When you buy something using this page, we may earn a small affiliate commission. The Los Angeles Times newsroom was not involved in the creation of this content.

Best Credit Cards with No Annual Fee for 2023

Compare cards that don't charge yearly fees
  • Discover which credit cards do and don’t have annual fees
  • See whether a no-annual-fee card is right for you
  • Find out why some cards have annual fees and others don’t
  • Get advice from our credit experts on which card best suits your needs
Product Hero Image
Holly D. Johnson - Contributor Updated: 1 February 2023 10 Min Read
Reviewed By Bestcovery - Editorial Team
Why Trust Us?

If you are interested in a money-saving, credit-building card, you may want to start by opening a credit line that doesn’t charge annual fees. This allows you to establish credit while also earning rewards — all without having to pay expensive fees year after year.

Since many no-annual fee cards offer opportunities to earn points or cash-back, you can reap similar benefits as you would from a premium card. However, credit cards with no annual fee often offer lower rewards rates than their expensive counterparts.

While most annual fee cards require good credit history, it can be relatively easy to qualify for one.

Our picks for the best no annual fee credit cards

Best Credit Cards with No Annual Fee

Learn more about your credit card options
Product Hero Image
Advertiser Disclosure

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Best Overall Credit Card with No Annual Fee

Why we like it

It’s hard not to take advantage of the variety offered by the Freedom Flex. Most cash reward cards use either specific bonus categories, flat rates on all purchases, or rotating bonus categories. This no annual fee card combines all of these different offers, giving you plenty of ways to maximize your rewards.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ is perfect for optimizers who can stay on top of the reward structure. If you want a no-maintenance card, this may not be the right option for you. Rotating bonus categories can see high cash back rewards, but you need to keep track of rotations every three months.  If you are willing to activate bonus categories every quarter, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ rewards you handsomely.

This is also one of the few no-fee cards that offer a $200 cash bonus if you spend $500 within the first 90 days of account opening.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

PROS

  • Great rewards categories
  • Trip cancellation insurance
  • Cell phone insurance

CONS

  • Foreign transaction fees
  • Limited 5% cash back in categories
  • Must activate categories every quarter

Earning rewards

We love the rewards that come with the Chase Freedom Flex℠. You can earn 5% cash back on eligible purchases at grocery stores (not including Walmart or Target) up to $12,000 in the first year.

Additionally, you can look forward to 5% cash back up to $1,500 in eligible purchases in activated categories every quarter. Travelers can get 5% back on travel, as well as 3% cash back when dining out, including delivery services and takeout, 3% cash back on purchases in drugstores, and 1% on other eligible purchases.

The intro APR is 0% for the first 15 months of account opening, and you can take advantage of 0% balance transfer fees for 15 months. After that period, the rate is 3% or $5, whichever is greater.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

Best for Travel Rewards

Why we like it

The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card makes tracking rewards easy on the cardholder by offering 1.5 points for every dollar you spend on all purchases. As far as flat-rate rewards go it may not be the highest, but it’s still a solid reward for a credit card with no annual fee and no categories to keep track of. You can increase your rewards rate by being a member of Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program.

We like this card for traveling because points earned can be redeemed for statement credits towards flights, vacation packages, hotels, rental cars, cruises, and even baggage fees. If you’re looking for a no annual fee travel card with upscale perks, it does offer access to the Visa Signature Hotel Collection and concierge services.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

PROS

  • Low introductory APR
  • 25%-75% cash back on purchases for Preferred Rewards members
  • Unlimited rewards points on all other purchases

CONS

  • No bonus categories
  • Excellent rewards
  • No intro APR rate for balance transfers

Earning rewards

Bank of America® Travel Rewards offers new users the opportunity to earn 25,000 bonus points after $1,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus, you can stack up unlimited 1.5 points on every dollar you spend that can be redeemed for statement credits.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for Dining and Entertainment

Why we like it

If you’re someone that likes to treat yourself to a night out at the movies, regularly eats meals out at restaurants, or simply enjoys the comfort of a fully stocked kitchen, few cards will offer the cash back incentives that you’ll receive with SavorOne.

This truly delicious rewards offer separates this card from its competitors, especially those that don’t charge an annual fee. Remember that dining includes any time you visit a café, restaurant, bar, bakery, coffee shop, club, or fast food establishment, among others.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

PROS

  • No rotating categories that you need to sign up for
  • Unlimited 3% cash back
  • Cash back rewards

CONS

  • High APR
  • Limited reward categories
  • Non-dining rewards

Earning rewards

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards allows you to earn unlimited 3% cash back anytime you pay at a restaurant, buy yourself groceries, enjoy streaming services, or other types of entertainment purchases. You will also get 1% cash back on any other eligible purchases. If you spend a lot of money in these categories the rewards are excellent, especially for a credit card without an annual fee.

