Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards: 2019

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness

Updated Apr 18, 2019

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from some credit card issuers as advertisers. Advertiser relationships do not affect card ratings or our Best Card Picks.

Credit Card Insider has collected card information independently. Issuers did not provide the details, nor are they responsible for their accuracy.

Learn more about how we rate cards

Flat-Rate Cash Back

Grocery Shopping

Gas Spending

Dining at Restaurants and Takeout

Rotating Reward Categories

General Travel Rewards

General Hotel Rewards

Long 0% Intro Purchase APR

Long 0% Intro Balance Transfer APR

No-Fee Balance Transfers

College Students

Business Rewards

Fair or Average Credit

Bad or Limited Credit

Choosing a No Annual Fee Credit Card

Most people can benefit from having a no annual fee card or two in their wallets. You won’t have to worry about using them enough to justify a yearly fee, and they can be stored away safely until you need them.

A credit card like this is also a good option for anyone who won’t make very many purchases. If you only need a card to use occasionally, and you don’t care about top-tier rewards and benefits, a no annual fee card will probably work just fine for you.

Most credit cards without annual fees are designed for at least average or good credit, although some are available to people with poor credit too.

One of the best aspects of a no annual fee credit card is that it can be completely free to use. As long as you avoid accruing interest or other fees, you won’t need to pay anything at all for the privilege of earning rewards and improving your credit. You can do this by simply paying your balance in full each billing period. (This only applies to credit cards with grace periods, but almost every card on the market has a grace period.)

We recommend always paying your balance in full each month, whether your card has an annual fee or not. Finance charges can quickly eat away at any rewards you earn, leaving you in the hole when you were expecting some points or cash back. Not only will this save you money on interest, it will also be good for your credit scores because it helps keep your credit utilization low.

When Should You Pay an Annual Fee for a Credit Card?

Credit cards with annual fees tend to have better reward programs and extra perks compared to no-fee cards. They might offer more points per dollar, bigger introductory bonuses, and more valuable travel and shopping benefits.

Here are some of the most common reasons why you might want a card with an annual fee:

  • Bad or Limited Credit History: You don’t have the best credit history, so you may need to settle for a card with a fee that’s designed for poor or limited credit
  • Offset the Fee with Spending Rewards: You’ll spend enough to offset the annual fee, earning more rewards than you could with a no-fee card
  • A Large Intro Bonus: It has a large introductory bonus for spending a certain amount in the first few months of account opening
  • Valuable Travel Perks: There are travel benefits that you want, like free hotel stays, airport lounge access, or membership in hotel and airline loyalty programs
  • Special Card Features: It has a particular feature that you need, like the ability to transfer points
  • A Downgrade Path (Product Change): Some cards allow you to downgrade to a lesser version, with the same account history and credit line but fewer rewards and benefits

Read more about why you might want to pay for a credit card in our post, Is Paying an Annual Fee for a Credit Card Worth It?

In some cases, depending on your spending habits, a card with an annual fee can be more valuable than a card without a fee. But if you don’t spend enough the annual fee can cancel out most of the cash back or points you earn, and a no-fee card will end up being more rewarding.

You’ll have to examine your own spending to figure out if a card with an annual fee would work out in your favor. Look at how much you can expect to gain from the rewards and benefits every year, after subtracting the annual fee. If you use the card enough, you might very well come out ahead.

Selection Criteria: What Makes a Great No Annual Fee Credit Card?

  • Designed for your level of credit history and scores, as some cards are meant for excellent credit while others are meant for bad, limited, or no credit
  • A set of terms and features that suits your current needs, whether you’re looking for rewards, a long intro APR, a card to travel with, or a way to build your credit
  • A rewards program that fits your spending habits, offering points or cash back for the types of purchases you make most
  • An introductory bonus that lets you earn even more rewards
  • A 0% introductory rate on purchases and/or balance transfers, letting you pay off your balance over time without accruing interest
  • Additional perks and benefits, like discounts at particular merchants, credit score monitoring, and shopping/travel protections
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling outside of the U.S.

The Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of 2019

Best for Card
Flat-Rate Cash Back Citi Double Cash Card (Review)
Grocery Shopping Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (Review)
Gas Spending Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card (Review)
Dining at Restaurants and Takeout Uber Visa Card
Rotating Reward Categories Discover it® Credit Card (Review)
General Travel Rewards Bank of America Travel Rewards® Credit Card (Review)
General Hotel Rewards Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Card (Review)
Long 0% Intro Purchase APR U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Long 0% Intro Balance Transfer APR Citi Simplicity® Card (Review)
No-Fee Balance Transfers Amex EveryDay Credit Card (Review)
College Students Discover it® for Students (Review)
Business Rewards SimplyCash Plus Business Card from American Express (Review)
Fair or Average Credit Capital One® Journey® Student Credit Card (Review)
Bad or Limited Credit Discover it® Secured Credit Card (Review)

Best for Flat-Rate Cash Back

The Citi Double Cash Card (Review) is the only no annual fee card to offer this much cash back for every purchase.

Spending Rewards
  • 2% cash back for every purchase you make
    • 1% back when you make a purchase
    • 1% back when you pay for that purchase

You can use the Double Cash everywhere to earn 2% back, without worrying about any bonus categories or which card might be better for which purchases.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • 0% intro APR for 18 months for balance transfers
  • Price Rewind Tool: To make sure you don’t pay more than you need to
  • Monitor your FICO 8 Credit Score: Based on your Equifax credit report
  • Quick Customer Service: Say “representative” when calling customer support to be connected with a rep more quickly
  • Mastercard Benefits: Including Purchase Protection, Extended Warranties, Trip Cancellation, and others
  • Citi Identity Theft Solutions: Provides help if you become a victim of identity theft

Read more in our Review of the Citi Double Cash Card

Runners Up

  • 3% cash back for every purchase in the first year, up to $20,000 spent
  • 1.5% cash back for every purchase after that
  • 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then 17.24%–25.99% Variable APR

 

  • 1.5% cash back for every purchase
  • $200 introductory bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then 16.24%–27.24% Variable APR

 

  • 1.5% cash back for every purchase
  • $150 introductory bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable APR

 

  • 1.5X miles per purchase (equivalent to 1.5% cash back)
  • Double miles your first year
  • Intro offer of 0% APR for purchases for 14 months, then 14.24%–25.24% Variable APR

 

Best for Grocery Shopping

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express® (Review) offers cash back bonus categories at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations that last all year.

There are some other cards with rotating reward categories that can provide more cash back for these purchases, but only for three months out of the year. This credit card offers those rewards year-round.

Spending Rewards
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1% cash back)
  • 2% cash back at:
    • U.S. gas stations
    • select U.S. department stores
  • 1% cash back for all other purchases
  • Amex Offers: additional cash back and discounts at select retailers
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • equivalent to 15% cash back

Other Key Terms & Features

  • 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 15.24%–26.24% Variable APR
  • Amex Offers: Discounts at specific retailers, like SamsClub.com, TurboTax, Etsy, and many more
  • Save 10% on some utilities: Take advantage of occasional offers to save on certain utilities, like cable, satellite TV, and cell phone bills
  • Lowest Hotel Rates Guaranteed: Book eligible hotels through Amex Travel to get a guaranteed low price
  • Complimentary ShopRunner Membership: Register for free two-day shipping and returns at select online retailers
There’s an upgraded version of this card that does have an annual fee, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (Review). It costs $95 and offers 6% back at U.S. supermarkets, 3% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, and has a $200 introductory bonus after you spend $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. It might be right for you if you’ll spend more than about $2,600 on groceries and $1,300 on gas per year with it.

Read more in our Review of the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

Runners Up

  • 3% back in your choice of one category: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores, or home improvement/furnishings stores
  • 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months for purchases and balance transfers, then 14.24%–25.24% Variable APR

 

  • 5X points at gas stations
  • 3X points at grocery stores
  • Potential value of 1 cent per point but limited redemption options,
  • Must be PenFed member

 

  • 5% cash back in rotating categories, which include grocery stores
  • Double cash back the first year
  • 0% intro APR for 14 months for purchases and balance transfers, then 14.24%–25.24% Variable APR

 

  • 5% cash back in rotating categories which include grocery stores
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 17.24%–25.99% Variable APR

 

Best for Gas Spending

The Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card (Review) offers good rewards for gas and some other categories, along with a relatively large and easy-to-get introductory bonus.

