Best no-annual-fee cash-back credit cards for at home and abroad

Feb 1, 2020

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Points-and-miles enthusiasts love to maximize their travel redemptions and exult over their cardholder benefits that offset high annual fees. Other people prefer a simpler approach. They want one card that gives them cash back on their purchases without annual fees. If you’re one for the solo-card approach, your main consideration is whether you’re going to use the card at home or abroad because if you don’t like annual fees, you’re not going to like foreign transaction fees either.

Although high annual fee cards can be worth it if you can maximize benefits and redemptions, there are good ways to earn cash back instead of miles on your spending.

Here’s a guide:

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In This Post

Best cash-back cards with no annual fee

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

Comparison of the best cash back cards with no annual fee

Card Sign-up bonus Rewards rate Foreign transaction fee
Citi Double Cash Card None Up to 2% (1% when you buy and 1% as you pay) on everything 3% of each purchase
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within three months from account opening 1.5% on everything None
Chase Freedom Unlimited $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening 5% on Lyft (through March 2022)

1.5% on everything else

3% of each purchase
Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card $200 cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening 3% in your choice of one category and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on the first $2,500 in a combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then 1%)

1% on everything else

3% of each purchase
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening 3% cash back on dining and entertainment

2% cash back at grocery stores

1% cash back on everything else

None
Discover it Cash Back Automatically match all cash back earned at the end of your first year 5% on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in rotating bonus categories each quarter you activate

1% on everything else

None
Chase Freedom $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening 5% on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate

5% on Lyft (through March 2022)

1% on everything else

3% of each purchase

Citi® Double Cash Card

(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)
The Citi Double Cash offers up to 2% cash back on everything (1% when you buy, plus 1% when as you pay). (Photo by Josh Gribben/The Points Guy)

Best for use at home: Up to 2% cash back on everything (1% when you buy and 1% as you pay)

The Citi Double Cash Card earns up to 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay your statement — all with no annual fee and no limit on the cash back you can earn. This makes it a good choice for general spending while you’re in the U.S. But you’ll want to store it deep in your luggage when you travel internationally because it imposes a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Further reading:

Apply here: Citi Double Cash Card

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
The Capital One Quicksilver earns 1.5% cash back with no foreign transaction fees. (Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Best for use at home and abroad: 1.5% cash back on everything and no foreign transaction fees

Sign-up bonus: $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within three months from account opening

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card earns unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase with no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee. This makes it a good card for general spending while abroad. And it provides extended warranty protection and travel accident insurance when you pay with your card.

Further reading:

Apply here: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Chase Freedom Unlimited

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers some travel and shopping protections that aren’t usually offered with no-annual-fee cards. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Best for use at home: 5% cash back on Lyft (through March 2022); 1.5% cash back on everything else, and decent travel and shopping protections

Sign-up bonus: $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening

The Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022 and 1.5% cash back on everything else. However, the card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, so you won’t want to use it for purchases abroad. The card offers purchase protection, extended warranty protection, trip cancellation/interruption insurance and auto rental collision damage waiver when you pay for related expenses with your card.

Looking at cash-back rates and foreign transaction fees, the Chase Freedom Unlimited isn’t the best card for everyday spending for consumers who want a pure cash back card and aren’t willing to pay an annual fee. However, if you would consider paying the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card’s $95 annual fee in the future, you could accumulate rewards from everyday spending on the Chase Freedom Unlimited and then transfer them to your Sapphire Preferred account when you’re ready to redeem.

1% cash back would become one Chase Ultimate Reward point when transferred to your Sapphire Preferred account, and then you could redeem your points for travel through the Chase travel portal at 1.25 cents per point or transfer your points to airline and hotel partners (which TPG’s valuations estimate will get you about 2 cents per point).

Further reading:

Apply here: Chase Freedom Unlimited

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Best for use at home: 3% cash back in one category of your choice (on the first $2,500 in 3% and 2% categories each quarter) and Preferred Rewards members get a 25% to 75% rewards bonus based on their membership tier

Sign-up bonus: $200 cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening

With the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card, you can earn 3% cash back in one category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings. You can also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs — but your 3% and 2% earning is only on the first $2,500 of spending in these categories each quarter. If you spend $2,500 each quarter in a chosen 3% category (and don’t do any spending in 2% categories), you’ll get $300 per year in cash back from this spending.

