How many credit cards do you have

Free credit card

The best credit cards that can do a lot and cost nothing

Josefine Lietzau
Expert for banking and credit as of May 19, 2021

Josefine Lietzau

Josefine Lietzau is an editor in the Bank & Investments team. During her studies in German and English, she worked for the editorial offices of the Green League, the Jüdische Zeitung and the Superillu. After completing her master's degree, Josefine Lietzau completed an internship at the online consumer portals Banktip and Posttip, where she then worked as an editor.

  • You don't pay an annual fee for free credit cards. For some services, however, the banks charge a fee even for these cards.
  • The bank will either promptly collect the money you spent with the card or collect it once a month.
  • Some providers urge you to repay the money in installments. However, this is very expensive.
  • Pay attention to the information about the costs at the ATM. Otherwise it can be really expensive (especially abroad).
The best free cards
  • Card with full monthly debit: DKB Visa Card (to the current account, withdrawals worldwide free of charge)
  • Cards with monthly direct debit, but preset partial payment (withdrawals worldwide free of charge): Hanseatic Bank Genialcard (full debit possible), Barclaycard Visa (full debit possible), Payback Visa Flex (full debit possible)
  • Card with immediate debit: Nuri Visa (to current account, free withdrawals worldwide, strong focus on cryptocurrency)

Around the 100 euros annual credit card fee and then 3 euros each time for withdrawals from the ATM? That's quite expensive. Lots of consumers pay way too much for their credit card. There are free cards that are in no way inferior to the expensive ones for the most important services.

Who is a free credit card for?

Free credit cards are suitable for most consumers. Because with these cards the banks do not charge annual fees, and the Withdrawal and payment fees keep within limits. This saves you money compared to more expensive cards, but you don't usually have to compromise on performance.

The fact that free credit cards usually do not include insurance or fuel discounts is no drama. Because either these services are only worthwhile for certain consumers, or there are much better products that you can purchase individually. In short: The free cards work for the really important things - when paying and withdrawing - just as good as more expensive cards.

Our calculation example shows: A cheap offer can cost a good 90 euros a year less than a randomly selected credit card.

Example of credit card costs

 Stadtsparkasse Munichcheap offer
annual fee29 €¹0 €
Withdraw 2 x € 200 in foreign currency19 €0 €
Pay € 500 in foreign currency8,75 €0 €
Withdraw 2 x € 200 from the machine12 €0 €
a total of94,19 €0 €

¹ Mastercard Standard
Sources: Price lists Stadtsparkasse München; Hanseatic Bank, Barclaycard (as of April 8, 2021)

There are now gold and platinum cards for which the providers do not charge an annual fee. However, these offers are not as inexpensive as standard cards: There are other costs, some of which are hidden. The cards are therefore only suitable for a few customers.

If the bank does not give you a credit card, you have another option: prepaid cards, i.e. cards that you can only use on a credit basis. People with poor credit ratings also get them. However, the fees for such cards are often confusing and in some cases quite high. These cards are therefore only of interest to certain target groups, as you can read in our guide to prepaid credit cards.

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What are the first steps towards a credit card?

Applying for a credit card is quite an easy undertaking.

  1. You enter your data with the selected provider. In doing so, you consent to the bank taking a look at your Schufa data throws. She will later also register with the Schufa that you have a credit card.
  2. You proves your identity. This works either at Swiss Post using the Post-Ident procedure or via a video call. Have your ID ready, you have to show it for both options.
  3. The bank will send you this Map and pin in different letters to. In this way, it prevents both of them from being intercepted and misused before they land in your hands.
  4. With some providers, the card is useless if you don't have the Install the app for this. For others, the app makes your life easier. So install the app on your smartphone and activate the screen lock to protect your banking transactions.
  5. If you Pay with your card on your mobile phone you have to install an app. In the you then link the card with your smartphone. You also have to switch on the NFC function in your mobile phone.

Are you paying way too much when you withdraw?

We looked at free credit cards
Credit cards

14 of 52 cards in a detailed comparison.

criteria

14 points were examined.

recommendations

6 of the cards meet the criteria.

Which free credit cards does Finanztip recommend?

There are numerous free credit cards with which you can pay, get cash at home and abroad and book hotels or rental cars. We recommend the following offers, which also allow you to withdraw cash free of charge in the euro zone. You can read more about our research at the end of this article.

