Credit cards should provide you with rewards and make paying for things more convenient. They shouldn't leave you drowning in fees.
Although it sometimes makes sense to pay an annual fee for awesome cardholder benefits, not everyone will spend enough with their card or make enough use of perks for it to be a scenario when an annual fee is worth it. And many of the other fees that some cards stick you with provide no advantages at all.
The good news is, if you want a fee-free card, you have lots of options. Although you may already know that there are no-annual-fee credit cards, there are also some cards that charge no fees at all, even if you pay late. Others charge minimal fees and only for certain kinds of lesser-used transactions.
To help you find the right card for you if you don't want to have to worry about surprise costs, check out this list of the best no-fee credit cards.
To find the best no-fee credit cards, I combed through the available no-annual-fee cards and looked for ones that also promise few or no other charges. This means they had no late payment fees, no foreign transaction fees, and no fees for balance transfer. I also considered whether the card provided any other benefits or perks, such as travel, cashback rewards, or purchase protections. Here are the best no-fee cards based on this search.
The best no-fee credit cards
|Card name||Annual fee||Late payment fee||Foreign transaction fee||Balance transfer fee||Cash advance fee|
|PenFed Promise Visa Credit Card||$0||N/A||None||N/A||N/A|
|Citi Simplicity Card||$0||None||3%||$5 or 5%, whichever is greater||$10 or 5%, whichever is greater|
|Chase Slate||$0||Up to $39||3%||$0 for transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that: $5 or 5%, whichever is greater||$10 or 5%, whichever is greater|
|Amex EveryDay Credit Card||$0||Up to $40||2.7%||$0||$10 or 5%, whichever is greater|
|Discover it Cash Back||$0||$0 for first late payment; after that, up to $40||None||3% for balances transferred by July 10, 2020 and 5% after that||$10 or 5%, whichever is greater|
PenFed Promise Visa Credit Card
The PenFed Promise Visa Credit Card is the only true no-fee credit card, as all other cards charge some fees, either for balance transfers or foreign transactions or paying late. This card truly charges nothing for any of the things most card issuers impose added costs for. In fact, you won't pay a fee even for a returned payment or if you go over your credit limit. And there's no penalty APR if you violate your cardmember agreement either.
If you absolutely do not want to worry about getting caught by surprise and owe a fee under any circumstances, the PenFed Promise is the card for you. And, although the card doesn't offer bonus points or rewards on your purchases, it is possible ot get a sign-up bonus. You can get a $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days.
There is a small downside, though, in that the card has no 0% APR intro offer on purchases so you'll start right off with owing interest if you charge stuff on your card and don't pay it off each month. And the balance transfer introductory APR is 4.99% for 12 months on transfers made between now and September 30, 2020, but jumps up to the regular APR after that, so this isn't a good card for balance transfers, despite the absence of fees, as there are many excellent 0% APR balance transfer credit cards out there.
Citi Simplicity Card
The Citi Simplicity Card is a great option if you don't travel abroad often and aren't worried about foreign transaction fees. This card has a $0 annual fee and no fee for late payments.
Although there's a relatively high balance transfer fee, the card has a very long intro APR offer of 0% for 21 months on balance transfers completed within four months of opening your account. This gives you almost two years to pay off your debt with no costs beyond the initial balance transfer fee of $5 or 5%, whichever is greater, that you paid on the amount of each transfer.
The Citi Simplicity unfortunately doesn't offer any rewards on your purchases, so isn't a good choice if you're looking to earn points, miles, or cash back for spending. But it does provide a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months after account opening so you can have a long time to pay for purchases without having to pay credit card interest.
If you worry about paying late or you want a long time to pay off a purchase or pay off debt with a balance transfer, the Citi Simplicity could be just the card you're looking for.
The Chase Slate has a $0 annual fee and no balance transfer fee if you make a transfer within 60 days of opening your account. Because you also get a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months after account opening, this card is an ideal balance transfer card. You get a long time to repay debt you transfer to it and you don't even have to pay for the transfer.
The card does charge a foreign transaction fee, a late fee, and a cash advance fee. If you often buy outside of the U.S., worry about being late, or want to take cash advances, another card may be a cheaper option for you.
The good news is, there isn't an over-the-limit fee, so if you're concerned you could be charged for spending too much on your card, you won't have to worry with the Chase Slate. And there's no penalty APR, so your interest rate doesn't go up if you pay late.
Chase doesn't provide spending rewards on the Slate, but you do get Chase purchase protection so if you buy something with your Chase Slate and it's stolen or damaged within 120 days, you can get up to $500 back. This could be a huge savings if, for example, you buy an expensive new cell phone that gets broken shortly after you bought it.
