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Best credit cards for the annual fee of September 2020

Sometimes choosing a credit card with an annual fee is worth it. CardRatings editors reveal the best credit cards with an annual fee including cash-back rewards cards, travel rewards cards, business cards and more.
Jennifer Doss, CardRatings Editor Last Updated, September 25, 2020

Our credit card articles, reviews and ratings maintain strict editorial integrity; however we may be compensated when you click on or are approved for offers (terms apply) from our partners. How we make money.

best rewards credit cards for the annual feeLet's be honest: no one likes paying the annual fee on a credit card. So quite often, when given a choice, people will pack their wallets with no-annual-fee credit cards and feel like they are ahead of the game. But are no-annual-fee credit cards always really the best choice? Don't be so quick to pass over cards that carry an annual fee. Not only are there ways you can offset the fee, you will find that the best credit cards with an annual fee from our partners are often also the cards that have the best perks and rewards programs.

LIST OF WINNERS

Taking into consideration the cost of the cards, the bonuses, ongoing rewards, travel perks, and ease of offsetting the fees, we've pulled together a list of what we think are the best credit cards for the annual fee. Keep in mind though, we're only featuring cards with moderate annual fees here. For the true cream-of-the crop, be sure to check out our top picks for the best premium credit cards.

BEST CASH-BACK REWARDS CREDIT CARDS FOR THE ANNUAL FEE

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This cash back card not only offers a generous rewards program, but it's actually easy to use. The rewards categories don't rotate, making them simple to keep track of and take best advantage of. An easily attainable welcome bonus of $250 (earned as a statement credit once you spend $1,000 with your card in the first three months of card membership) gets the ball rolling but the 6% cash back on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $6,000 annually) and on select U.S. streaming services builds your account in a hurry. American Express is a CardRatings advertiser.

The Bonus: Earn a $250 statement credit when you spend at least $1,000 in the first three months of card membership.

The Rewards: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then 1%) and on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations; and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $95

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? Using the card for just $1,000 in purchases in the first three months after it's issued can earn you a sweet bonus of $250 cash. Beyond the bonus, with a cash back rate of 6%, grocery shopping at U.S. supermarkets with your card will easily offset your annual fee. Even spending just $150 a month on groceries (well-below most household averages) will reward you with enough to offset the annual fee and then some - $108.

Credit Needed: Good/Excellent

PROS:

  • This card offers a whopping 6% cash back on all grocery purchases up to $6,000 per year. That works out to a maximum of $360 in cash back on groceries alone. You can also earn unlimited 3% cash back on transit and gas purchases at U.S. gas stations.
  • Global Assist Hotline. That is, you'll get concierge service, which can help you with issues like a lost passport or missing luggage.
  • You can receive up to two year extended warranties for purchases (as long as the purchases were made with this card).

CONS:

  • This is a great card with outstanding benefits for those who spend a lot; however, if you don't spend a lot at U.S. supermarkets you may have a difficult time offsetting the annual fee.
  • This isn't the best card to travel abroad with as it charges a fee on foreign transactions.

Read our full Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: For serious foodies this card can pay off in a big way. The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers an attractive and attainable welcome bonus offer of $300 (earned once spending $3,000 in the first three months of account membership) and a cash back rewards program that can build your account quickly, highlighted by 4% cash back on all dining out and entertainment purchases. Plus, there are no foreign transaction fees, meaning you can get rewarded for a night out on the town both near and far.

The Bonus: Enjoy a $300 cash bonus once you spend at least $3,000 in the first three months of card membership.

The Rewards: Earn 4% cash back on your dining out and entertainment purchases; 2% back on your grocery store purchases; and 1% on all your other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $95

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? Eat. It's that simple. Well, it's not quite that simple - but almost.

