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Best credit cards for the annual fee of December 2019

Last Updated, November 26, 2019

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best credit cards for the annual fee

Don't be so quick to write off cards that carry an annual fee. Not only are there ways you can offset the fee, you will find that the best cards with an annual fee from our partners are often also the cards that have the best perks and rewards programs.

Let'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 cards and feel like they are ahead of the game. But are no annual fee credit cards always really the best choice?

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 CREDIT CARDS FOR THE ANNUAL FEE

TRAVEL REWARDS CREDIT CARDS | CASH BACK CREDIT CARDS | BUSINESS CREDIT CARDS

TRAVEL REWARDS CREDIT CARDS

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Why is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card worth the annual fee? 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 signup bonus of 60,000 points, worth up to $750 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 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. That's worth $750 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.

The annual fee: $95

How do you offset the annual fee? The sign-up 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

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Why is Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card worth the annual fee? A healthy welcome bonus combined with an enticing rewards program make the annual fee (starting in the second year) 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 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 10X miles for every dollar spent when you book a hotel room on www.hotels.com/venture through Jan. 31, 2020, and 2X miles for every $1 spent on everything else.

The annual fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that

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 50,000 mile sign up bonus, worth $500 through the Capital One Rewards program, by itself covers five years of annual fees. Bonsues aside, the rewards program makes it easy to quickly cover the cost of the annual fee. As an example, booking a 7-night hotel stay on www.hotels.com/venture (through January 2020) at a cost of $150 a night ($1,050 total) would earn you 10,500 miles (10 miles per dollar). That's worth $105 through the Capital One Rewards program. Even if you're not booking hotel rooms often, at 2X miles earned on every purchase made (outside of hotels.com/venture bookings), you'll rack up enough miles to offset the fee in no time if you're using your card frequently.

Credit needed: Excellent, Good

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card

Why the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card is worth the annual fee? 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 sign-up 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

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

American Express is a CardRatings advertiser.

Why the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is worth the annual fee? 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 125,000 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. Terms apply.

The bonus: A whopping 125,000 bonus points after spending just $2,000 in the first three months after the card is issued. Terms apply.

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. Terms apply.

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. Terms apply.

Credit needed: Good, Excellent

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

Citi is a CardRatings advertiser.

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

Why the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® is worth the annual fee? 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.

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, Good

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

Why the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card is worth the annual fee? 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: Enjoy 75,000 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 the sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months after the card is issued.

Credit needed: Excellent, Good


CASH BACK CREDIT CARDS

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why is the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card worth the annual fee? 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: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that

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

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Why is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express worth the annual fee? 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% cashback on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $6,000) and on select U.S. streaming services builds your account in a hurry. Terms apply.

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

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. Terms apply.

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 will net 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. Terms apply.

Credit needed: Good, Excellent

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why is the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card worth the annual fee? 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 after making your first five monthly payments on time, 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


BUSINESS CREDIT CARDS

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Why is the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card worth the annual fee? It would be easy just to begin and end with the eye-popping 80,000 points this card offers as a welcome bonus (earned once spending $5,000 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 80,000 bonus points, worth $1,000 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 80,000 points, with a value of $1,000 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

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Why is the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business worth the annual fee? 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 hefty 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: Limited time offer: Earn up to $2,000 in cash bonuses. Earn a $500 cash bonus when you spend $5,000 in the first three months and earn $1,500 when you spend $50,000 in the first six months of opening an account.

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

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

Why is the Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business worth the annual fee? 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: Limited time offer: Earn up to 200,000 bonus miles. Earn 50,000 miles when you spend $5,000 in the first three months and earn 150,000 more miles when you spend $50,000 in the first six months of opening an account.

The rewards: Earn two miles for every dollar 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 hotels 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, for a limited time, if you spend $50,000 in the first three months you have the card, you will start things off with 200,000 miles ($2,000 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

U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Business Travel Rewards

Why is the U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Business Travel Rewards card worth the annual fee? 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.

U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Business Travel Rewards also offers a $25 Airline Allowance per round trip ticket that can be used for things such as checked baggage fees and inflight food and beverages.

The most unique feature the card offers to businesses 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

The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

Why is The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card card worth the annual fee? 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 125,000 bonus points, earned by spending just $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. Terms apply.

However, the perks of this card are not just financial. It offers several business tools to help with your accounting, 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 The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card. All extremely value perks for a busy business owner. Terms apply.

The bonus: Earn 125,000 bonus points once you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. Terms apply.

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. Terms apply.

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 125,000 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. Terms apply.

Credit needed: Good, Excellent


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 American Express cards featured in this post, please visit the following links: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: See Rates and Fees; The Hilton Honors American Express Business 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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