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How to Choose a No-Fee Credit Card

[Saturday, March 22nd, 2014]

The average American household carries about four credit cards. There are many types of cards—frequent flyer, cash back, balance transfer, store credit cards and gas credit cards. But one of the most popular types of credit card is the no-fee credit card. This generally means a card with no annual fee, but there are other types of fees inherent to credit cards. If you want a truly no-fee credit card, here are the hidden fees to watch for—and a few perks to search out:

  • Annual fee—the most obvious fee to watch out for is the annual fee, charged each year you have the card. Many annual fee credit cards waive this fee for the first year, but on the anniversary of when you got the card, watch out: you will be slapped with the annual fee. These can be anywhere from $15 to $450, sometimes more. Cards that charge an annual fee often make up for it with valuable rewards programs, but if you want a no-fee credit card, make sure there is no annual fee.
  • Activation fee—this one is separate from the annual fee, which is charged every year. It is only charged once, when you first get the card. Prepaid cards often come with activation fees, but some credit cards have them too. Be careful of cards that charge an activation fee every time they send you a replacement card or an updated account number. These fees can add up.
  • ATM withdrawal fee—to get cash from your credit card, it’s often going to cost a pretty penny. In addition to the ATM owner’s fee, there’s the fee charged by your credit card issuer. And don’t forget, cash advances almost always have a much higher APR than everyday purchases.
  • Foreign transaction fee—this is a fee of 2% to 3% that’s charged when you use your credit card outside the United States. If you travel often, look for a card like Capital One. Neither of those charge for foreign transactions, so you can use your card to make purchases on your travels without worrying about
  • Look for cash back or other rewards—when you’re faced with a choice between a few good no-fee credit cards, it’s time to evaluate the rewards offered by each. The best cash back cards have 5% cash back on purchases, whether on select purchases that change each quarter or on the same thing all year long. If it’s something you often use your credit card for, like gas or groceries, the cash back is a nice bonus for spending money you would have spent anyway.
  • A low APR combined with no fees is the perfect credit card for a frequent shopper. A credit card that offers an introductory 0% APR on purchases, no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee and a great rewards program is the goal—but depending on your credit history, you may or may not be eligible for the very best card offers. Keep looking, and you will find the right no-fee card for you.

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