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Best no-annual-fee credit cards of 2021

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

The best no-annual-fee credit cards offer perks that you might not typically see on a card without a fee, such as travel insurance, a large signup bonus or higher-than-average reward rates. Finder’s expert credit card team spends over 200 hours each week reviewing more than 500 credit cards in order to bring you this list of the top credit cards without a yearly fee across seven categories.
  • Why trust us? Unlike our competitors, Finder’s credit card experts research and write about all credit cards, including those from providers who aren’t partners on our site. Our trustworthy, unbiased evaluations are solely meant to help you choose the best credit card for your financial needs.

What are 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®

Chase Freedom Unlimited® logo
Finder Rating: 4.7 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Apply now
on Chase's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 5%
Cash back
$200
Welcome offer
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.
  • Earn cash back. Earn 5% cash back on Chase Travel Portal purchases, 3% back on dining, including takeout and delivery, and 3% back on drugstore purchases. On everything else, earn 1.5% back.
  • Signup bonus. Get a $200 bonus when you spend $500 within your first 3 months of account opening.
  • Intro APR on purchases. Enjoy a 15 months 0% intro APR period on purchases. After that, a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74% applies.
  • Foreign transaction fee. All purchases made abroad or online with foreign merchants cost 3% of the amount.
  • No intro balance transfer. You won't find an intro period on balance transfers with this card.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable)
Balance transfer APR 14.99% to 23.74% variable
Welcome offer $200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months
Estimated welcome offer value $200 based on Finder's valuation
Rewards 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 5% on Lyft, 3% on dining and drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases

Best for signup bonus
IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card

IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card logo
Finder Rating: 4.5 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
See offer
on Creditcards.com's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 15x
Points
60,000
Points welcome offer
According to our current valuations, this card's signup-bonus points are worth $420. That's significantly higher value than you'll find with other no annual fee cards. On top of that, you earn a generous rewards rate on IHG hotel stays, and you get a fourth night free when you redeem points for three or more hotel stays.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 60,000 points once you spend $2,000 in your first 3 months when you open your account.
  • Earn reward points. Purchases made at IHG hotels earn 15x points, purchases made at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants earn 2x points, while all other purchases earn 1x points.
  • Fourth reward night free. Every time you redeem your points for four or more reward nights, you get one reward night free.
  • No intro APR period. If you're looking to save money on interest with 0% intro APR period on balance transfers and purchases, you may want to look for other credit cards.
  • Elite status limitations. To earn Gold Status, you'll need to spend $10,000 on this card. Many similar cards offer complimentary elite status.
  • Fourth night free limitations. You can only earn a fourth free night on Reward nights, not nights you pay for in cash.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 15.99% to 22.99% variable
Balance transfer APR 15.99% to 22.99% variable
Welcome offer 60,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
Estimated welcome offer value $420 based on Finder's valuation
Rewards 15x total points at IHG hotels, 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases

Best for purchase intro APR
Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠ logo
Finder Rating: 4.7 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Apply now
on Chase's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 5%
Cash back
$200
Welcome offer
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.
  • Cash back. Earn 5% cash back in select rotating categories on up to $1,500 each quarter you activate, then 1%. You'll also earn 5% back on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and on Lyft through March 2022, 3% back at restaurants and drugstores and 1% back on all other purchases.
  • Signup bonus. Earn $200 cash back after you make $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Intro APR. Get a 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 15 months from account opening, then 14.99% to 23.74% variable.
  • Rewards cycle. You won't get the 5% cashback rate on the same categories each quarter. Also, you'll need to activate your cashback categories, or you won't receive the bonus rate.
  • Categories not always known. Often, Chase won't reveal the whole year's rotating categories until they're close to launching.
  • Foreign transaction fees. You'll pay a 3% fee on transactions made abroad.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable)
Balance transfer APR 14.99% to 23.74% variable
Welcome offer $200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months
Estimated welcome offer value $200 based on Finder's valuation
Rewards 5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter (then 1%), 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases

Best for small business
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card logo
Finder Rating: 4.5 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Apply now
on Chase's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 5%
Cash back
$750
Welcome offer
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.
  • Signup bonus. Earn $750 cash bonus after you spend $7,500 in your first 3 months of card membership.
  • Cash back. Earn 5% cash back on office supply stores and on Internet, cable and phone services on up to $25,000 annually in combined purchases, 1% after that. Also, earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on the first $25,000 in combined purchases, 1% after that. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Intro APR period on purchases. Get 12 months of 0% intro APR on purchases. A variable APR of 13.24% to 19.24% applies thereafter.
  • Foreign transaction fees. Every purchase made abroad or online with foreign merchants will cost you 3% of the amount.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 12 months (then 13.24% to 19.24% variable)
Balance transfer APR 13.24% to 19.24% variable
Welcome offer $750 cash back after spending $7,500 in the first 3 months
Estimated welcome offer value
Rewards 5% at office supply stores, on Internet, cable and phone up to $25,000 combined annually (then 1%), 2% on gas and dining up to $25,000 combined annually then 1% after that and on all other purchases

