10 Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards – All With a 2% or Better Return

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Everyone should have at least 1 credit card without an annual fee. When a card is free to keep forever, you never have to second-guess it. And the card works its powers on your credit report to increase available limits, decrease utilization, and help boost the average age of all your accounts.

My oldest credit card is from 2002 and has no annual fee. No matter how many new cards I open, I’ll always have a 16-year-old card to raise the average age of my accounts higher and therefore, my credit score.

When a card has a fee, it’s harder to justify keeping it – unless you get outsized value.

But having a card without an annual fee doesn’t mean you have to give up solid returns. All of the cards on this list can get you 2% back or better.

best no annual fee credit cards

Discover It is one of the best no annual fee cards – up to 10% cashback the first year. I’ll share my top 10 faves!

Here’s my list.

10 best no annual fee credit cards

For the purpose of this list, I only included cards with the best rewards. Getting 1.5% cashback isn’t good enough for a card to get a spot – unless you can somehow increase the value.

A few of these cards earn points or miles. So know I personally value all my points and miles at 2 cents each, or a 2% return on spending.

That’s because I’d never use my points for award travel if they’re not worth at least that much against the paid price. No points “valuations” here like The Points Guy and others 🙄 – it’s a flat 2 cents, except for certain hotel points (like Hilton and Marriott).

So that’s my spiel. Onward!

Personal cards

The first 7 are personal cards.

1. Fidelity Visa

Fidelity Visa$100 cash
• No annual fee• $1,000 on purchases within 90 days from account opening
The best cashback card out there• Learn more here

This is my favorite cashback card – period.

It earns 2% cashback on every purchase. The catch, if you’d call it that, is you have to deposit rewards into a Fidelity account. But considering Fidelity has some of the best index funds around, the cashback you earn can grow for years and years – tax-free, even, if you place them in a Roth IRA account.

The Fidelity Visa has a $100 sign-up bonus right now

Or, you can get a Fidelity Cash Management account for completely free and cash them out any time.

I love this card because of the simplicity: 2% back, send rewards in your account, and earn rewards at the close of each billing cycle. If you want a straightforward rewards program and don’t want to deal with points or award bookings, this card is amazing. And it has a $100 sign-up bonus right now!

2. Citi Double Cash

This card also earns 2% cashback BUT you earn 1% back when you make a purchase and another 1% back as you make payments. So while it’s not *as* straightforward as the Fidelity Visa, it effectively has the same return as you pay it off.

Potato po-tah-toe

Some peeps like this card better than the Fidelity Visa. They both have their quirks, but work out to have the same rewards rate. It just depends if you want to transfer rewards to a Fidelity account or wait to get the full 2% back. As they say, potato… oh, you know the rest. 😉

3. Citi American Airlines MileUp

If you want to earn miles and don’t want to deal with an annual fee, a couple airline cards have you covered.

There’s the Citi American Airlines MileUp card, which earns 2X American miles per $1 spent at grocery stores. And 1X everywhere else.

It has a sign-up offer for 10,000 American miles, and a $50 statement credit, after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  That’s a good deal for a card with no annual fee!

4. Delta Blue Amex

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express10,000 Delta miles
• $0 annual fee• $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months
• 2X Delta miles at US restaurants, and on Delta purchases• Learn more here

If you prefer Delta miles, consider this one instead. You’ll earn 2X Delta miles when you dine at US restaurants, and when making a Delta purchase (and 1X Delta mile on other purchases).

There’s also a welcome offer for 10,000 Delta miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months. You can always upgrade the card down the road if you want to earn more/do more with it.

At this point, I want to mention why I’m NOT including more airline cards:

  • United has a no fee option, the TravelBank card, but the returns don’t earn it a spot on this list
  • Southwest doesn’t have a no-fee option
  • Neither does Alaska
  • JetBlue does, but their route network is limited

That said, the 2 I’ve included have good returns considering there’s no fee to keep them. Plus, the sign-up bonuses are actually pretty good. I value them at $200 each.

5 and 6. Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
• $0 annual fee• $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• Excellent rotating 5X categories every quarter
• A great first Chase card
• Compare it here
Chase Freedom Unlimited15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
• $0 annual fee• $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• Earn a flat 1.5% back on every purchase
• Great for everyday spending
• Compare it here

Both of these cards are great. You might even consider getting them both. Chase won’t approve you, though, if you’ve opened 5+ cards from any bank in the last 2 years.

