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.

Bankrate’s prime picks for no annual fee credit cards

Need more information?

Skip down to read our card profiles and expert advice.

Best for points on everyday purchases

Citi 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 15 months on Purchases
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro for 15 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
15.74% - 25.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • The 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 15 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 on-the-go lifestyles

Wells Fargo 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 Wells Fargo's secure website

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Rewards Rate:
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
Welcome Offer:
Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $300 cash redemption value
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 12 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 12 months on qualifying balance transfers
Regular APR:
16.24% to 28.24% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $300 cash redemption value
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 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% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 16.24%-28.24% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
Terms and Restrictions Apply

All-around travel rewards

Capital One 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
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

  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a 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
  • 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
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 14.24% - 24.24% variable APR after that
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • 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

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 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 new flat-rate rewards offer

Chase 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:
Earn 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases after initial $20,000 spend in your first year.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent.
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

  • New Offer! Double Cash Back: Earn 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. After that earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 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
  • 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 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.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.

Rotating categories

Chase 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

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • 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℠
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Personalized cash back rewards

U.S. Bank Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good Credit 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 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 from U.S. Bank, a 2019 World's Most Ethical Company® - Ethisphere Institute, February 2019

Gas rewards

Bank of America 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 on gas or your choice of one of five other popular categories (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:
$200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles for any 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
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back on gas or your choice of one of five other popular categories, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and unlimited 1% on all other purchases (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
  • 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
  • No expiration on rewards
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase
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: June 19, 2019

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


Bankrate helps you find the right no annual fee credit card

Choosing the best credit card with no annual fee actually means choosing the one that’s best for you. Bankrate makes your search easier by taking a close look at the top cards available from our partners to see which no annual fee credit cards truly stand out. Our credit card experts also help you understand the ins and outs of getting the most out of your card every day.

You can read all our current research on best no annual fee credit cards below, or click on the links to skip ahead to a particular section.


What is an annual credit card fee?

Just as you would expect, an annual fee is a yearly charge that you have to pay to own a credit card. 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

Industry experts point out that annual fees help credit card issuers pay the cost of providing rewards programs in the first place. In turn, the rewards programs create an incentive for customers to use their cards more often.

However, choosing a card without an annual fees doesn’t necessarily mean missing out on rewards. A number of credit cards that don’t charge annual fees offer rewards programs, travel perks and other items of value — just on a smaller scale.

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.

Do your own cost-benefit analysis of annual fees

The following tips can help you figure out how the benefits of an annual credit card fee stack up against the costs:

  • Look at the other fees. Check the terms and conditions to find out how much the card charges for balance transfers, cash advances and late payments. An annual fee isn’t the only charge that could chip away at your investment in the card.
  • Look for limitations in the rewards program. Some cards put a cap on earnings and set expiration dates on points and miles.
  • Check out rewards transfer partners. When it comes to transferring rewards to hotel and airline loyalty programs, each credit card has a specific list of approved partners. If your loyalty programs don’t appear on the list, you’ll get limited value out of the card.
  • Beware of “chasing rewards.” Using a credit card excessively just for the sake of earning more points or miles can start you down a dangerous financial path. Don’t let the pursuit of credit card rewards lead you to spend beyond your means.
  • Evaluate the cards you already have. Most customers who already own a 3% cash back gas card probably don’t drive enough to justify getting a second one.

Will credit cards waive the annual fee?

It’s possible. People can and do negotiate annual fees and other charges with their credit card providers.

The ideal situation would involve a cardholder calling a customer service representative to ask — politely — about getting a break on the annual fee. If the company aims to retain longtime customers who use their cards frequently, the answer might be yes.

Even if the credit card issuer won’t budge, you could downgrade your card to a no-annual-fee version. It would likely mean missing out on a higher rewards rate and some perks, but depending on how much you use the card you might not notice the difference.

A potential customer who hasn’t actually signed up for the card probably won’t have the same leverage. Still, you’ll never know what you might get if you don’t ask.

