Low-fee credit cards can be a wise choice to keep card fees low. What you may sacrifice are benefits like a rewards program or travel insurance. We explore the pros and cons of a low fee credit card to see if this type of card is the right choice for you.
What is a low fee credit card?
Credit cards attract an annual fee that covers the service provider’s cost by the card’s bank or lender. Depending on the type of card you have and the features it offers, these fees can range widely.
As the name suggests, a low fee credit card has a smaller annual fee when compared to more expensive cards. For example, platinum cards can charge hundreds of dollars a year, while a low fee card only incurs a small account fee, and some waive the fee entirely.
Is a low fee credit card right for you?
A low fee credit card could be a good option if you want to keep costs down and you don’t need the extra bells and whistles, like concierge services and extensive rewards programs, that often come with more expensive cards.
Low fee credit cards generally offer a lower interest rate or interest-free days too, so if you tend to carry a balance on your card, you could pay less in the long run on interest charges.
This type of card could be a smart choice for a student credit card, your first credit card or if you only use your card occasionally, for example, to secure accommodation or travel bookings. Depending on your credit limit requirements, you should be able to find a low fee card with the limit you need.
Advantages and disadvantages of low fee credit cards
- Low fees: The name says it all; the most apparent benefit of these cards is their lower annual fee than other, more expensive cards.
- Low-interest rates: Low fee cards can also offer low-interest rates, making it easier to stay on top of your credit card payments and avoid interest charges spiralling out of control. They may also offer an interest-free period.
- Promotional offers: You could take advantage of special incentives, like an introductory period with 0% interest rates on purchases and/or a balance transfer, often available for new customers on a low-interest credit card.
- Less competitive rewards: Not all low fee cards offer a rewards program, and if they do, they will usually have lower bonus points than other platinum cards or those with higher annual fees.
- Fewer extra features: Once again, low fee credit cards usually don’t offer the type of extra features as expensive cards, like travel insurance, if they offer any.
- Higher rates after the promotional period ends: When considering a low fee credit card with a promotional period with 0% interest on purchases, pay attention to what the interest rate reverts to after the promotion ends, as it may be higher.
How to compare low fee credit cards in New Zealand
- Check the interest rates for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances to ensure they are competitive and reasonable. Some low-fee cards attract a higher interest rate which could offset any savings on an annual fee if you carry a balance.
- Research any promotional offers, such as introductory interest rates, bonus points or cash back, and read the fine print for any limitations or restrictions.
- If you’re considering a card with a low or no-interest promotional offer, check what the interest rate reverts to after the promotional period ends. Some interest rates can jump significantly.
- Check that the low annual fee is for the lifetime of the card. Some cards offer a low annual fee for the first year but then revert to a higher fee.
- Consider the rewards program, if applicable, and compare the earn rates and redemption options to see if it matches your spending habits and goals. You don’t want to pay a higher fee for rewards you won’t use.
Use our handy comparison tool for a detailed comparison of these low-fee credit cards, including interest rates, fees, and rewards.