Here at RAVE, we want to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck.
We aren’t anti-fee when it comes to credit cards, but we know that sometimes you would rather not have to pay anything for your card. That’s why we’ve done the research to find some of the best no-fee credit cards on the market. After much searching, we’ve determined that the best overall no-fee credit card is the Chase Freedom Unlimited.
The No Fee Credit Cards We RAVE About
To Fee or Not to Fee—That Is the Question
If you are new to credit cards or have always stuck with a fee-free credit card, you may think that annual fees are a sham and just a way for credit card issuers to make more money off of their customers. Although we think there can be a lot of value in cards with annual fees, we completely understand the desire to stay away from them. That’s why we put together this list of the best no-fee credit cards.
But before we jump into the card rankings, let’s look at how a no-fee credit card compares to a card with an annual fee. Once we show you how the value of each card shakes out over a year, you can then decide to apply now for a no-fee card, or check out one of our many other rankings of credit cards with annual fees.
Our pick for the best Chase credit card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which is a mid-tier travel credit card with a $95 annual fee. We will compare that to the Capital One VentureOne Rewards card—our pick for the best no-fee credit card for airline travel.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers two Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining and one point for all other purchases. Taking the conservative estimate, each Ultimate Rewards point would be worth 1.25 cents.
The Capital One VentureOne Rewards card earns 1.25 points per dollar spent, regardless of what you buy. At a minimum, each point is worth 1.25 cents. This means that these two cards earn about the same base value per point.
However, you can see that the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a bonus category for dining and travel. Spending on dining and travel (which includes everything from rental cars to airfare to tolls) would give you twice the return if you used the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
If you don’t consider the sign-up bonuses, you’d have to spend $3,800 a year on travel and dining ($95 annual fee divided by 2.5 cents per dollar spent). For some people, this would be an outrageous number to spend in a year on travel and dining; others might exceed that in a few months.
If you add in the sign-up bonuses, the numbers shake out a little bit differently. The sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred is equal to at least $750 and the VentureOne Card’s bonus is worth at least $200. As you can see, you can really come out ahead with a card with an annual fee the first year, but returns will diminish after that.
All of this is not to say that we think you need to open a card with an annual fee—we wouldn’t be telling you about the best no-fee credit cards if we did. A no-fee card gives you something without having to pay a single cent more, and that’s a wonderful thing.
This is exactly why we want to give you all of the information at hand so you can make the best decision for yourself. If you think an annual fee might be worth considering, check out some of the best Visa credit cards we recommend. However, if you think a no-fee credit card is your best bet, check out our recommendations below.
The Best No-Fee Credit Cards: Methodology
Paying an annual fee on a credit card is not for everybody, but we understand you still want to maximize your credit card rewards. You may not earn as much cash back or rewards as if you had a card with a fee, but you can still have the best of both worlds. But how do you know which card is going to suit your spending habits?
We searched high and low, and found some of the best no-fee cards. While analyzing the top no-fee credit cards, we considered the following criteria:
- Annual Fee: All cards assessed had to have no annual fee
- Sign-up Bonus: Does this card have a sign-up bonus? How much is it worth and how much will you need to spend to earn it?
- Bonus Earning/Categories: In which categories does this card earn points, and how many? How much value do you get from the rewards?
- Other Benefits: Does the card have other kinds of perks and benefits? What kind of value do they provide to consumers? Do they have any standout benefits that others similar cards lack?
The Best Overall No-Fee Credit Card
Chase Freedom Unlimited
- Annual Fee: $0
- Sign-up Bonus: $150 cash back (or 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening
- Bonus Earning/Categories: 1.5% cash back (or 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points) on all purchases
- Other Benefits: 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers and purchases, extended warranty protection, purchase protection
- Pros: Generous sign-up bonus, flexible points, long 0% intro APR period
- Cons: None
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is hard to beat when it comes to no-fee credit cards. It has a sign-up bonus, solid flat-rate cash back, and a few other perks to add to the mix. You will definitely want to consider this as your next credit card.
First off, credit cards without annual fees don’t always have a sign-up bonus. When they do, it’s not usually great. The sign-up bonus on this card is superb for a no-fee card—$150 cash back after spending $500 on the card within the first three months. That’s almost as good as you will get, especially considering you only have to spend $500 to get it.
