The 9 Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of January 2023
Best for Cashback Rewards
Wells Fargo Active Cash Card
- Generous intro bonus
- Long intro APR period
Best for Travel Rewards
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- Generous cashback
- Rewards flexibility
Best for Everyday Purchases
Blue Cash Everyday® Card
- Cashback on streaming
- Transfer benefits
Best Introductory Offer
Wells Fargo Reflect Card
- 2-year bonus period
- Cellphone protection
A credit card can be a great tool, helping you build credit or earn rewards. You’ve probably seen that some credit cards charge annual fees, whereas some don’t. Sure, it may be worth it to pay an annual fee for a credit card, especially if you get plenty of perks. However, many of the best no annual fee credit cards are also worthy competitors, even offering similar benefits without forking over a fee.
The Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards
- Wells Fargo Active Cash Card: Best for cashback rewards
- Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for entertainment and dining
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for travel rewards
- Chase Freedom Flex℠: Best for Bonus Variety
- Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Best for everyday purchases
- Wells Fargo Reflect Card: Best introductory offer
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: Best for hotel stays
- Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer: Best for twice the rewards
- Discover It Cash Back: Best for quick approval
Wells Fargo Active Cash Card
- Generous signup bonus
- Intro APR period
- Rewards don’t expire
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit
- No foreign transaction fees
- 8% cashback on Vivid Seats tickets
- Dining and grocery rewards
If you like to travel, you may be happy to know that there is no foreign transaction fee. You can also take advantage of a 0%
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card
- Redeem awards with Amazon
- Credit monitoring tool
- 0% APR on balance transfers
You’ll also get access to credit score monitoring, 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and no minimum to redeem rewards. However, you will be charged a foreign transaction fee, so this
Chase Freedom Flex℠
- Rewards can be complicated
- Multiple bonus categories
- Credit monitoring tool
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from Amex®
- Gas and grocery rewards
- Longer bonus period
- Good for large expenditures
Wells Fargo Reflect Card
- 2-year bonus period
- Up to $600 cellphone protection
- Balance transfer fees
Hilton Honors American Express Card
- Hilton Honors Silver status
- Global assistance hotline
Citi® Double Cash Card 18 month BT offer
- 2% cashback rewards
- Uncomplicated rewards system
- 3% foreign transaction fee
Discover It Cash Back Card
- No penalty for first late payment
- Free FICO credit score
- Rotating bonus categories
What is a No Annual Fee Credit Card?
A no annual fee credit cards are ones where the issuer doesn’t charge cardholders an annual fee. This fee is usually charged by issuers for the privilege of using a certain credit card, which may contain many benefits such as rewards, earning potential, free features, and more. In other words, a no annual fee credit card means you don’t have to pay anything to access the features available, with some exceptions.
No annual fee credit cards tend to be best suited for most cardholders, but may be better suited for new credit card users — you can dip your toes into how a credit card works without too much of a financial commitment, especially if you’re new to the world of earning rewards.
It’s also a good choice for those who are looking to build their credit and don’t want to have to pay extra fees in order to use a credit card. Many credit cards with no annual fees are available to those who have low or fair credit scores.
How Do No Annual Fee Credit Cards Work?
No annual fee credit cards don’t charge you a fee yearly to use their credit card. Some may not charge you a fee at all, while some might waive the annual fee in the first year to entice you to sign up for a higher tier credit card — you’ll most likely be charged in your second year onward.
Depending on the kind of credit card you sign up for, you may be able to access perks such as cash back or earning points towards rewards like hotels and flights. Some may even offer a low introductory rate — in many cases as low as 0% — up to a certain period of time.
Yes, it means you can earn some free stuff or save even more money through rewards without having to pay anything.
Keep in mind that using a no annual fee credit card doesn’t mean you won’t pay anything at all. They work much like credit cards with annual fees in that you’ll be charged interest if you carry a balance, and even a penalty APR if you’re late on your payment after a certain date.
There are also other types of fees to consider such as ones for balance transfers, foreign transaction fees, and cash advance fees. Meaning, it’s a good idea to understand how all these fees work and when issuers charge them before signing up for a credit card.
