The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Thursday, October 28, 2021

18 Best Credit Cards for Light Spenders: No Fees for Low Spending

Best Credit Cards For Light Spenders

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Updated: July 20, 2021
Advertiser Disclosure

Credit card blogs are always full of churners and high rollers who put thousands of dollars of spend on their cards each month to earn free trips around the world. But while these stories can be inspiring, they’re not often manageable for the typical cardholder.

On the bright side, you don’t actually need to spend like a Rockefeller to take advantage of credit card rewards. Even modest spenders can earn great cash back, points, and miles — without breaking the bank. Tons of great cards are out there that are perfect for light spenders. With that in mind, we have compiled the list below which includes 18 of our experts’ picks for the best credit cards for light spenders.

With these cards, you won’t need to pay huge annual fees, reach absurd spending requirements, or charge a bundle each month to see real rewards. Of course, while these are the top picks, they’re hardly the only options for light spenders to make the most of their credit card.

Overall | Cash Back | Travel | Signup Bonus | Student | Business

Best Overall Credit Cards for Light Spenders

Although ever consumer’s spending habits are unique, there are a few things most light spenders likely want out of their credit card — the first being not a lot of excess fees. If you’re not putting enough spend on a card to make up for an annual fee, why pay it?

Another key component of a great overall card for light spenders is flexibility in how you earn rewards. These cards can be used for everyday purchases and one-off expenses alike, offering the same solid rewards rate no matter where you spend.

  • $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • One-time $200 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 and balance transfers for 15 months; 14.99%-24.99% variable APR after that
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
14.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

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 and will have a fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • 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.
  • 24/7 access to customer service representatives
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good

Having trouble deciding between our top three overall cards? If you’re under the Chase 5/24 limit, then the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is an easy choice, with the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card as an alternative. If you’d rather have more rewards than an intro-APR offer, the Citi® Double Cash Card could be your winner.

Best Cards for Maximizing Cash Back on a Small Budget

While having a good unlimited rewards card in your wallet is definitely useful, you don’t have to forfeit the chance to maximize your rewards simply because of a small budget. You can still find quality category rewards cards without costly annual fees or huge spending requirements.

If you’re going for max rewards, be sure to pick the cards that best fit your spending habits. If you know you spend heavily at grocery stores and restaurants year-round, pick a card with set bonus rewards in those categories. For consumers with revolving needs, a rotating category card can offer a lot of opportunity to earn big.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • #1 Most Trusted Credit Card according to Investor’s Business Daily.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, and 1% on all other purchases.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Discover it® chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn cash back on your next road trip with 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. Based Customer Service available any time.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent

While category cards can be great for big rewards, be sure you know the restrictions and limitations of your card. For example, most cards with rotating categories require you to activate your new category each quarter to unlock bonus rewards on those purchases. Check the card’s rewards calendar — Chase and Discover each have separate calendars — ahead of time to see when you can activate your new category.

Additionally, many credit cards with bonus rewards categories have earning limits for those categories. This means you’ll only earn bonus rewards on category purchases up to the limit, with additional category purchases earning rewards at the default rate (typically 1% cash back).

Best Cards for Earning Travel Rewards with Low Fees

Some of the most frequent perpetrators when it comes to expensive cards with big price tags are the travel rewards credit cards. Many of the top-tier travel cards have annual fees in excess of $400, and spending requirements well past the attainable for small-budget consumers.

Happily, you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to earn free flights and hotel stays; a number of travel rewards credit cards offer the ability to earn enough points and miles with your everyday purchases to help make that next vacation an affordable reality.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Only Discover gives you an unlimited match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles.  There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase - with no annual fee.
  • Redeem Miles to pay any part of your monthly bill, including your minimum payment.
  • Turn Miles into cash in any amount, any time. Or redeem as a statement credit for travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more with no blackout dates. However you redeem, Miles keep the same value. And Miles never expire.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 14 months
10.99% Intro APR for 14 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get our best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
14.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening – which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time, and no expiration on points
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees while earning points to use for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Introductory 0% APR offer on purchases, then a variable APR applies
  • Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means you could earn up to 2.62 points for every $1 you spend, everywhere, every time.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% APR for 12 billing cycles
N/A
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good

While these travel rewards credit cards won’t give you the outrageous per-point value of the more expensive options, they also won’t cost you an arm and a leg in fees each year just to keep them in your wallet.

And you also get access to many of the best travel card perks, including paying no foreign transaction fees on purchases in a foreign currency. Plus, these cards all have good-sized signup bonuses with spending requirements that can fit into nearly any budget.

