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A no-annual-fee credit card is a great choice if you want to keep costs low. It can also be surprisingly robust, offering attractive rewards or benefits you might not have expected.
Our pick for no annual fee
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card
Compare credit cards with no annual fee
You’ll find many great no-annual-fee credit card options in a variety of categories.
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.
A quick look at the best no-annual-fee credit cards
- Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for flat-rate cash back
- PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card: Best for travel and no foreign transaction fees
- Wells Fargo Platinum Card: Best for 0% intro APR
- UNIFY Financial Credit Union Variable-Rate Visa® Credit Card: Best for low interest
- American Express® Blue Business Cash Card: Best for small business
Best no-annual-fee credit cards
Best for flat-rate cash back: Citi® Double Cash Card
Best for travel and no foreign transaction fees: PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card
Best for 0% intro APR: Wells Fargo Platinum Card
Best for low interest: UNIFY Financial Credit Union Variable-Rate Visa® Credit Card
Best for small business: American Express® Blue Business Cash Card
With this card, you’ll earn a solid 2% cash back on up to $50,000 in eligible purchases per calendar year, then 1% back. That can be an excellent deal depending on your business, especially as the card has no annual fee. You’ll also receive an intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers, which is uncommon among business credit cards.
Another great small-business pick: The Chase Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
Amex’s no-annual-fee business card is a great pick, but it doesn’t have a welcome offer. Also, you might prefer tiered rewards.
The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card is a formidable competitor, offering a signup bonus and strong rewards in common business categories. It may be a better choice for you.
How we selected our top cards
We compared credit cards on the market with similar benefits and rewards. To assemble our best picks, we chose cards with additional standout features.
- Best for flat-rate cash back.
We looked for the card with the highest flat-rate cash back with no annual fee. We assumed a cardholder would pay off their balance consistently without accruing interest.
- Best for travel and no foreign transaction fees.
We chose the card that offered the best rewards rate on travel for no annual fee. We gave the PenFed product credit for features that are uncommon in no-annual-fee cards: a signup bonus worth $250, an air travel credit and a credit for a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.
- Best for 0% intro APR.
A few cards offer 18-month intro APRs on purchases and balance transfers. Wells Fargo’s product is our top pick because of its generous window to qualify for the special balance transfer rate. With other cards, you’ll often get just 60 days to qualify.
- Best for low interest.
This card offered the lowest potential APR on all balances among the cards we compared.
- Best for small business.
We chose this card because it offers solid rewards up to a high purchase cap each calendar year, which will be attractive to many small businesses. No annual fee and a solid intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers increase the card’s value.
What’s changed in 2019
The UNIFY Financial Credit Union Variable-Rate Visa® Credit Card is a pleasant surprise, offering a fantastic APR on all balances.
Also recently, U.S. Bank watered down its market-leading intro APR for the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card. But as of this writing, the intro APR has returned to a top-notch 20 billing cycles, putting the card back on top in our 0% intro APR category. Look for movements in the 0% intro APR category, as providers constantly adjust promotional interest rates to one-up the competition.
Amex rebranded the SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express to the American Express® Blue Business Cash Card, adding a simpler rewards structure and an intro APR on balance transfers.
No annual fee cards by credit card issuer
What does no annual fee mean?
For some cards, you may need to pay a fee just to be a cardholder. This annual fee is charged automatically each year, typically during the month you opened your account.
With a no-annual-fee card, you won’t have to pay this fee. Avoiding an annual fee helps you minimize the cost of using a credit card.
Annual fees typically range from as low as $30 or as high as $550. Some providers waive the annual fee in the first year, giving cardholders 12 months to enjoy their cards at no cost. That said, a card with an annual fee typically comes with more perks and benefits that can offset the fee.
How to choose a no-annual-fee credit card
- Decide what kind of card you want.
To narrow your options, decide how you primarily want to use your card and what you hope to get out of it. Do you want travel rewards? Cash back? A 0% intro APR? There are excellent products in each category, and some that combine features.
- Compare a few credit cards.
Once you’ve decided the main feature you want, compare a few cards that offer it. Use our cashback, balance transfer, travel, low-interest and business credit card guides to determine a card that’s right for you.
- Apply for a card.
You’ll need information such as your contact details, Social Security number, date of birth, gross annual income and employment information.
- Wait for your card.
You may receive instant approval, especially if you apply with a major card issuer. If the issuer needs to review your application, it may take a few days to a few weeks to hear back.If you’re approved, look for your card in the mail within seven to 10 days.
Read more about no-annual-fee credit cards
A no-annual-fee card can help you keep costs down. It can also offer great rewards and benefits you didn’t expect.
If you want more options, there are plenty of credit cards to compare. Check out our guide to the best credit cards of 2019.
Frequently asked questions
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