No annual fee credit cards

Get a credit card with no annual fee but still enjoy a range of perks and benefits.

By   |   Updated 12th January 2022

Comparing no annual fee credit cards

Citi Double Cash Card Reward - 18 months BT offer

On Citibank's website

Citi Double Cash Card Reward - 18 months BT offer

Balance transfer

18 months at 0% p.a.

Purchase rate

23.99% p.a. ongoing

Annual fee

$0.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cashback when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • Enjoy 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 18 months which could help you get on top of things. A one-off $5 or 3% (whichever is greater) balance transfer fee applies.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card

On AMEX's website

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card

Balance transfer

N/A

Purchase rate

12 months at 0% p.a.

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Enjoy a low intro APR and reduced plan fees when you split up large purchases into monthly installments with Plan It by American Express (Terms and Conditions apply).
  • Earn $300 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits
  • $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year then $95 p.a. annual fee thereafter.
Wells Fargo Reflect Card

Wells Fargo Reflect Card

Balance transfer

21 months at 0% p.a.

Purchase rate

21 months at 0% p.a.

Annual fee

$0.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • 0% intro APR for up to 21 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers. 12.99% to 24.99% variable APR thereafter.
  • Get up to $600 of cell phone protection when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your eligible Wells Fargo card (subject to a $25 deductible). Terms apply.
  • $0 annual fee.
Discover it® Balance Transfer

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Balance transfer

14 months at 0% p.a.

Purchase rate

14 months at 0% p.a.

Annual fee

$0.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • 0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter.
  • Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
Citi Diamond Preferred Card

Citi Diamond Preferred Card

Balance transfer

21 months at 0% p.a.

Purchase rate

0 months at 12% p.a.

Annual fee

$0.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • 0% Intro APR for 21 months on Balance Transfers and 12 months on Purchases.
  • Get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
  • Shop safely with a contactless, chip enabled card.
Wells Fargo Active Cash Card

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card

Balance transfer

15 months at 0% p.a.

Purchase rate

15 months at 0% p.a.

Annual fee

$0.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers.
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases with no category limitations or quarterly activations.
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

Balance transfer

15 months at 0% p.a.

Purchase rate

15 months at 0% p.a.

Annual fee

$0.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% Cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart®). Terms and Conditions apply.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR of 14.99% - 23.74%.
Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

Balance transfer

N/A

Purchase rate

15 months at 0% p.a.

Annual fee

$0.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn $200 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months from the date of account opening, then a variable APR, 13.99% to 23.99%
  • Earn 3% cash back on your first $6,000 of purchases per year at US supermarkets. After that, you will earn 1% back at US supermarkets. Terms and Conditions apply.

Overview

Credit cards with no annual fees are a good idea if you're on a budget or are just starting to build up your credit. Another good reason you might want to go with no fee credit cards in the US is if you don't plan on using the card much and only really need it for emergencies.

The reason that a no annual fee credit card is an attractive option is because it usually includes rewards that the no-fee credit card doesn't, or only has to a lesser extent. These benefits include attractive rewards points systems and higher payouts in terms of cash back rewards. However, an annual fee can be expensive, especially if you're paying it on top of interest charges, and this is when having no annual fee to pay can seem like practical solution.

Benefits of no annual fee cards

The best no fee credit cards in the US have a number of benefits you can take advantage of, beyond having no annual fee. This includes travel points with purchases, cash back options, low interest rates and no foreign transaction fees. While these benefits may be on a lower scale than fee-paying cards and will vary depending on the card you sign up for, it's easy to find a credit card that suits your needs but doesn't charge an annual fee.

Some cards also include a welcome bonus when you first sign up. This sign up bonus can range from high points for the first six months to a larger cash back amount for a set period of time on certain purchases. While the welcome bonus is a nice benefit, you should consider your long term needs and pick the card that best suits what you're looking for in the future.

