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Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of 2023

Written by: Ryan Noonan | Edited by: Tracy Stewart | Reviewed by: Erica Sandberg
|

January 30, 2023

Best Credit Cards with No Annual Fee

BEST FOR ROTATING CASH BACK CATEGORIES
Discover it® Cash Back
Our rating:4.6 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
1%
Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Cashback Match™ Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
16.24% - 27.24% variable
BEST FOR 2% CASH REWARDS
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Our rating:4.1 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

2%
Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
$200 cash rewards Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
19.24%, 24.24%, or 29.24% Variable APR
BEST FOR NEW CARDHOLDERS
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:3.7 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
1.5%
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

At A Glance

Intro offer
$200 Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
19.24% - 29.24% variable
BEST FOR U.S. GAS STATIONS AND U.S. SUPERMARKET PURCHASES
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Our rating:4.8 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%.
3%
3% Cash Back on U.S. online retail purchases, on up to $6,000 per year, then 1%.
3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%.
1%
1% Cash Back on other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
$200 Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
18.24% - 29.24% variable
BEST FOR PAYING RENT
Bilt Mastercard®
Our rating:4.0 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

3X Points
3x points on dining
2X Points
2x points on travel
1X Points
1x points on other purchases
1X Points
Earn up to 1x points on rent payments without the transaction fee, up to 50,000 points each calendar year. When you make at least 5 posted transactions in a statement period using your Bilt Mastercard, you'll earn points on rent and qualifying net purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
No current offer
Annual fee
None
Regular APR
See Terms
BEST FOR OCCASIONAL TRAVEL + INTRO APR
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:4.5 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

5X
Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
1.25X
Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.

At A Glance

Intro offer
20,000 miles Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
19.24% - 29.24% variable
BEST FOR AUTOMATIC REWARDS
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
Our rating:4.5 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter.
1%
Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
$200 Earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
18.24% - 28.24% variable
BEST FOR CUSTOMIZED REWARDS CATEGORIES
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
Our rating:4.4 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

3%
Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases).
2%
Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases).
1%
Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
$200 $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
18.24% - 28.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
BEST BANK OF AMERICA CARD FOR FLAT RATE CASH BACK
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card
Our rating:3.8 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

1.5%
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
$200 $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
18.24% - 28.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
BEST FOR EARNING REWARDS + AVOIDING FEES
No annual fee
Petal® 2
Our rating:3.9 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

(No Credit History) 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.

Rewards rate

1.5%
Up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments.
1%
1% cash back on eligible purchases right away.

At A Glance

Intro offer
No current offer
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
17.24% - 31.24% variable
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All information about the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.


Comparing the best no annual fee credit cards of 2023

Credit CardBest forAnnual feeOur rating
Capital One SavorOne Rewards Credit CardDining and entertainment$04.9 / 5
Discover it® Cash BackRotating cash back categories$04.6 / 5
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card2% cash rewards$04.1 / 5
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit CardNew cardholders$03.7 / 5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressU.S. gas and U.S. supermarkets$04.9 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited®Flat-rate cash back + sign-up bonus$05.0 / 5
Bilt MastercardPaying rent$04.0 / 5
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit CardOccasional travel + intro APR$04.5 / 5
Citi Custom Cash℠ CardAutomatically maximizing rewards$04.5 / 5
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit cardCustomized rewards categories$04.2 / 5
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit cardBank of America card for flat rate cash back$03.3 / 5
Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit CardEarning rewards + avoiding fees$03.9 / 5

best no annual fee credit cards

Editor’s picks: No annual fee credit card details

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for dining and entertainment

Best features: This popular Capital One credit card got a makeover in 2021: Cardholders now earn 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 3% cash back at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), 3% cash back on popular streaming services and 1% cash back on general purchases. There’s a welcome bonus of $200 after you spend only $500 in the first three months of opening your account. That’s more than competitive in the realm of cash back cards’ welcome offers.

Biggest drawbacks: The ongoing APR after the welcome period is on the high side. Additionally, although it provides solid earning rates, redemption options are limited with a cash back card. Additionally, a 3% fee applies to amounts transferred within the first 15 months.

