The Five Fantastic No Annual Fee Credit Cards I Have

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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 five 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.

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

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

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, tolls, and drugstores, and next quarter the card is offering 5x points at grocery and home improvement stores.

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, as I’ll explain below.

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.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

It’s a bit ironic that my go-to card for everyday, non-bonused personal spending is also one without an 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.

This is the personal card that offers the best and most straightforward return on non-bonused purchases, in my opinion.

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

This card offers 5x points on the first $25,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services, plus 2x points on the first $25,000 spent annually 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, as I’ll explain below.

Ink Business UnlimitedSM Credit Card

This is basically the business equivalent of the Chase 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.

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees)

This is the single best card for the first $50,000 of spending annually. The card offers 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent annually. 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.

Unlocking full potential of the Chase cards

For the above four Chase cards (all the cards except the Amex Blue Business Plus), 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:

"Premium" Ultimate Rewards cards:

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 and Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card have $95 annual fees, so you can unlock a lot of value out of four cards with a single $95 annual fee.

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 as well. In my case, the five no annual fee cards I have are among the most rewarding for my everyday spending, including 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.

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. Outside of the SUB for the CIU, for those “with businesses,” the CFU is better due to the ongoing promotions Chase runs, i.e. 10% back on hotels through the portal, extra 1% using mobile pay, 10% back on Chase Pay at ShopRite, etc. The CFU will also build personal credit history.

  2. I never understood why credit card companies charge an annual fee for some of their credit cards. Does anyone know?

  3. as enticing as the 2% is on the amex card, I resale a lot of stuff from other countries so id be hit with the 2.7% fee. 🙁

  4. I really regret not starting with Chase when I originally got into the points game. 5/24 rule is brutal. Waiting until August to get the World of Hyatt card, and then another year until I can get the Freedom card to join my Freedom Unlimited and Sapphire Reserve…

  5. @k.m.: Is that your side hustle to making money online and achieving “side hustle millionaire” status?

  6. You Americans have so much to be thankful for compared to the UK. The airline industry makes us into 2nd rate citizens BUT the second the aircraft leaves UK airspace going West, you get service, and for us the magic begins. The self same airlines offer you toll free calls, try calling them from here, boy you pay, premium rates sometimes! What is it about the British psyche that allows us to be bullied and abused like this, after all, we did rule the waves (once). this takes me into CREDIT CARDS. Reading your articles I am consumed with jealousy at the array of perk credit cards available in the States. The self same airlines, and hotels are so prohibitive and restricting to what they give us here, even AMEX banned us from sign up perks for taking out a second card for ANY of their products for a period of 2 years, and the rewards are so measly. Then again we are British, and we just jolly well enjoy whatevedr they dole out to us without grumbling.

  7. Wouldn’t waste apps on most of these unless there is absolutely nothing else that interests you. Many of these cards are good options to product change AF cards to if you no longer wish to pay the AF.

  8. @Londonscot
    Most of us here stateside are consumed with jealousy seeing the much much less expensive premium class fares originating in Europe. You win some, you lose some.

  9. Uh hello why are you missing the highest broad market cash back no annual fee card the Citi double cash back at 2% ?? No affiliate commission vs Chase?

  10. @bob – uh hello because this is a points and miles blog and the cash back cards can be converted into points? Not to mention the citi double cash has a 3% foreign transaction fee and this blog is centered on redeeming points for international travel?

  11. If you accrue points on a no AF chase card without having a premium card then later get a premium card. Can you the convert to UR points? Or do you need a premium card first?

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