You don't have to pay an annual fee to get the credit card you want. If you want decent rewards without having to spend extra money on an annual fee, then no annual fee cards are suitable for you. Find low rates, cash back, and rewards with these great cards from our partners - all with no annual fee.
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Updated: April 16, 2018
Credit cards without an annual fee offer much-appreciated savings, a hassle-free experience and other benefits, say experts.
"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.
"Without the burden of an annual fee, consumers are able to spend money on the things they want while earning cash back on their purchases.
"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:
Take a look at our best cards and guide below and let us know if you have any other questions!
|Best for:||Card Name||CreditCards.com Rating||Annual Fee|
|Hotel booking||Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card||3.8 / 5||None|
|Everyday spending||Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||3.7 / 5||None|
|New cardholders||Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card||3.6 / 5||None|
|Flat-rate cash back||Chase Freedom Unlimited®||3.9 / 5||None|
|Amazon.com purchases||Discover it® Cashback Match™||4.1 / 5||None|
|Rotating cash back categories||Chase Freedom®||3.3 / 5||None|
|Gas and groceries||Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card||4.0 / 5||None|
|Cash sign-up bonus||Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Credit Card||3.5 / 5||None|
|Balance transfers||The Amex Everyday® Credit Card from American Express||2.6 / 5||None|
|Entertainment purchases||Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card||2.3 / 5||None|
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
Bottom Line: As a card with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, the VentureOne® offers a ton of value. With an unbeatable rewards rate of 10 miles per dollar when booking through hotels.com/venture, the VentureOne® is a favorite of frequent travelers.
Bottom Line: The Blue Cash Everyday® is a quintessential card of the American shopper. Its cash back rewards at supermarkets and gas stations makes it a valuable credit card for newbies and seasoned cardholders alike.
Bottom Line: The Capital One® Quicksilver® is a no hassle, no frills credit card that's perfect for credit card beginners and first-timers. There's also no need to worry about foreign transaction fees.
Bottom Line: Backed by one of America's most popular banks, the Freedom Unlimited® card offers a $150 sign-up bonus for spending $500 in your first 3 months. In addition to its reliable 1.5% cash back on all purchases, the Freedom Unlimited® also doubles as a solid credit card for balance transfers.
Bottom Line: An excellent credit card for shoppers looking to maximize cash back, the Discover it® Cashback Match™ offers a unique twist which its name alludes to: as an intro offer, Discover will automatically match all cash back earned on this card in your first year, essentially doubling your first year's earnings.
Bottom Line: Another staple of shopping enthusiasts' wallets, the Chase Freedom® competes with the likes of the Discover it® in offering quarterly rotating categories for 5% cash back. Its $150 sign-up bonus comes with a very attainable required spend of $500 in 3 months.
Bottom Line: Comparable to everyday spending cards like the Blue Cash Everyday® from American Express, the Cash Rewards card offers 3% back on gas purchases and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. Bank of America customers enjoy even more benefits, such as a 10% bonus when redeeming cash back into a Bank of America checking or savings account.
Bottom Line: The Wells Fargo Cash Wise®'s $200 sign-up bonus is larger than many comparable cards, although it requires you to spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Its flat-rate 1.5% cash back goes up to 1.8% when using mobile pay during the first year.
Bottom Line: Despite a smaller sign-up bonus than some of its brethren, the Amex Everyday® card is still a valuable addition thanks to its strong balance transfer offers. Namely, a $0 balance transfer fee for balance transfers requested in the first 60 days and a 0% intro APR period of 15 months.
Bottom Line: Do you enjoy restaurants and movies? (Rhetorical question – of course you do!) The Citi ThankYou® card specializes in dining out and entertainment, where it nets you 2 points for every dollar spent in those categories.
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.
