The Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of February 2024

CREDIT CARDS - NO ANNUAL FEE CREDIT CARDS
If paying an annual fee isn’t in your budget, here are some top no-annual-fee credit cards to consider.
Updated Feb. 21, 2024
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Paying an annual fee or similar credit card costs can feel a bit unorthodox. In essence, you’re paying a fee to spend money.

But many credit cards with annual fees offer ways to recoup those costs plus earn extra rewards, which can make these cards worth the expense.

Many popular credit cards have an annual fee, but if you aren’t in a place where paying an annual fee is possible, don’t fret. There are plenty of cards with no annual fees that can suit your spending and earning needs.

In this article

Best no-annual-fee credit cards of February 2024

Compare the best no-annual-fee credit cards

Card Welcome offer Rewards rate Annual fee
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card 

5.0

Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months Earn 2% cash rewards on purchases $0
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card 

4.1

Earn 25,000 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 Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases $0
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express 

4.9

Earn a $200 statement credit after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first 6 months Earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. online retail purchases (up to $6,000 per year on purchases in each category, then 1%); and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases $0 (terms apply)
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card 

4.5

Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day; and 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply) $0
Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card 

4.7

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months (that’s a $200 cash redemption value) Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans; plus earn 1X points on other purchases $0
Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited® 

4.7

Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases $0
U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card

U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card 

4.2

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 90 days of account opening Earn 4X points on dining, takeout, and restaurant delivery; 2X points on grocery stores, grocery delivery, gas stations, streaming services, and EV charging stations; and 1X points on all other eligible purchases $0
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card 

4.0

Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening Earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel $0
Citi Double Cash® Card

Citi Double Cash® Card 

4.8

Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases; plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24 $0
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card 

4.9

0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 18 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 18.74% - 29.74% None $0
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card 

4.9

Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening Earn 3% cash back on dining and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), popular streaming services, and entertainment; 5% back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases; 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats (through 11/14/2024); and 1% cash back on all other purchases $0
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card 

4.8

Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year; 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year; and 1% cash back on all other purchases $0

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Simple rewards rate
  • Has a welcome bonus
  • Has decent intro APR offers on purchases and qualifying balance transfers
  • 3% foreign transaction fees
  • No bonus categories

The Wells Fargo Active Cash makes sense if you want a simple cash rewards credit card that you can use for all of your everyday expenses.

Welcome bonus: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months.

Rewards rate: Earn 2% cash rewards on purchases.

Why we like it: The rewards rate is simple and worry-free. You can easily use this card for all your eligible purchases without having to juggle multiple credit cards with different bonus categories.

You can also take advantage of the card’s introductory APR offers:

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers (then 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable)
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases (then 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable)

What we don’t like: No bonus categories means you can’t earn higher rewards rates on certain purchases that you make. You also have to pay 3% foreign transaction fees on applicable purchases.

Other benefits include:

  • Cell phone protection
  • 24/7 Visa Signature Concierge service
  • Access to the Visa Signature Hotel Collection

Read our full Wells Fargo Active Cash review for more details.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Long intro APR offers on purchases and qualifying balance transfers
  • Has a welcome bonus
  • Simple rewards rate
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No bonus categories

The Bank of America Travel Rewards is a good fit if you want a credit card with excellent everyday earning potential with rewards that you can put toward travel.

Welcome bonus: Earn 25,000 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.

Rewards rate: Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases.

Why we like it: The Bank of America Travel Rewards provides a simple solution for earning travel rewards on all your eligible purchases. And if you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can boost your earning by 25% to 75%.

For intro APR offers, this card provides:

  • 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (then 18.24% - 28.24% Variable)
  • 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases (then 18.24% - 28.24% Variable)

What we don’t like: There aren’t any bonus categories, so you can’t earn a higher rewards rate on specific purchases. You also need at least $20,000 in eligible savings or investments to become a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member and take advantage of earning bonus rewards.