Alternatives: Moderate spenders who rarely dine out may be better off with a single flat-rate credit card like the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card that doesn’t require tracking bonus categories.

Bottom line: This is one of the best cards for restaurants and a great card for foodies, given it offers best-in-class cash back on dining, groceries and entertainment for a no annual fee credit card.

Read our Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Discover it® Cash Back: Best for rotating cash back categories

Best features: This popular Discover credit card offers a whopping 5% cash back in rotating categories on up to $1,500 in quarterly purchases in Discover’s Cash Back Calendar throughout the year (enrollment required, then 1%). Also, this card’s Cashback Match feature at the end of your first year with the card can easily beat out other cash back cards’ sign-up bonuses.

Biggest drawbacks: If it’s not your idea of fun to chase rotating categories, this isn’t the best choice for you. Not only do you need to keep track of which categories are active, but you have to sign up each quarter to activate the bonus earnings.

Alternatives: Again, a flat-rate rewards card like the Wells Fargo Active Cash offers 2% cash rewards on purchases may better suit your needs. While this card doesn’t offer 5% back, the consistent 2% cash rewards can still be lucrative.

Bottom line: Rewards maximizers will welcome the opportunity to earn a large amount of bonus cash back on rotating categories.

Read our Discover it Cash Back review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card: Best for 2% cash rewards

Best features: Rewards are widespread and never expire so long as your account remains in good standing. This simple, yet flexible rewards card offers an unlimited 2% cash rewards on eligible purchases. It also comes with a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Cardholders can also enjoy a 0% introductory APR on purchases as well as qualifying balance transfers for 15 months from account opening, then 19.24%, 24.24%, or 29.24% variable APR.

Biggest drawbacks: Cardholders may be better served if they pair it with a card that features bonus categories in order to maximize reward earning potential. Timeliness is a factor as well, as the intro APR on qualifying balance transfers must be made within the first 120 days as a cardholder to receive the special intro rate. There’s also an intro balance transfer fee of 3% if you transfer the balance within 120 days; up to 5% if you don’t (with a $5 minimum).

Alternatives: The Citi Custom Cash offers 5% cash back on your highest eligible spend category each billing cycle (on up to $500 in purchases, then 1%), so it automatically adjusts to fit your spending. This can prove to be more lucrative than a flat-rate card, especially if your spending varies from month to month.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a card that can set the foundation for your rewards-earning journey as well as offer forgiving balance transfer terms, the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card is a very compelling option.

Read our Wells Fargo Active Cash Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for new cardholders

Best features: It doesn’t get much simpler than this: Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, no matter where or when you make them. No need to track spending, enroll in bonus categories or deal with complicated cash back redemption. Redeem in any amount, any time. The Quicksilver’s unlimited flat cash back rate also makes it a great choice for everyday spending, and earning the card’s sign-up bonus should be no trouble. You’ll score $200 after spending just $500 in the first three months.

Biggest drawbacks: The go-to rate after the 15-month 0% intro APR purchase and balance transfer offer ends is high, at 19.24% to 29.24% variable, which means this is not a card you want to carry a balance on. Additionally, a 3% fee applies to amounts transferred within the first 15 months.

Alternatives: While the simplicity of this card will appeal to many, anyone hoping to maximize reward earnings should look at one of the many other cards offering much higher earning rates, like the Blue Cash Everyday or the Chase Freedom Flex℠.

Bottom line: We like the Capital One Quicksilver for first-time rewards credit cardholders, given the ease of earning and redeeming cash back.

Read our Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Best for U.S. gas station and U.S. supermarket purchases

Best features: It’s hard to match the Blue Cash Everyday Card’s 3% cash back rate at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%) without paying an annual fee. If you max out this bonus category, you’ll earn close to $180 cash back per year. Plus, you earn 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations (on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%).

Biggest drawbacks: The spending cap may make it difficult for people with large groceries and gas budgets to earn on every purchase throughout the year. If you spend more than $500 on gas and groceries, then you’ll hit that 3% rewards spending limit and earn only 1% until the next year.