Some cards with annual fees waive the fee the first year, such as the Capital One Venture Rewards. Here are popular cards that waive the annual fee:
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card||$95, waived first year||50,000 miles/$3,000 spend in 3 mths; 2X miles per dollar on every purchase|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||$95, waived first year||50,000 pts/$4,000 spend in 3 mths; 2X pts on worldwide travel, dining|
|Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express||$195, waived first year||25,000 pts/$2,000 spend in 3 mths; 3X pts, direct airline purchases; 2X pts, U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, U.S. supermarkets. Terms Apply|
|Citi/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®||$95, waived first 12 mths||50,000 miles/$2,500 spend in 3 mths; first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries, cardholder and up to 4 companions on same reservation; 25% savings on food, beverage purchases on American Airlines flights|
Surprisingly few credit cards have an annual fee – only 24 out of 100 surveyed, according to a CreditCards.com study. Nine of the 24 lower or waive the fee for a new cardholder's first year. Annual fees can run as low as $25, which the Wells Fargo Secured card charges, to as high as $450, which the Citi Prestige card charges. Here are where the 100 cards surveyed stand with annual fees and other fees:
Source: CreditCards.com survey
A card with no annual fee has some clear advantages, but so do cards with annual fees. Here, we look at:
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 fee||Cons of cards with no annual fee|
|One less fee to worry about||Lower sign-up bonus|
|Build credit||Fewer benefits|
|Most cashback cards have no annual fee||Ongoing rewards may be lower|
|Variety of cards available||Some great cards have annual fees|
Here, we take a deeper dive into the advantages of a card with no annual fee:
|Type of fee||Percent who asked||Percent who received (of those who asked)|
|Waive late fee||25%||87%|
|Waive annual fee||11%||51%|
|Lower interest rates||19%||69%|
|Increase credit limit||28%||89%|
Source: CreditCards.com poll
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:
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:
|Type of cards with no annual fee||Card||Features|
|Credit-builder card||Capital One Secured Mastercard||For bad, limited credit|
|Travel card||Capital One VentureOne Rewards||20,000 miles sign-up bonus/$1,000 spend in 3 mths; 1.25X miles on every purchase|
|Airline card||Blue Delta SkyMiles from American Express||10,000-mile sign-up/$500 spend in 3 mths; 2X miles on U.S. restaurants & purchases made directly with Delta|
|Cashback card||Bank of America Cash Rewards||$150 sign-up bonus/$500 spend in 90 days; 3% on gas & 2% on grocery stores, wholesale clubs – on first $2,500 combined each quarter|
|Balance transfer card||Discover it||18-month 0% intro APR on BT; 6-month 0% intro APR on purchases; 13.49%-24.49% APR variable after that|
While there are many good reasons for signing up for a card with an annual fee, there are times when a no annual fee card is the right choice. Here are times when it may be best to downgrade to a no annual fee card:
Avoiding annual fees tops our list of things we look for in credit cards, according to Experian polling. In fact, it beats rewards:
Source: Experian survey
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, because the rewards vary, even if the benefits are similar.
|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 Apply||15-month 0% intro APR on purchases, balance transfers, then 14.49%-25.49% (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); 3% back at U.S. gas stations, select U.S. department stores. Terms Apply||12-month 0% intro APR on purchases, balance transfers, then 14.49%-25.49% (Variable)|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards||$0||20,000-mile sign-up/$1,000 spend in 3 mths; 1.25X miles per dollar on every purchase||No foreign transaction fee|
|Capital One Venture Rewards||$95, waived first year||50,000-mile sign-up/$3,000 spend in 3 mths; 2X miles per dollar on every purchase||No 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.
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.
|Card||Cash back||Total minus annual fee|
|Blue Cash Everyday||3% x $3,200=$96||$96|
|Blue Cash Preferred||6% 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. Also, the Preferred has a higher sign-up bonus than the Blue Cash Everyday.
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?
|Card||Cash back||Total minus annual fee|
|VentureOne Rewards||1.25 miles x $12,750=$159||$159|
|Venture Rewards||2 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.
Once you make the decision to get a card without an annual fee, you'll find that there is quite a variety.
You'll want to look at such issues as which categories the card rewards and whether there are any tricks, such as the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. Here are some tips:
|Card||Rewards||Ultimate Rewards boost||Annual fee|
|Freedom||$150 sign-up/$500 spend in 3 mths; 5% back on quarterly categories, up to $1,500 a quarter||N/A||$0|
|Freedom Unlimited||$150 sign-up/$500 spend in 3 mths; 1.5% back on every purchase||N/A||$0|
|Sapphire Preferred||50,000-point sign-up/$4,000 spend in first 3 mths; 2X points on worldwide travel, dining||25%||$95, waived first year|
|Sapphire Reserve||50,000-point sign-up/$4,000 spend in 3 mths; 3X points on worldwide travel, dining; $300 annual travel credit||50%||$450|
A no annual fee credit card is great for someone who is looking for a 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.
Check out our reviews for no annual fee cards to explore more credit card offers that waive that cost every year.
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