A no annual fee credit card — as the name implies — comes with no yearly fees and might offer different types of benefits. MoneyGeek can help you decide if a no annual fee card is right for you and make it easier to explore your options.
Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards in 2021
While credit cards with annual fees can be worth the money, you can also score some rewards and other perks — along with no yearly charges — with a no annual fee card. If you don’t like the idea of paying an ongoing annual fee and aren’t looking for much in the form of additional features, a no annual fee card might work well for you.
MoneyGeek narrowed down the best no annual fee credit cards based on features like rewards and APR and laid out our comparison results in easy-to-understand charts and tables. Keep in mind that you need good to excellent credit to qualify for no annual fee cards with the best benefits. If your credit is less than favorable, there are credit cards with no annual fee with little to no benefits.
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MoneyGeek Quick Tip: If you plan to maintain revolving credit in your account, consider getting a no annual fee card with an intro 0% APR offer on purchases, as this can help you save during the first 12 to 18 months. However, note that the card’s regular APR will kick in at the end of the promotional period.
MoneyGeek’s Take: No Annual Fees Cards for Consumers & Businesses
MoneyGeek’s experts reviewed and compared more than 100 credit cards to compile our list of the best credit cards with no annual fees. We’ve taken rewards, reward bonuses, customer experiences and other factors into account to make our selections.
Rewards Cards with No Annual Fee
- Capital One SavorOne Rewards - This no annual fee credit card with rewards offers up to 3% cash back on category-based spending, making it ideal for people who wish to earn cash back. You earn 3% cash back on money you spend toward entertainment, dining, popular online streaming services and groceries. All other purchases come with 1% cash back. This card is also well-suited for international travelers, as it comes with no foreign transaction fees.
- Citi Double Cash Card - This card lets you earn up to 2% cash back on all purchases, provided you make your minimum payments on time. All cardholders get access to Citi Entertainment, through which they can purchase presale tickets and entry into exclusive events.
- American Express Delta SkyMiles Blue Card - Among the best credit cards with no annual fees and foreign transaction fees, this option lets you earn 2x Delta Skymiles when you spend at U.S. restaurants and book flights directly through Delta.
Business Credit Cards with No Annual Fee
- Citi Costco Anywhere Visa Business Card - This business credit card with no annual fee offers up to 4% cash back on category-based spending. You get 4% cash back on spending up to $7,000 per year on eligible gas purchases, including gas at Costco. Spending at restaurants and eligible travel purchases comes with 3% cash back. All non-gas purchases from Costco and Costco.com come with 2% cash back. You get 1% cash back on all other purchases. Using this card outside of the U.S. makes sense, as it comes with no foreign transaction fees. However, you need to be a Costco member to apply for this card.
- Chase Ink Business Cash - You stand to earn up to 5% cash back through category-based spending with this card. You get 5% cash back on the first $25,000 you spend at office supply stores and internet, cable and phone services each year. The first $25,000 you spend on purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year comes with 2% cash back. All other purchases come with 1% cash back. You can also increase your business’ reward-earning potential by getting employee cards at no additional cost.
No Annual Fee Cards for Fair to Limited Credit
- Capital One Platinum Credit Card - If you need a no annual fee credit card for fair credit, this card from Capital One deserves your attention. It allows you to receive pre-approval with no adverse effect on your credit score. The bank also considers you for a higher credit limit in as little as six months.
- Citi Secured Mastercard - This no annual fee secured credit card requires a minimum security deposit of $200.Your credit limit will be the same as the security deposit you provide, which may be as high as $2,500. The bank reports your payment history to all three major credit bureaus each month, helping you build your creditworthiness.
Best Credit Cards With No Annual Fee for September 2021
Selecting a credit card with no yearly fees requires paying close attention to your specific requirements. For instance:
- Do you plan to use the card internationally?
- Do you want to capitalize on your spending by earning rewards?
- Do you want to build or rebuild your credit?
- Will you pay off your balances in full each month?
Rewards Cards With No Annual Fee
It’s becoming increasingly common for no annual fee cards to offer rewards or cash back on category-based spending. If you’re looking for a credit card with no annual fees and cash back options, be sure to account for the categories in which you tend to spend the most, as this will have a bearing on the rewards you earn.
FEATUREDCapital One SavorOne RewardsA great no annual fee card that comes with rewards
- Excellent, GoodCredit Needed
- 3% Cash Back*Rewards Rate
- $200 cash bonus*Other Perks
- 15.49% - 25.49%APR
- Citi Double Cash CardA great no annual fee card that offers 2% cash back
- ExcellentCredit Needed
- 2% Cash Back*Rewards Rate
- 0% APR Balance TransfersOther Perks
- 13.99% - 23.99%APR
- American Express Delta SkyMiles Blue CardA great miles rewards card with no annual fees
- ExcellentCredit Needed
- 2X Miles*Rewards Rate
- 10,000 Bonus Miles*Other Perks
- 15.74% - 24.74%APR
Business Credit Cards With No Annual Fee
While you might not get much in the form of features through a business credit card with no annual fee, you may still expect a few business-specific benefits. These can come in the form of higher cash back for office-related spending, employee cards at no extra cost and the ability to integrate your credit card account with your bookkeeping software.