This card offers no intro APR for the first 15 months on balance transfers and purchases, which could mean tremendous savings depending on your situation. It also gives you the chance to earn $200 cash back after spending $500 within the first 90 days.

Citi Double Cash Card

Best 0% APR Period

Why we like it

It’s hard to beat the Citi Double Cash Card’s 2% cash back on everything. The uncomplicated cashback structure and long intro APR period make it an excellent pick for those who want low-maintenance rewards. It offers a good cash back rate for a card with no annual fee.

The Citi Double Cash Card’s 0% intro APR on balance transfers is valid for the first 18 months, which makes it a great option if you need to consolidate to pay down debt or plan for a bigger purchase and want to avoid some interest.

Citi Double Cash Card

PROS

  • Earn up to 2% cash back
  • Introductory APR period for balance transfers
  • No cash back cap

CONS

  • Balance transfer fee
  • Foreign transaction fee
  • Benefits not as high as other no annual fee cards

Earning rewards

With the Citi Double Cash Card, you get paid twice. It offers unlimited 1% cash back on everything you pay for with your card. Then, you earn an additional 1% when you pay off your balance. That overall 2% rewards rate is a great benefit for a card with no annual fee.

Compare the Best Cards with No Annual Fee

Learn about the top credit cards
Product Hero Image

Why do some credit cards have an annual fee?

Bank card issuers charge an annual fee to offset high perks or an enticing sign-up bonus. Lucrative rewards don’t often come for free, so credit issuers charge a yearly fee to recoup some of their expenses.

When shopping for a swipe card, it’s essential to check rates and see if they charge a yearly fee. Every card is different, and annual fees can be hundreds of dollars — some can even be thousands of dollars.

Therefore, if you’re interested in a top-of-the-line rewards program and many luxury perks, you may also have to pay a high annual fee. Credit cards with no annual fee generally offer lower rewards rates and few extras, but if you’re looking to stay within a budget while still racking up some decent rewards, they offer a lot of great options.

Is it better to get a credit card with no annual fee?

This depends entirely on your definition of better. Everyone’s financial situation is different, and you will be the best judge in determining what type of credit card is right for you.

That being said, there are a few scenarios to consider.

If you don’t plan to make many purchases with your credit card throughout the year, it’s unlikely you’ll earn enough rewards to offset a high annual fee, even if the rewards rate is high. In this case, you might be better off getting a no annual fee card. You could earn some smaller rewards while avoiding losing money each year on the fee. If your main concern is saving money and staying within a budget, a card with no annual fee is a great option.

However, if cost isn’t a concern for you or you’re planning on making a lot of purchases, higher end cards may be worth the extra money you spend on the annual fee.

These cards often give you much more in perks if you can afford them. These perks include things like travel rewards for free flights or hotel stays, high rates for cash back rewards, and many other luxury extras. But these rewards never come for free, and the cost of a yearly fee can be high.

If you can stick to a spending limit, you can budget the cost of an annual fee which is usually offset with hefty rewards and sign-up bonuses. In the end, how you spend and the type of lifestyle you have can impact whether or not a card with an annual fee is right for you. All cards are different, so consider the perks and weigh them against the annual costs.

Pros & Cons

Like any credit card, there are always pros and cons that you should consider. Cards with no annual fee offer a lot of great benefits without additional costs, but they are not without their shortcomings.

Weigh these carefully to ensure it’s the right option for you.

Benefits of choosing a card with no annual fee

First, not paying an annual fee can save you money — sometimes up to $500.

If you don’t use your card often, it can be difficult to justify paying a costly annual fee. If your purchases don’t qualify for rewards, it makes more financial sense to opt for a card without a yearly fee.

At the same time, you’re working towards a better future by building up your FICO score. You should keep in mind that no annual fee credit cards aren’t limiting. Many of them also offer rewards and benefits. For instance, you can qualify for tiered cash back, flat-rate cash back, travel rewards, or a sign-up bonus.

Drawbacks of no annual fee credit cards

The cons of no annual fee credit cards include a smaller sign-up bonus than a card with a yearly fee. Remember that issuers need to recoup the costs for perks, so if they don’t make their money back through fees, they may not be compelled to offer a big bonus.

These cards also offer fewer perks or lower rewards rates than annual fee cards.

Ultimately, no-fee cards save you money by not charging you for rewards that you could potentially get without paying.

It is up to you to decide whether an annual fee makes sense for you or not. Go over the pros and cons and make an educated decision.

