Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Cards for March 2024

Amanda Claypool

Writer

While the credit cards with the best perks also come with the highest fees, it is possible to get a card that earns you rewards without having to pay out of pocket every year.

Plus, if you use these cards for things you're already planning on spending money on, you'll come out financially ahead — so long as you remember to pay off your balance every month and don't start racking up interest charges.

The best credit cards with no annual fee don’t cost anything to own, usually won’t require you to keep track of rotating categories, and can often provide consistent rewards on your spending. 

Erika's Picks for Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Cards

  • Best for everyday spending: Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
  • Best for cashback rewards: Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card
  • Best for travel: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
  • Best for dining and entertainment: Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
  • Best for flat-rate cash back: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

. . .

Best for Everyday Spending: Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

  • Rewards rate: 3x points on purchases at restaurants, gas stations and EV charging stations, travel, transit, select streaming services, and cellphone plans; 1x points on everything else
  • Welcome offer: Earn 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months
  • Annual fee: $0
Wells Fargo Autograph

. . .

The Wells Fargo Autograph is a solid choice for everyday purchases. You earn 3x points for things like ordering takeout, commuting, putting gas in your tank, and even streaming Netflix. All other purchases earn 1x points. No annual fee required.

You can also earn a welcome offer of 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months.

Your points can be redeemed to make travel arrangements such as booking flights or hotel stays, for gift cards, or as a statement credit.

The Autograph card also comes with extra benefits like cellphone protection ($25 deductible applies, up to $600 per claim, max two claims per year), roadside assistance, and an auto rental collision damage waiver.

Best for Cashback Rewards: Discover it® Cash Back

  • Rewards rate: 5% cashback on rotating categories each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1%; activation required); 1% on everything else
  • Welcome offer: Discover Cashback Match™ will double all cashback earned in the first 12 months
  • Annual fee: $0

. . .

The Discover it Cash Back is another great card for the budget-savvy, with one of the highest reward rates for a card with no annual fee. Each quarter you can earn 5% cashback in specific categories, on up to $1,500 in purchases (then 1%; activation required).

Discover's cashback categories rotate and can range from filling up your gas tank to using your card in a digital wallet like Apple Pay. All other purchases outside of the featured quarterly category are eligible for 1% cashback.

On top of that, Discover offers a unique approach to a welcome bonus: an automatic cashback match. Rather than a fixed reward amount, Discover will match all cashback earned within the first year, dollar-for-dollar.

So, if you earn $200 in rewards, Discover will give you a cash bonus of $200 on top of that. If you max out your bonus categories each quarter to earn $300 cashback, you can get a $300 bonus. The more cashback you earn, the bigger your welcome bonus will be.

When used strategically, the Discover it Cash Back can reward you on purchases you were planning to make anyway. Points can be redeemed as statement credits toward your balance or through partner websites like Amazon. 

Best for Travel: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

  • Rewards rate: 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 1.25x miles on everything else
  • Welcome offer: Earn 20,000 miles after spending $500 in the first three months
  • Annual fee: $0
Capital One Venture One Rewards

. . .

A travel rewards credit card is useful to have in your wallet, especially if you’re a frequent flier. These cards earn points that can cover your flight, hotel stay, and car rental. While many premium travel credit cards come with a high annual fee, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is a great travel card with no annual fee.

You'll earn 1.25x miles on every purchase and 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. After you spend $500 in your first three months, you’ll also be eligible for a 20,000-mile sign-on bonus.

The bonus rewards rate on select travel through Capital One Travel and the intro offer on purchases may be the motivators you need to book a trip.

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards is also a great card to take with you when traveling abroad as you won’t pay any foreign transaction fees. That said, it does lack notable travel perks like trip interruption/cancellation insurance, which you’re more likely to see with fee-based cards.

Learn more about the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.

Best for Dining and Entertainment: Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Rewards rate: 5% cashback on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 3% on dining, entertainment, select streaming subscriptions, and grocery store purchases (excluding superstores); 1% on all other purchases; 10% on Uber and Uber Eats purchases (through Nov. 14, 2024); 8% on Capital One Entertainment purchases
  • Welcome offer: Earn $200 after spending $500 in the first three months
  • Annual fee: $0
capital one savorone cash rewards credit card

. . .

If you eat out frequently or enjoy live events, the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is an excellent no-annual-fee credit card to have in your wallet. In terms of everyday spending, you'll earn unlimited 3% cashback on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services, and at grocery stores. All other purchases earn 1% cashback. 

If you're a concertgoer, sports fan, or frequent traveler, you can earn even more. SavorOne offers 8% cashback on Capital One Entertainment Purchases — plus exclusive presale access to popular shows. You can also earn 10% cashback on Uber and Uber Eats purchases (through Nov. 14, 2024).

Lastly, there's a $200 cash bonus after spending $500 in the first three months, which works out to be a one-time cashback rate of 40%.

Learn more about the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card.

Best for Flat-Rate Cashback: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

  • Rewards rate: Unlimited 2% cashback on all purchases
  • Welcome offer: Earn $200 after spending $500 in the first three months
  • Annual fee: $0
Wells Fargo Active Cash Credit Card

. . .

The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card comes with a flat 2% cashback rate on all purchases. This means earning rewards is incredibly simple. If the thought of managing different reward rates or rotating categories is unappealing, this could be a great pick for you. 

On top of straightforward cashback on all your spending, you can earn a $200 sign-on bonus after spending $500 in the first three months. Not a bad return for spending what you were already going to anyway.

This card offers a competitive introductory offer on both purchases and balance transfers. This makes it a solid option to consolidate existing credit card debt or fund a larger purchase. Just aim to repay the balance before the end of the intro period to truly benefit from this card’s rewards — otherwise, you’ll be subject to high interest that will quickly surpass your cashback rewards.