Our picks for 2019’s best no annual fee credit cards

Card Name Our pick for … Bankrate Review Score
Citi Rewards+℠ Card Points on everyday purchases 4.6/5
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card On-the-go-lifestyles 4.9/5
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card All-around travel rewards 4.3/5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Everyday cash back 4.5/5
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Best starter rewards card 4.8/5
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Best new flat-rate rewards offer 4.6/5
Discover it® Cash Back First-year cash back match 4.7/5
Chase Freedom® Rotating categories 4.5/5
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card Personalized cash back rewards 4.6/5
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Gas rewards 4.4/5
Citi® Double Cash Card Low maintenance with generous rewards 4.7/5

How we chose the winners

For cards in this category, our scoring system focuses on specific features including:

  • Rewards rate and value: To help you get the best returns on your spending, from cash back to travel rewards
  • Redemption options: To highlight cards that let you redeem your rewards in a useful, flexible way
  • Extras and discounts: To identify cards that offer retail discounts, insurance coverage and other perks that improve their overall value
  • Variable APR: To include cards that offer reasonable interest rates in case you carry a balance

No annual fees linked to customer satisfaction

In general, credit cards that charge annual fees tend to have bigger sign-up bonuses, higher credit limits and more lucrative perks. So, are credit cards with annual fees better than cards without annual fees?

The typical consumer might say no.

A 2019 survey by Discover suggests that consumers are more likely to have a satisfying experience with a no annual fee card:

Annual fee cards No annual fee cards
Consumers “very satisfied” with their credit cards 35% 70%

Source: Discover Financial Services

In another recent survey by Bankrate, 28% of those who responded said they had canceled a credit card because the annual fee was too high. Most of the top-selling cards currently offered through Bankrate.com, which include cash back rewards cards, have no fixed annual fee or offer to waive the fee for the first year.

At the same time, certain consumers with specific needs could find an annual fee worth the expense. 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. For a frequent business, the checked bag benefit by itself might outweigh the annual fee.

With any credit card, it’s up to the consumer to decide whether the benefits justify the expense of an annual fee. We aim to help ensure the decision you make is an informed one.

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 even more.
  • 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. Everybody has to pay fees or charges for any number of things, from homeowners’ associations to gyms. A credit card with no annual fee lightens the burden, even if just a little.

Cons:

  • In some cases, the annual fee is the price of admission to higher-end perks. 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.
  • Generous perks and rewards can offset the annual fee. One example is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which 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.

Four questions to ask as you consider annual fees

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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Can you ‘test-drive’ it?

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.

4. 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.
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.

Other credit card fees, from obvious to obscure

Aside from the annual fee, there are other credit card fees to keep a lookout for. Most are clearly stated in the advertising and the terms and conditions, but other fees 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% of the transaction amount – whichever is greater.
  • Cash advance fee: A fee that’s applied when you borrow money against your card’s credit limit. 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 varies by issuer but is usually around 3% of the purchase price.
  • Late fee: A fee for missing the minimum credit card payment due date. It’s usually $25 to $39 but could increase if monthly payments continue to be late.
  • Paper statement fee: While many issuers encourage you to adopt paperless billing, some will actually penalize you for not going green by charging a small monthly fee.
  • 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 solve ‘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 (CFPB) offers several tips on how to stop mystery fees.

A closer look at our best no annual fee cards

Citi Rewards+ Card

Why you’ll love it

The “plus” in Citi Rewards+ refers to the unique feature that rounds your rewards points up to the nearest 10 on individual purchases. You can get 10% Points Back for the first 100,000 ThankYou Points you redeem per year.

Why it might not be for you

Rounding up aside, some cards simply provide more bang for the buck on rewards rates. You may also have difficulty getting maximum value for points earned with this card if you transfer them to Citi travel partners.

The last word

The round-up feature makes Citi Rewards+ an excellent choice for people whose everyday spending habits tend toward “a little here and a little there” rather than large purchases. If you make a lot of small purchases, it can help your rewards increase at a brisk pace without any extra effort on your part.

