To pay or not to pay — that’s the big question when it comes to choosing between a credit card that comes with an annual fee and one that doesn’t.
A credit card annual fee is the price that some cardholders pay to use a certain credit card. While there are plenty of credit cards on the market that don’t come with an annual fee, the credit cards that charge an annual fee tend to have better cardholder perks that can outweigh the cost of the annual fee if the card is used optimally.
Keep reading for more insight into annual fee credit cards.
What Is a Credit Card Annual Fee?
What does an annual fee mean on a credit card? Annual fees are costs charged by credit card issuers to help finance cardholder perks, such as travel credits and free checked luggage on flights.
The amount of an annual fee factors into how much a credit card costs overall, and it varies from card to card. Credit card annual fees can start as low as $39 and go as high as $995 for luxury credit cards.
Usually how credit cards work is that cards with sky-high annual fees also offer a lot of extra perks to make the credit card worth the money. For instance, the cardholder may gain exclusive access to an airport lounge or be able to tap into competitive introductory reward bonuses.
However, there are cases where an annual fee is charged for credit cards designed for consumers with low credit scores. These credit cards don’t offer great rewards, and instead give consumers with poor credit a chance to repair their credit by using credit cards responsibly. Eventually, the goal is for the cardholder to improve their credit so they can qualify for credit cards with lower interest rates and better perks.
How Do Credit Card Annual Fees Work?
When you pay the annual fee on a credit card varies depending on your card issuer. Credit card issuers either charge annual fees on either a yearly basis, or they may divide the fee up into smaller monthly installments.
If your fee is charged once a year, then it usually will appear on your first statement after you open your account. You’ll then get charged every 12 months thereafter. In the instance an annual fee is divided into smaller monthly payments, these will get included on the monthly statement the cardholder receives.
You pay your credit card annual fee just like you’d pay any other credit card charges listed on your monthly statement.
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Which Credit Cards Typically Have an Annual Fee?
There are three main types of annual fee credit cards. Let’s take a closer look at each type.
Credit cards that can offer a high-value rewards structure or that have a strong introductory bonus often come with an annual fee. If the card is used strategically, it’s possible to earn enough rewards to cancel out the cost of the annual fee and other cardholder fees. You may earn rewards like cash back, travel points, or discounts on specialty purchases.
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Premium Credit Cards
A premium credit card that offers luxe perks like private airport lounge access or a travel concierge is likely to charge an annual fee to use the card. If you’re considering one of these cards, make sure to crunch the numbers to make sure you’ll use enough of the perks to offset the cost of the annual fee.
Secured Credit Cards
A secured credit card is designed to help consumers with bad credit scores improve their credit. These cards require a deposit to “secure” the card, and that amount also usually serves as the card’s credit limit. On top of the deposit, secured credit cards often carry an annual fee.
For some, the cost may be worth it for the opportunity to improve their credit score, which can make it easier to qualify for lending opportunities in the future. Still, make sure it’s within your budget.
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How Are Credit Card Annual Fees Charged?
So, when do you pay an annual fee on a credit card? As briefly mentioned above, some credit card issuers charge the annual fee once a year, while others split up the annual fee into smaller monthly installments.
The annual fee shows up on the credit card statement alongside normal credit card charges, and the cardholder pays the annual fee as part of that month’s credit card bill. Remember that even if you have an authorized user on a credit card, it’s still the primary cardholder’s responsibility to make payments, which includes any fees.
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Avoiding Credit Card Annual Fees
If you’re trying to avoid credit card fees, it’s entirely possible to avoid paying annual fees. There are plenty of credit cards on the market that don’t charge an annual fee at all.
If someone is interested in a credit card with an annual fee, such as a premium rewards card, they can try to get the first year’s annual fee waived. Some credit card issuers offer to do this from the get-go. However, if someone is an existing cardmember with the issuer and their introductory offer doesn’t include waiving the first year’s fee, they can request a one-time waiver.
Before signing up for a credit card with an annual fee, it’s important to evaluate your spending habits. You want to ensure that you can comfortably afford to cover the annual fee for the credit card. Also investigate whether you’ll earn enough benefits from the card to justify the cost of the annual fee.
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SoFi’s Credit Card
The SoFi credit card is a rewards credit card. Cardholders can earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. They earn 1% cash back when redeemed for a statement credit.1 Plus, cardholders can access discounts with popular retailers.
The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1
How do you pay the annual fee on your credit card?
If someone has an annual fee credit card, the annual fee will appear on their credit card statement. The fee may appear every 12 months or in smaller increments on a monthly basis. The cardholder then pays this fee as a part of their monthly bill in addition to any other purchases they made with the credit card during that billing cycle.
How can I avoid paying annual fees on my credit card?
Alongside choosing a credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee (there are plenty of options on the market), a consumer may be able to get the first year of an annual fee waived as a new cardholder incentive. It only makes sense to open a credit card with an annual fee if the account holder’s spending habits line up with the rewards structure of the credit card. That way, they can earn enough cash back, miles, or other perks to outweigh the cost of the annual fee.
Do all credit cards have annual fees?
There are tons of great credit cards on the market that don’t come with annual fees. There’s never a reason to pay an annual fee if someone decides that’s not a good use of their money.
Photo credit: iStock/Rudzhan Nagiev
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .
The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
1Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No rewards points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points into your SoFi Checking or Savings account, SoFi Money® account, SoFi Active Invest account, SoFi Credit Card account, or SoFi Personal, Private Student, or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per every point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.