The best no-annual-fee credit cards for 2021

This page is a marketplace where our partners can highlight their current card offers. The reviews and insights represented are editorial, but the order in which cards appear on the page may be influenced by compensation we may receive from our partners.

There’s no better way to maximize rewards earnings while minimizing costs than by using a credit card with no annual fee. Here are the best no-annual-fee credit cards from our partners.

Apply now for Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card at Wells Fargo's secure site Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for booking cheap hotels across multiple brands
TPG Editor's Rating tooltip Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG's editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4/5
more info
  • Collect 1 stamp for every night you stay at any eligible property booked on Hotels.com and collect 1 stamp each time you spend $500 on purchases with your card.
  • Collect 1 stamp for every night you stay at any eligible property booked on Hotels.com and collect 1 stamp each time you spend $500 on purchases with your card.
Get 2 Reward Nights Worth $250 Total
details Limited Time Offer! Get 2 reward nights worth $250 total (max $125 per night)*, when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. *Excludes taxes and fees. If a night costs less than $125, you won’t get the difference.
Intro Bonus tooltip Limited Time Offer! Get 2 reward nights worth $250 total (max $125 per night)*, when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. *Excludes taxes and fees. If a night costs less than $125, you won’t get the difference.
Get 2 Reward Nights Worth $250 Total
No Annual Fee

Why we chose it

The Hotels.com Credit Card is the perfect match for those who are deal hunters and tend to stay across multiple hotel properties and brands when traveling. With no annual fee and hotel perks aplenty, you’re only gaining from owning this card. You’ll collect free reward nights easily and Silver membership for the first year of card ownership, which gets you perks such as free breakfast and airport transfers.

Pros

  • Stamp-based system where you’ll earn 1 stamp for every eligible night you book through Hotels.com, plus an additional stamp if you spend $500 or more on a booking. After 10 stamps, you get a free reward night (not including taxes and fees).
  • Silver membership benefits for the first year that get you elite-like perks across many Hotels.com properties, such as free breakfast, airport transfers and more
  • Solid ancillary perks such as no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, cell phone protection

Cons

  • Unlike the other best hotel rewards cards, the Hotels.com card won’t offer you bonus points for booking hotels with this card
  • After the first year, you lose your Silver membership unless you qualify for the elite status again
  • Limited Time Offer! Get 2 reward nights worth $250 total (max $125 per night)*, when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. *Excludes taxes and fees. If a night costs less than $125, you won’t get the difference.
  • Collect 1 stamp for every night you stay at any eligible property booked on Hotels.com and collect 1 stamp each time you spend $500 on purchases with your card. When you collect 10 stamps, you'll get 1 reward night to redeem on future bookings through Hotels.com.
  • Choose from over 500,000 properties in 200+ countries around the world.
  • $0 Annual Fee.
  • For the first year, you'll enjoy Silver membership exclusives such as free breakfast, airport transfers, free WiFi and more at select properties.
  • Pay your monthly cell phone bill with your card and get up to $600 protection against damage or theft (subject to a $25 deductible).
  • No foreign currency conversion fee.
  • Offers reimbursement for non-refundable passenger fare if your trip is interrupted or cancelled for a covered reason, when you passenger fare is booked with your card.
  • See Rates & Fees

Pros

  • Stamp-based system where you’ll earn 1 stamp for every eligible night you book through Hotels.com, plus an additional stamp if you spend $500 or more on a booking. After 10 stamps, you get a free reward night (not including taxes and fees).
  • Silver membership benefits for the first year that get you elite-like perks across many Hotels.com properties, such as free breakfast, airport transfers and more
  • Solid ancillary perks such as no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, cell phone protection

Cons

  • Unlike the other best hotel rewards cards, the Hotels.com card won’t offer you bonus points for booking hotels with this card
  • After the first year, you lose your Silver membership unless you qualify for the elite status again
  • Limited Time Offer! Get 2 reward nights worth $250 total (max $125 per night)*, when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. *Excludes taxes and fees. If a night costs less than $125, you won’t get the difference.
  • Collect 1 stamp for every night you stay at any eligible property booked on Hotels.com and collect 1 stamp each time you spend $500 on purchases with your card. When you collect 10 stamps, you'll get 1 reward night to redeem on future bookings through Hotels.com.
  • Choose from over 500,000 properties in 200+ countries around the world.
  • $0 Annual Fee.
  • For the first year, you'll enjoy Silver membership exclusives such as free breakfast, airport transfers, free WiFi and more at select properties.
  • Pay your monthly cell phone bill with your card and get up to $600 protection against damage or theft (subject to a $25 deductible).
  • No foreign currency conversion fee.
  • Offers reimbursement for non-refundable passenger fare if your trip is interrupted or cancelled for a covered reason, when you passenger fare is booked with your card.
  • See Rates & Fees
TPG Editor's Rating tooltip Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG's editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3.5/5
1.5% cash-back
more info
  • 1.5% Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • 1.5% Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
$200
details One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Intro Bonus tooltip One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
$200
$0

Why we chose it

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card is a decent option for those in need of a straightforward cash back card. However, there are other options that offer more flexibility to redeem your rewards.

