I save hundreds of dollars per year with the Amex Offers program, as the offers impact which retailers I choose to make purchases with (for example, there are many brand name items that are sold for the same costs by many retailers, so I typically make the purchase with the retailer offering the best Amex Offers deal).

I recently saved on a Hyatt stay with Amex Offers

For example, just on the travel front, in recent months we’ve seen savings with Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and much more.

Save on hotel stays with the Amex Offers program

What are the best Amex no annual fee cards?

If you’re looking for the lowest cost way to get access to the Amex Offers program, you can’t beat picking up a no annual fee American Express card. Keep in mind Amex’s general restrictions on card approvals, including that you can have at most five Amex credit cards at any time (this doesn’t include hybrid or charge cards).

There are cards with annual fees that are worth holding onto long term, though the best of both worlds is to apply for a card with no annual fee, so you can keep it long term and use it for Amex Offers. The way I see it, Amex Offers turn many of these cards from no annual fee cards to cards that basically pay you for holding onto them.

Here are my six favorite Amex no annual fee cards, with the first four being personal, and the last two being business:

I consider it especially noteworthy that two of these cards earn Amex Membership Rewards points, making them great “hub” points for holding onto Amex’s transferable points currency.

I also want to mention that you should be strategic with picking up no annual fee Amex cards. Don’t pick up so many that you’re locked out from applying for Amex cards with annual fees and lucrative bonuses, assuming you’d otherwise consider them.

I love earning 2x Amex points with the Blue Business Plus

Another benefit of having no annual fee cards

One often overlooked benefit of having no annual fee cards is that it can help improve your credit score. Why?

  • 30% of your credit score is made up of your credit utilization, and the more credit you have available but don’t use, the better
  • 15% of your score is made up of your credit history, and the older your average account age is, the better

Personally I have several no annual fee cards largely because they’re beneficial for my credit score. They’re a good way to keep my average account age high, and my credit utilization low. Just keep in mind that this only applies for personal cards, and not business cards (at least for the purposes of your personal credit score).

Bottom line

There are a variety of reasons to pick up a credit card. Personally I think picking up a no annual fee Amex card can be well worth it for access to Amex Offers alone, not to mention that it can help your credit score.

On top of that, many no annual fee cards are exceptionally rewarding for spending or for their bonuses. For example, it’s pretty awesome to earn 2x Membership Rewards points with the Blue Business Plus, or to earn a huge welcome bonus with the Hilton Honors Amex.

Do any OMAAT readers use Amex no annual fee cards to maximize Amex Offers?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card (Rates & Fees), Hilton Honors American Express Card (Rates & Fees), The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and American Express® Blue Business Cash Card (Rates & Fees).

Conversations (5)
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  1. Gary Hohenstein Guest

    I have two AMEX cards - one US and one German. Neither one is of any use for any of their BS offers. I only keep them for my credit score.

  2. Mike C Diamond

    Australian card holder here, and much the same deal as the UK and Canadian posters have said, although perhaps not as dire as they have reported, and there have been some I've used. None of the multiple points for classes of purchases that Ben writes about that apply to US card holders.

    For three months early in the pandemic, they paid double points on all purchases (platinum card), and I've had $400 account credit on...

    Australian card holder here, and much the same deal as the UK and Canadian posters have said, although perhaps not as dire as they have reported, and there have been some I've used. None of the multiple points for classes of purchases that Ben writes about that apply to US card holders.

    For three months early in the pandemic, they paid double points on all purchases (platinum card), and I've had $400 account credit on groceries earlier this year and last, several hotel credits, one that I could use. Also a petrol credit while I was under lock down, and lots of lifestyle offers that don't interest me. One offer that's on until February is 3 bonus points for small businesses (that's 2.5x for my cards). My local pharmacy and Asian grocery qualify, as do some businesses I only found out about when the bonus points were credited. There's a search facility for them on the Amex website. (This offer is available on their Australian no-fee card.)

    Membership rewards is less rewarding here. Only nine airlines are available (Australian, NZ, SE Asia and ME) and except for those with a Platinum card Qantas isn't included. If others want QF points they have to have a QF points card instead of MR.

  3. Azamaraal Guest

    @Ed

    Agreed. AMEX offers nothing to Canadian subscribers and we cannot access any of the great cards like Aspire. Over the last year I received (2) $5 small business refunds. Whoopee.

    Keep writing AMEX trying to encourage them to offer more but that falls on deaf ears.

  4. Ed Guest

    I have never seen an Amex offer of interest. But I have UK AMEX, not US. All I get offered is endless spa treatment and jewellery shop discounts. One would have thought Amex would look at a customer's spend pattern and send them relevant offers. But Amex obviously don't, as if they did, they would know I have never bought any jewellery or a spa since I became an Amex customer. I actually find the endless useless offers tiresome.

    1. Nick Guest

      That's no good Ed. Which card do you have? In the last 6 months I've had offers with half a dozen airlines, B&Q, BP, numerous hotels chains, plus the numerous less than useful ones you refer to. Saved around £200 this year

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Gary Hohenstein Guest

I have two AMEX cards - one US and one German. Neither one is of any use for any of their BS offers. I only keep them for my credit score.

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Mike C Diamond

Australian card holder here, and much the same deal as the UK and Canadian posters have said, although perhaps not as dire as they have reported, and there have been some I've used. None of the multiple points for classes of purchases that Ben writes about that apply to US card holders. For three months early in the pandemic, they paid double points on all purchases (platinum card), and I've had $400 account credit on groceries earlier this year and last, several hotel credits, one that I could use. Also a petrol credit while I was under lock down, and lots of lifestyle offers that don't interest me. One offer that's on until February is 3 bonus points for small businesses (that's 2.5x for my cards). My local pharmacy and Asian grocery qualify, as do some businesses I only found out about when the bonus points were credited. There's a search facility for them on the Amex website. (This offer is available on their Australian no-fee card.) Membership rewards is less rewarding here. Only nine airlines are available (Australian, NZ, SE Asia and ME) and except for those with a Platinum card Qantas isn't included. If others want QF points they have to have a QF points card instead of MR.

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Azamaraal Guest

@Ed Agreed. AMEX offers nothing to Canadian subscribers and we cannot access any of the great cards like Aspire. Over the last year I received (2) $5 small business refunds. Whoopee. Keep writing AMEX trying to encourage them to offer more but that falls on deaf ears.

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