The 17 Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Cards To Maximize Your Rewards [October 2021]


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There are so many advantages of no-annual-fee credit cards. First, you’re not paying to have these cards so you’re able to keep them as long as you wish. Since one of the factors that makes up your credit score is the length of your credit history, holding on to a no-annual-fee credit card indefinitely can be a prudent move.

Another advantage of having a no-annual-fee card is that you’re earning rewards at no additional cost to you. If you’re purchasing items you’d purchase normally and earning rewards, it’s a win-win all around.

Some no-annual-fee cards come with additional benefits that can save you money. You’ll find 0% APR periods for purchases and balance transfers that can save you from incurring interest charges when you utilize these introductory offers.

You’ll also find cards that offer travel insurance and benefits, shopping protections, and even complimentary hotel elite status.

All these advantages are great, but how do you select a no-annual-fee credit card that is right for your situation? Here are our recommended no-annual-fee credit cards to assist you in doing just that.

When you read through, contemplate your greatest expenses, how you might want to redeem the rewards you earn, and notice if there are any complimentary benefits on the card that you might actually use.

Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Card for Travelers

It’s difficult to find a no-annual-fee card that earns big and delivers good value specifically for travelers. However, these 3 cards may provide enough earnings, redemption options, and travel benefits to earn a place in a traveler’s wallet.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card

Top Reasons To Get the Card

  • Welcome cash-back bonus
  • 5% cash-back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash-back at drugstores and on dining
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases
  • Travel and purchase protection

Having a card that earns on every purchase you make alleviates having to navigate complicated earning structures.

This is a good card for travelers because cash-back is earned in the form of Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed for travel via the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at 1 cent per point.  Or, if you have a premium Chase credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, you can transfer your points and redeem them for an increased value of up to 50% more. You’ll then be able to transfer points to airline and hotel partners as well.

The card also comes with rental car insurance, purchase protection, and extended warranty coverage.

While the card does charge a 3% foreign transaction fee, it still remains a good choice for earning on non-foreign purchases and for travel redemptions.

If this card sounds like it may be a fit for you, read more about the Freedom Unlimited card’s most valuable benefits, as well as more information on great reasons to apply for the card.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Card

If you’re a traveler who spends a lot on hotel purchases, you’ll earn rewards quickly with the CapOne VentureOne card.

Top Reasons To Get the Card

  • Welcome bonus worth a couple of hundred dollars
  • Unlimited 1.25x miles per dollar on every purchase
  • Redeem miles for travel or erase previous travel purchases

If this card intrigues you, learn about more benefits of the CapOne VentureOne card to see if this card is a good addition to your wallet.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express®

Top Reasons To Get the Card

  • Welcome bonus worth hundreds of dollars
  • 3x earning on flights, hotels, car rentals
  • 3x earnings on gas, rideshares, and other transit
  • 3x earnings at restaurants
  • 3x earnings on streaming services

The Wells Fargo Propel card packs a lot of earning power in several bonus categories for a no-annual-fee card. Go Far Rewards points earned on the card can be redeemed for 1 cent each towards travel, cash-back, gift cards, and more.

Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Cards With Rotating Bonus Categories

Home Depot Storefront for Home Depot Credit Card Review
Earn 5% cash-back on quarterly bonus categories. Image Credit: Home Depot

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card

Credit CardBenefits & Info

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card

Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card
Learn More
(at Chase's secure site)

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
  • Good to Excellent Credit Recommendation (670-850)
  • Annual Fee: $0

This simple card is a consistent earner of valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Top Reasons To Get the Card

  • Cash-back welcome bonus
  • 5% back in rotating quarterly bonus categories up to $1,500 spending per quarter
  • 5% back on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases
  • Purchase protection and extended warranty coverage

The Freedom Flex card offers a simple way to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Each quarter, you’ll see bonus categories such as grocery stores, gas stations, wholesale clubs, home improvement stores, and more.

