When it comes to credit cards, earning rewards on purchases is a worthwhile benefit to seek out. These rewards can come in different forms, though it’s usually a choice between cash back vs. miles or points.
But if your rewards credit card also comes with an annual fee, you may find the rewards don’t make up for the amount you’re paying each year in fees. According to a 2019 U.S. News study, the average annual fee on credit cards is about $110. If you consider the average American has four credit cards, according to Experian, then you could be looking at average annual fees of about $440.
If you switch to no-annual-fee credit cards, you could save a lot of money on card fees. But are there really worthwhile rewards cards that don’t come with an annual fee? The short answer is yes. Keep reading to learn about all the best rewards credit cards with no annual fee.
- What is the best rewards card with no annual fee?
- The best rewards cards with no annual fee
- Best no-annual-fee rewards card for families
- Best no-annual-fee rewards card for frequent travelers
- Best no-annual-fee rewards card for students
- Best no-annual-fee rewards card for balance transfers
- Best no-annual-fee rewards card for businesses
- Best no-annual-fee rewards card for restaurants
- Best no-annual-fee rewards card for online shopping
- Bottom line on the best rewards cards with no annual fee
What is the best rewards card with no annual fee?
As a general rule, there is no single best rewards credit card out there. The best rewards credit card with no annual fee will depend on the person and their unique situation. You may be more interested in cashback credit cards with no annual fee or no-annual-fee business credit cards. The best card is really whatever rewards credit card fits your lifestyle and spending habits.
But to help you narrow down your search, we looked for cards with clear-cut guidelines on earning and redeeming rewards. Here’s a breakdown of the factors used in choosing the cards on our list of the best rewards credit cards with no annual fee:
- Easy rewards earning: Rewards credit cards should be straightforward when it comes to figuring out how rewards are earned, whether it’s in the form of points, cash back, or miles. If it’s hard to understand how to earn rewards, it’s probably not a card you want.
- Simple redemptions: If the redemption process isn’t simple, it can turn off a lot of cardholders from actually using the credit card. There should also be at least a few options for redemptions, such as statement credits, gift cards, and redeeming points or miles for travel.
- Additional benefits: Credit cards often come with additional perks and benefits. This could include extended warranty coverage, an intro APR of 0% for purchases or balance transfers, purchase protection, and more. These added benefits can be extremely valuable if used correctly and should not be overlooked.
In addition to these factors, we’ve also separated the rewards credit cards into categories that would fit a certain type of person or situation. For instance, if you’re a frequent traveler, then you might like a card that comes with travel benefits and rewards you for travel purchases. But if you’re a small business owner, you could be more interested in a business card that rewards you for specific business purchases.
Regardless of the type of awards you’re seeking or the type of spender you are, we think this list will include a credit card that’s a best fit for you.
The best rewards cards with no annual fee
|Card name||Who it’s best for||Welcome bonus||Rewards rate|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Families||Earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months, plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart; up to $12,000 in the first year)||5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases|
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card||Frequent travelers||Earn 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months||3X points on eligible dining, transportation, travel, and streaming service purchases; and 1X points on other purchases|
|Journey Student Rewards from Capital One||Students||Get automatic consideration for a higher credit line as quickly as 6 months after account opening||1% cash back on all purchases and 1.25% cash back each month you make an on-time monthly payment|
|Citi Double Cash Card||People with high-interest debt||Earn cash back twice: 1% when you buy + 1% when you pay||Up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay|
|Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card||Business owners||Earn $750 bonus cash back after spending $7,500 in the first 3 months||5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable, or phone services (up to $25,000 combined annually); 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $25,000 combined annually); and 1% cash back on everything else|
|Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card||Frequent diners||Earn a $200 one-time cash bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months||8% cash back with Vivid Seats; 3% unlimited cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services, and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target), plus 1% cash back on all other purchases|
|Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card||Online shoppers||$100 Amazon gift card upon approval||5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market; 2% at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores; 1% on all other purchases|
Best no-annual-fee rewards card for families
For families, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great choice. It comes with the potential to earn a $200 cash back welcome offer after spending $500 in first 3 months.
You can also earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases. This makes it easy to use this card for just about everything and reap the rewards along the way. You also earn 5% cash back on Lyft rides. Families may find this card to be useful as an ideal universal option for everyday purchases on groceries, gas, restaurants, and more.
Your redemption options include cash back, gift cards, and travel bookings. If you opt for cash back, you can choose to receive it in the form of a statement credit or a direct deposit into your checking or savings account. Gift cards are available for a variety of stores in the shopping, dining, and entertainment industries.
To use your rewards for travel, it’s as easy as logging into your online Chase account and navigating to the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal in which you can redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and more.
The Freedom Unlimited is one of the cards that comes with Chase’s DoorDash benefits. This card gives you a complimentary 3-month subscription to DashPass. This gets you unlimited $0 deliveries on DoorDash orders over $12.
Additionally, you also receive Chase purchase protection and extended warranty protection.
Best no-annual-fee rewards card for frequent travelers
The Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card comes with a welcome bonus of 20,000 after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. That’s worth $200 as a cash redemption. You earn 3X bonus points when spending on eligible dining, transportation, travel, and streaming services. Your points never expire as long as the account remains open and can be redeemed for travel bookings, cash back, and gift cards.
