Why it’s best to get (and hold) a no-annual-fee bank card

Many shoppers begin constructing their credit score by opening bank cards that don’t cost annual charges. That is a cheap approach to begin constructing your credit score historical past and begin incomes rewards with out having to pay for an costly card 12 months after 12 months.

As time passes, some people could ditch that no-annual-fee card in favor of one other product with increased reward potential and extra advantages. However because the bank card market turns into ever extra aggressive, there are various causes to maintain a no-annual-fee card round.

First, many more recent no-annual-fee playing cards provide nice advantages and points-earning alternatives on par with premium playing cards. It may very well be value maintaining one round to up your on a regular basis earnings. Closing a bank card may also have unintended repercussions on future card functions, as every financial institution or issuer approves new bank card functions based on its personal unpublished guidelines.

Let’s take a look at the circumstances if you would possibly need to get and maintain on to a no-annual-fee card.

It is often simpler to qualify for a card with out an annual payment

Versus extra premium merchandise with annual charges that may price tons of of {dollars}, just like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or The Platinum Card® from American Specific, it’s typically simpler for first-time candidates or shoppers new to credit score to use and be permitted for a bank card with no annual payment.


Actually, many no-annual-fee playing cards are particularly made for folk with no, poor or recently-established credit score. No-annual-fee playing cards are additionally an effective way to get began with credit score and dip your toe into main rewards packages without having a superb credit score rating or committing to a excessive annual payment.

Construct your credit score historical past and enhance your rating

Carrying a bank card can assist you construct your credit score historical past and, thus, your general credit score rating. And by credit score rating, we’re speaking about your FICO rating, the measure by which most monetary establishments will decide a client’s creditworthiness.

5 essential components decide your FICO rating. The primary is fee historical past — mainly, whether or not you pay your payments on time and in full. This accounts for 35% of your general rating. Utilizing a bank card and paying it off each month can assist enhance this metric over time.

The issue with the second-most weight (30%) is credit score utilization, or the quantity of debt you place in your bank card in comparison with your general line of credit score. You usually improve your complete credit score line by opening a number of new playing cards.

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Conversely, in the event you shut a bank card account, you chop its credit score restrict out of your general line of credit score and thus increase your debt-to-credit ratio. This one purpose alone — maintaining your credit score restrict as excessive as attainable as a counterweight in opposition to your bank card use — might be vital sufficient in itself to maintain a no-annual-fee card open 12 months after 12 months.

Even if your credit score is high, errors on your report may still be impacting it. Image courtesy of scyther5 via Getty Images.

One other 15% of your general rating relies on the size of your credit score historical past. Which means maintaining a card open and in good standing for years, and even many years, will enhance this portion of your FICO components. Hanging onto an older bank card account can reduce the impact of opening new strains of credit score by performing as a stability to youthful accounts.

The ultimate 20% is cut up evenly between new credit score (which components any current strains of credit score opened into your rating) and the combo of credit score (which considers what sorts of debt you may have in your report — mortgages, automotive loans, scholar debt, bank cards and extra).

Getting a no-annual-fee card, utilizing it responsibly and maintaining it open can all positively influence main components in your credit score rating, making some of these playing cards a robust instrument for constructing, sustaining and enhancing your credit score in the long term.

It would not price you something

One of the crucial persuasive factors in favor of maintaining a bank card with no annual payment is that it would not price something to maintain in your pockets 12 months after 12 months. Simply be sure it is thought-about an energetic account by utilizing it for a small buy each couple of months. Not having to seek out methods to make use of a profit to offset a card’s annual payment makes it a lot simpler to justify maintaining it round.

Diversified incomes classes

Many premium rewards playing cards, and positively loads of the airline and lodge cobranded ones, provide comparable bonus-earning classes the place you may accrue a number of factors or miles per greenback on purchases like journey, airfare, resorts or eating.

Bank cards with no annual charges are geared towards extra basic spending and infrequently award bonus factors for on a regular basis purchases like groceries or gasoline. That is why it would make sense to carry onto a bank card with no annual payment, even when you’ve got a complimentary card with a payment from the identical issuer.

