Guide to No Annual Fee Credit Cards
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When it comes to rewards credit cards, you really can’t beat a no-annual-fee option. Sure, there are premium cards with hefty annual fees that may still be worth it, but, overall, there are plenty of advantages to not having to worry about such things. For one, there’s less pressure to ensure that you’re getting every penny of value that you can out of a card. Additionally, if a card no longer suits you like it once did, you can simply lower it in your rotation instead of needing to cancel (although halting its usage entirely may result in the card company closing it for you).
Luckily, there is currently no shortage of no annual fee options to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. Let’s a look at a few popular no annual fee credit cards, what they have to offer, and who might be best served by each option.
Capital One SavorOne
- Rewards: 3% back on dining and entertainment, 2% back at grocery stores, and 1% back on everything else
- Current Welcome Bonus: $200 back when you spend $500 in your first three months
- Best for: Those who value dining/entertainment and want enhanced rewards in those categories
Cards on the table (near literally): the Captial One SavorOne is a credit card that maintains a prominent place in my wallet. That’s thanks in part to its generous multipliers, namely the 3% back on dining and entertainment. With that “entertainment” category being pretty broad — including movie theatres, record stores, tourist attractions, amusement parks, zoos, and many more — I think this is a good option for those who plan on exploring once the pandemic is over. Plus, in the meantime, there’s also that 2% back on groceries category and 1% back on everything else.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the exceptional sign-up bonus that the SavorOne currently carries. As of this writing, new cardholders can earn an additional $200 back after they spend just $500 in their first three months. For those reasons and more, this is one of my favorite no annual fee cards on the market right now.
Blue Cash Everyday
- Rewards: 3% back on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, 1% back after that), 2% back on U.S. gas station purchases, 2% back on U.S. department store purchases, and 1% back on everything else.
- Current Welcome Bonus: Up to $300 back — 20% back on Amazon purchases made within your first six months (up to $200) + $100 bonus when you spend $1,000 on your card in your first six months.
- Best for: Those seeking the practicality of a card that emphasizes grocery stores and gasoline purchases
While American Express may be best known for their premium cards like the Platinum and Gold cards (carrying annual fees of $550 and $250 respectively), the company also has several no annual fee options in its lineup as well. Case in point: the Blue Card Everyday. The main draw here is the 3% back at U.S. supermarkets. You’ll earn on charges up to $6,000 in annual spending in this category per year. Additionally, you’ll get 2% back at U.S. gas stations, 2% back at U.S. department stores, and 1% back on everything else.
Also notable is the unique welcome bonus Amex is currently offering on the Blue Cash Everyday. For a limited time, you can earn up to $200 back at Amazon, as you’ll receive 20% back on purchases you make from the site during your first six months. You’ll also earn a $100 cashback bonus when you spend at least $1,000 on your card in the first six months. With those factors considered, this could be a practical option for holiday shopping and beyond.
Chase Freedom Flex
- Rewards: 5% back on rotating quarterly bonus categories (up to $1,500 in spend per quarter), 5% back on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% back on dining, 3% back on drugstore purchases, and 1% back on everything else
- Current Welcome Bonus: $200 back when you spend $500 in your first three months
- Best for: Those looking for a well-rounded card with a rotating 5% category to keep things fresh
Introduced earlier this year, the Chase Freedom Flex has already made a splash. While the standout features included a 5% bonus category that rotates quarterly (every three calendar months), it adds 5% back on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% back on dining, and 3% on drug store purchases on top of the standard 1% back on everything else. The result is a powerful card that should offer something for everyone.
Like with the SavorOne, the Chase Freedom Flex also has an impressive spend-to-earn ratio on its sign-up bonus. Currently, cardholders can earn $200 back when they spend $500 in their first three months. Lastly, if you don’t care much for the rotating category feature and prefer to earn 1.5% back on “everything else” instead, then the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which also carries no annual fee, may be a better bet.
