Best credit cards with no late fees

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Most major credit card issuers are offering assistance to cardholders in terms of monthly payments and interest rates amid the coronavirus pandemic. Yet as much as these measures are helpful, they, unfortunately, won’t last forever.

Applying for a credit card haphazardly is never the answer to improved financial wellbeing, but if you’ve been planning to apply for a credit card with a one-time or general no-late-fee policy, here are four options to keep in mind.

Bankrate’s picks for the best credit cards with no late fees

  • Best for everyday spending: Discover it® Cash Back
  • Best for paying off debt: Citi Simplicity® Card
  • Best for building credit: Petal® Visa® Credit Card
  • Best for college students: Discover it® Student Cash Back

Best for everyday spending: Discover it® Cash Back

Rewards:

  • 5 percent cash back on rotating categories each quarter (up to $1,500, then 1 percent, activation required)
  • Unlimited 1 percent cash back on all other purchases

Late payment fee: $0, then up to $40 thereafter

Welcome bonus: Discover matches all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.

Annual fee: $0

Editor’s take: With the Discover it® Cash Back, there’s no fee the first time you miss a bill payment, but you will owe up to $40 for late payments in the future. If you’re paying off credit card debt or a large purchase with the card, its lack of a penalty APR is an added bonus.

The main feature of the Discover it Cash Back is its cash back rewards on rotating categories each quarter. For April through June 2020, you earn cash back at gas stations, Uber, Lyft and wholesale clubs.

Though rideshare services aren’t a useful aspect of this category amid quarantine, earning cash back at wholesale clubs can help reward you for bulk grocery purchases. Depending on your line of work, gas stations may still be helpful, as well.

The card doesn’t charge an annual fee, and at the end of your first year, Discover matches all the cash back you’ve earned over those first 12 months. This means if you accumulate $200 in cash back rewards, the welcome bonus will bring you to $400 cash back, total.

For reference, the remainder of Discover’s 2020 cash back calendar includes:

  • June through September 2020: Restaurants and PayPal
  • October through December 2020: Amazon.com, Walmrat.com, Target.com

The information about the Discover it Cash Back has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Best for paying off debt: Citi Simplicity® Card

Rewards:

  • None

Late payment fee: $0

Welcome bonus: None

Annual fee: $0

Editor’s take: If your main focus is putting an end to your credit card debt, the Citi Simplicity® Card offers one of the longest introductory APR periods on balance transfers and doesn’t charge late fees or a penalty APR.

The card costs nothing to own and, by owning it, you receive a 21-month zero percent intro APR for balance transfers made within your first four months of card ownership and a 14.74 percent — 24.74 variable APR thereafter. Keep in mind you still owe $5 or 5 percent of the amount you transfer, whichever is greater.

Though many issuers are currently offering wiggle room when it comes to payment due dates, Citi Simplicity cardholders automatically have the option to choose their due date. This flexibility can come in handy if you’re more reliant on the timing of your paychecks.

The information about the Citi Simplicity Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Best for building credit: Petal® Visa® Credit Card

Rewards:

  • 1 percent cash back on eligible purchases as a new cardmember
  • 25 percent after six on-time monthly payments
  • 5 percent after 12 on-time monthly payments

Late payment fee: $0

Welcome bonus: There’s no traditional welcome bonus, but you can automatically earn up to 10 percent cash back with select merchant offers linked to your card.

Annual fee: $0

Editor’s take: One of the Petal® Visa® Credit Card’s main selling points is its “no fee” policy. Cardholders don’t owe an annual fee and won’t be charged late fees for missed payments or foreign transaction fees for purchases made abroad.

The Petal Visa is a great option for building both healthy card habits and your credit. You start off with 1 percent cash back on eligible purchases, but after making six on-time monthly payments in a row, you receive an additional .25 percent, then another .25 percent after 12 on-time monthly payments.

An added bonus of the Petal Visa is its accompanying mobile app. Within the app, you can create budgets for yourself that highlight how much you’ve spent and have left to spend in a certain category. There’s also a credit score feature that helps you keep up-to-date on changes to your score and a cash back status tracker that keeps tabs on how close you are to reaching a higher cash back rewards tier.

Best for college students: Discover it® Student Cash Back

Rewards:

  • 5 percent cash back in rotating categories on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter, then 1 percent, activation required
  • Unlimited 1 percent cash back on all other purchases

Late payment fee: $0, then up to $40 thereafter

Welcome bonus: Discover matches all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year of card ownership.

Annual fee: $0

Editor’s take: In the current environment, being a student can be especially difficult (and even more so if you rely on a part-time job that’s been put on hold or eliminated completely). Similar to the Discover it Cash Back, the Discover it® Student Cash Back waives the fee for your first late payment. This means if you can’t pay your bill on time one month, you won’t be penalized. Going forward, though, you will be responsible for up to a $40 late payment fee.

The Student Cash Back operates on a cash back calendar — the same calendar shared by all Discover cash back cardholders. April through June of this year, you earn cash back on gas stations, Uber, Lyft and wholesale clubs on up to $1,500 each quarter. You also receive the same welcome offer as the Discover it Cash Back, meaning Discover matches all the cash back rewards you earn at the end of your first year.

There are a few A+ features of the Student Cash Back card that make it a great option for young adults. First, you have the opportunity to earn a $20 statement credit each school year you achieve a GPA of 3.0 or higher (up to the next five years). Second, Discover offers complimentary FICO® Credit Score reporting that you can access on your monthly statements or in your online account. Lastly, once you graduate, you can contact Discover for a credit line increase or a product upgrade.

The information about the Discover it Student Cash Back has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

How to choose the right no-late-fee card for you

There aren’t too many credit cards that don’t charge late payment fees, so your options are inherently limited.

Focus on your financial priorities

When deciding between cards, try and focus on the long-term value each offers rather than a one-time welcome bonus or reward.

If paying off debt is the most pressing issue for you, prioritize introductory APR offers that give you enough time to pay off your balance without exceeding the intro period and accruing interest. If you know you can manage to pay off your debt in a shorter amount of time, put more emphasis on searching for cards that offer a rewards structure that can benefit you after your balance has been paid off.

Above all, responsible card usage is key

No “fee-free” card can save you from completely neglecting your credit card bill each month, so be sure you have the financial stability to handle the card’s minimum payments, at the very least.