Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of 2018

You don't have to pay big annual fees to get the best credit card rewards. While some super-premium cards charge hundreds of dollars in annual fees there are plenty of alternatives that offer exceptional rewards at no cost. In fact, some of the best credit cards available are on this list! Here are the best credit cards with no annual fee from our partners.

Editors' Picks: Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of 2018

Bankrate.com is an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. The offers that appear on this site are from companies from which Bankrate.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site, including, for example, the order in which they may appear within listing categories. Other factors, such as our own proprietary website rules and the likelihood of applicants' credit approval also impact how and where products appear on this site. Bankrate.com does not include the entire universe of available financial or credit offers.

Best overall

wells-fargo-propel-american-express-card-071018.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card's secure website

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

300 850
0% for 12 months
Purchases intro APR
0% for 12 months
Balance Transfers intro APR
14.24%-26.74% (Variable)
Regular APR
$0
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

97 out of 100

Card Details

  • New! Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that's a $300 cash redemption value
  • Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points for gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 14.24%-26.74% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rates and fees
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for all-around travel rewards

capital-one-ventureone-rewards-credit-card-041217.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card's secure website

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

300 850
0% intro on purchases for 12 months
Purchases intro APR
N/A
Balance Transfers intro APR
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
Regular APR
$0
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

80 out of 100

Card Details

  • 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 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day and pay no annual fee. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Enjoy a low intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 13.74%-23.74% 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
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for everyday use

blue-cash-everyday-card-from-american-express-061616.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express's secure website

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

300 850
0% on Purchases for 15 months
Purchases intro APR
0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Balance Transfers intro APR
14.74%-25.74% Variable
Regular APR
$0
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

89 out of 100

Card Details

  • $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 14.74% to 25.74%.
  • 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.
Terms and Restrictions Apply | Rates and Fees

Best for your first rewards credit card

capital-one-quicksilver-cash-rewards-credit-card-041217.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Capital One® Quicksilver® Card - 0% Intro APR for 15 Months's secure website

Capital One® Quicksilver® Card - 0% Intro APR for 15 Months

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

300 850
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Purchases intro APR
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months
Balance Transfers intro APR
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Regular APR
$0
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

93 out of 100

Card Details

  • 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; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for balance transfer offer and cash back

chase-freedom-unlimited-040418.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Chase Freedom Unlimited®'s secure website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

300 850
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Purchases intro APR
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Balance Transfers intro APR
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
Regular APR
$0
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

92 out of 100

Card Details

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for rotating categories and first-year cash back match

discover-it-cashback-match-012518.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Discover it® Cash Back's secure website

Discover it® Cash Back

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

300 850
0% for 14 months
Purchases intro APR
0% for 14 months
Balance Transfers intro APR
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
Regular APR
$0
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

93 out of 100

Card Details

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

Best for rotating categories

chase-freedom-082917.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Chase Freedom®'s secure website

Chase Freedom®

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

300 850
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Purchases intro APR
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Balance Transfers intro APR
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
Regular APR
$0
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

90 out of 100

Card Details

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for gas

bank-of-america-cash-rewards-credit-card-041718.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card's secure website

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

300 850
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles
Purchases intro APR
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days
Balance Transfers intro APR
14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Regular APR
$0
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

87 out of 100

Card Details

  • No annual fee
  • New Offer: $200 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, 14.99% - 24.99% 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
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for a generous sign-up bonus

wells-fargo-cash-wise-visa-041718.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card's secure website

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

300 850
0% for 12 months
Purchases intro APR
0% for 12 months
Balance Transfers intro APR
15.74%-26.74% (Variable)
Regular APR
$0
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

90 out of 100

Card Details

  • 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 Google 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 (fees apply), then a 15.74%-26.74% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rates and fees
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best low maintenance and generous rewards card

citi-double-cash-041618.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Citi® Double Cash Card's secure website

Citi® Double Cash Card

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

300 850
N/A
Purchases intro APR
0% for 18 months*
Balance Transfers intro APR
15.24% - 25.24%* (Variable)
Regular APR
$0*
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

94 out of 100

Card Details

  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.24% - 25.24% based on your creditworthiness*
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*
Terms and Restrictions Apply

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


Author: Bankrate Staff | Last Updated: September 20, 2018


Table of contents:

How we chose our favorite no annual fee credit cards

A crack team of credit card experts analyzed more than 2,700 cards in this category and reviewed them against Bankrate’s scoring matrix to give each card a Bankrate score out of 100. Bankrate experts consider a myriad of elements to determine the final score, which we think can help you identify the best card for you.

