best no annual fee credit cards
Updated June 07, 2020

8 Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Cards for 2020

Credit Cards

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If you’ve ever compared credit card offers, you might see that some have an annual fee that’s automatically charged to your account each year.

Sometimes the annual fee is fairly low — for example, $95.

Other times, the annual fee can be hundreds of dollars, so you might wonder why anyone would opt to pay this fee when there are no- and low-fee options.

For some people, however, the perks of a credit card with an annual fee are well worth it.

What Is A No-Annual Fee Credit Card?

A no-annual-fee credit card is one that simply doesn’t have a fee to use it.

You are paying interest on your card and any associated fees that you may incur, such as late payment fees, but you aren’t paying a fee just for having the card.

With a credit card that has an annual fee, you pay it no matter how often you use your card or even if you don’t use it at all.

When it Makes Sense to Get a No-Annual Fee Card

You might be thinking it’s crazy to pay a fee for a credit card each year, but the reality is that a card with an annual fee is often going to offer appealing rewards that you won’t get with a card that doesn’t have an annual fee.

It’s also likely going to have a more robust welcome offer than no-fee cards.

Even so, cards with an annual fee aren’t right for everyone. For many people, no-annual-fee cards are a better option. The following are scenarios it makes sense to get a card that doesn’t carry an annual fee.

You Want to Build Your Credit

Often since the cards with annual fees have more extensive and valuable rewards, they can also be harder to qualify for.

If you’re at a point where your focus is on building or improving your credit, you may not be eligible for these types of cards.

A no-fee-credit card can be easier to be approved for and can help you strengthen your credit without having to pay high costs.

In fact, no-annual fee cards like the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® are specifically intended to help those with poor or limited credit history improve their score.

You Don’t Spend Much On Your Card

To really maximize the advantages of cards with a high annual fee, you need to be spending enough to offset it.

For example, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card has a $39 annual fee and offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases.  You would have to spend at least $2,600 on this card every year to offset the $39 annual fee.

If you’re the kind of person who only has a credit card for emergencies or to build your credit history, you should potentially look for a card without an annual fee.

You Don’t Travel Often

Many of the credit cards with the highest annual fees are travel-related.

They may earn you miles or other travel-related benefits such as free checked bags or lounge access.

If you don’t frequently travel, having a card that provides travel benefits and carries a fee will probably be a loss for you.

When It Doesn’t Make Sense to Get a No-Annual Fee Card

When it comes to credit cards, it’s important to be strategic and crunch the numbers to figure out what will work out best for you. Examples of when it wouldn’t make sense to get a no-annual fee card include the following scenarios.

You Use Your Credit Card for Everything

There are people who use a credit card for every purchase they make so they can maximize their rewards, and then theoretically, they pay their balance in full each month.

If this sounds like you, it would probably be fairly easy for you to offset an annual fee and get value from your rewards. If you use your card often or you spend a fair amount on it, you may also be able to easily earn the signup bonus which is another way to offset an annual fee.

You should also keep in mind that many cards with an annual fee have a sister card without an annual fee.

For example, the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card has a $95 annual fee but gives 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, while its sister card the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card does not have an annual fee but only offers 3% cash back on dining and entertainment.

You really have to do the math on your own spending habits to see which one will give you greater benefit.

You’re a Frequent Traveler

As was touched on above, many cards with annual fees are travel-related, so you’re going to get value not just from the opportunity to earn miles and points. These cards will also likely have other travel-related perks.

For example, the Gold Delta Skymiles card has a $99 annual fee but gives you your first checked bag free on each Delta flight you purchase on the card, so if you’re a frequent Delta flyer, you could easily make up for this card’s annual fee with just a few flights.

The same is true of lounge access. Many airport lounges will charge $50 or more per person if they let you in at all. If you’re a frequent traveler you may quickly find that an annual fee more than pays for itself.

8 Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Cards

Citi Double Cash

  • Citi Double Cash
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    Citi Double Cash: Best for Cash Back
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    • Basics: The Citi Double Cash features the opportunity to earn cash back twice. You earn 2% cash back on all purchases, with unlimited 1% cash back when you make a purchase and an additional 1% when you pay for purchases. To earn the 1% cash back when you pay, you simply have to pay at least your minimum on-tie. There are no categories, no caps on cash back, and no annual fee.
    • Pros: Along with no annual fee, with the Citi Double Cash you have the opportunity to earn a fairly competitive cash back rate. You don’t have to track rotating categories and it’s a very simple, straightforward way to earn rewards. You don’t have to consider how much you spend in order to offset the annual fee. If you make a balance transfer within four months of opening an account, you benefit from a 0% introductory APR for 18 months, although balance transfers don’t earn cash back.
    • Cons: Beyond the cash back component, there are limited perks or benefits that come with the Citi Double Cash. There isn’t an initial rewards bonus for meeting a certain spending threshold, and this card has a 3% foreign transaction fee.
    • WELCOME OFFER