Since this card offers cash back for both dining out (4%) and groceries (2%), every time you make a food purchase, you are growing your rewards. For example, if you spend $400 a month on groceries ($4,800 a year) with your card, you would earn $96 in cash back. That alone offsets the annual fee, and it's not even taking into consideration the rewards you'll earn on eating out (including fast food, coffee shops, restaurants, take out, etc.), entertainment, and other everyday expenses. Say you have a dining out/entertainment budget of $200 a month. That's another $96 cash back a year.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Complimentary concierge service. You'll get personal assistance in dining, entertainment and travel, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • It's always nice to get a welcome bonus: Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
  • We also like the benefits that we often forget come with some credit cards, such as an extended warranty and travel accident insurance.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Annual fee is waived the first year.

CONS:

  • The rewards earned with the card are quite high for certain purchases, however if you are not someone who frequently eats out there are cards with higher rewards earning on grocery purchases and other categories.
  • You have to have excellent credit for this card, which may be a bummer for people with not so stellar credit.

Read our full Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This is a cash-back card for those thinking they probably aren't eligible for one. The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is available to people with average/fair/limited credit, which is rare for a good cash-back card. It offers a rewards system with just one tier (1.5% cash back on every purchase) which makes earning cash back super easy.

The Bonus: There is no traditional bonus offered with this card, however, you can get access to a higher line of credit in as little as six months, which is a nice perk for those working on their credit.

The Rewards: Earn 1.5 % cash back on every purchase, every day.

The Annual Fee: $39

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? With the annual fee a modest $39, it doesn't take much spending to offset. In fact, at a cash back rate of 1.5%, using the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card for just $250 in spending a month will earn $45 in cash back. Considering the fact that this card is designed for people with lower credit, $39 is a small sacrifice to pay in the road towards a better credit score - especially when it can so easily be offset by making just $3,000 in purchases a year.

Credit Needed: Average, Fair, Limited

PROS:

  • You can feel particularly good about making expensive purchases on things that might break. You'll receive extended warranty protection which doubles the time of the original U.S. manufacturer's warranty (up to one year) on eligible warranties of three years or less.
  • The card comes with some helpful travel protection benefits such as travel accident insurance, roadside assistance, and auto rental collision damage waiver.
  • Many rewards cards require excellent credit, but you could qualify for this card even if your credit isn't perfect, and enjoy some great rewards for a relatively low annual fee.

CONS:

  • The rewards offered with this card are good for someone with a lower credit score, but if you have very good or excellent credit, you'll likely want to consider another option.
  • There is no welcome bonus to entice new cardholders.

Read our full Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

BEST TRAVEL REWARDS CREDIT CARDS FOR THE ANNUAL FEE

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: A healthy welcome bonus combined with an enticing rewards program make the annual fee merely a blip on your fiscal radar screen. This card earns users 2X miles on every purchase made, making it a cinch to offset the annual fee, and in addition, cardholders are eligible for a reimbursement for a Global Entry or TSA Pre✔™ application fee, a perk alone that's worth up to $100.

The Bonus: Enjoy 100,000 miles (worth $1,000) after you spend $20,000 in the first 12 months or earn 50,000 miles (worth $500) after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. Rewards can be redeemed for a variety of travel expenses such as hotel accommodations, auto rentals and airfare, or turned into cash and merchandise credit if you don't intend to travel anytime soon.

The Rewards: Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent with the card.

The Annual Fee: $95

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? The reimbursement for a Global Entry or TSA Pre✔™ application fee immediately covers the annual fee for one year, and the 100,000 mile welcome bonus, worth $1,000 through the Capital One Rewards program, by itself covers several years of annual fees. Bonuses aside, the rewards program makes it easy to quickly cover the cost of the annual fee. At 2X miles earned on every purchase made you'll rack up enough miles to offset the fee in no time if you're using your card frequently.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • There is a lot of flexibility with their travel program, which these days, you need: no blackout dates or restrictions for redemption.
  • You can fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime, and transfer miles to several leading travel loyalty programs.
  • No foreign transaction fee.

CONS:

  • Earning 2X miles on every purchase is certainly easy to understand, however there are alternative travel rewards cards on the market that have higher points earning potential.
  • The current partner airlines with the Venture® card are not the most common or frequently used for rewards travel so transferring points may not provide as much value as other card programs.

