No Annual Fee Credit Cards

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 the best no annual fee cards from our partners below.

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

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

9,179 customer reviews

Apply Now Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • 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
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49-25.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • 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
Apply Now at Chase's
secure site
Purchases Intro APR
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$0
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now Credit Needed
Excellent, Good
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and pay no annual fee
  • New! Earn 10 miles per dollar on hotels when you pay with your VentureOne card at hotels.com/venture; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Enjoy a low intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 13.49%-23.49% variable APR after that
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
Apply Now at Capital One's
secure site
Purchases Intro APR
0% intro on purchases for 12 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Apply Now Credit Needed
Excellent, Good
  • $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.49% to 25.49%.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Apply Now at American Express's
secure site
Terms Apply
Purchases Intro APR
0% on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR
0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
14.49%-25.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$0
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good
See Rates & Fees

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now Credit Needed
Excellent, Good
  • 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; 14.49%-24.49% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.49%-24.49% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Apply Now at Capital One's
secure site
Purchases Intro APR
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
14.49% - 24.49% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good

Discover it® Cashback Match™

Discover it® Cashback Match™

26,257 customer reviews

Apply Now Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • No annual fee.
Apply Now at Discover's
secure site
Purchases Intro APR
0% for 14 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR
0% for 14 months
Regular APR
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$0
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
See Rates & Fees

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

43,662 customer reviews

Apply Now Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • No annual fee
  • $150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
  • No changing categories and no expiration on rewards
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then, 14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR. 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers
  • Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
  • Easily add your Mastercard® credit card to any digital wallet for a simple, secure, and convenient way to pay online, in-app, and in-store
Apply Now at Bank of America's
secure site
Purchases Intro APR
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles
Balance Transfers Intro APR
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days
Regular APR
14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Annual Fee
$0
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

14,163 customer reviews

Apply Now Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • 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
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49-25.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • 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
Apply Now at Chase's
secure site
Purchases Intro APR
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$0
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card

Apply Now Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases
  • Enjoy 1.8% cash rewards on qualified mobile wallet purchases, like Apple Pay® or Android Pay™, during the first 12 months from account opening
  • No category restrictions or sign ups and cash rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a 14.49%-26.49% variable APR; balance transfer fees apply
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
Apply Now at Wells Fargo's
secure site
Purchases Intro APR
0% for 12 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR
0% for 12 months
Regular APR
14.49%-26.49% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.49% to 25.49%.
  • $0 balance transfer fee. Balance transfers must be requested within 60 days from account opening.
  • 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 1x points on other purchases.
  • Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Apply Now at American Express's
secure site
Terms Apply
Purchases Intro APR
0% on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR
0% on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
14.49%-25.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$0
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
See Rates & Fees

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

11,756 customer reviews

Apply Now Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 16.49% - 24.49% Variable APR
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
Apply Now at Bank of America's
secure site
Purchases Intro APR
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles
Balance Transfers Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
16.49% - 24.49% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Annual Fee
$0
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

Comparing No Annual Fee Credit Card Offers

Updated: May 1, 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!


Expert picks and ratings: Best no annual fee credit cards of 2018

CardBest For:CreditCards.com RatingAnnual Fee
Chase Freedom Unlimited®Flat-rate cash back3.5 / 5None
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit CardHotel booking3.8 / 5None
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressEveryday spending3.7 / 5None
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit CardNew cardholders3.6 / 5None
Discover it® Cashback Match™Amazon.com purchases4.1 / 5None
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit CardGas and groceries4.0 / 5None
Chase Freedom®Rotating cash back categories3.3 / 5None
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Credit CardCash sign-up bonus3.5 / 5None
The Amex Everyday® Credit Card from American ExpressBalance transfers2.6 / 5None
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit CardTravel rewards4.0 / 5None

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 picks for the best no annual fee cards

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Highlights:

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • Lengthy 0% intro APR period of 15 months
  • Cash back rewards never expire

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.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Highlights:

  • Solid sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles
  • Unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases
  • Excellent rewards rate of 10 miles per dollar when booking through hotels.com/venture

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.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Highlights:

  • As its name suggests, great for everyday spending
  • Generous 3% cash back rate at U.S. supermarkets
  • Flexibility in rewards redemption

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.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Highlights:

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • $150 cash bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months
  • No 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. There's also no need to worry about foreign transaction fees.

Discover it® Cashback Match™

Highlights:

  • Cash back on rotating categories each quarter
  • Discover matches all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year
  • Rewards never expire and are easy to redeem at Amazon.com

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.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Highlights:

  • 3% cash back on gas, 2% cash back on groceries
  • Extra perks for Bank of America checking/savings customers
  • No rotating categories or expiration on rewards

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.

Chase Freedom®

Highlights:

  • 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories
  • Easy-to-hit sign-up bonus of $150
  • Can redeem cash back with no minimum amount required

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.

