The Best No-Fee Credit Cards

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The 30-Second Review

The fewer fees you pay on a credit card, the more money you save — and if your credit card offers perks or 0% intro APRs, that’s even better. We sifted through 60 cards to find our favorites for cashback and travel rewards, plus a few more.

Best for Rewards

Chase Freedom®

Both of these cards offer 5% cash back on rotating categories, plus 1% cash back on everything else. They each come with unique bonuses: Discover matches all your rewards at the end of your first year, while Chase has a $150 signup bonus if you spend $500 in the first 90 days.

Best for Travel Rewards

Discover it® Miles - Unlimited 1.5x Rewards Card

The biggest difference in these two cards lies in their bonuses as well. Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards gives you a massive 20,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 in 90 days, while Discover doubles all your rewards at the end of your first year.

Are you paying annual fees on your credit cards? Some credit cards charge $100 or more for the privilege of using them, and that’s money not all of us can afford. Luckily, there are a lot of really great credit cards out there that don’t charge annual fees — that’s what most people refer to as “no-fee” credit cards — as well as cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees or balance transfer fees, or have penalty APRs either.

Best for Cashback Rewards

Discover it® Cashback Match™ 5% cash back in rotating categories, plus 1% on everything else. Discover will also double your rewards your first year.

The best one for you depends on your lifestyle: the types of rewards you prefer, how much you spend, your credit score, and so on. If you’re looking for fee-free cashback perks, we like the Discover it® Cashback Match™ and the Chase Freedom®. Both have a whopping 5% cashback on rotating categories (and 1% cashback on everything else), so their difference lies in their bonus offers. If you have the budget to max out the $1,500 in the 5% categories each quarter, the Discover it® Cashback Match™ will get you way more bang for your buck your first year: It will literally double all the rewards you’ve earned. But if you’re a smaller spender — say, only $500 in the 5% categories — the $150 signup bonus from Chase Freedom® may end up making you more.

Travelers will enjoy the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards card or the Discover it® Miles credit card. Like our favorite cashback cards, the right one for you comes down to their bonus offers: Discover doubles the rewards you earn your first year, while Capital One gives you an extra 20,000 miles if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. You’ll have to be a major spender (like $10,000 a year) in order to get your Discover rewards to come even close to what Capital One offers in that first year — but after that, it comes out slightly on top with 1.5 miles per dollar as opposed to 1.25 miles per dollar.

For those who aren’t as interested in perks, we’ve picked the Chase Slate® — it’s the only card out there that has both zero balance transfer fees and a 0% intro APR. And anyone with less-than-stellar credit will be interested in the Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee and the Capital One® Secured Credit Card, which are both designed to help build up credit scores without having to suffer through annual fees as well.

Our Picks for the Best No-Fee Credit Cards

Best for Cashback Rewards

Discover it® Cashback Match™ 5% cash back in rotating categories, plus 1% on everything else. Discover will also double your rewards your first year.

If you’re looking for the two credit cards that have the fewest fees and the biggest cashback rewards, you want the Discover it® Cashback Match™ or the Chase Freedom®. Both cards have no annual fee, no penalty APR, and no credit overlimit fees (meaning you don’t get dinged if your credit balance goes over your credit limit). Another massive perk: Discover it® Cashback Match™ and the Chase Freedom® cards both offer 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (14 months for Discover, and 15 months for Chase).

As for their rewards: Both Discover it® Cashback Match™ and Chase Freedom® offer 5% cashback on up to the quarterly maximum in purchases in categories that change every quarter. They also both offer 1% cashback on all other purchases.

Best for Cashback Rewards

Chase Freedom® 5% cash back in rotating categories, plus 1% on everything else. Earn $150 if you spend $500 in the first three months.

So far, both cards are pretty similar. So which one do you go with?

It comes down to bonuses, and how those tie into your spending habits. Discover it® Cashback Match™ will double all cash you earn during your first year as a cardmember, which is great if you’re a person who makes a lot of credit card purchases, especially in those 5% categories. You literally get twice as many rewards.

Chase Freedom®, on the other hand, gives you a $150 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months of opening your account. This might be a better option if you don’t do a lot of credit card spending.

Let’s do the math. Here’s the cash back you could earn if you max out your 5% cashback categories and make $1,000 in additional purchases each quarter:

Discover it® Cashback Match™

Chase Freedom®

5% cashback on $1,500 in qualifying purchases per quarter
$75
$75
1% cashback on $1,000 in additional purchases per quarter
$10
$10
Times four quarters per year
$340
$340
Doubled at the end of the first year (Discover it® Cashback Match™ only)
$680 (total)
N/A
Plus $150 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months of opening your account (Chase Freedom® only)
N/A
$490 (total)

But let’s look at the situation from the perspective of someone who doesn’t max out those 5% cashback categories. In this scenario, you’ll only spend $500 in those 5% categories every quarter, and $1,000 on other purchases.

