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Best no annual fee credit cards for 2020

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Best no annual fee credit cards for 2020

Joseph HostetlerBest no annual fee credit cards for 2020Million Mile Secrets Team

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No-annual-fee credit cards are important in the world of miles and points. You might not expect it, but many no-annual-fee cards earn more points than some cards with high annual fees, though they have fewer amazing benefits. That makes them great complements to your powerhouse travel credit cards.

Plus, certain no-annual-fee cards have phenomenal welcome bonuses. For example, you can earn $500 cash back when you apply for the Ink Business Cash Credit Card and meet minimum spending requirements. This is an excellent deal for a card with no annual fee.

In addition, because there’s no annual fee you can keep the cards open forever, which can potentially improve your credit history (and therefore your credit score).

Below are our picks for the best no-annual-fee credit cards. The best card for your wallet depends on your finances and travel goals.

Best no-annual-fee credit cards of 2019

 Card nameBonusOur review
Best no-annual-fee credit card for rotating cash back categoriesChase Freedom$150 cash back (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Chase Freedom review
Best no-annual-fee for everyday purchasesChase Freedom Unlimited$150 (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of account openingChase Freedom Unlimited review
best no-annual-fee card for free hotel staysMarriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card30,000 Marriott points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account openingMarriott Bonvoy Bold review
Best no-annual-fee small business credit cardInk Business Cash Credit Card
$500 cash back (50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account openingInk Business Cash review
Best no-annual-fee card for American Airlines milesAmerican Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card10,000 American Airlines miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.American Airlines MileUp review
Best no-annual-fee credit card for boutique hotel staysCapital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card20,000 Capital One miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months from account openingCapital One VentureOne review
Best no-annual-fee credit card for foodiesCapital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card$150 cash bonus when you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months of opening your accountCapital One SavorOne review
Best no-annual-fee credit card for Citi ThankYou points collectorsCiti Rewards+℠ Card15,000 Citi ThankYou points when you open the Citi Rewards+ Card and spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account
Simplest no-annual-fee cash back credit cardCiti® Double Cash CardNo welcome bonus
You can earn valuable travel rewards, like cash back or miles and points, through the best no-annual-fee credit cards. (Photo courtesy of Dean Drobot/Shutterstock.)

Best no-annual-fee cards

Chase Freedom

Best for rotating 5% cash-back categories

Current bonus

When you apply for the Chase Freedom, you’ll earn $150 cash back (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Benefits and perks

Chase Freedom is one of the top no-annual-fee cards because you can earn 5% cash back (5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar) on up to $1,500 in spending in rotating categories each quarter when you activate the bonus. If you spend the maximum each quarter, you can earn $300 in bonus cash back during the year.

Why it’s worth it

On their own, you can only redeem the points you earn with the Freedom card for 1 cent each for cash back or toward travel. However, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are much more valuable if you have cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred CardChase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. When you have one, you can combine your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to those cards for redemptions, such as those with great airline and hotel partners.

You can read our super-informative post of Chase transfer partners.

Total value

If your only Chase Ultimate Rewards points-earning card is the Chase Freedom, you’ll earn a return of 5 cents per dollar when spending in bonus categories. However, depending on which other Chase Ultimate Rewards points cards you have, you can redeem those points through the Chase Travel Portal for up to 1.5 cents each. That means you can receive a return of up to 7.5 cents per dollar toward travel.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Best for everyday purchases

Current bonus

With this card, you earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.

Benefits and perks

You earn 1.5% cash back (1.5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar) on all purchases with no limit. As with the Chase Freedom, you can combine the points you earn with other eligible Chase cards, which will save you a ton of money on travel. If you don’t want to bother with rotating bonus categories, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is a great way to earn valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Why it’s worth it

This is one of the top five cards I’m currently using. I usually take this card out to pay if another card in my wallet doesn’t earn me a bonus for the purchase. Earning 1.5 points per dollar doesn’t sound impressive, but this is a fantastic card for any daily spending that occurs outside of your other cards’ bonus categories.

Total value

This card’s bonus and earning rate is modest, but it absolutely belongs in the wallet of any serious Chase Ultimate Rewards points collector. And a bonus worth (at least) $150 is good for a card with no annual fee.

Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card

Best no-annual-fee hotel credit card

Current bonus

When you open the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card, you’ll receive 30,000 Marriott points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Benefits and perks

This card earns:

  • 3 Marriott points per dollar spent at participating Marriott hotels
  • 2 Marriott points per dollar spent on travel
  • 1 Marriott point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • 15 elite night credits each calendar year

This no-annual-fee card even comes with travel benefits like trip-delay reimbursement, baggage-delay insurance and lost-luggage reimbursement.

The card is, however, affected by the Chase 5/24 rule, so if you’ve opened five or more cards from any bank (except certain business cards) in the past 24 months, you won’t be approved for the card. There are some other rules you should know about before applying, so check out this post on the new Marriott Bonvoy Bold card to learn more.

Why it’s worth it

Marriott points are surprisingly versatile. Not only can you use points to stay at 7,000+ locations around the world but you can also transfer your points to airlines at a 3:1 ratio and book free flights to your favorite destinations.

Total value

Those 50,000 points are enough for a free night at any Category 6 Marriott hotel (they’re nice), including the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection by Marriott. Or you can stretch them out for multiple nights in less extravagant hotels.

You can use the points you earn from this Marriott card for free hotel nights in Hawaii. (Photo by CrackerClips Stock Media/Shutterstock.)

Ink Business Cash Credit Card

Best no-annual-fee small-business credit card

Current bonus

With the highest-ever Ink Business Cash welcome bonus, you’ll earn $500 cash back (50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Benefits and perks

It also comes with:

  • 5% cash back (5x Chase Ultimate Rewards points) on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office-supply stores and on phone, internet, and cable TV services each account anniversary year
  • 2% cash back (2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points) on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
  • 1% cash back (1x Chase Ultimate Rewards points) on all other purchases
  • Primary car rental insurance when renting for business purposes. It covers damage from collision or theft to your rental car when you pay with your Chase Ink Business Cash card, or secondary coverage when renting for personal reasons

Why it’s worth it

If you have other annual-fee Chase Ultimate Rewards point-earning credit cards, you can combine points for amazing travel experiences.

An MMS team member has kept his Ink Business Cash card for many years because he earns 5% cash back on his monthly internet bill and 2% cash back at restaurants. Those are fantastic benefits for a no-annual-fee card.

Total value

Earning $500 in cash from a card with no annual fee is an unbelievable deal. But remember, you’re actually earning 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, so your points will be worth much more if you have cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred. For example, you could transfer 50,000 points to United Airlines for a round-trip flight to Peru.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

Best for American Airlines miles

Current bonus

The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card is a new no-annual-fee card that comes with a bonus of 10,000 American Airlines miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 in purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Current Citi American Airlines cardholders should know that the MileUp card is exempt from the welcome-bonus restrictions on other Citi American Airlines credit cards. This means you are more likely to be eligible for this offer. Applying for the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card can give your frequent flyer account a nice boost without having to add another annual-fee card to your wallet.

Benefits and perks

The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp card also offers bonuses for everyday purchases. You’ll earn:

  • 2 American Airlines miles per $1 on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 2 American Airlines miles per $1 at grocery stores, including eligible grocery delivery services
  • 1 American Airlines mile per $1 for all other purchases

And cardholders save 25% on inflight purchases of drinks or snacks when they use the card on American Airlines flights.

Why it’s worth it

This is a good card for anyone who is timid about entering the miles-and-points hobby. There’s no risk because there’s no annual fee, and though the miles you earn are great, they’re not the only incentive to open the card. The $50 statement credit alone is a bigger welcome bonus than many no-annual-fee credit cards.

Total value

American Airlines miles can be extremely valuable, and award flights start for as little as 5,000 miles. American Airlines publishes a fare called “Economy Web Special,” where they release sale fares to random destinations. Sometimes, they’re really good. We’ve seen 5,000-mile transcontinental flights and even flights to New Zealand for only 5,000 AA miles (though that was truly jaw-dropping and highly uncommon).

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Best for boutique hotel stays

Current bonus

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card earns a welcome bonus of 20,000 Capital One miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Benefits and perks

This card earns 1.25 Capital One miles per dollar you spend on all purchases. Because Capital One miles are worth 1 cent each, this is a return of 1.25%. However, you’ll earn 10 miles per dollar on hotels when booked and paid through hotels.com/venture valid until January 31, 2020. That’s a 10% return, and you’ll earn it in tandem with Hotels.com’s own loyalty program, which itself gives you a rough return of 10%.

The card also has no foreign transaction fees, which is uncommon among no-annual-fee cards.