Read our full Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: If Marriott Bonvoy properties are your hotels of choice when you travel, this card is well worth the annual fee. For starters, card membership grants you automatic Silver Elite Status in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program which earns you 10% bonus points on all Marriott Bonvoy property purchases, priority late checkout, mobile check-in and a dedicated reservation line, and more. One of the best benefits of this card though is the Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) you receive every year on the anniversary of your membership.

The Bonus: For a limited time, earn 100,000 bonus points when you spend at least $3,000 in the first three months of card membership.

The Rewards: Earn 6x points for every dollar spent at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels and 2x points for every dollar spent on all other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $95

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card takes care of offsetting the annual fee in a clean, simple fashion. Each year, on the anniversary of your card membership, you receive a free one-night stay (valued up to 35,000 points) at any of more than 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy properties. As for the annual fee for the first year, you can easily offset that with the limited time welcome bonus of 100,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months after the card is issued.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Once you redeem your points for hotel rooms, you have a lot of places you can stay - over 7,000 Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton locations, as well as Starwood-branded hotels around the world. That includes Four Points by Sheraton, Sheraton hotels, W Hotels and Westin hotels.
  • Trip interruption insurance (up to $500 per ticket).
  • No foreign transaction fees.

CONS:

  • It kind of goes without saying, but if your preference hotel is outside the Bonvoy group, you'd probably be better off with a different card.
  • If your primary travel concern is saving money on hotel stays, this is a good card. However, if you want to earn bonus rewards on all travel purchases such as flights or car rentals, you might be better off with a more general travel rewards card.

Read our full Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: For frequent flyers who make American Airlines their carrier of choice, this card offers the types of perks that make air travel much more pleasant. One free checked bag on domestic American Airlines flights, for you and up to four travelling companions on the same reservation, is a fiscal benefit everyone will appreciate. And if you fly often you're sure to also love the benefit of preferred boarding on flights, allowing you to get to your seats easily and have first shot at the precious overhead storage compartments. Add to that a 25% discount on all inflight food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights and the annual fee (waived for the first year) will feel like nothing compared to the value of these perks. Plus, those who spend at least $20,000 on American Airlines expenses on their card can earn a $125 American Airline flight discount when they renew their card. Citi is a CardRatings advertiser.

The Bonus: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles when you spend at least $2,500 in the first three months of card membership.

The Rewards: Earn two AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants and on eligible American Airlines purchases. You can redeem your miles for flights with American Airlines and American Eagle as well as with OneWorld partners such as British Airways, Japan Airlines, Qantas, airberlin and several others, or you can upgrade your ticket to the next cabin. But you have other redemption options, too. AAdvantage® miles can also be redeemed for hotel rooms, rental cars, or to book a vacation through American Airlines Vacations.

The Annual Fee: $99, waived for first 12 months

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? For devotees of American Airlines, the annual fee can be offset easily in several ways, starting with the free checked bag for you and four traveling companions on the same reservation. Most airlines charge $30-$50 per checked bag, so on just one round-trip flight, this perk could save you as much as $500. Plus, if you spend more than $20,000 in a card membership year and renew your card, you earn a $125 American Airline flight discount, which is more than enough to offset the cost of the card.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • Your first checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation.
  • This card gives you preferred boarding on flights and 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights.
  • You don't have to use your miles for trips. You can redeem them for magazines, newspapers, gift cards and identify theft protection – or donate your miles to a charity.
  • The annual fee is waived the first year.

CONS:

  • If you're looking for a travel card with a lot of flashy perks, like access to an airport lounge, this isn't it.
  • While your miles can be redeemed for a lot of things, such as gift cards and vacation packages, you can't redeem them for cash.

Read our full Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® review.

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: If rewards points, flexibility and comfort when you travel make you smile, this card will have you grinning ear-to-ear.