Frequent travelers will enjoy that you can earn plenty of travel rewards with this card since Wells Fargo defines travel as a broad category that includes popular purchases such as flights, hotels, and car rentals — but it doesn’t stop there, as rideshares, transit, RV parks, and homestays (including Airbnb) also count.
You can rest easy while traveling knowing this card has a wide range of travel insurance benefits attached to it. There’s also cell phone protection in case your phone is damaged or stolen, and other helpful benefits such as lost luggage reimbursement, car rental insurance, and roadside assistance.
For travelers who don’t want to deal with an annual fee and foreign currency conversion fees, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card is one of the best no-annual-fee travel credit cards currently available.
Best no-annual-fee rewards card for students
The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is a top choice if you’re a student looking to get your first credit card. With this card, you earn 1% cash back on all purchases and 1.25% cash back each month you make an on-time monthly payment.
Rewards can be redeemed for cash back in the form of statement credits or a check. You can also set automatic redemptions for certain times throughout the year or for whenever your rewards meet a certain amount, like $25.
This card is a great answer to the question of how to build credit in your 20s, because the required credit level to be approved is listed as average. According to Capital One, someone with a limited credit history would likely fall into the category of having average credit.
Just because this card may be a great credit card for students doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on benefits. If you think studying abroad might be in your future, this card is a good fit as there are no foreign transaction fees and travel accident insurance is included. Plus, you also get extended warranty coverage on eligible items and car rental insurance.
Best no-annual-fee rewards card for balance transfers
The Citi Double Cash Card is an optimal choice for anyone looking for a great balance transfer offer with a card that also earns cashback rewards. With a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, the Citi Double Cash has one of the longest intro rates around. You'll want to strategize to pay off your debt by the end of that intro period though, as after that a regular variable APR will go into effect.
When spending with this card, you can earn up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay. Your cashback rewards can be redeemed as statement credits or deposited into one of your accounts. Alternatively, you can receive a check or have your rewards converted into Citi ThankYou points.
This card also comes with Citi Entertainment benefits that grant cardholders special access to concerts, sporting events, dining experiences, and more.
Best no-annual-fee rewards card for businesses
The Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card is a prime choice for small business owners who want great cashback rewards from specific bonus categories. If you need a business credit card for your side hustle, this card is a top choice. Plus, the $750 cashback sign-up bonus after you spend $7,500 in the first 3 months after account opening is a generous offer for all new cardholders.
You earn 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable, or phone services (up to $25,000 combined annually); 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $25,000 combined annually); and 1% cash back on everything else. All rewards can be redeemed for cash back, gift cards, and travel redemptions through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
Business owners will find many of this card’s added benefits to be particularly useful. Employee cards can be added at no extra charge and you can set individual spending limits for each one. In addition, your purchased products are protected with extended warranty protection and purchase protection coverages.
Best no-annual-fee rewards card for restaurants
As the name implies, the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great choice for frequent diners. You can earn a $200 one-time cash bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months. Plus, you’ll earn 8% cash back with Vivid Seats; 3% unlimited cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services, and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target), plus 1% cash back on all other purchases. That makes this card one of the best credit cards for dining out. The dining category includes purchases at any restaurant and other food- or drink-centered businesses. Capital One lists these as cafes, bars, lounges, fast-food chains, and bakeries.
Rewards can be redeemed for cash back in the form of either a statement credit or a check. For stress-free redemptions, you can set up automatic redemption preferences to receive your cash back at certain times throughout the year or whenever you hit specific thresholds (starting at a minimum of $25).
With no foreign transaction fees and built-in travel accident insurance, traveling foodies might especially consider a spot in their wallets for this card.
Best no-annual-fee rewards card for online shopping
The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is a perfect credit card for online shoppers. You earn 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market; 2% at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores; 1% on all other purchases. Even better, you’ll also receive a $100 Amazon gift card upon approval for the card.
Rewards can be redeemed to pay for Amazon.com purchases with no minimum rewards balance necessary. You can also redeem your rewards through Chase for cash back, gift cards, or travel.
This card also comes with plenty of additional benefits to make it even more valuable. Travel benefits include no foreign transaction fees, travel accident insurance, and lost luggage reimbursement. For protection coverages, you have rental car insurance, purchase protection, and extended warranty protection, among others.
Although this card requires an eligible Amazon Prime membership, the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card does not, but the non-Prime version of the card also has less earning potential. You earn only 3% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market and the immediate sign-up bonus is a smaller amount. This makes the Prime version of the card the superior option if you’re an Amazon Prime member.
Bottom line on the best rewards cards with no annual fee
You’re looking for a rewards credit card, but you don’t want to deal with the hassle of an annual fee. Not to mention, there are a lot of no-annual-fee cards out there so it can be difficult to narrow down which one is the right fit for you.
Fortunately, we’ve listed the best no annual fee credit cards with rewards that can fit a variety of situations. Whether you’re a foodie, small business owner, or a student looking to improve your credit score — there’s a card for you. The cards we've listed include travel cards, cashback cards, business cards, and more. And there are even credit card issuers offering sign-up bonuses.
Just keep in mind that the best card for you might not necessarily be the best card for someone else. There are a lot of great credit cards available, though, so we wish you well with finding the perfect card for you.