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Best no-annual-fee credit cards of 2021

Compare cash back, features and bonuses to choose the right one.

Finder’s expert credit card team spends over 200 hours each week reviewing more than 500 credit cards. We ranked the top credit cards without a yearly fee across seven categories, considering perks such as travel insurance, a large signup bonus or higher-than-average reward rates. Finder’s experts provide unbiased, trustworthy evaluations of all best no annual fee credit cards and providers, not just those we partner with on the site.

Quick look at the best no-annual-fee credit cards

Though annual-fee cards tend to offer the best features, you’ll find a wealth of top-notch no annual fee cards. Here are our picks for the cream of the crop.

Best for cash back

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Finder rating 4.7 / 5 ★★★★★

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on Creditcards.com's secure site
Terms apply, see rates & fees
Cards that offer 1.5% or 2% cash back on all purchases rarely offer a higher cashback rate on any other category. That's where the Chase Freedom Unlimited® shines. Aside from an unlimited 1.5% back on all purchases, you get to earn 5% back on select travel and 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases. This catapults the Freedom Unlimited's value to the top of the cashback pack.

Best for groceries

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Finder rating 4.6 / 5 ★★★★★

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on American Express's secure site
Terms apply, see rates & fees
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is a simple and straightforward everyday cashback card that lets you earn 3% back on groceries from US supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases annually, reverting to 1%. This is one of the best rates you'll find on the market without paying an annual fee.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers.
Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

Best for purchase intro APR

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Finder rating 4.7 / 5 ★★★★★

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on Creditcards.com's secure site
Terms apply, see rates & fees
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ excels in many categories, including it's intro APR. You can enjoy a long intro APR on purchases, which acts as an interest-free loan, alongside the card's fantastic rewards. For many cards that offer a long 0% intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers, you won't find a rewards program.

Best for small business

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

Finder rating 4.5 / 5 ★★★★★

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on Creditcards.com's secure site
Terms apply, see rates & fees
If you're just getting your startup off the ground, the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card has a lot to love. The lack of annual fee helps keep your costs down and the strong rewards and intro APR on purchases can give you plenty of breathing room as your grow.
This card can be especially rewarding if you spend up to $25,000 annually on office supplies.

Best for new to credit

Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

Finder rating 3.1 / 5 ★★★★★

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on WebBank's secure site
Terms apply, see rates & fees
The Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card is notable in the industry for its complete lack of fees. When combined with a respectable cash back rate, and the ability to apply without a credit score, the Petal 2 is a far friendlier card than many of its competitors.

Best for dining and takeout

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

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Terms apply, see rates & fees
This card is a rarety among reward cards because it offers 4x points on dining, takeout and delivery without an annual fee. The only other card that earns 4% back on dining costs almost $100 annually. On top of that, you get to earn a generous signup bonus and get a 0% intro APR period on purchases, which only sweetens the deal.

Best for travel

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

Finder rating 3.2 / 5 ★★★★★

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card offers 1.5x points on all purchases. You can redeem these points as statement credits on all trave purchases, including flights, hotels, cruises and more.

Best for low interest

Simmons Visa®

Finder rating 4.1 / 5 ★★★★★

If you need a simple card card with few fees and the lowest interest on the market, the Simmons Visa® is your best best. While it's generally not a good idea to carry a balance on a credit card, the Simmons Visa® APR is practically half of the average at 8.25%, making it a safer option for holding that balance.

What’s changed for 2021

Numerous changes to card rewards and annual fees shook up the placements of all but a few categories in 2021. Nearly all of our new additions, including the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, Chase Freedom Flex℠, Simmons Visa® and Ink Business Cash® Credit Card, exceed the value you’d expect for the price in their categories — $0 per year.

Compare all no-annual-fee credit cards

If you’re not seeing a product that best suits your needs on our list, compare more options. Browse even more credit cards with no annual fee to find the right one for your financial situation.

How to choose the best credit card with no annual fee

Each card may work best in different situations. To find the right one for your needs, here’s what to consider:

  • Rewards. A lot of no-annual-fee cards offer rewards. Consider where you spend most of your money. For rewards on groceries, gas and dining, a cashback card works best. For travel rewards, consider an airline, hotel or a general travel card.
  • Signup bonus. No-annual-fee cards rarely offer a signup bonus worth more than $300 in value. Some cards don’t offer a signup bonus at all. Consider whether rewards boost like this will help you out during your first months of card membership and choose a card accordingly.
  • Intro APR period. Cashback cards often come with a 0% intro APR period on purchases, balance transfers or both. The length of the period, though, is rarely above 15 months. If you need more than that, a dedicated 0% intro APR credit card can have up to 20 months of the interest-free period. Sometimes, this can be more than enough to pay off your balance.
  • Credit score. To get the best no-annual-fee cards, you’ll need at last a good credit score of 670 or higher. If you’re not there yet, consider a secured card to build your credit. Once you improve your score, your card issuer may upgrade your account to an unsecured one or you can go ahead and apply for one yourself.

