Are free credit cards really free? Free of charge in financial products is a relative issue, a very relative issue. We would dare to say that there is nothing free in financial products, and yet we are constantly offered free credit cards. It is necessary to stop and think about what this freeness really consists of, if, we repeat, we take into account that there is nothing free in financial products.

From the outset, it must always be clear that when we talk about free of charge, we are talking about certain particular aspects of the product, generally commissions or associated expenses. This is important because no credit card offers free of charge, for example, in all its credit operations, cash withdrawals, etc., i.e. the interest, commissions and expenses associated with the operation of the card are hardly going to be part of that free of charge.

Free cards without commissions

Therefore we come to the heart of the matter, what we are usually offered as free cards are really cards to which a bonus is applied on the commissions or expenses.

Generally we will find three different models within this free card:

  • That card with no issue cost but with subsequent maintenance costs.
  • That card with no issue cost and no maintenance cost in the first year, but with maintenance cost in subsequent years.
  • That card with no issuance cost and no maintenance cost at any time during its operating life.

We will be able to find any of these options although, probably the most present in the market is the second one, that is to say, the one that proposes its contracting without issuance cost, a period without application of maintenance commissions, and the subsequent annual maintenance commission.

We can also find within this last format some exceptions or bonuses, for example those that offer us the possibility of not paying a maintenance cost for the card as long as it involves a certain number of uses, of a certain amount in a specific period of time.

Free cards and their use

We can distinguish two very different types of dynamics of use of these cards without commissions.

The first is the linked card. This is a product that is part of a set of products and, generally, its bonus in the form of the absence of maintenance and issue fees is related to this linkage. In this model we can perfectly well find the non-requirement of use to maintain the gratuity, since this is obtained through the general linkage of the user and not only for the card.

The second model, as might be expected, is the one that associates the use of the card with its free use. In other words, for the card to be used free of charge, it will have to be used either a certain number of times within a specific range of transactions, or on a specific amount set by the bank.

It is true that, on some occasions, on the contrary, it will be the card and its use that will determine the bonus on other products, for example, in mortgages where we can obtain a modification to the differential with a certain amount of money, linked through the credit card, however, this is not the case here.