Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards 2019

Brendan Harkness

Author

Brendan Harkness

Updated August 15, 2019

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In the market for a new, inexpensive credit card?

Many card issuers provide no annual fee cards, which can be convenient, low-obligation ways to take advantage of credit card features. As long as you avoid paying interest and other fees, they can be completely free and any value you get from rewards and benefits will be all profit.

Here you’ll find cash back cards, travel cards, signup bonuses, 0% introductory periods, and more. You can probably find some no-fee version of whatever it is you’re looking for.

Cards without annual fees tend to be simple, with straightforward terms and rewards, but they’re no less useful than their expensive counterparts. Your creditworthiness shouldn’t stand in the way — below you can check out cards for all credit scores.

Best Pick For

Flat-Rate Rewards

Why we picked this card

The Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer (Review) is one of the few no annual fee cards to offer this much cash back for every purchase. It’s even got an intro balance transfer rate that’s one of the longest on the market.

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

Cardholders 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.

Key Features

  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 18 months, and then 15.99% – 25.99% (Variable)
  • Free FICO credit score: Monitor your FICO Bankcard Score 8, based on your Equifax credit report.
  • Quick customer service: Say “representative” when calling customer support to be connected with a rep more quickly.

Read more in our Review of the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

2% back for every purchase is rare, but you can get close to that with the new Apple Card. You’ll need an iPhone but you’ll earn 2% cash back for every purchase made with Apple Pay, so if the merchants you frequent take contactless payments you’ll be in the clear. You’ll also get 3% back for Apple, iTunes, and App Store purchases.

Runners Up

  • 2% cash back for every purchase
  • No foreign transaction fees

 

  • 3% cash back for every purchase in the first year, up to $20,000 spent
  • 1.5% cash back for every purchase after that
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 17.24% - 25.99% Variable APR

 

  • 1.5X miles per dollar for every purchase (equivalent to 1.5% cash back)
  • Miles Match: Double miles in your first year, awarded at the end of your first year
  • Purchase APR: 0% for 14 months, then 14.24%–25.24% Variable APR

 

  • 1.5% cash back for every purchase
  • $150 introductory bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 16.24% - 26.24% (Variable) APR

 

  • 1.5% cash back for every purchase
  • $150 introductory bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 15.24% - 26.24% Variable APR

Best Pick For

Rotating Bonus Categories

Why we picked this card

The Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card (Review) is our top pick for rotating cash back categories thanks to its unique Cashback Match. Check out the gift card redemption options to get at least $5 added to each redemption.

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: Cash back earned in the first year is doubled

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, PayPal
October–December Amazon.com, Target, Walmart.com

Key Features

  • Free FICO credit score: Track your FICO Score 8 over time, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Social Security number alerts: Get notified if your SSN is found on any of thousands of risky dark web sites.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 14 months, then 14.24%–25.24% Variable APR
  • No foreign transaction fees

Read more in our Review of the Discover it® Credit Card.

Runners Up

  • 5% cash back in rotating categories (up to $1,500 spent per quarter, then 1%)
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 17.24% - 25.99% Variable APR

 

  • 5% cash back in your choice of two categories per quarter (up to $2,000 spent per quarter)
  • 2% cash back in your choice of one everyday category
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 billing cycles on Balance Transfers*, then 15.99% - 25.49%* Variable APR

Best Pick For

Food (Restaurants and Groceries)

Why we picked this card

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card (Review) is one of the most flexible cards around, with a 3% bonus category you can change every month. Dining is one of your choices, along with quite a few other useful options, and you’ll always get grocery stores for one of your smaller categories.

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 on all other purchases
  • Spending limit: 3% and 2% rewards only up to $2,500 per quarter, then 1%
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $200 cash rewards bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
    • Return on spend: 20%

Key Features

  • Free FICO credit score: Check your FICO Score 8 for free, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Shopping and Travel protections: Price Protection, Extended Warranty Protection, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, and more.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 billing cycles, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable APR

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

Runners Up

  • 3% cash back on Dining and Entertainment
  • 2% cash back at Grocery stores
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 16.24% - 26.24% (Variable) APR

 

  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 spent per year, then 1%)
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 15.24% - 26.24% Variable APR

 

  • 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 for Online purchases
  • $100 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days

Best Pick For

Travel Rewards

Why we picked this card

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card (Review) is an excellent no-fee travel rewards credit card you can use to pay for an upcoming vacation or trip, with an incredible rate at Hotels.com and the ability to transfer points to a variety of airline partners.

