The Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards for September 2021

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A great no annual fee credit card can be one of the most powerful savings tools in your wallet.

These cards offer rewards, perks, and credit-building benefits to help you save money and build credit — all without the annual fee that comes with flashier premium travel cards. And as long as you pay your balances in full each month and avoid taking on other fees, you’ll reap those rewards for no cost. 

Many cards in this category are geared toward savings on your everyday purchases, which make them great options for people whose spending has lately been more focused on groceries, dining, streaming services, and other at-home spending than big travel expenses. 

Whether you’re a credit card novice looking for straightforward savings or you’re just re-evaluating what cards make sense for your evolving spending patterns, these are the no annual fee cards we believe can make the most valuable additions to your wallet:

Before You Start

Even with no annual fee, credit cards can get costly. These cards still charge high interest rates on any balances you carry month-to-month. Interest, plus fees for late or returned payments and penalty APR charges, will quickly add up if you charge more than you can afford to pay off. Before opening a new card, make sure you have a foundation of good credit habits, like paying down your balances in full and on time each month.

Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Good for Flexible Rewards
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Editor’s Score: (4.7/5)
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Citi® Double Cash Card
Good for Building Good Habits
Citi® Double Cash Card
Editor’s Score: (4.4/5)
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Chase Freedom Flex℠
Good for Maximum Cash Back
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Editor’s Score: (4.7/5)
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Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Good for Everyday Spending
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Editor’s Score: (4.1/5)
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Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Good for Future Travel
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
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Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Good for Flexible Rewards

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Editor’s Score: (4.7/5)
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Rewards rate:

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 at restaurants and drugstores. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

  • Intro bonus: $200
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 14.99% – 23.74% Variable
  • Recommended credit score: 670-850 (Good to Excellent)

Overview

Chase Freedom Unlimited offers the best of both worlds when it comes to cash back. You’ll earn a flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make, plus bonus rewards in specific 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% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3% on dining and drugstore purchases. If you spend at least $500 within the first three months of account opening, you can qualify for a $200 welcome bonus.

In addition to ongoing cash rewards, you can get 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022, travel insurance through Chase, and a complimentary 3 months of DashPass (pay $0 delivery fee on eligible orders through DoorDash and Caviar), then 50% off for an additional 9 months (Activate by December 31, 2021).

Why we chose this card

Many cardholders will find no shortage of opportunities to save using Chase Freedom Unlimited. Based on average consumer spending data, we estimate this card’s annual rewards value at $250.75 (after a first-year $450.75 value). And with no annual fee, that’s money you can put straight back in your pocket.

We also like this card for its rewards flexibility. The combination of flat cash back and tiered rewards help you maximize each purchase. And that flexibility extends to redemptions, too. You can redeem your rewards as cash back, but if you have another points-earning Chase card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer your points to those accounts and redeem them at a boosted rate when you book future travel through Chase.

Citi® Double Cash Card
Good for Building Good Habits

Citi® Double Cash Card

Editor’s Score: (4.4/5)
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Rewards rate:

Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.

  • Intro bonus: N/A
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit score: 670-850 (Good to Excellent)

Overview

Citi Double Cash Card* is a great flat cash back card with up to 2% unlimited cash back on every dollar you spend. You’ll earn 1% as you spend, and another 1% when you pay you pay down your balance.

It’s also a solid balance transfer option if you’re looking to pay down debts. You’ll get an introductory 0% interest offer on balance transfers for 18 months (13.99% – 23.99% variable APR thereafter) as long as you transfer the balance within 4 months of account opening. There’s a balance transfer fee of 3% ($5 minimum).

Why we chose this card

This card isn’t just a solid rewards card, it’s also a great tool to help build healthy credit habits. A long 18-month 0% interest period for balance transfers can help you pay down any high-interest debt balances you already carry. And the rewards structure, in which you’ll only earn the full cash back rate once you pay your balance, is a great way to encourage paying down your balances in full and on time each month.

Citi Double Cash is also just a great option for simple cash back. An unlimited 2% cash back rate is one of the best flat cash back offers available today. Based on average consumer spending data, we estimate this card’s annual rewards value at $265.16.

Chase Freedom Flex℠
Good for Maximum Cash Back

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Editor’s Score: (4.7/5)
Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
Rewards rate:

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% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter! Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®. Earn 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores. Earn 1% on all other purchases.