Citi Double Cash
- Rewards: Total of 2% back on everything (1% back when you buy and 1% back as you pay)
- Current Welcome Bonus: None
- Best for: Those who want a super-simple flat-rate card and don’t mind the lack of a sign-up bonus
The Citi Double Cash Card is perhaps the most straightforward rewards card on the market. With it, you can earn 2% back on everything you buy, regardless of the category. More accurately, you’ll earn 1% back when you make your purchase and 1% back when you pay off your balance.
One trade-off here is that the card doesn’t feature a sign-up bonus. Still, for those who don’t want to have to think too hard about which card to pull out of their wallet when they shop, the Citi Double Cash Card can make life a little bit easier.
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Rewards: 1.5% cashback on all purchases
- Current Welcome Bonus: $200 cashback after you spend $500 on the card in your first three months
- Best for: Those who want a no-fuss flat-rate card but also want a sign-up bonus
Another option for those who like to keep their rewards simple is the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card. This card offers a flat 1.5% cashback on all purchases. Plus, currently, the card offers a sign-up bonus of $200 when you spend $500 on the card in your first three months. Therefore, if you expect that the $200 bonus will carry you further than the 0.5% bump in cashback, this may be a more attractive choice.
U.S. Bank Altitude Go Visa Signature Card
- Rewards: 4x points on takeout, food delivery, and dining; 2x points at grocery stores and on grocery delivery, 2x points at gas stations, 2x points on streaming services, and 1x points on everything else
- Current Welcome Bonus: 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases in your first 90 days.
- Best for: Those who want some variety in their rewards categories and who have a lot of streaming subscriptions
The U.S. Bank Altitude Go Visa Signature Card is a bit unique in that it seems that it was built for Millennials, while also being pretty much pandemic-proof. Starting with its largest multiplier, the card offers 4x points on dining, including food delivery and takeout. It also features 2x points on grocery store and grocery delivery purchases, 2x points on gas, and 2x points on streaming services (plus 1x on everything else, of course). Speaking of streaming services, cardholders can also enjoy up to $15 in annual statement credits for eligible streaming service purchases.
As for a sign-up bonus, the U.S. Bank Altitude Go Visa Signature Card is currently offering an extra 20,000 points when you spend at least $1,000 in your first three months. That amounts to $200 redeemable for cashback, gift cards, etc. So, if you’re looking for a card with some different rewards, the U.S. Bank Altitude Go just might be for you.
Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card
- What it features: 2X miles on restaurant purchases made worldwide, 2X miles on Delta purchases, 1X miles on everything else, 20% back (in the form of a statement credit) on in-flight purchases from Delta
- Current Welcome Bonus: 10,000 SkyMiles when you spend $500 in your first three months
- Best for: Those just getting started with travel cards and who are Delta fans
Last but not least, since airline mile-earning cards are such a large piece of the credit card market, I figured I’d feature at least one no annual fee option in that vein — in this case, the Delta SkyMiles Blue card from American Express. As you can guess, this is the lowest tier card in the Delta/Amex line up. Despite that, it still offers some perks for Delta flyers, such as earning 2x miles on Delta purchases as well as 2x miles on restaurant purchases and 1x miles on everything else. Cardholders can also earn 20% back on Delta in-flight purchases.
The Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express card also currently boasts a sign-up bonus of 10,000 miles after you spend $500 on the card in your first three months. By the way, if you’re looking for more Delta perks, there are the Delta Gold, Platinum, and Reserve cards available — although they all carry annual fees of various sizes. Meanwhile, if you prefer other airlines, you may want to see if they too offer a no annual fee card as some (including United) do.
There are plenty of reasons why many consumers prefer no annual fee credit cards when given the choice. In some good news for them, there are now some heavy hitters, offering a variety of rewards structures and perks for consumers to pick from. Ultimately, the best card for you is the one that you’ll get the most out of, so be sure to calculate how much you can expect in rewards from each card based on your average annual spending across different categories. Then, you really can’t go wrong with any of these picks or other no annual fee options.
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