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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
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressRead more
Compare credit cards with no annual fee
You’ll find many great no-annual-fee credit card options in a variety of categories.
No annual fee cards by issuer
What's in this guide?
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: 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.
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
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 months, 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 is an annual fee?
An annual fee is the 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 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.
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.
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.
- 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 you 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.
- Lower reward 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.
How do I compare no annual fee credit cards?
There are many no annual fee cards out there, and the choices can sometimes feel overwhelming. Luckily, there are a few important factors that can help you narrow down your choices.
Which categories do you spend most in? Look for a no annual fee card that offers bonus rewards in those categories. If your spending is spread relatively evenly throughout many categories, consider a card that offers flat-rate rewards on all purchases.
Many no annual fee cards have intro APRs. This means you could get 0% APR on purchases or balance transfers for a period of time. Think about whether a promotional interest rate is important to you — and if so, how long you want it to be.
A signup bonus can give you a burst of rewards soon after you’re approved for a card. Many no annual fee cards have similar bonuses, but you’ll find the occasional offer that stands out. Ultimately, this could tip the scales toward a particular card.
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.
Read more about no annual fee credit cards
- Best cashback credit cards with no annual fee
- The 3 best secured credit cards with no annual fees
- Best travel credit cards with no annual fee
- No annual fee credit cards with rewards
- Airline credit cards with no annual fee
- Credit cards with $0 annual fee for the first year
- Best credit cards with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee
- $0 annual fee and 0% balance transfer 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 2020.
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What should I do with my credit card rewards during coronavirus? It depends on your situation and what type of rewards you have.
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