Pros

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • Cash back doesn't expire.

Cons

  • Limited card perks and benefits.
  • Other cards offer more potential and upside when it comes to redeeming cash back.
  • One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees

Pros

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • Cash back doesn't expire.

Cons

  • Limited card perks and benefits.
  • Other cards offer more potential and upside when it comes to redeeming cash back.
  • One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
Best for flexible cash rewards
TPG Editor's Rating tooltip Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG's editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4/5
1.5 - 5% cash-back
more info
  • 5% Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 5% Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 3% Earn 3% on dining and drugstores.
  • 1.5% Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 5% Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 5% Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 3% Earn 3% on dining and drugstores.
  • 1.5% Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
$200
details Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Intro Bonus tooltip Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
$200
$0

Why we chose it

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a surprisingly powerful card that earns at least 1.5% back on everything. However, it becomes a standout card if you pair it with a card that earns transferable Ultimate Rewards points, doubling their potential value.

Pros

  • At least 1.5% back on every purchase, with up to 3% back on select categories.
  • There is no annual fee.
  • Perfect for everyday, non-bonused spending - incredible value when paired with a premium Chase card.

Cons

  • There is a foreign transaction fee so the card shouldn't be used abroad.
  • Limited card perks and benefits.
  • 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 unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 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.

Pros

  • At least 1.5% back on every purchase, with up to 3% back on select categories.
  • There is no annual fee.
  • Perfect for everyday, non-bonused spending - incredible value when paired with a premium Chase card.

Cons

  • There is a foreign transaction fee so the card shouldn't be used abroad.
  • Limited card perks and benefits.
  • 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 unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 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.
Best for everyday spending
TPG Editor's Rating tooltip Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG's editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3.5/5
2% cash-back
more info
  • 2% Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • 2% Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
N/A
Intro Bonus
N/A
$0

Why we chose it

When it comes to everyday spending, it’s hard to beat the Citi Double Cash Card. You’ll earn up to 2% back on every purchase, and you can now redeem as cash back or by converting rewards to ThankYou points with an eligible card.

Pros

  • Earning 2% back on every purchase is an industry-leading return on everyday spending for a no-annual-fee credit card.
  • Now that you have the ability to convert rewards to ThankYou points with an eligible card, your redemption options are even more flexible.
  • It’s great for those looking to consolidate debt since it offers 18 months of 0% APR on balance transfers made within the first four months of account opening (variable APR of 13.99% - 23.99% applies after).

Cons

  • There is no welcome bonus available on this card.
  • Those looking to make a balance transfer will have to pay a 3% balance transfer fee.
  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

Pros

  • Earning 2% back on every purchase is an industry-leading return on everyday spending for a no-annual-fee credit card.
  • Now that you have the ability to convert rewards to ThankYou points with an eligible card, your redemption options are even more flexible.
  • It’s great for those looking to consolidate debt since it offers 18 months of 0% APR on balance transfers made within the first four months of account opening (variable APR of 13.99% - 23.99% applies after).

Cons

  • There is no welcome bonus available on this card.
  • Those looking to make a balance transfer will have to pay a 3% balance transfer fee.
  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Best for small purchases
TPG Editor's Rating tooltip Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG's editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3.5/5
1 - 2X points
more info
  • 2X Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter.
  • 1X Earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.
  • 2X Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter.
  • 1X Earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.
20,000 points
details For a Limited Time, earn 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $200 in gift cards at thankyou.com
Intro Bonus tooltip For a Limited Time, earn 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $200 in gift cards at thankyou.com
20,000 points
$0

Why we chose it

With the Citi Rewards+ Card, those small everyday purchases will really start to add up. All purchases round to the nearest 10 points — so that $3 bagel really gets you 10 points. Plus, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar on groceries and gas stations on the first $6,000 spent per year, then 1 point per dollar on everything else. As the points add up, you’ll be able to redeem them for gift cards, travel and more. For the first 100,000 points you redeem each year, Citi will return 10% of the points back to your account. This no-annual-fee card is truly one of a kind and can help you ease your way into Citi’s diverse portfolio of travel rewards cards.

Pros

  • No annual fee.
  • All purchases round up to the nearest 10 points
  • 2x on groceries and gas (up to $6,000 each year), 1x on everything else.
  • Get 10% of your redeemed points back each year (for the first 100,000 points redeemed annually).

Cons

  • Charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, so you won't want to take this card with you abroad.
  • For a Limited Time, earn 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $200 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months from date of first transfer and on purchases from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfer fee - either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The Citi Rewards+® Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

Pros

  • No annual fee.
  • All purchases round up to the nearest 10 points
  • 2x on groceries and gas (up to $6,000 each year), 1x on everything else.
  • Get 10% of your redeemed points back each year (for the first 100,000 points redeemed annually).

