Top Rewards Cards With a Waived ($0) Annual Fee for the First Year [2019]

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Rewards credit cards that waive the first year of annual fees offer cardholders an instant head start compared to cards that charge an annual fee right from the get-go. You enjoy premium perks, earn thousands of points, and in some cases generate a substantial balance of points from a new cardmember bonus without any out of pocket expense on annual fees.

The list we've compiled doesn’t include cards with no annual fee, as we tackled the best $0 annual fee cards in a previous post. This post is specifically geared toward rewards credit cards that waive the annual fee for the first year.

Save money and maximize rewards by targeting rewards credit cards with $0 annual fee for the first year
Save money and maximize rewards by targeting rewards credit cards with $0 annual fee for the first year

Rewards Cards Featuring Waived Annual Fee for the First Year

Credit CardCard IssuerPersonal / BusinessAnnual Fee
American Express® Green CardAmerican ExpressPersonal$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American ExpressAmerican ExpressPersonal$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 - Rates & Fees
Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® CardAmerican ExpressPersonal$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American ExpressAmerican ExpressBusiness$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 - Rates & Fees
The Plum Card® from American ExpressAmerican ExpressBusiness$0 introductory annual fee your first year, then $250. - Rates & Fees
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®BarclaysPersonal$89 (waived first year)
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit CardCapital OnePersonal$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardCapital OnePersonal$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Capital One® Spark® Cash for BusinessCapital OneBusiness$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Capital One® Spark® Miles for BusinessCapital OneBusiness$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®CitiPersonal$99, waived for first 12 months
Citi® / AAdvantage® Gold World Elite™ MasterCard®CitiPersonal$50, waived for first 12 months
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®CitiBusiness$99, waived for first 12 months
FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card U.S. BankPersonal$0 introductory annual fee for the first 12 months, then $49
AeroMexico Visa Signature® CardU.S. BankPersonal$0 introductory annual fee for the first 12 months, then $80
U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Business Edge™ Travel Rewards CardU.S. BankBusiness$0 for the first year and every year, then $55

The Best No Annual Fee Cards for the First Year from Each Card Issuer

American Express

American Express offers the largest range of credit cards with $0 introductory annual fees for the first year.

Our picks:

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Apply Now
Rates & Fees
(Terms Apply)
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Annual Fee$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
Welcome Offer Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. Earn one mile for every eligible dollar you spend on other purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights - that's a savings of up to $240 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Rates & Fees
  • 2X Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta
  • 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
Gold Delta SkyMiles®  Business Credit Card from American Express
Apply Now
Rates & Fees
(Terms Apply)
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
Annual Fee$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
Welcome Offer Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Make business travel more rewarding. Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Additionally, earn a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Find room for your carry-on and settle into your seat sooner with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you spend overseas.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms and limitations apply
  • Rates & Fees
  • 2X Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta
  • 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.

Both cards provide a ton of value for Delta SkyMiles fans.

Capital One

Following the introduction of Capital One's new flexible rewards program, these cards have become two of the go-to cards for collecting flexible points, providing a fifth bank rewards program for points and miles fans to collect rewards.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Annual Fee$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Welcome Offer 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Following the revamp of Capital One's rewards program and the addition of airline transfer partners, the Capital One Venture has catapulted into our list of top travel rewards cards. The ability to earn 2X miles on every purchase, and up to 10X points on hotels provides a decent return on spending, plus the card offers some great perks.
  • 50,000 Miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening; worth $500 in travel if redeemed for a fixed-value, or potentially much more when transferred to airline partners
  • 2 Miles on every purchase, plus earn 10 Miles on hotels at hotels.com/venture, through January 2020
  • Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® (up to $100)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
  • 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day.
  • 10 Miles per dollar on hotels at hotels.com/venture, through January 2020
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business
Annual Fee$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Welcome Offer 50,000 Miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business is one of just a handful of business rewards cards returning a minimum 2% back on business expenses. No bonus categories to worry about, you receive an uncapped 2 Miles per dollar spent on every purchase, and your rewards never expire as long as your account is open and in good standing.
  • 50,000 Miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening; worth $500 in travel if redeemed for a fixed-value, or potentially much more when transferred to airline partners
  • 2 Miles per $1 on every purchase, everywhere
  • Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® (up to $100)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
  • 2 Miles per $1 on every purchase, everywhere.

