Guide to Credit Card Annual Fees

By Jacqueline DeMarco · June 07, 2024 · 6 minute read

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Guide to Credit Card Annual Fees

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?

Annual fees are costs charged by many (but not all) credit card issuers to help finance their service, including 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 around $39 and go as high as thousands of dollars 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 airport lounges, credits towards rideshares, 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 build their credit by using credit cards responsibly. Eventually, the goal is for the cardholder to positively impact their credit so they can qualify for credit cards with lower interest rates and better perks.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

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.

Which Credit Cards Typically Have an Annual Fee?

There are three main types of annual fee credit cards you might consider.

Reward Cards

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 credit card 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.

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 build 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 of a secured card may be worth it for the opportunity to build their credit score, which can make it easier to qualify for lending opportunities in the future. Still, make sure it’s within your budget.

Recommended: What Is the Average Credit Card Limit?

How Are Credit Card Annual Fees Charged?

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.

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.

The Takeaway

Annual fees are often charged by credit card issuers to cover the cost of their services and perks. Fees can range from around $39 to thousands of dollars for ultra-premium cards, and it can be wise to review them carefully and make sure you are comfortable paying them. It may be possible to avoid these fees by negotiating with your card issuer or qualifying for this reward.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

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 .

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