Discover it® Cashback Match™

Chase Freedom®

5% cashback on $500 in qualifying purchases per quarter
$25
$25
1% cashback on $1,000 in additional purchases per quarter
$10
$10
Times four quarters per year
$140
$140
Doubled at the end of the first year (Discover it® Cashback Match™ only)
$280 (total)
N/A
Plus $150 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months of opening your account (Chase Freedom® only)
N/A
$280 (total)

Think about your purchasing habits and whether you’re likely to be a big spender or a small spender, and choose your cashback card accordingly. Still can’t make a decision? Jet-setters will be happy to know that Discover has no foreign transaction fee, while you’ll get a 3% foreign transaction fee with Chase.

  • You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. We’ll automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. New cardmembers only.
  • Earn 5% cash back in new bonus categories each quarter like gas, restaurants, Amazon.com and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements and online.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click “Apply Now” to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

Best for Travel Rewards

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Earn 1.25 miles for every $1 you spend, plus get 20,000 bonus miles if you make $1,000 in purchases your first 3 months.

There are some pretty juicy travel credit cards out there that come with annual fees attached (more on that later), but if you want to travel fee-free, try the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards card or the Discover it® Miles credit card. Both cards have no annual fee, no penalty APR, no foreign transaction fees (great for travelers!), and no credit overlimit fees. Both cards also offer 12-month 0% intro APRs on purchases.

Here’s where they differ: Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards gets you 1.25 miles for every $1 you spend, as well as 20,000 bonus miles if you make $1,000 in purchases in the first three months. You also get Visa Signature® benefits, including complimentary hotel upgrades, a complimentary concierge service, and 24-hour travel assistance.

Best for Travel Rewards

Discover it® Miles – Unlimited 1.5x Rewards Card Earn 1.5 miles for every $1 you spend, plus Discover doubles your rewards at the end of your first year.

The Discover it® Miles Credit Card offers 1.5 miles for every $1 you spend, and doubles all the miles you earn at the end of your first year as a cardmember. Discover will also reimburse up to $30 in in-flight WiFi purchases every year.

How do these two cards compare? With both cards, every mile earned has the same value as 1 penny, so think of it this way: Capital One lets you earn 1.25 cents for every $1 you spend, and Discover lets you earn 1.5 cents for every $1 you spend. Every 100 miles you earn is the equivalent of earning a dollar. Capital One only lets you redeem your miles as statement credits toward travel purchases, but Discover lets you redeem your miles either as statement credits toward travel purchases or as cash.

Here’s how that might play out for different types of spenders.

People Who Put $3,000 on Their Card per Year

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards

Discover it® Miles - Unlimited 1.5x Rewards Card

Miles earned for $3,000 in purchases:
3,750
4,500
20,000 miles bonus (Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards only):
23,750
N/A
Miles doubled at end of year (Discover it® Miles only):
N/A
9,000
Total miles value:
$237.50
$90

People Who Put $5,000 on Their Card per Year

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards

Discover it® Miles - Unlimited 1.5x Rewards Card

Miles earned for $5,000 in purchases
6,250
7,500
20,000 miles bonus (Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards only)
26,250
N/A
Miles doubled at end of year (Discover it® Miles only)
N/A
15,000
Total miles value
$262.50
$150

People Who Put $10,000 on Their Card per Year

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards

Discover it® Miles - Unlimited 1.5x Rewards Card

Miles earned for $10,000 in purchases
12,500
15,000
20,000 miles bonus (Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards only)
32,500
N/A
Miles doubled at end of year (Discover it® Miles only)
N/A
30,000
Total miles value
$325
$300

As you can see, you’ve got to put a lot of money on the Discover it® Miles Credit Card to get the same benefits as you get from the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards’ 20,000-mile bonus.

However, keep in mind that these bonuses, whether it’s Capital One’s 20,000 miles or Discover’s matching contribution, only apply to the early stages of card membership. During your second year, after you’ve gotten all of your bonuses, you’ll earn 1.25 miles per $1 with Capital One and 1.5 miles per $1 with Discover.

Honorable Mention

BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card A similar rewards structure as the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards.

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card is a great travel card that often shows up on “best-of” lists. This card gives you 1.5 points for every $1 you spend, as well as a bonus 20,000 points if you make $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, and a 12-month 0% intro APR on purchases, but late payments will also stick you with a penalty APR of up to 29.99% — which is why this card is only an honorable mention.

Best for Balance Transfers

Chase Slate® $0 balance transfer fee for 60 days and 0% intro APR for 15 months.

