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No Annual Fee Credit Cards

Written by: Jeanine Skowronski | Edited by: Tracy Stewart | Reviewed by: Erica Sandberg
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November 19, 2021

Best Credit Cards with No Annual Fee

BEST FOR FLAT-RATE CASH BACK + SIGN UP BONUS
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Our rating:4.7 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%
5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
5%
5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3%
3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services and on drugstore purchases.
1.5%
Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 24.74% variable
BEST FOR 2% CASH REWARDS
Unlimited 2% Cash Rewards
Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ 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.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

2%
Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 cash rewards New! Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 24.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR AUTOMATIC REWARDS
Citi Custom 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.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

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 bonus
$200 Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 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
13.99% - 23.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR U.S. GAS STATIONS AND U.S. SUPERMARKET PURCHASES
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Our rating:3.4 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.
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%).
2%
2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores.
1%
1% Cash Back on other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$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
13.99% - 23.99% variable
BEST FOR DINING AND ENTERTAINMENT
Capital One SavorOne 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.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

8%
Earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023.
3%
Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®).
1%
Earn 1% on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 24.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR NEW CARDHOLDERS
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:3.1 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.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

1.5%
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 24.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST BANK OF AMERICA CARD FOR FLAT RATE CASH BACK
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card
Our rating:3.3 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 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every time.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$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
13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
BEST FOR CUSTOMIZED REWARDS CATEGORIES
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
Our rating:4.2 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 bonus
$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
13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
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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.


A guide to credit cards with no annual fee

Credit cards without an annual fee offer much-appreciated savings, a hassle-free experience and, often, standout benefits. 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. The bank’s 2020 Retail Experience Index found that millennials are making an average of 1.5 more major purchases annually than other generations.

“Some consumers may save their credit card rewards points so that they can pay off their annual fee,” Pukas says. “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.”


Best credit cards with no annual fee compared

Credit CardBest forAnnual feeOur rating
Discover it® Cash BackRotating cash back categories$04.5 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited®Flat-rate cash back + sign-up bonus$04.5 / 5
Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card2% cash rewards$03.7 / 5
Citi Custom Cash℠ CardAutomatically maximizing rewards$04.1 / 5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressU.S. gas and U.S. supermarkets$03.4 / 5
Capital One SavorOne Rewards Credit CardDining and entertainment$04.4 / 5
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit CardNew cardholders$03.1 / 5
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit cardBank of America card for flat rate cash back$03.3 / 5
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit cardCustomized rewards categories$04.2 / 5

best no annual fee credit cards

Editor’s picks: No annual fee credit card details

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

Why we picked it: This popular Discover credit card offers a whopping 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in quarterly purchases in various rotating categories throughout the year (enrollment required, then 1%). See Discover’s 2021 Cash Back calendar.

Pros: This card’s cash back match feature at the end of your first year can easily beat out other cash back cards’ sign-up bonuses. For example, while you would only get $200 back from the Capital One Quicksilver after a $500 spend within the first three months of card membership, you could potentially get $600 back the end of your first year with the Discover it Cash Back if you enroll quarterly and max out your 5% rotating category offer ($1,500 max spent each quarter you activate comes to $75 back each quarter (then 1%), $300 at the end of the year, then matched by Discover for a total of $600). Then earn an unlimited 1% on all other purchases.

Cons: 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.

Who should apply? Rewards maximizers will welcome the opportunity to earn a large amount of bonus cash back on rotating categories.

Who should skip? If the tedium of having to enroll and keep track of spending categories puts you off, a flat-rate rewards card may be more your speed.

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

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

Why we picked it: The Chase Freedom Unlimited combines 1.5% cash back on general purchases with enhanced earnings in select bonus categories. Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through the Chase portal, 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year and 3% cash back on dining at restaurants and drugstores. You get 1.5% on all other purchases. Also, get an industry-busting $200 after only a $500 spend within the first three months.

Pros: You can also get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months (then it’s 14.99% to 24.74% variable).

Cons: The 15-month 0% introductory APR doesn’t extend to balance transfers. 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) but doesn’t come with a sign-up bonus.

Who should apply? 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.

Who should skip? If you’re considering a balance transfer, this may not be the card for you. It does not have a 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers.

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

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

Why we picked it: This simple, yet flexible rewards card offers an unlimited 2% cash rewards on eligible purchases. It also comes with an introductory bonus of $200 in cash rewards after spending $1,000 within the first three months of account opening. Members can enjoy a 0% introductory APR on purchases as well as qualifying balance transfers for 15 months from account opening, then 14.99% to 24.99% variable APR.

Pros: Rewards are widespread and never expire so long as your account remains in good standing. The card also charges no annual fee. Card perks also include Visa Signature Concierge benefits at select hotel properties around the world and $600 in cellphone protection for damaged or stolen equipment as long as you pay your cell phone bill with this card (subject to a $25 deductible).

Cons: 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 a balance transfer fee of 3% if you transfer the balance within 120 days; 5% if you don’t (with a $5 minimum).

Who should apply? 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.

Who should skip? This is a great way to earn on everyday spending but you may be missing out on a higher rewards rate in certain spending categories, depending on what your biggest monthly expenses happen to be. If you’re ok with a little strategizing if it means earning more rewards, you may find another card to be a better fit.

