Best Credit Cards without an Annual Fee

You don’t have to pay an annual fee to get a truly great credit card that offers lucrative rewards programs and outstanding perks and benefits. Many of the top cards available on Bankrate don’t charge a yearly fee just to own the card. Check out our picks for the best no annual fee credit cards of 2020, from our credit card partners.

Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards for August 2020:

Need more information?

Skip down to read our card profiles and expert advice.

Best for flat-rate cash back

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 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® Double Cash Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% - 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for points on everyday purchases

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 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 ThankYou® 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:
13.49% - 23.49% (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 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfer fee — either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for free credit monitoring

Capital One Image

Recommended Credit Score

Fair to Good (580 - 740)

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® Platinum Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
N/A
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
26.99% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Pay no annual fee
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set.
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Help build your credit through responsible use of a card like this
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for low interest and low cost

Upgrade Image

Recommended Credit Score

Fair to Good (580 - 740)

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 Upgrade's secure website

Upgrade Card

Rewards Rate:
N/A
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
6.99% - 29.99%

Card Details

  • Combine the flexibility of a card with the low cost and predictability of a loan from $500-$20,000.
  • $0 fees - $0 annual fee, $0 activation fees, $0 maintenance fees
  • No touch payments with contactless technology built in
  • See if you qualify in minutes without hurting your credit score
  • Use wherever Visa is accepted. (cannot be used at an ATM)
  • Great for large purchases with predictable payments you can budget for
  • Mobile app to access your account anytime, anywhere
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud liability
  • Access to a virtual card while you wait for your card to arrive in the mail

Some of the offers on this page may have expired.

The information about the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One Venture One Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

This page includes information about Discover products that are not currently available on Bankrate.com and may be out of date.


Editor: Barry Bridges | bbridges@bankrate.com


Bankrate helps you find the right no annual fee credit card

Choosing the best credit card with no annual fee means choosing the one that’s best for your spending habits. Depending on your card usage, the issuer’s yearly charge to own a card might not outweigh the extra benefits compared to an option with no annual fee.

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.

Compare the best credit cards with no annual fee

Card Name Our pick for … Annual Fee Bankrate Review Score
Citi® Double Cash Card  Flat-rate cash back $0 4.7/5
Citi Rewards+℠ Card  Points on everyday purchases $0 4.6/5
Capital One® Platinum Credit Card Best for free credit monitoring $0 3.7/5
Upgrade® Card Best for low interest and low cost $0 4.2/5
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Best overall rewards card with no annual fee $0 4.6/5
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Best overall cash back card with no annual fee $0 4.8/5
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card (not currently available) Travel redemption $0 4.3/5
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card (not currently available) Best overall travel card with no annual fee $0 4.5/5
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card  (not currently available) Choosing your own rewards $0 4.4/5
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card (not currently available) Digital wallet users $0 4.5/5
Discover it Cash Back (not currently available) Customer satisfaction rating $0 4.7/5
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card Travel expenses $0 4.3/5

A closer look at the best no annual fee credit cards

Citi® Double Cash Card

Best for flat-rate cash back

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Citi Rewards+ Card

Best for points on everyday purchases

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Best for free credit monitoring

Pros

The Capital One Platinum allows you to build credit, with responsible use, even when your score isn’t its best — it accepts fair to good credit. Also, enjoy no annual fee, no penalty fee and no foreign transaction fees. This card’s travel protection and rental car insurance are also worthy of your attention.

Cons

The regular APR on this card is 26.99% (variable), which is not ideal for the cardholder planning to carry a balance. Also, it’s an unfortunate reality that there are zero rewards, so if you want to earn cash back or miles, look elsewhere. There’s also no zero interest introductory APR on balance transfers or purchases.

The last word

If you’re hankering for rewards, but don’t have the credit score to reach that goal, the Discover it® Secured might provide you with what you are looking for. However, for a solid card with minimal fees and the ability to build credit, look no further than the Capital One Platinum.
Read the full review.

