No Annual Fee Credit Cards

While many luxury credit cards charge an annual fee, there is a vast array of top tier credit cards that offer ample rewards without an annual fee. In fact, these include some of the best credit cards around. Find low rates, cash back, and rewards with the best no annual fee cards from our partners below.

See the best no annual fee credit card offers from our partners below.

Summary

Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of 2019:

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

9,947 Reviews

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Chase's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
17.24% - 25.99% variable

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Highlights

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Regular APR
17.24% - 25.99% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months

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Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

26,257 Reviews

See Rates & Fees

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Discover's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% for 14 months
Regular APR
14.24% - 25.24% variable

See Rates & Fees

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Highlights

  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts—Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 14 months
Regular APR
14.24% - 25.24% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% for 14 months

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NEW! NOW EARN 3% IN THE CATEGORY OF YOUR CHOICE

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Bank of America's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days
Regular APR
16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Show Less

Highlights

  • No annual fee
  • $150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • New Offer: Maximize your cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement /furnishings
  • Now earn 3% cash back in your choice category and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • You can update your choice category for future purchases once each calendar month using the Mobile banking app or Online banking, or do nothing and it stays the same.
  • No expiration on rewards
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can get a 25% - 75% rewards bonus on every purchase

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles
Regular APR
16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days

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Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Wells Fargo's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% for 12 months
Regular APR
14.74% - 27.24% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $300 cash redemption value
  • Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points for gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 14.74%-27.24% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 12 months
Regular APR
14.74%-27.24% (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% for 12 months

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Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

5,915 Reviews

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Capital One's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
15.24% - 25.24% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.24%-25.24% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 15.24%-25.24% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Regular APR
15.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months

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Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

14,756 Reviews

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Chase's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
17.24% - 25.99% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Regular APR
17.24% - 25.99% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months

View All Card Details

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NEW! ROUND UP YOUR POINTS ON EVERY PURCHASE

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

Citi Rewards+℠ Card
Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Citi's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% intro for 12 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR
15.74% - 25.74% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • Introducing the New Citi Rewards+℠ Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap
  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 12 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.74% - 25.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • Get 10% Points Back for the first 100,000 ThankYou® Points you redeem per year

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro for 12 months on Purchases
Regular APR
15.74% - 25.74% (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% intro for 12 months on Balance Transfers

View All Card Details

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Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card

976 Reviews

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Capital One's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
15.24% - 25.24% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.24% - 25.24% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 15.24% - 25.24% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Regular APR
15.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months

View All Card Details

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Discover it® Miles

Discover it® Miles

322 Reviews

See Rates & Fees

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Discover's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
10.99% for 14 months
Regular APR
14.24% - 25.24% variable

See Rates & Fees

Show Less

Highlights

  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles. That's $600 towards travel!
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases all with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates – fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts— Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No Annual Fee.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 14 months
Regular APR
14.24% - 25.24% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
10.99% for 14 months

View All Card Details

Show More

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Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information.

Comparing No Annual Fee Credit Card Offers

Updated: February 20, 2019

Credit cards without an annual fee offer much-appreciated savings, a hassle-free experience and other benefits, say experts. In fact, the majority of our picks for the best credit cards have no annual fee.

"Yearly fees prevent consumers from buying what they really want," says Julie Pukas, head of U.S. Bankcard and Merchant Solutions at TD Bank. "Our 2017 Consumer Spending Index revealed that millennials spend nearly $300 more than the average respondent on dining, a total of approximately $2,000 annually.

"Some consumers may save their credit card rewards points so that they can pay off their annual fee," says Pukas. "By switching to a card with no yearly fee, they can put those rewards to something they really want, like flights, dining out and more."

The trick is to identify whether one suits your lifestyle. Here, we look at:


What is an annual fee?

An annual fee on a credit card is a charge made each anniversary year. An annual fee might be charged on a credit-builder card, a rewards card or a luxury card, for example. Typically, you are benefiting in some fashion for having the card, such as when it's a hotel or airline card.