Cons

  • Charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, so you won't want to take this card with you abroad.
  • For a Limited Time, earn 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $200 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months from date of first transfer and on purchases from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfer fee - either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The Citi Rewards+® Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Best for dining and entertainment
TPG Editor's Rating tooltip Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG's editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3.5/5
1 - 8% cash-back
more info
  • 8% Earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023.
  • 3% Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®).
  • 1% Earn 1% on all other purchases.
  • 8% Earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023.
  • 3% Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®).
  • 1% Earn 1% on all other purchases.
$200
details Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
Intro Bonus tooltip Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
$200
$0

Why we chose it

The Capital One SavorOne is a great cash back credit card for beginners looking for a solid rewards structure and no annual fee. Dining, entertainment and groceries are high-value bonus categories, and it’s rare for a card to hit all three.

Pros

  • Earning 3% back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services, and at grocery stores is a great return for a no-annual-fee credit card
  • This card is better for beginners since it’s easier to be approved for than the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card.
  • The intro APR offer that comes with this card makes it a solid choice for those looking to finance a large purchase.
  • You’ll get 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 15 months (15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after).

Cons

  • If you spend a lot on dining and entertainment each year, the Savor is the better value since it earns higher rewards.
  • The sign-up bonus isn’t anything to write home about (though it is easy to earn).
  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), plus 1% on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee

Pros

  • Earning 3% back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services, and at grocery stores is a great return for a no-annual-fee credit card
  • This card is better for beginners since it’s easier to be approved for than the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card.
  • The intro APR offer that comes with this card makes it a solid choice for those looking to finance a large purchase.
  • You’ll get 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 15 months (15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after).

Cons

  • If you spend a lot on dining and entertainment each year, the Savor is the better value since it earns higher rewards.
  • The sign-up bonus isn’t anything to write home about (though it is easy to earn).
  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), plus 1% on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Best for customizable rewards structure
TPG Editor's Rating tooltip Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG's editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3.5/5
1 - 3% cash-back
more info
  • 3% Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases).
  • 2% Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases).
  • 1% Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
  • 3% Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases).
  • 2% Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases).
  • 1% Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
$200
details $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Intro Bonus tooltip $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
$200
$0

Why we chose it

While many credit cards offer bonus points for set categories, the Bank of America Customized Cash lets you maximize your spending based on your lifestyle. You get to choose 3% cash back in the category of your choice each calendar month — from gas, online shopping, dining, home improvements and more — then 2% back on groceries and wholesale clubs (for the first $2,500 combined purchases each quarter) and 1% on everything else. For example, if you have a home improvement project, you can set your 3% bonus category to that one month and switch it to gas next month if you’re going on a roadtrip. There’s no annual fee with this card, personalized to how you want to spend.

Pros

  • No annual fee.
  • Earn $200 in cash rewards after spending $1,000 or more in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 3% on the category of your choice each month, 2% on groceries and wholesale clubs (for a maximum of $2,500 each quarter) and 1% on everything else.

Cons

  • Charges a 3% foreign transaction fee -- not the ideal card to bring for traveling.
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase. That means you could earn up to 5.25% cash back on purchases in your choice category.
  • No annual fee and no expiration on rewards
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

Pros

  • No annual fee.
  • Earn $200 in cash rewards after spending $1,000 or more in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 3% on the category of your choice each month, 2% on groceries and wholesale clubs (for a maximum of $2,500 each quarter) and 1% on everything else.

Cons

  • Charges a 3% foreign transaction fee -- not the ideal card to bring for traveling.
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase. That means you could earn up to 5.25% cash back on purchases in your choice category.
  • No annual fee and no expiration on rewards
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Best for airline transfer partners
TPG Editor's Rating tooltip Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG's editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3/5
1.25X points
more info
  • 1.25X Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.
  • 1.25X Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.
20,000 miles
details Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Intro Bonus tooltip Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
20,000 miles
$0

Why we chose it

If you’re looking to dip your toes into the world of travel rewards, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is a great way to get started. WIth no annual fee and a simple 1.25x miles on all your purchases, you won’t have to keep up with multiple bonus categories — just earn rewards on everything you purchase! Coupled with the 20,000-mile sign-up bonus, you can use your rewards to book travel, transfer to Capital One’s loyalty partners and more.