Upgrade® Card

Best for low interest and low cost

Pros

The Upgrade Card offers a unique automatic installment plan — pay a fixed monthly payment over a fixed amount of time. You’ll pay off your balance within 12-60 months, depending on your terms. That’s preferable to a traditional card’s payment option of, say, the minimum plus 1% each month, which would make the payment period seemingly endless.

Cons

Although there’s no annual fee with this card, there are also no rewards, which can put a damper on your card-holding fun. You also won’t find a 0 percent intro APR on purchases or balance transfers.

The last word

Although no rewards are offered and no balance transfers are allowed with the Upgrade Card, the low fees, low starting regular APR (6.99%-29.99%) and an automatic installment plan make this a good choice for the cardholder looking to manage payments.

Learn more and find out how to apply.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Best overall rewards card with no annual fee

Pros

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is kind of a Swiss Army Knife of credit cards. It works well for flat-rate rewards, gives you the option of redeeming for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and even has a competitive intro offer for new purchases (15 months at 0% APR on purchases, 14.99% – 23.74% variable APR afterward).

Cons

Some consumers might find the allure of bonus rewards rates more appealing than 1.5 percent unlimited cash back, leading them to prefer a rotating category card. The Chase Freedom Unlimited also charges a 3 percent foreign transaction fee, a potential turnoff for international travelers.

The last word

If you want a no-annual-fee card with versatile redemption options, the Chase Freedom Unlimited can do more than provide steady cash back. Even though it’s a strong card in its own right, you could pair it with one of Chase’s Sapphire cards to boost the rewards value.

Read the full review.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best overall cash back card with no annual fee

Pros

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 percent cash back on every purchase, every day, as well as perks including emergency assistance, auto rental insurance coverage and fraud coverage. This card’s 0% intro APR offers on purchases can also help you avoid interest on large purchases for the first 15 months of ownership. (After the offers expire, variable APR on purchases goes to 15.49%-25.49%.)

Cons

If you have good or excellent credit, you could easily find a credit card that offers a higher rewards rate. The same goes for the Capital One Quicksilver’s welcome offer ($150 cash back bonus when you spend $500 in your first three months).

The last word

The Capital One Quicksilver might not have the flashiest cash back program, but the 1.5 percent rate is steady and reliable. The card puts out the welcome mat with an easily obtainable sign-up bonus ($150 after spending $500 within the first three months). Combine these qualities with the lack of an annual fee and you get a cash back card that’s very solid overall.

Read the full review.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card (not currently available)

Best for travel redemption

Pros

You get a respectable rewards rate (1.5 points per $1) and flexible redemptions without having to pay an annual fee. Also, if you’re a member of BofA’s Preferred Rewards program, you can earn 25% – 75% more points on every purchase.

Cons

If you consistently take a lot of trips year after year, you might find a premium travel card worth the annual fee. Also, top-tier cards tend to offer more in the way of choice perks including airport lounge access.

The last word

The Bank of America Travel Rewards has quite a bit to offer the casual traveler with qualifying Preferred Rewards accounts with BofA. If you fit that profile (and you don’t like annual fees), this card could make a useful travel companion.

Read the full review.

The information about the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card (not currently available)

Best overall travel card with no annual fee

Pros

A lot of credit cards earn points or miles on flights, hotels, car rentals and other standard travel expenses. The Wells Fargo Propel earns points in three additional categories, including popular streaming services, gas stations and rideshares, as well as eating out and ordering in. The rate on all four categories is 3X points per $1 spent, which could translate to exceptional rewards earnings — especially for a no-annual-fee card.

Cons

The Propel card uses the American Express credit card network, which is accepted in fewer places worldwide than some of the other networks. Another potential flaw is the Go Far® Rewards program, which doesn’t allow points transfers to airline or hotel loyalty programs.

The last word

The Wells Fargo Propel doesn’t burden cardholders with an annual fee or foreign transaction fees, which budget-conscious travelers are sure to like. It also has the potential to earn considerable travel points across a wide variety of purchases, including some not directly related to checking in or taking off.

Read the full review.

The information related to the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card has been collected by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card (not currently available)

Best for choosing your own rewards

Pros

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 category options you can choose from, so you’ll want to select “Gas” as your choice category and keep it there.