Scoring matrix

To identify the best no annual fee credit card the cards available in this category were evaluated using our proprietary grading system, that includes a review of the cards annual fee, APR rate, foreign transaction fees, rewards value, sign-up bonus, and any extras or discounts. For no annual fee cards, we focused predominantly on rewards value, sign-up bonuses, and extras and discounts.

  • Rewards value – Even no annual fee cards can offer excellent rewards. Rewards are sometimes tricky to understand, they can be in the form of points, miles, or cash back. Our Bankrate experts review the rewards to assess the value and detail how users can get the maximum benefit.
  • Sign-up bonus – Often, as an incentive to sign-up, card issuers offer bonuses. These can be low introductory rates on things like balance transfers or bonus cash back, points, or miles if you spend a certain amount within a given time window. We study these bonuses and tell you how to use them most effectively.
  • Extras and discounts – Many credit cards give additional perks to cardholders. Advantages such as free credit score monitoring and cell phone protection are examples of perks offered by no annual fee cards. Our experts take all these things into account.

What is an annual fee?

An annual fee is a charge that’s made by a credit card company to a credit card holder on a yearly basis — it’s essentially a convenience fee to access the card’s benefits. Cards charging an annual fee span the spectrum from secured credit-builder cards to luxury rewards cards, and these fees can range from $25 to as much as $2,500. These fees are often waived for the first year and even if your card doesn’t waive the annual fee, you shouldn’t shy away from calling your credit card issuer and asking for it. With the competitive climate of rewards cards, there could be a chance that your request is granted. Keep in mind that the better your credit score, the better your standing for negotiation.

When you have a card that charges an annual fee you need to make sure that the benefits that you are getting from being a cardholder — be it high cash back rates, travel rewards (additional perks like lounge access) — make up for the cost of the card. For a lot of people, the benefits don’t outweigh the cost.

A no annual fee card is a simple, no-hassle option that can save you money. No annual fee doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice on rewards either. Some of Bankrate’s favorite cards offer a lot of value in cash back rewards, travel rewards, additional cardholder perks and benefits, credit score monitoring, merchant discounts and more.

Bankrate’s top picks for no annual fee credit cards of 2018

Card Name Best for Bankrate Review Score
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card Overall value 97/100
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card All-around travel rewards 80/100
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Everyday use 89/100
Capital One® Quicksilver® Card – 0% Intro APR for 15 Months Your first rewards credit card 93/100
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Balance transfer offer and cash back 92/100
Discover it® Cash Back Rotating categories and first-year cash back match 93/100
Chase Freedom® Rotating categories 90/100
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Gas 87/100
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card Generous sign-up bonus 90/100
Citi® Double Cash Card Low maintenance and generous rewards card 94/100

Editor’s Analysis: Our favorite no annual fee credit cards

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Why you’ll love it

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card offers 3X rewards on dining, travel, gas, and popular streaming services. These rewards rates are incredibly competitive in the rewards landscape, and almost unheard of in a card with no annual fee. The sign-up bonus on this card is worth 30K points, and there is a 12-month introductory 0% purchase APR period (after that a variable APR of 14.24% – 26.74% applies). You won’t get the luxury perks of a rewards card that comes with a hefty annual fee, but this is the best option if you want to earn rewards without paying for card ownership.

Card details:

  • Best For: Best overall no annual fee credit card
  • Bankrate Score: 97 out of 100
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $0

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Why you’ll love it

Family vacation coming up? The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card earns 1.25X miles per dollar that you can use to book all sorts of travel and vacation packages through CapitalOne.com. Plus, you can earn 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first three months.

Card Details:

  • Best For: Travel rewards
  • Bankrate Score: 80 out of 100
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $0

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Why you’ll love it

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express doesn’t have any rotating categories or activation periods to keep up with. It earns 3 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1 percent) and 2 percent cash back at select U.S. department stores and U.S. gas stations.

Card Details:

  • Best For: Cash back rewards
  • Bankrate Score: 89 out of 100
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $0

Capital One® Quicksilver® Card

Why you’ll love it

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Card is perfect for if you need simplicity. It has a flat 1.5 percent rewards rate, no annual fee, and a $150 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months on any type of purchase. And when you earn rewards, you can redeem them for any amount. (Some cards have a minimum redemption requirement, usually somewhere around $25.)

The card also packs Visa Signature® Benefits like travel and emergency assistance, auto rental coverage, and fraud coverage.

Card Details:

  • Best For: Rewards card rookies
  • Bankrate Score: 93 out of 100
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $0

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Why you’ll love it

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® has a longer-than-average 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfer. It earns an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — no categories, no activations. There’s also a $150 signup bonus to smile about (if you spend $500 in your first 3 months).

