18 Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards (2017)

18 Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards (2017)

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Posted: June 2, 2017
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Site may be compensated through the issuer affiliate programs.

Looking at the cardholder agreements that come with new credit cards can be a bit intimidating, full as they are with descriptions of the copious fees for using the cards’ features. On the plus side, many of the fees that come with a credit card can be avoided through responsible credit card use. Simply paying off your balance every month, for instance, can eliminate the need to pay interest fees, and skipping the cash advance will also let you skip the fee.

Unfortunately, some credit cards come with one particular fee that often can’t be avoided: the annual fee. A fixture of many premium credit cards, the annual fee pays for the various perks and rewards enjoyed by cardholders. That said, a wide variety of issuers offer credit cards — many with valuable rewards like cash back on every purchase — that don’t charge annual fees. Regardless of where you fall on the credit score range, you can likely find the annual-fee-free card for you.

Good Credit | Fair Credit | Poor Credit | No/Limited Credit

Best No Annual Fee Offers for Good Credit (FICO Score 700+)

Although building — or rebuilding — credit can be a slow process, it’s definitely worth the time it takes to develop a strong credit history. Those with good credit enjoy many of the best perks in credit, including the best interest rates and the lowest fees — even annual fees.

Since those with good credit represent a low credit risk, they’ll have access to a greater number of premium credit cards than their lower-credit counterparts. This includes a variety of cards that have no annual fee but still offer solid perks and rewards.

Cash Back Cards

Cash back rewards programs give you back a portion of what you spend on qualifying purchases. Most programs reward you with a flat-rate percentage of your purchases as a statement credit, while others also offer bonus cash back on purchases in certain categories.

As an added perk, these cards also have good signup bonuses with attainable minimum spending requirements, giving you even more bang for your — well, no buck, because these cards don’t have any annual fees.

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
15.99% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good
Discover it® - Cashback Match™ Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Our Take: "One of our favorite cards, with long 0% intro APRs, low ongoing APRs, awesome cash back rewards, and lots more.
  • 5% cash back in categories that rotate quarterly, up to $1,500 per quarter when you sign up for the quarterly bonus
  • 1% cash back on all your other purchases
  • With Cashback Match you could turn $200 into $400, as the card matches the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers)
  • No limit to the amount of cash back that can be matched"
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card Review

at Wells Fargo'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases
  • Enjoy 1.8% cash rewards on qualified mobile wallet purchases, like Apple Pay® or Android Pay™, during the first 12 months from account opening
  • No category restrictions or sign ups and cash rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a 13.99%-25.99% variable APR; balance transfer fees apply
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 12 months
13.99%-25.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

Of course, if you carry a balance on your cards, you’ll be expected to pay interest fees, which can really eat into any rewards. Pay your card off, in full, every month to avoid paying interest fees on your purchases.

Travel/Airline Miles Cards

For those who travel frequently, either for business or for pleasure, credit cards offering travel rewards can really pay off. Cardholders can earn miles for every dollar spent, then redeem those miles for travel purchases like airline tickets and hotel stays.

To make the most of your travel card, look for programs that allow you to redeem your miles without blackout dates or travel restrictions. Those with good credit can also find travel cards with signup bonuses for extra savings.

AIR MILES RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and pay no annual fee
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Enjoy a low intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 12.99%-22.99% variable APR after that
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
12.99% - 22.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good
Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Our Take: "If you're looking for a card that gives you air miles, your search is over. This card helps you earn free flights with multiple airlines, awards very generous bonuses, and offers a low APR to boot.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar spent
  • Cover travel costs by redeeming the miles in any amount for a statement credit
  • Fly any airline, any time
  • No blackout dates
  • At the end of your first year, the card automatically matches the miles you've earned (only for new cardmembers)"
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
11.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

If you’re likely to travel out of the country, look for credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees. These are additional fees tacked onto any purchase made in a foreign country or foreign currency.

IssuerTransaction FeeForeign ATM Fees
American Express2.7%2.7% foreign currency withdrawal fee on some accounts
Bank of America3.0%$5 usage fee for each non-Global ATM Alliance partner, plus a 3% currency conversion fee for each withdrawal
Barclaycard3.0%3% currency conversion fee
Capital OneNone3% currency conversion fee for some accounts
Chase3.0%$5 per withdrawal, plus 3% currency conversion fee. Fees waived on some accounts
Citi3.0%3% currency conversion fee for some accounts
DiscoverNoneNone
Wells Fargo3.0%$10 or 5% of each transaction, whichever is greater

Foreign transaction fees are a combination of issuer and bank fees, and can be charged before or after your purchase is converted to US currency. If your card charges foreign transaction fees, be prepared to pay an average of 3% more for purchases made abroad.

