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Don’t sleep on rewards credit cards with no annual fee, folks. Many come with the same perks you might find with premium credit cards, such as a sign-up bonus, intro APR on purchases, no foreign transaction fee, and ongoing rewards opportunities.
The right no-annual-fee card to add to your wallet depends on your credit and where you spend money. If you have bad credit or limited credit, a secured card that offers free credit scores could help you get on the right track. For those with decent credit looking for a no-fuss rewards program, the Citi® Double Cash card is one of our favorite no-annual-fee credit cards because it gives unlimited cash back with no categories to keep track of.
Whether you’re looking for a card that offers first-year perks or rewards for late-night Amazon shopping hauls, there’s a no-annual-fee card on this list to consider.
The best no-annual-fee credit cards
Best overall: Chase Freedom Flex
Best for everyday shopping: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Best for unlimited cash back: Citi® Double Cash Card
Best for imperfect credit: Discover it® Secured
Best for miles: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Best for Amazon: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
Best for first-year perks: Discover it® Cash Back
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Things to know about credit cards
None of these cards have an annual fee. While this can be great news for your wallet, the downside is that these options generally offer fewer perks than similar one with annual fees from the same issuers. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, which has a $95 annual fee, offers more travel perks, such as no foreign transaction fees, than the Chase Freedom Flex, which has no annual fee. If you're set on a card with no annual fee, the cards on this list are the best out there.
Watch out for administrative fees. Even though you won’t pay an annual fee, there are other costs associated with credit cards, such as late fees and interest charges if you don’t pay off your balance each month.
Credit card issuers have the right to change terms and conditions, and that includes adjusting rates and fees. That said, it would be rare for an issuer to impose an annual fee on a product that is known for not having one. And per the Credit CARD Act of 2009, the issuer is obligated to alert cardholders 45 days before any changes take effect.
APR rates and credit limits vary based on your individual credit. Credit limits and interest rates for each card are determined based on each cardholder's personal situation, so we did not take that information into account when evaluating these cards. One thing to remember is that if you pay your card off in full every month, you will not be charged interest.
Banks have final say on who they accept for a credit card. These recommendations were put together with the assumption that applicants would have average credit or above. That said, banks decide who they will issue credit cards to using criteria including, but not always limited to, an individual's credit score when evaluating each applicant.
How we evaluated
Here at Reviewed, we’re well-versed in digging into the finer details to find the best products for our readers. Our Cambridge, Massachusetts, lab tests everything from kitchen appliances to televisions, and we have personal finance experts on hand, too.
Caroline and Taylor have been writing about credit cards for several years. To examine ones that don’t require paying an annual fee, they looked at major credit cards that offer flexible points or cash-back rewards that can be easily redeemed. We chose the best no-annual-fee credit cards based on the value of rewards (both points and perks), fees and general accessibility.
Best overall: Chase Freedom Flex
The Chase Freedom Flex tops our list of the best no-annual-fee credit cards. It has a unique rewards program that offers revolving categories and flat rewards rates for travel, dining and drugstore shopping.
Points: Cardholders earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in revolving categories—as long as you activate the offer each quarter. In 2021, the 5% category in Q1 includes internet, cable and phone services as well as wholesale clubs like Costco and BJ’s. Previous bonus categories have included spending on streaming services and gym memberships and at retailers such as Amazon, Walmart and Whole Foods.
You also get an unlimited 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back at restaurants (including takeout) and 3% back at drugstores. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1% cash back.
Perks: The Chase Freedom Flex is our favorite overall pick because there’s even more perks at no additional cost. For instance, you’ll get a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months, or you can take advantage of cell phone insurance by using the card to pay your monthly bill. Additionally, Chase offers 0% APR for 15 months on new purchases before the standard rate based on your creditworthiness kicks in.
Best for everyday shopping: Blue Cash Everyday from American Express
The Blue Cash Everyday includes a great welcome offer as well as the opportunity to earn points on everyday purchases (hence, the name). If you want a solid, no-annual-fee card with an easy-to-manage rewards program, then this may be the card for you. See rates and fees.
Points: On the first $6,000 you spend at U.S. supermarkets every year, you’ll earn 3% cash back (and then you’ll earn 1% afterward). For someone who spends around $115 per week stocking their pantry, this is one of the best credit cards for groceries you’ll find.
Cardholders also earn 2% at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, including Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. All other purchases earn 1%.
Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars, which can be redeemed for statement credits once the balance reaches $25.
Perks: With the Blue Cash Everyday, you can earn a $100 welcome offer after spending $2,000 in purchases within six months from account opening—and during that same time, you can earn up to $150 with 20% back on Amazon purchases. There’s also a 0% introductory APR on purchases for 15 months, though the variable rate (13.99% – 23.99%) will increase after the promotional period. See rates and fees as terms apply.