To start, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card automatically gives you Gold Status in the Hilton Honors program, which offers an 80% bonus on qualifying base points earned, plus your 5th standard night free when booking a reward stay of five or more consecutive nights. This card also gives you 10 free airport lounge visits each calendar year after a one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select. There is no fee for foreign transactions, a very nice perk for international travelers, and we can't not mention the eye-popping welcome bonus of 130,000 points (earned after spending just $2,000 in the first three months of card membership). Additionally, you'll earn an impressive 12X bonus points on eligible purchases made directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio; 6X points on eligible purchases made at at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3X points on all other eligible purchases. For so many great perks, it's almost surprising that the annual fee isn't higher.

The Bonus: Earn a whopping 130,000 bonus points after spending just $2,000 in the first three months after the card is issued.

The Rewards: Earn 12X bonus points on eligible purchases made directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio; 6X points on eligible purchases made at at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3X points on all other eligible purchases.

The Annual Fee: $95

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? Automatic gold status, a huge welcome offer, a ton of points earned across various categories, a free weekend night reward after spending $15,000 in a calendar year, free airport lounge visits, and more easily help to offset the comparatively low cost of this travel rewards card.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • Feel free to comfortably travel abroad with this card. It does not charge foreign transaction fees.
  • We've mentioned it before but it's such a big deal, we'll say it once again: you can earn 130,000 points as a welcome offer!
  • If a store refuses to take a return, and you can return stuff for any reason, purchase protection may provide a refund of up to $300 per item with a total limit of $1,000 per calendar year.
  • Usually, we don't get that excited about extended warranties. Who does? But this card offers an extended warranty that matches the existing warranty up to one additional year, if the item has a manufacturer's warranty of five years or less.

CONS:

  • If you don't often stay at a lot of Hilton properties, there's not a big reason to get this card.
  • Hilton Honors points can also be redeemed for perks other than free hotel stays including purchases on Amazon.com; car rentals and rental upgrades; and special experiences such as private concerts, luxury weekends and VIP access to special events; however, you'll likely get the most out of your points using them for free hotel stays, so again, this card is really best for those who often stay at Hilton properties.

Read our full Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card is good for so much more than just travel thanks to bonus rewards earned in popular everyday categories in addition to 3X Membership Rewards® points earned on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

The Bonus: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within your first three months as a cardholder.

The Rewards: You'll earn four times the Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases at supermarkets, then one point per $1). Earn three times the Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com; and one point per $1 on your other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $250

How do you Offset the Annual Fee?: Receive up to $100 in statement credits annually to cover incidental airline charges, like baggage fees, with a pre-selected airline. This alone gets you almost halfway there. You can also take advantage of up to $10 total monthly in statement credits when you use your card to pay for purchases at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required). This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Plus, there's the generous welcome bonus, and with strong ongoing rewards, if you use this card regularly you'll easily earn enough to offset the cost of the card. 

Credit Needed:  Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • This card gives you the flexibility to earn rewards with any airline, so you aren't restricted to earning bonus rewards with just one.
  • Enjoy up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • This card does not charge foreign transaction fees so it's a good one to travel abroad with.

CONS:

  • This is a charge card so you’ll be expected to pay your balance in full each billing cycle.
  • If you don't fly often, you might be better off with a card that rewards gas purchases or hotel stays instead of airline expenses.

Read our full American Express® Gold Card review.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: For those who travel for business or pleasure and enjoy dining out, the benefits offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card far outweigh the annual fee of $95. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a strong welcome bonus of 80,000 points, worth up to $1,000 in travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program, when you spend at least $4,000 in the first three months after the card is issued. Add to that perks such as no foreign transaction fees, auto rental collision damage waiver, trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance and zero liability protection.

The Bonus: Earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. That's worth $1,000 in travel.

The Rewards: Earn two points for every dollar spent on travel related expenses and dining out, and one point for every dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus earn five points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's three points in addition to the two points you already earn on travel.

The Annual Fee: $95

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? The welcome bonus easily covers the annual fee, but even if you don't achieve the bonus, you can easily cover the $95 annual fee if you are someone who travels or dines out often. For example, spending $6,000 a year on dining out and travel ($500 a month) would net you 12,000 points. That alone would be worth $150 when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

The information related to this credit card has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

PROS:

  • We really like the travel perks, such as no foreign transaction fees and trip cancellation and interruption insurance.
  • It isn't just that there are high reward rates, but there are no blackout dates, restrictions or expiration dates on rewards.
  • The points earned with this card are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal, meaning the bonus alone is worth $1,000 in travel.