Best Signup Bonuses with Low Spending Requirements

One of the key components to most credit card rewards strategies is taking advantage of the lucrative signup bonuses most cards now offer. At the same time, the signup bonus spending requirements can reach into the thousands of dollars.

Given that most signup bonuses have 90-day limits, large requirements simply aren’t attainable for light spenders. But while not as lucrative as the big-budget bonuses, plenty of good credit cards offer valuable signup bonuses with much more reasonable spending requirements.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, and 1% on all other purchases.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • One-time $200 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 and balance transfers for 15 months; 14.99%-24.99% variable APR after that
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
14.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good
Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • #1 Most Trusted Credit Card according to Investor’s Business Daily.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent

Before you start swiping hither and thither to meet your new card’s bonus, be sure you read the fine print. Know exactly how much you need to spend to become eligible for the bonus, as well as how long you have to reach the required spending amount.

You should also note any exceptions to eligible spend. For example, balance transfers and cash advances rarely count toward signup bonus spending requirements. Additionally, requirements are typically calculated via net spend, so returned/refunded purchases generally won’t count.

Best Student Credit Cards for Limited Budgets

Perhaps the epitome of light spenders, most college students have notoriously slim budgets better spent on food, shelter, and textbooks than high credit card fees and sky-high spending requirements.

Of course, given that the typical college student likely has both a limited budget and limited credit, the best options are often going to be student credit cards. These cards offer good rewards and fair interest rates.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • Earn rewards while building your credit history that can help you after graduation. And, get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they’re approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit
Discover it® Student chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • Earn rewards while building your credit history that can help you after graduation. And, get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they’re approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.2

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
  • Earn $5 per month for 12 months on Select Streaming Subscriptions when you pay on time. *Exclusions Apply
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

One thing to keep in mind as a student applicant is that the law requires that all credit card applicants be at least 18 years of age. Additionally, credit card applicants under the age of 21 must demonstrate an independent source of income to be approved for a credit card on their own.

The only exception to this rule is for those applicants who have an adult cosigner with good credit. Cosigners agree to take on the responsibility of repaying the debt if the primary cardholder cannot, so use caution when deciding to become a cosigner.

Best Business Credit Cards for Light Expenses

Although many people — and credit card issuers — may associate businesses with huge cash flow and six-digit budgets, the typical small business is often a lot smaller than people think. Unfortunately, many business credit cards have annual fees and high spending requirements designed for companies with lots of expenses.

Many — but not all. Some credit card issuers understand the unique financial needs of small businesses with light expenses, and they’ve designed several business credit cards better suited to companies that want to avoid high fees while still earning valuable rewards.

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 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 purchases
  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring.
  • With Zero Liability you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information.
  • No Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A 12 months
13.24% - 19.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
  • No Annual Fee
  • Redeem rewards for cash back, gift cards, travel and more through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn rewards faster with employee cards at no additional cost. Set individual spending limits for greater control.
  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A 12 months
13.24% - 19.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR for the first 12 months
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back for your business on every purchase, everywhere — with no limits or category restrictions
  • No annual fee
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account
  • Redeem your cash back rewards for any amount
  • Free employee cards, which also earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
$0
Good

Selecting the right credit card for your business may first start with finding the best cards for your bottom line, but don’t forget to find the rewards that best fit your business’s spending needs, too. For example, if your business spends the bulk of its budget on office supplies, it can be worthwhile to get a card that earns extra on those purchases.

If your expenses don’t fit neatly into a single category, however, go with a flat-rate unlimited rewards card that’ll give you a solid return on every purchase. For some businesses, pairing a bonus category credit card with a flat-rate rewards card can generate the most value; select two cards without annual fees to ensure you’re not cutting into your savings.

You Don’t Have to Spend Big to Earn Big

Paging through the credit card blogs can be a great way to find awesome tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your credit cards, as well as great ways to use your rewards for the best value. But don’t let the click-worthy stories of free luxury trips lure you down the path of spending more than you can afford to repay.

You don’t need to blow your budget to get great value out of your credit cards, nor do you need to put yourself into debt to earn a good signup bonus. Tons of options are out there for light spenders who want a great credit card experience that suits their low-limit lifestyles.

Of course, always remember to only charge what you can afford to repay by the time the bill comes due. Carrying a balance on a credit card is rarely a good idea, as interest charges can quickly turn small purchases into big expenses. If you’re already on a limited budget, adding unnecessary interest fees can easily take you off course.

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