Pros

  • No annual fee.
  • Earn 20,000 bonus miles after spending $500 or more on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
  • Use your miles to book or pay for travel at a 1-cent value, or transfer your miles to loyalty programs to gain potentially even greater value for your rewards.
  • Earn 1.25x miles on all purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Cons

  • Other credit cards can offer you higher rewards for your common purchase categories.
  • Capital One airline transfer partners do not include any large U.S. airlines.
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Transfer your miles to over 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that

Pros

  • No annual fee.
  • Earn 20,000 bonus miles after spending $500 or more on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
  • Use your miles to book or pay for travel at a 1-cent value, or transfer your miles to loyalty programs to gain potentially even greater value for your rewards.
  • Earn 1.25x miles on all purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Cons

  • Other credit cards can offer you higher rewards for your common purchase categories.
  • Capital One airline transfer partners do not include any large U.S. airlines.
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Transfer your miles to over 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that
Apply now for Hilton Honors American Express Card at American Express's secure site Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Apply now for Hilton Honors American Express Card at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
TPG Editor's Rating tooltip Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG's editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3/5
3 - 7X points
more info
  • 7X Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • 5X Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • 3X Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • 7X Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • 5X Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • 3X Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
Up to 130,000 Points
details Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months.
Intro Bonus tooltip Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months.
Up to 130,000 Points
$0

Why we chose it

The Hilton Honors Amex Card is a decent entry-level hotel card with no annual fee. It’s a card that is ideal for beginners and offers an array of perks for those loyal to the Hilton brand.

Pros

  • No annual fee card.
  • Automatic Hilton Honors Silver status.
  • Extended warranty, purchase protection and car rental coverage.

Cons

  • Silver status is the lowest tier of Hilton Honors status.
  • Limited redemption flexibility as you can only redeem at Hilton hotels.
  • Can't earn a free night award unlike other Hilton cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees. Enjoy international travel without additional fees on purchases made abroad.
  • Enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status with your Card. Plus, spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Pros

  • No annual fee card.
  • Automatic Hilton Honors Silver status.
  • Extended warranty, purchase protection and car rental coverage.

Cons

  • Silver status is the lowest tier of Hilton Honors status.
  • Limited redemption flexibility as you can only redeem at Hilton hotels.
  • Can't earn a free night award unlike other Hilton cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees. Enjoy international travel without additional fees on purchases made abroad.
  • Enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status with your Card. Plus, spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Best for existing Bank of America customers
TPG Editor's Rating tooltip Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG's editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3/5
1.5X points
more info
  • 1.5X Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
  • 1.5X Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
25,000 points
details 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
Intro Bonus tooltip 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
25,000 points
$0

Why we chose it

If you’re just starting out with credit cards and travel rewards, the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is a great foundational card. There’s no annual fee or foreign transaction fees, making this the perfect card to take on your international travels. You’ll earn 1.5 unlimited points per dollar no matter what the purchase is. Finally, get a headstart on your next vacation with 25,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 or more on purchases in the first 90 days. This is worth $250, applied as a statement credit toward any travel purchases from flights, hotels to tours.

Pros

  • 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Cons

  • Bank of America does not offer airline or hotel transfer partners like other banks such as American Express, Chase or Capital One.
  • No travel and purchase protections.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases. After the intro APR ends, 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR will apply.
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more points on every purchase. That means you could earn up to 2.62 points for every $1 spent.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

Pros

  • 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Cons

  • Bank of America does not offer airline or hotel transfer partners like other banks such as American Express, Chase or Capital One.
  • No travel and purchase protections.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases. After the intro APR ends, 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR will apply.
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more points on every purchase. That means you could earn up to 2.62 points for every $1 spent.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

More on the best no-annual-fee credit cards for July 2021

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Card Best for Welcome Offer/Sign Up Bonus Earning Rate Annual Fee
Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card Best for booking cheap hotels across multiple brands Get 2 Reward Nights Worth $250 Total
  • Collect 1 stamp for every night you stay at any eligible property booked on Hotels.com and collect 1 stamp each time you spend $500 on purchases with your card.
No Annual Fee
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card Best for beginner cash back $200
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
$0
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Best for flexible cash rewards $200
  • 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% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3% on dining and drugstores.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
$0
Citi® Double Cash Card Best for everyday spending N/A
  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
$0
Citi Rewards+® Card Best for small purchases 20,000 points
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter.
  • Earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.
$0
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card Best for dining and entertainment $200
  • Earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023.
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®).
  • Earn 1% on all other purchases.
$0
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card Best for customizable rewards structure $200
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases).
  • Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases).
  • Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
$0
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card Best for airline transfer partners 20,000 miles
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.
$0
Hilton Honors American Express Card Best for hotel points Up to 130,000 Points
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
$0
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Best for existing Bank of America customers 25,000 points
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
$0

There’s no better way to maximize rewards earnings while minimizing costs than by using a credit card with no annual fee. It’s true that cards with no annual fee typically have fewer benefits and lower rewards rates when compared to many of the best credit cards out there, but there are still some no-annual-fee cards out there that are quite valuable.

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Arguably the best cards with no annual fee are the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex because of their flexibility. You’re earning rewards on every purchase, and the card is a great stand-alone cash-back card or complimentary card to an existing Chase Ultimate Rewards card. In this guide, I walk through some of my other favorite cards with no annual fee so you can decide if any are worth your while.

