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. However, 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

Rewards:

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

Late payment fee: $0 for the first late payment, 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 October through December 2021, you earn cash back at Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com.

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.

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.

Best for building credit: Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card

Rewards:

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

Late payment fee: $0

Welcome bonus: There’s no traditional welcome bonus, but you can automatically earn 2-10 percent cash back with select merchant offers linked to your card.

Annual fee: $0

Editor’s take: One of the Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” 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 2 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 0.25 percent, then another 0.25 percent after 12 on-time monthly payments.

An added bonus of the Petal 2 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 for the first late payment, 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). 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. After that, though, you will be responsible for up to a $40 late payment fee.

The Discover it Student Cash Back operates on the same 5% cash back calendar shared by all Discover cash back cardholders. From October through December 2021, you can earn 5% back on up to $1,500 each quarter, then 1% (activation required). 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-plus 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 if 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.

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 limited.

Focus on your financial priorities

When deciding between cards, 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.

The bottom line

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.

Written by
Claire Dickey
Editor, Product
Claire Dickey is a product editor for Bankrate, CreditCards.com and To Her Credit. Before joining Bankrate, Claire worked as a copywriter for brands within the telecommunications industry as well as a hybrid marketing and content writer.
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