Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of 2019

You don’t have to pay an annual fee to get a truly great credit card. Some of the most useful cards you can put in your wallet don’t charge annual fees — but they do offer lucrative rewards programs, along with outstanding perks and benefits. Check out our picks for the best no annual fee credit cards of 2019, from our credit card partners.

Editor's Top Picks: Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of 2019

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.

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.

Best new arrival

Citi Rewards+℠ Card Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro for 12 months on Purchases
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro for 12 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
15.74% - 25.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Introducing the New Citi Rewards+℠ Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap
  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 12 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.74% - 25.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • Get 10% Points Back for the first 100,000 ThankYou® Points you redeem per year
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for all-around travel rewards

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On Capital One's secure website

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture Earn 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day and pay no annual fee
Welcome Offer:
20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro on purchases for 12 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
14.24% - 24.24% (Variable)

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, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Enjoy a low intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 14.24%-24.24% 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 cash back

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Rewards Rate:
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
Welcome Offer:
$150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Regular APR:
15.24%-26.24% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $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 15.24% to 26.24%.
  • You spoke, we listened. Over 1.6 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2018.
  • 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.

Best for your first rewards credit card

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On Capital One's secure website

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
Welcome Offer:
$150 after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR:
16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)

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; 16.24%-26.24% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 16.24%-26.24% 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 balance transfer offer

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On Chase's secure website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Rewards Rate:
Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — it's automatic!
Welcome Offer:
Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Regular APR:
17.24% - 25.99% Variable

Card Details

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%. Balance transfer fee is 3% 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

First-year cash back match

Discover it® Cash Back Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On Discover's secure website

Discover it® Cash Back

Rewards Rate:
Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Welcome 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.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 14 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 14 months
Regular APR:
14.24% - 25.24% Variable

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 and more 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.

Rotating categories

Chase Freedom® Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On Chase's secure website

Chase Freedom®

Rewards Rate:
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
Welcome Offer:
Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Regular APR:
17.24% - 25.99% Variable

Card Details

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%. Balance transfer fee is 3% 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

Personalized cash back rewards

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 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.

Apply Now On U.S. Bank's secure website

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Rewards Rate:
5% cash back on your first $2,000 in eligible net purchases each quarter on the combined two categories you choose. 2% cash back on your choice of one everyday category, like gas stations or grocery stores. 1% cash back on all other eligible net purchases.
Welcome Offer:
$150 after you spend $500 in eligible net purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
Annual Fee:
$0*
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0%* intro on BTs for 12 billing cycles
Regular APR:
16.24% - 25.74%* (Variable)

Card Details

  • New Cardmember bonus: $150 after you spend $500 in eligible net purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in eligible net purchases each quarter on the combined two categories you choose.
  • 2% cash back on your choice of one everyday category, like gas stations or grocery stores.
  • 1% cash back on all other eligible net purchases.
  • No limit on total cash back earned.
  • 0% Intro APR* on balance transfers for 12 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 16.24% - 25.74%
  • No annual fee*
  • Great Offer for Customers of U.S. Bank, a 2018 World's Most Ethical Company® - Ethisphere Institute, February 2018

Gas rewards

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On Bank of America's secure website

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 3% cash back in your choice category (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) Earn 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases
Welcome Offer:
$150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days
Regular APR:
16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Card Details

  • No annual fee
  • $150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • New Offer: Maximize your cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement /furnishings
  • Now earn 3% cash back in your choice category and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • You can update your choice category for future purchases once each calendar month using the Mobile banking app or Online banking, or do nothing and it stays the same.
  • No expiration on rewards
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can get a 25% - 75% rewards bonus on every purchase
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Low maintenance with generous rewards

Citi® Double Cash Card Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi® Double Cash Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
Annual Fee:
$0*
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% 18 months on Balance Transfers*
Regular APR:
15.74% - 25.74%* (Variable)

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 15.74% - 25.74% 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: Barry Bridges | bbridges@bankrate.com | Last Updated: March 20, 2019

Have questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.


Table of contents:


What is an annual fee?