Annual fees can run as low as $25, which the Wells Fargo Secured card charges, to as high as $995, which the Mastercard® Gold Card™ charges. However, surprisingly few credit cards have an annual fee – only 26 out of 100 surveyed, according to a CreditCards.com study, and about half of the cards with annual fees waive that fee the first year. Heads up that no annual fee cards can be among the highest in other fees – of the 15 cards with the highest number of different fees, 11 had no annual fee.

That said, among those cards with no annual fee, there are some standouts that offer truly impressive value – take a look at our favorites and let us know if you have any questions!

best no annual fee credit cards

CreditCards.com's best no annual fee credit cards of 2019

CardBest ForAnnual FeeOur Rating
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit CardHotel booking$03.5 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited®0% APR Period$03.1 / 5
Discover it® Cash BackAmazon.com purchases$04.3 / 5
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit cardEveryday spending$03.4 / 5
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® CardSign-up bonus$03.5 / 5
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit CardNew cardholders$03.4 / 5
Chase Freedom®Categories$03.1 / 5
Citi Rewards+SM CardSmall purchases$03.0 / 5
Capital One® SavorOneSM Cash Rewards Credit CardDining & entertainment$03.7 / 5
Discover it® MilesTravel Rewards$04.0 / 5

Methodology

No annual fee credit cards analyzed: 2,744

Criteria used: Rates and fees, rewards rates, sign-up bonus, other promotional offers, redemption options and flexibility, regular APR, extra features and benefits, customer service, credit needed, security, ease of application, ability to upgrade

Details on our top picks

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards

This card's 1.25X miles for all purchases is augmented with 10X miles on hotels booked through hotels.com/venture. There's also a sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles after a $1,000 spend within 3 months, making it competitive with other travel cards without an annual fee. As a card with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, the VentureOne offers a ton of value.

Bottom line: With an unbeatable rewards rate of 10X miles when booking and paying through hotels.com/Venture, the VentureOne is a favorite of frequent travelers.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

This card's straightforward 1.5% back on all purchases makes it easy to manage. There's also a $150 intro bonus after a $500 spend within 3 months of card membership. If travel is your thing, know that this card can be partnered with a Sapphire product, allowing you to get a 25%-50% bonus when redeeming for travel at Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Bottom line: The Chase Freedom Unlimited is the trifecta – it's a cash back card, a card with travel benefits, as well as a solid credit card for balance transfers, with 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (then 17.24% - 25.99% variable).

Discover it® Cash Back

This card's double cash back feature is unique in that there is no sign-up bonus, but you can earn up to $600 at year-end. Here's how: Enroll in and max out the 5% rotating categories with $1,500 spend a quarter, bringing your cash back to $300 for the year. Then at the end of your first year of card membership, you earn another $300. With this card, you can redeem at any time. Also, the Discover cards offer Social Security number monitoring, making your identity that much safer.

Bottom line: An excellent credit card for shoppers looking to maximize cash back, the Discover it Cash Back offers the twist of matching your cash back at the end of your first year.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

The Cash Rewards card offers 3% back on one category of your choice (out of 6 possibilities that include gas and online shopping) and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs for the first $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter. The sign-up bonus is $150 after a $500 spend within the first 90 days of card membership, which is a relatively low spending requirement.

Bottom line: Comparable to everyday spending cards like the Blue Cash Everyday from American Express, the Cash Rewards card offers even more benefits, such as up to 75% redemption bonus for Bank of America clients with Preferred Rewards status.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card is among our top cards for a simple reason: it offers the most value. The size of its sign-up bonus (30K points, redeemable for $300, after spending $3,000 in your first 3 months) is more typically found among credit cards that charge an annual fee. The same can be said of its strong 3X rewards on travel, dining, and popular streaming services.