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Cards with full monthly debit (charge)

Behind the term “charge” card are cards in which the bank deducts the money used from the current account at regular intervals. So you get one until the money is cleared free credit.

You can take advantage of this: If you are short of cash, you pay with the credit card instead of the Girocard, and you also choose the credit card when withdrawing. So you don't slip into the overdraft facility and save interest. But pay attention to how much money you spend on your credit card. Because this trick only works if there is enough money in the account before the bank balances the turnover.

DKB Visa Card

In addition to the girocard, a good Visa card is part of the DKB giro account. Customers must be of legal age and have the creditworthiness required by the bank in order to receive the account and card. Regular receipt of money is not necessary.

The DKB divides their customers, however. All customers receive the same conditions for the first six months, after which this changes. If the account receives less than 700 euros per month, a fee of 2.2 percent is charged from the second year onwards when withdrawing and paying outside the euro zone.

If your account receives at least 700 euros per month, you are considered a so-called active customer - and you will continue to receive the good conditions of the first year. The DKB does not charge any fees if you, as an active customer, pay with a credit card in a foreign currency or withdraw money in another currency.

The credit card is a Charge card. The bank automatically switches the money from the current to the card account on the monthly debit date. If the credit is not sufficient, you slip into the overdraft facility and have to pay interest. In this case, too, there are differences between the customer groups: If at least 700 euros are received per month, the overdraft interest is 6.65 percent. For incoming payments below that, it is 7.25 percent.

If you are not a fan of contactless payment: You can switch off the NFC function on this card.

Regardless of which customer group you belong to: You can only withdraw amounts of 50 euros or more with your credit card.

  • no annual fee
  • monthly billing
  • better conditions in the first year and from 700 euros incoming money per month (active customers)
  • Withdraw cash free of charge in the euro zone (active customers: worldwide)
  • 2.2 percent foreign currency fee for payments and withdrawals (active customers: no fee)
  • Cash withdrawals only from 50 euros

Separate cards with optional partial payment

With so-called revolving credit cards, you do not have to repay the money that the bank has advanced directly with the monthly statement. The bank only requires a minimum repayment (for example 50 euros) and then simply transfers the outstanding amount to the next month. In this case, the banks like to speak of “flexible” repayment.

The huge disadvantage of this offer: It is expensive. The interest rates are higher than those that you pay with the overdraft interest on the current account. You should therefore avoid the partial payment and always pay off the entire debt. Some providers make this easy for you and automatically debit the money yourself if you wish.

The cards we recommend compensate for the disadvantage of repayment in other areas: Withdrawing money is free worldwide, there is no basic fee. And: You don't have to open an additional checking account for these cards. If set correctly, these cards work (almost) like charge cards.

However, the banks sometimes make it difficult for you to avoid the partial payment. If the bank only debits installments on its own, you have to take action yourself: Transfer the money to the card account! This is how you avoid them high interest rates.

You should find out beforehand when the money has to be on the card account. Because it can before the withdrawal period be. The providers usually inform you about this either on the monthly statements, in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on their website or in the emails they send you about your account balance. If none of this helps you, ask the support.

also we advise against itto take out the additional installment protection insurance.

Tip: If your provider does not automatically debit the balance, it is best to set up a monthly reminder in your mobile phone or e-mail program. If you are traveling for a longer period of time, you can transfer money to the card account beforehand if the card can be used as a plus. But this is not the case with all providers.

Hanseatic Bank Genialcard

With the Genialcard from Hanseatic Bank, there are no fees for the card itself or for withdrawing and paying, whether in Germany or abroad. There is no minimum withdrawal amount. In order to get the credit card, you do not have to open a current account at the Hanseatic Bank.

The map cannot result in a plus but you can arrange for the entire amount to be debited automatically. This works via the app, in online banking or by telephone and in writing with the bank's customer support. We encourage you to do just that. Otherwise you have to pay high interest on the money you spend.

The credit card is NFC-enabled. However, you can switch this function off via the app.

  • no annual fee
  • Complete, automatic debiting of the outstanding amount is possible
  • Withdraw cash free of charge anywhere in the world
  • Pay worldwide for free
  • Card account cannot be managed in a plus

Barclaycard Visa

With the free Revolving credit card from Barclaycard you can pay and withdraw money worldwide without paying any fees. There is no minimum withdrawal amount. You can get the Barclaycard Visa without opening a current account with Barclaycard.