CONS:

  • No introductory 0% APR balance transfer or purchase offer.
  • If you are not a frequent traveler there are other cards on the market with higher points earning potential.

Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Yes, the annual fee is steep, but hear us out: there are a ton of benefits offered with this card that more than offset this. Plus, points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, and if you have any other Chase-Ultimate-Rewards®-earning cards, those points can be pooled under your Reserve® account, and therefore be worth 50% more as well. So in short, there's some serious reward potential offered with this card.

The Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, worth $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The Rewards: Earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning a $300 travel credit, 3X points on dining at restaurants, and 1X point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $550

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? The $300 travel credit this card offers, access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollement in Priority Pass™ Select, up to a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔™, and one year complimentary Lyft Pink access (a $199 minimum value) more than offset the annual fee with ease. And that's not even taking the welcome bonus or 50% more value on points into consideration.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • There are so many. One of the biggest though is the fact that points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.
  • Enjoy a $300 travel credit, no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, car rental insurance, and so many other valuable travel perks.
  • Lounge access and Global Entry or TSA Pre✔™ application reimbursement are huge, money-saving benefits.

CONS:

  • Of course, the annual fee. This card is designed with travelers in mind, so if you don't travel enough to use the numerous perks this card offers, you may have trouble offsetting its cost.
  • There is a $75 fee for authorized users, so if you plan to add additional users to your account, this is something to keep in mind.

Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve® review.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card offers a variety of perks and bonuses that quickly turn the $95 annual fee into an afterthought. What truly sets it apart is that Bank of America will basically pay you to carry this card thanks to up to $100 in statement credit each year to cover your incidental airline fees (plus, you can receive up to $100 to cover your Global Entry or TSA Pre✔™ application fee). And while the rewards program itself is modest, it gets a significant boost of 25% - 75% if you are a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member and maintain a certain balance in your account.

The Bonus: 50,000 points (worth $500) once you spend $3,000 in the first three months after the card is issued.

The Rewards: You get 2X points for every dollar spent on travel related expenses and on dining out, and 1.5X points per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, if you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase.

The Annual Fee: $95

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? Without even considering the welcome bonus or the rewards you can accumulate, you can offset the annual fee automatically with the statement credit of up to $100 each year to cover incidental airline fees.

Even if don't fly in a given year, you can easily cover the annual fee through normal purchases made outside of the travel/dining out categories if you use the card to make just $8,000 worth of purchases in a year (just short of $700 a month), at 1.5 point per dollar, you would earn at least 12,000 points, worth $120 through the Bank of America Premium Rewards program.

Credit Needed:Excellent/Good

PROS:

  • Enoy an Airline Incidental Statement Credit, which provides a credit of up to $100 each year for expenses such as lounge access, in-flight services, seat upgrades and baggage fees. You'll also get an Airport Security Statement Credit once every four years. This credit covers up to $100 of the cost of TSA Pre✔™ or Global Entry membership.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client, you can get a 25%-75% rewards bonus on every purchase.

CONS:

  • This is not an effective rewards credit card for homebodies. You need to travel or eat out a lot to really get a lot of utility out of it.
  • It's also not as good for a card for people who bank somewhere other than Bank of America. Not that it's bad, but you'll get the best bang for your buck if you are a BofA customer.

Read our full Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card review.

BEST SMALL BUSINESS CREDIT CARDS FOR THE ANNUAL FEE

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: It would be easy just to begin and end with the eye-popping 100,000 points this card offers as a welcome bonus (earned once spending $15,000 in the first three months of card membership), but the card also offers a plethora of perks that matter to people in charge of a business's operations and bottom line. These benefits include no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, auto rental collision damage waiver, cell phone insurance for the primary cardholder and employee phones on the same account, and employee cards at no additional cost.