Spending Rewards
  • 3% cash back in one category of your choice:
    • Gas
    • Online shopping
    • Dining
    • Travel
    • Drugstores
    • Home improvement/furnishings stores
  • 2% cash back at:
    • Grocery stores
    • Wholesale clubs
  • 1% cash back for all other purchases
  • BankAmerideals: 5-10% cash back and more at select retailers
Redemption Bonus Offer
  • 10–75% redemption bonus for redeeming into an eligible Bank of America or Merrill Lynch bank account
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • equivalent to 30% cash back

The 3% and 2% reward categories are limited to the first $2,500 in combined spending every quarter. After that you’ll earn 1% cash back in those categories.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • 12-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable APR
  • FICO Score 8 credit score monitoring: Based on your TransUnion credit report
  • Price Protection: Get reimbursement if you find an eligible purchase being advertised for a lesser price
  • Other Mastercard Benefits: Like Extended Warranties, 24-hour Travel Assistance Services, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waivers, and others
  • Identity Theft Resolution Services: Provides help if you believe you’re a victim of identity theft

Read more in our Review of the Bank of America Cash Rewards Card

Runners Up

  • 2% back at gas stations and restaurants
  • Double cash back the first year
  • 0% intro APR for 14 months for purchases and balance transfers, then 14.24%–25.24% Variable APR

 

  • 5X points at gas stations
  • 3X points at grocery stores
  • Potential value of 1 cent per point but limited redemption options
  • Must be PenFed member

 

  • 5% cash back in rotating categories which include gas stations
  • Double cash back the first year
  • 0% intro APR for 14 months for purchases and balance transfers, then 14.24%–25.24% Variable APR

 

  • 5% cash back in rotating categories which include gas stations
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • 15-month intro offer of o% APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 17.24%–25.99% Variable APR

 

Best for Dining at Restaurants and Takeout

The Uber Visa Card, issued by Barclays, is a great option for dining of all kinds. It’s also not too shabby when it comes to travel and online spending.

Spending Rewards
  • 4% cash back on dining, including restaurants, take-out, bars, and UberEATS
  • 3% cash back on airfare, at hotels, and with travel agencies like Airbnb
  • 2% cash back on eligible online purchases, including Uber (excludes third-party payments like PayPal, utilities, and more)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $100 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days after account opening
    • equivalent to 20% cash back

Other Key Terms & Features

  • $50 Annual Online Subscription Service Credit: Get $50 toward services like Netflix and Hulu when you spend $5,000 or more with your card per year.
  • Invitations to Exclusive Events: Get occasional offers to events in big cities around the world
  • Mobile Phone Protection: Up to $600 in coverage for mobile phones against damage and theft
  • No foreign transaction fee: No fees for transactions made outside the U.S.
  • FICO 8 Credit Score monitoring: Keep tabs on your FICO credit score, as based on your TransUnion credit report

Runners Up

  • 3% cash back on dining and entertainment
  • 2% back at grocery stores
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable APR

 

  • 3% cash back at restaurants and gas stations
  • $200 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • 10 cents donated to the Drive to End Hunger for every restaurant purchase

 

  • 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations
  • Double cash back the first year
  • 0% intro APR for 14 months for purchases and balance transfers, then 14.24%–25.24% Variable APR

 

Best for Rotating Reward Categories

The Discover it Credit Card (Review) is our top pick for rotating cash back categories thanks to its Cashback Match.

Spending Rewards
  • 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent per quarter (then 1%), in categories that rotate throughout the year (see calendar below)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • Cashback Match: new cardmembers get double the cash back earned in the first year

Take note that you must manually activate your 5% cash back rewards every quarter, and you won’t earn at the 5% rate until you do. This is as simple as logging in and clicking “Activate.” You can activate months in advance, so be sure to do so.

