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Best Credit Cards That Waive Annual Fees for the First Year

Nov. 4, 2014
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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This page is out of date

With Marriott combining the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty programs, this page is out of date. See our details pages for the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express for updated offers on these cards.

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 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 75,000 Bonus Points 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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