Read our full Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card review for more details.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee (Terms apply)
  • Has a welcome bonus
  • Has elevated rewards rates on everyday categories
  • Decent intro APR offers on purchases and balance transfers
  • No travel rewards
  • Rewards cap on bonus categories
  • 2.7% foreign transaction fees

The American Express Blue Cash Everyday® is a solid choice for earning rewards on everyday purchases.

Welcome bonus: Earn a $200 statement credit after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first 6 months.

Rewards rate: Earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. online retail purchases (up to $6,000 per year on purchases in each category, then 1%); and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases.

Why we like it: It’s hard to find better earning potential on these types of everyday bonus categories with another $0-annual-fee card.

And you can use the American Express Blue Cash Everyday® for its intro APR offers:

  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months (then 19.24% - 29.99% Variable)
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months (then 19.24% - 29.99% Variable)

The American Express Blue Cash Everyday® also provides a $7 statement credit each month (up to $84 annually) after spending $9.99 or more per month on an eligible subscription to The Disney Bundle. (Enrollment required.)

What we don’t like: This isn’t the best card for someone who wants to earn travel rewards or avoid foreign transaction fees. You’re also limited to how many rewards you can earn on the bonus categories.

Read our full Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express review for more details.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Simple rewards rate
  • Has a welcome bonus
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Limited bonus categories

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards is a straightforward option for earning cash back on everyday purchases.

Welcome bonus: Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day; and 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply).

Why we like it: It’s a simple rewards card that you can use for all your eligible purchases. This means you don’t necessarily have to carry more than one card in your wallet.

Intro APR offers include:

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 19.99% - 29.99% (variable))
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers (then 19.99% - 29.99% (variable)); Balance transfer fee applies

What we don’t like: The bonus categories are limited, so there aren’t many opportunities to earn more rewards on certain purchases.

Other benefits include:1

  • Capital One Travel
  • Extended warranty
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Concierge service
  • 24-hour travel assistance services

Read our full Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards review for more details.

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Has elevated rewards rates on everyday categories
  • Has a welcome bonus
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No intro APR offer on qualifying balance transfers

The Wells Fargo Autograph makes sense for earning elevated cash rewards rates on specific everyday purchases.

Welcome bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months (that’s a $200 cash redemption value).

Rewards rate: Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans; plus earn 1X points on other purchases.

Why we like it: The Wells Fargo Autograph has the useful benefit of cell phone protection and excellent earning potential on many common spending categories.

Intro APR offers include:

  • 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases (then 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable)

What we don’t like: There’s no intro APR offer on qualifying balance transfers.

Other benefits include:

  • Cell phone protection
  • Travel and emergency services assistance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Roadside dispatch
  • 24/7 Visa Signature Concierge service
  • Access to the Visa Signature Hotel Collection

Read our full Wells Fargo Autograph Card review for more details.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Earns cash back in the form of valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  • Has a welcome bonus
  • Has decent intro APR offers on purchases and balance transfers
  • Has foreign transaction fees

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is an excellent choice for anyone looking to take the next step with earning valuable cashback rewards (in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points).

Welcome bonus: Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).

Rewards rate: Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Why we like it: You can earn loads of valuable rewards on all eligible purchases, including higher rates on some bonus categories. Even better, you earn rewards in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which we recommend as one of the most flexible rewards currencies available.

Intro APR offers include:

  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months (then 20.49% - 29.24% Variable)
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months (then 20.49% - 29.24% Variable)

What we don’t like: This isn’t the best credit card for taking on your international travels because you have to pay foreign transaction fees.

Other benefits include:

  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Travel and emergency assistance services

Read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited review for more details.

Another option
If you prefer a high earning rate with rotating bonus categories and the same Chase Ultimate Rewards program, consider the Chase Freedom Flex℠. Rotating categories have included merchants like Amazon and Walmart, as well as general categories such as restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations. Note that quarterly activation is required for the bonus rotating categories.

U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Has a welcome bonus
  • Has elevated rewards rates on everyday categories
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Has decent intro APR offers on purchases and balance transfers
  • No bonus category for entertainment spending

If you are planning a large purchase and would like the option to pay it down over time, the $0-annual-fee U.S. Bank Altitude Go could be a good choice.