Read the full review and apply on Citi’s secure website.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Why you’ll love it

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card offers 3X rewards at gas stations and on rideshares, transit and travel, plus eating out and ordering in. That combination of rewards rates, no foreign transaction fees, and categories could match up well with a lifestyle that keeps you on the move.

Why it might not be for you

One potential drawback lies not with the card itself but with the Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards program. Points are not transferable, so travelers who have a lot invested in an airline or hotel loyalty program could find the value of their Go Far Rewards limited in this respect.

The last word

If your typical day involves long commutes and restaurant menus, you’ll probably earn a lot of rewards points with this card. You’ll also have a lot of options for redeeming those points, including cash back, statement credits, merchandise and travel through the Go Far Rewards portal.

Read the full review and apply on Wells Fargo’s secure website.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Why you’ll love it

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card can help you take more trips while telling annual fees to take a hike. In addition to earning 1.25X miles on every eligible purchase with the card, you can earn an impressive 10X miles on thousands of hotels through January 2020 (go to hotels.com/venture to learn more). The no foreign transaction fee on this card also allows for you to swipe abroad without any worry of incurring additional costs.

Why it might not be for you

To stretch your miles further, you might consider a different travel rewards card or a card with a specific airline or hotel chain. Using loyalty points gives you a chance to look for the best deals and potentially get more value per point/mile.

The last word

As a high-value travel card that doesn’t charge an annual fee, the Capital One VentureOne is a rarity. For travel enthusiasts, earning the 10X rate at eligible hotels is sure to feel like a rare treat.

Read the full review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Why you’ll love it

The rewards categories seem tailor-made for families, especially the 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and the 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. Don’t forget the 1% cash back on other eligible purchases, since parents have to provide more than food, fuel and fashion accessories.

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 doesn’t offer exceptional value. In that case, consider a flat-rate 1.5% or 2% cash back card, or even a card with rotating bonus categories that match up with your spending habits.

The last word

Parents who devote a lot of their income to keeping stomachs and gas tanks full can earn exceptional amounts of cash back with this card. The lack of an annual fee translates to one fewer thing that moms and dads have to pay for.

Read the full review and apply on the American Express secure website.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why you’ll love it

The Capital One Quicksilver offers an enticing combination of straightforward rewards earning and Visa Signature® Benefits, all with no annual fee. You get unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day, as well as perks including emergency assistance, auto rental coverage and fraud coverage. This card’s 0% intro offer on purchases also enables you to avoid interest for the first 15 months of ownership.

Why it might not be for you

If you have good or excellent credit, you could easily find a credit card that offers a higher rewards rate. The same goes for rental car coverage and similar perks, which are hardly exclusive to this card.

The last word

If you’re new to credit cards, the Capital One Quicksilver could provide an easy-to-use introduction to rewards programs and benefits. The card even puts out the welcome mat with an easily obtainable sign-up bonus ($150 after spending $500 within the first three months), not to mention the lack of an annual fee.

Read the full review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Why you’ll love it

The Chase Freedom Unlimited’s outstanding first-year offer — 3% cash back on the first $20,000 spent and 1.5% cash back on all purchases thereafter — is far and away the card’s best attribute. You’re essentially getting double the earning power for your first year up to the $20,000 limit. The balance transfer and 0% intro APR options on this card also sweeten the deal – for the first 15 months, you can enjoy both of these card features.

Why it might not be for you

After that magical first year of cash back earnings, Cinderella’s coach kind of turns back into a pumpkin. As lucrative as the first-year offer may be, the card’s long-term value is limited.

The last word

You could get a lot of mileage out of this card until the $20,000 limit or the end of your first year, whichever comes first. Consider using the Chase Freedom Unlimited as your primary card during the offer period and then changing it to a backup. Just think twice before you cancel it out of hand, since closing an account can affect your credit score.