Card Details:

  • Best For: Balance Transfers
  • Bankrate Score: 92 out of 100
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Intro APR: 0%
  • Intro APR Period: First 15 months
  • Regular APR: 16.74% – 25.49% variable
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 5% of the amount transferred (whichever is greater)

Discover it® Cash Back

Why you’ll love it

The Discover it® Cash Back card offers a lot of cash back value for no annual fee because of its 5% rotating cash back categories. Every quarter that you enroll you can earn 5% cash back on different categories up to $1,500 each quarter. As an introductory offer, at the end of your first year, Discover will match all of the cash back you earned that year.

Rotating categories can be a great way to juice your cash back returns but if you would rather not have to keep up with rotating categories, or if your spending generally fits into everyday spending groups like groceries, you may be better off with a flat-rate cash back card like Citi® Double Cash Card or the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which offers higher percentage returns on grocery and gas spending.

Card Details:

  • Best For: Rotating categories and first-year cash back match
  • Bankrate Score: 93 out of 100
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $0

Chase Freedom®

Why you’ll love it

The Chase Freedom® rewards credit card makes it easy to maximize your earnings with rotating 5% bonus categories — one of the highest rewards rates out there. It’s also great if you want versatile redemption options. This is one of the few cards of its kind that gives you the option to redeem your points for travel rewards Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

With its extra-flexible redemption options and high-rate rewards, the Chase Freedom® is a staple of the industry. Just focus your spending on the rotating categories and you can earn 5 percent on rotating categories on up to $1,500 per quarter.

Card Details:

  • Best For: Rewards on rotating categories
  • Bankrate Score: 90 out of 100
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $0

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Why you’ll love it

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card earns 3 percent cash back on gasoline, 2 percent at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 1% on all other purchases (for up to $2,500 in combined purchases every quarter). Spend $500 or more in the first 90 days to get a $200 online cash rewards bonus.

It’s also a great entry-level card for Bank of America customers. Depending on your Bank of America® Preferred Rewards program status, your rewards rates could climb up to 75% higher.

Card Details:

  • Best For: Spending at the gas pump
  • Bankrate Score: 87 out of 100
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $0

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card

Why you’ll love it

The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card has one of the most competitive sign-up bonuses among its competitors: $200 cash rewards bonus when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. The 1.5% cash back gets bumped up to 1.8% if you use mobile pay during the first year of spending.

Other perks include accessing your FICO score for free and taking advantage of a robust cell phone protection plan. When you pay your phone bill with a Wells Fargo card, you can earn up to $600 in protection.

Card Details:

  • Best For: Sign-up bonus
  • Bankrate Score: 90 out of 100
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $0

Citi® Double Cash Card

Why you’ll love it

With an unlimited 2 percent cash back on all purchases, the Citi® Double Cash Card has one of the highest unlimited cash back rewards rates out there. (The catch is that you earn 1 percent on general purchases and 1 percent when you pay your bill on time.) No categories to track, and no annual fee — it’s as simple as it gets.

Here’s another perk: It offers an 18-month 0 percent intro APR for balance transfers — it’s one of a handful of cards with an offer that long (after that a variable APR of 15.24% – 25.24% applies). Register your purchases online through the Citi Price Rewind program and the company will search for lower prices on those items and refund you the difference on better deals.

Card Details:

  • Best For: Generous rewards with low maintenance
  • Bankrate Score: 94 out of 100
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Annual Fee: $0

Pros and cons of a no annual fee card

Pros:

Having a no annual fee card is a great way to get all the benefits of having a credit card — lines of credit, rewards, perks like insurances — without paying out of pocket. As the list above demonstrates, there are plenty of great credit cards available that don’t require you to pay.

If you’re just looking for a straightforward cash back card to give you money back on your everyday spending then a no annual fee card like the Citi Double Cash card offers market-leading returns of 2% (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay) on all your purchase and doesn’t charge you a penny in annual fees. Anyone trying to be conservative with their budget should do some number-crunching to work out if an annual fee is worth the expense and if you’re penny-pinching, it’s most likely an annual fee isn’t a good idea.

There are both annual fee and no annual fee cards that offer sign-up bonuses. Annual fee cards often boast attractive high-value welcome bonuses. To get these you usually have to spend a certain amount on your card within the first few months of opening the account. Usually, no annual fee cards require you to spend less to reach the welcome bonus. If you are considering an annual fee card it’s easy to be attracted to the big-number sign-up bonus, but make sure that you’re comfortable with the spend target else you may end up overspending to reach the requirement.

Cons:

It sounds simple but annual fee credit cards are worth it when the benefits outweigh the cost. It’s up to you to do the math on whether the annual fee is worth the value you get from the card in your unique circumstances.

