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Best no annual fee credit cards

You don't need to pay an annual fee to enjoy credit card rewards, travel points and other perks.

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Paying attention to credit card fees helps you pinpoint the right fit for you. Some lenders charge annual fees for having their cards. Though, if you use the rewards often enough, it justifies the cost. There are some cards though that do not have annual fees and still offer a variety of benefits and features.

If you're looking for a credit card with no annual fees, it's important to compare your options -- some no annual fees offer only basic features, while others allow you to earn welcome bonuses, cash-back rewards and travel points. Our guide breaks down some of the best credit cards with no yearly fees. 

Read more: Best student credit cards

Best overall no annual fee credit card

See Rates and Fees
Card Highlights
Intro BonusNew! Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
APR14.99%-24.99% (Variable)
Recommended Credit Excellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0% intro APR for 15 months on qualifying balance transfers
Balance Transfer Fee up to 5%; min: $5
Balance Transfer APR14.99%-24.99% (Variable)
Foreign Transaction Fees 3%
Penalty APR None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

Our Take

The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card* is our pick for best overall no annual fee credit card for many reasons. The unlimited 2% flat cash rewards structure makes this a simple, but powerful card. There's no worrying about reward limits or bonus categories -- you'll earn a flat rewards rate on all of your everyday purchases. Plus, if you spend $1,000 in the first three months of opening your account, you'll receive a $200 cash rewards welcome bonus.

Another major perk that this no annual fee card offers is a great balance transfer period -- 0% intro APR for 15 months for qualifying balance transfers (14.99% to 24.99% variable APR thereafter). It gives you ample time to tackle old debt without having to worry about the balance snowballing due to high-interest rates. 

Best overall no annual fee credit card (runner-up)

Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
APR14.99% - 23.74% Variable
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • 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 Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Balance Transfer APR14.99% - 23.74% Variable
Foreign Transaction Fees 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
Penalty APR Up to 29.99%
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • 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 Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Our Take

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card wins the runner-up spot for best no annual fee credit cards for a few reasons. This card offers an extensive cash-back reward program, allowing you to earn more rewards on grocery store, travel, dining and drugstore purchases than you could with the Wells Fargo Active Cash card. Used strategically, you could earn more rewards than you would with a flat-rate cash-back card, but it would require a decent amount of effort and could lead to overspending. 

This card also offers a $200 welcome bonus when you spend $500 in the first three months of account ownership and a 15-month 0% introductory APR on purchases (14.99% to 23.74% variable APR thereafter). Ultimately, this card might be a better pick for you if you want to maximize grocery store, restaurant and drugstore spending. If you don't want to plan out your points spending, then we point you back to our number one pick -- the Wells Fargo Active Cash card.

Best no annual fee card for cash-back rewards

See Rates and Fees
Card Highlights
Intro BonusIntro 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.
APR11.99% - 22.99% Variable
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • 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.
  • Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% for 14 months
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0% for 14 months
Balance Transfer Fee 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
Balance Transfer APR11.99% - 22.99% Variable
Late Payment Fee None the first time you pay late. After that, up to $40.
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • 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.
  • Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

Our Take

While the Wells Fargo and Chase picks offer great cash-back rewards, we're naming the Discover it® Cash Back* credit card the best cash-back rewards no annual fee card for one simple reason -- the cash-back match Discover offers for your first year of membership. 

This card offers generous reward incentives, with bonus categories changing every three months. Now through September 2021, for instance, you can earn 5% cash-back from restaurants and PayPal purchases when you activate (on up to $1,500 in quarterly purchases, then 1%). If you were to maximize the 5% back categories each quarter, you could earn up to $300 in the first year (before the cash-back match, that is). The Discover it® Cash Back card also features a 14-month 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers before moving to a variable rate between 11.99% and 22.99% APR.

Best no annual fee intro APR card

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR14.49% - 24.49%* (Variable)
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good
Reward RatesN/A
Annual Fee$0*
Intro Purchase APR0%* for 20 billing cycles on purchases*
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0%* for 20 billing cycles on balance transfers*
Balance Transfer Fee Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater
Balance Transfer APR14.49% - 24.49%* (Variable)
Foreign Transaction Fees 2% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in U.S. Dollars 3% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in a Foreign Currency

Our Take

The US Bank Visa Platinum Card* is a no-frills card with no annual fee that won't earn you rewards -- but it's long 0% introductory APR period on both purchases and balance transfers make it an excellent card for anyone looking to pay down debt. The balance transfer fees are on par with similar cards, but the 20 billing cycle introductory timeframe can offer you extra time to pay down other credit card debt, interest-free (14.49% to 24.49% variable APR thereafter).

