Top No Annual Fee Credit Cards

Whether you’re a fresh-faced newbie or a seasoned pro, check out some of our favorite top no annual fee credit cards.
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What are travel credit cards, and how do they work?

Travel credit cards are financial products that offer various rewards and benefits geared towards frequent travelers. They typically earn you points or miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases. These rewards can be redeemed for flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and other travel-related expenses. Travel credit cards may also include perks like travel insurance, airport lounge access, and no foreign transaction fees.

How do I choose the best travel credit card for my needs?

Choosing the best travel credit card depends on your travel habits, spending patterns, and preferences. Consider factors like the type of rewards offered (points, miles, or cash back), the card’s annual fee, sign-up bonuses, earning rates, redemption options, and additional travel perks. Analyzing these features will help you find a card that aligns with your lifestyle and offers the most value.

What are the benefits of using a travel credit card over other types of credit cards?

Travel credit cards provide unique advantages for travelers, such as earning rewards specifically tailored to travel expenses. Additionally, many travel credit cards offer travel-related perks like free checked bags, priority boarding, and travel insurance. Some cards also waive foreign transaction fees, making them ideal for international travelers.

What is a sign-up bonus, and how can I qualify for it?

A sign-up bonus is a promotional offer provided by the credit card issuer to entice new cardholders. To qualify for a sign-up bonus, you usually need to meet specific spending requirements within a certain timeframe after opening the account. The bonus can be in the form of points, miles, or cash back, and it’s a great way to jump-start your rewards earning.

Do travel credit cards charge foreign transaction fees?

Not all travel credit cards charge foreign transaction fees. Many of the top-tier travel cards waive these fees, making them ideal for international travel. However, it’s essential to read the card’s terms and conditions to confirm this before using it abroad.

How can I maximize the rewards earned with my travel credit card?

To maximize rewards, use your travel credit card for everyday expenses and large purchases. Take advantage of bonus categories and special promotions to earn more points or miles. Consider combining your travel credit card with loyalty programs to stack rewards and get even more value out of your purchases.

Whether you’re looking to maximize your travel benefits or just trying to keep your credit score healthy, credit cards are a powerful tool in your financial armory. 

More open accounts, a lower utilization, and a variety of cards all lend value to cardholders,  but the eye-catching perk-laden cards often come with a price—and those prices are only getting higher. Yet thousands, if not millions, of customers are opening the big buck products without consideration for the value they’re losing.

With that in mind, it’s important to remember there are a number of excellent cards out there with no annual fee. Of course, you’re not going to be rolling in luxury perks, but some of these brilliant cards offer outweighed value and offer a low-risk approach to building credit and some miles.

Whether you’re a fresh-faced newbie or a seasoned pro, check out some of our favorite top no annual fee credit cards.

The pros and cons of no annual fee cards

The good

  • No fee means there’s less risk for the cardholder
  • They often fill earning gaps not covered by some premium cards
  • Safe way to build a number of accounts and decrease utilization
  • Great for beginners

The bad

  • Few if any perks
  • Earning is often cash back, not transferable points
  • Lower earning rates (usually)
  • Lower intro bonuses

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Best for: Newbies and thorough pros
  • Earning style: Points/cash back
  • Earning rate: 5% on travel through Chase Portal, 3% on drugstore purchases, restaurants, takeout, and select delivery, 1.5% on all other purchases
  • Notables: Huge value when combined with premium Chase cards
  • Intro bonus: Special offer: unlimited matched cash back. Use your card for all your purchases and at the end of your first year, Chase will automatically match all the cash back you earned—with no cap to your earnings!
  • Cons: Foreign transaction fees

The rundown: The Chase Freedom Unlimited is an outstanding travel card, made all the better by its lack of annual fee. A flat rate of 1.5% is perfect for newcomers, making it possible to earn on autopilot as well as some higher earnings for big spending categories like restaurants.

Its true value is discovered by those also in possession of a Premium Chase card. On its own, earnings can only be redeemed as direct cash back or used on the Chase Travel Portal at a fixed rate. But if you own a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, those points can be converted into Ultimate Rewards and transferred to an airline or hotel partner. Using this method, it’s possible to more than double the value of those points.

The flat rate makes it a great choice for filling in the gaps another Chase card may only get 1 point per dollar for.