For someone who travels regularly and spends heavily an annual fee credit card like the Chase Sapphire® Preferred (which has a $95 annual fee) is a travel rewards card that packs a ton of value. The card offers 2x points on restaurant and travel spending and 1x on everything else and points are worth 25% more when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. This means that if you spend just $500 a month on restaurants or travel, and you redeem your points through the chase portal, you already more than cover the annual fee.

Many annual fee cards also come with generous sign-up bonuses, for instance, the Chase Sapphire® Preferred Card offers 50,000 bonus points (worth $625 when redeemed through the Chase portal) when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening the card. If you would spend this amount anyway, then it may be worth adding the card to your roster.

Who should get a no annual fee card?

There are plenty of no annual fee cards available to suit all different types of cardholders but these are some scenarios when a no annual fee card makes a lot of sense.

  • If you’re just getting started: If you’re somewhat new to credit card rewards and you’re still trying to figure out what you need, a no annual fee card is perfect for you. If you qualify, a no annual fee card can help you build up your credit history and give you returns on your everyday spending without charging you a penny. It’s unlikely that you will really need to cancel the card as it isn’t charging you every year and so this will help you to boost the average age of your accounts and keep your credit utilization low, both are metrics used in establishing your credit score.
  • If you have a conservative budget: There are some annual fee cards that offer a lot more in returns than the annual fee charged but it will depend on your unique situation. A no annual fee card doesn’t mean forgoing great cashback rates, especially with cards on the market like the 2% cash back rate with the Citi Double Cash Card. If you’re trying to keep your expenses down then it might be prudent to avoid another expense. It may also be the case that your monthly spending on your credit card might not be high enough to outweigh an annual fee in any case, again, this is up to you to calculate.
  • If you’re pairing it with a high-returns rewards card: If you already have a travel card that charges an annual fee and offers outsized rewards you may want to consider pairing it with a no annual fee cash back card to give you cash back on everyday spending or specific categories. You could use your no annual fee card for day-to-day purchases and the travel rewards card on travel-related expenses to maximize your overall rewards.

When are annual fee cards worth it?

If you have done your homework, you’ve identified an annual fee card that will be worth the expense and you’re happy to commit to it, then an annual fee card can be very fruitful. Here are instances when it’s worth considering a card that has an annual fee:

  • If you’re a heavy-spender: If you spend heavily and the annual fee card you’re considering offers unlimited rewards, or high-rewards rates on the categories that your spending is concentrated on, then it’s probably going to more than pay for itself. When shopping for a credit card make sure to have studied your statements so you know how much you normally spend.
  • If it offers a hefty sign-up bonus: There are some fantastic sign-up bonuses available and annual fee cards tend to offer more generous welcome offers. Sometimes the value of this sign-up bonus can pay for the cost of the card for a number of years. However, to gain the bonus you often have to spend a certain amount within the first few months of opening the account, make sure this spending requirement is in-line with your normal outlay to avoid overspending.
  • If the rewards are stellar: If the rewards — either cash back, points or miles — are especially generous or particularly suit your spending habits then it’s worth considering the annual fee card. Review your average monthly spend and work out for yourself your likely returns by card. Make sure that the rewards you accrue are easy to redeem and that you can redeem them in the form that’s most convenient for you.
  • If the annual fee is waived: A lot of cards that charge an annual fee will waive the expense in the first year. Even if the annual fee card that you’re considering doesn’t waive the fee, it’s worth calling the issuer to see if you can negotiate on this. Even if the annual fee is waived for the first year it’s necessary to factor in the cost into your evaluation of the merits of the card as you will still have to pay the annual fee after the first year is over.

Other credit card fees to look out for

Outside of the obvious annual fee, there are a number of other credit card fees that you should be aware of. Here are the five most common fees to watch out for:

  • Balance transfer fee: A fee that’s applied when you attempt to move a balance of one credit card to another. It’s usually either $5 or 3 percent of the transaction amount – whichever is greater.
  • Cash advance fee: A fee that’s applied when you make a cash advance. It’s either $10 or 5 percent of the amount transferred – whichever is greater.
  • Foreign transaction fee:  A fee that’s applied when you make a transaction outside the U.S. or you use your card for foreign currency. This fee is usually 3 percent of the purchase price.
  • Finance charge (Interest): Most commonly known as interest – this is the monthly percentage you pay for borrowing on your credit card. This percentage is often one of the deciding factors when choosing the right card.
  • Late fee: A fee for missing the minimum credit card payment due date. It’s usually in the amount of $25 to $35 but could increase if monthly payments continue to be late.

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.