Top-of-the-line examples is combining the Chase Sapphire Most popular and the Chase Freedom Limitless to earn bonus factors on practically each buy.


You possibly can rack up Final Rewards factors shortly with the Chase Sapphire Most popular, due to its 2 factors per greenback bonus-earning on a variety of journey purchases and eating worldwide. It has a $95 annual payment, however can be providing new cardholders 60,000 bonus factors after you spend $4,000 within the first three months from account opening.

It is also an incredible alternative to make use of internationally because it waives international transaction charges.

The Chase Freedom Limitless, with no annual payment, earns a flat 1.5% money again (1.5 factors per greenback) (redeemable as money again at a charge of 1 cent apiece) on all purchases. So you need to use it for all the acquisition classes during which the Chase Sapphire Most popular doesn’t earn a bonus and nonetheless get a good charge of return.

When you have simply the Chase Freedom Limitless by itself, your factors can solely be redeemed for money again. However suppose you may have a card just like the Chase Sapphire Most popular (or the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Enterprise Most popular Credit score Card, for that matter) that earns full-fledged, transferable Final Rewards factors.

In that case, you may mix the factors you earn along with your Freedom card with these out of your different accounts, and so they turn out to be transferable, too.

Closing a card would possibly preclude you from different provides

Every financial institution or issuer has its personal set of difficult (typically unpublished) bank card utility guidelines. Not solely is that this complicated, but it surely additionally implies that closing a bank card may influence your future functions.


Some banks will limit you from making use of for an extra or new product based mostly on if you opened or shut down a earlier bank card account. Citi is the obvious instance. As an example, the appliance web page for the Citi Premier® Card (see charges and charges) states:

“Bonus ThankYou® Factors are usually not out there when you’ve got acquired a brand new account bonus for a Citi Premier account previously 48 months.”

So in the event you had the Citi Premier Card open inside the final 4 years you’d be ineligible for the Citi Premier’s sign-up bonus. That might be purpose sufficient to maintain the older card open, at the least till your utility for the brand new one is permitted.

One other notorious restriction is Chase’s 5/24 rule. Customers who’ve opened 5 or extra private bank cards within the previous 24 months will typically not be permitted for a brand new Chase card. The financial institution additionally appears to restrict the general variety of its playing cards for which sure individuals might be permitted.

Low or no introductory APR

One of many elementary guidelines for creditworthiness and a accountable rewards technique is paying off your stability in full each month. As talked about above, that is as a result of your debt-to-credit utilization ratio is a big a part of figuring out your credit score rating.

While you carry a stability, this will drag down your general credit score report. However life occurs, and typically, carrying a stability for a couple of months is inevitable. That is when no-annual-fee playing cards might be lifesavers.


Rather than flashy sign-up bonuses, many no-annual-fee playing cards provide new members 0% APR curiosity on new purchases and stability transfers for a set period of time (usually anyplace from 12 to 18 months).

Once more, this could solely be a final resort. You need to plan to repay your stability in full each month to keep away from being hit with late charges, excessive rates of interest and presumably damaging your credit score rating. But when carrying a stability is a part of your short-term technique, then a bank card with no annual payment (and a good introductory APR provide) is likely to be the most suitable choice.

Associated: Finest 0% APR bank cards

Nice no-annual-fee choices

Given how various {the marketplace} for rewards bank cards has turn out to be lately, it ought to come as no shock that even merchandise with no annual charges have raised their incomes potential and improved their advantages packages. Take a look at TPG’s information to the most effective no-annual-fee bank cards for a few of the high provides out there proper now.

Backside line

No-annual-fee rewards playing cards are glorious choices for folk who’re simply beginning out with credit score or searching for methods to enhance their general credit score rating. Maintaining these playing cards open 12 months after 12 months is an efficient technique to take care of that rating and doesn’t require critical dedication, because you pay nothing to maintain the cardboard every year.

The variety of nice decisions on the market additionally means that there’s possible a great match on your wants, it doesn’t matter what your spending habits and journey targets are. Earlier than making use of for any card, overview its phrases and circumstances and skim up on how one can maximize its advantages — particularly if it might aid you fill gaps in your present incomes technique.

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