BEST CREDIT CARDSBEST CREDIT CARDSBEST NO ANNUAL FEE CREDIT CARDS OF JULY 2024

Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of July 2024

Paying an annual fee on a credit card can be worth it if it gets you substantially better benefits. But in many cases, credit cards that don’t charge annual fees offer better long-term value than those that do. No-annual-fee credit cards make it easy to come out ahead, regardless of your spending.

Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of July 2024
Erin Hurd
Written by
Assigning Editor
Caitlin Mims
Reviewed by
Content Management Specialist
Paul Soucy
Edited by
Fact Checked
Lead Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
Erin Hurd
Written by
Assigning Editor
Caitlin Mims
Reviewed by
Content Management Specialist
Paul Soucy
Edited by
Fact Checked
Lead Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
Updated: Jul 12, 2024
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NerdWallet's Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of July 2024

Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards From Our Partners

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Find the right credit card for you.

Whether you want to pay less interest or earn more rewards, the right card's out there. Just answer a few questions and we'll narrow the search for you.

Find the right credit card for you.

Whether you want to pay less interest or earn more rewards, the right card's out there. Just answer a few questions and we'll narrow the search for you.

Our pick for

Flat-rate cash back

Our pick for

All-around cash back

Our pick for

Simplicity + high rate

Our pick for

Quarterly categories + matching bonus

Our pick for

Quarterly categories + cash bonus

Our pick for

Going out & staying in

Our pick for

Bonus travel rewards

Our pick for

Simple travel rewards

Our pick for

Longest 0% intro APR period

Our pick for

Long 0% intro APR period

Our pick for

Airline card

Our pick for

Hotel card

Our pick for

Small business

FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS: BEST NO ANNUAL FEE CREDIT CARDS

Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Our pick for: Flat-rate cash back

Among flat-rate cash-back cards, you'll be hard-pressed to beat the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card. It earns an unlimited 2% back on all purchases, which is excellent. But in addition, the card offers a rich sign-up bonus and a generous intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers. That's an impressive, hard-to-find combination of features on a card with a $0 annual fee. Read our review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Our pick for: All-around cash back

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® was already a fine card when it offered 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Now it's even better, with bonus rewards on travel booked through Chase, as well as at restaurants and drugstores. On top of all that, new cardholders get a 0% introductory APR period and the opportunity to earn a sweet bonus. Read our review.

Citi Double Cash® Card

Our pick for: Simplicity + high rate

Year after year, the Citi Double Cash® Card has been a top choice among flat-rate cash-back cards. You earn 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% when you buy something and 1% when you pay it off. There's no 0% intro period for purchases and no bonus categories, but the high rewards rate more than makes up for the lack of bells and whistles. Read our review.

Discover it® Cash Back

Our pick for: Quarterly categories + matching bonus

The Discover it® Cash Back earns bonus cash back in quarterly categories that you activate. In past years, those categories have included common spending areas like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and specific major retailers. Category activation can be a hassle, but if your spending aligns with those categories (and for most households, it probably will), you can rake in serious rewards. You also get the issuer's signature "cash-back match" bonus in your first year. Read our review.

Chase Freedom Flex®

Our pick for: Quarterly categories + cash bonus

The Chase Freedom Flex® offers bonus cash back in quarterly categories that you activate, as well as on travel booked through Chase, at restaurants and at drugstores. Category activation can be a hassle, but if your spending matches the categories — and for a lot of people, it will — you can rack up hundreds of dollars a year. There's a fantastic bonus offer for new cardholders and an intro APR offer, too. Read our review.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Our pick for: Going out & staying in

Love the night life but dead-set against paying an annual fee? Consider the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card. It pays a lower cash-back rate on dining and entertainment than the regular Savor card, but the rewards are nevertheless quite good (see rates and fees). The sign-up bonus is smaller than on the annual-fee version, too, but it's still solid (see rates and fees). Read our review.

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Our pick for: Bonus travel rewards

The Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card offers so much value, it's hard to believe there's no annual fee. Start with a great bonus offer, then earn extra rewards in a host of common spending categories — restaurants, gas stations, transit, travel, streaming and more. Read our review.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Our pick for: Simple travel rewards

One of the best no-annual-fee travel cards available, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card gives you a solid rewards rate on every purchase, with points that can be redeemed for any travel purchase, without the restrictions of branded airline and hotel cards. Bank of America® has an expansive definition of "travel," too, giving you additional flexibility in how you use your rewards. Read our review.

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card

Our pick for: Longest 0% intro APR period

The Wells Fargo Reflect® Card has one of the longest intro APR periods on the market — approaching almost two years. You'll be hard-pressed to find a longer interest-free promotion, and it applies to both purchases and balance transfers. Read our review.