  • Intro bonus: $200
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 14.99 – 23.74% Variable
  • Recommended credit score: 670-850 (Good to Excellent)

Overview

Chase Freedom Flex offers a mixed rewards structure of rotating and tiered bonus categories. You’ll earn 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories each quarter (upon activation, up to $1,500 in combined quarterly category spending), plus 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase, 3% back on dining and at drugstores, and 1% back on everything else. 

Spend $500 within the first three months of account opening to qualify for a $200 welcome bonus.

In addition, you’ll get 3 months complimentary DashPass subscription for $0 delivery charge on eligible DoorDash and Caviar orders (plus 9 months of 50% discounted subscription thereafter), 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022, and additional travel insurance and cellphone protection benefits through Chase.

Why we chose this card

No matter where you’re spending your money these days, it’s safe to assume you’ll get some value back making your purchases with Chase Freedom Flex. Typical rotating categories include groceries, subscription services, and other everyday spending, which, alongside the 3% dining and drugstore category, can make this a great choice for maximizing your 2021 at-home purchases. Based on average consumer spending data, we estimate this card’s annual value at $300.74 — after a first-year value of $500.74.

Because Chase announces new categories quarterly, we don’t know the full rundown of 2021 categories yet, but here’s what the past few quarters have included:

  • Q1 2021: Select streaming services, internet, cable, and phone services, wholesale clubs
  • Q4 2020: Walmart, Paypal
  • Q3 2020: Amazon.com, Whole Foods Market
  • Q2 2020: Select streaming services, gym memberships and fitness clubs, grocery stores

Like Chase Freedom Unlimited, the Freedom Flex card also makes a great pairing for other Chase cards you may have in your wallet. You can choose to redeem your rewards for cash back, or transfer them to another card account, such as your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve, and redeem your points together through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Good for Everyday Spending

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Editor’s Score: (4.1/5)
Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site. See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply.
Rewards rate:

3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% Cash Back on other purchases.

  • Intro bonus: Up to $250
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 13.99%-23.99% Variable
  • Recommended credit score: 670-850 (Good to Excellent)

Overview

The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express lives up to its name in rewards value for the everyday spender. You’ll earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in spending annually, then 1%), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

You’ll also earn $20% on Amazon.com purchases in the first 6 months of card membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of card membership the form of statement credits.

Why we chose this card

The Blue Cash Everyday’s tiered rewards in everyday categories — plus a valuable welcome bonus — make it a great cash back option. Based on average American spending data, we estimate this card’s ongoing annual rewards value at $242.95. If buying groceries at the supermarket and fueling up at the gas pump are two of the most frequent items on your to-do list, you’ll get great savings from this card. 

For maximum cash back at the supermarket (in addition to rewards on streaming services and transit), we also love the Blue Cash Everyday’s sister card from Amex, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, with a $95 annual annual fee that is waived in the first year (See Rates & Fees). But for a no annual fee option, Blue Cash Everyday offers a great combination of high-earning rewards and generous welcome offer for any everyday spender.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Good for Future Travel

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
Rewards rate:

Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.

  • Intro bonus: 20,000 miles
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 14.99% – 24.99% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit score: 670-850 (Good to Excellent)

Overview

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card* has a simple, but lucrative, rewards program. You’ll earn 1.25x miles per dollar you spend on every purchase, plus 25,000 bonus miles after spending $500 within the first 3 months of account opening. 

When you’re ready to redeem, you can put your miles toward a future booking through Capital One Travel, transfer miles to a travel partner, or use Capital One’s Purchase Eraser. You can book travel any way you like, then use your miles toward the travel costs on your card statement. And while you may not be traveling much now, you can also use Purchase Eraser to redeem your miles for restaurant delivery or takeout, streaming services, and wireless telephone services through April 2021.

Why we chose this card

Capital One VentureOne’s flat-rate rewards structure can be highly valuable for anyone looking to earn miles on today’s everyday spending to put toward future travel plans. Even if you’re not sure when you might travel again, Capital One’s extended purchase eraser allowing you to put miles toward dining and streaming offers even more flexibility.

If you’re really looking to stock up on miles for post-pandemic travel, this card’s sister card, the standard Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card*, can offer even more value with 2x miles per dollar you spend. But for no annual fee and flexible rewards options, the VentureOne is a solid, no-frills travel card that can help you save wherever you plan to go in the future.

Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards of September 2021

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Good for: Flexible rewards

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% cash back on travel booked through Chase, 3% cash back on dining and at drugstores, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. You can qualify for a $200 cash bonus after spending $500 within three months of account opening, and there’s a 14.99%–23.74% variable APR with the Chase Freedom Unlimited card.