But the main benefit is still the absence of an annual fee, making this option great for students or people starting their first job, or anyone who doesn't use a card enough to cover the annual fee cost in rewards points or cash back value.

You still have to make payments

There's no such thing as free credit cards, even if you are looking for a no-fee credit card. When we say "no fee" we're referring to the annual fee that a lot of credit cards have attached to them. This doesn't mean that your credit card is automatically a free credit card, as you would still have to pay interest on any balance that carries over from month to month. But if you pay off your balance in full every month, are never late with payments and avoid cash advances, the only fee you might run into is a foreign transaction fee.

Now that you have a better idea of what no fee credit cards are about you can appreciate the importance of sticking to a payment schedule. This essentially means you need to make a point of paying your credit card bill when it falls due, and avoid over-spending.

The reason you don't want to have a large amount carrying over each month is because interest is charged on the outstanding balance, which gets added to the interest on your purchases in the next month. That's because carrying a balance means that you lose your interest-free days on new purchases. This accumulated interest can result in a higher bill as each month passes, which can quickly get out of hand.

Annual fee payment schedule

You will normally be charged an annual fee in the first monthly statement after you open the card account, and then once a year on each anniversary of account opening.

Annual fee waivers

If you already have, or would prefer, a card with an annual fee and better rewards, you have nothing to lose by asking for an annual fee waiver. Just phone the card provider's service centre and ask for the waiver based on your record of expenditure with a credit card. The bank won't want to lose the merchant fees it earns from your purchases, and the call centre personnel may have discretion to waive the fee to keep your business if your expenditure is high enough.

Some credit cards offer new cardholders an automatic annual fee waiver in the first year.

Alternatives to no annual fee credit cards

If you don't want to use a no annual fee credit card, but are looking for the same payment convenience, you have several alternatives to choose from.

High rewards credit card

The first option is obviously a card with an annual fee. This is a good choice if you're looking for a card that has high rewards, a low interest rate or a significant welcome bonus. While the annual fee can vary depending on the type of credit card you're looking for, the cost is usually outweighed by the rewards if you use the card enough.

Prepaid card

The best part of a prepaid credit card is you don't have to worry about an annual fee or interest rates. You just go to the store and buy the prepaid card already loaded with a cash balance. Once the card is ready to go, you can use it anywhere traditional cards are accepted. This includes both brick-and-mortar stores and online shopping.

Debit card

If you have a check or transaction account in the US you likely have a debit card. These cards allow you to withdraw money from your bank account at an ATM, as well as make purchases at a store checkout and online. There are no annual fees when it comes to a debit card, but you may have a fee attached to using it depending on the type of account it is linked to.

Learn about no annual fee credit cards

What is the benefit of a credit card with no annual fee? Are they worth it?

  • FAQs

  • Pros & cons

  • Tips

Do all credit cards have an annual fee?

No. While the vast majority of credit cards do charge an annual fee, there are plenty of options without one. Cards that don't charge an annual fee usually have fewer benefits than those that do, but not everyone spends enough on their credit card to take full advantage of the benefits.

Do I have to pay the whole annual fee if I close my account before a year is up?

Under normal circumstances you may be refunded for the portion of the year that remains after you closed your account. But you will need to check the card's terms and conditions to find out if this is the case.

How do I get a no annual fee card?

If you're interested in signing up for a card with no annual fee you just need to apply online after comparing your options and choosing the most suitable card for you. You'll need to provide identity information so the lender can perform a credit check, as well as details of your income and citizenship or residency. Once you're approved for the card it will be mailed to your nominated address.

Is a no annual fee card good for rebuilding credit?

While a no-fee card will save you the cost of the annual fee, it may not be an option if you have a lower credit score because you may not get approved for the card. A better option to rebuild your credit would be to apply for a secured card. Secured credit cards are easier to get approved for and are generally considered to be one of the best ways to rebuild your credit.

Is it worth paying an annual fee?