Bottom line: The Wells Fargo Propel card is leaps and bounds above the traditional options in the no annual fee category.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Quicksilver goes toe-to-toe with other top flat-rate cash rewards cards, providing 1.5% back on all purchases and no annual fee. Its sign-up bonus is on par with competing cards, with $150 to be earned for spending $500 in the first 3 months. There's also no need to worry about foreign transaction fees.

Bottom line: The Capital One Quicksilver is a no hassle, no frills credit card that's perfect for credit card beginners and first-timers.

Chase Freedom®

Earn $150 back after a $500 spend in 3 months and 5% back on select, rotating categories. Also, if you have a big purchase coming up, this card will give you 15 months 0% intro APR on purchases as well as balance transfers. It's 17.24%-25.99% variable after that.

Bottom line: Unlike the Discover it Cash Back, the Chase Freedom has a sign-up bonus, and the quarterly categories are good for the shopper who wants to maximize their rewards.

Citi Rewards+SM Card

This card is one of the most rewarding for a no annual fee card, not so much because of the sign-up bonus or the ongoing rewards, but because of other features. First, earn 15,000 points after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months of card membership and 2X points at supermarkets and gas stations up to $6,000 spend each year (and 1X thereafter). Then, get your rewards rounded up to the nearest 10 points on each purchase and earn 10% back on up to 100,000 points redemption each year.

Bottom line: If you are looking for a card that rewards your family on every little purchase, all with no annual fee, this is a great choice.

Capital One® SavorOneSM Cash Rewards Credit Card

The SavorOne lets you enjoy cash back on dining, entertainment, and groceries without the hassle of an annual fee. Dining and entertainment earn 3% cash back while groceries earn 2% cash back and other purchases earn 1% cash back. There is a healthy sign-up bonus of $150 if you spend $500 in the first 3 months.

Bottom line: The SavorOne is a great option for anyone who likes to dine out or order in, rivaling cards like the Uber Visa® Card.

Discover it® Miles

This low-maintenance travel card earns you 1.5X miles on all purchases and has no annual fee. While there's no sign-up bonus, you earn an additional 1.5X miles back on all purchases at the end of your first year.

Bottom line: If you don't enjoy actively managing your miles but you want the freedom to redeem for different types of travel, the Discover it Miles is a good card to have.

Pros and cons of a no annual fee card

A card with no annual fee has some clear advantages, but so do cards with annual fees. Here, we look at:

  • Pros and cons of a no annual fee card
  • When are no annual fee cards worth it?
  • When are cards with annual fees worth it?

There are a variety of card types to choose from when it comes to cards with no annual fee, and it's an easy way to save a little money. But it does limit your options. Here's what we've found:

Pros of cards with no annual feeCons of cards with no annual fee
One less fee to worry aboutLower sign-up bonus
Build creditFewer benefits
Most cashback cards have no annual feeOngoing rewards may be lower
Variety of cards availableSome great cards have annual fees

When are no annual fee cards worth it?

Here, we take a deeper dive into the advantages of a card with no annual fee:

  • Would a cashback card suit your needs? Most cashback cards offer no annual fee, yet they can have sign-up bonuses of up to $200, such as the Wells Fargo Cash Wise, and a couple offer 5% rotating categories, such as the Chase Freedom and the Discover it Cash Back (enroll each quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in various categories throughout the year).
  • Are you primarily interested in building credit? If you aren't going to be putting much on your card each month, and are focused on building credit, it might be a good idea to pay in full each month ahead of the due date with a card that doesn't have an annual fee. That's just one less fee to worry about.
  • Would waiving the fee make it worth your while? If you are interested in a card with an annual fee, but you don't relish the idea of paying up each year, consider asking for the fee to be waived. Surprisingly few people do this, according to our polling, yet most who ask, get what they want.

Cardholders who asked...

  •  85%
  • Received a higher credit limit
  •  84%
  • Got a late fee waived
  •  70%
  • Had an annual fee lowered or waived
  •  56%
  • Got a lower interest rate (APR)

Source: CreditCards.com poll

When are cards with annual fees worth it?

