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

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

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Updated: August 31, 2018
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.

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 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.

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • 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
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.99% - 25.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

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; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

CITI® RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

0.0/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • No categories to track and no caps on cash back.
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.49% to 25.49% (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

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • 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
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 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
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.99% - 25.74% 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: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • 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.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • 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
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
$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
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles. That's $600 towards travel!
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases all with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • 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 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day and pay no annual fee. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Enjoy a low intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 13.74%-23.74% 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
13.74% - 23.74% (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

0.0/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days — that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want — you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles
N/A
16.99% - 24.99% (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.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • 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
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.99% - 25.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

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; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good
Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • 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
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
$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 not only offer good rewards, but they charge no annual fee and have reasonable signup bonus requirements.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time 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.
  • 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
14.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Fair
Discover it® Student chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • 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.
  • 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
14.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Fair

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
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (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 $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 and balance transfers
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 12 months
15.24% - 21.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.6

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 and balance transfers
  • 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
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 12 months
15.24% - 21.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earning unlimited 1.5% cash back could mean thousands of dollars each year going back into your business
  • Plus, a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Save on interest with 0% intro APR on purchases for 9 months; 14.74% - 22.74% variable APR after that
  • No annual fee
  • Use Spark Cash Select across all your business spend, with no categories to limit your purchasing
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 9 months
N/A
14.74% - 22.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, 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.