      None at this time

    • ANNUAL FEE

      $0

    • PERKS

      • No caps or category restrictions
      • Citi Entertainment benefits

Wells Fargo Propel

  • Wells Fargo Propel
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    Wells Fargo Propel: Best for Travel
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    • Basics: The Wells Fargo Propel is one of the few American Express cards that doesn’t have an annual fee, so you do get some Amex benefits without paying extra. The Wells Fargo Propel card includes 3X points on certain categories including eating out and ordering food in gas stations, rideshares and transit, and travel purchases. You also earn 3X points on streaming services and 1X points per dollar on all other purchases.
    • Pros: With the Wells Fargo Propel card, you enjoy accelerated reward earning opportunities on categories that tend to be most popular with modern consumers. There are no limits on how many points you can earn, and you can redeem for travel, cash, and gift cards. There are no travel blackout dates if you redeem through the Go Far Rewards portal. There’s an introductory 0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers. There’s also a signup bonus with a relatively low spending threshold of $1,000 for the first three months and 20,000 bonus points if you can meet that. With the Propel card, you can transfer your Go Far Rewards between your Wells Fargo cards to maximize the value.
    • Cons: There are a few downsides with the Wells Fargo Propel. One is the limited spending categories to earn 3X points. If you don’t spend a lot in those categories, this card probably isn’t right for you. Also, you can’t transfer your points to outside loyalty programs.
    • WELCOME OFFER

      20,000 bonus points with $1,000 spent on purchases in the first three months

    • ANNUAL FEE

      $0

    • PERKS

      • Can pool benefits with other Wells Fargo cards

Capital One Secured Mastercard

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    Capital One Secured Mastercard: Best for Bad or Limited Credit
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    • Basics: A secured credit card like the Capital One Secured Mastercard is a good option for someone who is building or rebuilding their credit history. You might not be approved for another card, but with a secured card, you can pay a deposit and your card activity will be reported to credit bureaus. The Secured Mastercard from Capital One offers no annual fee and flexible security deposit requirements.
    • Pros: The Capital One Secured Mastercard lets you decide whether you’ll pay a $49, $99, or $200 refundable security deposit. If you make the minimum required security deposit you get an initial credit line of $200. If you deposit more money before your account actually opens you can get a higher credit line. Personalize your payment by choosing your own due date and payment method and you are automatically considered for a higher credit after 6 months.
    • Cons: The Capital One Secured Mastercard has no rewards, and it has a high APR, so it’s probably best to limit your purchases with this card while you build or rebuild your credit.
    • WELCOME OFFER

      None at this time

    • ANNUAL FEE

      $0

    • PERKS

      • Get approved with bad or limited credit
      • Flexible security deposit options
      • Reports to three major credit bureaus

Citi Simplicity

  • Citi Simplicity
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    Citi Simplicity: Best for Balance Transfers
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    • Basics: The Citi Simplicity Card is ideal for balance transfers with a 0% APR for 21 months on balance transfers. There’s no annual fee, and you also get a 0% APR for 12 months on purchases. The Citi Simplicity card, as the name implies, is simple and straightforward. There aren’t any rewards with this card, however.
    • Pros: If you have an existing balance you want to transfer or you’d like to make a big upfront purchase, the Citi Simplicity Card is good and it has one of the longest 0% APRs for balance transfers. It’s shorter for purchases but still gives you 12 months. Since you don’t have to pay an annual fee, all your payments will go toward paying off the balance which is useful if you’re trying to do so within the 12-21-month window.
    • Cons: The Citi Simplicity has a few drawbacks. First, you’ll need good-to-excellent credit for approval in most instances. There’s also a 5% balance transfer fee, which is higher than the average of 3%. Once the promotional APR period ends, this card also has a fairly high APR depending on creditworthiness.
    • WELCOME OFFER

      None at this time

    • ANNUAL FEE

      $0

    • PERKS

      • No late fees or penalty APRs
      • Citi benefits such as purchase protection on unauthorized charges

Blue Cash Everyday

  • Blue Cash Everyday
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    Blue Cash Everyday: Best for Groceries
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    • Basics: Enjoy no annual fee paired with cash back benefits with the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express. Earn 3% cash back up to $6,000 a year on purchases at supermarkets in the U.S. and 2% cash back at gas stations and some U.S. department stores. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. Cash back is received as Reward Dollars and they can be redeemed as a statement credit.
    • Pros: The 3% rewards that come with the Blue Cash Everyday card on supermarket purchases are very competitive. This is a great card to use exclusively for your everyday grocery and gas purchases to maximize the value of the rewards program. Cash back doesn’t expire and there aren’t limits on the 2% or 1% cash back categories. There are no rotating categories to keep up with. There’s also a new cardmember offer. Spend $1,000 in purchases in the first three months after opening your account and you can earn $150 as a statement credit. There’s a 0% APR on purchases for 15 months.
    • Cons: One of the main downsides of the Blue Cash Everyday card is the limitation on grocery spending. In the maximum 3% cash back category, it’s only available on spending up to $6,000 annually. If you’re grocery shopping for multiple people or a family you could pretty easily reach that limit. Additionally you can’t transfer your rewards or combine rewards from your Blue Cash Everyday card with other rewards.
    • WELCOME OFFER