Alternatives: If you are willing to pay an ongoing $95 annual fee (after the $0 intro annual fee for the first year) for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, it might be a better choice for the larger family or someone with a sizable commute. Also offering great rewards on regular purchases, the Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 annually, then 1%) and 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations.

Bottom line: We love this card for frugal families due to the lack of an annual fee and the competitive bonus categories for everyday expenses.

Read our Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for flat-rate cash back + sign-up bonus

Best features: The Chase Freedom Unlimited allows cardholders to earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through the Chase portal and 3% cash back on dining at restaurants and drugstores. You get 1.5% on all other purchases. For its welcome bonus offer, cardholders can also earn an additional 1.5 percent cash back on top of all purchases’ original cash back rate (on up to $20,000) for the first year (you can take advantage of this exclusive offer when you apply through Bankrate). You can also get a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then it’s 19.24% to 27.99% variable).

Biggest drawbacks: If you’re considering a trip abroad, this may not be the card for you. It charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, so it would be best to pick a no annual fee card that doesn’t have this charge.

Alternatives: Depending on your spending habits, you could conceivably earn more in the long term with the Citi® Double Cash Card, a no annual fee card that offers 2% cash back on general purchases (1% when you spend; 1% as you pay back those purchases).

Bottom line: The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a solid card for people looking for a solid general-purpose cash back card with a generous sign-up bonus.

Read our Chase Freedom Unlimited review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Bilt Mastercard: Best for paying rent

Best features: Its perks for renters are unique among credit cards and its travel rewards program and point redemption values are unmatched among no annual fee cards. Points are worth 1.25 cents each when you redeem for travel through the Bilt portal — 25% more value than you’ll get with other no annual fee rewards cards. You may get an even higher redemption value if you transfer points to one of the card’s airline or hotel partners (easily the most impressive list we’ve seen on a card with no annual fee).

Biggest drawbacks: You’ll get the best redemption values when you use points for travel, so the card may fall short if you only travel occasionally or don’t plan to rent long-term. Despite its high point values, the card may also disappoint some travelers since it lacks perks like airport lounge access or credits for expedited security screening.

Alternatives: Cash back fans, infrequent travelers and people with low monthly rent costs may find a card that offers more redemption flexibility and earns more in everyday categories more rewarding, such as the Blue Cash Everyday Card.

Bottom line: This card is a great fit for long-term renters, aspiring homeowners and frequent travelers who want to minimize fees.

Jump back to this card’s offer details.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: Best for occasional travel + intro APR

Best features: Occasional travelers will want to check out the VentureOne card. It comes with a sign-up bonus as well as a simple way to earn rewards: 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 1.25 miles per dollar on all other purchases. Cardmembers can also earn 20,000 miles (worth up to $200 in travel purchases) after spending $500 in the first three months of account opening.

Biggest drawbacks: The flat rate of 1.25 miles per dollar on purchases isn’t the highest you’ll find for travel cards with no annual fee. Plus, a 3% fee applies to amounts transferred within the first 15 months.

Alternatives: Any traveler who wants to maximize their rewards earning potential will want to look at cards that offer at least 1.5 miles per dollar on general purchases, like the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card.

Bottom line: The sign-up bonus and intro APR offer make this a decent choice for the occasional traveler looking for a travel card with no annual fee.

Read our Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card: Best for automatically maximizing rewards

Best features: The Citi Custom Cash earns 5% cash back on up to $500 in purchases each billing cycle in your top spending category (then 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. It automatically chooses your top spend category, taking the strategizing off your hands and makes it easier for you to earn maximum cash back on your spending.

Biggest drawbacks: The cash back cap on 5% earnings (up to $500 in purchases each billing cycle, then 1%) puts a ceiling on the card’s value.

Alternatives: Depending on your spending habits, the fact that you only earn a high rewards rate in your top spend category means you may be missing out on big rewards in your second and third top spending categories. The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Card does just that – you can earn 3% cash back in an eligible category of your choice, plus 2% back on groceries and at wholesale clubs (on up to $2,500 in combined 3% and 2% categories per quarter, then 1%), and then 1% on everything else. While it’s not as much as 5%, you can strategize to earn more than 1% on multiple spend categories.