The 5% cash back calendar for the Discover it for 2019 is:

Quarter 5% Cash Back Category
January – March Grocery Stores
April – June Gas Stations, Uber, Lyft
July – September Restaurants
October – December Amazon.com

You can redeem cash back at any time, and for any amount.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • 14-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 14.24%–25.24% Variable APR
  • No foreign transaction fee: You won’t be charged extra for purchases made outside the U.S.
  • FICO 8 Credit Score monitoring: Track your FICO score over time, based on your TransUnion credit report
  • Social Security Number Alerts: Get notified if your SSN is found on any thousands of risky websites

Read more in our Review of the Discover it Credit Card

Runners Up

  • 5% cash back in rotating categories which include grocery stores
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 17.24%–25.99% Variable APR

 

  • 5% cash back on your choice of two categories per quarter
  • 2% back on your choice of one everyday category
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days

 

Best for General Travel Rewards

The Bank of America Travel Rewards® Credit Card (Review) is an excellent no-fee option to pay for an upcoming vacation, with good spending rewards and a valuable introductory bonus.

Spending Rewards
  • 1.5X points per dollar on every purchase
Redemption Bonus Offer
  • 10–75% redemption bonus for redeeming into an eligible Bank of America or Merrill Lynch bank account
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 20,000 bonus miles for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening
    • equivalent to 20% cash back

Other Key Terms & Features

  • 12-month 0% intro APR for purchases, then 17.24%–25.24% Variable APR
  • No foreign transaction fee: You won’t pay an additional fee for purchases when traveling outside the country
  • FICO 8 Credit Score monitoring: Based on your TransUnion credit report
  • Visa Signature Benefits: Like Travel and Emergency Assistance, Lost Luggage Reimbursement, and a Personal Concierge
  • Identity Theft Resolution Services: Provides help if you believe you’re a victim of identity theft

Read more in our Review of the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card

Runners Up

  • 1.5X miles per dollar
  • Double miles the first year
  • $30 annual in-flight WiFi credit
  • 0% intro purchase APR for 14 months, then 14.24%–25.24% Variable APR

 

  • 10X miles at Hotels.com/venture
  • 1.25X miles for other purchases
  • 20,000 bonus miles for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • 12-month 0% intro APR for purchases, then 14.24%, 20.24%, or 24.24% Variable APR

 

  • 4% cash back at restaurants
  • 3% back on hotels and airfare
  • 2% back for online purchases, including Uber
  • $100 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months

 

Best for General Hotel Rewards

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card (Review) offers an excellent rate for hotels, equivalent to 10% cash back. But you’ll need to do all your spending at Hotels.com to get that value.

Spending Rewards
  • 1.25X miles per dollar on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 20,000 bonus miles for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • equivalent to 20% cash back equivalent

Other Key Terms & Features

  • 12-month 0% intro APR for purchases, then 14.24%, 20.24%, or 24.24% Variable APR
  • Luxury Hotel Collection: Perks for eligible hotel bookings, like a $25 food and beverage credit and a best available rate guarantee
  • Shopping Discounts: Get discounts at select retailers, like Lenovo, Overstock.com, and Target.com
  • Fine Wine & Food: Benefits at over 50 wineries in Sonoma Wine County, California, and discounts at select restaurants
  • Sports and Entertainment Offers: Exclusive offers and discounts at sports and cultural events

Read more in our Review of the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card

Runners Up

  • 3X points at eligible hotels
  • 2X points on gas, utility, and grocery store purchases
  • 15,000 bonus points after making the first purchase

 

  • 15X points Choice Privileges memberships and eligible locations
  • 5X points on purchases of Choice Privileges points or gift cards
  • 2X points on every other purchase
  • 32,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
  • 8,000 anniversary bonus points every year that you spend $10,000 or more
  • 10% point bonus on stays purchased with Choice Hotels

 

Best for Long 0% Intro Purchase APR

If you need a card with a long 0% intro APR for purchases, it will be hard to beat the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card. After that, the regular , then 14.74%–25.74% Variable APR applies.

