No Annual Fee Cards 101
A no annual fee card doesn’t charge ongoing yearly fees, which will save you anywhere from $100 or less each year, up to $1,450 depending on the card.
While that seems like an unbeatable bonus, the decision to use a no annual fee card depends on how you’ll use your credit card each day, because they’re often lower in features and perks.
What’s the difference between a credit card with or without an annual fee?
Annual fees are charged by credit card providers to cover their costs, which is why a card with no annual fee may not include all the same bells and whistles.
Many no annual fee cards don’t offer rewards, frequent flyer points or discounts with partnering businesses, which might negate the savings on the annual fee.
That said, it’s worth comparing no annual fee cards because some offer an introductory fee-free period with all the rewards of a regular card, which might suit you if you’re looking at trialling a card, earning quick bonus points, or wanting to increase your credit score.
Or, you might just be looking for a simple card that’s as close to a free credit card as you can get.
What are the benefits of a no annual fee card?
- Pay zero in annual fees to have the card, potentially saving hundreds of dollars.
- No annual fee cards can still offer limited perks, like frequent flyer points and rewards per dollar spent.
- Can be a great way to pay down debt by doing a zero-fee balance transfer and saving on the annual fee.
What are the cons of no annual fee cards?
- No annual fee cards may not earn rewards points, or at least earn less points than cards with an annual fee. Typically, the higher the annual fee, the better the rewards and extras.
- The no annual fee period may only be a limited time ($0 annual fee for the first year, for example).
- A higher purchase rate often applies on no annual fee cards, which is why it’s important to pay your balance each month in full if you really want to get bang for your buck with this type of card. Check the purchase rate in our comparison guide, and particularly the balance transfer rate if you’re moving your debt from another card. Balance transfers on no annual fee cards often attract the higher cash advance rate once the introductory interest-free period is over.
Who suits a no annual fee card?
There’s no such thing as a free credit card, because there’s always the risk of paying interest on your balance if it’s not paid off in full each month.
But, if you’re diligent about repayments, a no annual fee credit card will cost you nothing to keep in your wallet, which can be a great option for the right person.
A no annual fee card is perfect for:
- First-time credit card holders as a way to build a credit score, without paying ongoing fees.
- Having as an emergency card or for infrequent use.
- Those who pay off their credit card each month in full, and don’t carry any balance over to the next month (so you’ll have no out-of-pocket expenses for your credit card).
- Anyone who is happy to casually earn rewards and frequent flyer points, or none at all..
- Those who track their credit card use and switch to a new provider when the annual fee is about to kick in, if it’s an introductory offer.
When another card might be a better option:
- If you’re a frequent traveller looking for points, consider a credit card with a great rewards program that may work out better for your pocket. in the long run in terms of perks, particularly if you’re after frequent flyer points.
- If you regularly pay interest on your balance, a low interest rate credit card might be a better fit, since no annual fee cards often have a higher purchase rate.
Comparing cards for the best no annual fee deal
When you’re using our comparison guide, you’ll find some cards waive the annual fee for life, while others have conditions applied. You’ll see the details alongside each credit card to make it easy for you to compare.
When comparing, look for factors like:
Annual fee: is it free for life or just for a limited time? (A limited time annual fee waiver can still be a good option if you cancel the card before the offer ends).
Balance transfer: what’s the purchase rate (the interest charged) if you’re transferring a balance from one credit card to a no annual fee card? Some cards don’t allow interest free periods on a balance transfer.
Interest free days: some no annual fee cards don’t offer interest free periods.
Purchase rate: it’s not uncommon for no annual fee cards to have a slightly higher purchase rate, or apply the cash advance rate after an interest free period. If you plan to pay off your card in full each month, the purchase rate isn’t as important overall.
Rewards earn: some cards still offer rewards on your spending, but check if the no annual fee waiver may be an introductory offer only. You can also look for bonus offers that include annual fee waivers, like the Qantas American Express Discovery Card that offers uncapped Qantas points with a free-for-life no annual fee as a limited time offer.
Other benefits: does the card have any other helpful discounts, privileges or incentives?
Previous cardholder: some no annual fee cards are only available to new customers.
All rates, fees and offers correct at the time of publication as of 22nd September 2021.
No Annual Fee Credit Cards - Frequently Asked Questions
No annual fee cards are simple credit cards that help lower ongoing costs. They’re a good choice if:
- You want to save money. A no annual fee card lowers the ongoing costs of keeping a credit card to zero (as long as you avoid interest as well).