When it comes to balance transfers, there’s only one option: Chase Slate®. This credit card is the only balance transfer credit card that allows you to transfer your balance without paying a fee and then pay off that balance with a 15-month 0% intro APR.

This perk has a timeline, though: Your balance transfers are only fee-free for the first 60 days. After that, Chase Slate® charges a 5% balance transfer fee, which means you’ll pay $50 in fees for every $1,000 you transfer.

Chase Slate® also has no annual fee, no penalty APR, and no credit overlimit fee. You will pay a 3% foreign transaction fee, though, so get a backup card if you’re going overseas.

Best for Bad Credit

Discover it® Secured Credit Card – No Annual Fee Earn 2% cash back on restaurants and gas, and 1% on everything else.

Some credit cards for bad credit tack on the fees because they think you don’t have a lot of other options. (The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card, for example, charges a $3 fee to receive card statements by mail and a $10 fee to make a same-day payment by phone.) However, you do have options — and two of your best are the Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee and the Capital One® Secured Credit Card. Neither card charges an annual fee, and neither card applies a penalty APR if you make a late payment.

Best for Bad Credit

Capital One® Secured Credit Card Pay as low as $49 for $200 of credit, and get an increase after five months of on-time payments.

Both credit cards are set up the same way: They charge a refundable security deposit to open a line of credit. Discover gives you credit in the amount of your security deposit, from $200 to $2,500. Capital One gives you an initial credit line of $200 for a security deposit as little as $49, depending on your creditworthiness, and then will give you an automatic credit limit increase up to $3,000 if you make your first five payments on time.

The Capital One® Secured Credit Card is the smarter choice if you don’t have a lot of money to put toward a security deposit. If you do have extra cash to put toward your security deposit, the Discover it® Secured Card has the added perk of cashback rewards. You’ll earn 2% cash back on restaurant and gas station purchases, for up to $1,000 in spending per quarter, as well as 1% cash back on all other purchases — and Discover will double this cash back at the end of the year.

Both of these cards are designed to help you responsibly rebuild your credit without paying extra fees — so don’t get stuck with one of those bad credit cards for people with bad credit!

Did You Know?

Some annual fees are worth it.

Not all annual fees are bad. Some high-rewards credit cards charge annual fees as a price of entry; if you don’t want to pay the fee, you won’t get the rewards.

Take the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, a new (and extremely popular) travel rewards card that comes with a $450 annual fee. It also comes with a $300 annual travel credit, which almost cancels out the annual fee, as well as 3x points on travel and restaurant spending and 1x points on all other spending.

But the real big draw with the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ is its offer of 100,000 bonus points. Spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening, and you’ll earn those 100K bonus points — a $1,500 value when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Would you be willing to pay $450 each year to get access to these points? A lot of people say yes. This card is clearly designed for big spenders who are ready to put a lot of money on their credit card, pay it off responsibly, and earn their rewards.

When you’re considering a card with an annual fee, do your own math. Are you likely to earn enough in rewards to cover the annual fee? If so, it might be worth it. If not, you’ve got a lot of other credit card options to choose from.

Read the fine print to learn what fees your card will charge.

As we mentioned earlier, you’re not going to find a card with zero fees — every credit card is going to have at least one fee attached, even if it’s just for making a late payment.

To find out exactly which fees your card charges, you need to look at the fine print. When you visit a credit card issuer’s website, look for links that read, “See rates, terms, and other info,” or, “View important rates and disclosures.” Any link with the word “rates” in it is likely to lead you in the right direction, although credit card websites sometimes hide that link by putting it at the bottom of the page or only making it available if you click “Apply Now.” (You can click “Apply Now” without filling out the application, so don’t be afraid of clicking that button and looking for the link to a card’s rates).

Once you find the fine print, study it carefully and look for the word “fees.” That’s how you’ll learn if a credit card charges very few fees, or if you’ll be paying $3 to get your card statements via mail.

Many fees can be avoided with responsible credit use.

If you use your credit card responsibly — always making payments on time, for example — you can avoid many types of credit card fees, including late payment fees, returned payment fees, penalty APRs, and even that $10 fee for making a same-day payment by phone that some cards charge.

The Bottom Line

Best for Travel Rewards

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Earn 1.25 miles for every $1 you spend, plus get 20,000 bonus miles if you make $1,000 in purchases your first 3 months.

The best no-fee credit cards are the ones without annual fees or penalty APRs, but some even let you skip foreign transfer fees and balance transfer fees too. If you’re looking to avoid fees at all costs, choose the one that best matches your lifestyle (like one without foreign transaction fees if you’re often overseas!) and remember that most fees can be avoided if you pay on time every month.

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