Best for new to credit
Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

Petal® 2
Finder Rating: 2.9 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (600-850)
Apply now
on WebBank's secure site
Rates & fees

600
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 10%
Cash back
n/a
Welcome offer
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.
  • No fees. You won't pay any fees whatsoever when using this card, including late fees or annual fees.
  • No credit history required. Petal looks at other aspects of your financial history in addition to your credit scores determine eligibility.
  • Cash back. You'll earn up to 1.5% back on purchases after you make 12 on-time monthly payments. Before that, you'll make 1% back.
  • No signup bonus. Though the Petal 2 offers rewards, it doesn't come with a signup bonus unlike other reward cards on the market.
  • Not for poor credit. The Petal 2 is designed for those with no prior credit history or good credit. If you have a history of poor credit, you won't qualify for this card.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 12.99% to 26.99% variable
Balance transfer APR N/A
Welcome offer N/A
Estimated welcome offer value
Rewards 1% cashback, 1.25% after six on-time payments and 1.5% after 12 on-time payments, plus 2% - 10% back from select merchants

Best for dining and takeout
U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card

U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card logo
Credit recommended (740-)
Read review
Rates & fees

740
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 4x
Points
$200
Points welcome offer
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.
  • Rewards. Earn 4x points on dining, takeout and delivery, 2x points at grocery stores, grocery delivery, gas and streaming services and 1x points on all other purchases.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in your first 90 days of card membership. You can redeem these points for a $200 value on cash, gift cards or merchandise.
  • Intro APR period. Get 0% intro APR period for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.99% applies.
  • Excellent credit score required. You need an excellent credit score of 740 or higher to qualify for this card. This isn't surprising considering what you get for the card.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 12 months (then 14.99% to 23.99% variable)
Balance transfer APR 0% intro for the first 12 months (then 14.99% to 23.99% variable)
Welcome offer 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
Estimated welcome offer value
Rewards 4x points on takeout, food delivery and dining, 2x points at grocery stores, grocery delivery, select streaming services and gas stations, 1x points on all other purchases

Best for travel
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card logo
Finder Rating: 3.2 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Read review
670
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
1.5x
Points
25,000
Points welcome offer
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.
  • Annual fee. You won't pay an annual fee to use this credit card.
  • Rewards. Earn 1.5x poins on all purchases. You can redeem these as statement credits on trave purchases with few limitations.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 25,000 points after you spend $1,000 in your first 90 days of account opening. The is worth $250 in value.
  • Penalty APR. Miss a payment and Bank of America may drop a penalty APR on your account of 29.99% variable.
  • No balance transfer intro. This card cons with an intro APR on purchases, but not on balance transfers.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 12 statement closing dates (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
Balance transfer APR 13.99% to 23.99% variable
Welcome offer 25,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
Estimated welcome offer value $250 based on Finder's valuation
Rewards 1.5x points on all purchases

Best for low interest
Simmons Visa®

Simmons Visa® logo
Finder Rating: 4.1 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (740-850)
Read review
740
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
n/a
Rewards
n/a
Welcome offer
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.
  • Low APR. You get 8.25% variable APR on purchases, which is the lowest you can find.
  • No annual fee. There's no annual fee for the card.
  • Intro APR period on balance transfers. Get 0% intro APR period on balance transfers within your first 12 months when you open your account. After that, a variable APR of 8.25% applies.
  • No intro APR period on purchases. You only get 0% intro APR period on balance transfers, but not on purchases.
  • Foreign transaction fees. Every transaction made abroad or online with foreign merchants will cost you 2% of the amount.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 8.25% variable
Balance transfer APR 0% intro for the first 12 months (then 8.25% variable)
Welcome offer N/A
Estimated welcome offer value
Rewards N/A

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

Browse all 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.

Is an annual fee ever worth it?

An annual fee can be worth paying if it leads to higher rewards or special benefits you want. Sometimes, you can get so much value from an annual-fee card that the price is easy to justify. But ultimately, this depends on what you need and whether you can take advantage of a card’s features.

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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