The Visa Platinum card from U.S. Bank provides 20 months at 0% APR for purchases. That’s quite a long time compared to most cards, and it’s available for both purchases and balance transfers if you’d like.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • No annual fee
  • Cell Phone Protection: Up to $600 in coverage when you pay your cell phone bill with the card
  • Free VantageScore Credit Score: Check your VantageScore based on your TransUnion credit report
  • Visa Benefits: Which may include Purchase Protection, Extended Warranties, and others

 

Runners Up

  • 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then 14.24%, 20.24% or 25.24% Variable
  • No rewards
  • Mastercard travel benefits

 

  • 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 15.24%–26.24% Variable
  • 3% back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
  • 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months

 

  • 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 15.24%–26.24% Variable
  • 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar at grocery stores and Amex Travel
  • 20% point bonus for making at least 20 purchases in a billing period

 

  • 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 17.24%–25.99% Variable
  • 5% cash back in rotating categories
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months after account opening

 

Best for Long 0% Intro Balance Transfer APR

For a long balance transfer card offer, look no further than the Citi Simplicity® Card (Review).

There are no rewards with this card, but you’ll get 21 months at 0% APR for balance transfers, along with 12 months at 0% for purchases, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable. You’ll have to pay a fee of 5% for balance transfers, however, with a minimum of $5.

This fee could add up to quite a lot, so you may want to check out our pick for the best no-fee balance transfer card, which has a shorter intro period.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • Citi EasyDeals shopping portal: Get discounts and coupons at a selection of retailers
  • Citi Private Pass: Access to presale and preferred tickets to concerts, sporting events, dining experiences, and more
  • Citi Identity Theft Solutions: If you believe you’ve become a victim of identity theft, Citi is there to help
  • Say “representative” when you call: Speak with a customer support rep more quickly
  • Citi Concierge: Call for non-emergency help with a variety of tasks, like finding gifts or making reservations

Read more in our Review of the Citi Simplicity Card

Runners Up

  • 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 17.24%–25.99% Variable
  • No transfer fee for the first 60 days
  • Monitor your VantageScore 3.0 based on your TransUnion credit report

 

  • 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 15.24%–25.24% Variable
  • No transfer fee for the first 60 days

 

  • 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 15.24%–26.24% Variable
  • No transfer fee for the first 60 days
  • 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar at grocery stores and Amex Travel
  • 20% point bonus for making at least 20 purchases in a billing period

 

Best for No-Fee Balance Transfers

There are a few cards that offer balance transfers for no extra fee, but the Amex EveryDay Credit Card (Review) stands out for having a good rewards program as well.

It provides 15 months at 0% APR for balance transfers and purchases, with no fee for transfers made in the first 60 days, then a 15.24%–26.24% Variable APR applies. You’ll also get:

Spending Rewards
  • 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar on purchases at:
    • U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1 point per dollar)
    • the Amex Travel website
  • 1X Membership Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
  • Amex Offers: additional cash back and discounts at select retailers
Redemption Bonus
  • A 20% point bonus if you make at least 20 purchases in a billing period
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 10,000 bonus Membership Rewards points for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • equivalent to approximately 10% cash back or more

Not only do you get a great no-fee balance transfer offer, you’ll earn rewards for spending too. And if you’re making many purchases per month, 20 or more, this card provides a reward for all that spending.

If you value a Membership Rewards point at 1 cent each, you’ll normally earn a 2% cash back equivalent when spending at supermarkets and Amex Travel. If you get that point bonus it will be a 2.4% cash back equivalent. And if you can redeem your points for more than 1 cent each, you’ll get an even better rate than that.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • Amex Offers: Discounts at specific retailers, like Shutterfly.com, Harry’s Razors, Contacts Direct, and many more
  • Save 10% on some utilities: Take advantage of occasional offers to save on certain utilities, like cable, satellite TV, and cell phone bills
  • Lowest Hotel Rates Guaranteed: Book eligible hotels through Amex Travel to get a guaranteed low price
  • Complimentary ShopRunner Membership: Register for free two-day shipping and returns at select online retailers
  • Amex Shopping and Travel Benefits: Like Extended Warranties, Return Protection, Global Assist Hotline, and many others

Read more in our Review of the Amex EveryDay Credit Card

Amex offers another version of this card, the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Card (Review). But it has a $95 annual fee, a balance transfer fee, and only offers 0% APR for 12 months before its 15.24%–25.24% Variable APR applies.