If you are willing to commit to a card with an annual fee, it can be worth it, provided you assess how much your savings would be with the rewards and benefits. And in some cases, the annual fee is waived the first year, thereby increasing the savings further. Here is when a card with an annual fee might be worth it to you:

  • If the annual fee is waived. Sometimes, cards with annual fees waive the fee the first year of card membership, maximizing your savings.
  • If you plan to spend a lot. Every card has a threshold that can make it worth your while to get a card with an annual fee.
  • If the sign-up bonus is generous. Cards with annual fees can have superior sign-up bonuses, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, with its 50,000 points after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months of opening your account.
  • If the ongoing rewards are particularly rich. The rewards for a card with an annual fee may be stronger than those with no annual fee, such as the Blue Cash Preferred's 6% back on U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 a year (then 1%); and 3% on U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores.
  • If the benefits are excellent. Look at the benefits of the cards you are eyeing, such as free first checked bag, free late check-out or an annual airline fee credit, such as the $100 annual airline fee credit of the American Express® Gold Card.

Common benefits of a no annual fee card

From the choice in cards to the amount of spending, there are a number of benefits of a card with no annual fee. While the rewards may not be as generous as a card with an annual fee, it's still worth your while to compare. Here are common benefits of cards without annual fees:

  • No ongoing charge. If you pay on time and in full each month, you can avoid late fees and interest charges, as well as no annual fee if that is a feature of the card.
  • Good for the long term. If it's a card you plan to keep beyond the first year, but not one you plan to use aggressively, then a no annual fee card can be a good choice.
  • A variety of types of cards. No annual fee cards can belong to categories like cash back, balance transfer, travel, and more.
  • Good for small amounts of spending. If you don't plan to be a big spender with your card, you don't need a card with richer rewards, which often come with an annual fee.
  • Nice rewards. No annual fee cards can offer 2% back flat rate, 5% back on select categories, $150 sign-up bonus and more.

Who should get a no annual fee card?

A no annual fee credit card is great for someone who is looking for a good balance transfer card, trying to build credit or wants a rewards card without the hassle of an annual fee.

With a balance transfer card or 0% APR card, you avoid interest charges for a limited time – this may be a card you don't plan to use much in the future, so an annual fee isn't wanted.

Cards without annual fees can also be easier to get, because they sometimes require a lower credit score. If you need a secured card or a card for bad or fair credit, you'll want to see if there is an annual fee, which can be another cost when cash is short.

Also, while many rewards cards have annual fees, there are some without one, which is ideal if you don't plan to use the card extensively.

Finally, these cards can be great for building your credit, particularly when you pay in full and on time each month, thereby keeping your balance low.

What to do if you're unhappy with your annual fee card

If you've committed to a card with an annual fee and now you're feeling a bit trapped, there are actually ways to get out of the annual fee without harming your credit.

Option 1: Downgrade the card

If you're unsatisfied with the card and perks, instead of closing the card, call the card's issuer and request a product change to downgrade to a card with no annual fee, advises Chelsea Hudson, personal finance expert with TopCashback.com. This will allow you to skip the annual fee without affecting your credit score.

If you want certain benefits of the older card, such as the credit limit, you'll want to stay within product groups. So, for example you wouldn't transition as a downgrade from the Chase Sapphire Reserve to a Southwest card, although you might downgrade to a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

When you downgrade, everything transfers to the new card, including account number, credit line, payment history, even length of time you have had the card active. The payment history and length of history are particularly important, because those impact your credit, and by retaining these with a product change, you keep them beyond 10 years on your credit file. Also, by maintaining the credit line, you keep your credit utilization ratio low, provided your balances are low, which is another important part of maintaining a healthy score.