Citi Double Cash Card

Good for: Building good habits

Earn up to 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay off the purchase. You’ll also get a 0% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for 18 months from account opening with the Citi Double Cash Card. The ongoing variable APR is 13.99%-23.99%.

Chase Freedom Flex

Good for: Maximum cash back

Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in rotating bonus categories after activation. Also 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% on travel booked through Chase, 3% cash back on dining and at drugstores, and 1% cash back on everything else. You’ll qualify for a $200 welcome bonus after spending $500 within three months of account opening with the Chase Freedom Flex, and there’s a 14.99%-23.74% ongoing variable APR.

Blue Cash Everyday from American Express

Good for: Everyday spending

Earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases annually, then 1%), plus 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, and 1% cash back on other purchases. You’ll earn a $200 statement credit welcome bonus after spending $1,000 within three months of account opening with the Blue Cash Everyday from American Express. The ongoing variable APR for this card is 13.99%-23.99%.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Good for: Future Travel

Earn unlimited 1.25x miles on every purchase, which you can redeem for statement credits toward travel purchases you make with the card using Capital One’s Purchase Eraser. You’ll also earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $500 within three months of account opening. The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card has a 15.49%-25.49% variable APR.

Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards Summary

What It’s Good ForRewardsIntro Offer
Chase Freedom UnlimitedFlexible Rewards• 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase

• 3% cash back on dining

• 3% cash back at drugstores

• at least 1.5% cash back on every other purchase
$200 welcome bonus after spending $500 within the first 3 months of account opening
Citi Double CashBuilding Good Habits Unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase (1% as you spend, 1% as you pay)0% interest on balance transfers for 18 months (13.99%-23.99% variable APR thereafter)
Chase Freedom FlexMaximum Cash Back• 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories each quarter (up to $1,500 in combined quarterly spending)

• 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase

• 3% back on dining and at drugstores

• at least 1% back on everything else
$200 welcome bonus after spending $500 within the first 3 months of account opening
Blue Cash Everyday from American ExpressEveryday Spending• 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in spending annually, then 1%)

• 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores

• 1% cash back on everything else
$20% on Amazon.com purchases in the first 6 months of card membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of card membership the form of statement credits
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit CardFuture Travel1.25x miles on every purchase25,000 bonus miles after spending $500 within the first 3 months of account opening

What is a No Annual Fee Card?

A no annual fee credit card works the same as any other credit card, but you are not required to pay a yearly fee to the issuer for card ownership.

That doesn’t mean you can forgo all fees. Even with a no annual fee card, you may take on fees for transactions you make in a foreign currency, late payments, cash advances, balance transfers, and more. And if you carry a balance, you’ll also pay interest charges on any amount you don’t pay by your statement due date.

Always read through the terms and conditions carefully to understand your card’s specific fee schedule.

Is a No Annual Fee Card Right for You?

Cards with no annual fee can offer valuable benefits and savings on your everyday spending. They’re also a low-cost tool for boosting your credit score, with regular use and on-time payments (as long as you don’t carry a balance and take on high-interest debt). 

These cards are perfect for credit beginners or seasoned card users alike, and can benefit anyone looking for straightforward reward structures that don’t require too much effort (or spending) to gain value.

But for big spenders, or those who value added benefits and perks, annual fee cards often offer value that far exceeds their yearly cost. These cards are typically rewards credit cards, and may charge fees ranging from $95 all the way up to $550 and beyond. But in exchange, you’ll find higher rewards rates, added benefits like partner discounts and credits, flexible redemptions with issuer rewards programs, and other perks that can quickly outweigh the annual fee — if your spending habits align with what the card offers.

To determine whether a no annual fee or annual fee card is right for you, look back at your past spending habits and see how they match up with a card’s rewards. Also look for any added benefits or annual credits, and determine whether they align with purchases you would have made anyway. Then, you can estimate whether your potential rewards value will be enough to exceed the annual fee.

Pair Your No Annual Fee Card with Other Credit Cards

No annual fee cards offer valuable savings on their own, but they can also help you shore up your overall credit card strategy. Many of the cards on our list become even more valuable when you pair them with other cards to maximize rewards. 

