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 December 2020:

Best cash back card for families

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% Cash Back on other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 20% back on purchases at Amazon.com on the Card in the first 6 months, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
13.99%-23.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 20% back on purchases at Amazon.com on the Card in the first 6 months, up to $200 back.
  • Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 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% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%.
  • Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee and no interest.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Best overall cash back card with no annual fee

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:
One-time $200 cash bonus 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:
N/A
Regular APR:
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)

Card Details

  • One-time $200 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; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best overall rewards card with no annual fee

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 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase. Earn 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn a $200 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:
N/A
Regular APR:
14.99 - 23.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Terms and Restrictions Apply

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 dining & entertainment

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 SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment Earn 2% at grocery stores Earn 1% on all other purchases
Welcome Offer:
Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • 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; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for travel expenses

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 unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.
Welcome Offer:
Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro on purchases for 12 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)

Card Details

  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • 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
  • Transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for rotating cash back categories

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 on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Welcome Offer:
Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 14 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 14 months
Regular APR:
11.99% - 22.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem cash back in 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.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.

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 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 balance transfers

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® Diamond Preferred® Card

Rewards Rate:
N/A
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 18 months on Purchases
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer. After that the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Get free access to your FICO® Score online.
  • With Citi Entertainment®, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
  • Shop with confidence knowing that you have dependable protection benefits, including $0 Liability on Unauthorized Purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Some of the offers on this page may have expired.

The information about the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card, the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card and the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.


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.

Compare the best credit cards with no annual fee

Card Name Our pick for … Annual Fee Bankrate Review Score
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Families $0 4.5 / 5
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card Best overall cash back card with no annual fee $0 4.8 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Best overall rewards card with no annual fee $0 4.6 / 5
Citi® Double Cash Card Flat-rate cash back $0 4.7 / 5
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card Dining & entertainment with no annual fee $0 4.6 / 5
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card Travel expenses $0 4.3 / 5
Discover it® Cash Back Rotating cash back categories $0 4.7 / 5
Capital One Platinum Credit Card Best for free credit monitoring $0 3.7 / 5
Citi Rewards+℠ Card Points on everyday purchases $0 4.6 / 5
Citi Diamond Preferred Card Best for balance transfers $0 4.5 / 5
Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards Best for low interest and low cost $0 4.2 / 5
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Cash back in multiple categories $0 4.5 / 5
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Travel redemption $0 4.3 / 5
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card Best overall travel card with no annual fee $0 4.5 / 5
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Choosing your own rewards $0 4.4 / 5
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card Digital wallet users $0 4.5 / 5

A closer look at the best no annual fee credit cards

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Best cash back card for families

Pros

The rewards categories seem tailor-made for families: 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 U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. You also earn 1 percent cash back on other eligible purchases.

Cons

If you don’t spend a lot of money in the 3-percent and 2-percent categories, this card doesn’t offer exceptional value. In that case, you might consider a flat-rate 1.5-percent or 2-percent 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 providing food, fuel and fashion can earn considerable cash back rewards 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 find out how to apply.

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 ($200 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 ($200 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 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 cash back, including 3 percent on dining and drugstore purchases and 1.5 percent on all other purchases. It 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 and find out how to apply.

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 and find out how to apply.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for dining & entertainment with no annual fee

Pros

This card’s cash back rates on dining and entertainment (3 percent) and grocery store purchases (2 percent) are generous. Additionally, this card features a 0% APR intro offer on purchases for 15 months (15.49% – 25.49% variable APR after).

Cons

The rewards you earn with the SavorOne can be redeemed for cash back (statement credit or check), gift cards or shopping on Amazon.com, but not for travel. Although the card would come in handy for culinary tourism, the rewards you earned wouldn’t directly offset the costs for transportation or lodging.

The last word

Food and fun? Yes. Annual fee? No. The Capital One SavorOne could be a comfortable fit for dining and entertainment enthusiasts who want a rewards card but not one that charges a fee every year.

Read the full review and find out how to apply.

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 and find out how to apply.

Discover it® Cash Back

Best for rotating cash back categories

Pros:

The Discover it Cash Back offers generous returns on bonus categories that rotate every quarter (activation required). The Discover cash back calendar covers a broad range of categories including retailers, restaurants, gas stations and ride-sharing services.

Cons:

Remember 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 quarter), 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, this card is a prime contender in the cash back field.

Read the full review and find out how to apply.

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 fraud protection and emergency card services 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 eager 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 and find out how to apply.

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 and find out how to apply.

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Best for balance transfers

Pros

This card has two of the best zero-interest intro offers currently available: 18 months at 0% APR, 14.74% – 24.74% variable APR after, for both balance transfers and purchases. Those offers, combined with the lack of an annual fee, are sure to appeal to consumers who want to avoid APR temporarily and avoid an annual fee altogether.