How to Choose a No-Annual-Fee Credit Card

When shopping for a credit card, there are many other aspects you want to consider besides the annual fee. You should factor in things like:

  • Interest rate: A high rate won't save you any money if you expect to carry a balance each month (which you should avoid!).
  • Other fees: Check for other potential fees, like foreign transaction fees or late payment fees.
  • Reward categories: Make sure the reward categories align with your spending habits. For example, if you spend $1,000 every month on restaurants, you might want a card with high restaurant rewards.
  • Welcome bonus: Lots of no-annual-fee cards offer sign-up bonuses for your business. Look for welcome offers that suit your spending.
  • Additional perks: While you won't get the best perks with no fee, there may be some features such as purchase protection or free credit monitoring.
  • Customer service: Read customer reviews online to get a sense of how easy the card issuer is to deal with when an issue comes up.

When it comes to rewards, keep in mind that a higher rate of rewards does not necessarily mean you’ll earn more. For example, a card with a $100 annual fee that offers 5% cashback seems like a better offer than a no-annual-fee card that offers just 2% cashback.

But the card with 5% is likely to have a spending cap that limits your earnings, while flat-rate cashback cards are often unlimited. Depending on your spending habits, you could come out ahead with the card that has a lower rewards rate, especially if you don’t have to offset the annual fee.

To choose the right card, evaluate how a no-annual-fee card fits into your existing budget. Figure out where you spend money and the types of rewards and benefits you want. Different cards will appeal to different people. A frequent flier, for example, might opt for a different card than someone looking to earn cashback on date night. 

READ MORE: How to Maximize Credit Card Rewards

Pros and Cons of No-Annual-Fee Credit Cards

Since there’s no cost to having the card, the stakes for choosing a no-annual-fee card are lower than with their more expensive counterparts.

Still, it's important to consider the pros and cons before you apply.

Pros

  • Low-cost rewards: As appealing as a premium credit card might be, the fees might not be worth it. Cards without an annual fee still allow you to earn rewards while spending money on things you already plan to buy.
  • Easier to manage: With premium cards, you have to calculate if it’s worth the cost. A no-annual-fee credit card cuts out the hassle of figuring out whether you’ll break even at the end of the year.
  • Good for beginners: If you're new to credit cards, it might not make sense to jump into a premium card. You want to first know that you can be responsible with a credit card. Plus, since credit cards report your payments to the credit bureaus, you can build your credit score fee-free.

Cons

  • Lower-value rewards: While you can still earn rewards, you won’t necessarily earn the best rewards possible with a no-annual-fee card. Higher-tiered earnings are usually reserved for cards that come with an annual fee.
  • Earning limitations: Many no-annual-fee reward cards come with earning caps. For example, some cards limit how much you can earn in a quarter while others only offer high rewards in limited categories.
  • Fewer perks: If you’re looking for dazzling rewards, complimentary memberships, and airport lounge access, you’ll probably want to look at fee-bearing cards.

READ MORE: Credit Card vs. Debit Card: Which Is Better?

No Annual Fee vs. Credit Cards with a Fee

Aside from the interest payments that’ll accrue if you carry a balance, no-annual-fee credit cards don’t cost anything to use. You can decide to use it regularly or not use it at all. Note that you won’t be penalized for not using it (although after extended inactivity, some issuers may try to close your account).

Credit cards with an annual fee, on the other hand, cost money just to own. Premium cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, charge annual fees that are hundreds of dollars. That means you’ll want to understand how these cards work to make sure you’re getting the most out of what you’re paying to have them.

Annual fee credit cards also come with higher rewards and better perks. For example, some premium travel credit cards come with lounge access that can be difficult to match. Frequent fliers might find that reward in and of itself to be valuable enough to justify paying a card’s annual fee.

To figure out which is best for you, do a cost-benefit analysis. Determine if the rewards you earn from a fee-free card make up for the rewards you could earn if you opted for a card with an annual fee. 

Woman holding a credit card. Guide to types of no-annual-fee credit cards.

FAQs

What types of no-annual-fee credit cards can you get?

There are a variety of different credit cards that don't charge an annual fee, including travel cards, cashback cards, balance transfer cards, and business cards.

What’s the highest annual fee on a credit card?

With a $695 annual fee, the American Express Platinum card is the most expensive consumer credit card on the market. This is a premium travel credit card that offers flight and hotel credits on top of opportunities to earn higher rewards in travel categories.

Can you get a credit card with no annual fee if you have bad credit? 

While it may be possible, it will likely be difficult to get a no-annual-fee credit card with bad credit. But if you take some time to build your credit, you may be eligible sooner than you think. A great way to rebuild credit is a secured credit card. There are several secured credit cards with no annual fee.

Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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I'm an award-winning lawyer and personal finance expert featured in Inc. Magazine, CNBC, the Today Show, Business Insider and more. My mission is to make personal finance accessible for everyone. As the largest financial influencer in the world, I'm connected to a community of over 20 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I'm also the host of the podcast Erika Taught Me. You might recognize me from my viral tagline, "I read the fine print so you don't have to!"

I'm a graduate of Georgetown Law, where I founded the Georgetown Law Entrepreneurship Club, and the University of Notre Dame. I discovered my passion for personal finance after realizing I was drowning in over $200,000 of student debt and needed to take action-ultimately paying off my student loans in under 2 years. I then spent years as a corporate lawyer representing Fortune 500 companies, but I quit because I realized I wanted to have an impact; I wanted to help real people and teach them that you can create a financial future for yourself.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.