Cons

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 cash rewards bonuses of up to 25% to 75% on every purchase.

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) and unlimited 1% back on all other purchases.

Read the full review.

The information about the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card  has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card (not currently available)

Best for digital wallet users

Pros

This card’s regular cash rewards rate is a respectable (if not spectacular) 1.5 percent. However, qualifying digital wallet purchases made during your first year as a cardholder earn 1.8 percent cash rewards — a 20 percent bonus. You also have the option of getting insurance coverage for your phone (up to $600 against covered damage or theft, with a $25 deductible) if you pay your monthly wireless bill with your Cash Wise Visa.

Cons

The 1.8 percent cash rewards rate on qualifying digital wallet transactions ends after the first year, which affects the card’s long-term value. Several competing cards can top the Cash Wise Visa’s cash rewards bonus ($150 after spending $500 in the first 3 months).

The last word

Like no-annual-fee cards, digital wallets are becoming more and more common. If you have room in your phone-first lifestyle for both, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa could be a connection worth making.

Read the full review.

The information related to the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card has been collected by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

Discover it® Cash Back (not currently available)

Best for customer satisfaction rating

Pros:

The Discover it Cash Back credit card offers generous returns on bonus categories that rotate every quarter, making it well worth consideration. This no-annual-fee card comes from Discover, the credit card issuer ranked number one for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power in 2019.

Cons:

Be aware that you’ll need to activate the rotating bonus category each quarter to earn the 5 percent cash back rate (on up to $1,500 in purchases and 1 percent after). If you’re looking for a no-maintenance card, you might find the Discover it Cash Back a challenge.

The last word:

If you take full advantage of the Discover it Cash Back credit card’s bonus categories (spending $1,500 every three months), you could earn $300 cash back in a year, not counting your 1-percent earnings in non-bonus spending. Factoring in the lack of an annual fee and Discover’s customer satisfaction ratings, this card is a prime contender in the cash back field.

Read the full review.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Best for travel expenses

Pros

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card can help you take more trips while telling annual fees to take a hike. You’ll earn 1.25X miles on every eligible purchase with the card. The no foreign transaction fee on this card also allows for you to swipe abroad without any worry of incurring additional costs.

Cons

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, the flexible redemption options are sure to feel like a rare treat.

Read the full review.

What does ‘no annual fee’ mean on credit cards?

An annual fee is a yearly charge that you must pay to own a select credit card. No annual fee means holding this card won’t carry a fixed cost each year, but it doesn’t mean you have a “free credit card” due to other rates and fees.

Think of the fee as payment for having access to special benefits provided by a specific card, which may include:

  • Rewards rates on cash back or travel that are higher than average
  • Elite-level travel perks, such as priority boarding or free flights
  • A more lucrative sign-up bonus or welcome offer than a no-annual-fee card
  • Special discounts at retailers and restaurants

As an example, consider The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. The $595 annual fee (See Rates and Fees) might be eye-popping, but the tradeoff includes a rewards rate per dollar spent (5X points on certain qualifying travel expenses through amextravel.com) much higher 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. Many of the top-selling cards offered through Bankrate.com have no annual fee or offer to waive the fee for the first year.

Also, 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

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 often an economical choice, and you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice much quality if you choose carefully.

Three 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. 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.

How to switch to a no-annual-fee credit card

Switching credit cards to the issuer’s no-annual-fee version can better match your spending habits if your card’s extra reward benefits don’t justify the annual fee. Just like you can upgrade with the same issuer, downgrading doesn’t dent your credit score since there isn’t a hard credit inquiry. Customers only have to contact their issuer online or with the phone number on the back of their card.

For example, Chase cardholders can downgrade from the Chase Sapphire Reserve® ($550 annual fee) to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® ($95 annual fee) and save $455. You can typically upgrade or downgrade within the same product line, but Chase allows occasional travelers to switch to cash back cards like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

Asking to downgrade your credit card can get rid of an annual fee without hurting your credit. Keep in mind that most issuers won’t let you downgrade from a branded card (hotel cards, airline cards, etc.) to a general card and vice versa.

Frequently asked questions about credit card annual fees

Why do some credit cards have an annual fee?

