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.

By: Robin Saks Frankel, @robinsaks

Updated: August 15, 2018

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.

Editor’s Analysis: Our Favorite No Annual Fee Credit Cards

Best overall no annual fee credit card: 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

Editor’s take:

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card is a great all-around cash back card that delivers a heap of value all for no annual fee. The card offers 3x points for every dollar spent on dining, gas stations, rideshares and transit, and travel expenditures, plus 1x cash back on everything else. These rewards rates are concentrated on — what a lot of people would consider to be — some of the highest-spend categories for their monthly budgets. Wells Fargo is also offering a sign-up bonus with this card of 30,000 bonus points when you spend $3000 within the first three months, that’s $300 in rewards value and a generous bonus for this no annual fee card.

Best for spending at the gas pump: 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 cash back bonus. Redeem cash back rewards.

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

Editor’s take:

If you clock a lot of road-trip miles each year or have a hefty commute you may want to consider Bank of America’s Cash Rewards card. This card offers 3% on gas and 2% at supermarkets and wholesale clubs for the first $2,500 spent each quarter, and 1% on everything else. Additionally, you can boost that bonus 25%-75% if you’re a Preferred Rewards client.

Best for balance transfers: 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)

Editor’s take:

Balance transfers are a great way to consolidate and pay down debt at a lower rate. The Chase Freedom Unlimited card helps you do this and all with no annual fee. The cards 0% introductory APR rate for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (variable 16.74-25.49% after that) gives you over a year of 0% interest balance transfers. The card also offers a straightforward and unlimited 1.5% back on every purchase.

Best low maintenance card with generous rewards: 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

Editor’s take:

For anyone looking for a simple rewards structure with no caps, no rotating categories, and no annual fee, the Citi Double Cash Card could be just the card for you. You will earn 2% on purchases – 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay. It’s a low maintenance rewards card that doesn’t require you to keep track of any spending caps or categories.

Best for everyday travel rewards: 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

Editor’s take:

Whoever said you had to pay up to get great travel rewards hasn’t looked at the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card. It offers 1.25x miles on every purchase and up to 10x miles on thousands of hotels. The best part? Redemption is easy as you don’t have to book through specific airlines or hotel chains, and you don’t have to work around pesky blackout dates. Capital One also offers a one-time 20,000-mile bonus when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months which is a nice welcome offer from this no annual fee card.

Best for rewards card rookies: 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

Editor’s take:

If you’re doing your homework for your first rewards card – well done, you! – you might want to check out the Capital One Quicksilver Card which our Bankrate experts think is a great choice for rewards rookies. The card offers a straightforward and unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. This means that you don’t have to keep up with different spending categories and sign-ups. Capital One sweetens the deal with a sign-up bonus of $150 after you spend just $500 within the first three months. If you’re not sure what your high-spend categories will be, or you just want a card with simple rewards and redemption, this is the card for you.

Best sign-up bonus: 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

Editor’s take:

The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Card is a good allrounder with 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. But, the card really shines when you look at its sign-up bonus of $200 cash rewards for spending $1,000 in the first three months of opening the card. For many people, reaching the spending goal won’t be a problem and it immediately gives you an amazing 20% return on that first $1,000 spent. This no annual fee card comes with a few extra benefits like up to $600 protection on your cell phone and extra cash back rewards on mobile wallet purchases (see card details for more info).

Best for everyday cash back: 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

Editor’s take:

The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express offers great cash back rates on categories we all use every day. Busy families may really make the most of this card’s 3% cash back at supermarkets (up to $6,000 a year, then 1%), 2% back at gas stations and department stores, and 1% on all other purchases. These are considerable cash back rates on high-spend categories, especially considering this card is no annual fee. The rewards are easily redeemed in the form of statement credit, merchandise, or for gift cards so if working out points and miles isn’t your thing, that’s another plus for the Blue Cash Everyday Card.

Best rewards on rotating categories: 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

Editor’s take:

If you’re willing to put in a little bit of work keeping up with rotating categories the Chase Freedom card can offer generous cash back returns. This card offers 5% cash back on bonus categories – such as gas stations or grocery stores – each quarter once you activate, for up to $1,500 in combined purchases. On everything else, you earn a respectable 1% cash back.

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 for access to the card’s benefits. These fees are found on all types of cards, and are often waived for the first year.

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.

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.