Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards for 2024

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Team Clark spent hours reviewing the market for these cards and put them to the test of guidelines set by money expert Clark Howard.

We considered factors like rewards programs, welcome bonuses, length of introductory APR periods and bonus categories.

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

Top “No Annual Fee” Credit Cards to Apply for Right Now


Are you looking for a free credit card in 2024? Well, there’s actually no such thing as free in the credit card world, but you can get a card that has no annual fee.

In fact, there’s a pretty wide variety of no annual fee credit cards on the market. Some of them have great rewards programs, while others focus on cash back bonuses or low-interest offers.

Money expert Clark Howard is a strong proponent of picking out a no annual fee credit card that offers you the best mix of cash rewards and low rates.

“No annual fee cards are best for most consumers because — from the get-go — you aren’t having to lay out any money to use these cards,” Clark says.

“I’m really strident on that because, in many cases, those annual fee cards are simply aspirational for consumers. People pay those big annual fees and get those cards because they get sucked in by the fantasy of ‘Hey, if I get this card I’m going to Tahiti! And that’s going to be me on the beach in Maui!’ We conspire against ourselves because we daydream about what we’re going to have.”

Keeping with Clark’s advice to keep our financial heads out of the sky, let’s set the focus on finding the best no annual fee card for your wallet.

In this article, I have some tips for picking the right no annual fee credit card as well as some suggestions for the top cards on the market.

More on “No Annual Fee” Credit Cards:


Best for Everyday Rewards: Citi Double Cash® Card

Why We Like It

For the average consumer, a slow-and-steady cash back return often wins the race. If you spend your money at a variety of places for a variety of reasons, you may find that you’re better off locking in the returns of an unlimited 2% cash back card. That way you know that you’re getting a solid rate of return on your purchase no matter what.

This is one of the cards in Clark Howard’s wallet, but it’s not the only game in town. You could opt for the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® instead. It offers an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases and even 3% on purchases made via PayPal.

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

Why We Like It

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.


Best for Online Purchases: PayPal Cashback Mastercard®

Why We Like It

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 shoppers the opportunity to earn 3% cash back with any online retailer that accepts PayPal as a payment option.

And if you’re using it in person or on a site that doesn’t accept PayPal, you’ll still get 1.5% cash back regardless of spending category.

The rewards are placed directly into your PayPal balance and can be spent easily from there.


Best for Travel: Discover it® Miles

Why We Like It

Truthfully, the best travel cards usually carry at least a small annual fee. For example, Clark’s favorite travel card, Capital One Venture X, has a fee of $395 per year.

But as far as the no annual fee travel cards go, we like this one because the rewards are not tied to one specific hotel or airline brand. It doesn’t even require you to spend on travel to get miles as a reward. And it allows you to convert your miles to cash back if you decide you’re not looking to travel.

Clark says that you should assess your spending habits before making a travel credit card your top choice. The average consumer is likely to benefit from a more generic form of rewards.


Best for Rotating Bonuses: Chase Freedom Flex®

Why We Like It

Team Clark likes the 5% cash back you can earn with this card via rotating category bonuses, but you’ll also get a solid 3% on dining and drug store purchases as well. If you’re willing to book your travel through Chase’s portal, you can earn 5% back there as well.

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This card is very similar to the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. You’ll want to study the differences between the two to pick which is best for your wallet.


Best for Cash Back Bonuses: Discover it® Cash Back

Why We Like It

What makes the Discover it card so appealing is the 5% cash back categories combined with the cash back match for the first year of card membership. For example, you can earn up to $75 in cash back each quarter if you max spend on the rotating 5% cash back categories. When you apply the cash back match to that spending, you’d be in line for $600 in cash back rewards for spending $6,000 in one year.

As Discover makes its second appearance on our list, you may notice that its consumer-friendly motto is perfect for this article: “No annual fee on any card.”


Best for 0% Balance Transfers: U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Why We Like It

It’s hard to beat the 0% APR period on both new purchases and balance transfers.

