The Six Fantastic No Annual Fee Credit Cards I Have

Filed Under: American Express, Chase
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I have a lot of credit cards. Many of them have annual fees, which I consider to be worthwhile given the perks they offer in return. Every year when the annual fee is due on cards, I do an analysis as to whether or not it makes sense for me to keep the cards.

There’s also a lot of value in holding onto no annual fee cards long term, both thanks to the benefits they offer, and also because of the positive impact they can have on your credit score. One big aspect of your credit score is your average age of accounts, and you can increase that by holding onto some cards long term.

Obviously it’s ideal to largely hold onto no annual fee cards long term, given that they’re cheaper. Note that this positive impact typically only comes from personal cards and not business cards, due to how they appear on your report.

At the moment I have six no annual fee credit cards, and they’re not just great to hold onto because they don’t cost me anything, but also because they offer incredible points earning potential.

As a matter of fact, all the cards I use for my everyday, non-bonused spending (for both business and personal purchases) have no annual fees. That’s pretty remarkable.

Specifically, I have the following six no annual fee cards, in no particular order:

Here’s how I use each of them to maximize my points:

Best No Annual Fee Personal Cards

My personal no annual fee credit cards offer me anywhere from 1.5-5x points per dollar spent. Here’s how I use them:

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, on up to $1,500 worth of spending each quarter.

For example, this quarter the card is offering 5x points at department stores, and on purchases made using PayPal and Chase Pay. This is a bonus category I’ll easily maximize.

While this card typically earns points that can be redeemed for cashback, rewards can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio.

I know plenty of people earn 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points per quarter with this card, or up to 30,000 points per year. On top of that, we sometimes see even further bonuses.

You can read a full review of the Chase Freedom here.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

For the past several years this has been my go-to card for everyday, non-bonused spending. It’s pretty awesome that this is also a card with no annual fee.

The card offers 1.5x points on everyday spending, with no gimmicks. There’s no minimum number of purchases required in order to unlock that return, etc. Since points earned on this card can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points (which I value at 1.7 cents each), this card offers the equivalent of a 2.55% return.

Up until recently, I considered this to be the best card for everyday, non-bonused personal spending, but that’s something that changed for me recently.

You can read a full review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited here.

Points on this card can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points

Citi® Double Cash Card

Changes were recently made to this card which make it all the more lucrative. The card earns 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and 1% cash back when you pay for that purchase.

However, as of recently rewards earned on this card can be converted into ThankYou points at a 1:1 ratio, assuming you have the card in conjunction with one earning ThankYou points (like the Citi Premier or Citi Prestige).

So here you can earn up to two ThankYou points per dollar spent.

I value those points at 1.7 cents each, so to me, that’s like an incredible 3.4% return on everyday spending, which is unrivaled for a personal card.

You can read a full review of the Citi Double Cash here.

Transfer Citi ThankYou points to Virgin Atlantic

Best No Annual Fee Business Cards

My business no annual fee credit cards offer me anywhere from 1.5-5x points per dollar spent. Here’s how I use them:

Ink Business Cash Card

This card offers 5x points on the first $25,000 spent every cardmember year at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services, plus 2x points on the first $25,000 spent every cardmember year at gas stations and restaurants.

While this card typically earns points that can be redeemed for cashback, rewards can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio.

You can read a full review of the Ink Business Cash here.

Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Singapore KrisFlyer

Ink Business Unlimited Card

This is basically the business equivalent of the Freedom Unlimited. The card offers 1.5x points on everyday purchases, with no gimmicks.

Points earned on this card can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points. Since I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, this is the equivalent of a 2.55% return, by my valuation.

You can read a full review of the Ink Business Unlimited here.


Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways Executive Club

Blue Business Plus Card

This no annual fee card is the single best card for the first $50,000 of business spending annually. The card offers 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent every calendar year. I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so to me, that’s the equivalent of a 3.4% return.

This card also directly earns Membership Rewards points that can be transferred to airline and hotel partners, so there are no hoops you have to jump through to transfer those points.

You can read a full review of the Blue Business Plus here.


Transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Air Canada Aeroplan

Unlocking The Full Potential Of Chase Cards

For the above four Chase cards (all the cards except the Amex Blue Business Plus and Citi Double Cash), there’s a trick to maximizing the value of those points.

