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 gas stations, select streaming services, and on internet, cable, and phone services.

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 was 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

In 2019 changes were 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.

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).

This means that 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).

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.
Comments
  1. Unless one values UR more than TYP, I don’t see when you would use Freedom Unlimited/Ink Unlimited (unlimited 1.5X) over Citi Doublecash (unlimited 2X) or Amex Blue (2X capped). Freedom has some utility with rotating 5X categories.

  2. The other 5% cards are all fee-free and just about as good as the Freedom. Also, one could argue the Wells Fargo 3x Amex is one of the best, as you can pair with another fee-free for 4.5% on flight redemptions.

  3. Gene, the Chase freedom isn’t garbage.

    Jeremy, I have Citi Dividend and Discover it, while I have 2 Chase Freedoms, and if I have not met the cap on the 2 freedoms combined, will always default to them as they are far superior due to the ability to convert your points.

  4. Having a few credit cards with no annual fee is good if one needs separate credit card for certain expenses. For example, one might be an executor for an estate or a trustee. Another example might be if you buy things for a club or small organization.

    I rarely have more than one expensive credit card.

  5. Incomplete without mention of BofA Cash Rewards. 5.25% cash back on online purchases with Platinum Honors. Unbeatable.

  6. The cards that have no annual fee…quickly lose their value if they do have a FTF when one travels a lot abroad (the CITI Double Cash, for example). The only one that I have found with no FTF and no annual fee and 2% back on everything is Paypal CashBack MC, but just today Paypal announced major changes to the legal terms…which I haven’t yet reviewed to see if they diminish the value or benefits of the card
    ( https://www.paypal.com/us/webapps/mpp/ua/upcoming-policies-full ).

  7. Ben, You make a mistake when discussing the Freedom card. The same applies for redemption that you can combine these points with your Reserve points.

  8. @TimR, if you don’t know basic math, perhaps that the case; everyone else should be able to do better than that. Citicash give you 2 cents for every dollar you spend. Freedom Unlimited gives you 1.5 UR points, and each UR point is worth at least 1.5 cents (when redeemed for travel), so 1.5 UR equals 2.25 cents for every dollar spent.

  9. I would also add that I think this article is written for advertisement purposes, at least in part. This one does better than many about not focusing on that as much, but there are other fee free cards that are almost hardly discussed on these types of blogs that may be worth it if you spend in certain categories or for certain retailers. Need an example? I have at least three examples.

  10. I’m annoyed that Chase unveils the Freedom’s quarterly category at the last possible moment. Makes planning difficult. The Discover It card seems much more attractive because they announce the categories for the full year before the year begins.

  11. @Rui N. That’s assuming you have a CSR. If you read the comments on this blog, seems like most everyone is downgrading from the CSR because of the AF hike. (UR =1.875 cents/pt if on CSP)

    I do use CFU over Double Cash because I do have a CSR and I can use UR more easily that I can redeem for Citi’s TYP

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