Types of credit cards with no annual fee

Cash back cards can be an excellent way to earn money from your daily purchases. If you’re not eager to pay an annual fee to see high-rate rewards, there are still plenty of cards that don’t have a yearly charge.

If you’re looking for a specific reward structure based on your lifestyle and needs, you might be interested in the following:

Gas points

Do you spend a lot of time driving? A gas points card offers rewards points at gas stations, a great way to save money each time you fill up your car.

Airline miles

Some no fee rewards cards allow you to redeem points for plane tickets. These cards are great if you travel a lot since they let you earn airline mile credits every time you make an eligible purchase. There are also co-branded airline credit cards that give you extra benefits through certain airlines, but these tend to require an annual fee.

Rewards points

These types of cards allow cardholders to allow users to acquire bonuses for making regular purchases. Reward points build up for every dollar spent, and cardholders can redeem points for various rewards options.

Business cards

Business owners, startups, and executives can sign up for a business card to enjoy many of the same features as regular cards: cash back, low intro APR, and airline points. The main difference is that business cards also have additional bonuses that are business exclusive.

These perks include business savings and rewards, keeping your personal and business expenses separate, expense reports, free cards for employees, and higher credit limits. While many of these do require an annual fee, there are a few nice options that don’t.

Cash back

These credit cards let your money work for you by allowing you to earn cash rewards any time you make a purchase. The more often you use your card, the more cash back rewards you earn.

Many cards offer 1% back on total purchases, while others are higher. Most no annual fee rewards cards stay around 1% or 2%. Since cash back incentives can be costly for card issuers, many higher rewards rates are reserved for cards with annual fees.

Balance transfer

Balance transfer cards let you transfer a high-interest card balance to a card with a much lower interest rate, or even no interest at all for a limited time. Many balance transfer credit cards introduce a low introductory interest rate for several months before reverting to the cards usual APR. It is possible to find balance transfer cards that don’t offer annual fees. Each card is different, so make sure to check the details.

Hotel and travel points

If you are interested in credit cards that pertain to travel or hotels, this is it. You can earn points for all purchases on top of rewards for every dollar you spend at agreed-upon hotel chains. You can redeem these racked-up points for free nights at the hotel chain branded with your card.

Some points can be redeemed for theme park admission, travel, and hotel stays. The travel credit cards with the highest rewards and most luxury extras can cost you in high annual fees. If you’re okay with having lower reward rates and fewer perks, there are plenty of no annual fee travel cards to choose from.

Student cards

College students often need a credit card. However, they tend not to have any credit history, making it difficult to qualify for a traditional card.

Student credit cards are aimed towards those enrolled in four-year universities or colleges so they can build up their credit history over time. They tend to be bare-bones and don’t offer high-rate rewards and perks, but they are still a great commodity and most do not charge an annual fee.

How to pick the best no annual fee credit card for you

No annual fee cards are perfect for those who don’t make many purchases. There are many options to choose from, including fairly high rewards rates or 0% introductory APRs. Plus, people with bad to excellent credit can qualify.

No fee cards all have different reward structures. The best way to choose the card for you depends on your regular purchases like if you are a student, travel frequently, drive your car daily, or are planning on making a big purchase.

We recommend sitting down and going through your spending habits and determining where your money is spent.

From there, you can look for a card that can help you earn perks and cash back without having to adjust or change your spending. Fortunately, there are cards with no annual fees available across most categories so you shouldn’t have trouble finding one no matter what your habits are.

How we selected our top cards

We picked our top credit cards based on their rewards rates, sign-up offers, no foreign transaction fees, low balance transfer fees, travel perks, and more. We wanted to focus on cards that still offer high rewards and bonuses without the additional cost of an annual fee.

No annual fee credit cards FAQ

Holly D. Johnson
Holly D. Johnson Contributor

Holly D. Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer who covers topics like insurance, investing, credit and family finance. As a leading voice in the travel and loyalty space, Johnson has traveled with her family to more than 50 countries over the last decade. 

The author has also written extensively on the power of household budgeting, and she even co-authored a book on the topic. Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love was originally published in 2017, and it teaches families how to use zero-sum budgeting to reach their financial goals. She is also the co-owner and founder of the family finance and travel website, ClubThrifty.com.

Johnson’s 10+ years of writing have focused on helping families make important financial decisions at each stage of their lives. The author also applies the financial principles she teaches to her own life, and she is currently on track to retire in her late 40’s with her partner. She currently lives in Central Indiana with her husband and children, and she is a regular contributor for Bankrate, CNN, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report Travel and many other notable publications.