The Bonus: Enjoy 100,000 bonus points, worth $1,250 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, when you spend at least $5,000 in the first three months after the card is issued.

The Rewards: Earn three points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year, and one point per dollar on all other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $95

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? The whopping welcome bonus of 100,000 points, with a value of $1,250 when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program, certainly offsets the annual fee for several years, and then some. Beyond that, it would take just modest spending to cover the annual fee each year. For example, just $3,000 in spending on travel, shipping or social media/search engine advertising would net a redemption value of $112 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This doesn't even take into consideration money that can be saved by the waiving of foreign transaction fees, auto rental collision insurance, cell phone insurance, etc.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • We really like the cell phone insurance for the primary cardholder and employee phones on the same account.
  • With the state of travel these days, you'll likely appreciate the trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance and trip delay reimbursement.
  • This is a business credit card that gets that it's a business credit card: Employee cards can be distributed at no additional cost with the option to set individual spending limits, helping you to earn rewards even faster and keep track of your business' spending.

CONS:

  • If the bonus cash-back categories don't really fit your business needs, or you spend above the $150k threshold annually, you may want to look elsewhere for maximum cash back.
  • This isn't a credit card that you'd want to transfer a balance to. The balance transfer fee is 5%, and if transferring debt to a low interest card is your goal, you could likely find something better.

Read our full review of the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card rewards you in the two select categories where your business spends the most each month, so you can rest easy knowing you're getting the most of the rewards program with little effort on your part.

The Bonus: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.

The Rewards: Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points on the two select categories where your business spent the most each monthm and 1X point on other purchases. The 4X points rate applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these two categories each calendar year. Plus, get 25% points bcak after you use points for all or part of an eligible flight booked with Amex Travel, up to 250,000 points back per calendar year.

The Annual Fee: $295

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? If you travel often the 25% points back on eligible flights booked with Amex Travel feature is huge. This offer is good for up to 250,000 points back per calendar year. Depending on flight location and dates, this could be enough to pay for several flights, a value far exceeding the cost of the annual fee.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • This card doesn't charge any foreign transaction fees so it's good for international travel.
  • Enjoy a pay over time option: a flexible payment option with interest to help manage cash flow on purchases of $100 or more.
  • Earning four points in the categories where you spend most is huge. This gives you the opportunity for some serious point earning potential.

CONS:

  • As a charge card, balances must be paid in full each month, so this may not be the best card if you anticipate needing to carry a balance month to month.
  • There is a cap on the amount of bonus rewards you can earn. It's still pretty high, but if your business spends far more than $150,000 in certain categories each year, you might want to consider another option.

Read our full American Express® Business Gold Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Like all Hilton cards, The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card offers a plethora of perks and incentives to more than make up for the annual fee charged. To start, cardholders can enjoy 10 complimentary airport lounge visits each year once enrolled in Priority Pass Select™, making your airport experience just a little more comfortable. You also get complimentary Gold elite status which earns you an 80% bonus on base points earned through the Hilton Honors rewards program. And then there's the enormous welcome offer of 130,000 bonus points, earned by spending just $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. Enticed? Read on to learn more.

The Bonus: Earn 130,000 bonus points once you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card membership.

The Rewards: Earn 12X point per $1 spent at participating Hilton properties; 6X points on select business and travel purchases; and 3X points per $1 on all other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $95

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? Where to begin? The 10 complimentary airport lounge visits each year through Priority Pass Select™ more than offsets the $95 annual fee. The same is true of the welcome bonus of 130,000 points. You can also earn a free night stay if you spend just $15,000 on your card in a card member year and a second night free if you spend $45,000 in a card member year, which again, is more than enough to offset the small expense associated with this card.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • We are always happy to see credit cards without a foreign transaction fee.
  • The free expense management tools are also a nice touch. You can track employees card spending habits, connect your account to QuickBooks, receive a year-end account summary, and even choose a designated account manager, such as your assistant, to handle the business decisions associated with card.
  • We also like the account alerts function. If you want to know when an employee has bought something or when you're near your spending limit, your card will tell you.