Welcome bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 4X points on dining, takeout, and restaurant delivery; 2X points on grocery stores, grocery delivery, gas stations, streaming services, and EV charging stations; and 1X points on all other eligible purchases,

Why we like it: The U.S. Bank Altitude Go provides plenty of opportunities for earning higher rewards rates on common categories, including if you like to eat out a lot.

Intro APR offers include:

  • 0% intro APR for 12 billing cycles on purchases (then 18.24% - 29.24% (Variable))
  • 0% intro APR for 12 billing cycles on balance transfers (then 18.24% - 29.24% (Variable))

What we don’t like: You can find many common bonus categories on this card, but you won’t earn anything extra for entertainment spending, such as going to a concert or a movie.

Other benefits include:

  • You can also receive a $15 credit for annual streaming service purchases, including from Netflix, Apple TV+, and Spotify. This requires paying for an eligible streaming service with your card for 11 consecutive months.

Read our full U.S. Bank Altitude Go Visa Signature Card review for more details.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Has a welcome bonus
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Not the best rewards rate
  • Limited bonus categories

The Capital One VentureOne offers the opportunity to earn valuable miles that can be used toward travel.

Welcome bonus: Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

Why we like it: The Capital One VentureOne is a simple rewards card with valuable intro APR offers.

Intro APR offers include:

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable))
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers (then 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)); Balance transfer fee applies

What we don’t like: There are plenty of rewards credit cards with better rewards rates. And the Capital One VentureOne doesn’t have many bonus categories where you can earn more rewards on certain purchases.

Other benefits could include:1

  • Capital One Travel
  • Extended warranty
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Concierge service
  • 24-hour travel assistance services

Read our full Capital One VentureOne Rewards review for more details.

Citi Double Cash® Card

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Simple rewards rate
  • Long intro APR offer on balance transfers
  • No intro APR offer on purchases
  • Foreign transaction fees: 3%

For a flat-rate cashback credit card that earns on everyday purchases, consider the Citi Double Cash.

Welcome bonus: Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

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; plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24.

Why we like it: The Citi Double Cash provides a simple rewards rate that makes it easy to earn elevated rewards on all your eligible purchases. It also has a long intro APR offer on balance transfers:

  • 0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers (then 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable))

What we don’t like: The Citi Double Cash doesn’t provide an intro APR offer on purchases, and it has a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Other benefits include:

  • Citi Entertainment

Read our full Citi Double Cash Card review for more details.

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Long intro APR offers on purchases and balance transfers
  • Cell phone protection
  • No rewards rate
  • No welcome bonus
  • Has foreign transaction fees

The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum is largely for people looking for stress-free spending or to consolidate debt.

Why we like it: The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum is a simple, non-rewards card that makes sense if you can take advantage of its intro APR offers. As an added bonus, you might also be able to get value from its cell phone protection benefit.

The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum provides these intro APR offers:

  • Intro purchase APR: 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on purchases (then 18.74% - 29.74% (Variable))
  • Intro balance transfer APR: 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on balance transfers (then 18.74% - 29.74% (Variable))

What we don’t like: You can’t earn rewards on eligible purchases and there’s typically no welcome bonus. You also have to pay foreign transaction fees on applicable purchases.

Read our full U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card review for more details.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Has a welcome bonus
  • Has elevated rewards rates on everyday categories
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Minimal travel benefits
  • Mastercard credit cards aren’t accepted at some retailers, such as Costco

The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card may be a good fit for someone interested in earning rewards on food and entertainment.

Welcome bonus: Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 3% cash back on dining and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), popular streaming services, and entertainment; 5% back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases; 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats (through 11/14/2024); and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Why we like it: You can’t find much better earning potential than the Capital One SavorOne’s bonus categories.

