The best credit cards with annual fees under $100
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new card benefits and relevant changes.
Credit card users fall into three types. One group refuses to pay any annual card fees; another will pay more than $400 a year for a top-of-the-line card with all the perks and benefits that come with it. And then there those who want a mid-range card that offers strong value at a reasonable price. That’s why we came up with a list of the best low-fee credit cards that offer incredible value.
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The credit card industry knows this and has been intensifying its competition at price points just below $100 per year, with $95 and $99 emerging as magic numbers — with some even waiving that fee during the first year. Let’s take a look at just how much you can get for that magic price, broken down by categories.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best for earning Ultimate Rewards on travel and dining
- Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Best for business spending
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®: Best for American Airlines flyers
- Citi Premier℠ Card: Best for ThankYou Rewards points
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Best for Marriott stays
- United Explorer Card: Best for United flights
- The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express: Best for U.S. supermarkets and for frequent spenders
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Best for Southwest Airlines flyers working toward status
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, Citi Premier, Amex EveryDay Preferred has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Annual fee: $95
Why it’s worth it: You could argue that this is the card that really ignited the sub-$100 market segment when it started offering 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel. Chase Sapphire Preferred consistently makes any list of best travel credit cards, which is no surprise because you get great value out of Chase Ultimate Rewards points by transferring to any of 10 airline programs and three hotel programs. This card gives you 25% more value for the points you earn when you redeem them for travel in the Ultimate Rewards portal. There are no foreign transaction fees. A somewhat recent addition is 5x Ultimate Rewards points on Lyft.
Current bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on the card in the first three months of account opening.
Annual fee: $95
Why it’s worth it: This small-business card offers you 3x Ultimate Rewards points on up to $150,000 spent each account anniversary year in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. You earn 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere. Like the Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer rewards to 10 frequent flyer and three hotel programs and receive 25% more value when redeeming your points for travel in the Ultimate Rewards portal. This card comes with plenty of travel insurance and purchase protections, including a cellphone protection plan. There are no foreign transaction fees.
Current bonus: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Read the full card review.
Annual fee: $99
Why it’s worth it: This card instantly offers you many of the perks of elite status on American Airlines. You get preferred boarding and a free checked bag for yourself and up to four companions on the same itinerary. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, dining and gas stations. The card offers a 25% discount on inflight purchases and an annual $125 American Airlines flight discount after spending $20,000 or more during your card membership year and renewing your card. You pay no foreign transaction fees.
Current bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
Annual fee: $95
Why it’s worth it: Citi’s mid-range travel rewards card offers 3x points on travel (including gas, airfare, hotels, car rental agencies, public transportation, tolls, parking and more). It uses expansive criteria for awarding these bonuses. You also earn 2x rewards for dining and entertainment purchases, and you can transfer ThankYou points to 15 airlines plus the Sears Shop Your Way rewards program. Your points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for airfare at thankyou.com. If you don’t have enough points to cover all of your airfare, use a combination of points and your Citi Premier card. As with many of its competitors, there are no foreign transaction fees.
Upcoming changes: On Aug. 23, 2020, the Citi Premier rewards structure is changing to 3x points on air travel, hotels, gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants (including takeout). You’ll no longer earn 3x points on other travel such as cruises, tolls and parking, or 2x points on entertainment. Come Aug. 23, 2020, cardholders will also receive a once-per-calendar-year perk: a $100 credit on any hotel stay costing $500 or more booked through t
Current bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 with the card within the first three months of account opening
Annual fee: $95
Why it’s worth it: This card comes automatic Silver Elite status, 15 elite-qualifying nights each year and a free-night certificate on each account anniversary that’s valid at any Marriott property costing 35,000 points or less. You’ll earn 6 Marriott points per dollar spent at participating Marriott properties, and 2 points spent everywhere else. Marriott points are easy to redeem for both hotel awards and transfers to airline partners. Plus, when you redeem four free nights at a Marriott property, you get a fifth night free.
Current bonus: Limited time offer- Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
Annual fee: $0 the first year, then $95
Why it’s worth it: This airline card makes flying without elite status somewhat tolerable. You get priority boarding privileges, two one-time United Club passes per year and a free checked bag for you and one traveling companion (but only when you use your card to buy your ticket). Better yet, an exclusive benefit allows you to use your miles to book an award on any unsold seat, albeit at the standard award level. In addition, cardholders receive greater access to economy-class award space, which can be a huge plus.
The card offers 2x miles on dining and hotels (in addition to the standard 2x on United purchases), a Global Entry/TSA application fee credit of up to $100, and 25% off inflight purchases. You won’t pay foreign transaction fees. And it comes with travel protections including trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement and auto rental collision damage waiver.
Current bonus: 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
Annual fee: $95
Why it’s worth it: Earn 3x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 spent annually; then 1x); 2x points at U.S. gas stations, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. Those bonus categories are already respectable, but if you make at least 30 transactions during your monthly billing cycle, you get a 50% points bonus, which allows you to earn 4.5x, 3x and 1.5x, respectively. Membership Rewards points can be transferred to 18 airline programs and three hotel programs. There’s a $95 annual fee and Amex imposes a 2.7% foreign transaction fee for this card. However, the card comes with travel accident insurance, car rental loss and damage insurance and roadside assistance.
Current welcome offer: 15,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $1,000 in your first three months
Read the full card review.
Annual fee: $149, but with an annual $75 Southwest credit, it drops to $74.
Why it’s worth it: The Priority card helps you earn status by giving you 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) for every $10,000 you spend on your card (up to $100,000 per year). It comes with the $75 annual travel credit, 7,500 anniversary points, as well as 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. You also get four upgraded boardings a year and you don’t pay foreign transaction fees.
Current bonus: 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening.
Why annual fees aren’t a bad thing
Without a doubt, it is important to evaluate whether a credit card with an annual fee makes sense. Many credit cards — including those on this list — have an annual fee, but the money-saving perks and associated value often offsets what you have to pay each year. First, each of these cards has a generous welcome bonus. Second, all of these cards also earn points that can be redeemed for valuable travel or non-travel rewards.
For instance, although the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee, the card earns 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Those 60,000 points can be redeemed for travel directly with Chase, at a value of $750. Or they can be transferred to one of Chase’s travel partners like United Airlines, Hyatt, and more.
Then, let’s say you spend $5,000 on the card throughout the rest of the year. Of that $5,000, half is spent on dining and travel, while the rest is on non-bonus spending. Since dining and travel earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points and the rest 1x points, you’d earn another 7,500 points in total. If you were to use those 7,500 points on the Chase travel portal again, the value is about $94, essentially the cost of the annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Preferred. These assumptions don’t include the potential value of transferring points to Chase’s airline and hotel travel partners. TPG actually values Chase Ultimate Rewards at 2 cents per point.
Although this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the credit cards with a low annual fee, these are our favorites and some of the best in the market. By picking up one of these cards and maximizing their respective bonus categories (and welcome offers), you’ll be well on your way to redeeming points toward your next travel adventure. Sometimes, it pays to have a card with a small annual fee, whether this is moving up from a no-annual-fee card or pairing it with a premium rewards card.
Related travel and rewards card categories:
- Best travel credit cards
- Best airline credit cards
- Best hotel credit cards
- The 7 best starter travel credit cards
- Best cards with no foreign transaction fees
- Cash back vs. points and miles credit cards: The pros and cons of each
Additional reporting by Chris Dong.
Feature photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.
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