If you put as many of your expenses and bill payments as possible onto your card, it's certainly worth paying an annual fee for a card that will earn you rewards points or air miles at a faster rate. In this situation you should be able to earn points or miles worth far more than the cost of the annual fee every year. But if your annual card purchases are low – less than $5,000 – you may be better off not paying an annual fee and accepting a lower points earning rate, or no points at all.

What other fees apply to a no annual fee card?

While you don't have to worry about any annual fees with this type of card, you do have other fees you may need to pay depending on how you use your card. These fees can include a balance transfer fee, a late payment fee, an over-limit fee, a cash advance fee, a foreign transaction fee, a returned payment fee, and a card replacement fee.

Which is the best no fee credit card in the US?

The best card for you is the one that offers the greatest convenience for paying for purchases and managing your account, while delivering the highest level of rewards points or other complimentary benefits to suit your lifestyle, all while charging no annual fee. Compare your options and choose one that you are likely to be approved for based on your income and credit score, and with benefits that you can actually use.

A good second card for Amex users

A no-fee card is a sensible option for anyone whose primary card is an American Express card. Amex cards may not be accepted everywhere, but if you have a no-fee Mastercard or Visa in your wallet, you have a low-cost backup in case your primary card is not acceptable.

Fewer additional perks

While some credit cards have perks like free insurance, airport lounge access and rental car discounts included, as well as other benefits, no-fee credit cards tend to have fewer perks like this.

Fewer rewards

While you do get rewards when signing up for no-fee credit cards, they aren't as attractive as rewards attached to credit cards that have an annual fee.

Save money

The first benefit is the most obvious one, in that you don't have to worry about paying a fee every year just for owning the card. This is especially attractive if you're on a tight budget, are just starting out with your first card, are looking for a secondary card, don't plan on using the card much, or just want to avoid paying extra fees.

Try before you buy

Before committing yourself to a particular card issuer, you may want to try their no annual fee card for size. You can find out how good their service is and how easy it is to manage your card account online, before moving on to one of their fee=paying cards.

Welcome bonus

The welcome bonus is typically a promotion that's designed to attract new users to the card. A welcome bonus expires after a set period of time has passed and can include perks like thousands of extra points for reaching a spending target, extra cash back percentages and more. Just make sure you read the terms of the welcome bonus to make sure you understand what you're getting once the promotional period has elapsed.

You can still get rewards

Just like fee-based credit cards, these cards often have rewards attached to them that you can earn when using the card. These include rewards like cash back percentages, point systems, and waived foreign transaction fees. Of course, the rewards vary depending on the card issuer, so you'll need to do your research before diving into a specific card.

Don't pay an annual fee for an emergency-use-only card

If you only want to have a credit card to give you access to funds in an emergency – such as unexpected car repairs or medical bills – there's no point in paying an annual fee for the privilege. Opt for a basic card with no annual fee.

Do your research

No matter what rewards the lender is offering, you should always do your research when it comes to choosing a credit card. You have to find out what other fees might exist besides the waived annual fee, as well as look into interest rates and how long any welcome bonus might last. You should also learn about any terms and conditions that might apply to your card, because these could be different from cards with an annual fee.

Match up the card with your lifestyle

The first thing you need to do when looking for a credit card is to figure out what you want to use it for and how it lines up with your lifestyle. If you're on a tight budget, a cash back credit card with no annual fee could be the way to go. If you expect to carry a balance on your card from month to month, choose a no annual fee card with a low interest rate. A rewards points card could work well if you spend quite a lot on credit card purchases, and a card with travel rewards like airport lounge access or free travel insurance could suit regular travelers.

Use a two-card strategy

Another good way to get the most from your card without an annual fee is to pair it with a card that has an annual fee. What you're doing here is using the rewards tied to the specific cards that most benefit you. For example, if the card with no annual fee has restaurant cash back rewards of 3%, but your annual fee card only has restaurant rewards of 1%, you would use the no annual fee card to get the extra rewards. Having the extra card in your wallet costs you nothing.