Intro APR offers include:

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 19.99% - 29.99% (variable))
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers (then 19.99% - 29.99% (variable)); Balance transfer fee applies

What we don’t like: The Capital One SavorOne doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, but it also doesn’t provide too much more for frequent travelers in terms of benefits. It’s also a bit of a downer that Mastercard credit cards can’t be used at some major retailers, including Costco.

Other benefits include:1

  • Capital One Travel
  • Extended warranty
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Concierge service
  • 24-hour travel assistance services

Read our full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards review for more details.

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Has bonus categories that align with common business expenses
  • Has a welcome bonus
  • Earns cash back in the form of valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  • No intro APR offer on balance transfers
  • Has foreign transaction fees

The Ink Business Cash is a good fit for small business owners who want to earn some of the best available rewards rates on common business expenses.

Welcome bonus: Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year; 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year; and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Why we like it: It’s hard to find another $0-annual-fee business credit card with the same earning potential as the Ink Business Cash on everyday business expenses. And you can also take advantage of an intro APR offer on purchases:

  • 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases (then 18.49% - 24.49% Variable)

What we don’t like: There’s no intro APR offer on balance transfers and you have to pay foreign transaction fees on applicable purchases.

Other benefits include:

  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Roadside dispatch

Read our full Chase Ink Cash Business Credit Card review for more details.

What to do if you want to apply for a no-annual-fee credit card

  • Make sure to thoroughly research all of a card's details before you decide to apply. Make sure you understand how the cashback rates or travel rewards rates work, for example, and also what the regular APR might be. Remember, most credit cards have variable APRs, which means they could change down the road. Consider whether you'd still want the card if the interest rate was 1% or 2% higher. 
  • Keep fees in mind. For example, if the card offers a balance transfer introductory APR, you may also have an intro balance transfer fee. 
  • After looking at a few credit card offers, pick the loyalty programs that fit your regular spending habits best. If you make a lot of travel purchases or regularly spend on airfare, apply for a card that has a rewards bonus for that. If you get a lot of takeout or use delivery services for food, then make sure you pick a card that provides rewards for those kinds of purchases.
  • Be prepared to hit the minimum spending requirement in the required period of time if you want the bonus cash or points from a sign-up bonus or welcome bonus. Never overspend to earn these rewards points. You'll actually be losing money if you end up paying interest charges on that spending.
  • If you plan to use your new card to make a balance transfer, remember that you need to have your entire balance paid off by the end of the intro APR period if you want to make the most of that interest-free time.
  • If you're not sure if you have the required credit history for a certain card, or if you have bad credit, then consider not applying today and instead spend some time working to improve your credit score. For example, you could get copies of your credit reports from each of the credit bureaus and correct any errors. 
  • Have your personal information, including your Social Security number and employment info, on hand if you're ready to fill out an application today.

Guide to no-annual-fee credit cards

There are many different types of credit cards, including broad categories such as rewards cards or balance transfer cards. These categories can also have subcategories, such as travel rewards cards or cashback rewards cards. No-annual-fee credit cards are a broad category of cards that also include a variety of subcategories.

What are no-annual-fee credit cards?

No-annual-fee credit cards are credit cards that don’t charge an annual fee. An annual fee is a charge that comes from the credit card issuer and appears on your account statement. Annual fees can range from under $100 to over $600. They’re basically a charge you receive for the privilege of having and using a certain credit card.

No-annual-fee credit cards don’t have this annual cost, which comes with pros and cons. This could include having fewer benefits compared to a card with an annual fee, though that’s not always the case. The biggest benefit of these types of cards is that there’s no upfront cost to hanging onto and using them.

Who should get a no-annual-fee credit card?

New credit card users

You’re still learning the ropes of using a credit card and building your credit history, which means you likely don’t need more on your plate in the form of an annual fee. A no-annual-fee credit card provides an easy transition into the world of credit.

People who are rebuilding their credit

A no-annual-fee credit card can slip right into an existing budget because there’s no cost unless you carry a balance and rack up interest. This could be handy if you’re building or rebuilding your credit score because it’s one less thing to worry about.