CONS:

  • This isn't a card meant for balance transfers. Sure, you can transfer a balance to this card, but you'll pay $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • If you aren't a Hilton loyalist and always staying at the Hilton, this card really isn't for you.

Read our full The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card review.

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The great thing about this card is that it keeps the cash back rewards program as simple as possible for you. This limits the time you or your team need to spend keeping track of your rewards. This card offers 2% cash back on all purchases with no limit and no expiration. There's also a decent welcome bonus, as well as no foreign transaction fees, travel emergency assistance services, free additional cards for employees and rental car collision insurance.

The Bonus: Earn a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within three months from account opening.

The Rewards: Unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases.

The Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? When you don't have to worry about categories, it's easy to see your account build with every purchase, and it doesn't take long each year to offset the annual fee. Just $5,000 in spending will reap a cash-back reward of $100. And to get the ball rolling, Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business waives the annual fee for the first year, while also offering a nice welcome bonus.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Your CFO or accountant is sure to love this: Quarterly and year-end summaries featuring an itemized report of your spending to help simplify planning and budgeting.
  • Your accountant will love this, too: Purchase security and extended warranty protection.
  • And you'll love this if you ever have a fender-bender in a rental car: auto rental collision damage coverage.
  • Annual fee is waived the first year.

CONS:

  • While it's a very good rewards card, you may find other cards you like better if there are certain categories - like shipping or advertising - that you spent a fortune on and would like to spend less on them.
  • Those who spend less than $1,000 monthly may be better off with a card without an annual fee.

Read our full Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business review.

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Simplicity and flexibility are the key words when it comes to this card. The rewards program is blissfully simple. You earn two miles for every dollar you spend on all purchases. No limits. Redeeming those rewards offers refreshing flexibility. Your miles don't expire for the life of the account and there are no blackout dates, airline restrictions or seat restrictions to worry about. You can either log into your account and make your travel purchases (airline tickets, car rentals, etc.) using your accumulated miles or you can also be reimbursed for previously made travel purchases by using the "Purchase Eraser" feature. Just log into your account, choose the "Purchase Eraser" feature and you can use your miles against the amount you spent on your qualifying purchase and be reimbursed the cash value as a statement credit. You can even erase just a portion of a purchase if you want. Furthermore, you can transfer your miles to one of more than 10 travel loyalty programs.

The Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,500 in the first three months of opening an account.

The Rewards: Earn two miles for every $1 spent on all purchases, with no limit on the amount you can earn. You'll also earn five miles per $1 spent on car rentals and hotel bookings through Capital One TravelSM.

The Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business doesn't carry all of the bells and whistles of some other cards, but its straightforward rewards program makes offsetting the annual fee simple. The annual fee is waived for the first year, and, if you spend $4,500 in the first three months you have the card, you will start things off with 50,000 miles ($500 value). Beyond that, it takes just $4,750 in spending in everyday categories per year to earn 9,500 miles, with a value of $95, to offset the annual fee. Better still, you can receive up to a $100 credit for one Global Entry or TSA Pre✔™ application fee, which again is enough to offset the cost of the card.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • The accounting features are definitely helpful; you can download purchases to various platforms like Quicken, Quickbooks and Excel.
  • The travel and emergency services are helpful, too. Did you lose somehow your airline ticket? Your credit card can help with getting it quickly replaced.
  • Are you weary at the idea of managing all of your employees' credit cards? Then don't. You can make one of your employees an account manager - and that employee can review employee transactions and talk to customer service to resolve any issues.

CONS:

  • The rewards program may be too simple. Some business owners would rather have a more robust rewards program, even if you do have to deal with things like rotating categories.
  • Those who spend less than $1,000 monthly may be better off with a card without an annual fee.

Read our full Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business review.

U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Business Travel Rewards

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Business Travel Rewards does the thinking for you when it comes to getting the most reward points possible. U.S. Bank keeps track of your spending at gas stations, grocery stores and airlines and whichever category you spend the most in during each billing cycle, you get 2X points for each dollar spent in that category. You get 1X points on all other purchases. The most unique feature the card offers to businesses though is card fee reimbursement. If you spend $24,000 in net purchases annually, your $55 annual fee (plus $10 fee for each employee card) gets credited back to your account.