Citi

If you fly American on a regular basis, our pick is:

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
Annual Fee$99, waived for first 12 months
Welcome Offer Earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
The AA Platinum Select card is a great choice for anyone who travels at least a few times per year with American Airlines. Cardholders get a free checked bag on domestic itineraries, priority boarding and a 25% discount on in-flight purchases.

Even better, this card gives you access to Reduced Mileage Awards, which can save you up to 30% on the miles required for domestic awards. With these perks, it's easy to justify the annual fee of $99, waived for first 12 months.
  • Free checked bags for you and up to 4 companions on domestic itineraries
  • Priority boarding to help you win the race for overhead bin space
  • A 25% discount on inflight food, beverage, and Wi-Fi purchases
  • Reduced Mileage Awards can save you 7,500 miles on roundtrip MileSAAver Awards
  • Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent at restaurants
  • Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent at gas stations
  • Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 1X mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases

The card features no foreign transaction fees, and offers the first checked bag free of charge on domestic itineraries. Check out our review for all the details.

Barclays

Barclays only offers one card with the annual fee waived for the first year, so it goes without saying this card floats to the top.

U.S. Bank

Our pick from U.S. Bank:

You'll get double FlexPoints on the category you spend the most on (choose from gas stations, grocery stores, airlines, and most cell providers).

Final Thoughts

Receiving your first year free is another way of maximizing your returns on rewards travel. Although many of these cards have benefits that make them easy to keep for the long term, it's great to be able to check out the benefits without the upfront cost.

If we’ve missed any cards off the list that you think should be on there, please let us know in the comments, and we can update the post with any new info provided.

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: The Plum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees), Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees)

Top Rewards Cards With a Waived ($0) Annual Fee for the First Year [2019]
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Comments

  • Super helpful- thanks for the list!

  • How about the Chase Marriott Rewards card? Where would you rate it in comparison to the other Chase cards that you have listed here?

    • The Marriott card has a big signup bonus, which I think makes up for the annual fee on it. It really comes down to what you’re looking to cash in on and your travel goals, but because the card does not waive its annual fee the first year we left it off of this list.

  • is there any card having similar perks within Europe?

  • Thank you for the post, this is a good reference of a lot of the cards I should be aiming to acquire. No annual fee the first year seems to add about 20% more value to the sign up bonus.

  • I love being able to try out cards the first year w/out a fee! Any tips when the Chase Sapphire might get another large bonus on points? Is it something they usually do? Or is it rare? How do ya’ll handle the opening of a card, getting the bonus and then getting to the year and canceling? Closing hits your credit score so I would hate to lower my score really but $95 is a lot and then I wouldn’t be able to get the Sapphire again with the bonus, do I understand this correct?

    • We have no information on any increase for the Sapphire Preferred — I honestly doubt we’d see another increase on the card.

      As for closing the card, you need to decide if the value received on it is worth the annual fee. I definitely think so on the Sapphire Preferred but if it isn’t for you simply close the card or look to convert it to another card with no annual fee. Under current conditions you wouldn’t be eligible for the bonus again on the card unless it has been 24+ months since you last received the bonus and you don’t currently hold the card.

      Keep in mind, closing a card account won’t decimate your credit score. Yes, it’ll drop due to a change in your credit utilization by losing the line of credit you have on the card, but if you have an otherwise strong credit portfolio, you might not notice any change at all.

  • Very helpful list. I am going to have to favorite this article and refer back to it, when I am ready to apply for more cards.