Bottom line: This no annual fee card fires on a lot of cylinders, so if you’re looking for the combo of cash back, a lucrative sign-up bonus and a promotional APR, consider it a top contender.

Read our Citi Custom Cash Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card: Best for customized rewards categories

Best features: This Bank of America Customized credit card has an unique feature: Cardholders can choose their big bonus category: Earn 3% cash back on gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvements or furnishings. You’ll also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 a quarter in combined 3% and 2% categories, then it’s 1%). You can change your customized rewards category each calendar month.

Biggest drawbacks: Your bonus rewards are subject to that quarterly $2,500 cap. Plus, if you want to make purchases and earn rewards without having to worry about which card to pull out, you may want to consider another card. There are no annual fee flat-rate cash back cards with 1.5% or even 2% cash back on the market.

Alternatives: The earnings cap on bonus rewards means big spenders can earn more elsewhere, such as with the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card or the Capital One SavorOne card.

Bottom line: This card is a solid option for Bank of America and Merrill customers with at least $20,000 across checking, savings or investment accounts as they can qualify for a 25% to 75% rewards boost through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program. It’s also an option for people that want a rewards program that can shift alongside their spending.

Read our Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card: Best Bank of America card for flat rate cash back

Best features: If you’re an existing Bank of America customer with assets in eligible savings, checking or investment accounts, you could benefit from this cash back credit card, which offers 1.5% back on all purchases, and a potential 25% to 75% rewards boost for Preferred Rewards members (actual value of the boost varies, depending on how much you have in your Bank of America accounts).

Biggest drawbacks: You’ll need at least $20,000 across Bank of America and/or Merrill accounts to be eligible for any Preferred Rewards boost. If you carry a balance beyond the introductory 18-billing-cycle period, you could end up paying quite a bit in interest, particularly if your card has a higher APR.

Alternatives: If you don’t meet the requirements to fully benefit from this card’s Preferred Rewards boost, then it might be best to take a look at another flat-rate cash back card with a similar welcome bonus, such as the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card.

Bottom line: Existing Bank of America customers with at least $20,000 across savings, checking or investment accounts will see a lot of utility from the rewards boost the bank offers through its Preferred Rewards program.

Read our Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card: Best for earning rewards + avoiding fees

Best features: With the Petal 2 card, you get an unsecured credit card with no annual fee, foreign transaction fee, late payment fee or penalty APRs. This makes it easier for people with average credit to focus on boosting their credit score and gaining access to improved financial products and services. Cardholders also immediately earn 1% cash back on every purchase.

Biggest drawbacks: If you’re saddled with a low $300 credit limit, this card may not be good for much besides credit building. A credit limit that low may not cover emergency expenses. And if your credit utilization ratio exceeds 30%, your credit score will take a hit. That means carrying a balance over $90 with a $300 credit limit into your next billing cycle will slow down your credit-building goals.

Alternatives: If your credit falls in the good-to-excellent range, you’ll have an easier time qualifying for credit cards with better perks like unlimited 2% cash back on purchases, sign-up bonuses and up to 5% back in select categories.

Bottom line: People with fair-to-good credit who want a chance to earn rewards while building their credit will get a lot of value out of this credit card that comes with no unnecessary fees.

Read our Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.


What is a ‘no annual fee’ credit card?

A no annual fee credit card is a card that doesn’t charge an annual fee. An annual fee on a credit card is a charge made each year, like a membership fee. Annual fees are often tacked onto cards that give access to special benefits, like credit-builder cards, rewards cards or luxury travel cards, for example. With the best no annual fee cards, you can take advantage of many of those specialty benefits without the added yearly cost.

Some annual fee cards will waive the annual fee for your first year as a cardholder. But once these charges start occurring on an annual basis to keep your account active, the fees can be daunting. Some cardholders find ways to make up for it through clever spending and earning of rewards, but some annual fee cards can cost $550 or more each year. With the right fit, no annual fee cardholders can take advantage of surprising rewards without that yearly cost.

Are credit cards with annual fees ever worth it?

Opting for a no annual fee credit card might seem like the easy choice. Who would pay a yearly fee when you don’t have to? However, there are instances when an annual fee is justified.