The Bonus: Enjoy 25,000 enrollment FlexPoints worth $375 on airfare, hotel stays, car rentals and more. Just spend $2,000 in eligible net purchases on your card within the first four months of account opening.

The Rewards: Earn 2X FlexPoints for each dollar spent at gas stations, grocery stores or airlines - whichever you spend the most on each monthly billing cycle– and at most cell phone service providers; 2X FlexPoints for your charitable donations; and 1X FlexPoints for each dollar spent on all other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $0* Intro for first year; $55* thereafter

How do you Offset the Annual Fee? If your company spends more than $24,000 on its U.S. Bank FlexPerks Business Travel Rewards account per year, you will have your $55 annual fee and any $10 additional employee card fees reimbursed to your account. However, it doesn't take quite that much to offset this modest expense. Spend just $2,800 in one category (gas stations, grocery stores, airlines, or select cell phone services) and you'll earn enough rewards to offset this.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • Return to your childhood for several hours and get a flight allowance. On round trip air travel award tickets (that is, flights that you've earned through redeeming points), you'll receive $25 to go toward baggage fees or in-flight food and drinks.
  • Renting a car on a trip? The card gives you an auto rental collision damage waiver.
  • Spend $24,000 every year, and you'll get a credit that wipes out the annual fee and the $10 per employee that you'll shell out for extra credit cards.

CONS:

  • As with many of these bank branded credit cards, if you don't quickly become a U.S. Bank customer, you won't get the full benefits of the card. For instance, cash back is redeemed in the form of a statement credit or a deposit made to your U.S. Bank savings or checking account.
  • Employee cards aren't fee, but you could get reimbursed for the cost of employee cards with proper spend.

Read our full U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Business Travel Rewards review.

WHAT IS THE BEST ANNUAL FEE CREDIT CARD?

If you want to earn rewards on every purchase you make, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a clear winner. This card offers a number of valuable perks, a ton of flexibility and a generous welcome bonus. It earns two miles on every purchase made, and there are a number of convenient redemption offers, including the ability to transfer miles to several leading travel loyalty programs. If you don't want to think about how, when, or where you earn rewards, this is a hard card to beat.

You may spend heavily in certain categories though, or maybe you don't mind keeping up with rotating rewards. No two credit card users are the exact same, so it's not so easy to declare one winner overall. When it comes to deciding what the best credit card for the annual fee is, it's important to consider which rewards make the most sense for you and your spending habits, and evaluate whether or not you'll actually use your card and any added benefits it offers. If you're not utilizing a card's perks, it'll be hard to offset the annual fee. So don't choose a card just because the benefits sound great. Make sure they're perks you'll actually use.

WHAT IS A CREDIT CARD ANNUAL FEE?

A credit card annual fee is the fee charged by a credit card company simply for the privilege of membership. The amount varies broadly depending on the card. Some companies have no fee at all. Others will waive the fee for the first year as part of an introductory offer.

WHEN DO YOU PAY ANNUAL FEE ON CREDIT CARD?

For cards with an annual fee from the time it is issued, the fee is most often applied to your account during the first billing cycle. If the fee is waived for the first year, it will be applied to your account in the first billing cycle following your card member anniversary.

ARE CREDIT CARDS WITH ANNUAL FEES WORTH IT?

Evaluate the perks and bonuses of the card you are considering applying for and decide if you will be using the card often enough to take full advantage. If you expect to use the card frequently enough to reap the benefits, such as the welcome bonus, then the card is likely a good addition to your wallet. On the other hand, if you don't expect to use the card very often, the fee could quickly become a waste of your financial resources.


To see the rates and fees for the cards featured in this post, please visit the following links: American Express® Business Gold Card: See Rates and Fees; Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: See Rates and Fees; Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: See Rates and Fees; The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: See Rates and Fees; American Express® Gold Card: See Rates and Fees

Disclaimer: The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.

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