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Best no-annual-fee credit cards of 2019 from our partners

Last Updated, June 18, 2019

If "no-annual-fee credit card" makes you immediately think of a piece of plastic that doesn't do much for you besides take up space in your wallet, than it's a good thing you're here because we've compiled a solid list of no-annual-fee credit cards that are more -- MUCH more -- than space hogs in your wallet.

In fact, there are cash-back rewards, travel rewards, 0% intro APR, even hotel and airline rewards credit cards that come with no annual fee but lots of reasons to carry them.

CASH-BACK REWARDS | TRAVEL CREDIT CARDSBUSINESS CARDS

No-annual-fee credit cards don't necessarily mean that you're getting a lesser card than you do when you agree to pay an annual fee. The reality is that the best no-annual-fee credit cards out there offer plenty in the way of rewards, features and perks for people who want all those things but aren't ready to pay an annual fee for them.

These cards routinely show us that you CAN, after all, get something for nothing. 

Take a look at our picks for top no-annual-fee credit cards.

Still aren't convinced these cards could possibly be as good as those that do charge annual fees? Take a look at the three types of people we recommend consider a no-annual-fee credit card.

BEST NO-ANNUAL-FEE CASH-BACK REWARDS CARDS

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Why We Like It: This is a flat-rate cash-back card that accumulates rewards as Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. Those points can be combined with the points you earn through some other Chase cards (see the Pro Tip below), which means that you can think of this card as either a cash-back card or, if you want, a travel rewards card since Ultimate Rewards® points are coveted travel rewards.

Bonus: Earn It isn't a traditional bonus, but that doesn't mean it isn't lucrative. Earn 3% cash back on the first $20,000 you spend during your first year as a cardholder. Also, take advantage of an intro period of zero interest on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months (then, 17.24% - 25.99% Variable).

Foreign Transaction Fees: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars

The Rewards: Earn 3% cash back on up to $20,000 spent during your first year as a cardholder. After that, and on an ongoing basis, earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase. Read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited® review.

PRO TIP

Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a flat-rate cash-back card option, but there's a rotating categories version as well: Chase Freedom®. With Chase Freedom®, you earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in categories that rotate quarterly (you'll need to activate the bonus categories each quarter to earn the bonus). Earn 1% cash back on purchases over the spending cap and on all your other purchases (Check out this quarter's bonus categories). You could choose to use Chase Freedom Unlimited® for all of the purchases that don't earn 5% cash back with Chase Freedom®. Yes, it takes a little thought and planning, but it's worth more cash back to you.

Going a step further, all of your rewards for both cards accumulate as Chase Ultimate Rewards® points and can be combined in a single bucket. If you also happen to be a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can combine all your points under the Sapphire card and when you redeem them for travel through the Ultimate Rewards® portal, they are worth 25% more.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why We Like It: Four words: No foreign transaction fees. That rarity among cash-back rewards cards, plus the rewards-earning opportunity, make this an excellent no-annual-fee option in our books.

Bonus: Earn a $150 cash-back bonus after spending just $500 on purchases with your new card in the first three months. This card also offers a solid introductory 15 months of no interest on purchases and balance transfers (then, 16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)).

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

The Rewards: Earn an easy-to-understand 1.5% cash back on every purchase. There are no caps, categories or hoops to worry about. Read our full Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Why We Like It: This card rewards your responsible credit card use by offering you rewards both when you make your purchase and then another bit of cash back when you pay off your purchase. Plus, if you're needing a little extra time to pay off an existing credit card balance, this card offers an introductory no interest period balance transfers for 18 months (then, 15.74% - 25.74%* Variable). (Citi is a CardRatings advertiser)

Bonus: There isn't an early spending bonus on this card, but if you need a few extra months to pay off an existing balance from another card, that 18 months of no interest on balance transfers could certainly be considered a bonus for your wallet.

Foreign Transaction Fees: 3%

Rewards: Earn 1% cash back when you make your purchases and another 1% cash back when you pay for your purchases by paying your credit card bill. That effectively means you can earn a 2% cash back on all your purchases. Not too shabby for a no-annual-fee credit card. Read our full Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer review.

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card

Why We Like It: This card features a simple-to-understand rewards earning structure and offers you the added perk of cell phone protection against covered damage and theft as long as you pay your cellular bill on the card; that could save you $100 or more a year in insurance premiums alone.

Bonus: Receive a $200 cash rewards bonus if you spend $1,000 in the first three months as a cardholder. Plus, you'll earn 1.8% cash back (as compared to the standard 1.5%) on qualified mobile wallet purchases during your first 12 months as a cardholder.

Lastly, there is a 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (fees apply), then a 16.24%-28.24% Variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee.

Foreign Transaction Fees: 3%

Rewards: Earn a flat 1.5% cash back on all your purchases without having to worry about categories or spending caps. Read our full review of the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Why We Like It: Another tiered rewards card, but with a slightly different rewards structure than the Bank of America card above. Perhaps this one better fits into your regular spending habits (American Express is a CardRatings advertiser).

