5 cheaper alternatives to credit cards with high annual fees

The best way to make the most of your travel rewards is to find a credit card with a high welcome bonus, generous earn rate, and ongoing perks. However, many of these cards also come with high annual fees.

5 cheaper alternatives to credit cards with high annual fees

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A credit card that offers a generous welcome bonus, a high earn rate, and other perks is the best for earning travel rewards. However, there's a catch. Many credit cards are also expensive annually.

Although the benefits of a card are often worth the expense, not everyone can benefit from them. There are cheaper alternatives that offer similar benefits and a lower annual fee for top-ranking credit cards. These are five things to think about.

Blue Business Plus rather than Capital One Spark Cash Plus

Capital One Spark 2 Cash Plus is highly rated due to its ability to earn 2% cashback on all purchases and 5% cashback on hotel reservations made through Capital One Travel. You get a $500 welcome bonus after spending $5,000 within the first six month and $500 after spending $50,000 over the next six months. The annual fee is $150. If you spend $200,000 per year, the $200 cash bonus can offset that.

The Spark 2% Cash Plus card can be difficult to sell for business owners because of its high annual fee and stringent spending requirements. American Express's The Blue Business(r), Plus Credit Card might be a better choice. There is no annual fee (see rates & fees). It earns 2 American Express Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases up to $50,000. After that, it earns 1 point per $1.

Although the card offers a lower welcome bonus that the Spark 2% Cash Plus Card but has a lower spending requirement (15,000 points for every $3,000 spent in the first three month of opening an account), the spending requirements are lower at 15,000 points. The Blue Business Plus card offers a promotional 0% APR for purchases made within the first 12 month of account opening.

Check out the CNN Underscored Blue Business Plus review.

Hilton Honors American Express Card in place of Hilton Honors Surpass

For a $95 annual charge, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass(r), Card offers many useful perks. (See rates and fees). It offers automatic Hilton Gold elite status, ten Priority Pass airport lounge visits each year, and an annual free evening if you spend $15,000 in a calendar year. After spending $3,000 within six months, you will receive a generous 150,000 point welcome bonus.

Hilton award night nights start at 5,000 points so this bonus can be a big help. You can also earn free nights quicker with the card's category bonuses. You earn 12 points per $1 at Hilton Hotels, 6 points per $1 on dining, gas, and groceries in the U.S., and 3 points for everything else.

The Hilton Honors American Express card is a more affordable option if you are looking for something less expensive. Although the card does not have an annual fee (see rates, fees), it still offers a generous welcome bonus and earn rate. After spending $2,000 within six month of card membership, cardholders will receive 100,000 points. It earns 7 points for every dollar spent at Hilton hotels, 5 at U.S. gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants in the U.S., and 3 points everywhere else.

The Hilton Honors Card comes with Silver elite status. However, you can upgrade to Gold if you spend $20,000 within a calendar year. If you are looking for Hilton points and a way to avoid an annual fee, the Hilton Honors Card is a great alternative to the Surpass Card.

Instead of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, use the Bilt Mastercard

The Bilt World Elite Mastercard (r) is a great alternative to the Chase Sapphire Preferred(r), which offers superior rewards and has no annual fee. The Bilt Mastercard earns you 3 points per $1 on dining and 2 points per $1 on travel (flights and hotels, rental cars and cruises), and Lyft rides. Lyft riders can earn up to 5 points for every dollar. To earn points, you must complete five transactions in a given statement period.

The Sapphire Preferred earns 5 Points per Dollar on Ultimate Rewards travel bookings, 2 Points per Dollar on all other travel, and 5 points for Lyft rides (through March 2025). The Sapphire Preferred offers a welcome bonus of 60,000 points for spending $4,000 within the first three months. This is not the Bilt Mastercard.

Bilt Mastercard points are awarded for rent payments. Rent payments up to $50,000 per annum earn you 1 point. Any landlord can receive rent payments without any fees. Bilt will send a check to your landlord, or give you a bank account number that can be used to make online payments.

Bilt gives double points for its monthly 'Rent Day" promotion, which takes place on the first of each month. Rent payments are not included, but cardholders earn 6 points per $1 on dining out, 4 points on travel, and 2 points everywhere else.

The Bilt Mastercard does not offer a welcome bonus but it has category bonuses and the ability to earn rent points which can lead to greater rewards over the long-term. Bilt Rewards points can be used to redeem via the Bilt portal for 1.25 cents per point, or to transfer to different airline and hotel partners.

Citi Double Cash is better than the Citi Premier

Citi Double Cash earns you 2% cashback on all your purchases, no matter where they are made.

Citi Premier(r), Card offers solid options for everyday spending. It earns 3 points per dollar at gas stations, restaurants, supermarkets and airlines. All other purchases earn 1 Point per Dollar

In addition to the $95 annual fee, the card includes a $100 annual hotel savings (valid for bookings of $500 and more), which partially offsets the $95 annual fees. The card's welcome bonus of 60,000 points, which can be earned after spending $4,000 within the first three months. This partially offsets the $95 annual fee.

Citi(r) Double cash Card is a more affordable option. It doesn't have a welcome bonus, but it does not charge an annual fee. It earns 2% cashback on all purchases (1 % when you buy, 1 1% when it's paid off). The Double Cash earns you Citi ThankYou points but there are fewer redemption options if it isn't paired with a premium Citi Card.

You'll also earn more points if your spending is not in the Citi Premier category bonuses. You can also transfer balances for as low as 0% APR for 18 months. This deal comes with a 3% fee. This deal can be useful for refinancing credit cards debt, as it will save you interest costs for over a year.

Capital One Venture X in place of Chase Sapphire Reserve

Due to its strong welcome bonus and earning structure, the Chase Sapphire Reserve(r), is one of most popular travel reward cards. After spending $4,000 within three months, the card will award 60,000 points. Cardholders can earn 10 points per $1 on Ultimate Rewards hotel or rental car bookings, 10 on Chase Dining, 5 on flights booked through Chase Rewards, and 3 on all other travel purchases. To partially offset the $550 annual fees, it offers a $300 travel credit and Priority Pass membership.

Capital One Venture X offers many of the same benefits as the Capital One Venture X, with a larger welcome bonus. The $395 annual fee of the card is offset by a $300 travel credit that can be used on Capital One Travel bookings and 10,000 anniversary miles worth $100. Priority Pass membership is available to cardholders. They also have access to Capital One's limited airport lounge network.

Even better, cardholders who spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening can earn 75,000 miles. The card earns 10 Miles per Dollar on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel. Capital One Travel flight bookings are 5 miles per $1, and all other purchases are 2 miles per $1. Capital One miles can be used to offset travel purchases at a 1 cent per mile rate or transferred to hotel and airline partners.

CNN Underscored has more information about credit cards.