FEATUREDCiti Costco Anywhere Visa Business CardAn excellent no annual fees rewards card for Costco members
- ExcellentCredit Needed
- 1-4% Cash Back*Rewards Rate
- No Foreign Transaction FeesOther Perks
- Chase Ink Business CashGreat business card with no annual fee and soild welcome bonus
- Excellent, GoodCredit Needed
- 1-5% Cash Back*Rewards Rate
- $750 Bonus Cash BackOther Perks
- 13.24% - 19.24%APR
No Annual Fee Cards for Limited Credit
If you have no credit history or poor creditworthiness, you might still qualify for a no annual fee card for limited credit. These cards let you build or rebuild your credit by reporting your payment histories to all three major credit bureaus. You may also want to consider applying for a secured credit card by paying a security deposit.
FEATUREDCapital One Platinum Credit CardA great no-frills no-annual-fee card for people with fair credit
- Limited-FairCredit Needed
- NoneRewards Rate
- No balance transfer feesOther Perks
- Citi Secured MastercardA great no-annual-fee card for people looking at building their credit
- No - Limited CreditCredit Needed
- NoneRewards Rate
- Low minimum depositOther Perks
Top Rating Criteria for No Annual Fee Credit Cards
MoneyGeek’s best credit cards rankings are determined using public data from card issuers and other reputable sources, such as the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Our experts look over each card's fees, rewards, benefits, interest rates and more to rate each feature. These ratings are stack ranked and weighted for each card category to determine our top picks for each user. Each month, we revisit our data to update our ratings, recommendations, and other card information as needed because we know credit card features regularly change. View our methodology page to learn more about how we collect data and rank cards.
Quick Tips for Comparing No Annual Fee Credit Card Offers
There is more to selecting a credit card than looking at its annual fee. The card’s APR affects the amount you pay as interest. It’s also important to consider each card’s fees, rewards, sign-up bonuses and added perks.
APR is important to be aware of, especially if you plan to carry forward outstanding balances from one month to the next. Consider this example — say you have an outstanding debt of $1,000 that you repay by making $100 payments each month. If you get a card with a 13.25% APR, you’ll end up paying $61 as interest. If the APR was 24.5%, you’d pay $115 as interest.
Late fees and returned check fees are a staple with all credit cards, although the amount might vary from one card to the next. If you plan to use your card outside of the U.S., look for one that comes with no foreign transaction fees. Otherwise, you might need to pay up to 3% on each international transaction. For example, that’s $60 in fees for a $2,000 transaction.
These can come in the form of reward points or cash back. With reward points, you need to determine the dollar value of each point, as these tend to vary. Some cards let you earn points faster when you spend across specific categories such as dining, entertainment, gas and groceries. Look at how you may redeem your rewards as well, as not all cards offer the same methods.
Some no annual fee credit cards offer sign-up bonuses. Earning these bonuses typically requires that you meet predetermined spending criteria, but can equal large rewards like cash back or travel miles.
Despite not charging any yearly fees, some no annual fee cards offer additional benefits, like purchase protection and complimentary travel insurance.
No Annual Fee Credit Cards Compared at a Glance
Compare the cards below based on the creditworthiness required, their reward rates and the APR that applies on purchases.
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- Card NameCredit NeededRewards RateAPR
- 1.Capital One SavorOne RewardsGood-Excellent3% Cash Back*15.49% - 25.49%
- 2.Citi Double Cash CardExcellent2% Cash Back*13.99% - 23.99%
- 3.American Express Delta SkyMiles Blue CardExcellent2X Miles*15.74% - 24.74%
- 4.Citi Costco Anywhere Visa Business CardExcellent1-4% Cash Back*15.24%
- 5.Chase Ink Business CashGood-Excellent1-5% Cash Back*13.24% - 19.24%
MoneyGeek’s Quick Guide to Understanding No Annual Fee Credit Cards
A no annual fee credit card doesn’t charge the cardholder a yearly fee. They can offer great value through rewards and cash back. Some such cards offer intro bonuses, and you may also find ones that charge no foreign transaction fees. No annual fee cards may work well for people who don’t spend much money, are looking for their first cards or are uninterested in paying a yearly recurring fee.
Getting a credit card with no yearly fees requires an application process where the card issuer examines your existing finances and creditworthiness.