No mystery here — an annual fee is a yearly charge that the cardholder is required to pay. Think of the fee as payment for having access to the benefits of a particular card, which may include:

  • Cash back or travel rewards earned through eligible purchases
  • Travel perks, such as priority boarding, free flights or free hotel stays
  • A sign-up offer providing bonus points, miles or cash back
  • Special discounts at retailers and restaurants

Is an annual fee worth the money?

The answer depends on the card, as well as the cardholder.

A creditcards.com survey found a typical range of annual fees from $25 to $450, although premium credit cards could charge even more. Large annual fees are often associated with high-rewards credit cards aimed at big spenders and business owners. They tend to offer the same kind of benefits as no-annual-fee cards, just on a larger scale.

As an example, consider The Business Platinum® Card from American Express. The $595 annual fee (See Rates and Fees) may be eye-popping, but the tradeoff includes a welcome offer (up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after a total $20,000 spend in the first 3 months) and a rewards rate per dollar spent (5X points) on certain qualifying travel expenses much bigger than what you find with most no-annual fee cards.

At the same time, many credit cards offer rewards programs, travel perks and other items of real value without charging a yearly fee. Of the 20 top-selling cards currently offered through Bankrate.com, 16 have no fixed annual fee. The other four offer to waive the fee for the first year. Most of these 20 cards offer cash back rewards.

With any credit card, whether the benefits justify the expense of an annual fee is up to the consumer. A credit card with no annual fee is an economical choice, and you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice rewards and perks if you choose carefully.

Bankrate’s picks for the best no annual fee credit cards of 2019

Card Name Our pick for … Bankrate Review Score
Citi Rewards+℠ Card Best new arrival 92/100
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card All-around travel rewards 80/100
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Everyday cash back 89/100
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Best starter rewards card 93/100
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Balance transfer offer 92/100
Discover it® Cash Back First-year cash back match 93/100
Chase Freedom® Rotating categories 90/100
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card Personalized cash back rewards 92/100
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Gas rewards 87/100
Citi Double Cash Card Low maintenance with generous rewards 94/100

Why you should trust Bankrate

Bankrate’s team of experts have been serving up independent, well-researched and actionable financial advice for every stage of life. From mortgages to home loans, and personal loans to 0% APR cards, our team covers the gamut of financial services. Whatever 2019 may have in store for you, we’re here with guidance on your finance-related questions. When it comes to no annual fee credit cards, that means reviewing and comparing as many cards as possible to find the standouts.

Review Criteria

Bankrate’s team of experts provide independent, well-researched and useful financial advice for every aspect of your financial life, including credit cards. When it comes to no annual fee credit cards, that means reviewing and comparing as many cards as possible to find the standouts.

Review criteria

We review every element of a card to create our Bankrate Score, but some features are weighted more than others. A great no annual fee card offers competitive rewards rates and benefits without the yearly charge. Here’s a list of the top five factors we used to evaluate and score no annual fee cards, in order of importance:

  • Rewards rate: Getting the most bang for your buck means finding the highest returns on your everyday spending.
  • Sign-up bonus: You can find great welcome offers in our list of no annual fee cards.
  • Rewards value: Rewards rates don’t mean much if you can’t redeem your cash back, points or miles in a way that’s easy and flexible.
  • Extras and discounts: Some of the best cards offer bonus perks including retail discounts and insurance, which can improve the overall value of your card.
  • Variable APR: As long as you don’t carry a balance, you won’t pay APR. But just in case you have to, we factor in interest expense into our Bankrate score.

A closer look at our best credit cards with no annual fee

Citi Rewards+SM Card

Why you’ll love it

The round-up feature puts the “plus” in Citi Rewards+. While rounding up your rewards points to the nearest 10 on individual purchases does set the Citi Rewards+ Card apart, the 2x rate at supermarkets and gas stations slips to 1x after you spend $6,000 in those categories per year. Pairing it with another Citi card such as the Citi Premier Card will help you maximize the full range of ThankYou Points benefits. On its own, though, the Citi Rewards+ plus still has a lot to like. For starters, the signup offer delivers 15,000 Bonus Points after you make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Why it might not be for you

The Citi Rewards+ Card can be extremely valuable when used for small, everyday purchases, and the round-up feature can help your points increase at a brisk rate if you’re using this card at the supermarket or the gas station. That being said, if you’re looking for a card to finance a large purchase or use outside of the supermarket and gas station categories, you can do much better than the 1x rewards rate on general spending that is offered by this card.