People who want to consolidate balances

Paying down existing debt is often an important part of achieving your financial goals. You could consolidate your debt onto a no-annual-fee credit card with a 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers. This might make your debt easier to manage and give you time to make payments without interest.

Experienced credit card users

You don’t have to be new to credit cards to find no-annual-fee cards useful. Many credit cards without an annual fee provide valuable rewards and benefits. And no-annual-fee credit cards make sense to hang onto for a long time to help boost your credit score.

People who want a backup fund

Credit cards aren’t the ideal replacement for an actual emergency fund, but they could act as a backup to your backup. A no-annual-fee credit card doesn’t cost anything each year and could provide essential purchasing power in an emergency situation.

Pros and cons of no-annual-fee credit cards

Pros Cons
  • You save money by not paying an annual fee.
  • You can earn rewards in the form of points, miles, or cash back.
  • You can improve your credit score.
  • You can receive helpful purchase or travel insurance benefits.
  • You can take advantage of intro APR offers.
  • You can have a backup source of money.
  • You might not earn a welcome bonus or it could be smaller compared to credit cards with annual fees.
  • Rewards rates might be lower.
  • You might not get as many benefits, especially compared to luxury travel credit cards.

How to pick a no-annual-fee credit card

1. Check your credit score

Similar to any credit card, qualifying for a no-annual-fee credit card typically requires a certain credit score. This isn’t always the case, as some credit cards are designed for people with little or no credit history.

But in general, the better your credit score, the more opportunities you have for a wider variety of credit cards. Here are the credit score ranges according to the FICO scoring model:

  • Excellent: 800 to 850
  • Very good: 740 to 799
  • Good: 670 to 739
  • Fair: 580 to 669
  • Poor: 300 to 579

You can typically expect to qualify for most no-annual-fee credit cards if you have at least a good credit score. But keep in mind that each card issuer has different guidelines in place for determining creditworthiness and that it might depend on more than your credit score.

2. Choose the type of credit card

What’s your goal with a no-annual-fee credit card? Depending on your personal finance goals, consider these different types of credit cards:

  • Rewards card: Offers rewards for purchases in the form of cash back, points, or miles.
  • Balance transfer card: Provides 0% intro APR offers on balance transfers.
  • Credit-building card: Typically has lower qualification requirements for approval.
  • Student card: Typically has lower qualification requirements for approval, but only meant for current students.
  • Business card: Could provide rewards, balance transfer offers, or any other number of benefits. Only meant for small business owners.

3. Compare perks and benefits

Even within the different categories of credit cards, you’ll find a variety of cards to choose from. To narrow down your choices, compare the perks and benefits between the cards. Here are a few credit card features to consider:

  • Rewards rate: Try to find a card with rewards categories that align with your spending habits. For example, if you spend a lot on groceries, a card that offers loads of rewards on grocery purchases likely makes sense.
  • Sign-up bonus: Are two cards fairly similar, but one has a larger welcome offer? That might be the way to go if the rewards from both cards have similar values.
  • Foreign transaction fee: You’ll likely want a card with no foreign transaction fees if you plan on traveling.
  • Balance transfer fee: Not every balance transfer card charges the same balance transfer fee. It might be worth getting a card with a lower fee.
  • Redemption options: See how rewards can be redeemed with different rewards credit cards. Common redemption options include flights, hotel stays, rental cars, statement credits, gift cards, and more.

4. Go through the application process

If you’ve narrowed down your credit card options, it’s time to see if you qualify. Since credit card issuers use different methods to determine your eligibility for their cards, you won’t know if you’ll be approved until you apply.

Keep in mind that if one credit card issuer denies your card application, that doesn’t mean every card issuer will. This doesn’t mean you should continue applying for more and more credit cards if you continue to be denied. That could hurt your credit score, and it makes sense to see why you were denied first to see if there’s anything you can change.

5. Manage your card responsibly

If you’re approved for a no-annual-fee credit card, it’s time to move forward with responsibly using your card. This includes making full and on-time payments each month and keeping your balance low.

Using your credit card in this manner can help improve your credit score and potentially open up more financial opportunities in the future. That could mean qualifying for better credit products or interest rates.