There are three options available to you to settle your card account: The expensive option is partial payment, with Barclaycard only debiting part of the accrued amount. In this case, you have to pay loan interest of effectively 18.38 percent per year. Financial tip strongly advises against using this option.

The second option is to repay the outstanding amount in full. To do this, you either transfer the necessary sum to the card account yourself or you use it Collection option. You can collect the full amount either via Barclaycard's online banking or via the app:

  1. Go to the point "Account statement and repayment".
  2. Scroll down to "More refund options" and click on "One-time direct debit".
  3. Enter your current balance here.
  4. Confirm the debit by clicking on the button.
  5. Barclaycard will send you a tan. Enter this and confirm the payment.

The third option is regular debiting of the full amount through Barclaycard. You can also select this in the app or in online banking under the repayment options.

You can pay contactless with the card. You cannot deactivate this NFC function.

Payback Visa Flex

Payback has different credit cards in its program, including the free Visa Flex. With this card you can withdraw free of charge, this also applies to payments. There is no minimum amount to withdraw. You don't have to open a checking account for the card.

It is better not to use the partial payment, it turns a good card into an expensive one. With this card, too, you can arrange for the bank to issue the the full amount is automatically debited. To do this, contact BW Bank's customer support. However, readers have reported to us that customer support did not always know that full payment was possible according to official information from Payback. In such cases, you have to be persistent. Also remember to pay off your debts yourself in good time by transferring money to the card account. Otherwise, the problems with customer support may result in you paying high interest.

This card also has an NFC function, which you can use to make contactless payments. This function cannot be switched off.

Remember that with this card you are in Payback system move. So by paying you collect points that you can redeem later. However, Payback also collects data about your payments and thus about you.

Payback
Visa Flex
  • no annual fee
  • Complete, automatic debiting of the outstanding amount is possible
  • Withdraw cash free of charge anywhere in the world
  • Pay worldwide for free
  • Data is collected through Payback
  • Switching off the installment payment is only possible by contacting support

Cards with immediate debit

With debit cards, the money goes out of the account promptly after paying or withdrawing money, just as you already know from the Girocard (formerly: EC card). So these are not “real” credit cards.

Important: some Hotel or car rental companies do not accept debit credit cards. If you travel a lot, this can lead to difficulties. So it's better to ask before you book whether there might be problems on site later.

Even with some airlines, you cannot pay with debit cards during your flight.
For cruises you can usually save the cards in your on-board account, but it can happen that the provider blocks a larger sum at the beginning of the trip. So you should have enough money in the account for this deposit and further sales.

Debit cards are a good choice for you if you want to keep full cost control over your expenses. But remember: unlike real credit cards, the bank does not give you free credit. If there is not enough credit on the current account and you use the card, you slip into the overdraft facility. If your overdraft facility is insufficient, the payment will be blocked. Some banks already block the payment if you don't have enough money in your account.

In most cases, debit cards only make sense if you have a checking account and card at the same bank and if there is enough money in the account. If you have your mainly used current account elsewhere and regularly transfers money to the current account on the card, the real advantage - cost control - is no longer applicable or at least becomes very inconvenient.

Nuri

Nuri (formerly Bitwala) is one young providerwhose focus is not necessarily on the checking account and the card, but on a completely different function: You can invest in cryptocurrency via the account. Since we do not recommend cryptocurrencies as an investment, we have not examined these functions and do not rate them. We definitely recommend the Bitwala Visa card.

The debit card is free. The provider also requires withdrawals and payments no fees. The bank does not offer an overdraft facility, which means that you can only use the credit that is in your account. To do this, you simply transfer money to the Bitwala current account.

The account for the card works with Nuri via a smartphone app, but also via the browser. So you can keep an eye on your sales and do your banking.The focus is on the smartphone app.

Nuri does not have its own banking license; instead, the company works with Solaris Bank. As a result, your money is protected as usual via the German deposit insurance.

So the offer suits you if you want to try out a new provider and the focus on cryptocurrencies doesn't bother you.

The identification via Web-Ident can take longer, as there is a greater interest in providers such as Nuri due to the high Bitcoin prices.