The Amex EveryDay Credit Card has a similar balance transfer offer as the Chase Slate — you won't pay a fee to transfer a balance if you request it within 60 days of opening your account and you will have a 0% introductory APR on transferred balances for 15 months. You also get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, which makes this card an ideal choice if you want to buy things and pay for them over many months.
Where this American Express card stands apart is in the generous rewards program it offers, which is unusual for a fee-free card. This card gives you bonus points in a few different spending categories. You get a rewards rate of 2X points per dollar on the first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year, and 1X on everything else. If you use the card on at least 20 purchases during a billing cycle, you'll also get 20% more points, which makes the program an even better deal.
And, even better, the Amex EveryDay even has a welcome bonus offer: Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards Points after making $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.
The Amex EveryDay does have a late payment fee of up to $40. So if you suspect you may fall behind on making a payment, this isn't the card for you. The foreign transaction fee on this card also makes it less than ideal if you often travel out of the country, though it is a lower fee than many other cards on this list.
Discover it Cash Back
The Discover it Cash Back is a great choice if you're looking for a cashback card with few fees and a generous rewards program, especially during the first year you have the card. You'll get 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories (including gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and Amazon.com), up to quarterly maximum; 1% cash back on all other purchases.
And Discover offers a special rewards bonus to new cardholders. You'll get an unlimited cashback match at the end of your first year, which makes this deal even sweeter. So if you earned $100 in cash back over the course of year one, you'll get another $100 in cashback rewards at the end of that year. To get the most from the card, you will need to stay aware of the changing bonus categories though.
This card is a good choice if you travel outside of the U.S. as there are no foreign transaction fees. And a 0% intro APR on purchases for 14 months means it's also ideal for paying off purchases over time.
The balance transfer fee of 3% for balances transferred by July 10, 2020 and 5% after that means it's not the best balance transfer card though, even if you do take advantage of the APR of 0% (for transfers that post to your account by by July 10, 2020) for 14 months on balance transfers . And if you suspect you might pay late, shy away from this card as it charges $0 for first late payment; after that, up to $40.
Which of these no-fee credit cards should you choose?
When deciding which card is right for you, you'll need to consider your goals and spending habits:
- If you want to pay off debt, choose a card with no balance transfer fee and a long low interest rate period such as the Chase Slate or Amex Everyday so you can do a balance transfer for the least cost. Or if you want the longest possible time to pay your debt back, the Citi Simplicity may be the card you're hoping for.
- If you want a rewards credit card so you can earn points for everyday purchases, opt for the Discover it Cash Back or Amex EveryDay, but be prepared to pay a fee if you're late at all on the Amex or if you're late more than once on the Discover.
- If you want a card that truly charges you no fees, even if you make a mistake, the PenFed Promise would be the best pick.
- If you want to pay off purchases over time, opt for a card with an introductory APR on purchases such as the Citi Simplicity or Discover it Cash Back.
Bigger spenders may benefit from the chance to earn rewards, whereas those who are likely to make late payments should opt for a card that won't impose a charge every time as these charges could quickly negate the benefit of any cash back, miles, or rewards points a card might provide.
Frequently asked questions about no-fee credit cards
Will credit card companies waive the annual fee?
Yes, sometimes credit card companies waive annual fees, particularly if you spend a lot on the card and you pay on time. However, there is no guarantee an issuer will waive your annual fee and you're less likely to be successful if you've already requested and received an annual fee waiver in the past. If you want to be sure you don't have to pay an annual fee, you should look for a card that doesn't charge one.
Are there no-fee credit cards with cashback or travel rewards?
There are indeed no fee rewards credit cards that provide cashback or travel rewards. The Discover it Cash Back, for example, is a rewards card that charges no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and waives your first late payment fee. It also offers up to 5% cash back on your purchases.
If you are looking for a travel rewards card that will reward you on any travel purchases, a true no-fee card is harder to find. But there are many no-annual-fee travel credit cards available.
What kind of credit score do I need for a no-fee credit card?
Qualifying requirements and the required level of creditworthiness will vary by card issuer. If you have a credit score of about 700 or above, you shouldn't have 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, such as the Discover it Secured, that don't charge an annual fee and that almost anyone can qualify for by placing a deposit to act as collateral.
Bottom line on the best no-fee credit cards
As you can see from this list of the best credit cards with little to no fees, you don't have to pay a bunch to get a great credit card or to use common card features such as a balance transfer. You just need to choose the right card that doesn't charge for the things you want to do. Now you know how to find that card, so you can start making shopping simpler without worrying about surprise charges.