I lurve my Chase Freedom – since 2002!

If I could have them both, I would. As it stands, I have the Chase Freedom – which is actually my oldest card (the one from 2002). It earns 5X Chase points in rotating quarterly categories, which in the past have included gas stations, restaurants, Amazon, and currently include wholesale clubs and department stores through the end of 2018.

If you don’t like categories or keeping track, the Freedom Unlimited earns a flat 1.5X Chase points on all purchases, which you’ll notice is under my 2% return threshold.

Pair Chase cards to earn even more points

But when you pair it with other Chase cards, you can transfer those points to travel partners. Which, at a 2 cent per point rate, makes the return more like 3% back on every purchase, and that’s incredible.

Even if you only keep the Chase Freedom card for its 5X categories, that’s reason enough – earning 5% back in popular categories when you activate the bonus is freaking awesome.

If you had to pick just one, I’d say go for the Chase Freedom if you like the 5X categories, or the Chase Freedom Unlimited if you prefer a simpler rewards structure.

7. Discover It

Discover It 
• $0 annual fee
• Excellent rotating 5X categories every quarter
• Get an easy $600 back the first year
• Get it here

I’ve long espoused my love of the fantastic Discover It card. I’ve gotten $1,000s in cashback from this card – and am set to get another $1,000+ back this year.

I earn a TON of cashback with my Discover It card

That’s because Discover matches all the cashback you’ve earned in the first 12 months after the 12th billing cycle – including everything you earned in the 5% back categories. Yes, that’s an effective 10% cashback the first year in the bonus categories. (Be sure to activate them before you shop!)

If you’ve never had it, it’s time to introduce yourself. Discover is an excellent bank and this is a wonderful no annual fee card to have.

Small business cards

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention these 3 excellent small business cards.

8. Blue Business Plus Amex

Blue Business Plus Credit Card
10,000 Amex Membership Rewards points
• $0 annual fee• $3,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership
• This is by far the best card for 2X points on all spending• Learn more here

This card earns a flat 2X Amex Membership Rewards points on every purchase, up to $50,000 per calendar year. And you can transfer them to travel partners like Air Canada, ANA, Delta, and Singapore Airlines. I use it for all my non-bonus spending. It’s a mainstay in my wallet and I love love love this card.

“God, Harlan, do you just sit around and take pics with your credit cards?” Why yes, yes I do

The rewards structure is strong and simple, and Amex Membership Rewards points have a gazillion amazing uses. The fact that it has no annual fee AND lets you access travel partners is awesome. A forever keeper.

And, it won’t count against your Chase 5/24 status when you open it!

9 and 10. Chase Ink Business Cash and Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Cash50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
• $0 annual fee• $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• Earn 5X Chase points 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 2X Chase points on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year

• Excellent 5X categories and best-ever offer right now
• Compare it here
Chase Ink Business Unlimited50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
• $0 annual fee• $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• Compare it here

Think of these as being the same as the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited (5X on the Cash and 1.5X on the Unlimited), but for small businesses.

Even better, consider them for their huge $500 sign-up bonuses – unheard of for no annual fee cards.

The Ink Business Cash earns:

  • 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on the first $25,000 spent on internet, cable, phone service, and at office supply stores, each account anniversary year
  • 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on the first $25,000 spent at gas stations and restaurants, each account anniversary year
  • 1X Chase Ultimate Rewards point on all other purchases

And the Ink Business Unlimited earns 1.5% cashback on every purchase.

Again, it just comes down to if you like the bonus categories, or want an easier rewards program. Both are excellent cards, and again – the sign-up bonuses are incredible. And you can pair these cards with other Chase cards to amplify the rewards and access travel partners, which raises their earning levels to well over 2% back.

Bottom line

I have 4 of the cards on this list: Fidelity Visa, Chase Freedom, Discover It, and Blue Business Plus Amex. I keep them all because they’re free to keep. But more importantly, I use them to access great rewards on my spending.

Ignore other cashback cards that limit you to under 2% returns. There’s no reason you can’t get 2+% back on every purchase, or in the case of Discover It, up to 10% cashback your first year.

If want a card without an annual fee, I’d heartily recommend:

These are the best out there. No Wells Fargo Cash Wise, no USAA Rewards, no Bank of America cards. Just these.

Do you agree with my picks? Are there any you’d add to the list?

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post. The opinions of the commenters are not necessarily the opinions of this site.

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