Clark would prefer that you contact your local credit union to inquire about a credit card with a long-term low interest rate. But this card could serve as a stopgap if you find yourself in a tough spot and need to make a purchase or move a balance and still avoid paying interest.

This card also offers you cell phone protection if you pay your wireless bill with the card each month. That can help you save big if your phone is damaged or stolen.


Best for 0% New Purchases: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Why We Like It

The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card offers 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months. Afterwards, the Variable APR will be 20.24% – 29.99%, based on creditworthiness.

You can probably find some cards that offer a longer introductory 0% APR offer, but we like this one best because it offers more long-term benefits than many of the other cards in this category. You’ll get an easy-to-achieve welcome bonus and unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases that make this card’s value to your wallet last well beyond the introductory offer.


Clark Howard’s Strategy for “No Annual Fee” Credit Cards

Clark says he likes to divide the “no annual fee” credit card market into two sectors: cards for people who are running a monthly balance and cards for people who are paying their bills in full each month.

If you ARE NOT paying your credit card bill in full each month, Clark says:

“For people who run balances on your credit cards, I want you to check with your local credit union. Credit unions are almost always going to be the cheapest on the interest rate. A lot of the credit unions are still in single digits on the interest rate if you’re forced to run a balance. Not that anyone should jump for joy if they’re paying 9% interest, but the normal average credit card rate is up around 18%. So you can cut your interest rate in half with a good credit union card.”

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If you ARE paying your credit card bill in full each month, Clark says:

“For people who don’t run a balance, doing a 2% cash back card is my favorite strategy. My second favorite is getting a card like the one from Costco or Sam’s Club. That’s particularly if you are the type of person who can be disciplined and say ‘OK, I will use this card at this place and the other card at that place.’ Then you’re the type of person who can take no annual fee cards and really maximize your rewards. You could earn 4% in rewards on gas, 3% at your favorite restaurants, and the Costco card even gives you 2% on everything you buy in the store or on their website.”

Clark’s General Strategy on Credit Cards

Clark believes it is important to have a credit card for the purpose of building and maintaining a solid credit history. That’s to prepare you for big life events like a home purchase or job application that require credit checks.

He also believes that focusing on credit card rewards — like those offered on no annual fee credit cards — should be a consideration only for people who pay off their balances each month.

Assuming you’re here because you are in search of the maximum benefits from your credit cards, Clark wants you to think about how you spend your money and how that 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 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 No Annual Fee Credit Cards

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

I spent many hours reviewing the available no annual fee credit cards on the market, assessing them for several factors including:

  • Welcome bonuses
  • Rewards programs
  • Length of introductory APR periods
  • Balance transfer introductory periods
  • Additional fees (transaction or otherwise)
  • Perks offered to cardholders

For obvious reasons, I did not include cards with annual fees. Unless there is a very specific reason to carry a card with an annual fee, Clark advises against it.

I also did not include offerings from local or regional banks and credit unions because they’re not available to everyone. Clark recommends that, if you need to carry a balance, check with your local credit union for a no annual fee card that has a low, fixed interest rate.

Often, local institutions will have desirable cards, so you should compare your local bank or credit union’s credit cards to the ones that made this list.

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Frequently Asked Questions: No Annual Fee Credit Cards

Are “free credit cards” actually free?

Some people may refer to cards that have no annual fee as “free.” While it may be true that you don’t have to pay for the privilege to carry the card, you still could be subject to a variety of fees if you’re not careful. Aside from interest charges on any balance you carry, you may also be charged for things like balance transfers, cash advances, late payments and more.

On a no annual fee card, which is better: good rewards or low rates?

This depends on the type of consumer you are. If you’re someone who often has a balance left over at the end of the month, Clark says you need to find a card with the lowest interest rate possible. If you are diligent about paying your bill in full each month, you may be better suited to using a card that rewards your spending.


Article Updates
  • November 2023 update: Made a change to our “Best for 0% New Purchases” card: Replaced the Chase Freedom Unlimited card with the Wells Fargo Active Cash card. I made this change because the Active Cash card now matches the 15-month 0% APR period of the Freedom Unlimited, but also offered a better cash back rate and welcome bonus.
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