This card offers flat-rate cash back for every purchase you make with the card. You will net 1.5% cash back for every single dollar you spend, without any limits on the rewards. This isn’t the highest flat-rate cash-back card, but its earning rate is better than most other flat-rate cards with no fee.
There are a few other perks worth noting. You will get extended warranty protection for your purchases as well as purchase protection. The card also has a 15 month 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers and purchases. It’s not a great idea to carry a balance on your card from month to month, as you should pay it off in full and on time every single month. But sometimes you need a bit of time to pay off a big purchase, so this offer may come in handy.
Now, here is one of the great things about the way this card earns rewards. If you have one of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards earning cards (Ink Business Preferred, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or Chase Sapphire Reserve), your 1.5% cash back can actually be 1.5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar.
With one of the three cards mentioned above, your cash-back value can be increased significantly due to the ability to pool your points among your accounts. You can transfer points to multiple airline and hotel loyalty programs, making each point worth 2 cents or more. If you redeem them for 2 cents apiece, that makes the flat return on this card up to 3%.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is an incredible card on its own thanks to a great sign-up bonus and solid flat-rate earnings. However, you can take your rewards to the next level with one of Chase’s other cards. Either way, this is definitely the overall best no-fee credit card.
Best No-Fee Credit Card for Dining and Entertainment
Capital One SavorOne Credit Card
- Annual Fee: $0
- Sign-up Bonus: $150 cash back after spending $500 in the first three months after account opening
- Bonus Earning/Categories: 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% cash back at grocery store, 1% cash back on all other purchases
- Other Benefits: No foreign transaction fees, extended warranty protection, travel accident insurance, concierge service, 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers
- Pros: Good sign-up bonus, great bonus rewards
- Cons: None
If you like going out on a Friday nights (or any night for that matter), then you may want to seriously consider getting the Capital One SavorOne credit card. This card is meant for people who enjoy a night out at a show, dinner, or wine bar.
The first thing that makes the SavorOne a really great card is that it has a great sign-up bonus. You will earn $150 cash back after you spend $500 on the card within the first three months. That’s a 30% return for the sign-up bonus, which is on par or even higher than many premium credit cards.
This card is also really great thanks to its bonus earning categories. With this card you will earn 3% cash back on entertainment and dining. That means whenever you go out for a night on the town, this card will be earning you 3% cash back on almost everything you buy. And the best part is that there is no limit to the 3% category, so you can use it every time without worrying about being short-changed on cash back.
You will also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% cash back on everything else. These aren’t amazing bonus categories, but it’s nice to get some cash back on everything you buy.
You will also get some other benefits with the SavorOne card. It has no foreign transaction fees so you will get your entertainment and dining bonus without worrying about any fees when traveling abroad. You also get travel accident insurance, concierge service, and extended warranty protection. A 0% intro APR offer is included for 15 months on both balance transfers and purchases.
As you can see, there’s a lot to love with the Capital One SavorOne credit card. If you like going out for food and fun, this is definitely the best no-fee credit card for you.
Best Flat-Rate Cash-Back No-Fee Credit Card
Citi Double Cash Card
- Annual Fee: $0
- Sign-up Bonus: None
- Bonus Earning/Categories: 2% cash back on everything, everywhere, with no limits (1% after making purchases and additional 1% after paying)
- Other Benefits: 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months
- Pros: High flat-rate cash back, no rewards limits
- Cons: Minimal benefits
The Citi Double Cash credit card is a simple, no-frills credit card with a high cash-back rate. It doesn’t have much else going for it, but it doesn’t need bells and whistles. The card is extremely straightforward.
When it comes to flat-rate cash-back credit cards, you can usually expect something like 1.25 to 1.5 cents or points per dollar spent. But with this card, you will get 2% cash back on everything you buy. There are no limits to the amount of cash back you can earn and no limits to what you will earn it on.
The way the 2% cash back works is that you get 1% back whenever you make the purchase and 1% back when you pay it off. Since we don’t recommend carrying a balance from month to month, the process of getting your cash back this way isn’t very novel, since you will get all of it on a regular basis.
