The best no-annual-fee credit cards of 2019
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There’s no better way to maximize rewards earnings and minimize 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-annual-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 best no-annual-fee credit cards of 2019
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for everyday spending
- Citi Rewards+℠ Card: Best for small purchases
- Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card: Best for travelers
- Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Best for small-business purchases
- Chase Freedom: Best for rotating bonus categories
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: Best for Hilton loyalists (see rates and fees)
- Discover it® Cash Back: Best for rotating cash-back bonus
- Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card: Best for Hotels.com purchases
- Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card: Best for existing Bank of America customers
Best no-annual-fee credit cards comparison
|Credit Card||Main Perks||0% Intro APR Period|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Unlimited 1.5%/1.5x on all purchases||15 months (after that, 16.74%-25.49% variable APR)|
|Citi Rewards+ Card||All purchases are rounded up to the nearest 10 points||15 months (after that, 14.99% – 24.99% variable APR)|
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card||Earn 3x on travel, dining, gas stations and select streaming services||12 months (after that, 15.49%-27.49% variable APR)|
|Ink Business Cash Credit Card||Earn 5%/5x on your first $25,000 spent each year at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services||12 months (only for purchases) (after that, 14.99% – 20.99% variable APR)|
|Chase Freedom||Earn 5%/5x (up to $1,500) on rotating quarterly bonus categories||15 months (after that, 16.74%-25.49% variable APR|
|Hilton Honors American Express Card||Earn 7x for Hilton purchases; 5x at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations. Hilton Honors Silver status. Car/travel accident insurance||N/A|
|Discover it® Cash Back||Earn 5% (up to $1,500) on rotating quarterly bonus categories (activation required). Discover automatically matches cash back earned at the end of first card membership year.||14 months (after that, 13.49% to 24.49% variable APR)|
Visa Signature Card
|Enjoy Visa Signature Benefits||–|
|PenFed Pathfinder Rewards
American Express® Card
|Earn 3x points on travel, 4x if you are a PenFed Honors Advantage member||12 months (only for balance transfers) (after that, 12.74% to 17.99% variable APR)|
|Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express*||Earn 2x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 a year), and a 20% points bonus when you use your card 20 or more times in a billing period||15 months (after that, 14.49% to 25.49% variable APR)|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card||Earn 10x points at Hotels.com when you pay with your VentureOne card||12 months (only for purchases) (after that, 13.74% to 23.74% variable APR)|
|Uber Visa Card||Earn 4% on dining, 3% on hotel and airfare, and 2% on online purchases (including Uber)||N/A|
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card||Eligible Bank of America Preferred Rewards members can earn up to 2.625x on all purchases||12 months (only for purchases) (after that 16.74% – 24.74% variable APR)|
*The information for the Amex EveryDay Credit 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.
Below you’ll find a detailed analysis of each individual card on the list, including the current offer and benefits, to best choose the no-annual-fee credit card that fits your spending lifestyle.
Best no annual fee credit cards
Current bonus: Earn $150 after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Benefits: You will earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limit. This may not excite you at face value, but if you also hold a premium Ultimate Rewards-earning card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you can convert the cash back to points to get 1.5x Ultimate Rewards on all purchases. 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 minimum 2.25% return on all spending with the no-annual-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.
APPLY HERE: Chase Freedom Unlimited Card
Current bonus: Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within three months of account opening.
Benefits: The Rewards+ Card stands out for its unique earning scheme: In addition to earning 2x points on supermarket and gas station purchases (up to $6,000 then 1 point per dollar on everything else), points earnings on all your purchases are rounded up to the nearest 10 points. So if you buy a $1.99 pack of gum at a supermarket, you’ll earn 10 points.
Note that with this card, the points you’re earning 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, Singapore KrisFlyer and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
The information for the Citi Premier and Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
APPLY HERE: Citi Rewards+ Card
Current bonus: Earn $500 after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.
Benefits: The Ink Business Cash card is an impressive no-annual-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.