Read the full review and apply on Chase’s secure website.

Discover it® Cash Back

Why you’ll love it

Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, the Discover it Cash Back has an enticing introductory offer for first-year cardholders. Discover will match all of the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, which could deliver quite a windfall if you’ve maximized the rotating bonus categories every quarter.

Why it might not be for you

Speaking of rotating categories, not everyone will have the desire to keep up with the schedule and activate the bonus each quarter. If your spending patterns don’t change throughout the year, a flat-rate cash back card will feel a lot easier.

The last word

Despite having to track rotating categories to earn the bonus rate, you may find the variety and the extra rewards worth the extra attention this card requires. The Cashback Match™ also increases the card’s value, especially for the first year, as does the lack of an annual fee.

Read the full review and apply on Discover’s secure website.

Chase Freedom®

Why you’ll love it

The Chase Freedom makes it easy to maximize your earnings with rotating 5% bonus categories, which tend to be more varied than those of its competitors. Just remember to enroll and match your purchases with the rotating categories and you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 per quarter.

Why it might not be for you

If you want a card that doesn’t require any upkeep, consider a flat-rate card without bonus categories. Also, international travelers and people who make online purchases from overseas vendors should note that the Chase Freedom has a 3% foreign transaction fee.

The last word

By managing your spending activity and tracking the categories, you can use this card’s 5% bonus categories to earn a nice sum of cash back rewards. Combined with $0 in annual fees, the rewards rate for targeted spending makes the Chase Freedom a valuable addition to the savvy shopper’s wallet.

Read the full review and apply on Chase’s secure website.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Why you’ll love it

We live in an age of specialization, and the U.S. Bank Cash+ is in step with the times. The card lets you customize your 5% bonus categories (on up to $2,000 in purchases each quarter) by choosing two from a list of 12. You can also assign grocery stores, gas stations, or restaurants as a 2% category.

Why it might not be for you

This card offers a wide selection of 5% bonus categories, but it’s fair to ask how useful that variety is. The list covers a few areas where a typical consumer would be unlikely to spend several hundred dollars or more in a typical 3-month period (movie theaters, for example).

The last word

If you select your bonus categories carefully and mind the spending limit, you can earn a satisfying amount of cash back with the U.S. Bank Cash+. You won’t have to devote any of your rewards to an annual fee, either.

Read the full review and apply on U.S. Bank’s secure website.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Why you’ll love it

If you want a cash back card that offers exceptional rewards on gas purchases without charging an annual fee, take a look at the Bank of America Cash Rewards card. Gas purchases are just one of the six 3% options you can choose from, so you’ll want to select “Gas” as your choice category and keep it there.

Why it might not be for you

Despite the card’s generous rewards for gas purchases, cardholders can’t maximize its potential value unless they’re also Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients. If you don’t have a BofA banking or brokerage account with a significant account balance, you’d miss out on a 25% to 75% cash rewards bonus.

The last word

Even if you don’t bank with BofA, focus on the cash back rewards for gasoline. This card still offers a lot of value in that area, along with the 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases).

Read the full review and apply on Bank of America’s secure website.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Why you’ll love it

This card earns unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases (1% when you buy and 1% when you pay for those purchases). With a flat-rate rewards system, you don’t have to adjust your spending habits to focus on different types of purchases.

Why it might not be for you

If you carry a balance from month to month, you’ll delay some cash back value on the second stage of the rewards system (“1% when you pay”). Rewards aside, we recommend paying your bill in full every month on general principle.

The last word

With no spending categories to track and no annual fee to worry about, it doesn’t get much easier than the Citi Double Cash Card. The card offers an attractive combination of low maintenance and high rewards potential.

Read the full review and apply on Citi’s secure website.

Additional research and credit card reviews

Bankrate credit card resources cover a wide range of products for a wide range of consumers. Check out these reviews for more information about highly rated credit cards available from our partners:

*The information for the Chase Sapphire Reserve has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

* 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.