Pros and Cons of No Annual Fee Credit Cards
These pros and cons about no-annual fee credit cards will help you decide if this kind of credit card is right for you.
Can build credit more affordably: Those who have low or fair credit may prefer to not have to pay anything to use a credit card to build their credit. A no annual fee credit card is an affordable way to do so.
Low cost way to earn rewards: Those who are dipping their toes into credit card rewards can start to learn how it all works without having to worry about paying an annual fee.
There are other fees: Even if you don’t have to pay an annual fee, you may need to pay other ones, such as interest for carrying a balance, cash advance fees, and foreign transaction fees.
Rewards may not be as lucrative: Rewards credit cards with annual fees generally tend to offer better rewards compared to no annual fee counterparts, such as higher earnings, and luxury travel perks like free checked bags and airport lounge access.
What to Look For in a No Annual Fee Credit Card
Choosing a no annual fee credit card is generally the default for most cardholders. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice.
Before making your decision, figure out if it’s worth it for you to get a credit card with an annual fee. For instance, are the perks and benefits worth it? Will you using the credit card outweigh or offset the costs of paying an annual fee?
Even if you believe it’s worth it, you may be able to access the benefits you want using a combination of several different no annual fee credit cards. Of course, it’s worth noting that it’s important to be responsible with your credit card usage considering the financial consequences involved.
To help you figure out what to look for in a no annual fee credit card, consider what you want to use it for.
Consider questions such as:
- What will I spend the most on? If you tend to use a credit card a lot at gas stations or at restaurants, for instance, some credit cards offer extra rewards for these types of purchases. It’s worth it to search for a credit card based on how you spend your money in order to get the most out of every dollar.
- Do I want to earn rewards? It’s fine if you’re not interested in earning cash back or points, like if your priority is to build credit. If you do, then consider the types of rewards you want and compare credit cards that offer similar ones. Just as important, think about how easy it is to redeem the rewards you do earn.
- What kind of benefits do I want? Aside from rewards, consider other benefits that credit cards offer, such as fraud protection, extended warranties on purchases, and rental car insurance.
- Do I want to spend the time figuring out rewards? Some credit cards give you great changes at maximizing every dollar, but you may need to take some extra steps such as opting into earnings categories each quarter, or learn which spending categories offer better earnings. If that’s too much for you, a credit card with flat-rate rewards may be a better choice.
- Am I planning on carrying a balance? Unless you plan on paying off your balance each month, it may be a wise choice to look for credit cards with a lower APR, or ones that offer a 0% introductory APR. Be sure to understand what the interest rate will be after the introductory period is over.
- Will I qualify for this credit card? It doesn’t matter if you find a credit card you like if you won’t be approved for it. Check your score and look for credit cards that are intended for those that fall within your credit range.
Whatever credit card you end up choosing, we highly recommend reading the fine print to understand your cardholder responsibilities, such as when the due date for payments will be and how to earn rewards if that’s a feature available to you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About No-Annual Fee Credit Cards
There are a lot of questions about no-annual fee credit cards and we’ve gathered the answers to those most commonly asked.
Some credit cards charge annual fees in order to offer cardholders more features and benefits, such as higher rewards, earnings and access to things like airport lounges. Some issuers also charge fees if you’re considered a risky borrower, such as those who have low credit scores. The fee helps to offset the risk they’re taking on you using the credit card.
It’s possible to get a no annual fee credit card if you have no or bad credit history. However, the options available to you may be more limited compared to someone who has better credit. For instance, you may receive a higher APR, and credit cards that don’t offer rewards.
Yes, credit cards with no annual fees do offer rewards, which can include cash back or points towards things like free flights and hotel stays. Keep in mind that the rewards structure may not be as good as credit cards that charge an annual fee.
Contributor Sarah Li-Cain is a personal finance writer based in Jacksonville, Florida, specializing in real estate, insurance, banking, loans and credit. She is the host of the Buzzsprout and Beyond the Dollar podcasts.
*Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Earn 20% back as a statement credit on purchases when you use your new Card to check out with PayPal at merchants in the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 Back as a statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. Additional terms apply.
**Hilton Honors American Express Card: Additional terms apply.