You might also consider …

The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express doesn’t duplicate the Citi Rewards+ round-up feature, but it does offer:

  • Higher rewards rate at U.S. supermarkets (3% cash back on up to $6,000 a year, then 1%) and U.S. gas stations (2% cash back)
  • A longer 0% intro APR offer on purchases and balance transfers (15 months vs. 12 months), then a regular APR of 15.24% – 26.24% variable
  • No annual fee (just like Citi Rewards+)

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Why you’ll love it

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card earns 1.25X miles per dollar, and you can use those miles to book all sorts of vacation packages through CapitalOne.com. Plus, you can earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture. Also, you can earn 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first three months.

Why it might not be for you

If you like to stretch your miles further, look for a different points rewards card or a card with a specific airline or hotel chain. Capital One does its redemptions by giving you a statement credit worth one cent per mile. Using loyalty points instead gives you a chance to look for the best deals and potentially get more value per point.

You might also consider …

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® offers a higher reward rate (2X miles vs. 1.25X miles) on all purchases, plus 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption every time you redeem. Despite the $89 annual fee (waived the first year), more avid travelers could find the expense of owning this card worth it.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Why you’ll love it

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

Why it might not be for you

If you don’t spend a lot of money at U.S. gas stations or U.S. supermarkets, this card really doesn’t provide exceptional value. In that case, you’re better off going with a flat-rate 1.5% or 2% cash back card, or even a card with rotating bonus categories.

You might also consider …

The Discover it® Cash Back lets you earn a bonus rewards rate of 5% cash back on select categories that change every quarter (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases, then 1% ), including the gas and supermarket purchases you’d be locked into year-round with some flat-rate cards. You’ll have to enroll each quarter to earn that higher rate, but you may find the variety and the extra rewards worth a few keystrokes.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why you’ll love it

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a bit more than just a straightforward rewards card. It has a flat 1.5% rewards rate and no annual fee, but you also earn a $150 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months. The card also offers Visa Signature® Benefits like emergency assistance, auto rental coverage and fraud coverage.

Why it might not be for you

If you have good or excellent credit, there are better options that offer more than a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

You might also consider …

The Citi® Double Cash Card gets high marks for being easy-to-use, and it also has a better rewards rate (2%) than the Capital One Quicksilver. You earn 1% on all purchases and another 1% when you pay your credit card bill on time. If you’re into simplicity and respectable rewards, you might be willing to overlook the lack of a sign-up bonus.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Why you’ll love it

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® has a longer-than-average 15-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases (after that, a variable APR rate of 17.24% – 25.99% applies). 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).

Why it might not be for you

Unless your main goal is to pay off a balance transfer or a large purchase with 0% intro APR, other cards on the market have more to offer in the rewards department. Some may be able to match (or even exceed) the Chase Freedom Unlimited’s intro APR offer while providing a better rewards rate with no annual fee.

You might also consider …

Chase Freedom Unlimited isn’t the only no-annual-fee card to offer an extended 0% intro APR.

The Blue Cash Everyday Card, Capital One Quicksilver, Chase Freedom and Citi Double Cash all offer special introductory APR periods on purchases, balance transfers or both. Compare the respective offers, regular APRs and card features before making a decision.

“The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is my favorite because it’s simple to accumulate Chase Ultimate Reward points. You can transfer these points from this card to a premium card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve before you redeem them and then you can redeem them for 1.5x .”
— Sophia Bera, CFP(r), Founder at Gen Y Planning, LLC

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.

Why it might not be for you

If you’d 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.

You might also consider …

Flat-rate alternatives include Citi Double Cash Card or the Blue Cash Everyday Card. You won’t get the 5% bonus categories, but you won’t have to track or enroll in those categories either. For some cardholders, the convenience is worth it.

