Best Cash Back Credit Cards With No Annual Fee in 2024

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Team Clark spent hours reviewing the market for the best cash back credit cards with no annual fee.

We put them under the scrutiny of the guidelines for usage set by money expert Clark Howard and considered factors like annual fees, welcome bonuses, introductory APR and cash back bonus categories when assembling the list.

This article was updated in May 2024 and I review it every three months. Detailed notes on all updates can be found here.

The Best Cash Back Credit Cards With No Annual Fee To Apply for Right Now


If you are making the bulk of your everyday purchases on a credit card, it might be a good idea to have a cash back rewards card with no annual fee in your wallet.

But with so many options in the cash back credit card space in 2024, you may have a hard time deciding which rewards program is right for you. Team Clark has set out to simplify the decision process for you by highlighting the best cash back cards for different spending circumstances.

Money expert Clark Howard believes having a cash back credit card at your disposal is preferable to some of the other rewards cards on the market because it gives you the flexibility to earn and spend on the things you care most about.

“My favorite reward cards are ones that actually pay you money. I want cash, because nobody can tell you when you can or can’t spend your cash,” Clark explained.

More on Cash Back Credit Cards With No Annual Fee:


Best for Everyday Cash Back: Citi Double Cash® Card

Why This Card Made Our List

The Citi Double Cash® Card is one of Clark’s favorites because it’s so straightforward. You can earn 2% cash back on everything that you purchase with the card. You get 1% when you make the purchase and 1% when you make payments on the purchase. If you’re regularly paying off your credit card bill each month (as Clark suggests you do), that’s going to pile up pretty quickly.

You can use it on any purchase and receive the full benefit. There are no stipulations or caps to the cash back you can earn on this card.

If you’re looking for an everyday spender with no annual fee and easy-to-access cash back, this card makes a lot of sense.

Other Cards To Consider in This Category

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard also offers 2% cash back on all purchases and 3% back on purchases made within PayPal’s ecosystem, making it another great choice as an everyday spender.

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Wells Fargo Active Cash is another unlimited 2% cash back card to consider (see rates and fees).


Best for High-Volume Cash Back: Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card

Why This Card Made Our List

If you are willing to do your banking with this credit union, you may be able to get 2.5% cash back on your spending of up to $10,000 per month. There are no categorical restrictions to that spending.

The extra half of a percent really does add up. For example, if you spend $5,000 per month with this card, you’d receive $1,500 cash back annually — as opposed to $1,200 with a card like Citi Double Cash.

This card does require a credit union membership with Alliant and it also requires that you stay within their “Tier One” status to receive the top rewards, so you’ll want to check our review of the card to ensure your eligibility.

Other Cards To Consider in This Category

As mentioned above in the Everyday Cash Back category, the Citi Double Cash® Card is also a strong option in this category. Because it is without an annual fee and locks in a 2% cash back return, you really can’t go wrong with using this one as a high-volume option.


Best for Online Purchases: PayPal Cashback Mastercard

Why This Card Made Our List

While there are no-annual fee credit cards out there that offer up to 5% cash back for online shopping at their specific store, this card offers the opportunity to earn 3% cash back with any online retailer that accepts PayPal as a payment option.

Other Cards To Consider in This Category

The Amazon Prime Visa card offers 5% back on purchases at Amazon.com or Whole Foods. Though this card does not require an annual fee, it does require a Prime membership to enjoy the benefits. So there is an annual cost involved to enjoy the benefits.

If you shop online with a superstore like Walmart or Target, you could earn up to 5% cash back on purchases with their no-annual-fee credit cards.


Best for Introductory 0% APR: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Why This Card Made Our List

While there are no-annual fee credit cards out there that may offer more months of 0% APR in their introductory offers, we like this card for the long haul.

After you’ve paid your balance in full on that introductory offer, you’ll be able to enjoy an unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase you make with this card. That means it can be a long-term fit in your wallet long after your introductory APR period ends.

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Other Cards To Consider in This Category

We have a more in-depth article with some suggestions on the best 0% intro APR credit cards. The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers as much as 21 months of 0% APR on new purchases or balance transfers. That’s among the longest introductory offers available. But that card does not have rewards for purchases, so it may not be of much use to you after the introductory period.


Best for Investing Rewards: Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature®

Why This Card Made Our List

Much like the Citi Double Cash, this card offers a simple path to 2% cash back on every dollar you spend. You just have to commit to redeeming your rewards via an approved Fidelity investment account. And since we’re big proponents of making sure you stay on top of your retirement savings, having this reward deposit straight into your Fidelity investment account is a stress-free way to add to your long-term savings. This card is on our list of best credit cards for savings and investments.


Best for Rotating Cash Back Bonuses: Discover it® Cash Back

Why This Card Made Our List

The combination of an opportunity to earn 5% cash back on popular spending categories throughout the year and Discover’s promise to match your total cash back earnings after one year with the card is pretty great. For example, if you earn $300 in cash back during your first year of membership, Discover will make an additional $300 cash back deposit into your account at the end of the year.

The rotating 5% categories for 2023 — which cap at $1,500 in spending per three-month period — included bonus periods for grocery stores, drug stores and select streaming services.

Other Cards To Consider in This Category

The Chase Freedom Flex® has many of the same characteristics as the Discover offering. It, too, has rotating 5% bonus periods. Chase also offers a $200 welcome bonus when you spend at least $500 during your first three months of card membership. That may not be as large of a potential bonus as the Discover card, but you do get it sooner.


