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.
Best no-annual-fee credit cards of March 2023
- Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
- Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
- Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card
- Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
- Citi® Double Cash Card
- U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
- Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
Compare the best no-annual-fee credit cards
|Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
||Those who want simple cash rewards and cell phone protection|
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
||Someone who wants straightforward rewards to put toward travel|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
||A single person or couple with focused spending on groceries and gas|
|Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card||Those looking to earn a quick early spend bonus and respectable returns on spending|
|Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
||Cell phone protection and earning elevated points on everyday purchases|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®
||Someone who wants to earn cash back on travel, dining out, and drug store purchases|
|U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card
||Those who want to pay down a large purchase over time and earn on everyday expenses|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
||Earning points redeemable for travel|
|Citi® Double Cash Card
||Earning flat-rate cash back with diversified spending|
|U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card||Those who need to consolidate debt|
|Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
||Those who enjoy dining and going out|
|Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
||Small business owners with common business expenses|
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card makes sense if you want a simple cash rewards credit card that you can use for all of your everyday expenses. The Active Cash provides a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months and you can earn 2% cash rewards on purchases.
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 19.49%, 24.49%, or 29.49% variable)
- 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases (then 19.49%, 24.49%, or 29.49% variable)
The Wells Fargo Active Cash also provides the useful benefit of cell phone protection. You can receive up to $600 of protection against damage or theft of an eligible cell phone, minus a $25 deductible.
Learn more in our Wells Fargo Active Cash review.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is a good fit if you want a credit card with excellent everyday earning potential with rewards that you can put toward travel.
You can 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.
The Bank of America Travel Rewards also provides 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases. And you can add 25% to 75% to that earning rate if you’re also a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member.
For intro APR offers, this card provides:
- 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles for any qualifying balance transfers made in the first 60 days (then 17.49% - 27.49% Variable)
- 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on purchases (then 17.49% - 27.49% Variable)
Check out our Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card review.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is a solid choice for earning rewards on everyday purchases. With the Blue Cash Everyday Card, you can 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.
You can also qualify for a welcome bonus: Earn a $200 statement credit after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first 6 months.
The card can also be used to utilized for its intro APR offers. There’s a 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, then 18.74% to 29.74% (variable). There's also an offer for 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months, then 18.74% to 29.74% (variable).
Check out our Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express review.
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card is a straightforward option for earning cash back on everyday purchases. You can 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). You can also earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
There’s even a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases that you can take advantage of. After the intro period, the APR goes to 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable). Other benefits of the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards include no foreign transaction fees, extended warranty, travel accident insurance, complimentary concierge service, and 24-hour travel assistance services.
Learn more in our Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards review.
Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
The Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card makes sense for earning elevated cash rewards rates on specific everyday purchases. This includes being able to earn unlimited 3x points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans; plus earn 1x points on other purchases.
Compared to many flat-rate rewards cards that earn a base 1.5X rate, these rates could help you earn double or nearly double the number of rewards you can earn on your purchases.
You can also earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months (that’s a $200 cash redemption value).
Some of this card’s helpful benefits include:
- 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases (then 19.49%, 24.49%, or 29.49% variable)
- Cell phone protection
- Travel and emergency services assistance
Learn more in our Wells Fargo Autograph Card review.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is an excellent choice for anyone looking to take the next step in their cashback earnings. You can earn 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. For the welcome offer: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back.
To add to the savings, the card also comes with a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases, then 19.49% - 28.24% Variable.
This card does have unique features, which include no minimum to cash out your earnings, the ability to use cashback earnings on Amazon orders, purchase protection, extended warranty protection, and contactless pay.
If you happen to also have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can take your cashback earnings from the Freedom Unlimited and transfer them as Ultimate Rewards to your Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve account.
In fact, many people like to have what they call the Chase Trifecta to earn the most rewards possible. You might also consider looking at the Chase Freedom Flex℠ if you don't mind keeping track of rotating categories.
Read our Chase Freedom Unlimited review.
U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card
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 Visa Signature® Card could be a good choice.
It offers a 0% intro APR on new purchases for 12 billing cycles (then 19.74% - 28.74% (Variable)). Whether you want to upgrade your furniture or get new appliances, this card will give you some wiggle room to pay down your balance over time without incurring interest charges.
In addition to its intro APR offer, cardholders also get 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.
Check out our U.S. Bank Altitude Go Visa Signature Card review.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card offers the chance to earn valuable miles that can be used towards travel. You can earn a bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
Along with this, you can earn 1.25X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. You’ll also have a 0% intro APR for 18 months (then 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)) on new purchases.
The features on the card are identical to the above Capital One cards, plus you can transfer your miles to various airline partners, such as Aeromexico, Air Canada, Emirates, JetBlue Airways, and Singapore Airlines.
Read our Capital One VentureOne Rewards review.
Citi® Double Cash Card
For a flat-rate cashback credit card that earns on everyday purchases, consider the Citi® Double Cash Card. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. This card also has the added benefit of giving new cardholders a 0% intro APR balance transfer offer for 18 months (then 18.49% - 28.49% (variable)). You will, however, have to pay a balance transfer fee on the amount of each transfer, so make sure to include that in your budget.
In addition, you can convert this card's cashback rewards into Citi ThankYou points in $1 increments. You’ll receive 100 points for every dollar transferred to your linked Citi ThankYou rewards account, putting the value of each ThankYou Point at one cent. After you make a transfer, you’ll have several additional redemption options that include booking travel, shopping with points on Amazon.com, purchasing gift cards, shopping online with PayPal, and more.
If you have another card that offers ThankYou Rewards points, such as the Citi Premier® Card or Citi Rewards+® Card, you can pool your converted points in with points earned from those cards.
Learn more in our Citi Double Cash Card review.
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card is largely for people looking for stress-free spending or to consolidate debt.
You get a 0% introductory APR offer on balance transfers for 18 billing cycles. Just remember that after that intro period is over, your remaining balance will be subject to your card's regular APR of 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable).
Along with this, you’ll have cell phone protection when you pay your monthly bill with your U.S. Bank Visa Platinum.
As this card doesn’t offer any sort of rewards, you won’t benefit from your everyday spending like you would with other cards on this list.
Read our U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card review.
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card may be a good fit for someone interested in great food and entertainment.
You can get 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, popular streaming services, and at grocery stores; 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. Capital One defines entertainment categories as buying tickets to a movie, theatrical play, sporting event, tourist attraction, theme park, aquarium, zoo, dance club, pool hall, or bowling alley.
To add, you can earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
As for features of the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards, you’ll get the same benefits as the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards above, including the 0% intro APR for 15 months months (then 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)) on purchases.
Check out our Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards review.
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card is a good fit for small business owners who want to earn some of the best available rewards rates on common business expenses.
This includes being able to 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 card purchases.
You can also earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Popular benefits of this card include:
- 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases (then 17.74% - 23.74% Variable)
- Purchase protection
- Extended warranty protection
Check out our Chase Ink Cash Business credit card review.
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, get 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 earning 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 is a broad category of cards that also includes 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
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 goal or 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 continued 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.
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.
Why would anyone pay an annual fee for a credit card?
Credit card users who pay annual fees do so because they get more value from the card than its fee. They may enjoy premium perks, bonus rewards, or even enough cash back to offset the annual fee.
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 1.25X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. Plus, you can earn a bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $1,000 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 14X Bonvoy points at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy (when coupled with your complimentary Marriott Bonvoy membership and Silver Elite status); 2X Bonvoy points on eligible travel purchases; and 1X points per $1 on everything else. 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.
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 earning 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.