Many credit cards that carry an annual fee can pay for themselves as long as the fee is within your budget. Consider an annual fee to be the yearly subscription cost for access to better rewards rates, high-end travel perks and lucrative sign-up bonuses. To determine if the card is truly worth it, estimate your potential rewards earnings, factor in the premium benefits you’ll receive and compare that to the annual price tag. Frequent travelers, business owners and other big spenders will certainly want to do the math before making a decision.

However, people new to credit cards will have an easier time learning the basics with a no annual fee card. People who want to establish credit should focus on practicing healthy financial habits and devote less of their budget towards an annual fee and the perks that come along with it. For many, the true value of a credit card lies in its convenience and not everyone shares the same interest in accumulating cash back, points and miles or weighing their value against an annual fee. If you prefer straightforwardness and aren’t as interested in building rewards, a no annual fee credit card is the better choice.

Pros and cons of no annual fee cards

Pros

  • 0% intro APR: Many cards with no annual fee tend to offer longer 0% APR terms, a crucial feature if you’re looking to move debt or make a large purchase.
  • Ongoing interest: No annual fee cards’ ongoing APRs can often be lower than their premium siblings, but the ultimate goal is to avoid interest charges altogether, so find an affordable option with personally valuable rewards.
  • Free credit score: Many no annual fee cards, such as the Discover it Cash Back card, now offer a free credit score snapshot without affecting your credit.

Cons

  • You get what you pay for: Generally, credit cards that do not charge an annual fee offer fewer benefits when compared to credit cards that do charge an annual fee. This is a classic case of getting what you pay for and, really, the one major drawback of no annual fee cards.
  • Lower sign-up bonuses: If the card even has a sign-up bonus, it will likely be a smaller offer than those associated with its counterparts that carry an annual fee.
  • The card may carry other fees: While not having to pay an annual fee is a nice perk, your card may have other fees. It’s important to consider what you’ll be using the card for. If you plan on traveling abroad, a card with a 3% foreign transaction fee may not make sense for you.

Should I get a no annual fee credit card?

Getting a no annual fee card may be a good idea for some people, but it may not be the ideal option for everyone based on their specific needs. For example, if you need to build credit, consolidate debt or add a low maintenance card to your wallet, a no annual fee card is best suited. However, if you travel frequently or desire luxury rewards and perks, a no annual fee card may not be the best option for you.

Who should get a no annual fee credit card

  • New credit card users: If you’ve never held a card before, you might want to jump in with a card that has no annual fee until you better understand the market. That way, you can get in the habit of remembering those monthly payments, keeping track of your expenses and searching for the next upgrade, be it a travel card or a 0% intro APR card.
  • People who need to consolidate debt: You don’t want to pay fees while you’re trying to get your finances in order, and with a no annual fee card, you can focus on getting out of debt without worrying about how much money is going out of your pocket.
  • People looking to rebuild credit: Similar to new card users, those looking to rebuild their credit can benefit from a no annual fee card. Some options are available to people with bad credit scores and have features to help improve your credit. Plus, avoiding the cost of an annual fee can make budgeting easier, giving you more leeway to improve your credit score through timely monthly payments.
  • Experienced cardholders looking to diversify: Cardholders carrying a top-tier card may be able to add some value to their wallet with a no annual fee card. Premier credit card rewards are often tied to specialized categories such as travel, so a general-purpose rewards card with no annual fee that you can use for everyday purchases could come in handy.
  • Occasional credit card users: If you plan to use your card only occasionally, a card with no annual fee is the most economical choice. With a card that charges an annual fee, you would need to spend a certain amount every year to make it worth your while. A no annual fee card is not only cheaper but simpler.