  • no annual fee
  • Withdraw cash free of charge anywhere in the world
  • Pay worldwide for free
  • possible problems with hotels and rental cars
  • strong focus on cryptocurrency trading

What costs do you have to pay attention to with credit cards?

When looking for the right credit card, you should pay attention to certain fees. They make up most of the cost. You can find information on this in the price and service lists of the banks and in the fee information, if the card belongs to a current account. As a rule, the fee information is more simply structured than the price and service specifications and you can find the important information more quickly.

Withdrawal fee - Withdrawing money is not free in many cases. The withdrawal fee may apply if you withdraw cash from ATMs or counters in Switzerland or abroad. Your bank determines the price.

But be careful: do not confuse the withdrawal fee with the machine fee. Your card-issuing bank may charge withdrawal fees Machine operators set their own fees. It can therefore happen that a bank advertises free withdrawals worldwide, but still incurs costs at the ATM in certain countries. The bank usually does not replace this.

This usually happens to you abroad. But be careful: Mastercard allows banks, too to demand such fees in Germany. We therefore asked the banks that belong to the Cash Group. Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Postbank and Hypovereinsbank do not charge such fees from outside customers (as of December 2020).

Foreign currency fee - This fee may apply to payments and withdrawals in currencies other than the euro. It is usually stated as a percentage of the amount due.

Foreign transaction fee - Some banks not only charge fees if you pay with the card in a foreign currency, but also if the seller's registered office is in a non-euro country. This can be a problem if you shop online and don't expect any fees at all, as the price is given in euros. Check with your bank as to whether the fees involved are foreign currency or foreign transaction fees; this is not always clear from the name. Then you know what costs you will have to pay for the card.

Currency conversion fee - If you pay in a currency other than the euro within the European Union, the banks must use the reference rate of the European Central Bank (ECB) to exchange the currency. However, that doesn't mean they don't add an additional fee to it. What exactly it looks like varies. Some banks set a fixed percentage that they add to the respective rate. Others use the difference between the Mastercard or Visa rate and the ECB rate. The fee is therefore dependent on the currency and the current rate. Some banks charge this fee not only in the European Economic Area, but worldwide.

Lending rates - These can come in different forms. Either as an overdraft if you use the card beyond your account balance or if you don't have enough money in the account when the card debt is debited. Or as interest, if you use the partial payment, i.e. do not repay part of the outstanding amount directly.

There are also other fees, for example for a replacement card or for a second or partner card.

What else is important with credit cards?

Credit cards are about more than just fees and types of debits. You should therefore also pay attention to these points:

Contactless payment - With more and more credit cards, you can make contactless payments with your credit card using the NFC (Near Field Communication) wireless standard. To do this, you simply hold the card up to the cash register terminal, and you're done with the payment. This works with low sums without entering the PIN and without a signature. Visa has set a limit of 50 euros for this, Mastercard actually 25 euros, but due to the corona pandemic, Mastercard has also set the limit at 50 euros. Our recommendations are all NFC-enabled.

Before contactless payment became a matter of course in the Corona crisis, there were repeated discussions about the security of NFC technology. At some banks you can use the Deactivate the NFC functionHowever, this is not the standard. If you feel uncomfortable with your card, you can at least use a cover that shields the NFC chip. These are often available free of charge from the bank to the card if you ask for them.

Pay and withdraw always in local currency - If you are traveling outside the euro zone, you will often be asked whether the sum should be billed in euros when paying or withdrawing with your credit card. Choose always the local currency. Because if you decide in favor of the euro, the operator of the ATM converts the foreign currency and beats it a high profit margin on. With the local currency, on the other hand, the amount is usually converted using an exchange rate of the credit card provider that can be viewed on the Internet and which is significantly cheaper.

The same applies if an exchange rate is already offered to you at the machine. This course is usually more expensive than that of your own provider. Therefore, always withdraw without currency conversion.

Credit card limit - Depending on your creditworthiness, the bank determines the credit limit of your card. This is the amount up to which you can use the card every month. If you manage the card account in the plus or transfer more to the card account than you owe, the credit limit increases by the respective amount. If you have exhausted your credit limit, you can no longer use the card.

Problems with paying abroad - If the card suddenly goes on strike while paying abroad, there can be different reasons. One of them is that you have maxed your credit line or other limits. Another that the card is not compatible with the cash registers abroad. This is due to the different ways in which cards can "identify" themselves when paying. In Germany and many other countries, the online variant is preferred for cards and cash registers, in some countries - for example France - it is the offline variant. If your card cannot be used offline, you cannot use it.