The card has a 3% foreign transaction fee and extended warranty protection when you pay for expenses with your card. The card can be particularly valuable to higher-tier members of Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, which offers credit card reward bonuses of 25% to 75%.

Further reading:

Apply here: Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card

Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for use at home and abroad: 3% cash back for dining and entertainment; 2% cash back at grocery stores, and no foreign transaction fees

Sign-up bonus: $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening

The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card offers 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. There are no foreign transaction fees and the card offers extended warranty protection as well as travel accident insurance and an auto rental collision damage waiver. So, this card is a good choice if you tend to spend a lot on dining and entertainment, both at home and abroad.

Further reading:

Discover it Cash Back

Best for use at home and abroad: Enroll each quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter in rotating categories, and no foreign transaction fees

With Discover it Cash Back, you earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases (per Discover’s Cashback Calendar after enrollment) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, so it’s a good choice for spending in the quarterly bonus categories whether you’re in the U.S. or overseas. Discover matches your total cash back after the first year of card membership, meaning bonus category purchases will effectively earn 10% cash back in your first year.

Further reading:

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom earns 5% cash back on Lyft rides and rotating categories. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Best for use at home: 5% cash back on Lyft (through March 2022); 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent in rotating categories each quarter, and decent travel and shopping protections

Sign-up bonus: $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening

The Chase Freedom earns 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022; 5% on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, and 1% cash back on everything else. For the first quarter of 2020, the 5% categories include gas stations, select streaming services and internet, cable and phone service providers.

You won’t want to use the card for purchases abroad because of a 3% foreign transaction fee, but the card offers purchase protection, extended warranty protection, trip cancellation/interruption insurance and auto rental collision damage waiver when you pay for related expenses with your card.

As with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, your rewards can become more valuable if you transfer them to another card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

Further reading:

Apply here: Chase Freedom

What card to get if you only want one card

If you refuse to pay any annual fees, or if you travel internationally and prefer the simplicity of cash-back rewards, you could sign up for the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card which provides 1.5% back on everything. If most of your credit card spending is on dining, entertainment and groceries, you may be better off with the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card. Neither of these cards charges an annual fee nor any foreign transaction fees, which makes either card a good choice if you’re looking for one card for all your expenses at home and abroad.

If you don’t travel internationally, you may be better off getting the Citi Double Cash Card if you only want one card. But, depending on what types of expenses you normally put on your credit card, you may be better off getting the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card or the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card. And, especially if you would be open to getting a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred at some point in the future, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is also a reasonable choice.

What cards to get if you want a couple of cards

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
Different cards can increase your earnings. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

To maximize your cash-back earning without paying any annual fees, the following credit cards are good options:

  • Citi Double Cash Card
    • Why: Up to 2% cash back on all purchases (1% when you buy, plus 1% as you pay)
    • Use: Domestic purchases outside or past the Chase Freedom quarterly bonus categories
  • Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
    • Why: 1.5% cash back on all purchases; no foreign transaction fees; extended warranty, and auto rental collision damage waiver
    • Use: International purchases; purchases on which you may need extended warranty, and car rentals
  • Chase Freedom
    • Why: 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories up to $1,500 per quarter after enrollment; 5% on Lyft (through March 2022); purchase protection; extended warranty; trip cancellation/interruption, and auto rental collision damage waiver
    • Use: Domestic purchases in the quarterly rotating categories up to $1,500 per quarter after enrollment, domestic Lyft rides, domestic purchases where you may need purchase protection, domestic trips for which you may need trip cancellation/interruption

You’ll want to activate the Chase Freedom’s quarterly bonuses each quarter and remember which categories earn 5% cash back each quarter.

If you’re open to adding a few additional no-annual-fee cards to your wallet, you may also want to consider signing up for the following cards:

Related reading: How many credit cards should I have at once?

Related guides

Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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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