The best no-annual-fee credit cards of April 2022
The best no-annual-fee credit cards of April 2022
No annual fee credit cards can earn lots of rewards, just like cards with fees — and the best come with valuable benefits that can save you money.

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The best no annual fee credit cards of April 2022

Many people feel that paying an annual fee for a credit card makes no sense. Why should you pay to spend money?

That's not to say that cards with annual fees are never worth it — for example, it's possible to get over $2,000 in value in your first year with The Platinum Card® from American Express, especially if you travel frequently and take advantage of its benefits.

But if you stay close to home, or don't fancy perks like annual statement credits, airport lounge access, or elite status, you can do quite well with a card that doesn't charge an annual fee. Plenty of cards without an annual fee offer strong rewards, too, so you're not missing out on points and miles.

Here are our picks for the best no-annual-fee credit cards available right now.

The best no-annual-fee credit cards in 2022

Best for cash back: Citi® Double Cash Card

The Citi® Double Cash Card effectively earns 2% cash back — 1 point per dollar when you make a purchase, and 1 point per dollar when you pay it off. If you're focused on earning credit card rewards, you should be paying your balance off in full each month, so in that case, you can consider this a 2% cash back card.

Read more: Citi Double Cash credit card review

There's one downside, though: The card doesn't currently offer a welcome bonus. That said, it's one of the best cash-back cards, and it's simple to use because there are no bonus rewards categories to remember.

The Citi® Double Cash Card is also an excellent starter card if you're new to credit card rewards. You can't go wrong with redeeming Double Cash rewards for cash back, but if you later want to delve into travel or other redemptions, you have other options for using Citi ThankYou points.

As of March 28, 2022, the Double Cash card earns Citi ThankYou points instead of cash back directly. But you can still redeem your points for cash back (as well as travel, gift cards, and more) and get the same rate of return.

Best if you have a Chase Sapphire card: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is another top pick for a no-annual-fee card — especially if there's a chance that you'll want to earn more valuable credit card rewards with a premium credit card later on.

Read more: Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card review

That's because while Chase markets the card as "cash back," it actually earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you can redeem for cash, gift cards, or travel through the Chase Travel Portal at a rate of 1 cent per point. 

If you decide that you want to maximize the value of those points by purchasing travel with a bonus through Chase, or transfer them to frequent flyer partners, you can open a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and pool your points from the two cards.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase, 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2025, 3% cash back on dining and at drugstores, and 1.5% back on all other purchases (or 1.5 points per dollar spent). Paired with a Sapphire Reserve, it's a great card to use for purchases that aren't made on travel expenses or dining.

Read more: I use the Sapphire Reserve to increase the value of all my Chase points, and you can use the same strategy to effectively get up to 7.5% back on your spending

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a fantastic all-around card. However, to get the most value when it's time to spend your points, you need the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, too, so you can pool your points. Otherwise, points are only worth 1 cent each no matter how you use them, and they can't be transferred to airline or hotel partners.

Earns among the highest cash back, if you work for it: Chase Freedom Flex℠

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ works virtually the same way as the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, earning cash back in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you can either combine with another card, or redeem for cash or merchandise. 

Read more: Chase Freedom Flex card review

The key difference is how it earns those rewards. Unlike the Chase Freedom Unlimited® — which earns 1.5% cash back (or 1.5 points per dollar spent) on most purchases, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns 5% (or 5x) in rotating categories each quarter (once activated) on up to $1,500 spent in that category. You'll also earn 5% cash back on travel purchases made through Chase, 5% on Lyft rides through March 2025, 3% back on dining and drugstores, and 1% back on everything else.

Read more: Chase Freedom credit card review: All 3 versions offer solid rewards for no annual fee, but only 2 are available to new applicants

Best if your spending changes month to month: Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

The  Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is a great choice if your spending habits tend to change from month to month. Cardholders earn 5% cash back on up to $500 in purchases in the eligible category they spend the most in each billing cycle (then 1%), and 1% on all other purchases.