Navigator Tip

Consider combining multiple no annual fee credit cards to maximize your rewards and benefits. For instance, if you have the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, which offers a flat rate of 1.5% cash back, you can combine it with a premium Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve. This allows you to convert your cash back into Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to airline and hotel partners for potentially greater value. This strategy can significantly enhance the value of your rewards and provide more flexibility in your redemption options.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

  • Best for: Newcomers hoping to learn points and miles ropes
  • Earning style: Miles
  • Earning rate: 5x points per dollar on Capital One Travel Portal, 1.25 miles on everything else
  • Notable perks: No foreign transaction fees, transferable points, purchase protection
  • Intro bonus: 20,000 miles after spending $500 in three months
  • Cons: Lower earning rate than its $95 a year sibling

The rundown: If you’re taking your first tentative steps down the rabbit hole of points and miles, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card could be the perfect card for you.

While its more premium siblings have a higher earning rate, VentureOne operates in an identical manner. You’ll earn a flat rate of 1.25 miles per dollar and be able to transfer those miles to any of Capital One’s airline and hotel partners. It’s the most traditional of any cards on this list—think of it like training wheels.

The downside to training wheels is that your speed is limited. Upgrading to the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, which costs just $95 a year, earns the holder 2 miles per dollar on everything, a bigger intro bonus, and some added perks. But for the true novice, the VentureOne is outstanding.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

20,000 Bonus Miles

after you spend $500 on purchases in 3 months of card opening

Annual Fee: $0  |  Terms Apply  |  Rates & Fees

Bilt World Elite Mastercard

  • Best for: Renters
  • Earning style: Points
  • Earning rate: 1x point per dollar on rent, 2x points per dollar on travel, 3x points per dollar on travel and dining, 1x point per dollar on everything else
  • Notable perks: The ability to earn on rent, DoorDash credits, insurance, Mastercard World Elite Concierge, No foreign transaction fees
  • Intro bonus: N/A
  • Cons: No intro bonus, minimum transaction requirement

The rundown: The Bilt World Elite Mastercard is an interesting (and welcome) addition to the credit card world. Its primary calling card is the ability to earn points on rent—something a minimal volume of renters have ever been able to do. The upsides are obvious: rent is the most significant monthly expense for many people but has been an untapped source of points and miles.

Along with the scope for rent, it offers 3x points per dollar on dining, 2x points per dollar on travel, and a flat rate of 1x points per dollar on everything else. You do have to use it five times a month to trigger the points, which could be a big frustration if you forget, but barring that caveat, it’s an outstanding card, especially considering there’s no annual fee.

Bilt Mastercard®

No Welcome Bonus

Annual Fee: $0  |  Terms Apply  |  Rates & Fees

United Gateway Card

  • Best for: Occasional United Flyers
  • Earning style: Points
  • Earning rate: 2x points per dollar on United Purchases, gas stations, local transit, 1x points per dollar on all other purchases
  • Notable perks: No foreign transaction fees
  • Intro bonus: 20,000 points
  • Cons: No airline-specific perks like free baggage

The rundown: We’ve listed the United Gateway Card mainly as a representative of the baseline co-branded card for most airlines. You’ll find a comparable product on most airlines that all play a valuable role for casual fliers with any given carrier.

With this fee-free card, customers can earn a decent amount of points to use on United and its partners, as well as a pretty generous 20,000-point bonus. The downside comes in the form of a lack of airline perks. Spending a little more, usually around $95, on the next card up can often earn free checked baggage or priority boarding.

Still, for the casual United passenger, 20,000 bonus points and the capacity to expand on that with no risk of pesky fees is nothing to scoff at. 

Citi Double Cash

  • Best for: Simple earning
  • Earning style: Cash back/points
  • Earning rate: 2%-1% at purchase, 1% at payment
  • Notable perks: Citi Entertainment 
  • Intro bonus: N/A
  • Cons: Foreign transaction fees

The rundown: The Citi Double Cash card is arguably our list’s best no-annual fee earner. With a flat rate of 2% cash back on everything, it earns as much as a premium Capital One card. Why is a flat rate good? Because it simplifies your earning. There’s no card switching or calculations needed—just swipe and go.

The big value of this card comes if you also own a premium Citi card. If you do, like the Chase Freedom card, you can share points between the two cards, allowing those points to be transferred to one of Citi’s partners, maximizing the value of those points.

Note that the earning happens in two parts: you get 1% back when you make a purchase and another 1% once you’ve paid it off.

