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Credit cards with annual fees may sound like paying a subscription fee to spend money. But credit cards with annual fees have one thing that many free credit cards don’t: Rewards. Whether its cash back, airline credits, hotel benefits or something else, credit cards that require an annual fee can come with big perks.
Still, the annual fees for many of the premium rewards credit cards can cost hundreds of dollars — so it’s extremely important to review your budget and spending habits before deciding to get one.
If, after you’ve done so, you’ve decided paying hundreds of dollars each year for a credit card is something that is too rich for your blood, you still have options. Here are a few alternative low-cost or no-cost rewards credit cards that will still get you big benefits.
1. Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card (which you can read our review of here) is a top option for frequent travelers. The card offers double points for purchases made for travel, dining, gas station and supermarket visits, with one point for everything else. Beyond that, as a signup bonus, new customers can earn 40,000 bonus points when they spend $4,000 in the first three months. And there’s also the opportunity to earn 5,000 bonus points when adding your first authorized user (and they make a purchase) within three months from opening your account.
The rewards you earn can be redeemed toward travel, including eligible airlines and hotel purchases. The card comes with built-in travel insurance, auto rental insurance and purchase protection benefits.
The card’s annual fee is waived the first year and then is $95 each year. However, if you travel frequently, you may be able to justify this expense. If you do, it’s important you make sure you can make your monthly payments on time and, ideally, in full each month. Otherwise, you’ll lose those benefits to interest charges, as the card comes with a variable APR of 16.24% to 23.24%, depending on your creditworthiness.
2. Capital One Venture Rewards
The Capital One Venture Rewards credit card (you can read our review here) is another travel-focused card with a low annual fee. Cardholders earn two miles for every dollar spent, no matter where you make a purchase. To get you going, new cardholders can earn 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months of having the card. Your rewards don’t expire and, once you want to redeem them, you make a travel purchase with your card and cash in on the rewards as a statement credit. So, if you’re constantly hopping a flight to explore a new destination, this may be a great option for you.
Just like with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the annual fee for this card is waived the first year. However, after that, the Capital One Venture Rewards card carries a $59 annual fee. There is a variable APR of 13.24%, 18.24% or 23.24% with this card, based on your creditworthiness.
3. Citi Double Cash Card
The Citi Double Cash card (which you can read our review of here) is a cash back credit card with absolutely no annual fee. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.) Cardholders earn 1% cash back on all purchases and an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases, as long as you make the minimum payment each time you get a statement.
Cash back can be redeemed in the form of account credits, checks or gift cards. In addition, cardholders get special access to event tickets and a number of purchase protection benefits.
Because of the 1% payment bonus, this card is especially beneficial for cardholders who pay off their balance in full each month. There’s a variable APR of 13.24% to 23.24%, based on creditworthiness, for standard purchases. There is an introductory 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months and, once that expires, the variable APR is the same as it is for purchases. (Note: Cash back does not count toward balance transfers.)
4. Discover it
The Discover it credit card (read our review here) is another rewards card with solid perks and no annual fee. Cardholders earn 5% cash back (up to the quarterly maximum of $1,500) on quarterly rotating purchase categories. And these aren’t places you won’t go either — for example, the last quarter of 2016, cardholders got 5% back on things like Amazon purchases and in the first quarter of 2017, the categories will include gas stations and wholesale clubs. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1% cash back.
To top it off, Discover is matching all cash back earned in the first year and is offering an introductory rate of 0% for 14 months on both purchases and balance transfers. After that expires, the variable APR is 11.24% to 23.24%, based on creditworthiness.
Cash back rewards can be redeemed for gift cards, charitable donations, account credits or bank deposits.
As you’re weighing your options, it’s not only important to consider what your budget will allot for, but also what cards you’re eligible for, based on your credit. Most reward credit cards require good or excellent credit, so it’s a good idea to know where yours stands before applying. You can see two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.
At publishing time, the Capital One Venture Rewards, Citi Double Cash and Discover it cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.