How do no-annual-fee credit cards work?

This type of card works just like any other card, except you won’t pay an annual fee. This makes it one of the best credit card options — especially if it comes with rewards — because you can use it whenever you want and not worry about the card’s cost.

Does no annual fee mean these cards are fee-free?

No. Cards that advertise no annual or monthly fees may still carry other fees, including late fees, chargeback fees, balance transfer fees, foreign transaction fees, cash advance fees and more. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission warns that some credit card companies charge a late fee if your payment is received after 5 p.m. on the due date.

The bottom line is that there are numerous credit card fees that could crop up on your monthly statement and eat into your available credit — not to mention ongoing interest charges on anything you borrow. Carefully read the fine print of a card before you sign up and take note of any fees you may potentially encounter.

Pros and cons of a no-annual-fee card

It’s always good to get a full picture of a card type before you submit an application. Here are a few things to consider before getting a no-annual-fee card.

Pros

  • It’s low-maintenance. You can keep a no-annual-fee card for as long as you want without worrying about a yearly cost. Besides giving you credit to help decrease your credit utilization, this also lets you increase your average age of accounts. Both are factors that help determine your FICO score.
  • Keep more of your rewards. An annual fee eats into any rewards you earn. For example, if you earn $100 in cash back but have to pay a $95 annual fee, you’ve effectively earned just $5 in cash back. With a $0 annual fee, any rewards you earn are all upside.
  • Signup bonus might be easier to obtain. While signup bonuses tend to be smaller than you’ll find with annual-fee cards, you often have to meet lower spending requirements. You might, for instance, earn a bonus worth $150 after you meet a spending requirement of just $500 within the first three months.

Cons

  • Lower rewards rates. There are many no-annual-fee cards that offer good rewards. But you’ll often find the best rewards with annual-fee cards.
  • Fewer benefits. No-annual-fee cards tend to have fewer features. For example, you might not find features such as airport lounge access, free checked baggage or travel credits.

You asked, we listened: Top common questions

  1. What kind of credit do you need to get a no-annual-fee credit card? There are no-annual-fee credit cards that target everyone from excellent to fair credit. People with bad credit scores, however, will find limited options for no-annual-fee credit cards. If you’ve had trouble getting approved for credit in the past or you have a bad credit history, you may have to start with a no-annual-fee secured card.
  2. Can the card issuer begin charging an annual fee later on? Your credit card issuer can start charging an annual fee 12 months after you become a cardmember. If your card issuer plans to introduce an annual fee, they’re required to let you know well in advance of the time the annual fee will become effective. You’ll have the opportunity to opt out, or reject, the addition of the annual fee. Your credit card issuer will have to allow you to pay your credit card off under the current terms (no annual fee) but may cancel your account or suspend your purchasing privileges. Unless your credit card has great rewards, opting out of the new fee is typically best.
  3. Are no-annual-fee credit cards completely free? A no-annual-fee credit card can be completely free, but it depends on how you use the credit card. Paying on time and in full will help you avoid late fees and interest. Most other fees are transaction-based, which means you’ll have to avoid specific transactions to avoid paying fees. This includes balance transfers, cash advances and purchases made in foreign currencies.
  4. How can I tell if a credit card charges an annual fee? Most no-annual-fee credit cards will prominently advertise that there’s no fee for the card. It’s one of the biggest selling points for a credit card. If you see the phrase “No annual fee” followed by an asterisk (*), check for a caveat in the fine print. You may learn that the annual fee is only waived in the first year of the credit card. The best way to figure out whether a credit card charges an annual fee is to read through the credit card pricing disclosure. All credit cards are required to list the pricing associated with a credit card with each credit card offer.

Bottom line

A card with no annual fee can offer great rewards and benefits while keeping costs low. But the best card for you will depend on what perks you’re looking for and how you plan to use it.

If you want more options, there are plenty of credit cards to compare. Check out our guide to the best credit cards of 2021.

Credit card ratings

★★★★★ — Excellent

★★★★★ — Good

★★★★★ — Average

★★★★★ — Subpar

★★★★★ — Poor

Our team evaluates credit cards to determine their value against similar cards on the market.

We rank card types — travel, cash back, business — on a set of factors that are most relevant to that type of card. We create these rankings to help you narrow down a credit card that best suits your spending and budget.

Learn the details of our methodology and scoring.

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