Racking up annual fees on your credit card isn't the only way to guarantee access to rewards programs and cashback incentives. Credit card companies can mislead consumers on the hunt for their next card. Promotions, such as a fee for a card with rewards, might actually cost you more than the reward points are worth, so don't be fooled by a signup bonus until you've read the fine print.
You might think that because you pay an annual fee for card membership that the credit card is exclusive, but it isn't. Oftentimes, it will carry restrictions in addition to the fee and committing to a credit card can just as easily hurt you as it can help you if you choose the wrong one.
Whether you're trying to increase your credit limit by making on-time payments, or you want to pay off existing debt by using a card with zero intro APR for a balance transfer, a credit card should work to improve your creditworthiness or afford you less interest.
While expensive things might appeal to you, not all credit cards that cost you are the best option, which is why we've found the best credit cards with no annual fees.
Some rewards cards can cost you far more than you might expect, when it comes to fees alone, each year. In fact, in some cases, that total can be more than many cards will charge you in interest for your first year of spending. If you swipe regularly, you should consider a credit card that earns you reward points for your spending and let your credit card work for you. There's a surprising number of rewards available on credit cards with no annual fee—from no balance transfer fee to bonus rewards for travel purchases.
By knowing the best credit cards with no annual fee you'll set yourself up to earn rewards and not break the bank—and who knows? You might even increase your credit limit and overall creditworthiness by paying less in fees and paying off your debt!
Even if you've been fooled by a signup bonus and are fearful of committing to a new credit card, or you just simply don't know where to begin your search, we've found the best credit cards with no annual fee to jumpstart your search. With this list, you'll see that a credit card can be affordable and earn you rewards.
What You Need to Know
A lot of credit cards don't have annual fees, but not all cards are created equal. Here's what you need to know in order to find the best credit card for your lifestyle:
Signup bonuses reward spending. Most cards on this list offer a signup bonus that will reward cardholders bonus cash back, reward points, or statement credit for purchases made soon after receiving their new card. The Chase Freedom and the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards credit cards are two examples of cards that offer this type of bonus. Other cards on our list offer a signup bonus for a higher initial spending threshold (Bank of America Travel Rewards, Amex Everyday). Just be sure that you aren't spending outside of your means just to earn a signup bonus.
The annual percentage rates vary. Many of the credit cards on our list have an intro APR period where they waive the APR altogether for a certain period of time, which is a great way for them to entice customers, but it's important to ask yourself one question when you see zero intro APR periods: Is it affordable afterthe introductory APR is over?
The answer? Some credit cards simply offer lower APR financing than others.
Credit cards offer rewards for spending. Each dollar you spend will equal reward points added to your account, and reward redemption varies from card to card (travel, statement credit, or cashback rewards). Some cards on our list also have added bonus rewards for spending in rotating categories.
If travel points are what you're looking for, the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card might be the one for you.
Your credit limit and rates depend on your credit score. It's crucial to know what amount of credit you're looking for when applying for a new credit card. Credit card companies will preapprove applicants for a credit limit based on the consumer's credit score or their debt to income ratio. It's also important to know that credit limits are not set in stone and can increase if you maintain a low card balance or increase your credit score or income.
Balance transfers help you get out of debt quicker. Some credit cards are better than others for balance transfers. Our list has credit cards that offer zero APR promotions to help lower the cost and cards that charge less for balance transfer fees.
Chase boasts many ways to earn cash back rewards with its Chase Freedom credit card.
Rewards perks offer versatility. Chase Freedom offers rewards on all spending. Unlimited and automatic 1% cash back on every other purchase outside of a bonus category means you're getting something no matter what you buy. The bonus categories, however, are an added value to the card because they include common spending categories (i.e. grocery, gas, restaurants) and offer higher rewards at 5%.
Don't miss out on bonus rewards.Customers must activate the bonus rewards quarterly in order to receive them, but this is pretty easy to do by simply logging on to your Chase account and activating rewards that appeal to you.
Not the card for cash advances. If you're someone who uses your credit cars for cash advances, Chase Freedom isn't for you. With a hefty variable APR for cash advances, you're better off avoiding this feature.
Best used in the U.S. Looking to use your card abroad? Just know that Chase Freedom charges a foreign transaction fee on all international purchases.
If you're someone who likes to take advantage of a versatile rewards program, Chase Freedom is worth your consideration. Since you can earn cashback rewards for every purchase and bonus points in categories where you often spend money—you won't have to modify your spending to earn rewards.
The AMEX Everyday card by American Express is a great credit card that earns customers bonus rewards for everyday spending.
Earn bonus rewards on everyday spending. AMEX offers more points on all purchases if you use your AMEX Everyday card more than the minimum times required in a billing cycle.
Amex membership rewards perks. The AMEX Everyday card grants you access to Amex travel rewards like no blackout dates for travel booked through its rewards program for any airline, roadside assistance, travel accident insurance, and more.
Transfer your points for travel. If you're a member of a frequent travel loyalty program (such as Delta Skymiles, or Hilton Hhonors), any points earned on your AMEX Everyday card are transferable to select American Express partners.
Beware of high penalty APR. If you have a history of occasional late payments, beware of the AMEX Everyday card.