You’ll earn up to $75 in points each quarter, and when transferred to a premium Chase credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or Chase Sapphire Reserve card, your points are worth up to 50% more when redeemed for travel.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Top Reasons To Get the Card

  • 5% cash-back on quarterly bonus categories you select, up to $2,000 spent each quarter
  • 2% cash-back on 1 bonus category that you select
  • Visa Signature benefits

If you don’t mind choosing your bonus categories each quarter, you can earn unlimited 2% earnings and up to $400 on 5% quarterly bonus earnings each year.

Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Cards for Everyday Spending

Shell gas station
Earn rewards on every purchase you make, every day. Image Credit: Shell

You’d like to earn rewards on every purchase you make, but you’re busy and don’t have time to decipher complicated earning schemes on your credit cards. Plus, you have no interest in paying an annual credit card fee.

No worries, as these cards with simple earning structures make everyday spending a rewarding experience.

Freedom Unlimited Card

Top Reason To Get the Card

  • 5% cash-back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash-back on dining and drugstores
  • 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases

Earning at least 1.5% cash-back, in the form of valuable Ultimate Rewards points, warrants keeping this no-annual-fee card handy for the purchases you make every day.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Top Reason To Get the Card

  • Earn a total of 2% cash-back on every purchase:
    • 1% when you make the purchase
    • 1% when you pay it off

While Citi has removed its core travel and purchase benefits from its cards, there’s plenty of value left over when it comes to earning simple cash-back or transferring a high-interest credit card balance to take advantage of the 0% introductory APR.

The card’s cash-back can be used for statement credit, direct deposit, a check, or on gift cards or can be transferred to Citi ThankYou Points and used for travel.

Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Cards for Hotel Purchases

Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa
Earn free hotel nights with hotel-branded credit cards. The Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa is a perfect choice. Image Credit: Hilton

Hilton Honors American Express Card

A Hilton Honors-branded card should be in your wallet if you stay frequently at Hilton properties. And if you want good value but don’t want to pay an annual fee, the Hilton Honors card fits that criteria.

Top Reasons To Get the Card

  • 7x Hilton Honors points spent on a hotel/resort within the Hilton Profile
  • 5x points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. restaurants
  • 3x points on all other purchases
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Silver Elite status
  • Upgrade to Gold Elite by spending $20,000 in a calendar year

This card is good for Hilton loyalists because of its ability to earn Hilton Honor points quickly, its complimentary Hilton Honors elite status, and the potential to earn higher elite status by spending on the card.

If you stay at Hilton properties and want to earn more free hotel nights, having a Hilton-branded card is a wise choice.

To learn more about this card and additional Hilton Honors-branded credit cards, explore our comparison of the benefits and perks.

Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card - For a limited time only, earn 60,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Earn up to 14x total Bonvoy points per $1 when using your Marriott Bonvoy Bold card at over 7,000 participating in Marriott Bonvoy hotels, earn 2X on other travel purchases, then 1x on all other purchases. A solid card for Marriott loyalists looking for a no-annual-fee card offering Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status.

Top Reasons To Get the Card

  • Generous sign-up bonus worth hundreds of dollars in free hotel nights
  • 15 annual nights credited towards elite status
  • Silver Elite status
  • 3x points at Marriott
  • 2x points on travel purchases

If you’re opposed to paying an annual fee and stay at Marriott even a few times each year, the Marriott Bold card may be a good option. The annual 15 granted elite status nights automatically qualify you for Silver elite status and offer a faster path towards achieving Gold and higher status.

However, since the card is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, you may receive better value, and an annual free hotel night, with other Marriott-branded credit cards.

Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Card for Airline Purchases

Wells Fargo Propel card

The Wells Fargo Propel card offers 3x points earned on a long list of bonus categories include flights, hotels, and car rentals. If you spend a lot on travel, including flights, you’ll earn rewards quickly.