Annual Fee Cards vs. No Annual Fee Credit Cards
Given the high number of no annual fee credit cards on the market, it’s fair to wonder if it makes sense to pay a yearly fee to use a card. In most cases, credit cards that come with annual fees offer an array of travel benefits, favorable reward structures and large bonuses.
Cards with fees may be worth it to you if the benefits and rewards offset and exceed the annual charge. However, many cards without fees offer similar benefits that could provide you sufficient value based on your situation. Weighing the value of benefits against how you use credit cards can help you choose between a card with fees and without.
If you wish to get a premium card with annual fees, you will likely need to have good or excellent credit.
Credit cards that come with annual fees tend to have better reward rates than no annual fee cards. If you’re prepared to pay a yearly fee, you may find cards that offer up to 5% cash back on category-based spending. Determining if paying a fee is worth the rewards you earn requires that you calculate your estimated earnings in rewards and compare it with the annual fee you’ll need to pay.
Some of the common benefits linked with premium annual fee credit cards include travel insurance, elite membership status in hotel or airline reward programs that come with added perks. Additional benefits may include airport lounge access, discounts on flight and hotel bookings, bonus credit that cardholders may use with ride sharing companies, TSA PreCheck and the ability to transfer points to various airline or hotel reward programs.
Some annual fee cards offer yearly bonus points if you meet predetermined spending criteria. For example, a card might offer 5,000 bonus points if you spend at least $10,000 in a year. One-time welcome bonuses provided by annual fee cards are typically more substantial than the sign-up bonuses you’ll find through no annual fee cards. While an intro bonus might seem appealing initially, you need to determine if the card in question will provide value in years to come.
Who Should Use No Annual Fee Credit Cards?
You may want to consider getting a no annual fee credit card if you meet one or more of these criteria:
- You’re a new credit card user. If you've never used a credit card until now, getting one with no annual fees to learn the ropes might be in your best interest. While you develop responsible spending habits, you’ll also improve your credit.
- You want to rebuild your credit. People with poor or limited credit might benefit from no annual fee cards, provided they start maintaining good financial habits. As long as they continue to make timely repayments, they may expect to improve their credit scores.
- You’re looking to save on interest. If you have outstanding debt on a card with a high APR, you might benefit by getting a no annual fee card that comes with a 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers. Depending on the card you get, the 0% APR may stay in place from 12 to 18 months.
- You don’t use your card much. If you intend to use your credit card occasionally, a no annual fee card might be best for you. Typically, benefiting from annual fee cards requires that you spend a tidy sum throughout the year.
- You want to diversify your benefit options. Some people who have existing cards get no annual fee cards to make the most of what’s on offer. For instance, while a premier card might limit its rewards to spending across specific categories, a cash back card with no annual fees can give you the ability to earn unlimited cash back on all your purchases.
- You don’t have outstanding balances. If you plan to pay off your balances in full each month, you don’t have to worry about a high APR that might come with your no annual fee card.
Using a No Annual Fee Credit Card as a Stepping Stone
A no annual fee credit card gives you a cost-effective way to learn how credit cards work and how to be responsible with your finances. You may use your no annual fee card as a stepping stone to build your credit history. This can result in an increased credit limit and open the door to more specialized and premium cards.
Moving forward, you can think about getting an annual fee card with the aim of increasing your reward earning potential. While finding a no annual fee card with rewards is fairly easy, annual fee cards tend to offer better perks.
How Can I Get a Credit Card With No Annual Fee?
Start by selecting a no annual fee card based on your spending patterns and requirements. For instance, if you wish to earn cash back as an individual, you can get up to 2% cash back on all purchases through the Citi Double Cash Card. On the other hand, business users may benefit by getting 5% cash back on purchases at office supply stores, as offered by the Chase Ink Business Cash card.
Next, look at the credit score required to qualify for any given card, and apply only if you meet this criterion.
Once you’ve found the card you wish to get, apply online, over the phone or via mail. Information you need to provide includes:
- Personal details (complete name, date of birth and Social Security Number)
- Contact details (phone number, residential address and email address)
- Employment and income details
In some cases, credit card issuers inform applicants about their decision in minutes. However, since the approval process might involve looking over your finances and credit history, it can take a week or more. You might have to wait for up to 14 days to receive your approved card through the mail.
Traveling or making a big purchase soon? If you apply for a credit card and are approved, call customer service immediately, and kindly ask them to overnight the card to you. They will likely say yes, and do this free of charge. — Brett Holzhauer, Personal Finance Reporter
FAQs About No Annual Fee Credit Cards
Questions surrounding the use of no annual fee cards are plentiful, and we’ve answered the most commonly asked ones below.
Just how well a no annual fee card works for you depends on factors such as how much money you spend, the rewards you want and whether or not you pay off your balances in full each month.
About the Author
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Credit card agreement database." Accessed August 9, 2021.
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