APPLY HERE: Ink Business Cash Credit Card
Current bonus: Earn $150 after you spend $500 in the first three months.
Benefits: 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 each quarter you activate. For example, in the fourth quarter of 2019, you can earn bonus rewards on department stores, PayPal and Chase Pay. 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. With its versatility, it should come as no surprise that we rank the Chase Freedom as one of our picks for the best rewards credit cards. Note that this card charges a 3% foreign-transaction fee.
APPLY HERE: Chase Freedom
Current bonus: Earn 75,000 Hilton points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months of account opening.
Benefits: It’s not often you find a no-annual-fee card (see rates and fees) that offers a decent points bonus and the ability to earn substantial points on bonus spending categories. Bonus categories include 7x points on spending within the Hilton portfolio; 5x points on U.S. restaurant, U.S. supermarket and U.S. gas station purchases; and 3x points on everything else. This card has no foreign transaction fee (see rates and fees).
The card comes with Hilton Honors Silver status, which includes a 20% points bonus, no resort fees on award stays, standard in-room and lobby Wi-Fi, late check-out, 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.
APPLY HERE: Hilton Honors American Express Card
Discover it® Cash Back
Current bonus: Discover will match your first year’s cash back.
Benefits: 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. Categories for the fourth quarter of 2019 are Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com.
The kicker: Discover is 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; 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.
APPLY HERE: Discover it Cash Back
Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card
Current bonus: N/A
Benefits: 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, such as 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 the card issuers you’re opening new accounts with. It does charge a foreign transaction fee, although at 1% it’s lower than some of the other such fees on this list (you’ll still want to avoid using it abroad).
APPLY HERE: Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card
Current bonus: Earn 25,000 bonus points after you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days.
Benefits: In 2018, PenFed introduced an incredible no-annual-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 you spend $2,500 on the card in the first 90 days 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 credit of up to $100 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 U.S.-headquartered airline (this can be used across multiple airlines for a total of $100). You must be a member of PenFed to get the card; however, almost anyone can qualify, with no military service required. This is a really impressive product to have no annual fee.
APPLY HERE: PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card
Amex EveryDay Card from American Express
Current bonus: Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.
Benefits: This card is one of the rare personal no-annual-fee cards with the ability to transfer points directly 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 U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1x).
The card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points 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-annual-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 U.S. supermarkets (on the first $6,000 spent per year) but carries a $95 annual fee.
The information for the Amex EveryDay Credit Card and Amex EveryDay Preferred 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.
Current bonus: Earn 20,000 miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.
Benefits: The Capital One Venture Rewards cards have made headline after headline thanks to major changes. The VentureOne Rewards and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card earn 10x Venture Miles on Hotels.com purchases when booked and paid through Hotels.com/Venture, 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 you spend $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 VentureOne is a top no-annual-fee card to consider.
APPLY HERE: Capital One VentureOne Rewards
Uber Visa Card
Current bonus: Earn $100 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 90 days.
Benefits: The no-annual-fee Uber Visa card offers great bonus spending categories with the points earned redeemable 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%.
Current bonus: Earn 25,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
Benefits: This card is pretty straightforward: It earns 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases with no limit. If you’re a Preferred Rewards member, you can increase that bonus to 25% to 75% (depending on how much you have in total assets 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 is offering new cardholders 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.
No-annual-fee credit cards: Honorable mentions
It’s a business card, so not everyone will be eligible to get it. But if you are, the Blue Business Plus is a fantastic no-annual-fee (see rates and fees) addition to your purse or wallet. The card earns 2x Membership Rewards points on all purchases up to $50,000 a year (then 1x), and the points can be transferred to Amex’s 19 airline and three hotel partners just like any other card in the Membership Rewards family. Based on TPG’s current valuations, that means you’ll earn a return of 4 cents on every dollar you spend with this card, which is hard to beat. Just make sure you don’t use the Blue Business Plus overseas, since it charges a 2.7% foreign-transaction fee (see rates and fees).