The best no-annual-fee credit cards for 2021

Below you’ll find a detailed analysis of each card on the list, including current offers and benefits, to help you choose the no-annual-fee credit card that fits your spending lifestyle.

The best no-annual-fee credit cards

Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card: Best for hotels across multiple brands

Current bonus: New cardholders will earn two hotel reward nights worth $250 total (max. $125 per night) after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Rewards rate: One eligible paid hotel night gets you one stamp. Or, by spending $500 on the Hotels.com credit card, you can also earn one stamp. 10 stamps equals one free hotel night.

Intro and Regular APR: 14.99% — 22.99% variable APR.

Why it’s the best no-annual-fee credit card for hotels across multiple brands: If you tend to stay at hotels from multiple hotel chains (or at boutique hotels that aren’t part of a major loyalty program), you’ll appreciate the Hotels.com credit card’s fresh take on earning rewards. You can earn one stamp for one paid night or by spending $500 or more on your card, and 10 stamps equals one free hotel night. You can see how the free nights stack up quickly just from hotel spend. Plus, enjoy other benefits like a suite of travel protections and no foreign transaction fees.

Check out our full card review.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card: Best for cash back beginners

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Current bonus: Earn $200 after you spend $500 in the first three months.

Rewards rate: Earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase.

Intro and Regular APR: 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 15 months; 15.49% – 25.49% variable APR after that.

Why it’s the best no-annual-fee credit card for everyday spending: If you’re looking for a straightforward cash-back card as your first rewards credit card, the Quicksilver is a solid choice. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, no matter what it is. You can definitely find cards that offer higher cash back rates, but they’ll come with an annual fee, bonus categories to juggle or both. The Quicksilver may not be the flashiest card on this list, but it’s a steady, simple way to earn cash-back rewards on every purchase, no matter what. It’s one of the best cash-back credit cards out there.

Check out our full card review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for flexible cash rewards

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Current bonus: Earn $200 bonus after spending $500 in their first three months of account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on purchases and an elevated rate on the following categories:

  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% back on dining
  • 3% back at drugstores

Intro and regular APR: 0% intro APR for the first 15 months from account opening on purchases. After the intro period, a variable APR of 14.99% – 23.74% applies

Why it’s the best no-annual-fee credit card for flexibility: The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great card for non-bonus spending. You’ll earn 1.5% no matter where you swipe, and no annual fee means it’s perfect for pairing. In fact, it makes up one very important third of the Chase Trifecta, a powerful combination of cards that offers strong earning rates, redemption options and travel perks.

This may not be the most exciting card at face value, but if you also hold a premium Ultimate Rewards-earning card — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve — you can convert the cash back you earn on the Freedom Unlimited card to points and transfer them to Chase’s airline and hotel partners or redeem directly through the Chase travel portal at a rate of 1.25 cents each (Sapphire Preferred and Ink Preferred) or 1.5 cents (Sapphire Reserve).

The Chase Freedom Unlimited tops this list because of its flexibility as one of the most versatile cash-back credit cards. Plus, the increased bonus categories are stellar for travel, dining and drugstores makes it a solid no-annual-fee card incredibly lucrative — and dare I say it, exciting.

You can use it as a stand-alone card for all spending if you’re a beginner, and then add other Chase travel cards once you’re ready to start digging into the Ultimate Rewards program. This card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, so it won’t be your best option for spending while abroad.

Check out our full card review.

Citi Double Cash Card: Best for everyday spending

(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)

Current bonus: N/A

Rewards rate: Earn up to 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you buy and another 1% when you pay your bill.

Intro and Regular APR: 0Intro APR for the first 18 months on balance transfers after that, then the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within the first four months of account opening.

Why it’s the best no-annual-fee credit card for everyday spending: There are no bells or whistles on this card, but if simplicity is what you’re looking for, then the Citi Double Cash Card has it. It earns 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% when you make the purchase, and another 1% when you pay it off. Citi has also added the ability to transfer the cash-back rewards earned on this card into full-fledged ThankYou Points when paired with the Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Premier® Card. The information for the Citi Prestige Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

In turn, you can then transfer to airlines, making this card much more compelling. It now offers a similar structure as the Chase Freedom Unlimited (flat-rate cash back with the ability to convert to points with card pairings), but you’ll ultimately have to compare Chase and Citi’s transfer partners to decide which card is best for you. Like several other cards on this list, you won’t want to use this card on international purchases because of its 3% foreign transaction fee.

Check out our full card review. 

Citi Rewards+ Card: Best for small purchases

Current bonus: Earn 20,000 ThankYou bonus points after you spend $1,500 on purchases with your card within three months of account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 2x ThankYou points on the first $6,000 spent at supermarkets and gas stations each year (then 1x); points are rounded up to the nearest 10 for every purchase.

Intro and regular APR: 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 13.49% – 23.49% based upon your creditworthiness. Balance transfers need to be completed within the first four months of account opening.