Wells Fargo Autograph Card

  • Best for: Wells Fargo Customers and cash back earners
  • Earning style: Points (direct cash value)
  • Earning rate: 3x points per dollar on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, streaming, and phone plans, 1x point on everything else
  • Notable perks: Cell phone protection
  • Intro bonus: 20,000 points after spending $1,000
  • Cons: Not possible to transfer points

The rundown: The Wells Fargo Autograph Card comes loaded with some generous earning categories that make it a strong contender for a significant chunk of travel hackers and beyond. While cardholders do earn points, it’s effectively cash back, as the points aren’t transferable and have a fixed cash rate.

Again, the broad spending categories allow it to fill holes left by other cards you may have and has the added perk of being applicable to any purchases, not just travel. Its bonus isn’t bad either, offering the equivalent of $200 after spending $1,000. You won’t find a debit card anywhere happy enough to give you 20% back.

American Express Everyday

  • Best for: Simple transfers and redemptions
  • Earning style: Points
  • Earning rate: 2x points per dollar on Amex Travel, 2x points per dollar on US Supermarkets, 1x point per dollar on everything else
  • Notable perks: Huge transferability, usage bonus, 0% intro APR
  • Intro bonus: 10,000 point bonus 
  • Cons: Earning rate is higher on comparable cards

The rundown: The Amex Everyday card bridges the gap between some of the other cards on this list. While some have higher earning potential, they require a partner premium card to maximize their points. Others are great as standalone cards but limit the redemptions to cashback. The Everyday is in the middle.

Cardholders earn 2x points per dollar on Amex Travel and US Supermarkets (up to $6,000 annually) and 1x points per dollar on everything else. While this isn’t staggering, those points are fully transferable like they would be with the Platinum or Gold Card. Amex has a vast selection of airline and transfer partners to maximize those points. There’s also a usage bonus—if you use the card 20 times in a month, you’ll earn 2.4 points per dollar and 1.2 points per dollar on the previously mentioned groups, respectively.

It’s a phenomenal starter card that removes some of the barriers other no annual fee cards have.

*All information about the American Express Everyday credit card has been collected independently by The Daily Navigator.

Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Best for: Targeted earning and BOA customers
  • Earning style: Cash back
  • Earning rate: 3% back on chosen category, 2% on groceries, $1 on everything else
  • Notable perks: Adaptable earning 
  • Intro bonus: $200 cash back after spending $1,000 within 3 months
  • Cons: Cash back makes it impossible to get oversized value from rewards

The rundown: The BOA Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card is an adaptable little tool to have in the back of your wallet. The card’s main quirk is a customizable earning category that can be switched each quarter. For example, if you’re buying a lot of Christmas presents online, you might want to set the 3% cashback category to online shopping for the last quarter of the year. If you’ve got a lot of traveling coming up, you can switch it to travel, gas, or dining.

This is definitely a card geared toward newer users learning the benefits of using a particular card for specific purchases, but even a seasoned travel hacker can utilize the changing categories to fill in a gap in their current strategy.

Frequently asked questions

No annual fee cards have several benefits, including:

  • Lower risk for cardholders: You won’t incur a recurring fee just for owning the card.
  • Filling earning gaps: These cards often cover spending categories not included in premium cards.
  • Building credit with multiple accounts: Having multiple accounts can help improve your credit profile.
  • Beginner-friendly: They provide a low-risk way to start using credit cards and building credit.

While no annual fee cards have their advantages, they also have limitations:

  • Fewer perks: These cards typically offer fewer perks compared to premium cards.
  • Cash back rewards: Earnings are often in the form of cash back, not transferable points.
  • Lower earning rates: The rewards rates are usually lower than those of premium cards.
  • Reduced intro bonuses: The introductory bonuses may be lower compared to fee-based cards.

Yes, some of these cards, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Citi Double Cash Card, can be paired with premium cards from the same issuer to enhance the value of your rewards. Transferring points between cards can allow for better redemption options.

The best approach depends on your spending habits and goals. Consider factors like your spending categories, redemption preferences, and whether you’re interested in building credit, earning points, or getting cash back. Review the earning rates, perks, and any limitations of each card to find the one that aligns with your needs.

Ask the Navigators: What's the best travel credit card?

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This post contains references to products from one or more of our partners and we may receive compensation when you click on links to those products.

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