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Our pick for: 0% intro APR period

A lengthy introductory APR period for both purchases and balance transfers has made the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card a NerdWallet favorite. Read our review.

American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp®

Our pick for: Airline card

For occasional but loyal American Airlines flyers, the no-annual-fee American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp® is a cost-effective way to earn not only miles but also credit toward elite frequent-flyer status. Read our review.

Hilton Honors American Express Card

Our pick for: Hotel card

The Hilton Honors American Express Card earns bonus rewards on Hilton stays and in common everyday categories. You also get automatic Hilton Honors™ Silver status. Terms apply. Read our review.

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

Our pick for: Small business

If your business's spending matches the bonus categories on the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card, including spending at office supply stores, you can rack up some serious cash back. (If not, then look elsewhere.) There's an excellent sign-up bonus for a no-annual-fee cash-back card, plus an introductory APR period for purchases. Learn more and apply.

• • •

OTHER RESOURCES

Is a no-annual-fee credit card worth it?

There are many ways to evaluate whether a credit card is worth having, but the simplest is this: Does the value it gives you outweigh the costs of carrying it? When a card has no annual fee, the math seems pretty easy, at least on the surface. If you're paying nothing to carry a card and you're getting, say, $100 a year in rewards for the spending you put on the card, then the card is "worth it" from the perspective of pure numbers. You come out $100 ahead.

But what if a different card had an annual fee of $50 but generated $200 in rewards for doing the same spending? With that card, you would come out $150 ahead. So you could argue that choosing to carry the first card instead of the second is costing you $50. Through that lens, the no-annual-fee card might not actually be "worth it."

Determining whether a card is worth it, then, is a matter of looking not only at what that card gives you in relation to what it takes from you, but also what you would get with competing cards on the market.

Annual fees are more common with some types of credit cards than with others. For example:

  • With a couple of exceptions, the best cash back credit cards have no annual fee. Those exceptions usually have industry-best rewards rates on common spending categories. Those rates easily make up for the fee while still delivering more value than no-fee alternatives.

  • Most airline credit cards charge an annual fee. But those cards commonly give you free checked bags, priority boarding and other perks on top of the rewards you earn. You end up saving money even with the fee, and the more you travel, the more you save. Some airlines do offer cards with no annual fee — but they don't have the same perks.

  • Low interest credit cards and balance transfer credit cards don't typically charge fees. The whole point of these cards is saving money on interest, so paying an annual fee would immediately eat into the value.

Some people just don't want to pay an annual fee. They view it as an upfront cost that may or may not be returned to them over the coming year, and they'd rather just not worry about it. That's a legitimate stance. If it's how you feel, then a no-annual-fee card is a logical choice for you.

Annual fee credit cards vs. no annual fee: Do the math

The primary benefit of a no-annual-fee credit card is right there in the description. It doesn't have an annual fee. It doesn't cost you anything to carry it, which means it doesn't cost you anything to not use it.

When a card has an annual fee, by contrast, you have to use it enough that you get back the cost of the fee in rewards or perks. If you don't, the card is a drain on your finances. You can't afford to not use it.

Further, a card with an annual fee not only has to earn back its fee, but also needs to deliver enough value on top of that to match or exceed what you can get from alternatives that have no annual fee. To illustrate the point, let's take a look at two cards that offer benefits in similar categories, one of which has an annual fee and one of which does not:

Empty Table Header

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Annual fee

$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.

$0

Cash back rate at U.S. supermarkets*

6%

3%

Rewards minus annual fee, based on weekly supermarket spending of ...

... $25

–$17

$39

... $31

$1.72

$48.36

... $50

$61

$78

... $61

$95.32

$95.16

... $75

$139

$117

... $100

$217

$156

* Rates apply to first $6,000 per year in U.S. supermarket spending. After that, such spending earns 1% cash back.

With the "Preferred" version, the annual fee means you're starting out in the red. Assuming you use the card only for U.S. supermarket spending, you won't earn back the annual fee unless you spend an average of about $31 a week. On the other hand, with the no-annual-fee "Everyday" version, you're ahead from the start.

Once you hit $31 a week, you're out of the red with the Preferred card — but you're still behind the Everyday until you get to about $61 a week in spending. At that point, the higher rewards rate on the Preferred not only makes up for the annual fee but also outpaces the lower rewards rate on the Everyday.

(Worth noting: Both of these cards offer bonus rewards in other categories besides U.S. supermarkets, so the real-world calculus depends on how you spend across all categories. But the point still stands: There comes a point with any card where you break even on the annual fee, and then another point where you break even with a card that has no annual fee.)