Welcome Offer: Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in the first three months of card membership. You can also enjoy an introductory period of zero interest on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months (then, 15.24% - 26.24% Variable). Terms apply.

Foreign Transaction Fees: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars. Terms apply.

The Rewards: Cardholders earn 3% cash back on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $6,000 spent annually, then 1%), 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% cash back on all your other purchases. Terms apply. Read our full Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express review.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Why We Like It: This tiered cash-back rewards card offers solid rewards on everyday purchases, but it's the bonus available to Bank of America account holders that makes it truly special.

Bonus: $200 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

Furthermore, you can take advantage of a 12 billing cycle intro period of no interest on purchases for balance transfers made within the first 60 days of opening your account. (After the intro period, the APR jumps to 16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR on purchases).

Foreign Transaction Fees: 3%

The Rewards: Earn 3% cash back in your choice category from among a list of six: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishing. You'll also earn 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and an unlimited 1% on all other purchases. You can update your choice category for future purchases once each calendar month using the mobile banking app or online banking or it will remain the unchanged if you don't choose to update. There is no expiration on rewards.

If you are a Preferred Rewards client with the bank, you can receive a 25-75% rewards bonus on each purchase depending on your tier. Read our full Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card review.

HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card

Why We Like It: Easy-to-understand rewards plus an annual bonus on those rewards make this an excellent no-annual-fee credit card option.

Bonus: Earn 3% cash back on up to $10,000 spent during your first year as a cardholder, then 1.5% on every purchase. Save money with an intro period of 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months (then, 15.24%, 19.24% or 25.24% Variable). See Rates and Fees.

Foreign Transaction Fees: $0

The Rewards: Earn a flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day (after earning 3% back on up to $10,000 spent in your first year). Also, receive a 10% anniversary bonus each year on all the rewards you've earned during the preceding year. Read our full HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card review.

Discover it® Cash Back

Why We Like It: There aren't many ways to get 5% cash back on some of your everyday purchases, but that's what this card offers you with its bonus categories that rotate quarterly. Plus, Discover did us a favor and announced its full 2019 bonus categories calendar at the beginning of the year, so you could plan ahead an know whether the bonus categories matched your regular spending habits. Take a look at the calendar: The 2019 calendar is as follows: January-March: grocery stores; April-June: gas stations, Uber and Lyft; July-September: restaurants and PayPal; October-December: Amazon.com, Target and Walmart.com.

Bonus: Discover will match, dollar-for-dollar, all the cash back new cardholders earn during their first year. That means that if you rack up $200 in cash back during your first year, you will have effectively earned $400 in cash back during that year. Additionally, you can save money thanks to an intro period of zero interest on purchases and balance transfers for the first 14 months (then, 14.24% - 25.24% Variable).

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Rewards: Cardholders earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 you spend in categories that rotate each quarter (you must activate the bonus categories quarterly). After you reach the spending cap, and on all your other purchases, you earn 1% cash back. Read our full Discover it® Cash Back review.


BEST NO-ANNUAL-FEE CARDS FOR TRAVEL REWARDS

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Why We Like It: Travel rewards cards often come with annual fees, which is why a card that features no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and healthy rewards opportunities really catches our attention.

Bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus miles – equal to $200 in travel – after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. You can also take advantage of a no-interest intro offer for the first 12 months on purchases (then, 14.24% - 24.24% (Variable)).

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

The Rewards: Earn 1.25 miles per $1 spent on every purchase. Plus, earn 10 miles per $1 spent on prepaid hotels booked through Hotels.com/Venture. Read our full Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card review.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Why We Like It: Travel rewards cards often come with annual fees, which is why a card that features no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and healthy rewards opportunities really catches our attention.

Bonus: Earn 30,000 bonus points – that's worth $300 in cash value – after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. There's also an intro no-interest period of 12 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers made within the first 120 days for the first 12 months (after the intro, the APR jumps to 16.24%-27.24% Variable).

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

The Rewards: Earn three points per $1 spent eating out and ordering in; for gas station, rideshare and transit purchases; and on travel purchases, including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals. Earn 1 point per $1 on your other purchases. Keep in mind that earning that level of points on travel purchases is usually reserved for travel rewards cards with annual fees. This is a special card, indeed. Read our full Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card review.

Discover it® Miles

Why We Like It: This card features a simple, flat-rate way to rack up rewards toward your next trip and it comes with that bonus match that Discover is famous for.

Bonus: Discover will match all the miles you earn during your first year as a cardholder. Earn 35,000 miles (worth $350, by the way) and Discover will make that 70,000 miles (worth $700) at the end of your first year. You can also save money with a nice zero interest intro period on purchases and for 14 months (then, 14.24% - 25.24% Variable).

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

The Rewards: Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on every purchase, every day. Remember that Discover will match all you miles earned at the end of your first year, which means you'll basically be earning three miles per $1 spent on all your purchases during year one. Read our full Discover it® Miles review.