Spending Rewards
  • 10X miles per dollar on purchases from Hotels.com/venture (until 01/31/20)
  • 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

Key Features

  • Mile transfer: To a variety of airline loyalty programs.
  • Luxury Hotel Collection: Provides benefits at eligible hotels, like a $25 food and beverage credit, complimentary WiFi, automatic room upgrades, and more.
  • Shopping and Travel protections: Purchase Security, Roadside Dispatch, an Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, and more.
  • Purchase APR: 0% for 12 months, then 14.24% - 24.24% (Variable) APR
  • No foreign transaction fees

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

Runners Up

  • 3% cash back in one category of your choice each month, including Travel purchases
  • 2% cash back at Grocery stores and Wholesale clubs
  • $200 cash rewards bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 billing cycles, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable APR

 

  • 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 for Online purchases, including Uber
  • $100 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days

 

  • 1.5X miles for every purchase (equivalent to 1.5% cash back)
  • Miles Match: Double miles the first year, awarded at the end of the first year
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 14 months, then 14.24%–25.24% Variable APR

Best Pick For

Long 0% Purchase APR

Why we picked this card

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.

The Visa Platinum provides 18 billing cycles at 0% APR for purchases. After that, the regular 14.74%–25.74% Variable APR applies.

That’s quite a long time compared to most cards, and it’s available for both purchases and balance transfers if you’d like.

Key Features

  • Free VantageScore credit score: Check your VantageScore 3.0, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Shopping and Travel protections: Including Cell Phone Protection, Extended Warranty Protection, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, and more.

 

Runners Up

  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 18 months, then 15.24%–25.24% Variable APR
  • Perks: Free FICO Bankcard Score 8 from TransUnion, Citi Easy Deals, Purchase Protection, Extended Warranty, and more.

 

  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 18 months, then 13.74%-27.24% Variable APR
  • Perks: Free FICO Score 9 from Experian, Cell Phone Protection, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Roadside Dispatch, and more.

 

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

 

  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 15.24%–26.24% Variable APR
  • 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 spent per year) and Amex Travel
  • 20% point bonus for making at least 20 purchases in a billing period
  • 10,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months

 

  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 17.24% - 25.99% Variable APR
  • 5% cash back in rotating categories, up to $1,500 spent per quarter
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months after account opening

Best Pick For

Long 0% Balance Transfer APR

Why we picked this card

For a long balance transfer card offer, look no further than the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever (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. After those periods are up, you’ll get a regular rate of 16.74% - 26.74%* (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 runners up below, some of which have slightly shorter intro periods but no transfer fees. And take a look at the 0% purchase APR cards above, which may feature great offers for balance transfers as well.

Key Features

  • Citi EasyDeals: Get discounts and coupons at a selection of local retailers.
  • Citi Private Pass: Access to presale and preferred tickets to concerts, sporting events, dining experiences, and more.
  • Citi Concierge: Call for non-emergency help with a variety of tasks, like finding gifts or making reservations.
  • Say “representative” when you call: Speak with a customer support rep more quickly.

Read more in our Review of the Citi Simplicity® Card.

Runners Up

  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 18 months, then 15.99% – 25.99% (Variable) APR
  • Balance transfer fee: 3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
  • 2% cash back for every purchase: 1% back for purchases, 1% back for payments

 

  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 15.24%–26.24% Variable APR
  • No transfer fee for the first 60 days
  • 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 spent per year) and Amex Travel
  • 20% point bonus for making at least 20 purchases in a billing period

 

  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 17.24%–25.99% Variable APR
  • No transfer fee for the first 60 days

 

  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 billing cycles, then 15.24%–25.24% Variable APR
  • No transfer fee for the first 60 days

Best Pick For

Fair or Average Credit

Why we picked this card

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, with a bonus for paying by the due date.

Spending Rewards
  • 1% cash back for every purchase
    • 1.25% cash back for every purchase when you pay on time

Key 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 (available to anyone).
  • Shopping and Travel protections: Extended Warranty, Travel and Emergency Assistance, Travel Accident Insurance, and more.
  • No foreign transaction fees

Read more in our Review of the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®.

Runners Up

  • 3% cash back on Travel and Entertainment
  • 2% cash back at Restaurants
  • 12-month Priority Pass Select membership for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days ($27 fee per person per visit)
  • Deserve looks at expanded criteria when you apply for better approval odds, and must connect to your bank account as part of its credit underwriting process.