As you can see, depending on the complexity of a card's rewards structure, the break-even math can get complicated.

Should you get a no-annual-fee credit card?

A credit card with no annual fee makes sense if:

  • You don't plan to use the card much. Some people put every bit of spending they can on credit cards, for convenience and for rewards, and then pay their bill in full each month to avoid interest. When you do that, it's easier to recoup the cost of an annual fee. If you're the type who wants a credit card only for emergencies or to build a strong credit profile, you're unlikely to make up the cost, so a card with no annual fee makes sense.

  • You don't want to worry about the carrying costs of a card with an annual fee. There are more important things in life to think about than whether you've spent enough to justify your credit card's annual fee. It's perfectly natural to not want to be bothered.

  • A fee is too big of an upfront expense. Annual fees on credit cards are most often in the range of $90 to $100, but they can run as high as hundreds of dollars. Many people aren't comfortable with such an outlay without an immediate return.

Can I get the annual fee waived on a credit card?

Any card can be a no-annual-fee credit card if you can get the issuer to agree to waive the fee.

If a credit card issuer considers you a valuable customer, it might not want to risk losing your business over an annual fee. There's no harm in calling the issuer and asking for the annual fee to be waived. The worst they can say is no. Your chances of getting a "yes" will be better if your account shows you to be a customer worth keeping — someone who uses the card regularly.

Rather than a fee waiver, however, you might get approved for a retention offer. This is the opportunity to earn a bonus that might be worth more than the cost of the fee. You still pay the annual fee, but the bonus offsets it. Retention offers work much like sign-up bonuses — put a certain amount of spending on the card within a specified period of time, and you'll get a nice haul of rewards for your trouble.

Another possibility: If you have a card with an annual fee and you don't use it enough to justify the fee, consider downgrading to a no-fee card from the same company. This is called a product change, and it can be as simple as calling the issuer and asking for no-annual-fee alternatives.

*For U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card: An introductory fee of either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater, for balances transferred within 60 days of account opening. After that, either 5% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater.

Last updated on July 12, 2024

Methodology

NerdWallet's credit cards team selects the best credit cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to be chosen as among the "best" in multiple categories. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.

Frequently asked questions

When a credit card is referred to as having "no fee," that usually means there is no annual fee — that is, you don't have to pay a fee every year just for the privilege of carrying the card in your wallet.

"No fee" doesn't necessarily mean no fees of any kind, ever. Few (if any) cards have absolutely no fees under any conditions. It's not uncommon to be charged a fee, for example, when:

  • You pay your bill late.

  • Your payment gets returned for insufficient funds.

  • You transfer a balance.

  • You take out a cash advance.

  • You use your card outside the United States. (But keep in mind that many cards do not charge a foreign transaction fee.)

These kinds of fees are all avoidable, however. The annual fee (when there is one) generally is not. So if you want a true "no fee" card, get one with no annual fee and use it in a way that ducks the other fees.

People who have bad credit (generally defined as a credit score below 620) can get a credit card with no annual fee, although they may have to put down a security deposit of at least $200. The deposit on a secured credit card is usually equal to your credit line. So if you deposit $200, you get a $200 credit line. Deposit $500, and your credit line is $500.

Unlike annual fees, though, deposits on secured credit cards are refundable, which means you can get them back when you close the account or upgrade to a regular credit card.

Although there are no-deposit unsecured cards for people with bad credit, such cards almost invariably charge annual fees. And the fees they charge can be extremely high. It's not uncommon to see fees of $99 a year for a card with a $200 credit limit, and many cards charge monthly maintenance fees on top of the annual fees.

There might be more expensive cards out there, but it's hard to beat the Luxury Card™ Mastercard® Gold Card™ for pure flash. This card, which is plated in 24-karat gold, has an annual fee of $995.

Among cards designed for a broad audience, The Platinum Card® from American Express has a pretty eye-popping annual fee of $695. However, it comes loaded with perks that make it one of the more popular travel credit cards on the market. (Terms apply; see rates and fees.)

About the author

Portrait of author

Erin Hurd

Erin Hurd is a credit card and travel rewards expert at NerdWallet. Her work has been featured in Yahoo, Nasdaq, TheStreet, International Living, the Daily Reckoning, Personal Finance and FinanceBuzz. Previously the director of strategic growth at a large financial publishing company, Erin is passionate about harnessing the power of credit card and loyalty rewards to travel the world. When she's not writing, she's planning the next adventure for her family of four using points and miles. Twitter: @ErinHurd1. Read more
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