The simplest explanation involves the relationship between cost and pricing. A card that offers higher rewards rates and more valuable perks will cost more to provide, so the provider typically charges a higher price. In some cases, the higher price is an annual fee.

Select credit cards may carry an annual fee to help compensate issuers for offering either:

  • Better rewards programs. Cash back, travel miles or reward points provide incentive for customers to use their cards more often.
  • Credit cards for bad or limited credit history. Issuers take on more financial risk by offering cards for consumers with below-average credit. Secured and student credit cards may charge an annual fee.

Is it worth getting a credit card with an annual fee?

The answer depends on the card, as well as the person who’s considering it.

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, frequent travelers and business owners.

Certain consumers with specific needs could find an annual fee worth the expense. Consider the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card. This card lets you check your first bag free on Delta flights, a perk that could more than pay for the $99 annual fee (which is waived the first year) after a handful of round-trip flights. For a frequent business traveler, the checked bag benefit by itself might outweigh the annual fee.

Should you cancel a credit card with an annual fee?

If you have an unused credit card that charges an annual fee even though it’s idle, you may be tempted to cancel the card altogether. However, the likelihood that canceling a card can hurt your credit score is a key consideration many people miss before making their decision.

A Bankrate survey found that 57 percent of cardholders didn’t know that closing a card account decreases your credit score, and 64 percent of those surveyed canceled their credit card because the annual fee was too high or they weren’t using their card enough.

Here’s how your credit score is calculated. Factors that could be affected by canceling or applying for a card are highlighted in blue.

Factor Description Percentage of credit score
Payment history Your history of on-time payments across all credit lines. Missed and late payments drop your score. 35%
Credit utilization ratio The percentage of credit you’re using (your balance) versus your total available credit. Paying off balances boosts your score. 30%
Credit history How long your credit accounts have been open and active. Keeping your oldest account active boosts your score. 15%
Credit mix Having a mix of revolving and installment credit accounts, like credit cards and personal loans. Balancing multiple credit lines shows lenders your credit responsibility. 10%
New credit Causing a hard credit inquiry/pull by applying for new credit can temporarily lower your score 10%

Closing your card account impacts your credit score because you’re reducing your average account age and raising your credit utilization ratio. These two factors alone make up a combined 45 percent of your credit score. Plus, your credit mix also takes a hit if you cancel a card without another line of supporting credit.

Because of these risks, you might want to consider calling your issuer to ask for an annual fee waiver or to switch cards.

Can you get a no annual fee credit card with bad credit?

No-annual-fee cards for bad credit are rare but not impossible to find. Cardholders with low credit scores pose a larger risk to lenders, so credit cards for bad credit often charge an annual fee to offset that liability. Your most likely option might be getting a secured credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee.

By definition, a secured card requires you to pay a security deposit that also serves as your credit limit. The good news is that the deposit is refundable as long as you continue to pay your balance on time and in full, making the deposit a one-time expense rather than an annual fee.

Examples of secured credit cards with no annual fee include:

Some secured and unsecured credit cards for people with lower credit scores have annual fees that vary based on where your credit score falls within a certain range. If your FICO Score is in the Very Poor range (300-579) but approaching the Fair range (580-669), your annual fee could be lower.

Overall, though, improving your credit score is the key to qualifying for a credit card that doesn’t require an annual fee or a security deposit. Good financial habits that translate to a higher credit score can open a lot of doors.

What about other fees charged by credit cards?

Aside from the annual fee, there are other credit card fees you should be aware of. 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.

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 and avoid paying for features you might not need.

How we chose our top no annual fee credit cards

All credit cards from our partners are rated with a 5-star scoring system. For cards in this category, we focused on the merits of each selection apart from charging no annual fee. Those specific criteria included:

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

More information on credit cards with no annual fee

Here are some additional Bankrate resources on no-annual-fee credit cards:


Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, loans, mortgages and other personal finance products for Bankrate since 2018. His work has also appeared on websites including Nasdaq.com, Zillow.com and The Simple Dollar. He was previously an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to bbridges@bankrate.com.

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* 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.

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