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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

13 Best Cash Back Credit Cards with No Annual Fee

Best Cash Back Credit Cards With No Annual Fee

credit card advice

Eric Bank
By: Eric Bank
Posted: December 30, 2019
Advertiser Disclosure

What a delightful combination — paying no annual fee and receiving cash back rewards! We review here the best cash back credit cards with no annual fee, organized into categories that describe how rewards are calculated.

Our review includes cards for the general consumer, businesses, students, and those with bad credit. If you like cash, read on to find the cash back card that best fits your lifestyle.

Overall
Flat-Rate | Tiered | Rotating | Business | Students | Bad Credit | FAQs

Best Overall Cash Back Card with No Annual Fee

There can only be one best cash back card with no annual fee, and we’ve found it. It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, and it checks all the boxes important to the cash-loving consumer.

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card does it all and does it with no annual fee. You earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no minimum redemptions. You earn bonus cash back when you spend the specified amount during the first three months from account opening.

You also get a 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for a promotional period after opening the account. Add in free access to your credit score, $0 liability protection, purchase protection, and extended warranties, and you have a cash back card that appeals to a wide range of consumers.

Best Flat-Rate Cash Back Cards with No Annual Fee

Flat rate credit cards apply a fixed reward rate to all your purchases. That means unlimited rewards whatever you buy, every day.

CITI® RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
13.99% - 23.99% (variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
The Citi® Double Cash Card lets you earn cash back twice for purchases — 1% when you buy, 1% when you pay — equaling 2% cash back on every purchase, with no cap, categories, or annual fee.

The card also offers new cardmembers a 0% APR on balance transfers completed in the first four months after account opening (fees and limitations apply). You can convert your cash back into ThankYou Points you can use for shopping, travel, charitable gifts, student payments, mortgage payments, or gift cards.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card pays you an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day. You also can earn a cash bonus for spending the required amount on purchases during the first three months.

This no-annual-fee card offers a promotional 0% APR from account opening on purchases and balance transfers. The card charges no foreign transaction fees, and your cash back rewards don’t expire as long as the account remains open. You also get complimentary concierge service, extended warranty protection, travel accident insurance, and 24-hour travel assistance.

Best Tiered Cash Back Cards with No Annual Fee

A tiered cash back card offers multiple rates on purchases from different merchant types. The merchant categories are fixed — they do not change every quarter and you don’t have to activate the categories to receive higher rewards.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

The Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers three tiers of unlimited cash back rewards. You earn 3% on entertainment and dining, 2% at grocery stores, and 1% on all other purchases.

You can also earn bonus cash back when you spend the requisite amount on purchases during the first three months after account opening. New cardmembers get a promotional 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply). The card offers a wide variety of benefits, including special access to events, virtual card numbers, and ENO® virtual assistant.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Enjoy a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Introductory 0% APR for your first 12 billing cycles for purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening (balance transfer fee applies)
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 12 months
13.99% - 23.99%
$0
Good/Excellent

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers limited 3% cash back on the category of your choice, limited 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. The higher rewards are limited to the first $2,500 of combined purchases each quarter.

Introductory offers include bonus cash back when you purchase the required amount during the first three months and a promotional 0% APR for a limited period. Through Preferred Rewards, your cash back is worth 25% to 75% more.

Best Rotating Cash Back Cards with No Annual Fee

If you believe variety is the spice of life, you’ll appreciate that these credit cards offer different high-reward categories every quarter. You must activate the category to earn the higher rewards rate, which is limited to a specified amount spent on purchases each quarter.

6. Discover it® Cash Back

This card is currently not available.

Cash Back Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The Discover it® Cash Back card offers a top limited cash back rate in categories you activate each quarter. The categories include restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, Amazon.com, and more. All other purchases will earn unlimited cash back at a reduced flat rate.

You get an introductory APR for a limited time on new accounts for purchases and balance transfers (fees apply). Other benefits include instant on/off account switching, free FICO scores, and everyday monitoring of suspicious activity. With a low APR and friendly introductory terms, it’s attractive to those who want the benefits of a robust rewards program without breaking the bank on interest payments.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit card has a top cash back rate of 5% on quarterly rotating bonus categories that you activate, up to the quarterly purchase limit. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.

You can earn a cash back bonus by spending the required amount on purchases during the first three months. New cardmembers also get a promotional 0% APR on purchases. If you like, you can use your cash rewards to shop at Amazon.com, book travel at Chase Ultimate Rewards, or to purchase gift cards.