Best No-Annual-Fee Cards for Dining

Group of people dining at a restaurant
Earn rewards every time you eat out, order take-out, or have a snack at the bar. Image Credit: via Shutterstock

Capital One® SavorOne® Rewards Card

Top Reasons To Get the Card

Foodies will love paying their dining tab with the CapOne SavorOne card and getting 3% cash-back on every dining and entertainment purchase.

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Costco members can earn 3% back on dining worldwide with the Costco Anywhere card.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Select dining as your bonus category and receive 3% cash-back, up to $2,500 in spending per quarter.

Hot Tip: Earn even more points or cash-back rewards when dining out — check out our collection of the best credit cards for restaurants and dining.

Best No-Annual-Fee Card for Supermarket Purchases

Hilton Honors Card

Earn 5x Hilton Honors points on U.S. supermarket purchases. That’s a free hotel night in a Category 1 Hilton property after spending as little as $1,000, or a Category 2 for spending $2,000.

Best No-Annual-Fee 0% APR Credit Cards

Many of the no-annual-fee credit cards we’re mentioning in this article offer introductory 0% APR periods for purchases and/or balance transfers.

Having this money-saving option on a no-annual-fee card can be reason alone to secure the card if you have major purchases coming up or need to transfer high-interest credit card balances. You’ll incur no interest charges during the entire period, giving you time to repay the balance interest-free.

The introductory 0% APR period begins when you are approved for the card and extends for a period specific to the card, usually 12 to 18 months.

You’ll want to make sure your balance is paid off prior to the period expiring as interest will be applied immediately, usually at a very high rate.

Here’s a sampling of no-annual-fee credit cards with current 0% APR introductory periods:

There are many cards to offer 0% APR introductory periods if these cards aren’t really suited to your wallet.

Best No-Annual-Fee Business Credit Cards

Boss Lady Unsplash
Earning rewards on every business purchase is a smart move that can affect your business bottom line. Image Credit: Brooke Lark via Unsplash

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

When you’re operating a business, cash-back can make a viable difference to your bottom line.

Top Reasons To Get the Card

  • A welcome bonus worth hundreds of dollars
  • 5% and 2% bonus earning categories for business purchases
  • Travel and purchase protections and benefits

Small businesses have unique challenges. The Ink Business Cash card can help manage those challenges by saving you interest charges on purchases in the first 12 months after card approval and providing benefits and protections without having to pay an annual fee.

You’ll also find it easy to earn lots of rewards on your business purchases with bonus earning categories. Rewards can be redeemed for travel or cash-back that can make a positive impact on your business bottom line.

And while Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for 1 cent each, they can also be transferred to premium Chase cards for much more travel value.

Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

Selecting a card that earns valuable Ultimate Rewards points is always a positive move, especially if you’re looking for your first business credit card.

Top Reasons To Get the Card

  • Welcome bonus worth hundreds of dollars
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash-back on every purchase
  • Travel and shopping protections and benefits

Earning a solid 1.5% cash-back on every purchase, regardless of the category, makes earning lots of rewards an easy task. You can then redeem those rewards for what your business needs most — cash-back, travel, gift cards, or even Amazon purchases.

Pairing the Ink Business Unlimited card with a premium Chase credit card increases the value of your points when transferred to one of those cards and then redeeming.

The card is just not great for earning and redeeming, it comes with valuable travel benefits such as primary car rental insurance, roadside dispatch, and travel emergency assistance. Additionally, you’ll have shopping benefits such as purchase protection and extended warranty.

Explore the benefits of the Ink Business Unlimited card to see if this card is right for your business.

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

Want simplicity in earnings from your business credit card? If you’re a busy small business owner, the Amex Blue Business Plus card could be that simple solution.

Top Reason To Get the Card

  • 2x Membership Rewards points on everyday business purchases, up to $50,000 in purchases per year, then 1x thereafter.

If your small business is spending $50,000 or less per year, the Amex Blue Business Plus card could be an appropriate starter card. Spending $50,000 per year will earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points per year.

Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Card for Low or No Credit

Even if you’re not quite ready to qualify for a rewards-earning credit card, you can start the journey to building a strong credit history with this no-annual-fee card.

Capital One Platinum Mastercard®

Top Reasons To Get the Card

  • Ability to earn a higher credit limit

This card is a good option because it functions as a great vehicle to build credit without charging fees for the opportunity and it’s also a Mastercard, so it is accepted worldwide. The CapOne Platinum card also comes with great benefits.

Because it reports to all 3 credit bureaus, managing your account prudently will soon lead to an improvement in your credit score.

Don’t get this card if you have to carry a balance or if you already have excellent credit. The card does not earn rewards but it can serve as an excellent way to build or rebuild your credit.

Hot Tip: With so many issuers in the “no-annual-fee” space, it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the rules of each bank prior to applying. 

Final Thoughts

No-annual-fee credit cards make great starter cards that you can hold on to for many years.

Most no-annual-fee credit cards, however, do not have the level of benefits, earning potential, or flexible redemption options that might come with cards that have larger annual fees.

Of course, finding a balance between paying annual fees, earning rewards, and utilizing card benefits will depend on your own personal preferences.

However, a no-annual-fee card can certainly earn a place in your wallet if it adds any sort of value you can use.

The information regarding the Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card, Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards card, Wells Fargo Propel American Express®, Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card, U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card, Capital One® SavorOne® Rewards Card, and Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and was not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

For rates and fees of The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Card, click here.

Frequently asked questions

Is it worth getting a credit card with no annual fee?

No-annual-fee credit cards have a lot of advantages. Since you’re not paying an annual fee, you can keep the card as long as you want, earn rewards without paying for the privilege, and even enjoy any travel or shopping benefits that come with the card.

You’ll need to determine if the card brings value based on how the card aligns with your spending, whether the redemption options are a fit, and if you can use the benefits.

The bottom line is you’re not paying to keep the card but you do incur a hard pull inquiry on your credit report at application time, so it’s good to be selective in the cards you choose.

Why would I want a credit card with an annual fee?

Credit cards that come with annual fees frequently have greater earning potential and better benefits. They can even offer statement credits or perks that provide direct economic value that may offset the annual fee.

For example, a premium credit card that charges several hundred dollars a year for an annual fee may provide complimentary worldwide airport lounge membership that could cost much more than that if purchased separately.

Additionally, a card that charges $550 as an annual fee could offer a $300 travel credit, lounge access membership, and primary car rental insurance. For the right cardholder, this equation could make economic sense.

What does 0% APR mean?

APR stands for annual percentage rate. An introductory 0% APR for purchases means that for a specific period of time from the date you’re approved for the credit card (usually 12 to 18 months) you will not be charged interest on purchases.

If you make regular on-time payments and pay off the balance prior to the 0% APR period expiring, you will not be charged interest.

There may also be a 0% APR introductory period for balance transfers as well. This means that if you transfer a balance from another credit card (perhaps charging a high rate of interest) to your 0% APR credit card, you can pay off the balance over the period of 0% APR and not be charged interest.

One caution for balance transfers is that although cards may have a 0% APR introductory period, they may charge transfer fees, so be sure to check pricing terms.

In addition, you must be sure to pay off any balances before the introductory period expires or you will be charged significant interest.

What is the easiest no-annual-fee credit card to get approved for?

Most no-annual-fee credit cards require good to excellent credit.

If you have no credit or even bad credit, you may want to start with a card that will help you build or rebuild your credit.

For example, a secured credit card can also serve the purpose of getting your credit back on track or starting the process of building credit.

Christine Krzyszton

About Christine Krzyszton

Christine, who lives in Northern Michigan, travels about 300,000 miles a year despite her remote location. Her expertise is traveling the world on a weekend with no pre-determined destination in mind, letting the cost of the airfare determine where she will go. She has over four million flown miles and elite status on all three major domestic carriers.

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