Why it’s the best no-annual-fee credit card for small purchases: The Rewards+ Card stands out for its unique earning scheme. In addition to earning 2x ThankYou points on supermarket and gas station purchases (up to $6,000, then 1 ThankYou point per dollar on everything else), points earnings on all purchases are rounded up to the nearest 10 points. So if you buy a $1.99 pack of gum, you’ll earn 10 points. This round-up feature also applies to your 2x purchases.

Buying $31 worth of groceries at a supermarket will earn 70 points total (31 x 2 = 62, rounded up to 70). It’s a great card for maximizing smaller, everyday purchases that otherwise wouldn’t earn much. It is important to note that the points you earn with this card can only be transferred to JetBlue or redeemed toward travel, gift cards or statement credits at a rate of 1 cent per point. However, if you also have the Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Premier® Card, you can move points from the Rewards+ to one of those accounts in order to transfer them to the full selection of Citi airline partners, including Etihad Guest and Singapore KrisFlyer.

Check out our full card review.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Card: Best for dining and entertainment

Photo by The Points Guy
(Photo by The Points Guy)

Current bonus: Earn $200 after you spend $500 in the first three months of account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), plus 1% on all other purchases

Intro and Regular APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases; then a 15.49% – 25.49% variable APR applies

Why it’s the best no-annual-fee credit card for dining and entertainment: The tradeoff for this card is that it has a slightly lower rewards rate than the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card in exchange for its no annual fee. But it still packs a punch. Dining and entertainment are defined broadly to include restaurants, takeout, concerts, sporting events, tourist attractions and much more.

Although there are plenty of cards that reward spending on diningentertainment is a rare bonus category. To get 3% back on those purchases, plus at grocery stores, is an excellent return for a no-annual-fee card.

Check out our full card review.

The information for the Capital One Savor card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card: Best for customizable rewards structure

Current bonus: Earn $200 cash bonus after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 3% on the bonus category of your choice; 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (with a $2,500 cap in combined bonus category spending each quarter; then unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Intro and regular APR: 0% intro APR for your first 15 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers (made within the first 60 days). After the intro APR offer ends, a variable APR that’s currently 13.99% to 23.99% will apply. The card has a balance transfer fee either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.

Why it’s the best no-annual-fee credit card for customizable rewards structure: If you’re looking for a flexible rewards structure, it’s hard to beat the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card. You’ll choose which category earns 3% cash back each month from a list that includes gas stations, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores and home improvements/furnishings. Also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. You’ll earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%.

As with other Bank of America cards, you can take advantage of the Preferred Rewards program to maximize your earnings. If you’re a Platinum Honors member, you’ll earn 5.25% on the category of your choosing and 3.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. This rewards structure is impressive on its own for a no-annual-fee card, but Preferred Rewards members will be hard-pressed to find a more rewarding cash-back card — especially with no annual fee.

Check out our full card review.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards: Best for airline transfer partners

Current bonus: Earn 20,000 miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 1.25x on every purchase.

Intro and regular APR: 0% intro APR for the first 12 months on purchases; 15.49% – 25.49% variable APR after that.

Why it’s the best no-annual-fee credit card for airline transfer partners: Beginner travelers who want to earn miles on every purchase without paying an annual fee should consider the VentureOne Rewards Card. While 1.25x on every purchase isn’t the industry standard for no-annual-fee, flat-rate cards, all Capital One miles-earning cards give you access to 15+ airline and hotel transfer partners, boosting the potential value you get from your rewards. This card is a solid option for any beginner who is looking for a starter card before moving up to one of the best travel credit cards.

Capital One offers the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, with 2x on every purchase. Although it comes with a $95 annual fee, you’ll get a higher rewards rate and benefits such as a credit on your TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee (up to $100) in return. While the no annual fee VentureOne card has a lower earning rate, it does have the same transfer options as the more expensive Venture Rewards card so you aren’t losing anything on the redemption side by keeping your costs down.

Check out our full card review.

Hilton Honors American Express Card: Best for hotel points

Current welcome offer: Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the card in the first six months.

Rewards rate: Earn 7x on eligible Hilton purchases; 5x at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; and 3x on all other eligible purchases.

Why it’s the best-no-annual fee credit card for hotel points If you’re looking for a low-cost card to maximize your Hilton hotel stays, the Hilton Honors Amex is a solid option. It’s not often you find a no-annual-fee card (see rates and fees) that offers such a high welcome offer and the ability to earn substantial points on bonus spending categories. In addition to raking in Hilton Honors points, this card gives cardholders automatic Hilton Honors Silver status, which includes a 20% points bonus, no resort fees on award stays, standard in-room and lobby Wi-Fi, late checkout, fifth standard-award night free and two bottles of water.