Best no annual fee card with customized rewards

Card Highlights
Intro Bonus$200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
APR13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
  • Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
  • Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any BTs made in the first 60 days. A 3% fee (min. $10) applies.
Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Balance Transfer APR13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees 3%
Penalty APR up to 29.99% APR
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
  • Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
  • Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.

Our Take

With the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card*, you gain many perks, including no annual fee. Earn a welcome bonus of up to $200 for charging $1,000 in the first 90 days of opening an account. And you'll also receive a 0% introductory APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days of opening the account. Once it expires, you'll pay a variable rate between 13.99% and 23.99% APR.

The difference with this card is you choose bonus categories to earn higher rewards, including dining, online shopping, travel and more. And you can maximize your incentives with Preferred Rewards. Based on your balances carried on your accounts with Bank of America and investment accounts with Merrill® (they need to be at least $20,000 to qualify), you can earn 25% to 75% more back. It means with the highest tier, Platinum Honors, you could receive 5.25% back on your choice bonus category. 

Best no annual fee card for dining and entertainment

Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
APR14.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
Recommended Credit Excellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®)
  • Earn 1% on all other purchases
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee $0 at this Transfer APR
Balance Transfer APR14.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Penalty APR None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®)
  • Earn 1% on all other purchases

Our Take

The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card* comes loaded with rewards potential. You could receive a $200 welcome bonus just for spending $500 within the first three months from account opening. And with a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases (then a variable rate of 14.99% to 24.99%), you can  finance larger purchases without interest charges. Best of all, there is no annual fee for using the card. 

Moreover, the card's biggest perk is its cash-back incentives. You earn an unlimited 3% back on all dining and entertainment options and 8% cash back on tickets through Vivid Seats (through January 2023). That's a lot of jelly for your cash-back donut. Rack up the rewards, then redeem them through PayPal, Amazon, statement credit or cash them out. There are no caps on perks, and they don't expire as long as you have an active account.

Best no annual fee card for travel rewards

Card Highlights
Intro Bonus25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
APR13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Balance Transfer APR13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Penalty APR up to 29.99% APR
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire

Our Take

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card* rewards you for exploring new places while racking up points. You'll have no annual fees and receive 25,000 points when you charge $1,000 within the first 90 days of opening the account.

The reward structure is simple. You earn 1.5 points for every dollar spent with no limits or expiration dates. It is the perfect card for the well-balanced traveler who wants rewards but does not want to carry multiple credit cards (one for hotel, one for airlines, etc.) to achieve it. And, with the Preferred Rewards through Bank of America, you can earn 25% to 75% more just for having deposits and investments through them. 

FAQs

What does 'no annual fee' mean?

It means the card issuer will not charge you a yearly cardholder fee. Cards with no annual fees may have other fees though -- including security deposits, transaction fees, late payment fees, balance transfer fees and more.

Read more: How to build credit, fast

Who is a no annual fee card best for?

Cards without annual fees are best for those new to using credit cards. You can use the card as you like with no fear of not charging enough to justify the annual fee and you still earn cash-back incentives and other rewards. 

Also, if finances become tight and you need to trim expenses, it may make sense to have a no annual fee credit card on hand. Doing so allows you access to it as needed and extends your account history--one of the factors in building your credit score. 

What else to consider about no annual fee cards

If you use your card more and want access to better incentives, it is easy to make the switch.  Alex Miller, CEO and founder of Upgraded Points said, "No annual fee credit cards tend to have a 'sister' card with an annual fee. You can upgrade from a no annual fee to an annual fee card, usually with little to no hassle." With these upgraded cards, you can typically earn even more rewards. 

Read more: How to cancel a credit card, without destroying your credit score

Are annual fee cards ever worth it?

Sometimes. If you are new to using credit cards or do not plan to charge many expenses, then having a card with an annual fee will not be in your best interest since you do not take advantage of the incentives enough to justify the cost. 

Meanwhile, there are instances where the opposite applies. "Annual fee cards are worth it for people who spend more money because they have much higher bonuses on spending categories," said John Taylor Garner, CEO and founder of Card Curator. "And their points/miles are worth a lot more, especially when redeemed for travel." 

Cards Researched

  • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
  • Apple Rewards Card
  • Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
  • Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card
  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
  • Capital One Platinum Credit Card
  • Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
  • Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
  • Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠
  • Citi® Double Cash Card
  • Citi Rewards+® Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express card
  • Discover it® Cash Back
  • Discover it® Miles
  • U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card
  • Wells Fargo Active Cash Card

More credit card advice

*All information about the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card, Discover it Cash Back, U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card, Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card, Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, and the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.