5 Best $0 the First Year Annual Fee Cards: Try Before You Buy

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The best cards — biggest bonuses, fastest earning, most valuable points — often come with big annual fees attached. For instance the annual fee on the Platinum Card by American Express bumped up to $550. It’s worth it, I carry the card, but it’s a decision.

Cards without perks like airport lounge access, but that still earn transferrable points, usually run about a hundred dollars a year. However, some cards waive the annual fee for the first year. So you can earn a signup bonus and try the card at no cost — see if you like it, know that you’re getting value out of it, before incurring a fee in year two (and if you’re not getting enough value out of the card, you can cancel before the fee hits).

In other words, you can try before you buy. Here are my favorite cards that have a $0 annual fee the first year with several whose offers have been recently updated.

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

    With a $0 annual fee the first year, then $95, I suggest that as the number on card to get started with in miles and points. Get Sapphire Reserve later, perhaps, the card’s annual fee makes this the one to get first.

    Points transfer to United, Hyatt, Southwest, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, JetBlue, Air France KLM, Marriott Rewards, IHG Rewards Club, and Ritz-Carlton. Probably the best all-around credit card, certainly for getting started in the hobby, and with a great signup bonus.

    The card earns two points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. The card has an introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95.

    best credit card bonus offers
    Transfer Points and Redeem for Singapore Airlines

    Since in general Chase doesn’t approve this card for folks who have signed up for 5 or more new card accounts in the past 24 months, it’s the first card you should apply for.

  2. Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN offers 50,000 Membership Rewards points after $5,000 spend on purchases with the card within your first 3 months of cardmembership. (Offer expired)

    American Express Points Transfer Directly to Etihad

  3. Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express (Offer expired.)

    You’ll earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

    In addition, your spending earns 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases.

    There are no foreign transaction fees with this card. It also provides a $100 airline fee credit — up to $100 per year in incidental fees like checked bag fees credited to your statement with the one eligible airline you choose.

    In addition you can get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, if available with The Hotel Collection.

    There’s a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $195.

  4. CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®: 70,000 mile initial bonus after spending $4,000 within the first 4 months of account opening. This card has a $0 annual fee the first year (then $95). [Offer expired]

    Cardmembers receive one free checked bag and preferred boarding on American Airlines flights and a companion ticket after $30,000 in spend each year. The 60,000 point offer is gone from both the Citi and Barclays personal AAdvantage cards so I’m surprised to see this Citi bumping up their bonus to a best-ever offer.

  5. Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

    The card has an initial bonus of 100,000 points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of cardmembership. This is a limited-time offer that ends October 31, 2018. (Offer expired)

    $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

    Earning is 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at over 6,500 participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels across 110 countries worldwide; 4 points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping; 2 points for all other eligible purchases.

    A big new benefit is that the card comes with a Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary.

    The card comes with complimentary Silver Elite status and $35,000 spend on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year earns an upgrade to Gold Elite status through the end of the next calendar year.

    Starwood’s Al Maha Desert Resort – Base Room is a Standalone Villa With Private Pool

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. Business Gold Rewards is next on my list but have a question: is the bonus likely to be higher again? I am waiting on this assuming it will go back to 75k within the next year. Is this foolish optimism or is there a reasonable chance?

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