Best for unlimited cash back: Citi Double Cash
Who can argue about cold hard cash that can be used for anything you want? This is one of the simplest cash rewards credit cards out there—and it offers a great rate. Similar to the other cards on this list, it doesn’t have an annual fee.
Points: The Citi Double Cash is simple and straightforward yet very rewarding. It offers 1% cash back on every purchase when you swipe your card and another 1% when you pay off your balance.
Assuming you do both, the Citi Double Cash ends up being a 2% cash-back card. That rate is higher than other unlimited cash-back cards that don’t have an annual fee. The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, for example, maxes out at 1.5%. Your rewards can be redeemed as a statement credit and used for whatever your heart desires.
Perks: As you’d expect, cards that don’t have annual fees lack much in the way of additional perks, and the Citi Double Cash doesn’t really stand out here. It does, however, offer one of the best 0% APR periods for balance transfers available.
You’ll get an introductory 0% APR period for 18 months on balance transfers completed within four months of opening the account. You will have to pay a 3% balance transfer fee, so do the math. And keep in mind that after the introductory period, the APR will increase based on your creditworthiness.
Best for imperfect credit: Discover it Secured
If you’ve made some mistakes with credit cards in the past, you might be dealing with a bad credit score. That often means having a hard time getting approved for an unsecured card and missing out on rewards programs and other perks. We’ve rounded up some of the best secured credit cards out there, and this one with rare benefits happens to top our list.
The Discover it Secured is a great option if you need to build your credit history with the major credit bureaus but still want to earn rewards. Upon approval, you’ll have to put down a security deposit of at least $200. That amount will equal your credit line, and it is fully refundable when you close the account in good standing or convert it to an unsecured card.
Points: As far as earning points goes, you’ll get 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. You’ll also earn 1% on all other purchases.
Perks: Not unlike the Discover it, the issuer will match the cash back earned during the first year. Rack up $100 in rewards, and that’s $200 total in your pocket.
This secured card also has two other great perks to help you rebuild credit. First, you’ll get free access to your credit score on monthly statements, the mobile app and online so that you can monitor any changes to your FICO score. You’ll also have the ability to activate free alerts should Discover come across your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.
Best for miles: Capital One VentureOne
Looking to add a miles card to your wallet? The VentureOne has an uncomplicated program that rewards you with miles for every purchase, and there’s even an introductory bonus that can offer a windfall for your next trip.
Depending on your credit, you’ll qualify for the Visa Platinum or Visa Signature card (which comes with a handful of additional benefits like travel accident insurance and extended warranty). The payment processing network is widely accepted abroad and the VentureOne has no foreign transaction fees, making for a good travel companion.
Points: Cardholders earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase. You can book excursions through VentureOne and then redeem miles for a statement credit to pay yourself back. You can also use miles to make purchases through PayPal or Amazon.
Perks: There’s 0% introductory APR for 12 months on new purchases—after which a variable rate (15.49% to 25.49%) applies—and you can also rack up 20,000 miles if you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months.
Best for Amazon: Amazon Prime Rewards
If you’re a Prime member and you’ve noticed an uptick in your Amazon spending, you may benefit from using the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature for your online shopping hauls. With this card in your arsenal, you’ll get cash back when you shop at Amazon and Whole Foods Market, the supermarket chain purchased by the retail giant in 2017.
Points: Cardholders earn 5% cash back—yes, 5%—at Amazon and Whole Foods Market, and that includes grocery orders through Amazon Fresh as well as Whole Foods’ website. Beyond that, you’ll score 2% at gas stations, restaurants and drugstores, and 1% on everything else.
Perks: You get an instant Amazon gift card upon approval—we’ve seen this range from $50 to $100. Plus, the card has travel benefits that may come in handy, such as no foreign transaction fees, lost luggage reimbursement and travel accident insurance.
Best for first-year perks: Discover it
The Discover it is a 5% revolving quarterly rewards card that packs a punch. That’s because Discover matches the rewards you earn the first year, and there’s an intro 0% APR offer for balance transfers and new purchases.
Points: You earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent in revolving categories—just be sure to activate the offer each quarter. Beyond that, you get 1% on everything else. The 5% rewards categories for 2021 include the following:
Q1: Grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS
Q2: Gas stations, wholesale clubs and select streaming services
Q3: Restaurants and PayPal
Q4: Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com
Perks: Cardholders get a dollar-for-dollar cash-back match for the first year. Say you earn $200 in cash back. Discover will give you another $200.
Plus, there’s 0% APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers. But watch out for the fee—there’s an introductory balance transfer fee of 3%, and then a standard fee of 5% after the intro deal expires. Before you transfer your balance, ask yourself these questions to see if the move makes sense for your financial situation.