Best Business Cash Back Cards with No Annual Fee

Business cash back cards let you earn rewards on all your business purchases. These three cards charge no annual fee and allow you to get free extra cards for your employees.

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year
  • Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A
13.24% - 19.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card from Chase lets you earn 5% cash back, up to the annual combined purchase limit, at office supply stores and cable, internet, and phone services. You can earn 2% cash back up to the annual limit for combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants. All other purchases earn unlimited 1% cash back.

The card offers real-time fraud protection, travel and emergency assistance services, $0 liability protection, auto rental collision damage waiver, and more.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A
13.24% - 19.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card gives you 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases. You can redeem your rewards for cash, travel, gift cards, and select purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

You can earn bonus cash back by spending the required amount during the first three months after opening the account. New cardmembers also get a 0% APR on purchases made for a limited time. Your cash back rewards never expire as long as you keep the account open, and there is no annual fee for this card.

Best Student Cash Back Cards with No Annual Fee

Most students have thin or no credit histories, and many are new to the credit card world. The following two Discover cards offer students rewards without charging an annual fee.

10. Discover it® Student Cash Back

This card is currently not available.

Cash Back Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is a rotating category card that lets you earn a top cash back rate each quarter up to the quarterly limit at merchants that include gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, and Amazon.com. You must activate each quarterly category to receive the bonus cash back.

You also get an introductory promotional APR on purchases for a limited time. For students, this is an attractive choice for both the steep cash back rewards and friendly introductory offers.

11. Discover it® Student chrome

This card is currently not available.

Cash Back Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

If you prefer a tiered rewards card, the Discover it® Student chrome offers a cash back program on fixed categories up to the purchase limit each quarter. Purchases outside the fixed categories will earn unlimited cash back at a reduced rate.

You earn the good grade reward of statement credit each school year by maintaining an agreed upon GPA level. This card also comes with an introductory promotional APR on purchases for a period.

Best Bad-Credit Cash Back Cards with No Annual Fee

Your available credit card choices are limited when you have bad credit. The following two cards are aimed at consumers with credit problems and both offer cash back rewards without charging an annual fee.

Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card with Cash Back Rewards Review

at Credit One'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Qualified applicants will receive exclusive benefits such as 1% cash back rewards on all purchases, no annual fee, and a competitive APR. Terms apply.
  • Manage your account quickly and easily from your mobile device by using the Credit One Bank mobile app.
  • Use your Apple device to make purchases securely through Apple Pay®. Apple Pay is a registered trademark of Apple, Inc.
  • Your account is safeguarded against unauthorized charges with Zero Fraud Liability at no additional charge.
  • Take advantage of free online access to your Experian credit score and credit report summary so you can track the key factors impacting your credit health. Terms apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.99% to 23.99% Variable
$0 - $99
Fair

The Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card with Cash Back Rewards offers 1% cash back on eligible purchases, and, depending on your credit rating, may have no annual fee. Furthermore, you can earn 1.1% cash back at participating merchants.

You get $0 fraud liability, free online access to your monthly Experian credit score, and regular reviews for credit line increases. This card does not require a security deposit.

13. Discover it® Secured

This card is currently not available.

Bad Credit Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The Discover it® Secured card lets you earn a fixed cash back rate up to the quarterly purchase limit in designated categories. You secure this card with a refundable deposit up to the credit line approved.

You also get free FICO scores and can instantly apply your rewards to purchases at Amazon.com.

What Credit Card Gives the Most Cash Back?

When looking for maximum cash back, you must keep in mind the reward scheme offered by each card. For consumers who prefer the simplicity of a flat-rate card, the Citi® Double Cash Card provides unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you purchase and 1% when you pay.

This is at least 0.5 percentage points higher than other no-annual-fee flat-rate cards. It also offers the longest period of 0% APR balance transfers completed in the first four months of account opening (fees apply).

Among the tiered-reward cards, both the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card provide a top cash back reward of 3%. The Capital One card’s top reward applies to dining and entertainment, plus it offers 2% cash back at grocery stores.

The Bank of America card allows you to select the merchant category that earns 3% cash back, and you earn 2% at wholesale clubs and grocery stores. Both cards pay an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

However, all the reward rates from the Capital One card are unlimited, whereas the Bank of America card imposes quarterly limits on the higher reward rates. On the other hand, Bank of America cash back rewards are worth 25% to 75% more when redeemed through Preferred Rewards.