BEST NO-ANNUAL-FEE CREDIT CARDS FOR SMALL BUSINESS

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

Why We Like It: Business owners are always looking to cut expenses, so a no-annual-fee credit card that rewards you for your everyday business purchases is a nice find. And, this one offers you up to 5% cash back on some common business purchases.

Bonus: Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. If you happen to have a big business expense coming up, you'll be glad to know this card offers an intro period of 12 months no interest on purchases (then, 15.49% - 21.49% Variable).

Foreign Transaction Fees: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars

The Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined office supply store and internet, cable and phone services each anniversary year. Also, earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined gas station and restaurant purchases each anniversary year. You'll earn 1% cash back on everything else. Read our full review of the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card.

PRO TIP:

There is a family of Chase Ink small business credit cards and, in a number of ways, they actually work best in combination thanks to the unique features of each. In particular, the no-annual-fee Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase. That means it's a great card to use in addition to the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card so that you can earn 1.5% back on all the purchases that don't earn at a higher rate with the other Ink card. If you want to get really fancy (and venture beyond no-annual-fee cards), the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card offers yet again different rewards earning opportunities and, more importantly, offers cardholders 25% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Yes, there is a $95 annual fee, but it just might be worth it for your business.

SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express

Why We Like It: No two businesses are exactly alike, which is why it's nice that this card offers cardholders the opportunity to choose a category in which they will earn 3% cash back (that's in addition to other cash-back earning). Terms apply. 

Bonus: The bonus here is being able to take advantage of an introductory offer of no interest on purchases for 15 months (then, 14.49% - 21.49% Variable). Terms apply.

Foreign Transaction Fees: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.Terms apply.

The Rewards: Cardholders earn 5% cash back on the first $50,000 spent annually on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. providers and on purchases at U.S. office supply stores. You also earn 3% cash back on the first $50,000 spent on purchases from one of the following categories of your choosing: airfare; hotel stays; car rentals from select companies; purchases at U.S. gas stations; purchases at U.S. restaurants; purchases of advertising with select media; U.S. shipping purchases; and U.S. computer hardware, software and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. You earn 1% cash back on all your other purchases as well as on the bonus categories after you reach the spending caps. Terms apply. Read our full SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express review.

Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business

Why We Like It: Flat-rate cash back means one less thing for busy business owners to think about. Rack up cash-back rewards no matter where your (or your employees) use the card.

Bonus: Earn a $200 cash-back bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months. You'll also save money thanks to a 0% interest intro offer on purchases for the first nine months (then, 15.24% - 23.24% (Variable)).

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

The Rewards: Earn a flat 1.5% cash back on all your purchases; there are no spending caps or categories to keep up with. Read our full Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business review.

PRO TIP:

If yours is a business that requires you to travel frequently, you might consider the no-annual-fee travel version of this card, Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business. With this card, you'll earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on every purchase and you can earn 20,000 bonus miles – worth $200 – if you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

WHO SHOULD CONSIDER A NO-ANNUAL-FEE CREDIT CARD?

OK, not to be trite here, but the answer to this question, quite frankly, is everybody. The fact is, there are some excellent perks and features to be had with credit cards that charge annual fees. If your credit is good and you're financially responsible, taking advantage of those perks offered by cards with an annual fee is likely worth it. However, you basically have nothing to lose by also carrying a card that DOESN'T have an annual fee and, in fact, you may find yourself raking in additional rewards or being glad you have that credit available in the case of an emergency. 

Still not convinced? Let's get a bit more specific about who can benefit most from these cards:

1. Someone needing a 0% interest period. You may have noticed a trend in the cards above in that all of them feature some kind of zero interest introductory period, whether for purchases or balance transfers or both. That means that not only can these cards save you money when it comes to no annual fee, they may also be able to save you a bundle when it comes to interest. 

Very often, cards with annual fees focus their features and perks in areas besides the interest rate and it can be a bit harder to find a no-interest period on cards with annual fees.

2. Someone who is wants the security of a credit card, but won't use it often enough to offset an annual fee. Let's face it: Credit cards are simply more secure to carry, particularly when you travel, than loads of cash (or a debit card, for that matter, thanks to how the laws are written). If you lose a credit card, your credit card company has you protected against fraud. Lose a wad of cash or your debit card, and you could be out hundreds of dollars. Just having the card available to you so that you can travel and shop securely isn't a bad idea. And, who knows, you just might like the rewards you rake in along the way.

3. New credit card users. Navigating the world of credit cards can be daunting for a newcomer. Sometimes it's hard to determine whether you'll use it enough to offset the annual fee another card might be charging. That's why a no-annual-fee credit card could be an excellent "Guinea pig" of sorts. Use the card for a year, see how much you like earning those rewards (and whether you earn enough to offset an annual fee) and then decide whether you would like the perks and features of a card with an annual fee. 

One last note, if you do decide to venture to another card over time, feel free to keep your no-annual-fee credit card open. In general, it's better for your credit to keep the card open and it isn't costing you anything to keep it around.

To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards featured in this post, please visit the following links: SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees); Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees)

Disclaimer: The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.

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