Other credit cards we evaluated
We went through dozens of cards’ terms and conditions with a fine-tooth comb to select our top picks. The following are popular options with a lot to offer—just not quite as much as the ones we ultimately selected.
The Capital One Quicksilver is a user-friendly, flat-rate card that earns an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, but you can get more cash back from the Citi Double Cash if you pay off your bill each month. Learn more
The Chase Freedom Unlimited offer is nearly identical to the Chase Freedom Flex, with 5% cash back on travel through Ultimate Rewards and 3% on dining and at drugstores. While the Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases, the Freedom Flex provides a bit more appeal with the quarterly bonus categories that top 5%. Learn more
With the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, you earn an unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on everything else. Our best overall choice provides the same dining points, but on top of that, the Chase Freedom Flex includes the 5% quarterly category, which sweetens the deal. Learn more
With the Bank of America Cash Rewards, you’ll earn 3% in a category of your choice—think dining, online shopping, gas, drugstores, home improvement or travel. You’ll also earn 2% on groceries and wholesale clubs and 1% on everything else. The highest value, however, is for Bank of America Preferred members who get 25% to 75% more cash back. Learn more
The Secured Mastercard® from Capital One is a very close contender to the Discover it Secured, but it unfortunately has no rewards offer. One upside: Account holders can potentially get the full $200 credit line even if they put down a $49 or $99 deposit. The Secured Mastercard from Capital One also offers automatic credit reviews and an upgrade to an unsecured card when your credit improves. While it didn’t make the cut here, we named it our value pick for the best secured credit cards. Learn more
Please note: The offers mentioned above are subject to change at any time and some may no longer be available.
Reviewed has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Reviewed and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
See rates and fees for the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express.
What is a good APR for a credit card?
Credit card annual percentage rates range from 13% to 25%, with the national average in January 2021 around 16%. Credit cards marketed for applicants with bad credit tend to be on the higher side, as do credit cards with rewards programs.
Before you apply for a credit card, you can see this range in the cardmember agreement. You won’t know the rate until you’re approved, as it’s determined by the issuer based on your creditworthiness. The higher your credit score, the lower the rate you can expect. Remember that with a variable rate, an issuer can change the interest it charges at any time—and, per your cardmember agreement, it may not have to notify you.
An issuer may charge a different APR for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. It may even offer an introductory rate that includes zero interest for a period of 12 to 18 (or 21) months. Lastly, a penalty APR may kick in if you’re late for a payment, exceed your credit limit, or break other terms and conditions laid out by the issuer.
We’ll say it till we’re blue in the face: Pay off your balance each month, and you won’t have to think about interest.
What is a secured credit card?
Secured credit cards are geared toward those of us who have made mistakes with credit in the past, or those of us with limited credit histories. Students and people new to the U.S. often fall under these categories.
Unlike an unsecured credit card, cardholders are required to put down a security deposit—often around $200—that is typically equivalent to their credit line. There are, however, a few that require a smaller amount, including the Secured Mastercard® from Capital One, which is among our best secured credit cards, as you may put down as little as $49.
Many credit card issuers will review your account after several months. If you’ve responsibly used your credit card, the issuer may consider upgrading your card or refunding your deposit.
How many credit cards should you have in your wallet?
We hate to break it to you, but there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. The right number for you depends on what you can responsibly manage.
Does having a piece of shiny plastic an arm’s length away often encourage you to spend money you don’t have? Be honest. Credit cards offer great benefits, but they also present an opportunity for overspending. You may want to think twice before applying for more credit. Carrying a balance you can’t afford contributes to interest charges, and in the long run costs you more money—money that you could’ve used for that air fryer you've been eyeing.
If you’re financially responsible and stick to making purchases that you can pay off, there may be some upsides to adding another card to your arsenal. If you’re a jet-setter without a card that rewards you for hitting the road, or one that skips foreign transaction fees, a travel credit card may make sense for you.
There are a few other things to consider before opening a new account, like adding a different payment processing network, or taking note of any annual fees.
Should you consider closing a credit card account?
We’re not big fans of clutter sitting around and taking up space, either, but there’s a few things to know before you pick up the phone to call your bank and chop up that credit card into bits and pieces. First, your credit score is based partly on the length of your credit history. Closing an older account will knock your score.
Saying goodbye to a card also means you’ll have less credit available. And that means your credit utilization ratio will likely go up. (If you need a refresher: That’s the balance you carry divided by your credit line—and finance pros recommend keeping this at 30% or less.) Your utilization ratio is also a major factor in calculating your score. You can, however, ask another issuer to increase your credit limit to help out a little.
Keep in mind, if you’re a responsible credit user, your scores will eventually rebound. But there are a few other factors to consider when deciding to close an account, such as whether you’re close to hitting a rewards milestone.
More credit card reviews
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: The best no annual fee credit cards of 2021: Reviewed