On the surface the above cards are cash back cards, meaning that each point gets you a cent of value. However, in conjunction with a card accruing Ultimate Rewards points, those points can be converted at a 1:1 ratio.

Since I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, that’s like getting 70% more value out of those cards just by having them in conjunction with another card. So you’ll want to have the above cards in conjunction with one of the following:

So one cent cashback converts into one Ultimate Rewards point with those cards.

You can potentially have the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Ink Cash, and Ink Unlimited, and only pay an annual fee on a single one of the above cards. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review) and Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card (review) have $95 annual fees, so you can unlock a lot of value out of four cards with a single $95 annual fee. Alternatively, you could just have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review).

Bottom Line

While there are lots of great premium credit cards that offer perks that are worthwhile, it’s especially fun to get a lot of value out of no annual fee cards. In my case, the six no annual fee cards I have are among the most rewarding for my everyday spending, including for both business and personal purchases.

If you’re considering applying for any of the Chase cards, just keep in mind that they’re subjected to Chase’s 5/24 rule, so you’ll ideally want to apply early on in your credit card journey.

What are your favorite no annual fee credit cards?

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

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Comments
  1. Sadly there isn’t anything great or usually even useful from this (and most) blogs anymore. Just pump out 6-8 posts a day, most telling everyone how great some cc is or repeating other news. No real useful information.

    I wish Ben and his mother and family the best but these blogs are past their usefulness.

  2. @Rich I think Lucky’s shift from Chase preference to Citi preference is new, and sort of interesting to observe. If my primary use of points was business class airfare redemptions, I’d also shift my spending in that direction. We use most of our points at hotels though, so have different focus.

    That said, I do think articles of this sort could be refreshed by inserting more info about ancillary matters such as extended warranty. Keeping extended warranty purchases on a no fee card is a pretty good idea because, as I understand it, if you cancel a premium card to avoid an annual fee the extended warranty protection for prior purchases made on that card is nullified. I think Lucky doesn’t value extended warranty a great deal. That’s his prerogative, but it results in sort of a missed opportunity to make the post more informative by weaving in details about the ancillary strengths/weaknesses of the no-fee cards.

  3. @Lucky,

    I would include Discover (5%) and US Bank Cash+ on this list. I do not think Freedom Unlimited is useful, especially if someone has the other cards you mention.

  4. I agree with SEAguy. As with any investment it’s good to have a diversified portfolio. Citi is best for dining due to 5x on the Prestige card. Chase is best for travel due to 3x on Sapphire. The question is where to put unbounded spend? Up until now it was on Chase at 1.5x but now Citi looks better at 2x plus it’s an opportunity to balance the number of UR and TY points you hold.

    That makes the Double Cash card very compelling.

    I’d add that one shouldn’t overlook the Capital One offerings. If you took advantage of one of their generous sign up offers but don’t want to pay the annual fee in order to just hold the miles they have a no fee card that offers the ability to transfer their points to airlines the same as the fee based card.

    Having points in all three programs is best of all worlds, especially if you open a Citigold account which keeps the net cost of the Prestige card to just $100.

  5. I’m not sure why a lot of commenters on the blog discredit the Freedom Unlimited. If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve (which you all do), there is no reason not to have a Freedom Unlimited. I don’t have the business cards and find it to be a good companion for random unbonused purchases. I don’t put a ton on the card but it is a good card with a high limit. I like having it.

    In terms of no fee cards, the AA MileUp is actually a good one. 2x AA miles on grocery for no fee. Nothing wrong with that.

  6. This quarter is department stores. DEPARTMENT STORES? Are they joking. Looks like I won’t be using my freedom card very much.

  7. i don’t have other TYP card outside DC, so it only transfer to jetblue at 1:0.8. From southwest, I never used jetblue, lol.

  8. POMS, I thought the same thing when I heard the 4Q categories (department stores?). However, I am finding the most value this quarter in using PayPal with as much of my online purchases as possible.

  9. I feel like some of the commenters are overly harsh and not excersizing much in terms of humility on this solid post. I think it is an excellent post. I have 4/6 of these cards (2x for the freedom and Blue business plus) and prior to reading already had plans to get the CIU and Citi Double Cash in the next few months. While I will likely convert the CFU and CIU eventually if they don’t up their game, just getting them initially allows conversions and sign up bonuses that are not otherwise possible.

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