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There’s no better way to maximize rewards earnings while minimizing costs than to use a credit card with no annual fee. While you can sometimes get an annual fee waived or receive a retention offer that may offset it, there’s no surefire way to keep out-of-pocket costs to $0 other than using a no-fee card and paying your balance in full each month. Today, I’ll cover the best no annual fee cards to use in 2019.
The Points Guy’s Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of 2019
|Card||Best For||0% Intro APR Period|
|Ink Business Cash Credit Card||Small business purchases||12 months (after that 15.49% – 21.49% variable APR)|
|Chase Freedom||Rotating Bonus Categories||15 months (after that 17.24 – 25.99% variable APR|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Everyday spending||15 months (after that 17.24 – 25.99% variable APR)|
|Discover it® Cash Back||Quarterly Bonus Cash Back||14 months (after that 14.24% to 25.24% variable APR)|
Visa Signature Card
|Visa Signature Benefits||–|
|PenFed Pathfinder Rewards
American Express® Card
|Travel||12 months (only for Balance Transfers); (after that 12.74% to 17.99% variable APR)|
|Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express||US Supermarkets||15 months (after that 14.99% to 25.99% variable APR)|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card||Hotels||12 months (only for purchases) (after that 14.24% to 24.24% variable APR)|
|Uber Visa Card||Restaurants and Bars||–|
|Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card||Everyday spending, for existing Bank of America customers||12 billing cycles (only for purchases) (after that 17.24% to 25.24% applies)*|
*Updated as of 1/2/19
Ink Business Cash Credit Card
The Ink Business Cash card is an impressive no-fee pick, especially since it’s now offering an elevated bonus of $500 when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You’ll earn 5% back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each account year at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services, and 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent at gas stations and restaurants (and 1% back on everything else).
Beyond its very generous bonus, this card stands out because you’re not limited to just earning rewards as cash back. If you also have an Ultimate Rewards-earning card, you can transfer your cash-back rewards and then redeem them as points, which means the 5% back category is equivalent to a 5x category.
The Freedom card has rotating quarterly bonus categories that reward you with 5% cash back/5 points per dollar on up to $1,500 in eligible spending. For example, in the first quarter of 2019 you can earn these bonus rewards on spending at drugstores, gas stations and on tolls. Given how valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points are — and considering that the card comes with a $150 (15,000-point) sign-up bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months — this card packs a real punch.
Points are worth 1 cent each toward travel booked though the Ultimate Rewards travel portal or toward gift cards. If you also have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you can combine your points and use them with Ultimate Rewards transfer partners or redeem them for 1.25 cents each toward free travel booked through the Chase portal. Even better, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can combine your points and use them for 1.5 cents apiece toward travel booked through the Chase portal. Note that this card charges a 3% foreign-transaction fee.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
This card earns 1.5% cash back on all spending, every day. While this may not excite you at face value, if you also hold a premium Ultimate Rewards-earning card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, you can redeem the cash back as points to get 1.5x Ultimate Rewards on all purchase. Since some of your spending probably doesn’t fall within a bonus category, the cumulative effect of increasing rewards by 50% on all your non-bonus expenditures is huge.
Even better, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which gets you 1.5 cents per point toward travel through the Chase portal, you can combine your Freedom Unlimited card points with your Sapphire Reserve points, meaning you’ll earn a 2.25% return on all spending with the no-fee Chase Freedom Unlimited. Like the Freedom card, this card charges a 3% foreign-transaction fee. Also, if you have a business, you might consider the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card, which is very similar to the Freedom Unlimited in its earning structure.
Discover it Cash Back
Like the Chase Freedom, the Discover it Cash Back has rotating quarterly categories that offer 5% cash back on the first $1,500 in eligible spending and 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases. Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in various categories throughout the year. The kicker: Discover’s currently matching all cash back you earn during the first year after account opening. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases. That means you’ll get up to 10% cash back on quarterly bonus categories and an unlimited 2% cash back on all other spending — for a year! Plus, this card is really the king of no fees; not only does it waive an annual fee, but it also has no over-limit fee, no foreign transaction fees and no late fee on the first late payment.
Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card
This card earns you an unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases with no rewards cap and no annual fee. You can deposit your rewards into one of six eligible Fidelity account types, and can even choose multiple accounts to direct your rewards into:
- Brokerage account
- Fidelity Cash Management Account
- Fidelity-managed 529 College Savings plan
- Retirement account
- Fidelity Go account
- Fidelity Charitable® Giving Account®
You can even deposit your rewards into a family member’s account. You’ll also enjoy all the additional benefits of a Visa Signature card, like 24/7 concierge and Signature shopping and travel discounts. The card is offered by Elan Financial Services, so it’s a good option if you feel the need to diversify which card issuers you’re opening new accounts with. It does charge a foreign-transaction fee, though at 1% it’s lower than some of the other card’s fees on this list (though you’ll still want to avoid using it abroad).
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card
In 2018, PenFed introduced an incredible no-fee credit card that looks and acts like a premium rewards card. The Pathfinder Rewards card has a 25,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $2,500 on the card in the first three months of account opening. It earns 3x points on all travel purchases (PenFed Honors Advantage members earn 4x on travel purchases) and the card earns 1.5x points on all other purchases every day. Every point with PenFed is basically worth 1 cent each. The sign-up bonus and earnings rates alone for a no annual fee card would be plenty to make this a great option, but the card offers even more.
Every five years you receive a $100 credit for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck registration fee and you receive a $100 annual airline fee credit. Use the credit for incidentals like lounge access, checked baggage or onboard purchases on any US-headquartered airline (can be used across multiple airlines for a total of $100). You must be a member of PenFed to get the card, and almost anyone can qualify. No military service required. This is a really impressive product to have no annual fee.
Amex EveryDay Card from American Express
This card is the only personal no annual fee card I know of with the ability to transfer points to travel partners. It gives you the opportunity to earn up to 1.2 American Express Membership Rewards points per dollar — if you use your card for at least 20 transactions in a month, you’ll be rewarded with a 20% point bonus. You also earn 2x points on the first $6,000 you spend at US supermarkets each year (then 1x).
The card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $1,000 in the first three months of account opening. This card also charges a 2.7% foreign-transaction fee. Be careful you don’t confuse this no-fee card with the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express, which can earn you up to 1.5 Membership Rewards on all purchases and 3x points at US supermarkets (on the first $6,000 spent per year), but carries a $95 annual fee.
The Capital One Venture Rewards cards have made headline after headline recently. The VentureOne Rewards and Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earn 10x Venture Miles on Hotels.com purchases, and now all Capital One miles-earning cards give you access to airline transfer partners, boosting the potential value you can get from your rewards. The VentureOne card has no annual fee and is offering a 20,000-mile sign up bonus after spending $1,000 in the first three months of account opening. That’s worth $280 based on TPG’s valuations.
Besides 10x earnings on Hotels.com, the card earns 1.25 miles per dollar spent every day with no cap. With the ability to earn more than 1% back toward travel and save 20% on almost any hotel by combining 10x points earned with the Hotels.com Rewards program, the Capital One Venture One is a definite top no annual fee card to consider.
Uber Visa Card
The no annual fee Uber Visa card offers great bonus spend categories with the points earned able to be redeemed toward Uber credit, gift cards, or cash back. Earn 4% back on restaurants, takeout and bars, including UberEats; 3% back on airfare, hotel and vacation home rentals; 2% back on online purchases including Uber, online shopping, video and music streaming services (certain online purchases are excluded, including third-party payment services); and 1% back on all other purchases.
The card also has no foreign transaction fees, cellphone insurance up to $600, and offers a $50 credit for an online music, video, or shopping subscription service when you spend $5,000 on the card in a calendar year. That is a lot of rewards potential and ancillary benefits from a no annual fee card. My only request: Give us 4% back on Uber rides instead of 2%.
This card is pretty straightforward: It earns 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases with no limit. If you have a Bank of America checking or savings account, you’ll get a 10% points bonus, and if you’re a Preferred Rewards customer, you can increase that bonus to 25% to 75% (depending on how the total assets you have across accounts with Bank of America). In addition to having no annual fee, this card waives foreign transaction fees.
You can redeem points to cover travel expenses such as flights, hotels, rental cars and baggage fees. The card’s offering new card holders 25,000 points after they make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. Those points can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
As you can see, you don’t need to pay an annual fee to earn valuable rewards with a credit card. Whether they earn you 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-fee options as well.
Featured photo by Matt Dutile/Getty Images.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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