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

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card: Best for automatically maximizing rewards

Why we picked it: For no annual fee, you can take advantage of a competitive cash back rewards program, earn a lucrative sign-up bonus and enjoy a lengthy 15-month 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases (then variable 13.99% to 23.99%).

Pros: You earn 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. Eligible spending categories include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment. But perhaps the biggest boon is that there’s no enrollment or tracking required. Your earnings adjust automatically each billing cycle. You can also earn $200 when you spend $750 in the first three months of account opening, awarded as ThankYou points, which can be redeemed for cash back.

Cons: 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. If you do a balance transfer, you’ll pay a 5% balance transfer fee (or $5, whichever is greater), which is on the pricier side. Many cards charge 3% of the transferred balance; some waive the fee.

Who should apply? 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.

Who should skip? 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.

Read our Citi Custom Cash 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

Why we picked it: 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 get unlimited 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations.

Pros: For no annual fee, you get a card with a welcome offer (earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months) and an introductory APR on new purchases (0% for the first 15 months, then 13.99% to 23.99% variable).

Cons: If you are willing to pay a $95 annual fee ($0 introductory 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. (Learn how to decide between Amex’s Blue Cash cards.)

Who should apply? We love this card for frugal families due to the lack of an annual fee and the competitive bonus categories for everyday expenses.

Who should skip? If a decent chunk of your budget goes towards groceries (say, more than $3,200), the Blue Cash Preferred® Card may be a better choice as you could recoup the annual fee with your spending.

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

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

Why we picked it: This popular Capital One credit card just got a bit of a makeover: 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.

Pros: 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. Plus, it features a 0% intro APR offer on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then it’s 14.99% to 24.99% variable).

Cons: 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.

Who should apply? This is a great card for foodies, given it offers best-in-class cash back on dining and entertainment for a no annual fee credit card. (Learn more about the best cards for restaurants.)

Who should skip? Moderate spenders who rarely dine out may be better off with a single flat rate credit card that doesn’t require keeping track of bonus categories.

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

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

Why we picked it: 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.

Pros: The Quicksilver’s unlimited flat cash back rate 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.

Cons: The go-to rate after the 15-month 0% intro APR purchase and balance transfer offer ends is high, at 14.99% to 24.99% variable, which means this is not a card you want to carry a balance on.

Who should apply? We like the Capital One Quicksilver for first-time rewards credit cardholders, given the ease of earning and redeeming cash back.

Who should skip? 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.

Read our Capital One Quicksilver 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

Why we picked it: This new card offers a lucrative sign-up bonus of $200 in online cash rewards after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. 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).

Pros: In addition to the unlimited 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases, you can earn $200 online cash rewards after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. Cardholders can also take advantage of a promotional APR (0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers made in the first 60 days for 15 billing cycles, then 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR) and requires no annual fee.

Cons: 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 15 billing cycle period and you could end up paying quite a bit in interest, particularly if you fall under the higher APR range.

Who should apply? 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.

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

Why we picked it: 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 on combined 3% and 2% categories, then it’s 1%).

Pros: You can change your customized rewards category each calendar month. The required spend on the sign-up bonus is quite low: Get a $200 online cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account. This card offers a 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers made in the first 60 days of card membership for 15 billing cycles, then there’s a regular interest rate of 13.99% to 23.99% variable.

Cons: 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.

Who should apply? 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.

Who should skip? The earnings cap on bonus rewards means big spenders can earn more elsewhere.

Read our Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards 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. It’s essentially a membership fee. Annual fees are often tacked onto cards that give access to special benefits, like credit-builder cards, rewards cards or luxury options, 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.

Pros and cons of no annual fee cards

Pros

  • 0% intro APR: Annual fee cards also tend to offer shorter 0% intro APR terms than their no annual fee counterparts, a crucial feature if you’re looking to move debt or make a large purchase.
  • Ongoing interest: Since some annual fee cards may not offer a 0% intro APR or even allow you to transfer to the card, it’s important to compare ongoing interest rates. No annual fee cards’ ongoing APRs can often be lower than their premium siblings, like when comparing the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, 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 monthly or quarterly without you taking a hit to your credit.

Cons

  • You get what you pay for: Generally, credit cards that do not charge an annual fee offer less valuable introductory bonuses and 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.

How to choose a no annual fee credit card

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: Do you already hold cards and want to consolidate those balances? Many credit cards offer 0% intro APR on balance transfers, such as the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card, with a 21-month offer for balance transfers made in the first four months (then 13.74% to 23.74% variable).
  • 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 you reestablish 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: If one of your primary must-haves for a credit card includes premium benefits, consumer protections and discounts, you will most likely be underwhelmed by the offerings of a no annual fee card.
  • Frequent travelers: Anyone hoping to receive an introductory windfall of bonus points to put towards travel or loyalty status should look elsewhere.
  • Bonus-seekers: If receiving a windfall of points and miles or cash back in the form of a lucrative sign-up bonus is a dealbreaker for you, cards with no annual fee typically fall short of their annual fee counterparts in this area.
  • Rewards accumulators: While it’s certainly possible to reap in rewards with a no annual fee card, those who are looking for the highest level of return on their spending will likely find that with a card that carries an annual fee.

How to make the most of a no annual fee card

  • 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.
  • 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 those who are new to credit.

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

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