- You want a basic card. No annual fee cards tend to have fewer extras on offer, which suits those looking for simplicity, or to build a credit score.
- You don’t use your card that often. With a no annual fee card, you can use it when you need it, without paying an ongoing fee for the privilege.
- You want a credit card for emergencies. A no annual fee card is there when you need it, helping you cover unexpected costs. And when you don’t need it, you’re not paying for it.
While some cards charge no annual fee for the life of the card, others provide no annual fee deals that expire after certain criteria are met.
Here are the two types of no annual fee offers to keep an eye out for:
No Annual Fee Introductory Offer
Most introductory offers waive the first years’ annual fee. Once the time period has ended, you’ll pay the standard card fee. This type of offer can provide a great way to trial a card as a new cardholder, or see how much you benefit from the rewards it offers.
You could then cancel the card before the introductory offer expires, or continue using it if the annual fee is affordable or outweighed by the card’s rewards program and benefits.
No Annual Fee After Meeting A Minimum Spend
With this type of card, you pay no annual fee as long as you spend a certain amount on the card each year. As long as you can afford to spend this amount – and you pay it off each month before it starts accruing interest – this can provide an easy way to make use of the card’s features while saving on ongoing fees.
Yes! Although they’re a more basic form of credit card, plenty of providers still offer bonuses like rewards points, cashback and gift cards. For example, the Coles No Annual Fee Mastercard gives $100 off your Coles shopping when you spend $1500 on eligible purchases within 60 days.
You’ll also find offers on balance transfers, low purchase rates, and free additional cardholders. Easy summaries of introductory offers can be found in our comparison guide alongside each card.
Comparing a no annual fee card to the benefits of a rewards card is a totally personal decision.
You can work it out by comparing the annual fee to the rewards earn rate to calculate which one would benefit you more over the course of a year. For example, the popular ANZ Rewards Platinum credit card charges $95 annual fee and earns 2 points per $1 up to $2000 per month, and 0.5 per $1 thereafter.
22,225 points will get you a $100 Woolworths gift card (although points can be spent on travel and merchandise at various rates), so you’d need to spend around $926 per month on your card to outweigh your annual fee with a gift card redemption.
Typically, the higher the annual fee, the better the rewards, so you’ll need to run some comparisons on rewards cards to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Plenty of no annual fee cards offer zero fees for a balance transfer, and an introductory 0% rate. Be aware that it’s common for balance transfers to have a high purchase rate or the cash advance rate applied after the waived period. If you can set up a plan to pay off your debt within the 0% timeframe, you’ll have paid no interest and no fees for the privilege of being debt-free.
Compare the options on the best Qantas and Frequent Flyer comparison guide and select the arrow to sort by annual fees. You’ll find most cards with great frequent flyer incentives also charge higher annual fees, but providers regularly offer bonuses or 12-month no annual fee offers.
The American Express Velocity Escape Credit Card and Qantas American Express Discovery Credit Card are solid performers who usually offer low or no annual fees and reasonable frequent flyer earn rates, and are worth checking out.
Also look for:
Bonus points offers: some cards offer big sign-up bonus points, although the annual fee waiver is most likely to be for the first 12 months, and can be quite high thereafter.
Points per dollar: a no or low annual fee card with frequent flyer points may have a lower earn rate, such as 0.75 points per dollar rather than 1 or 2.
Other benefits: many credit cards offer other bonuses like discounts on merchandise and entertainment, free travel insurance and perks on holidays and car hire. Sometimes the perks can outweigh the annual fee, so make sure you’re choosing a card that benefits your lifestyle.
No annual fee cards still attract the same penalties and fees as other credit cards, including:
Cash advance fees: you should always avoid withdrawing cash from your credit card because it attracts interest immediately, which will hurt your wallet more with the higher purchase rates attached to most no annual fee cards. Some cards charge up to 22% interest on cash advances, so it’s best to avoid the practice altogether.
Late payment penalties: if you’re late on your minimum payments, you’ll be charged a late fee as per standard credit card custom. You can avoid this by setting up automatic payments from your bank account. Many providers give you the option to autopay the full amount each month so you never have to pay interest.
Currency conversion fees: when you buy from an overseas merchant or you’re travelling internationally, your spending may include a foreign exchange fee, usually a percentage of the purchase amount. Some providers waive this fee, so check the card’s terms and conditions if you’re a frequent global spender.
Once you’ve found a card that suits you using our comparison guide, you can click through to the provider’s online application form and apply directly.
You’ll need to provide some details like identification, bank statements, and payslips, and meet certain eligibility criteria such as age and proof of residency.