There are no bells or whistles on this card, but if simplicity is what you’re looking for, then the Citi Double Cash Card is worth considering. It earns 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% when you make the purchase, and then another 1% when you pay it off. Citi recently added the ability to transfer the cash back rewards earned on this card into full fledged ThankYou Points that you can then transfer to airlines, making this card much more compelling. In fact it might even rival the Chase Freedom Unlimited for the top spot on this list, 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.
Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Card
This card is a lot of fun — at least for the first six months after you open an account, since you’ll get 5x points on gas station, grocery store and drugstore purchases. The card offers a sign-up bonus a few times a year, so be on the lookout for it. Points are worth 1 cent each for cash back, but if you redeem for airfare through the Wells Fargo Rewards travel portal, they’re worth 1.5 cents each, meaning you earn 7.5x points toward airfare on all gas, grocery and drugstore purchases for six months on the first $12,500 in spending. Note that this card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee.
The information related to the Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card has been collected by The Points Guy and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.
Credit Cards with no annual fee the first year
Many top cards carry annual fees that range from $100 to $500+, but in order to entice customers to try out the product, the issuers will waive the annual fee for the first year. This can be a great way to try out more valuable rewards cards without committing to paying higher fees. A few top options in this category include:
Current bonus: 50,000 Capital One Venture miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months. Since you can now transfer Capital One miles to airline partners, TPG’s latest valuations peg the value of this sign-up bonus at $700. But, you can also continue to redeem Capital One points for a fixed value of 1 cent each if you prefer.
Standout benefits: Earn 10x miles on Hotels.com bookings at Hotels.com/Venture through January 2020; 2x on all other purchases. Benefits include extended warranty protection, secondary auto rental collision damage waiver, no foreign transaction fees and a $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck fee rebate every four years.
Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $95
Quick take: This card can be particularly valuable when booking hotels through Hotels.com/Venture. For more information on this card, check out the following post:
APPLY HERE: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
Current bonus: 50,000 AAdvantage miles, worth $700 based on TPG valuations, after you spend $2,500 in the first three months. Alternatively, the business version of this card — the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® — offers 70,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $4,000 in the first four months.
Standout benefits: Earn 2x at restaurants and gas stations and on eligible American Airlines purchases; 1x on all other purchases. The first checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation. No foreign transaction fees. Earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount after spending $20,000 or more in purchases during your card year and renewing your card.
Annual fee: $99, waived for first 12 months
Quick take: The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard can be particularly helpful if you fly American Airlines domestically in basic economy, as a family domestically on awards or frequently on awards. For more information on this card, check out the following post:
APPLY HERE: Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
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 June, every June you can expect to be charged the annual fee.
Who should get a no-annual-fee credit card?
The cards on this list represent the best of the best when it comes to no-annual-fee cards, but you’ll find better bonuses, perks and bonus categories on cards with an annual fee. You should stick to no-annual-fee cards only if you can’t afford to pay the fee or if you’re not yet sure you want to get serious about travel rewards.
On the other hand, 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 you spend in fees.
Should I downgrade my annual fee credit card?
This is a great question. Many top-rated travel cards with an annual fee offer strong welcome bonuses that make them a no-brainer for the first year. However, once you’ve gotten your bonus, you want to keep the account open to boost your credit score without racking up too many annual fees. An easy answer is to downgrade to a no-annual-fee card.
Say, you opened the Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn the bonus, but in the second year you decide you don’t want to pay the card’s $450 annual fee. Simply downgrade to a Chase Freedom or Freedom Unlimited and your problem is solved. Just 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.
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 Katie Genter.
Featured photo by Matt Dutile/Getty Images.
This is The Points Guy’s permanent page for the best no-annual-fee credit cards, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for updates. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to older offers below.
Updated on 10/9/19
- Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Honors portfolio of brands.
- Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and 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