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Best Credit Cards That Waive Annual Fees for the First Year

Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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Best credit cards wave annual fee first year

Avoiding credit card fees whenever you can is always a smart idea. Luckily, there are a lot of great cards on the market these days that waive their annual fees for the first year you have your account open.

Not sure which one is best for you? Take a look at the Nerds’ top picks below:

Best overall: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a slight edge over the other cards that waive their annual fees for the first year because of its powerful combination of a high signup bonus and stellar rewards earning power. Every time you use the card, you’ll be getting 2 points per dollar spent on dining in restaurants and travel and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Generally, Ultimate Rewards points are worth one cent apiece. However, they’re worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, which drives the value of each point up to 1.25 cents. Plus, you’ll also have the option to transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio to participating frequent traveler programs. Not too shabby!

And don’t forget about that sky-high signup bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Assuming you redeem through Chase Ultimate rewards, that’s $625 toward your next vacation.

Also, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a good choice for international travelers since it charges no foreign transaction fee and comes chip-enabled. This makes overseas swiping convenient and inexpensive.

Remember, there’s an annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $95 after that. But if you spend a lot on dining and travel, it’s probably a worthwhile expense when you have to start paying it.

Best for budget travelers: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

If you’re not skilled at using frequent flier programs to squeeze a lot of value out of credit card rewards points, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is probably the right option for you. With it, you’ll earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend. Since each mile is worth $.01, you’re earning a rewards rate of 2%. Plus, you’ll also get 5% of your miles back every time you redeem.

One of the best things about this card is its flexibility when it comes time to redeem. You simply book your travel however you normally would with the card, then pay yourself back in the form of a statement credit with your miles. This means you can shop for the best deal with any airline or hotel chain and still use your rewards.

Plus, if you’re dreaming of an overseas getaway, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® has you covered. It charges no foreign transaction fee.

Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® comes with a hefty sign-up bonus: Offer is no longer available through our site. Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement credit. Its annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $89. All in all, it’s a great travel card to consider.

Best for hotels: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

If you stay in hotels frequently, adding the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express to your wallet is something to consider. With it, you’ll earn up to 5 Starpoints per dollar spent at Starwood hotels and resorts, 2 Starpoints per dollar at Marriott Rewards properties, and 1 Starpoint per dollar on all other purchases. When redeemed at hotels, the Nerds value Starpoints at a whopping 2.3 cents apiece.

However, using your Starpoints for hotel stays isn’t your only option. You can also use the “nights and flights” option to get airline miles and a few free nights in a hotel, or transfer your Starpoints to participating frequent traveler programs. The list of frequent traveler programs you can move your Starpoints to is impressive, so be sure to check it out.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express comes with an exciting sign-up bonus: Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply. The annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95.

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