Conveying no annual fee: Zero vs $0.00 vs None


New restrictions on credit card issuers are scheduled to take effect in early 2010, and many people expect the credit card companies to stick it to consumers with new fees and reduced services. For instance, some companies have already begun to charge annual fees on accounts that never had such a fee before.

With this in mind, I decided to look into the annual fee situation with one of my credit cards. The issuer actually provides this info online, so I clicked the link to view the list of fees. On the next screen, it said something like “Annual fee: $0.00”. Did I get the info I needed? Sure. But a simple design change could have made the message a lot more effective.

To make it immediately obvious that there’s no annual fee, you want to avoid anything that looks or reads like a number. Don’t write $0 or $0.00 or “Zero”. Instead, try something like “None” or “No annual fee”. By removing the need for the customer to process a numeric reference, it’s absolutely clear that no annual fee applies. Even better, you can use this space to tell people how long the information is valid. For instance, if you won’t be re-evaluating the fees on that type of account until the end of 2010, you might write it as: “Annual fee: None – No annual fee through at least 12/31/2010”. With this approach, customers can instantly see where they stand, and will feel confident that you won’t be sneaking an annual fee in behind their backs.