Best No Annual Fee Offers for Fair Credit (FICO Score 650+)

Although those with good credit will have the best options, if your credit falls in the “fair” range you may still qualify for a good everyday card or valuable rewards card that charges no annual fee.

Everyday Card

Whether you’re establishing your fledgling credit or working on smoothing a bumpy credit history, responsible use of a credit card can be a great way to build a healthy credit profile.

BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★
3.8
OVERALL RATING
3.8/5.0
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

A good everyday card for those with fair credit will report to the credit bureaus each month and has no annual fee. Choosing a card with no annual fee and paying off the balance each month will allow you to show good credit behavior without adding another expense to the budget.

Rewards Cards (Fee Dependent on Credit)

Fair credit applicants whose hearts are set on a rewards card may still have some options. As with many things in life, however, those options come with a caveat: only qualified applicants will actually qualify for a $0 annual fee.

Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Building Credit Review

at Credit One'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★
4.0
OVERALL RATING
4.0/5.0
  • See if you Pre-Qualify without harming your credit score.
  • This fully unsecured credit card with no deposit requirement can be helpful in growing or building credit. Your account activity will be reported monthly to all three major credit bureaus.
  • All the features you want in a credit card are included. Get 1% cash back on eligible purchases, take advantage of free online credit score tracking, and enjoy credit line increase opportunities. Terms apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99% - 24.99% Variable
$0 - $99
Fair
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® Credit Card Review

at Credit One'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★
3.8
OVERALL RATING
3.8/5.0
  • Interested in growing or rebuilding your credit? We report monthly payment activity to all three major credit bureaus to help keep your credit score up-to-date. You’ll also receive free online access to your credit score and credit report summary from Experian.
  • See if you're Pre-Qualified in less than 60 seconds.
  • This is a fully functional, unsecured credit card - not a debit, prepaid, or secured card. No need to load funds or tie up cash in deposits. There are no out-of-pocket costs to open your account.
  • Automatically get 1% cash back on eligible purchases, terms apply.
  • Choose your monthly payment due date for added convenience, terms apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99% - 24.99% Variable
$0 - $99
Fair

If you apply for a fair-credit rewards card but don’t qualify for the no annual fee offer, you’ll need to determine if the perks and rewards offered by the card are worth the annual fee. This will largely depend on how much you are likely to purchase over the course of the year.

Graph Showing Credit Card Rewards

As the graph shows, if you earn 1% cash back on your purchases, it would take $5,000 worth of purchase rewards to earn enough cash back to pay for a $50 annual fee. So, if you are unlikely to spend — and pay off — $5,000 in a year, the card’s rewards are unlikely to cover the annual fee.

Best No Annual Fee Offers for Poor Credit (FICO Score <650)

As all those with poor credit eventually find, a low credit score equates to a high credit risk to lenders and credit card issuers. High credit risk means higher fees and interest rates, and often includes annual fees.

Even if your credit score plants you firmly in the “bad credit” category, you don’t necessarily need to resign yourself to paying an annual fee. Several options exist for obtaining credit cards without annual fees, including both unsecured and secured cards.

The main difference between unsecured and secured credit cards is, as the name implies, the “secured” part. Secured credit cards require cardholders to put down a deposit as security against defaulting on their credit card bill. Unsecured cards require no deposit but may have higher credit requirements.

Unsecured Cards

If you have poor credit and don’t want to pay an annual fee, but would rather not put down a deposit, your options are a bit limited. In fact, some of the options may require you to meet certain credit qualifications to actually avoid paying an annual fee.

Your credit score may be too low to qualify you for a no annual fee offer. In some cases, your best bet may be to pay the fee, then use the card — responsibly — for six months or so, until your credit improves and you can qualify for a better offer.

Fingerhut Credit Account Review

at Fingerhut'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.0/5.0
  • Use your line of credit to shop over 450,000 items from great brands like Samsung, KitchenAid, and DeWalt
  • Take advantage of low monthly payments if you apply and are accepted for a Fingerhut Credit Account issued by WebBank, who determines eligibility and qualifications for the terms of credit
  • Fast, easy online application process and a quick decision
  • Not an access card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Issuer Website
$0
Poor Credit
Indigo® MasterCard® for Less than Perfect Credit Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING
★★★★
4.1
OVERALL RATING
3.8/5.0
  • Pre-qualify for a card today and it will not impact your credit score
  • All credit histories considered
  • Mobile account access at any time
  • Fraud protection for stolen or lost cards
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
23.9%
$0 - $99
Bad, Poor Credit
Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card with 1% Cash Back Review

at Credit One'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING
★★★★
4.0
OVERALL RATING
3.7/5.0
  • This unsecured card requires no deposit and can help build your credit
  • Receive opportunities for credit line increases, a fee may apply
  • See if you Pre-Qualify in less than 60 seconds
  • Receive 1% cash back on eligible purchases, terms apply
  • Choose your monthly payment due date for added convenience, terms apply
  • Monitor your credit with free online access to your credit score
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99% - 24.99% Variable
$0 - $99
Poor