Who should skip a no annual fee credit card

  • Frills and benefit-seekers: No annual fee cards generally don’t provide the same level of consumer protections as cards with annual fees do — meaning you may not have the same travel protections and perks as cards without an annual fee, such as purchase protection, cellphone insurance or trip cancellation or interruption insurance, for example.
  • Frequent travelers: Anyone hoping to receive an introductory windfall of bonus points to put towards travel or loyalty status should look elsewhere. No annual fee cards tend to have less-than-stellar rewards programs for airplane or hotel brand loyalists, as the more valuable, high-end travel rewards and cardholder perks usually come with a card that has an annual fee.
  • Bonus-seekers: If you want a lucrative windfall of rewards or cash back in a sign-up bonus, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find it in a card without an annual fee. Cards without annual fees typically have smaller, lower-value welcome offers.
  • Rewards accumulators: While it’s certainly possible to reap in rewards with a no annual fee card, people looking for the highest level of return on their spending will likely find that with a card that carries an annual fee. Cards with no annual fees don’t usually offer much in terms of rewards in comparison, which means that if you want to make the most of your points, you’ll have to spend more than usual. This can be costly and may not work with your budget.
  • Upgrade candidates: If you are using a no annual fee credit card as a stepping stone for a future upgrade, keep in mind that not every credit card issuers offers a more premium version to graduate to, and the same goes for the reverse if you eventually want to downgrade.

How to make the most of a no annual fee card

A no annual fee card can be a very helpful addition to your wallet when used properly. To do so, keep these tips in mind:

  • Pay down existing credit card debt. A credit card that does not charge an annual fee while also offering 0% intro APR on balance transfers is an attractive option for anyone focused on paying off an existing balance. By keeping your spending in check and paying off your balance each month, you can keep your credit utilization low and take advantage of your card’s low ownership cost.
  • Pair with a premium card. A no annual fee card used for everyday purchases gives you greater financial flexibility when paired with a premium card with specific rewards categories, Plus, when used responsibly, having multiple cards can be a boon to your credit score.
  • Take advantage of credit-building features. Many no annual fee cards provide free credit score monitoring and other useful credit building tools for people who are new to credit.

Are credit cards with annual fees ever worth it?

Opting for a no annual fee credit card might seem like the easy choice. Who would pay a yearly fee when you don’t have to? However, there are instances when an annual fee is justified.

Many credit cards that carry an annual fee can pay for themselves as long as the fee is within your budget. Consider an annual fee to be the yearly subscription cost for access to better rewards rates, high-end travel perks and lucrative sign-up bonuses. To determine if the card is truly worth it, estimate your potential rewards earnings, factor in the premium benefits you’ll receive and compare that to the annual price tag. Frequent travelers, business owners and other big spenders will certainly want to do the math before making a decision.

However, those in the beginning stages of owning a credit card will have an easier time learning the basics with a no annual fee card. Individuals looking to establish credit will want to focus on practicing healthy financial habits and devote less of their budget towards an annual fee and the perks that come along with it. For many, the true value of a credit card lies in its convenience and not everyone shares the same interest in accumulating cash back, points and miles or weighing their value against an annual fee. If you prefer straightforwardness and aren’t as interested in building rewards, a no annual fee credit card is the better choice.

How we picked the best no annual fee credit cards

Research methodology: We analyzed 2,744 no annual fee credit cards to identify the best offers currently on the market. The major factors we considered in our analysis include:

  • Rates and fees: Annual fees aren’t the only common costs associated with credit cards. We looked at whether the card touted APRs that were reasonable, relative to the card’s category. We also considered whether it charged industry-standard (or better) foreign transaction fees, late payment fees, balance transfer fees and more.
  • Rewards rate: Not all no annual fee credit cards carry rewards as some are designed to assist with other financial goals (like paying off high interest debt via a balance transfer). However, for cards that do offer rewards, we considered whether the return rate was competitive for the category. For instance, many popular cash back credit cards with no annual fee offer 1.5% back on general purchases, so to be competitive in that category, a no annual fee card would need to offer that rate or higher.
  • Promotional APRs: Some no annual fee credit cards offer a 0% introductory APR on purchases or balance transfers. If a card touted such an offer, we considered if the length of the promotional offer and any fees associated with it were competitive for that card category.
  • Other features and benefits: Many no annual fee credit cards offer sign-up bonuses, certain supplemental insurance, price protection or extended warranties. We factored these and other ancillary benefits when choosing the best no annual fee credit cards.

All 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

Additional information on no annual fee credit cards

For more information on all things no annual fee cards, continue reading content from our credit card experts:


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