The card does feature a lengthy 0% intro APR offer. It lasts 18 months and is good for only balance transfers. If you have other credit cards with balances, this offer can help keep the interest at bay for a while. We do recommend paying off high-interest credit card debt as quickly as possible, though.
As you can see, there isn’t a whole lot to this card, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is the absolute best no-fee cash-back credit card. You really can’t go wrong with the Citi Double Cash credit card.
Best No-Fee Credit Card for Hotels
Hilton Honors American Express Card
- Annual Fee: $0
- Sign-up Bonus: 75,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months after account opening
- Bonus Earning/Categories: 7X Hilton Honors points on purchases made at Hilton hotels and resorts, 5X Hilton Honors points at US restaurants, US supermarkets, and US gas stations, 3X Hilton Honors points on all other purchases
- Other Benefits: No foreign transaction fees, complimentary Hilton Honors Silver elite status (spend $20,000 on the card to get Gold elite status), car rental loss and damage insurance, complimentary ShopRunner membership, travel accident insurance, baggage insurance, purchase protection, extended warranty
- Pros: Good sign-up bonus, good bonus categories
- Cons: No free anniversary award night
There aren’t many no-fee hotel co-branded credit cards, but the Hilton Honors American Express card is one exception. This card is a great hotel starter card for anybody who regularly or even occasionally stays at Hilton properties.
You will earn 75,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $1,000 on the card within the first three months. With Hilton Honors points being worth about 0.4 to 0.5 cents each, the sign-up bonus is worth about $300—that is a great value.
Like all hotel co-branded cards, it heavily favors spending at the hotel’s properties. Whenever you use your card at Hilton properties (for your stay or anything you buy during your stay) you will earn seven Hilton Honors points. Purchases at US restaurants, US supermarkets, and US gas stations will earn five points for every dollar. All other purchases will earn three Hilton Honors points. It is really great that this card rewards purchases at businesses other than their hotels.
Like most travel cards, this card also has multiple travel perks and protections. You will pay no foreign transaction fees when abroad and you get complimentary Hilton Honors Silver elite status. You also get travel accident insurance and baggage insurance if the airline loses your bag.
You will also get a complimentary ShopRunner membership for free two-day shipping, purchase protection, and extended warranties. All of these things can give you peace of mind when shopping.
The one downside to this card is that it doesn’t feature a free annual award night like most other hotel credit cards. This is likely due to the fact that there is no annual fee. Regardless, the Hilton Honors American Express card is a great no-fee starter credit card for your next hotel stay.
Best No-Fee Credit Card for Families
Amex Blue Cash EveryDay Card
- Annual Fee: $0
- Sign-up Bonus: $150 cash back after spending $1,000 within the first three months from account opening
- Bonus Earning/Categories: 3% cash back at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases), 2% cash back at US gas stations and select US department stores, 1% cash back on all other purchases
- Other Benefits: 0% intro APR offer on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, car rental loss and damage insurance, complimentary ShopRunner membership
- Pros: Solid sign-up bonus, great bonus categories
- Cons: Limit on 3% cash-back category
The Amex Blue Cash EveryDay card is a phenomenal card for families, thanks to its bonus categories that align with typical big expenses. It also features a good sign-up bonus, making it the best no-fee credit card for families.
This card has a pretty good sign-up bonus. You will earn $150 cash back after you spend $1,000 on the card within the first three months. Although a 15% return on a sign-up bonus isn’t amazing, it is really good for a no-fee card.
Families are often driving around town and buying groceries at least once a week, and this card helps with both. You earn 3% cash back at US supermarkets, up to $6,000 in annual purchases. After you hit $6,000, you’ll earn 1%.
You will also get 2% cash back at US gas stations and select US department stores, so you’ll earn bonus rewards on groceries, gas, and clothes for everybody in the family.
The card has a few other features that can help families. It has a 15-month 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers and purchases if you need it. You also get a complimentary ShopRunner membership, which can give you free two-day shipping from many different businesses. When you rent a car, you will also get car rental loss and damage insurance.
The Amex Blue Cash EveryDay is hands down the best no-annual-fee credit card for families thanks to its bonus rewards categories.