  • If the benefits outweigh the fee, go for it!

  • $0 AF fee cards are great to keep to increase your average age of accounts.

  • Are 20k extra IHG points worth not having the annual fee waived?

  • Bertrand Say says:

    Chase Preferred credit card for me.

  • IHG is my personal fave on that list. Because as I’m sure we all know, the anniversary night starting after year 1 is worth well more than $49, especially when combined with whatever signup bonus you get. Check your emails. My mother recently got a 100,000 targeted offer with 5,000 for authorized user spend as well. 105K in IHG can be worth a good bit if stretched right or combined with PointsBreaks, etc.

  • Sometimes the card holder can negotiate the annual fee to be waived subsequently or offer with a certain spend limit bonus points depending on the situation. Always worth a call.

  • I love my Chase IHG Rewards credit card. The first year was free, each subsequent year is $49 and it comes with a free night at one of their hotels. $49 for a nice hotel room is a great deal!

  • This may be the time for me to place the Premier Rewards Gold cc on my radar. I’ve been thinking about it off and on for a long time and I’m in a good position right now to be approved. I just may go for it and thx for the reminder.

  • Only if Chase Marriott & Hyatt card can follow IHG’s annual night rules ($49 for any hyatt or marriott room)…. I canceled Marriott card since I can’t find a good use for that annual cert.

  • joseph perini says:

    I applied for Capital one venture cards periodically over the years and always recd a letter stating I am denied due to have too many cards. I never had Capital one card and do have a few cards with different banks. My FICO score is over 800 and income 100k+ and debt free. Why? Is capital One very strict? I only been turned by other banks because I was over 5/24 rule. Help?

    • What *exactly* does it state for reason? I’ve never heard of someone being denied due to having too many cards unless they have too many cards with that specific creditor.

      • joseph perini says:

        “Too many credit cards opened in the last two years associated with you”

        States: We used info from your credit report to make the decision…Experian

        I recd these letters from Capital One and Chase at various times. With Chase I had cards but with Capital One I never had their card.

        Tkxs

        • Joseph, I’d highly recommend calling them up, asking to review your application and reconsider you as a customer. The answer may change to a yes, but at least you’ll get an explanation in English from a human as opposed to something stock from a computer system.

  • Very useful info, I am shopping for a new credit card and this makes my search so much easier.
    Unfortunately the American Express is really not practical for the travel abroad, its not as widely accepted as Visa.

  • Glad to have this list . Plan on adding a new card soon. Thanks!

  • Anyone know if AMEX will give you 35k points if you call them (after signing up at 30k)?

  • IHG is one of the best i think

  • will try to get a City plat, we’ll if this will work as I’m from outside US

  • Super helpful post! So many out there on cards with no fees, but as they often don’t give me the rewards I’m looking for, it’s useful to know which waive the fee that first year. Plan to add a new card to my arsenal soon – cheers 🙂

  • Cards like these are the best since you can cancel if the ongoing value isn’t worth the af

  • I sooo wish we could have get one of these in Italy…!

  • Can you publish another story that would feature balance transfer cards complete with the introductory interest offer and the fee charged for the transfer? That would be very helpful to me.

  • no fee is always a winner

  • Lists like these are critical as you obtain more and more cards, you have to know what options you still have…

  • I signed up for the Chase Sapphire a few months ago and the points really grow fast if you can pile up the expenses. This post has a pretty good list – in a few months I’ll be back to refer to this list to sign up for my rewards next card!

  • That’s great news… Thanks for the list.

  • I’ve been lucky where sometimes when year 2 rolls around, and the fee get charged, I can call them and get them to waive that too. It never hurts to ask.

  • Lori O'Connor says:

    I love the comment that if you call they will waive the fee – I am looking at getting the Chase Sapphire Card (per your blogs) and will definitely remember the fee for year 2 and call when it happens.

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