Runners Up

  • 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 17.24%–25.99% Variable
  • No transfer fee for the first 60 days
  • Monitor your VantageScore 3.0 based on your TransUnion credit report

 

  • 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 15.24%–25.24% Variable
  • No transfer fee for the first 60 days
  • Monitor your FICO 8 Credit Score based on your TransUnion credit report

 

Best for College Students

The Discover it for Students (Review) is surprisingly rewarding for a student credit card, designed for limited or no credit. This card actually has the same rewards program as the regular Discover it (Review).

Spending Rewards
  • 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent per quarter, in categories that rotate throughout the year (see calendar below)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • Cashback Match: New cardmembers get double the cash back earned in the first year

Take note that you must manually activate your 5% cash back rewards every quarter, and you won’t earn at the 5% rate until you do. You need to log in and click “Activate” to do this, and it can be done months in advance.

The 5% cash back calendar for the Discover it for 2019 is:

Quarter 5% Cash Back Category
January – March Grocery Stores
April – June Gas Stations, Uber, Lyft
July – September Restaurants
October – December Amazon.com

Other Key Terms & Features

  • $20 Good Grades Reward: Get $20 cash back for every year in which your GPA is 3.0 or higher, for up to five years
  • 6-month 0% intro APR for purchases, 6-month 10.99% Variable APR for balance transfers, then 15.24%–24.24% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fee: You won’t be charged extra for purchases made outside the U.S.
  • FICO Score 8 credit monitoring: Track your FICO score over time, based on your TransUnion credit report
  • Social Security Number Alerts: Get notified if your SSN is found on any thousands of risky websites

Runners Up

  • 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations
  • Double cash back the first year
  • 0% intro purchase APR for 6 months, then 15.24%–24.24% Variable

 

  • 3% back in your choice of one category: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores, or home improvement/furnishings stores
  • 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months for purchases and balance transfers, then 15.49%–25.49% Variable

 

  • 1.25% cash back for every purchase when you pay on time
  • Higher credit line after first five monthly payments on time

 

  • Available to international students
  • No SSN needed to apply
  • 1% cash back for all purchases
  • Free year of Amazon Prime Student

 

Best for Business Rewards

The SimplyCash Plus Business Card from American Express (Review) offers up to 5% cash back, and gives small business owners a variety of purchases to choose from for the 3% bonus category.

Spending Rewards
  • 5% cash back:
    • at U.S. office supply stores
    • on wireless phone services purchased directly from U.S. providers
  • 3% cash back on your choice of 1 category:
    • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
    • Hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels
    • Car rentals from select rental companies
    • U.S. gas stations
    • U.S. restaurants
    • U.S. purchases of advertising in select media
    • U.S. purchases of shipping
    • Purchases of hardware, software, and cloud computing services from select U.S. providers
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

The 5% and 3% categories apply to the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases per year. Then 1% will be awarded.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • Amex Offers: Additional discounts at select merchants, including ZipRecruiter, Boxed.com, H&R Block, and many others
  • Employee Cards: Get up to 99 employee cards for free
  • Expanded Buying Power: Spend a certain amount over your credit limit each billing period, which needs to be paid back along with the minimum payment for that period
  • Amex OPEN Business Benefits: Including specially-trained customer service, business features, and account/spending management tools
  • Reports to Business Credit Bureau: Amex business cards report positive activity to Small Business Financial Exchange, and negative activity to the regular consumer credit bureaus along with Dun & Bradstreet
  • Amex Shopping and Travel Protections: Like Purchase Protection, Travel Accident Insurance, a Baggage Insurance Plan, and others.

Read more in our Review of the SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card

Runners Up

  • 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services on the first $25,000 spent
  • 2% back at gas stations and restaurants on the first $25,000 spent
  • $500 cash bonus for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • 0% intro APR for purchases for 12 months, then 15.49%–21.49% Variable

 

  • 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar on the first $50,000 spent per year
  • Amex OPEN benefits
  • 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then 15.49%, 18.49%, or 21.49% Variable

 

  • 1.5% cash back for every purchase
  • $200 cash bonus for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • 9-month 0% intro APR for purchases, then 15.24%–23.24% Variable

 

  • 3X points per dollar through Bank of America’s Travel Service, powered by Orbitz.
  • 1.5X points per dollar for all other purchases
  • 25,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 60 days
  • 9-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, then 13.49%–23.49% Variable

 

Best for Fair or Average Credit

The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® (Review) is marketed as a student card, but anyone can actually apply for it. This makes it a good option to help build or rebuild your credit, for students and non-students alike. It even offers a bit of cash back.