Best No-Fee Credit Card for Airline Travel
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card
- Annual Fee: $0
- Sign-up Bonus: 20,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months from account opening
- Bonus Earning/Categories: 1.25 miles per dollars on all purchases
- Other Benefits: Miles transfer to 15+ travel partner loyalty programs, 0% intro APR offer for 12 months on purchases, no foreign transaction fees, travel accident insurance, extended warranty, auto rental collision damage waiver
- Pros: Huge sign-up bonus, no limit to rewards, redemption flexibility
- Cons: Lower earning rate
The Capital One VentureOne credit card is a fantastic travel rewards card, especially for airline travel. It has tons of travel protections, a great sign-up bonus, and a solid rewards rate.
The sign-up bonus for this card is arguably one of the best sign-up bonuses on our list of no-fee credit cards. You will earn 20,000 bonus miles after spending just $1,000 on the card in the first three months. That’s potentially worth almost $300 in travel credit, thanks to the ability to transfer points to over 15 different transfer partner loyalty programs.
This card earns a flat 1.25 miles per dollar on every single purchase you make. Although this isn’t an incredibly high earning rewards rate, it is a minimum 1.25% return and it is great that you earn it for every dollar you spend. With the extra value from the transfer partners, that is up to a 1.8% return on every dollar.
The card also comes with many of the travel protections and perks you would hope to have from a travel credit card. You won’t pay any foreign transaction fees, and you get travel insurance for trips purchased with the card and a car rental collision damage waiver. You will also get extended warranty protection, and a 0% intro APR offer for 12 months on purchases.
You can redeem your miles a few different ways. You can use them to erase travel purchases on your card at one cent each, or use them to book your travel directly through Capital One. You can also transfer them to the travel partners for more value. You can also redeem them for gift cards at one cent per mile. Redeeming for cash is not ideal as you will only get about a half cent of value per mile.
If you are approved for the Visa Signature version of the card (which generally requires a bit higher credit score), you will also get lost luggage reimbursement, which is always ideal for a travel credit card.
If you want to avoid paying an annual fee, but still want your rewards to take you across the country or the globe, the Capital One VentureOne card is likely your best bet!
Best No-Fee Credit Card for Flexible Bonus Categories
Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Annual Fee: $0
- Sign-up Bonus: $200 cash-back bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days from account opening
- Bonus Earning/Categories: 3% cash back in a category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings; 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs; 1% cash back on all other purchases
- Other Benefits: 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers and purchases for 15 billing cycles, earn 25% to 75% more in cash-back rewards based on banking relationship with Bank of America, free monthly FICO credit score
- Pros: Great sign-up bonus, flexible rewards earning
- Cons: Extra bonus only for bank customers
The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card is great due to your ability to constantly change which purchase categories earn 3% back. With a huge sign-up bonus and a few other notable benefits, this card is worth serious consideration.
The sign-up bonus on this card is potentially the highest you will see for a no-fee credit card. You will earn $200 cash back after spending only $1,000 on the card within the first 90 days. For most people it shouldn’t be too difficult to hit $1,000 in expenses, especially if you time an anticipated big purchase during those 90 days.
Here is what makes this card so great: a 3% bonus earning category that you can change from month to month. You will earn 3% cash back in any of the following categories: gas stations, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings. Changing the category in different months helps you maximize your cash back every billing cycle. So if you have different spending habits at different times of the year, you can just do a quick change.
You will also earn 2% cash back at wholesale clubs and grocery stores. If you have a wholesale club membership, then this 2% cash back could cover a lot of your food and personal item expenses. All other expenses will earn 1% cash back.
One thing to be aware of is that the 3% and 2% categories have limits. You will only earn the bonus cash back on up to a combined $2,500 in expenses each quarter. This incentivizes spending on the 3% category instead of the 2%, so you earn more rewards each quarter.
If you happen to already be a Bank of America customer, you may be eligible to get a 25%-75% boost in your cash back based on your banking relationship. If you qualify for Preferred Rewards with the bank, you will earn even more every month. Even if you don’t bank with them, this card is worth it without the rewards boost.