 

  • Access a higher credit line: After making your first five monthly payments on time

 

  • A good card for students
  • 5% cash back in rotating categories, up to $1,500 spent per quarter
  • Cashback Match: Double cash back in the first year

 

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

Best Pick For

Bad or Limited Credit

Why we picked this card

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 eight months, Discover will review your account and credit history. If it deems you a responsible credit user, your deposit may be refunded and you can 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: Cash back earned in the first year is doubled

Key Features

  • Free FICO credit score: Keep tabs on your FICO Score 8, based on your TransUnion report, and get tips to improve your credit scores.
  • Social Security number alerts: Get notified if your SSN is found on any of thousands of risky dark web sites.
  • Balance Transfer APR: 10.99% Variable for 6 months, then 25.24% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fees

Read more in our Review of the Discover it® Secured Credit Card.

Runners Up

  • Perks: Rebates for Mint Mobile Wireless, Lemonade Insurance, and Feather furniture
  • Deserve looks at expanded criteria when you apply for better approval odds, and must connect to your bank account as part of its credit underwriting process.

 

  • 1–1.5% cash back: 1% initially, 1.25% after 6 on-time monthly payments, 1.5% after 12 on-time monthly payments
  • Petal Card is issued by WebBank, Member FDIC. WebBank may check your current financial record as part of the application process by looking at your bank account and other credit accounts.

 

  • Security deposit: $200 –$2,500
  • Can apply without a bank account at a Citibank location

 

  • Security deposit: $49–$1,000
  • Access a higher credit line: After making your first five monthly payments on time
  • No foreign transaction fees

 

  • Security deposit: $300–$10,000
  • Must have a Wells Fargo checking or savings account

Is a No Annual Fee Credit Card Right for You?

There’s a wide variety of credit cards without annual fees. They tend to be a bit more basic than cards with annual fees, but they still offer valuable rewards, benefits, and introductory APRs that make them every bit as useful as more expensive options.

Credit cards with annual fees tend to have better reward programs and extra perks. They might offer more points per dollar, bigger introductory bonuses, and better perks like lounge access and travel credits.

Still, it’s a good idea to have a no annual fee card (or a few). Many of them are perfect for everyday purchases, but they’re also handy for building credit. If you tend to go for more valuable or premium cards, no annual fee cards can serve as handy backups.

Even experienced credit card users keep cards without annual fees in their wallets. Here are some common reasons why you might want one:

  • Just getting into credit cards: Many people will find it less stressful to jump into the credit card game with a no annual fee card.
  • Useful for building credit: Getting some cards without annual fees early on can be an excellent credit-building strategy. You can typically keep them open indefinitely, and they can help improve your credit utilization and boost the average age of accounts on your credit reports more and more over time.
  • Great for everyday spending: You’ll find cards for groceries, gas, dining out, online shopping, and more. There are also plenty of flat-rate rewards cards that are perfect for any spending that doesn’t fit the bonus categories of your other cards.
  • Simple rewards programs (usually): Cards without annual fees usually have fairly straightforward rewards, with a one-time signup bonus and cash back or points you can redeem for statement credits. Rewards typically don’t expire for the life of the account, and in many cases there are no blackout dates for travel redemptions.
  • No annual fee to worry about (duh): For cards with annual fees, you have to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth each year, which could involve traveling in certain ways or shopping at specific retailers. No annual fee cards can sit in the proverbial (or literal) sock drawer until you need them (or until you need to keep them active).
  • As a downgrade option: If you have a card with an annual fee now and it’s not serving you well, you may be able to downgrade to a card with no annual fee. This is often a better idea than just closing the card because you can keep the same account on your credit reports.
  • An easy and cheap payment method while abroad: International travelers can use no annual fee cards without foreign transaction fees to avoid extra charges and trips to the money changer.

Don’t be afraid of annual fees, though. They often come with the most lucrative card offers. Read 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?

  • Fits your credit profile: Find a credit card offer designed for your level of credit history and scores, as some cards are generally meant for good credit while others are meant for bad, limited, or no credit.
  • It’s got what you need: Look for a set of terms and features that suits your current needs, whether you want a decent rewards rate on certain purchases, a long intro APR, a card to travel with, or a way to build your credit.
  • Bonus reward categories: The rewards program should fit your spending habits, offering points or cash back for the types of purchases you make most.
  • Introductory bonuses: Many no annual fee reward cards have valuable intro bonuses, letting you spend a thousand or so to get a nice point or cash back bonus.
  • Introductory APRs: Quite a few cards without annual fees come with 0% introductory interest rates on new purchases and/or balance transfers, letting you pay off your balance over time without accruing interest. After the intro offer expires you’ll get a regular APR, which is typically quite high (so pay your statement balance in full each month).
  • Additional perks and benefits: You won’t find the best extra perks on cards without annual fees, but you can still do pretty well with extra reward opportunities, shopping and travel protections, free credit scores, and the occasional discount or special event access.
Ready to explore some other types of cards? Find what you’re looking for in the Best Credit Cards.
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