The qualifying categories include everyday expenses that should appeal to most folks: restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, and live entertainment.

Read more: Citi Custom Cash credit card review

Although it's marketed as a cash-back card, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card actually earns rewards in the form of Citi ThankYou points, which are worth 1 cent apiece for cash back, travel booked through Citi, gift cards, merchandise, and more. And if you have the Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card (no longer available to new applicants), you can pool your rewards and transfer points to airline and hotel partners, including Citi's newest partners, Choice Privileges and Wyndham Rewards.

Best for shopping at U.S. supermarkets: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is a cash-back card, earning 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 each calendar year — and 1% after that — 2% back at U.S. gas stations, and 1% cash back on everything else (cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars).

Read more: Amex Blue Cash Everyday credit card review

There's also a "Preferred" version of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express — the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns a bigger 6% back on the first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets per calendar year (and 1% after), 6% back on select U.S. streaming services, 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit including taxis, rideshares, parking, and tolls, and 1% cash back on everything else (cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars).

The higher-earning rate on the Preferred makes it worth paying the annual fee — however, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is still a great option if you're opposed to that.

Read more: Blue Cash Preferred versus Blue Cash Everyday: Which Amex cash-back credit card is best for you?

Get your first year of cash back matched: Discover it® Cash Back

The Discover it® Cash Back works similarly to the Chase Freedom Flex℠: It offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in rotating bonus categories (then 1% back) and 1% cash back on everything else Discover It Cashback rotation.

Read more: Discover it Cash Back credit card review

It doesn't offer the same bonus categories as the Chase Freedom Flex℠, though, although sometimes they overlap. 

The Discover it® Cash Back is compelling for one other reason: Discover will match all your cash back at the end of your first cardmember year. So if you earned $500 in cash back in your first year, Discover would match that $500 for a total of $1,000 in cash back. This awesome feature is available on all Discover credit cards — and all Discover cards have no annual fee.

1.5% cash back on every purchase: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card has no annual fee and earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make. In this regard, it's most similar to the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

Read more: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card review

There are also no foreign transaction fees, and the card has a solid welcome offer: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for small businesses: Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card is another solid Chase entry, although this one is a small-business credit card — however, anyone with just about any kind of business can qualify, whether you have a brick-and-mortar space with employees, or you're a freelancer, or even someone with a small side gig.

Read more: Ink Business Cash card review

Just like with the Chase Freedom cards, you can pool the "cash" you earn with points from a Chase travel card, effectively converting your cash into (potentially) more valuable points. Alternatively, you can reap the rewards in the form of cash instead.

The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card earns 5% cash back (or 5x points) on the first $25,000 in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services each cardholder year. It earns 5% back (or 5x points) on Lyft rides through March 2025, 2% back (or 2x points) on the first $25,000 in purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year, and 1% (or 1x point) on everything else with no cap.

Read more: The Chase Ink business cards all come with hefty sign-up bonuses, and the best one depends mostly on how you spend and travel

Best for earning Amex points: Amex EveryDay Card

American Express Membership Rewards is Amex's in-house rewards program, and the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express is the best no-fee card that earns them. You can redeem Amex points for travel, merchandise, statement credits, gift cards, and more. However, the best option is to transfer them to an Amex airline or hotel partner.

Read more: Amex EveryDay card review

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express earns 2x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 of purchases per year, then 1x after that) and at Amex Travel, and 1x on everything else. It also offers a 20% bonus on points earned in a billing period when you make 20 or more purchases during that period.

Like most Amex cards, the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express features a few travel and purchase protections, as well as access to the Amex Offers program.

While most people will be better off with a version of the card that has an annual fee, the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, the regular Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express is still a strong option — especially since there's no annual fee.