The card also has a 0% intro APR offer for 15 billing cycles on balance transfers and purchases. You shouldn’t carry a balance from month to month, but this could help some people pay off a big purchase over time without a penalty. You will also get a free monthly FICO score to keep track of your financial progress.
Best No-Fee Credit Card for Small Purchases
Citi Rewards+ Credit Card
- Annual Fee: $0
- Sign-up Bonus: 15,000 ThankYou Points after $1,000 spend in the first three months from account opening
- Bonus Earning/Categories: 2X ThankYou Points at gas stations and supermarkets up to $6,000 in annual expenses, 1X ThankYou point per dollar on all other purchases
- Other Benefits: Round up points earned to the nearest 10 points on all purchases; 10% of redeemed points back (up to first 100,000 ThankYou points redeemed each year); use points for gift cards, Amazon, BestBuy.com, or travel rewards; 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from account opening
- Pros: Points rebate, points boost for small purchases
- Cons: Limit on bonus rewards
The Citi Rewards+ Credit card rewards small purchases with big rewards. With this card you will get a sign-up bonus, good bonus rewards earning, and a few features that make it stand out.
The sign-up bonus is 15,000 Citi ThankYou points after you spend $1,000 on the card in the first three months. At its base value, the sign-up bonus is worth $150 which isn’t too bad for a no-fee card.
With this card you will earn two ThankYou points at supermarkets and gas stations on the first $6,000 you spend there each year. Every other purchase will earn one ThankYou point.
So this card has a good sign-up bonus and decent bonus categories, but the biggest seller is one of its unique perks. The Round Up feature rounds up every single purchase to the next 10-point threshold. For example, a $10 takeout meal will earn you 10 points, but a $2 drink by itself will also earn you 10 points. This really rewards making small purchases with this card.
The next great feature is the 10% refund of points whenever you redeem them. You can redeem your points for travel through the Citi booking portal, for statement credit, or for gift cards at one cent apiece. You can also transfer the points to JetBlue at a ratio of 5:4, which isn’t great.
However, if you also have the Citi Premier Card or Citi Prestige, your points can be worth a lot more. You can pool your points between accounts and then transfer them to airline loyalty programs. This alone could increase the value of your rewards by 60% or more.
The card also features a 15-month 0% intro APR offer. You shouldn’t rely on these intro APR offers, but they can help in a pinch.
As you can see, the Citi Rewards+ credit card is pretty phenomenal thanks to its perks. With a decent sign-up bonus and bonus categories, you can’t go wrong with this card, especially for all of the small things you buy.
Is there any reason I should pay an annual fee for a credit card?
This really depends on your spending habits and what you value most from your ideal credit card. Cards with annual fees will almost always have better rewards rates and perks than cards with no annual fee. But sometimes you won’t anticipate spending enough on the card to justify paying an annual fee.
You can never go wrong with a no-fee credit card, as you will earn rewards without paying anything. If you are looking to potentially get a card with an annual fee, calculate how much value you will receive each year and make sure it exceeds the fee.
Can anybody get a no-fee credit card?
As long as you are an adult, you are eligible to open credit cards. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be approved for the credit card. Credit cards usually have some sort of credit score criteria for approval. Fortunately for you, no-fee credit cards tend to have a bit lower credit score requirements than ones with fees (since those usually have better rewards and benefits).
What is the best overall no-fee credit card?
The best overall no-fee credit card is the Chase Freedom Unlimited. The card features a great sign-up bonus of $150 and 1.5% cash back on everything. The sign-up bonus is quite high and the rewards are made incredibly simple. Additionally, if you have one of Chase’s other Ultimate Rewards earning cards, that 1.5% cash back could be turned into up to 3% or more back in travel rewards.
- AmazonBasics Travel Packing Cubes: If you like to travel, then packing cubes are a travel essential. These can help keep everything in your bag organized without making a mess every time you need to find something. The package includes four different sizes to customize how you pack.
- Personal Capital Financial Management Software: Personal Capital is hands down some of the best finance management software you will find. It gives you the right tools to stay on budget, monitor your spending habits, and help you get back on track financially.
- Ally Bank High Interest Savings Account: Ally Bank is an online bank that doesn’t have any monthly account maintenance fees. Their high-interest savings account has a 1.50% APY so your money can make money.