Still, the highest tiered reward comes from the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card, which offers 5% cash back up to an annual limit on selected purchases. You get limited 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, and an unlimited 1% on all other purchases. If you need a business credit card with no annual fee, this one has the best cash back deal.

The Discover it® Cash Back, Discover it® Student Cash Back, and Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit cards all offer a top cash back rate on quarterly rotating merchant categories that you must activate each quarter, plus a reduced cash back rate on all other purchases. However, the Discover cards come with Discover’s notable customer service.

Conversely, the Chase card lets you earn bonus rewards at selected stores via Shop through Chase.

Are Cash Back Credit Cards Really Worth It?

There is no doubt about it — cash back cards are a good deal, especially when you contrast them with savings accounts. Let’s look at the Discover it® Cash Back and Discover it® Student Cash Back cards.

They both offer a top cash back rate, as well as friendly introductory offers, making these cards hard to pass up.

The question becomes more nuanced when you consider cards with other types of rewards. If you frequently travel, you may prefer a mileage card, especially one that allows you to transfer your miles to a frequent flyer program.

The better travel cards offer many travel-related benefits, like insurance and assistance. Alternatively, you may like the flexibility of a credit card that offers points, which can usually be exchanged for cash or miles.

Whichever way you go, here are a few tips to get the most value from your credit card(s):

  • Choose a card that charges no annual fee. After all, an annual fee simply reduces your net rewards. Unless you want the extra benefits that often come with cards that charge an annual fee, the no-annual-fee cards are a good choice.
  • Pay your total balance each month. When you always pay your bill in full, you avoid paying the APR on unpaid balances.
  • Take advantage of introductory offers. These include bonus rewards for meeting the required amount of spending on purchases during the first three months and periods of up to 18 months with a 0% APR on purchases and/or balance transfers.

By following these suggestions and always paying on time, you may boost your credit score, which will improve your access to low-interest loans and credit.

Which Credit Cards Give 2% Cash Back?

Several of the cards reviewed here offer 2% cash back, either as a flat reward or as part of a tiered cash back arrangement. The Citi® Double Cash Card is the sole flat-rate card providing 2% cash back.

Citi Double Cash Card

It offers 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay for the purchase. This is a simple card for those who don’t want to think about different purchase categories or quarterly activations.

Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card

Many tiered-reward credit cards offer 2% cash back as the middle tier, between the higher rewards on featured categories and the base tier of unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. For example, both the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card let you earn 2% cash back on purchases from grocery stores.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Card

The Capital One card has the benefit of unlimited cash back tiers, whereas the Bank of America card imposes a quarterly purchase limit on its top two tiers. Note that the Bank of America card also pays 2% cash back for purchases at wholesale clubs, which could be a decisive factor for some shoppers.

Ink Business Cash Credit Card

If you run a business, consider the middle tier of the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card that pays 2% on grocery store purchases up to the quarterly limit. As we often mention, cards from Chase are well-known for their wide array of benefits, including shopping at Chase Online Rewards where your cash back goes further.

Students who choose the Discover it® Student chrome enjoy top-tier cash back rewards at designated categories up to the quarterly limit and unlimited cash back at a reduced rate on all other purchases.

That makes the top tier worth double in the first year, not bad for a student card that welcomes young people with little or no credit history.

One of the most remarkable rewards cards is the Discover it® Secured card because you can get it even with less-than-perfect credit. By putting up cash collateral, you take your credit history out of the picture. In return, you earn cash back — up to the quarterly limit.

Avoid Carrying a Balance that Negates Your Rewards

Remember, cash back rewards are only one side of the equation. The last thing you want is to drain the value of your cash back by spending on interest and fees.

It’s smart to get a card with no annual fee because it can save you anywhere from $39 to $500+ a year. It’s even smarter to pay your balances on time and in full. Not only do you avoid paying interest, but you’ll also get to collect cash back that packs its full wallop.

Of course, by paying your full balance each month, you sacrifice the convenience of stretching out payments on big-ticket items. No worries — if you can plan out a large purchase, you can arrange to get a new credit card that offers 0% APR on purchases during the introductory period, as many of the above cards offer.

Our review of the best cash back credit cards with no annual fee has turned up candidates for many types of consumers. You may have strong feelings about a cash back scheme, favoring flat, tiered, or revolving rewards. Perhaps you are a student, a business owner, or a bad-credit consumer.

Whichever one you choose, make the most of your cash back by minimizing your interest and fee expenses. You can do this by avoiding annual fees, paying your balances right away, and using signup bonus rewards to reap the full benefit of your cash back credit card.

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