Spending Rewards
  • 1% cash back for every purchase
    • pay on time and that goes up to 1.25% cash back

Other Key Terms & Features

  • Higher Credit Line: Get access to a higher credit line after paying your first five monthly payments on time
  • Capital One CreditWise: Monitor your VantageScore 3.0, based on your TransUnion credit report, and see data from your report as well
  • Capital One Second Look Account Monitoring: Real-time fraud monitoring to help keep your account secure
  • No foreign transaction fee: You won’t pay extra for purchases outside the U.S.
  • Shopping and Travel Protections: Which include Extended Warranties, Travel and Emergency Assistance, Travel Accident Insurance, and more

Read more in our Review of the Capital One Journey Student Card

Runners Up

  • 3% cash back on travel and entertainment
  • 2% back at restaurants
  • Deserve looks at expanded criteria when you apply for better approval odds

 

  • A very simple card
  • No rewards
  • Basic benefits
  • Higher credit line after first five monthly payments on time

 

  • A good card for students
  • 5% cash back in rotating categories
  • Double cash back the first year
  • 0% intro APR for 6 months, then 15.24%–24.24% Variable

 

  • For small business owners with fair or average credit
  • 1% cash back on all purchases

 

Best for Bad or Limited Credit

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card (Review) is a secured credit card, which means it requires a refundable security deposit when you’re approved. It doesn’t have an annual fee, but it will require some money to get.

The Discover it Secured will take a security deposit of $200 to $2,500. Your credit limit will be equal to the deposit you make. Every 8 months, Discover will review your account and credit history. If they deem you a responsible credit user, they may decide to refund your deposit and allow you to continue using the card.

Secured cards are designed for people with bad, limited, or no credit, so they usually come with pretty unfavorable terms. But the Discover it Secured is different, and even provides a decent rewards program. Not only that, your cash back is doubled for the first year! That’s even better than some reward credit cards.

Spending Rewards
  • 2% cash back on the first $1,000 spent per quarter at:
    • restaurants
    • gas stations
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • Cashback Match: new cardmembers get double the cash back earned in the first year

Other Key Terms & Features

  • FICO Credit Scorecard: Keep tabs on your FICO Score 8, based on your TransUnion report, and get tips to improve your credit scores
  • 6-month 10.99% Variable intro APR for balance transfers, then 25.24% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fee: You won’t be charged extra for purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Social Security Number Alerts: Get notified if your SSN is found on any thousands of risky websites

Read more in our Review of the Discover it Secured Card

Runners Up

  • No rewards
  • No annual fee
  • Deserve will check more than the usual factors when you apply, like education and future earnings potential
  • Deserve must connect to your bank account when you apply as part of its credit underwriting process

 

  • Can apply without a bank account at a Citibank location
  • No rewards
  • Basic benefits
  • Security deposit of $200 to $2,500

 

  • Security deposit as little as $49 in some cases to get a $200 credit line
  • Maximum deposit of $1,000, no rewards

 

  • High possible credit limit, with security deposit of $300 to $10,000
  • Must have a Wells Fargo checking or savings account

 

Was this helpful?

The Insider

Ellen Sirull
Hilton Honors Credit Cards: How to Earn Points and Get Free Night Stays
Ellen Sirull | Apr 18, 2019

You have four different options for Hilton credit cards. Find out which one will fit best with your personal spending and travel habits.

Read More
Susan Shain
Priority Pass Select: How It Works (and Credit Cards That Have It)
Susan Shain | Apr 18, 2019

Want to get free food and drinks at airports around the world? You need Priority Pass Select. Here's how to get it for free with Priority Pass credit cards.

Read More
Susan Shain
United Airlines Credit Cards: Here’s Our Top Pick
Susan Shain | Apr 09, 2019

Trying to choose between the various United Airlines credit cards? We've done the legwork for you — here's the best card for most United flyers.

Read More