In addition to paying your balance in full every month to avoid interest fees, be sure to pay your credit card bill on time every month, as well. Not only is this good credit behavior, but you’ll also avoid paying late fees on your card payments.

Secured Cards

Secured credit cards represent less risk to an issuer than unsecured cards because the deposit ensures you won’t default on your card. This means you may have more options for obtaining a credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee.

With secured cards, the credit limit of your card will be equal to your initial deposit. Since larger credit limits are better for your utilization rate and, thus, your credit score, it may behoove you to make a significant deposit. Your initial deposit is completely refundable.

SECURED RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad
Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

SECURED RATING
★★★★★
4.5
OVERALL RATING
3.7/5.0
  • No Annual Fee, cash back on every purchase, and helps you build your credit with responsible use.
  • Your Secured Credit Card requires a refundable security deposit up to the amount we can approve of at least $200 which will establish your credit line. You will need to provide your bank information when submitting your security deposit.
  • We will automatically begin reviewing your account starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at restaurants & gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • New! Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
10.99% for 6 months
23.99% Variable
$0
Please refer to issuer's website

The deposit you make when opening your secured credit card is kept in a special savings account, which is inaccessible to you while your account is open. Most secured card issuers will reevaluate your credit after 12 to 18 months, and may refund your deposit and upgrade your secured card to an unsecured card automatically if your credit has improved.

Best No Annual Fee Offers for No/Limited Credit

Considered by some issuers to be almost as significant as having poor credit, having no credit, or very limited credit, can make it difficult to find a good credit card, let alone one without an annual fee. That said, options do exist for cards you can use to build your blossoming credit that won’t put an annual dent in your budget.

Business & Consumer Cards

When it comes to building your credit, whether personal or business, the most important ingredient is time. Using a credit card is a good way to help the process, but it certainly won’t happen overnight. Finding a good credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee can help make the credit-building process a bit more affordable, especially over several years.

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
3.8/5.0
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★
4.4
OVERALL RATING
4.5/5.0
  • Enjoy no annual fee
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Build business credit with responsible use
  • Fraud coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Enjoy business benefits including Year-End Summaries, employee cards at no extra cost and experienced small business customer service
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
23.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

While your business and personal credit histories exist separately, your personal credit can influence your business credit. Be sure to use both consumer and business credit cards wisely and responsibly to build healthy credit for you and your company.

Student Cards

As notoriously ill-funded as the proverbial starving artist, the average college student likely has about as much of a credit history as they have spare cash to pay an annual fee. Thankfully, a number of issuers offer cards that don’t require a credit history or an annual fee.

Discover it® for Students Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.5/5.0
  • Our Take: "The lack of fees, combined with great perks like cash back and free credit score tracking, make this credit card a solid deal for college students.
  • 5% cash back in categories that rotate quarterly, up to $1,500 per quarter when you sign up for the quarterly bonus
  • 1% cash back on all your other purchases with no limits
  • No annual fee
  • $20 cash back each year your GPA is 3.0 or higher (maximum 5 years)"
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
13.99% - 22.99% Variable
$0
Fair
STUDENT RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.2/5.0
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • There's no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, and rewards won't expire for the life of the account
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Pay no annual or foreign transaction fees
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
Discover it® chrome for Students Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.0/5.0
  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter - no sign-ups needed. 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 cash back each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
13.99% - 22.99% Variable
$0
Fair

While having no credit history makes you a credit risk to card issuers, having no history is still better than having a bad history, so use your credit card responsibly to avoid damaging your credit history. And remember, no annual fee doesn’t mean no fees at all, so pay your balance in full every month to avoid paying interest fees on your purchases.

Don’t Pay For What You Can Get For Free

When comparing the nearly endless stream of credit card offers out there, it can often seem as though paying fees simply goes hand-in-hand with using a credit card. Whether you’re paying annual fees, interest fees, or transfer fees, the costs of using a credit card really can add up quickly.

Fortunately, that’s not the case for all credit cards. With a little research — and a lot of responsible credit card behavior — you can enjoy the perks and rewards of a credit card without paying an arm and a leg in fees, annual or otherwise.