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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Cash advance fee
Foreign transaction fee
Finance charge (Interest)
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