The AMEX Everyday card is a great option for consumers looking for a credit card to use every day. Increased points for daily purchases each month and bonus points for common stops at the supermarket make this card easy to add to your wallet. Just don't miss a payment because you'll be stuck paying a market premium in APR interest.
Discover it Cash Back
Discover is really bringing it with its Discover it credit card, which boasts of bonus rewards and an amazing intro APR offer of 0% intro APR for 14 months from date of account opening. It is also free of many fees for customers with Excellent and Good Credit.
Earn cashback rewards. Discover automatically matches your cash back earned on all purchases in the first year. After the introductory offer, you can earn cashback rewards on all purchases and limited bonus cash back on quarterly rotating categories, like gas, which boast a big 5%.
No interest on balance transfers. Conduct a balance transfer and pay zero interest for a limited time. Get0% intro APR for 14 months from date of first transfer, for transfers under this offer that post to your account by February 10, 2019. After the stated zero interest period, the variable APR for balance transfers is something you'll need to be aware of.
No interest on purchases during the introductory period. Consumers also benefit from 0% intro APR for 14 months from date of account opening.
Free of many fees.Late for your first payment? Good news. Discover waives your first late fee, but any other late payments will cost you.
If you travel internationally, the Discover it card is a good option for you. No foreign transaction fees can help you save on every purchase outside of the US. Bonus categories are often in regular spending categories, making it easy to earn rewards on purchases at gas stations, restaurants, and even wholesale stores.
Bank of America Travel Rewards
If you're in the market for a travel rewards credit card, look no further than Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card for more points per dollar spent and a hefty introductory bonus offer.
Earn travel credit. By meeting certain spending thresholds, cardholders can earn online bonus points or statement credits toward travel purchases, which could earn you a free flight or a free stay at a hotel.
Spend and earn high return rewards. Earn points on unlimited purchases—and, as an added bonus, the points don't expire.
Travel relaxes with no foreign transaction fees. Enjoy no foreign transaction fees while earning points for international flights, hotels, baggage fees, and more.
Buy big with interest free spending for a year.
Competitive interest rates. When you open your account, Bank of America offers competitive interest rates for both balance transfers and cash advances.
Indefinitely pay higher penalty APR. If you are late on a payment, your interest rate will spike.
The Bank of America Travel Reward credit card offers many benefits for frequent domestic and international travelers.
What's lacking with this rewards card is a customer rewards program that offers travel perks like a concierge and travel booking. The Bank of America Travel Reward credit card makes up for this by rewarding customers more points per dollar than other cards and no foreign transaction fees.
Still not sure? Use Bank of America's rewards calculator and see if this card is worth it for your lifestyle.
Citi Double Cash
Citi Double Cash Card takes a ‘simple' approach to cashback rewards. Rather than a variety of cash back categories to choose from, Citi gives its customers rewards on all spending with no restrictions.
Maximize your rewards by paying off your card.
Citi incentivizes users to pay off their balance by offering increased rewards when you pay off your purchases.
Long term interest free balance transfer period. Considering a balance transfer of existing credit card debt? The Citi Double Cash card offers a lengthy interest-free APR period—0% for 18 months from date of first transfer when transfers are completed within 4 months from date of account opening. This gives you plenty of time to pay your debt at no additional interest to you!
Be on time or pay the price. Penalty fees are variable and can get pricy. Currently, the variable APR ranges from 15.74-25.74%
This card is perfect for consumers looking to practice better credit card habits. If you are looking to conduct a balance transfer, the Citi Double Cash card is for you, since its lengthy interest free period on balance transfers can save you plenty on your other card.
Capital One Quicksilver
Capital One Quicksilver earns you unlimited points on everyday purchases at a rate of 1.5%.
You don't have to spend a lot to earn the introductory offer. With a minimum spend of $500 you can quickly be in a position to take advantage of the $150 welcome offer. You can even apply your bonus money toward your statement balance.
Redeem your rewards anytime. Cash rewards can be redeemed at any time. There is no minimum or maximum amount needed to cash in and rewards earned on this credit card don't expire as long as your account is open.
Competitive rates after the introductory period. After the 0% for 15 months APR offer, interest rates are competitive. Balance transfers qualify for the same introductory and regular period rates.
Swipe abroad and earn rewards at no additional cost. If you're a world traveler, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards credit card might be a good option for you because it doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.
The Quicksilver Cash Rewards credit card offers added bonus points per dollar spent, competitively. Its rewards program doesn't cost you outrageous spending if you have a big purchase in the first few months of opening your account and won't cost you in interest. This card is for people who want to receive added benefits from the Visa Signature benefits program (i.e. travel upgrades, shopping discounts, concierge) and are planning to use their credit card abroad.
Don't let credit cards fool you for value with an annual fee
As you can see, credit cards can offer a variety of rewards from bonus cash back to zero interest on purchases for extended periods of time. Credit cards can also help you build your credit score and earn you rewards points (cash back!) if you know where to look for them, so it's important to shop around. Don't let credit card companies mislead you into racking up additional fees just to earn reward points or introductory APR that costs more in interest after the intro period.
If you swipe your card regularly, it might be time to take into consideration additional cards that can earn you rewards and let your credit cards work for you.
Have you ever had any of the fee free credit cards reviewed above? Do you prefer one over another? Share what you know in the comments below.