So when is it a good time to downgrade? Here's what the experts told us:

  • If you are carrying a high balance, a balance transfer card without an annual fee can be a good choice, says Michael Tamez, investment blogger with Sunshine Gold Investments.
  • If you don't use your credit card often, and the annual fee is eating you up, the switch to a card with no annual fee may be the best option.
  • If you want the benefits without the fee, says Ben Luthi, financial expert at Student Loan Hero. While you won't get a lot of the same perks that you'd get with a premium credit card, you can still get benefits like a 0% APR promotion on purchases and balance transfers, no foreign transaction fees, price protection, and rental car insurance.

Option 2: Close the card

If your wallet is weighed down with cards, closing the card with an annual fee can be an option. You'll want to pay off any debt (don't just transfer it to another card) and make sure you don't have high debt in your combined cards, because that can impact your credit utilization ratio, and therefore, your credit score. Also, think twice before closing an older card, because your oldest card and your average age are factored into your credit.

 

Option 3: Ask for the annual fee to be waived

There's another little-known option – simply ask your issuer to waive the annual fee. The answer may surprise you. In fact, we found that 70% of consumers who asked successfully had their annual fees waived or lowered.

Differences between cards with and without annual fees

Cards with annual fees frequently come with better sign-up bonuses and ongoing rewards, as we'll show you. But then, there is the plus of not having to pay a fee year after year.

Here, we compare 2 sets of cards from the same card issuers and even similar names. But heads up, the rewards vary even if the benefits are similar.

Comparing benefits between cards with and without annual fees...

CardAnnual feeRewardsBenefits
Blue Cash Everyday from American Express$0$150 intro bonus/$1,000 spend in first 3 mths; 3% back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000); 2% back at U.S. gas stations, select U.S. department stores. Terms Apply15-month 0% intro APR on purchases, balance transfers, then 15.24%-26.24% (Variable)
Blue Cash Preferred from American Express$95$200 intro bonus/$1,000 spend in first 3 mths; 6% back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000, then 1% after that); 3% back at U.S. gas stations, select U.S. department stores. Terms Apply12-month 0% intro APR on purchases, balance transfers, then 15.24%-26.24% (Variable)
Capital One VentureOne Rewards$020,000-mile sign-up/$1,000 spend in 3 mths; 1.25X miles per dollar on every purchaseNo foreign transaction fee
Capital One Venture Rewards$95, waived first year50,000-mile sign-up/$3,000 spend in 3 mths; 2X miles per dollar on every purchaseNo foreign transaction fee

As you can see, while the Venture cards have similar benefits, the Blue Cash products vary in the 0% APR offer, so it's worthwhile to read the fine print.

Which is better: annual fee or no annual fee?

While cards with annual fees often have superior benefits, money can be saved with a card that has no annual fee.

You can save money by avoiding an annual fee if you don't plan to spend too high of an amount. For example, with the Blue Cash Everyday, which has no annual fee, and the Blue Cash Preferred, which has a $95 annual fee, with a $3,200 spend on groceries, the Blue Cash cards come out within a penny of each other.

Blue Cash Everyday vs. Blue Cash Preferred...

CardCash backTotal minus annual fee
Blue Cash Everyday3% x $3,200=$96$96
Blue Cash Preferred6% x $3,200=$192$97

If you spend less, the Blue Cash Everyday is worth your while. If you spend more, then the Blue Cash Preferred is the best pick.

Take another example. The Capital One Venture Rewards has a significantly higher sign-up bonus than the Capital One VentureOne Rewards – 50,000 miles as opposed to 20,000. Also, the $95 annual fee for the Venture Rewards is waived the first year. But what about after the first year?

VentureOne Rewards vs. Venture Rewards...

CardCash backTotal minus annual fee
VentureOne Rewards1.25 miles x $12,750=$159$159
Venture Rewards2 miles x $12,750=$255$160

So, you see that the VentureOne Rewards is worth your while if you plan to spend less than $12,750 a year after the first year.

How to choose between different no annual fee cards

From credit-builder cards to cash back products, there are myriad credit card options with no annual fee.

