Use our table to compare credit cards without an annual fee. To begin, select your credit score, select the features you want and the rewards type. Select a specific card issuer if you have one in mind or select all providers and browse through the selection of cards.
There are so many great no-annual-fee cards out there, it can be hard to choose the right one. To help you narrow down your options, here’s what to consider:
Rewards program. Many no-annual-fee cards come with a rewards program. You can either get a card with a high cashback rate on select categories like travel, dining, groceries or gas, or you can get a card with the same rewards rate on all purchases.
Interest-free period. A 0% intro APR period on purchases, balance transfers or both is a common feature of no-annual-fee credit cards. You can get up to 15 months of an interest-free period with a rewards credit card or up to 20 months with a card with no rewards program.
Signup bonus. A signup bonus can give you a burst of rewards soon after you’re approved for a card. Many no-annual-fee cards have bonuses worth between $50 and $300, and some cards even more.
Choices depend on your credit score. Your credit score has a big effect on which cards you’ll be approved for. For rewards cards and products with intro APRs, you’ll usually want to apply with a good to excellent credit score of 670 or higher. If your score is lower than that, consider a no-annual-fee secured credit card to build your credit.
An annual fee is a yearly cost to keep a credit card. If your card has one, the 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 cost, which helps you minimize the expense of owning a credit card.
Annual fees typically range from as low as $30 to 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.
When is paying an annual fee worth it?
Typically, paying an annual fee can be justified for those who spend heavily on a particular category that offers the highest rewards. For example, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express earns 3% back on US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually and 1% after that, while the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns 6% back but it costs $95 annually (Terms apply, see rates & fees) after your first year, which you can redeem for a statement credit. The latter also earns a higher cashback rate on other categories. So long as the value of the rewards you earn or perks you use are greater than the cost of the card’s annual fee, then paying the annual fee is worth it.
Your only alternative is to use a credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee. The trade-off in this case is credit cards with no annual fee may have fewer features or possess lower rewards rates than you’d find on an annual fee credit card. Airline and travel cards are a great example for showing the difference between these types of cards, as most airline cards offer a few different cards at varying prices. Expensive airline cards come with perks worth hundreds of dollars on their own, like free checked bags, priority boarding, elite status boosts and lounge access. The cheapest among them, however, often provide the ability to earn rewards and little else.
Here’s how both compare:
Blue Cash Everyday cash back
Blue Cash Preferred cash back
$6,000 on US supermarkets
$360 cash back
$3,000 on gas
$300 on streaming services
$1,500 at department stores
Annual fee cost
Total cash back after paying the annual fee
Who should get a no-annual-fee credit card?
Whether you choose a no-annual-fee credit card depends on what you need out of your card financially. Here’s a quick rundown of whether you might apply for one.
Get a no-annual-fee credit card if:
You only plan on using your card occasionally. Having a card that features an annual fee but only using that card occasionally is often a needless drain on your wallet.
You want a card to help you build credit. It’s helpful to get a card without an annual fee if you’re focused on building credit and you don’t want your card to get in the way of your finances.
You’re not interested in numerous perks and features. While cards with annual fees typically more than make up for their fees with their perks, you’ll be paying that fee for no reason if you don’t often use your card’s extra features.
Pick something else if:
You plan on using your card’s perks and features. So long as you’re using those extra perks that come with your annual fee card, you’ll usually more than make up for the card’s cost.
You have no other choice and you need to build credit. Sometimes an annual fee is the “buy-in” cost of a credit-building card when you have poor credit. In this case, it can make sense to pay the annual fee, especially if you couldn’t easily build credit otherwise.
Are there no-annual-fee credit cards with rewards?
Yes, a lot of no-annual-fee credit cards offer rewards. Depending on the card, you can earn cash back, points or travel miles. For example, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers 5% cash back in rotating categories on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each activated quarter (1% after reaching the cap), 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
A no-annual-fee card can help you keep costs down. It can also offer great rewards and benefits you didn’t expect.
Steven Dashiell is a writer at Finder specializing in all things credit cards. With more than 300 articles under his belt, he aims to help readers embrace credit cards and maximize their rewards. Steve is studying to become a Certified Educator in Personal Finance, and is a frequent face on Finder’s YouTube channel, offering the latest in credit card hacks and advice. His expertise has been featured on numerous outlets, including U.S. News & World Report, Time, CBS, Fox Business, Lifehacker, Martha Stewart Living and more.
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