Reclaim unauthorized bookings - Check your credit card statement regularly. If you discover that something went wrong with a payment, you can get the money back. This applies, for example, to double or excessive debits.

You can also reclaim payments if you have trouble with a provider. The so-called chargeback process helps, among other things, with counterfeit brands, defective goods or purchases that never reached you. You can even get your money back from insolvent providers.

Loss of the card - If you lose your card or it is stolen, you must report this to your bank as soon as possible and block your card. Until then, you are liable for a maximum of 50 euros if someone else uses your card. After being blocked, you are no longer liable. Exceptions apply if you have acted with gross negligence, which is often a matter of individual decisions. The Blocking the card is free, this also applies to the replacement card.

Visa or Mastercard - Both Visa and Mastercard offer free credit cards. The two companies have no direct contact with the cardholder, but issue licenses to banks and savings banks. Therefore, there are innumerable credit institutions that offer these credit cards. The banks are free to provide you with the credit card free of charge. Both Visa and Mastercard are accepted worldwide.

We advise you to make the decision for a credit card based on the costs. However, it can be worthwhile for you to have a card from every provider if you travel a lot and far. The reason for this is that the cards are accepted differently in some countries.

Important if you often withdraw money in Germany: For Mastercard cards, the banks may charge extra fees, i.e. in addition to the fees that your bank is already charging. We therefore checked with the banks that belong to the Cash Group: Deutsche Bank, Postbank, Commerzbank and Hypovereinsbank do not charge any such fees if you withdraw money from their ATMs with a Mastercard (as of December 2020).

With Visa cards it can happen that you cannot withdraw any money from Sparkassen and Volksbanken because the bank locks your bank's card out. However, we mostly only received reports from more rural regions.

Other credit card providers are American Express and Diners Club, from which you usually receive a credit card directly. However, these cards will accepted by fewer traders as Mastercard and Visa. This is due, for example, to the fact that the costs for Mastercard and Visa are regulated on the merchant side, but not for Amex and Diners Club. If you pay with such a card, the merchants may incur higher costs.

Dubious calls - Credit cards are not always reputable. It can happen that the cards are offered over the phone. Some traders give the impression that this is the successor card to your current credit card. Behind this there is possibly an offer where you have to pay very high fees for the card, and that by cash on delivery. Therefore, always inform yourself about the fees and do not rely on the information for such calls.

Bank refused credit card - When issuing credit cards, the banks also look at the financial situation of the customers. If it doesn't seem good enough to them, they refuse the credit card. Credit cards work as a solution, in which the Schufa is not checked.

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That's how we tested

Comparison of free credit cards 2020

In our credit card test from October to December 2020, we examined numerous offers in order to find the right card for you. We examined free cards, cards for students and prepaid cards.

Using a Google search, we compiled a population of cards that we found with the keywords “free credit cards” (first five Google pages) and “credit card” (first three Google pages). We also included the cards in the test that were listed on portals with the keyword “credit card”. If a card that came up when researching student cards or prepaid cards passed the test, we included it.

The cards had to meet the following criteria:

  • no basic fee
  • If an account belongs to the card: Unrestricted free account management with the account
  • Withdrawals must be free of charge for amounts over 50 euros, at least in Germany and the euro zone
  • Supra-regional offers that are accessible to everyone

If a card turned up under a different name but with the same conditions, we only examined the original.

Withdrawing in Germany must be free of charge because we examined credit cards as a single product and not as a combination with a giro account and giro card. Withdrawing in the euro zone must be free, because credit cards are used especially for travel. From the original 52 cards, only 14 remained.

Examined cards

BarclaycardBarclaycard Visa
BitwalaDebit Mastercard (now Visa)
ConsorsbankVisa
DKBDKB Cash Visa Card
FerratumMastercard Debit
Hanseatic BankGenialcard
InshaDebit Mastercard
N26N26 Mastercard
Open bankR42 debit card
PaybackVisa Flex +
RevolutDebit Card Standard
Santander1plus Visa
TomorrowVisa card
TransferwiseDebit Card Standard

Source: Finanztip (as of December 2020)

However, we only recommend cards for which the free withdrawal is not limited to a certain number or a maximum amount.