Here are some questions to keep in mind as you choose between these cards:

  • Do you want rewards for everyday spending? Some cards will give higher rewards for everyday categories such as groceries and gas.
  • Is there a sister card? If so, there might be one with a waived annual fee the first year, such as the Capital One Venture Rewards, while the Capital One VentureOne Rewards has no annual fee. If you plan to spend a fair amount each year, the card with the annual fee may actually be the better choice.
  • What about partnering cards? With the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, you can pair up select products, transfer points to cards that have boosted rewards, and use the points toward travel. For example, you can do this with the Freedom cards (no annual fee) and the Sapphire cards. More on that later.
  • Do you want to set it and forget it? These cards are great for using the card without thinking about it – they can be up to 2% cash back, such as the Citi Double Cash Card (1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay), with no annual fee.
  • Do you want to chase rich rewards? The Chase Freedom and the Discover it Cash Back, both with no annual fee, offer quarterly rotating categories of 5% back. Be mindful of the requirements though, because with these cards, you have to activate to sign up for the new bonuses each quarter. Also take note that both cards' 5% cash back only apply up to $1,500 in purchases in the quarter's categories.
  • What about a sign-up bonus? Many no annual fee cards come with sign-up bonuses, even up to $200, as with the Wells Fargo Cash Wise. Or you instead might get double cash back at the end of your first year, as with the Discover it cards, or double your cash when you pay your bill, as in the case of the Citi Double Cash.

How to pair no annual fee and annual fee cards

You've practiced on your no annual fee card, and you feel you have this rewards thing down. Now it's time to think more strategically. It's time to look at pairing cards.

While a no annual fee card can have great cash back rewards on all spending or even specific categories, it may not have the outsized rewards of a travel card. With a travel card, you can get travel and purchase benefits, travel credits, even credits with Uber – all things you likely won't get with your cash back card.

But if you play it right, you can use the cash back, no annual fee card for, say, all spending, and use the travel card to get a sizeable sign-up bonus with your favorite hotel or airline brand, as well as outstanding ongoing rewards for that brand.

For example, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise will earn you 1.5% back on all purchases, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred gives you 2X points on travel and dining. Simply use the CSP for those purchases and the Cash Wise for everything else. In addition to the ongoing rewards, the Sapphire Preferred card will earn you 50,000 points after a $4,000 spend within 3 months, and the $95 annual fee is waived the first year.

What to know when pairing Chase cards

When pairing no annual fee cards and annual fee cards, there is no comparison when looking at the Chase cards.

Through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you can get the added travel bonus points of the Sapphire cards. In fact, the Sapphire Reserve, delivers a 50% bonus on points when you redeem for travel through Ultimate Rewards.

Then there are the Freedom cards. While you can't earn an Ultimate Rewards bonus with the fee-free Freedom cards, you can match them up with Sapphire cards and transfer the Freedom rewards, use them toward travel, and get the boost that way.

Pairing Chase Ultimate Rewards cards...

CardRewardsUltimate Rewards boostAnnual fee
Freedom$150 sign-up/$500 spend in 3 mths; 5% back on quarterly categories, up to $1,500 a quarterN/A$0
Freedom Unlimited$150 sign-up/$500 spend in 3 mths; 1.5% back on every purchaseN/A$0
Sapphire Preferred50,000-point sign-up/$4,000 spend in first 3 mths; 2X points on worldwide travel, restaurants25%$95, waived first year
Sapphire Reserve50,000-point sign-up/$4,000 spend in 3 mths; 3X points on worldwide travel*, restaurants; $300 annual travel credit50%$450

*earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit

Want some more information?

Check out our reviews for no annual fee cards to explore more credit card offers that waive that cost every year.


Laura is an editor and writer at CreditCards.com. She has written extensively on all things credit cards and works to bring you the most up-to-date analysis and advice. Laura's work has been cited in such publications as the New York Times and Associated Press. You can reach her by e-mail at laura.mohammad@creditcards.com and on Twitter @creditcards_lm.


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