Methodology

When choosing the best credit cards with no annual fee we looked at a variety of factors and considered that different credit card offers might be a better fit for different people. As such, we did our best to include a range of cards from different credit card companies, including cards that offered bonus points in different spending categories and provided different perks and benefits. 

We also looked at standard credit card details like interest rate offers and tried to include cards that require a range of different credit scores. We also included some of what we consider to be the best cashback credit cards and travel rewards credit cards.

FAQs

Why would anyone pay an annual fee for a credit card?

Credit card users who pay annual fees typically do so because they get more value from the card than its fee. They may enjoy premium perks, access to a flexible rewards program, or earn enough cash back to offset the annual fee. Some premium perks for new cardholders could include airport lounge access, annual travel credit, and elite status with a hotel loyalty program.

How can I avoid paying my credit card annual fee?

If you want to avoid paying an annual fee, you have a few options:

  • Look for a no-fee card. Many excellent credit cards don’t charge an annual fee. You can get a good card and still earn valuable rewards and benefits without the added cost.
  • Cancel your card at the end of your first year. Some credit cards waive your annual fee for the first year; after that, you’ll have to pay the full fee. However, you can skip the fee if you close your account before the card’s renewal date.
  • Just ask. If you’ve been a loyal cardholder, you may be able to get the fee waived by calling and asking. If you go this route, do some research into other cards that don’t charge a fee. Contact customer service and explain that you’re considering switching to a new card if they can’t reduce or eliminate the fee. They may be willing to waive it to keep you as a customer.

What are the best travel cards with no annual fee?

Looking for a travel credit card but don’t want to pay an annual fee? Consider these two cards.

  • Capital One VentureOne Card: The Capital One VentureOne card has a $0 annual fee, but you’ll earn unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. Plus, you can earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. There are no foreign transaction fees, and you can redeem your miles for flights, hotel stays, and more.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card: With the Marriott Bonvoy Bold, you’ll earn up to 14X points at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy; 2X points on other travel purchases; and 1X points on all other purchases. There’s no limit to how many points you can earn, and your Marriott Bonvoy points will not expire as long as you make purchases on your credit card every 24 months.

What will my credit limit be on a no-annual-fee credit card?

As with any credit card, the amount of credit line you are approved for will be based on a few factors, including your creditworthiness. The better your credit score, the more likely that you will be given a higher credit limit. That said, you can often request a credit line increase after you have demonstrated a history of on-time payments.

What kind of credit score do I need for a no-annual-fee credit card?

The range of credit score and other qualifying factors needed for a no-annual-fee credit card will vary by card issuer. If you have a credit score of about 700 or above, you will likely have little trouble getting your pick of fee-free credit cards.

If you don’t have as good of a credit history, you may face challenges getting approved by some of the most selective card issuers. However, there are secured credit cards that don't charge an annual fee and that almost anyone can qualify for by placing a security deposit to act as collateral. These kinds of cards can be very helpful when it comes to building credit and potentially improving your credit score.

Bottom line

There are great perks to be earned from cards with no annual fee. Whether you’re looking for a points-earning or cashback card, there’s nothing wrong with refusing to pay an annual fee. Just make sure you also make on-time monthly payments and never miss a due date so you never get hit with late fees or a penalty APR either.

However, if you’d like to take your points earnings to the next level or have higher monthly spending, you may want to consider getting a card with an annual fee to ensure better earnings. It may seem a bit counterproductive to pay to spend, but the right circumstances may earn you additional rewards.

Lucrative, Flat-Rate Cash Rewards

5.0

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Current Offer

$200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

Earn 2% cash rewards on purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Brett Holzhauer Brett Holzhauer is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. He writes about using points & miles for travel, travel industry news, utilizing credit cards as financial leverage, and investing for the future. He has been featured in publications such as The Points Guy, Million Mile Secrets, The Money Manual, Recruiter, Travel Pulse, and Bald Thoughts. He is a full-time digital nomad with his wife, Kiersten.

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