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. Past categories have included groceries, gasoline and department stores. It’s also great if you want versatile redemption options. Just remember to sync up your spending with the rotating categories and you can earn 5 percent on up to $1,500 per quarter.

Why it might not be for you

Remember, you need to enroll in the bonus categories for this card each and every quarter. So if you want a card that doesn’t require upkeep to take advantage of your rewards, then consider other options.

You might also consider …

If you want to stay in the Chase cardholder family but don’t want to manage rotating bonus categories, the Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase. You also get some of the same perks offered by Chase Freedom, including Purchase Protection, Travel Accident Insurance and Zero Fraud Liability.

“What I love most about this card is once I upgraded to the Chase Sapphire, I was able to combine and use the points that I acquired from the Chase Freedom card.”
— Michel Valbrun, CEO at Valbrun Group LLC

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Why you’ll love it

The ability to customize a product to fit your specific needs is always a plus. With the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card, you’ll choose two cash back categories from a list of 11 to assign your 5% cash back (eligible on up to $2,000 in purchases each quarter). You’ll also choose which category to assign 2% cash back: groceries, gas or restaurants. The card comes with no annual fee and an easy-t0-hit welcome bonus — $150 after you spend $500 within the first 90 days of account opening. This rewards structure is incredibly rare, and you can earn $400 in cash back rewards just by utilizing the 5% cash back categories to the fullest extent.

Why it might not be for you

If you’re a frequent traveler looking for a cash back card to take with you abroad, this probably won’t be the best choice. You’ll be charged a 2% foreign transaction fee for payments made in U.S. dollars and a 3% foreign transaction fee on non-U.S. currency payments.

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If you’re into special categories that offer a rewards boost, viable alternatives include the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card. You earn 3% cash back in one choice category (gas, travel, dining, online shopping, home improvement or drug stores) on up to $2,500 in combined purchases per quarter. The quarterly limit also includes spending in the 2% grocery store and wholesale club category.

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 in the category of your choice (which can include gasoline, so be sure to choose gas as your category to get the most rewards at the pump.) Earnings for the 3 percent category, as well as 2 percent at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, are capped at $2,500 in combined purchases every quarter. (You earn 1 percent on all other purchases). This card is especially attractive for Bank of America customers. Depending on your Bank of America® Preferred Rewards program status, your rewards could climb 25% to 75%.

Why it might not be for you

If you aren’t a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client, you won’t get the boost on your rewards earnings. Credit card users who bank elsewhere can find a comparable card pretty easily.

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The Citi Rewards+ may give you a slightly smaller bang for your buck on gas purchase rewards, but you get the same 2X points at supermarkets. Also, you won’t have to change banks.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Why you’ll love it

With an unlimited 2% 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% on general purchases and 1% 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 15.74% – 25.74% based on your creditworthiness).

Why it might not be for you

In this case, the low-maintenance rewards system comes with a tradeoff: no sign-up bonus. While the 2% cash back on every purchase is great, the lack of a sign-up bonus takes some of the wind out this card’s sails.

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The Blue Cash Everyday Card offers a better cash back rate at U.S. supermarkets (3% on up to $6,000 a year in purchases, 1% thereafter), in addition to 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. It also has a welcome offer that lets you earn a $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Depending on the size of your household, a $150 statement credit could be enough to cover a weekly trip to the supermarket.


Pros and cons of a no annual fee card

Pros:

  • It’s economical. It’s not unusual for annual credit card fees to run in the $25-$100 range, with some elite-level cards charging annual fees even higher.
  • It doesn’t have to mean settling. The right credit card can give you many of the benefits of a premier card — including rewards programs, sign-up bonuses, travel-related perks and more —minus the annual fee.
  • It’s one fewer thing you have to budget for. Modern life is filled with fees. We pay fees to homeowners’ associations, car dealers, gyms, banks, airlines … the list seems endless. A credit card with no annual fee lightens the burden of cost and inconvenience, even if just a little.