Cons

The recommended credit score for this card (740 – 850 FICO) could put it out of reach for about half of American consumers. It doesn’t offer a rewards program, which might or might not be a deal-breaker if you’re simply looking for a balance transfer.

The last word

The Citi Diamond Preferred Card offers an opportunity to get the upper hand on debt without paying an annual fee. If you want to transfer a balance and preserve an excellent credit score, this straightforward card could help you make it happen.

Read the full review and find out how to apply.

Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards

Best for low interest and low cost

Pros

The Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards 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 options which would make the payment period seemingly endless. Also, earn 1.5% unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment.

Cons

Although there’s no annual fee with this card. You also won’t find a 0 percent intro APR on purchases or balance transfers.

The last word

Although 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.

Read the full review and find out how to apply.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Best for cash back in multiple categories

Pros

For the first year, you’ll earn 5 percent cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000. The permanent cash back categories include 5 percent on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3 percent at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services, and 3 percent on drugstore purchases.

Cons

The grocery store category doesn’t cover Walmart or Target, a drawback for shoppers loyal to those superstore brands, and it’s good for only the first year on up to $12,000 in purchases.

The last word

The sheer number of categories with high cash back rates make this card quite valuable, and the lack of an annual fee increases its value even more.

Read the full review and find out how to apply.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

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 and find out how to apply.

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

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 and find out how to apply.

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

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 and find out how to apply.

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

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 and find out how to apply.

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.

What does ‘no annual fee’ credit card mean?

An annual fee is a yearly charge that you must pay to own a select credit card. No annual fee means you won’t have to pay a fixed cost each year to access your credit card and what comes with it.
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.

Is a no annual fee credit card the same as a free credit card?

Though they come without an annual price tag, no annual fee cards are certainly not free. No matter the credit card, interest charges and penalty fees could apply if you don’t pay your balance on time and in full every month.

Still, using your no annual fee credit card responsibly can help you avoid a yearly fee, interest and other charges while simultaneously boosting your credit score.

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?

Beginners might find it easier to learn the credit card basics with a no annual fee card. They’re also more likely to be in the early stages of their careers, with less room in their budgets to absorb the cost of an annual credit card fee.

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?

Rewards cards with annual fees are worth the cost only if you spend heavily in the applicable categories, so be careful not to mismatch your spending habits and lifestyle. For example, a travel rewards card with a $95 annual fee won’t be very useful to someone who prefers staycations to expensive getaways.
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 pair no annual fee and annual fee cards

Those looking to maximize rewards provided by each type of card might want to look into pairing complementary cards.

Start by considering your current card’s rewards structure. If you’re already earning points or cash back at a flat rate, finding a second card to cover the rewards-earning purchases or categories that your current card doesn’t could take your earning to the next level.

For example, a no-annual-fee cash back card matched with a top-tier travel card could increase your total rewards earnings across the board in addition to providing access to luxury perks like airport lounge access, trip insurance and concierge service.

You might also pair a no-annual-fee cash back card with an annual-fee cash back card that offers higher rewards rates in special spending categories, such as grocery stores or supermarkets. You could designate the annual-fee card for those spending categories while using the no-annual-fee card for general purchases.

Many issuers offer no-annual-fee and annual-fee cards that complement each other, so you might be able to keep your cards portfolio under one brand.

The catch, of course, is that you’ll need to follow a strategy of using different cards for different purchases. You’ll also need to make sure your strategy earns enough rewards to offset the cost of the annual-fee card. Take a close look at your spending habits and estimate the potential benefits before trying a card combination.

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 other cases, an annual fee compensates for the financial risk the issuer assumes by offering cards to consumers with below-average credit or a limited credit history.

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. It’s all about weighing the value of the rewards you’ll earn against the initial cost.

Certain consumers with specific needs could find an annual fee worth the expense. Some premium cards charge high annual fees because they offer high rewards rates, luxurious benefits or both. Travel cards, airline cards and hotel cards might be worth it for cardholders who travel a lot, but there are many no annual fee cards that offer fairly competitive benefits.

While no-annual-fee cards can often keep up, there are certain high-end add-ons that are typically reserved for annual fee cards. Travel perks like priority boarding, access to VIP lounges, travel accident insurance, comped checked luggage, airline fee credits and more are most often the domain of annual-fee cards. Sign-up bonuses, welcome offers and rewards rates are typically more valuable with annual fee cards.

In the end, the question of annual-fee vs. no annual fee always comes down to trade-offs. Do you spend enough on rewards-earning purchases to justify the cost of the annual fee, or do you have more modest spending habits that make a no-annual-fee card the better choice?

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.

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.

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

* 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.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.