      Earn $150 after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months

    • ANNUAL FEE

      $0

    • PERKS

      • Car rental loss and damage insurance
      • Global Assist® Hotline

Capital One SavorOne

  • Capital One SavorOne
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    Capital One SavorOne: Best For Dining and Entertainment
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    • Basics: With the Capital One SavorOne card, enjoy rewards on dining and entertainment purchases. Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment purchases in addition to 2% at grocery stores and 1% on other purchases, all with no annual fee. Dining includes restaurants, bars, lounges, cafes, fast food restaurants and bakeries. Entertainment includes movie theaters, sporting events, amusement parks, aquariums, and quite a few other events and venues.
    • Pros: If you’re regularly out-and-about, the Capital One SavorOne card could be an excellent no-fee credit card. You get a high 3% reward rate on dining and entertainment with no limits on any spending categories. There’s a new cardmember offer and it’s a lower threshold than most — spend $500 on purchases within the first three months after you open an account and get a $150 cash bonus. You may have the option to transfer rewards between accounts with this card, which could be a way to maximize spending categories on different cards. With the SavorOne you also gain unique access to special events like five-star dining experiences and VIP tickets.
    • Cons: You’ll likely need excellent credit for approval, and while you can redeem your cash back for statement credit, check or gift cards at any amount and at any time, you can’t redeem for airline travel.
    • WELCOME OFFER

      $150 cash bonus after spending $500 in the first three months on purchases

    • ANNUAL FEE

      $0

    • PERKS

      • 0% purchase and transfer APR for 15 months
      • No foreign transaction fees

Citi Rewards+ Student Card

  • Citi Rewards+ Student Card
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    Citi Rewards+ Student Card: Best for Students
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    • Basics: It’s important for students to start building credit, but they probably don’t have a spending level that’s going to justify a card with a high annual fee, which is why the Citi Rewards+ Student Card is a good option. Along with no annual fee, the card is the only one that automatically rounds up to the nearest ten rewards points on all purchases with no caps. Cardholders earn 2X points at supermarkets and gas stations up to $6,000 each year. The card earns one point per dollar on everything else. Earn 10% points back for the first 100,000 ThankYou Points redeemed each year and make purchases with Points on Amazon.com and BestBuy.com.
    • Pros: The Citi Rewards+ Student Card is one of the few student-centric credit cards that earn rewards. There’s a 0% APR for seven months after opening an account, and the round-up program is the only of its kind currently. Points redemption is easy and geared toward students. You can use your points to shop online at popular retailers, redeem for gift cards or redeem for travel rewards like flights, hotels and cruises.
    • Cons: Once the introductory 0% APR ends, the APR on this card is relatively high, as is the penalty APR. There’s also a foreign transaction fee.
    • WELCOME OFFER

      2,500 bonus points after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening

    • ANNUAL FEE

      $0

    • PERKS

      • Automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on all purchases
      • Flexible redemption options

Chase Ink Business Cash

  • Chase Ink Business Cash
    Chase Ink Business Cash: Best for Business
    • Basics: The Chase Ink Business Cash Card is excellent for small businesses who don’t want to pay a fee and also want to earn rewards. Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in certain business categories including internet, cable and phone services as well as office supply stores. Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 in combined purchases at restaurants and gas stations, and 1% cash back on everything else with no limits. Get employee cards at no additional cost and redeem rewards for not only cash back but also travel and gift cards through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
    • Pros: The Chase Ink Business Cash Card gives you a lot of bang in terms of rewards considering there’s no annual fee. There’s also a 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases, and there’s a sign-up bonus.
    • Cons: If your business spending doesn’t fall in certain categories, you’re going to get a fairly low rewards rate with the Chase Ink Business Cash Card, and there are spending caps on the bonus categories.
    • WELCOME OFFER

      $500 cash back with $3,000 spent on purchases within three months of account opening

    • ANNUAL FEE

      $0

    • PERKS

      • Rewards don’t expire, and redemption options are flexible
      • You can transfer points to any Ultimate Rewards card that qualifies

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Ashley Sutphin Watkins

Ashley is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill where she studied journalism. She has worked as a journalist, content creator, and copywriter for nearly a decade, with a focus on personal finance, real estate, and healthcare. She now lives in Knoxville with her husband and young kids. During her free time, she enjoys traveling and enjoying the outdoors in East Tennessee.

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