“I think a no annual fee card is great for anyone that wants to have the convenience and benefits of a credit card, without having the pressure to spend a certain amount each year to make the card worthwhile.”
— Roger Ma, Certified Financial Planner and Founder at Lifelaidout

Cons:

  • In some cases, the annual fee is the price of admission to a more useful card. With a business credit card, for instance, an annual fee may be a trade-off for providing a much higher credit limit than a personal consumer card.
  • The right perks and rewards can offset the annual fee. Consider the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. This card lets you check your first bag free on Delta flights, a perk that could more than pay for the $95 annual fee (which is waived the first year) after a handful of round-trip flights. Then there’s the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which also has a $95 annual fee (not waived). If you max out the 6% cash back rewards at U.S. supermarkets ($6,000 per year, then 1%), you earn $360 in Reward Dollars you could use for a statement credit.
  • You may overlook the overall benefits by focusing on the annual fee. If you look past the $450 annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll see that the sign-up bonus (50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months of opening your account) has a value of $750. Even after that welcome bonus is a memory, you’ll still have the $300 travel purchases statement credit every year, 3X points on dining and travel worldwide and other benefits with real monetary value.

“If a person is able to pay off their credit cards every month and feels in control of their finances, a no annual fee credit card is a way to earn cash back on the things they would spend money on anyway. As long as they are not buying things they can’t afford and are still able to spend responsibility, a no annual fee credit card is a beneficial asset in their financial toolkit to earn free money and to have access to credit when they need it.”
— Jamila Souffrant, Money expert and host of the Journey To Launch podcast at Journey To Launch

To fee or not to fee? Use your best judgment

When it comes to credit cards, no-fee might seem like a no-brainer. However, take a closer look and you’ll see that certain situations might be more or less ideal for a no annual fee credit card, depending on the individual cardholder.

  • Is it your first credit card? When you have a rewards card that charges an annual fee, you’ll probably worry about using it enough to justify paying that yearly charge. For credit card rookies, trying to nail down the break-even point can be a confusing hassle. You might have a better experience learning the ins and outs of credit cards without the added factor of calculating cash back, points or miles vs. an annual fee. Waiting until you have a comfortable grasp of the basics and then taking the next step would be a simpler approach.
  • What are your priorities? For some cardholders, the true value of credit cards lies in their convenience instead of their potential for rewards. Not everyone has the same interest in cash back or travel miles, or the willingness to balance them against an annual credit card fee. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with having a credit card for the simple reason that it’s often easier than paying with cash or checks. If that reasoning appeals to you, an annual fee probably seems like an unneeded complication.
  • Can you do a trial run? Some cards waive the annual fee for your first year as a cardholder. That offer could present the chance to try out the card and decide later whether the annual fee is worthwhile. Also, it may be possible to downgrade your card or eliminate the annual fee by negotiating with your credit card issuer.
  • How much do you spend, and where? 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.

Annual fee credit cards are worth it when the benefits outweigh the cost (or to put it more simply, when the juice is worth the squeeze). 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.

“I look for great long-term and easy-to-manage rewards. A credit card should save me time and pay me a generous part of the rewards that merchants pay
for.”
— Matt Holmes, Founder and CEO at Handshakin.com

Other fees, from the standard to the strange

Beyond the annual fee, you should keep a lookout for other credit card fees. Most are clearly stated in the advertising and the terms and conditions, but others may be less obvious.

  • Balance transfer fee: A fee that’s applied when you attempt to move a balance from 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 typically $10 or 5% 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.
  • 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.
  • Paper statement fee: If you don’t go green with paperless billing, some issuers could charge you in the neighborhood of $10 a month.
  • Reward redemption fee: Some cards may charge you a fee when you redeem your rewards, usually when it involves airline miles. You could expect to pay $20 to $50.

How to demystify ‘mystery fees’

Don’t go to the trouble of choosing a card with no annual fees just to wind up scratching your head if your first monthly statement includes fees you don’t recognize. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers several tips on how to stop mystery fees.

Additional research

Check out our latest reviews for cards with no annual fee and other categories. We break down all the latest offers and give our in-depth opinions on all major cards on the market.

You can also get more information from some of the other leading sources in personal finance advice.

* 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.