Spend $20,000 on the card in a calendar year and earn an upgrade to Gold through the end of the next calendar year. This card also has no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees). If you typically spend a significant amount at Hilton properties throughout the year, Hilton and Amex offer cobranded cards that come with better earning rates and perks to help upgrade your travel experiences. However, this is a good starting point for beginners who are just getting into the Hilton Honors program. Spend $20,000 on the card in a calendar year and earn an upgrade to Gold through the end of the next calendar year. And this card is among the Amex cards receiving temporary perks to help cardholders maximize reward during the pandemic — bonus points will count toward elite tier qualification and lifetime Diamond status through the end of the year. This card also has no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees). If you typically spend a significant amount at Hilton properties throughout the year, Hilton and Amex offer cobranded cards that come with better earning rates and perks to help upgrade your travel experiences. However, this is a good starting point for beginners who are just getting into the Hilton Honors program.

Check out our full card review.

Chase Freedom Flex: Best for rotating bonus categories

Current bonus: Earn $200 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 5% on up to $1,500 spent on rotating categories each quarter (activation required). Additionally, you’ll earn the following:

  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% back on dining
  • 3% back at drugstores

Intro and regular APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases. After the intro period, the card has a variable APR of 14.99% – 23.74%.

Why it’s the best no-annual-fee credit card for rotating bonus categories: The Freedom Flex card has rotating quarterly bonus categories that reward you with 5% cash back, helping you earn in a wide variety of categories each year. Activation is required before you can start earning your 5x points, but it takes less than a minute to activate.

Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you can pair the Chase Freedom Flex with Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards, so that you’re effectively earning 5x points on eligible purchases. Given how valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points are — and considering that the card comes with a $200 (20,000-point) sign-up bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months — this card packs a real punch.

With this versatility, it should come as no surprise that we rank the Chase Freedom Flex as one of our picks for the best rewards credit cards. Just keep in mind that this card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee that makes it unappealing to use when abroad.

Check out our full card review.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card: Best for existing Bank of America customers

Current bonus: Earn 25,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 1.5x on all purchases.

Intro and Regular APR: 0% intro APR for the first 15 billing cycles on purchases after that, 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable) applies

Why it’s the best no-annual-fee credit card for existing Bank of America customers: This is another card that is pretty straightforward. It earns 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases with no limit. It’s not the only card on this list to offer a similar rewards structure, but it does have a unique advantage if you are an existing Bank of America customer.

If you qualify for the Preferred Rewards program, you can increase that earning rate by anywhere from 25% to 75% (depending on how much you have in total assets across accounts with Bank of America). That means you could be earning up to 2.62x on every purchase — which is amazing for a no-annual-fee card. You can redeem points to cover travel expenses such as flights, hotels, rental cars and baggage fees, similar to how the Capital One Venture cards work.

Check out our full card review. 

What is an annual fee?

Many credit card issuers charge their customers an annual fee to increase revenue and offset administrative costs like customer service, technology services and the simple act of producing your credit card. These fees will usually appear on your first statement each year in the month that you opened your card. So if you opened a credit card in November, every November you can expect to be charged the annual fee.

Typically speaking, higher annual fees accompany cards with premium benefits like high rewards rates, annual statement credits, lounge access, and other travel perks. Of course, that’s not to say that cards with no annual fee aren’t valuable. But if you have a card with no annual fee, you shouldn’t expect to see a long list of perks accompanying the card.

Who should get a no-annual-fee credit card?

Use your points to book luxury hotels such as The Liming Bequia in St. Vincent & Grenadines. (Photo courtesy of Small Luxury Hotels of the World)

The cards on this list represent the best of the best when it comes to cards with no annual fee, but you’ll find better bonuses, perks and bonus categories on cards with an annual fee. If you’re looking to take multiple free trips a year, fly in premium cabins or stay in luxury hotels, you’ll almost definitely need cards with an annual fee to make that happen. Annual fees might seem counterintuitive if the goal is to get free travel, but if you look at the numbers, you often end up getting far more in return than what you spend in fees.

First-time credit card owners

If you’re new to the credit card game, then you might consider starting out with a no-annual-fee card to make sure it’s right for you. It’s a full-time gig – you’ll be occupied enough with keeping on top of monthly payments and tracking your spending to make sure you reach earning thresholds to worry about making sure you’ve got the cash to pay for its annual fee.

It’s also a great way to start building up credit, for free – so long as you hit your monthly payments, that is. You can also keep them open forever, which increases your average age of accounts. Once you’ve got that down, then maybe upgrade to an annual fee credit card.

Related: Guide to credit card annual fees

Those looking to rebuild credit

Don’t fret if you happen to have bad credit. There are no-annual-fee credit cards available to you and some even have built in tools to help you rebuild that credit to where it once was.

Related: The best starter cards for building your credit

Those who wish to consolidate balances

If you’re struggling to manage several credit card balances, some no annual fee credit cards such as the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card offer of 0% intro APR for 18 months on purchases from date of account opening and a 0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer (then a variable APR of 13.74% to 23.74% applies). Balance transfers must be completed within the first four months of account opening.

