(Let me preface this by saying you should not get a credit card if you are irresponsible in your spending habits. Credit cards should be used like cash, and if you don’t have the cash in your checking account to cover for a purchase, don’t buy the goods. Don’t end up like one of those millions of Americans deep in credit card debit and have to call that toll free number on the telly to refinance their debt )
So now that you have a good foundation of checking and saving accounts, let’s get you started on some basic No Annual Fee credit cards. Cards where you don’t have to pay a fee per year is usually less rewarding than its fee charging brethren. Here are the good no-fee cards, and I have all of them. (We’ll talk about credit scores down the road, but in essence applying to a large number of credit cards in the beginning will hurt your credit score a bit, but the longer you keep them the better score you will have):
The “Stop talking just tell me which card to get so I can stop reading your blog” Card
- Citi Double Cash: Normally credit cards give you 1% cash back on everything, that means for every dollar you spend you get 1 cent back. This card gives you 2%. It might not sound like much but trust me, it really racks up. No frills, no thrills, just a solid card.
The “Seasonal Rotating Category” Triplet
The cards in this section offer 1% cashback on everything, with the seasonal 5% cashback category. For example, Chase freedom offered 5% cashback on all Amazon purchases during the Q4 of 2015, and they are going to offer 5% cashback on groceries in Q2 2016.
- Chase freedom: The signup bonus used to be $100 if you spend $500 in the first 3 months, but now it’s increased to $150 free if you spend $500 in the first 3 months. If you want to sign up for this card, you could either use the non-referral link here (please no) or Contact me with your email address for a referral. I get $50 per referral, and you still get your $150. Here’s what their rotating category calendar looks like:
- Discover it: The signup bonus used to be $150 back in 2015 but it’s $0 nowadays with the exception of referrals. If you use my referral link, you get $50 if you make any purchase, and I get $50. It’s not the best deal, so I would suggest you to wait for the $150 deal to come back, and I can refer you then lol.
- Citi dividend: I consider this the ugly sibling of the trio. Rotating category card like its brothers, but no signup bonuses. Apparently it’s no longer offered but I’m including it here because I like the sound of “Triplet” better than “Twin”. Also just look at how shitty their rotating categories are, no wonder nobody likes it:
The “Amex is giving away money” Cards
What does that even mean? Well, American Express does something interesting with their credit cards that others don’t usually do. They randomly provide chances for you to get money back if you shop at a specific store. For example, a few months ago, Amex offered to give me $25 back if I spend at least $75 at j.crew. That is in addition to any savings you might have via sales and coupons, so the potential for saving is HUGE. The only small problem is that the offers aren’t sent to ever card, so in order to maximize this you should get multiple Amex cards with no annual fees. (Don’t do that just yet, get one and see if you like the offers first)
- Amex Blue Cash Everyday: What I consider to be the Poster Boy of no-fee Amex cards. It gives you 3% on Supermarkets, 2% on Gas stations and some department stores, and 1% on everything else. It used to give as high as $250 signup bonus, but now it’s only $150. You can use my referral link and I’ll get $50, or you can just apply here (pleeeeeeaaaaaaase don’t, but if you insist, as least open it up in an incognito window so that you can see the $150 offer instead of getting nothing)
I don’t own any other no-annual fee Amex cards because I don’t really find them appealing. If you really like those money back offers, you should check out the additional cards here.
The “So good that I was causing the company to lose money so they had to discountinue me” Cards
- The Sallie Mae Mastercard: This card offered by Barclays bank is what I consider the “Holy Grail” of no annual fee credit cards. It gave you 5% back on book stores including AMAZON.COM, and it also gave 5% cashback on grocery. In comparison, Amazon’s own credit card only gives you 3% cashback on amazon purchases. Yeah. Too bad it’s not being offered anymore.
Oh one last thing, if you think you can just milk the system and get a boat load of $$$ back, think again. Every card mentioned above (except Citi Doublecash) has some sort of cap on how much extra money you can earn via bonus cashbacks. For example, Chase Freedom caps their 5% cashback per quarter to $1500 of purchases. Amex Blue Cash Everyday caps their 3% grocery bonus to $6000 of purchases per year, after that, you only get 1% back. So yeah, stop spinning that scheming wheel in your head. (For now)
(Disclaimer: About half of the link above are referral links, I’ve denoted which one’s which in the post.)