Best for American, Delta, or United loyalists: A no-annual-fee airline credit card

  • Delta: Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
  • American Airlines: American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
  • United: United Gateway℠ Card

Most airline credit cards that are worth having come with an annual fee — although many of them will waive it for the first year. Those cards tend to come with useful benefits for people who fly with the airline, like priority boarding or free checked bags. You can learn more in our guide to the best airline credit cards.

However, if you're interested in earning frequent flyer miles with a particular airline through your spending, but don't care about those perks and want to avoid the fee, you have a couple of options. 

Read more: Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card review

If you're a Delta flyer, you can go for the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, which offers 2 Delta SkyMiles on every eligible dollar spent with Delta and at restaurants worldwide, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. It also gets you a 20% discount — in the form of a statement credit — on Delta inflight purchases like food or drinks.

American loyalists can consider the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card. This card offers 2x AAdvantage miles on every dollar spent at grocery stores and with American Airlines, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. 

Read more: American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card review

United's United Gateway℠ Card, with an annual fee of United Gateway℠ Card, earns 2x miles on United purchases, gas, public transit, rideshare services, and taxis, and 1x miles on everything else.

Read more: United Gateway Card review

No-annual-fee credit cards that just missed the cut

There are many other no-annual-fee credit cards that don't appear on this list. Here's an overview of the cards we considered that didn't make the final cut.

  • Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card — This card earns 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, streaming services, and grocery stores, and 1% back on all other purchases. 
  • Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card — You'll earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, which is better than the standard rate of 1 point/mile per dollar on credit cards, but not by much.
  • Citi Rewards+® Card — This card is unique in that it rounds up to the nearest 10 points on all your purchases. It also earns 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations (on up to $6,000 per year, then 1 point per dollar). Cards like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express have the potential to earn you more rewards, but if you already have a Citi credit card and want to boost your Citi points balance, this card is worth a look. 
  • Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card — With this card, you'll earn 1.5 points per dollar on every purchase. That's not a bad return on spending, but this card — and other Bank of America cards —  are most rewarding if you're already a Bank of America customer and have enough money in qualifying counts to qualify for the Preferred Rewards program, which gets you bonus credit card rewards.
  • Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card — This new card from Bank of America offers an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and also offers up to 75% more rewards if you're a Preferred Rewards member. 

Credit cards with no annual fee — Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why trust our recommendations?

At Personal Finance Insider, our goal is to help readers make the best decisions with their money. To that end, we spend hours comparing and contrasting the features and benefits of top credit cards so you don't have to.

We understand that "best" can be subjective, so we also include information on where each credit card excels, and where it may fall short.

How did we choose the best no-annual-fee credit cards?

We reviewed dozens of no-annual-fee credit cards across all categories — cash back, travel, airline, hotel, and more — and narrowed our focus to cards that offer more than 1 point or mile per dollar on at least one category of purchase. We also looked at welcome bonuses, rewards caps (such as the $1,500 quarterly limit on the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Discover it® Cash Back), and other fine print.

Is it ever worth paying an annual fee for a credit card?

Many of the top rewards credit cards have annual fees — ranging from $95 to $695 — and it can be worth paying for one if you'll use all of its benefits.

Read more: Annual fees aren't always worth it, but with these 5 cards the benefits are worth more than what you'll pay each year

In many cases, cards with annual fees have perks that are tied to travel, and if you rarely hit the road, these may not be the perfect fit. Always do an honest assessment of a card's perks and see how they match up with your lifestyle before applying for a credit card.

Are there no annual fee cards that don't add foreign transaction fees?

Many no-annual-fee cards tack on foreign transaction fees of anywhere from 3% to 5%, so they're not a good choice if you're traveling abroad. However, you still have options. For example, Discover and Capital One don't add foreign transaction fees on any of their cards.

Read more: The best credit cards without foreign transaction fees

There are also a handful of other cards in this category — including hotel credit cards like the Hilton Honors American Express Card(See Rates), Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card, and IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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