For instance, Citi Double Cash offers up to 2% cash back on every purchase — that means you can use this card to get a baseline 2% discount on everything you buy. But to maximize your rewards even more, you might pair Citi Double Cash with another rewards card that offers a higher savings rate in specific categories, like the American Express® Gold Card. It charges a $250 annual fee (See Rates & Fees), but you’ll get 4x points at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in U.S. supermarket purchases, then 1x) and 3x points on flights booked on Amextravel.com or directly with airlines, plus additional benefits. By combining the spending power of both of these cards, you can earn a base 2% back wherever you shop, and a higher rewards rate in the categories you spend most, like dining and groceries — while only paying a single annual fee.

This strategy can work even more effectively between cards from the same issuer. For example, you may choose to open a Chase Freedom Unlimited card for your everyday spending. But when it’s safe to travel again, you might also decide you want to open a $95 annual fee Chase Sapphire Preferred Card before booking your next trip. With both cards in your wallet, you can maximize rewards using the two cards individually, and when you’re ready to redeem, pool your rewards into your Chase Sapphire Preferred account. Because that card earns a 25% boost when you redeem for travel through Chase, you’ll not only benefit from the combined total, but also level up the value of your Freedom Unlimited rewards when you redeem.

Downgrading Annual Fee Cards to No Annual Fee Cards

If you’re paying an annual fee on a credit card that you no longer get value from, the cost of keeping it in your wallet can add up quickly. But closing a credit card account altogether — especially if it’s an account you’ve held for a long time — can lower the overall age of your accounts, negatively affecting your credit score.

As an alternative, you may be able to negotiate a product change with your issuer, and downgrade your annual fee card to a no annual fee option without the credit hit.

Each issuer has its own guidelines for product changes. With American Express, for instance, you can only make changes among cards that earn the same types of rewards. In other words, you may request to change your Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express cash back card to a Blue Cash Everyday cash back card, while you’d be unable to do the same with a Membership Rewards-earning Platinum Card.

If you’re interested in a product change, the best way to determine what you may be eligible for is calling the issuer directly using the phone number on the back of your card.

Pros and Cons of No Annual Fee Cards

Pros

  • Low cost

  • Rewards generally focused on everyday spending

  • Even with infrequent use, leaving the card account open won’t cost you

Cons

  • May have lower rewards rate or fewer benefits than annual fee cards

  • Redemptions may not be as flexible

  • Other fees may still apply

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What does no annual fee mean?

A no annual fee card is a credit card which you can own and use at no cost. You will still incur interest on any balances you carry, and may be charged fees for things like balance transfers, cash advances, foreign transactions, and more. No annual fee cards can serve several different purposes — whether you’re looking to earn rewards, build credit, or pay down debt — but they may not always offer as much rewards value or as many added benefits as cards with an annual fee.

Are annual fees ever worth it?

An annual fee may be worth it depending on your spending habits and card needs. Cards with an annual fee may offer higher rewards rates or more premium benefits compared to cards with no annual fee. To help determine if a card’s annual fee is worth it, calculate how much value you expect to get each year in rewards or cash back based on your regular spending, and make sure it surpasses the cost of the card and the value you may get from a comparable no annual fee option.

What’s the best travel credit card with no annual fee?

To determine the best travel card with no annual fee for you, you should determine the specific benefits you’re looking for and compare different travel rewards credit card options before applying. One of our favorite no annual fee travel credit cards is the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card. You’ll earn an unlimited 1.25x miles on every purchase, which you can redeem toward future travel expenses.

What’s the best cash back credit card with no annual fee?

Many of the best cash back credit cards charge no annual fee. Cash back cards offer one of three rewards structures (or a combination thereof): flat cash back, tiered cash back rewards, or rotating quarterly cash back categories. You can determine the best for you by evaluating which card’s rewards best align with the categories in which you spend most.

What are the best no annual fee credit cards for no credit?

If you’re looking for a credit card to build your credit score, there are plenty of options that charge no annual fee. The best card for you will depend on your credit-building and spending goals, but you can start by comparing our picks for the best credit cards for people with no credit — nearly all of the cards on this list charge no annual fee.

Methodology

EDITORIAL INDEPENDENCE

As with all of our credit card reviews, our analysis is not influenced by any partnerships or advertising relationships.

A no annual fee credit card offers significant savings and credit-building opportunities, whether it’s the only credit card you carry in your wallet, or you’re looking to add low-cost everyday rewards to your broader card portfolio. To determine the cards on this list, we focus on card details we believe most essential for those considering a no annual fee card, such as rewards value and simplicity, added benefits and intro offers, and ease of pairing with other cards. 

*All information about the Citi Double Cash Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by NextAdvisor and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express, click here.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, click here.

For rates and fees of the American Express Gold Card, click here.

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