Best for Restaurants and Dining: Chase Freedom Flex®

Why This Card Made Our List

You can earn 3% cash back on all dining purchases (dine-in, takeout or eligible delivery services).

Similar to the Discover it Cash Back card we featured earlier in this article, the Chase Freedom Flex also offers a rotating 5% cash back spending category each quarter.

Other Cards To Consider in This Category

The card_name also offers 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®). You could earn even more in these categories with the similarly named Capital One Savor card, but it comes with an annual fee. We outline the differences in a comparison between the Savor and SavorOne cards.


Best for Gasoline Purchases: Citi Custom Cash® Card

Why This Card Made Our List

We recommend the as a way to earn 5% back on gasoline purchases. You can achieve this by making gasoline your top spending category with the card each month. It’s our top pick for spending on gas, but only if you use it in this specialized way. The 1% cash back it offers on all other purchases is not as good as many other cash back cards available.

Other Cards To Consider in This Category

There are a couple of wholesale club credit cards you may want to consider instead for gasoline purchases. It’s worth noting that the cards have no annual fee, but they do require an annual membership to the club.

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Clark carries the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card in his wallet and likes it because it has versatile cash back offerings, especially if you’re a Costco member. Not only are you able to get a solid 4% cash back on select gas and EV charging purchases for the first $7,000 per year (1% afterward), but you can also do well on travel expenses and dining at the 3% level.

And if you’re a Costco regular, the 2% cash back can add up quickly on purchases you make at the store.

Clark also carries the Sam’s Club® Mastercard® as one of the credit cards in his wallet. It actually earns more cash back than the Costco card for gas at select stores (5% vs. 4%), so this card could be the right move if you are only worried about paying for gas and don’t have a preference between the two warehouse stores.


Clark Howard’s Strategy for Credit Cards

Money expert Clark Howard believes it is important to have a credit card for the purposes of building and maintaining a solid credit history for when big life events like a home purchase or job application require a credit check.

He also believes that focusing on a rewards credit card — like a good cash back credit card — should only be a consideration for consumers who are planning to regularly pay off their balance to avoid interest charges. If that’s not your plan, Clark would point you to the credit card with the lowest possible interest rate or advise you to avoid a credit card altogether.

Assuming you’re here because you are in search of the maximum benefits from your cash back credit card decision, Clark wants you to think about how you spend your money and how it might best be complemented by the rewards programs from the various cards.

“Really think through your charge patterns and whether or not those rewards really give you a bang for your buck.”

Clark, for example, carries the Costco Anywhere Visa® card in his wallet because he’s a frequent Costco shopper. He also likes the Citi Double Cash Card because of the simplicity of the unlimited 2% cash back program.


Methodology for Cash Back Credit Cards

For the purposes of determining which cards are “best” in this category, we took input from money expert Clark Howard and sought to find cards that best fit his credit card strategy.

Team Clark spent many hours reviewing the available cash back credit cards on the market, assessing them for things like:

  • Annual fees (We limited our choices to cards with no annual fee)
  • Welcome bonuses
  • Introductory APR periods
  • Spending categories for maximum cash back earnings
  • Additional fees (transaction or otherwise)
  • Perks offered to cardholders

We did not factor in non-introductory APR as a part of the evaluation, because interest rates are going to vary based on your individual financial circumstance. Clark recommends not carrying a balance on these cards. That should curb the concern over the interest rate.

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We also did not include offerings from local or regional banks and credit unions due to availability concerns. Often, local institutions will have desirable cards with no annual fee, so we do recommend that you compare your local bank or credit union’s cash back credit cards to the ones that made this list.


Frequently Asked Questions: Cash Back Credit Cards

Should I Avoid an Annual Fee With My Cash Back Card?

In most cases, this will depend on your spending volume. For instance, the Citi Double Cash card offers 2% cash back with no annual fee, while the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express ($95 annual fee) offers 6% cash back at select U.S. supermarkets and on select streaming services.

If your major spending categories include grocery shopping and streaming, you may see an advantage from paying AmEx’s annual fee. Otherwise, you’d be better off with Citi’s no annual fee.

Are Rotating Cash Back Bonuses Better Than a Fixed Cash Back Rate?

The answer to this could vary greatly from one rotating bonus period to the next. Using the Discover it Cash Back card (rotating 5%) and the Citi Double Cash (fixed 2%) as an example, you’d need to make at least 25% of your purchases in the 5% bonus category with Discover to match the amount of overall cash back you’d earn with the Citi card at the same spending level.

For best results, you could utilize a rotating cash back card in its bonus category only and then make other purchases with a card with a higher fixed cash back rate.

What’s the Difference Between A Cash Back Card and a Points Card?

Typically, it has to do with the way the credit card company rewards you for your purchases.

With a cash back card, your reward is of monetary value that can be used for things like statement credits or purchases.

A points card often rewards purchases in certain categories and allows for the accumulation of a points balance. The balance can then be used to claim rewards like free hotel nights or flights. Like a cash back card, some points cards will allow you to use your balance for statement credits.

Which cash back credit card is your favorite? Let us know why you think it’s so great in our Clark.com Community!


Article Updates
  • May 2023: Updated capsules to include “This Is the Right Card for You If” analysis on each of our top picks.
  • December 2023: Added the Wells Fargo Active Cash to the list as our pick for best 0% introductory APR period.
  • May 2024: Added the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card to this roundup as our choice for investing your cash back rewards.

To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards featured, please visit the following links: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: See Rates and Fees.

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