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Credit Card

Highlights:

  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • 1.8% cash back on mobile purchases in the first year

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.

The Amex Everyday® Credit Card from American Express

Highlights:

  • No fee on balance transfers initiated in your first 60 days
  • 2x points at U.S. supermarkets
  • Flexible points redemption

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.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

Highlights:

  • 20,000 online bonus points offer
  • No annual fee
  • Extra perks for BofA Preferred Rewards clients

Bottom Line: Another great option for flat-rate rewards with no annual fee, this card from Bank of America also boasts a respectable sign-up bonus of 20,000 points. Overall, it's a straightforward card that's especially worth considering if you already bank with BofA.

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.

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:

Popular cards that waive annual fee...

CardAnnual feeRewards
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card$95, waived first year50,000 miles/$3,000 spend in 3 mths; 2X miles per dollar on every purchase
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card$95, waived first year50,000 pts/$4,000 spend in 3 mths; 2X pts on worldwide travel, dining
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express$195, waived first year25,000 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

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:

Survey of 100 cards and their fees...

  •  24 cards
  • Annual fee
  •  99 cards
  • Late payment fee
  •  76 cards
  • Balance transfer fee
  •  56 cards
  • Foreign transaction fee
  •  98 cards
  • Cash advance fee
  •  4 cards
  • Over-limit fee
  •  80 cards
  • Returned payment fee

Source: CreditCards.com survey

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 Cashback Match (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.
Type of feePercent who askedPercent who received (of those who asked)
Waive late fee25%87%
Waive annual fee11%51%
Lower interest rates19%69%
Increase credit limit28%89%

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; 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 Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express.

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.

When to downgrade to a card with no annual fee

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:

  • Your rewards value doesn't add up. "Fee-based credit cards can offer some excellent rewards, but they aren't a one-size-fits-all solution," says financial writer and former banker Sandra Parsons of aTheoryofChange.com. "If you're paying an annual fee for your credit card, you need to crunch the numbers to make sure the value of the cash back or points you earn exceeds the value of the annual fee. If it does, then you want to check to make sure the net value of your rewards (accounting for the annual fee) is higher than the value you could earn with a no-fee card. If not, you would be better off switching."
  • You have a high balance. If you have a balance you want to transfer to a 0% intro APR card, a balance transfer card without an annual fee can be a good choice, says Michael Tamez, investment blogger with Sunshine Gold Investments. That way, once you pay off the balance, you can continue to build credit without having to use the card heavily to pay for the annual fee.
  • You use cash often. 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.
  • You want the benefits without the fee. "The good news is that there are several no annual fee cards that offer amazing perks," says Ben Luthi, financial expert at Student Loan Hero. "Some offer high cashback rates and some even offer sign-up bonuses. And 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."
  • One final tip before making a decision. If you're thinking about switching cards, take advantage of the waived-fee period of some products first. Says Aaron Aggerwal, assistant vice president of credit cards at Navy Federal Credit Union: "Many credit card companies waive their annual fee in the first year, so use this time to test out your spending and see how to get the most out of your card." Then, you can decide if a card with no annual fee works best for you.

Avoiding annual fees tops our list of things we look for in credit cards, according to Experian polling. In fact, it beats rewards:

What we look for in our credit cards...

  •  54%
  • No annual fee
  •  45%
  • Rewards
  •  40%
  • Low interest rate

Source: Experian survey

Benefit 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, because 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 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 Apply12-month 0% intro APR on purchases, balance transfers, then 14.49%-25.49% (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. 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?

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

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:

  • Are there specific categories? Check out the categories, such as groceries, restaurants, gas and more, because you can get rich rewards this way.
  • Is there a sister card? If so, there might be one with a waived annual fee the first year, such as the Venture Rewards. Base which one you choose on how much you plan to spend.
  • Could you build points by marrying cards? With the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, you can pair up select cards, transfer points to cards that have boosted rewards, and use the points toward travel. So, transfer your cash on your Chase Freedom to your Chase Sapphire Preferred, and use that transfer toward travel with the Preferred's 25% boost.

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, dining25%$95, waived first year
Sapphire Reserve50,000-point sign-up/$4,000 spend in 3 mths; 3X points on worldwide travel, dining; $300 annual travel credit50%$450
  • Are you looking for a flat rate? These cards are great for using the card without thinking about it – they can come with up to 2% cash back.
  • Are there rich categories? A couple of cards offer rotating categories of 5% back. Be mindful of the requirements, though, because with these cards, you have to sign up for the new bonuses each quarter.
  • Sign-up bonus? Many come with sign-up bonuses, which are worth comparing. 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.

Who should get a no annual fee card?

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.

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.

Recap - Our Picks for the Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards:

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