Related: The best balance transfer credit cards

Diversification of credit card portfolio

No annual-fee-credit cards also make great complimentary cards to ones with higher annual fees. For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited makes an excellent pairing with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

When to downgrade to a no-annual-fee credit card

Many top-rated travel cards with an annual fee offer strong sign-up bonuses that make them a no-brainer for the first year. However, the cards aren’t always useful long term. Maybe your spending habits change, you’ve added new cards that fit your lifestyle better, or you don’t travel as much these days to justify the higher-fee card.

Rather than cancel the card and potentially damage your credit score, it’s better to keep your account open without racking up too many annual fees. An easy way is to downgrade to a no-annual-fee card.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Let’s say you opened the Chase Sapphire Reserve — with its $550 annual fee — because of the bonus and travel perks. For a couple of years, you’re traveling frequently and therefore using the card enough to offset the out-of-pocket fee. However, you eventually start to limit your travel to just once a year or so. The annual fee for Reserve may no longer be worth it since you aren’t using your rewards or taking advantage of the card’s other benefits. Simply downgrade to a Freedom Unlimited, without an annual fee, and your problem is solved.

Be aware that upgrading or downgrading might make it harder for you to earn the bonus on that card in the future, so you’ll have to factor that into your plans. This is especially true with American Express credit cards because of the issuer’s strict welcome offer restrictions.

Related: Pros and cons of downgrading your credit cards right now

Comparing top rewards cards and their no-annual-fee counterparts

Some issuers offer similar card options, one with an annual fee and one without. You might ask yourself why you would ever apply for the card with an annual fee if you can get a similar one with no fee. Depending on your spending habits, the annual fee may actually be worth the higher rewards.

Let’s look at Capital One’s credit card lineup — specifically the Savor and Venture credit cards. Both come in a no-annual-fee version as well, in exchange for a lower rewards rate. With the Savor, that extra 1% back you earn will out-earn the SavorOne even with the annual fee difference when you’re spending more than $9,500 on dining and entertainment each year. That’s just under $800 a month on combined dining and entertainment spending.

Card: Rewards structure:  Yearly value after annual fee:
Savor 4% x $9,500 $285
SavorOne 3% x $9,500 $285

For the Venture cards, you’ll need to spend at least $12,667 each year on the card in order to out-earn the no annual fee VentureOne. Since the Venture earns 2x miles across all purchases, that means you only have to spend $1,056 per month on the card to make the Venture worth it.

Card: Rewards structure: Yearly value after annual fee: 
Venture 2 miles x $12,667 $158.34
VentureOne 1.25 miles x $12,667 $158.33

The more you spend on your credit card each month, the more likely it is that the annual fee version of the card is a better investment long term. However, individuals who won’t be spending that much on a credit card each month can still benefit from the no-annual-fee version.

How to pair no annual fee and annual fee cards

Starting out with a no annual fee card is always a good idea. It helps you to learn how to manage your finances and is the first step to being a pro at the points and miles game. Once you’ve got that down, it’s worth considering pairing your no annual fee credit card with one that charges an annual fee to bolster your earning and reward potential.

Let’s look at an example. If you already have the Chase Unlimited Freedom card, you’ll already be earning a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases, 5% cash back on travel, 3% on dining as well as 3% on drugstores. So, it would be worth your while to use this card on purchases which fit into those elevated categories, then switch to a travel rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve for spending on other every day purchases, like gas and other spends. 

This means you’ll continue to earn great cash back, while benefiting at the same time from great travel rewards like travel credits. That said, you don’t have to pair it with a travel rewards card, there are many others you could choose from that would be more inline with your lifestyle if travel isn’t something you do often.

What types of no annual fee credit cards are there?

Credit cards with no annual fees are more common than you might imagine. The most common type of card to not charge an annual fee is cash back credit cards.

However, it’s harder to find travel credit cards without annual fees. That’s because these cards often come with premium perks that aren’t cheap. You can expect to pay up to the hundreds of dollars for travel credit cards at the top end of the scale.

Whatever the type of credit card you’re looking for whether it be travel, student, small business or cash back, it’s always worth checking out to see if you can find a no-annual-fee version. Bear in mind though that the best sign-up bonuses, benefits and perks often come with cards with a fee.

Bottom line

As you can see, you don’t need to pay an annual fee to earn valuable rewards with a credit card. Whether they earn cash back or points that can be redeemed toward travel, the options listed above represent great opportunities to rack up rewards. There are cases when a credit card’s benefits can justify paying an annual fee, but it’s good to know that there are several solid no-annual-fee options as well.

Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Daniel Ross. 

Featured image by skaman306 via GettyImages

For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex card, please click here.

Updated 09/01/21.

Chris Dong
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