Why it’s worth it

Depending on how often you stay through Hotels.com, you could rack up a hefty reservoir of Capital One miles with little effort.

Total value

The Capital One VentureOne is great if you stay at boutique hotels and don’t have any loyalty to big brands like Marriott and Hilton. Earning 10 cents per dollar is a rarity. There isn’t any other no-annual-fee credit card that does that.

 Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for foodies

Current bonus

With the Capital One SavorOne, you can earn a $150 cash bonus when you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account.

Benefits and perks

The Capital One SavorOne earns:

  • 3% cash back on dining (like restaurants, cafes, bars, lounges, fast-food chains and bakeries) and entertainment (including movie theaters, sports events, theatrical promoters, amusement parks, tourist attractions, aquariums, zoos, dance halls, record stores, pool halls or bowling alleys)
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores (supermarkets, meat lockers, freezers, dairy product stores and specialty markets; superstores like Walmart and Target are excluded)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Why it’s worth it

The Capital One SavorOne is in a very small league of no-annual-fee cards that earn up to 3% cash back — in some amazingly broad categories, as you can see above. If you’re into dining and entertainment, you’ll make out like a bandit with this card.

Total value

Travelers spend a lot in the bonus categories of this card. If you’re anything like me, you’re eating out constantly. A no-annual-fee card that can go toe-to-toe with many annual-fee credit cards in our favorite spending categories is a white whale.

Best for Citi ThankYou points collectors

Current bonus

You’ll earn 15,000 Citi ThankYou points when you open the Citi Rewards+ Card and spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account.

Benefits and perks

This card earns:

  • 2 points per dollar at supermarkets and gas stations (for the first $6,000, then 1 point per dollar)
  • 1 point per dollar on everything else

This card has some unique features, as well. When you make a purchase, the card will round up to the nearest 10 points — if you make a $7 non-bonus purchase, you’ll earn 10 points.

But here’s the kicker: You’ll receive a 10% rebate when you redeem Citi ThankYou points (for the first 100,000 points you redeem each year). In other words, if you have a card that allows you to transfer ThankYou points to airlines or purchase travel through the Citi ThankYou travel portal, you’ll get a 10% rebate.

Why it’s worth it

This is a great intro card for earning Citi ThankYou points. But it’s also a great complement to other, more powerful cards that earn Citi ThankYou points.

Total value

Leaving aside this card’s welcome bonus, you could save $100 or more per year in points if you redeem 100,000 Citi ThankYou points each year. That’s easy to do if you’ve got other Citi ThankYou points-earning credit cards.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Simplest no-annual-fee cash back credit card

Current bonus

Unfortunately, the Citi Double Cash comes with no bonus. It’s worth noting that the card has offered one in the past. We’ll let you know if it has one again. In the meantime, this is still hands down one of the best cash back cards on the market.

Benefits and perks

The Citi Double Cash earns the easiest rewards to use — cash. You won’t have to worry about award seats or blackout dates when redeeming your cash, and you don’t need to pay attention to complicated rotating bonus categories, either. The card offers a total of up to 2% cash back — You’ll receive 1% when you make a purchase, and 1% when you pay your bill. For example, if you use your card to buy a $700 TV, you would earn $7 cash back for swiping your card at the store. Then, when you pay off your $700 balance, you’d earn another $7 cash back. That’s it!

Why it’s worth it

This card earns more cashback than most no annual fee cards. But you can also convert your cashback into points and transfer them to valuable airline partners if you also have a qualifying Citi ThankYou points earning card. In other words, you can use your rewards for straight cash back, or you can redeem them for award flights on airlines like Turkish Airlines, Avianca, Flying Blue (the loyalty program of KLM and Air France), and more.

Total value

Earning 1% cash back for purchases and 1% cash back for paying your balance is great. There are quite a few credit cards with $95 annual fees that earn a flat 2% back, after all. There is no cap on the amount of cashback you can earn, so if you use your card for, say, $700 of non-bonus spending each month, you’ll be sitting on $168 at the end of each year. And if you have other Citi ThankYou points earning cards with annual fees, you could convert those points into airline miles and take a fun trip! It costs just 15,000 Turkish Airlines miles to fly round-trip to Hawaii.

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

The bonus offer: Some bonuses are very generous, some are not. That’s especially true when it comes to no-annual-fee cards because many don’t offer a welcome bonus at all.

Minimum spending requirement: To earn a card’s welcome bonus you have to spend a certain amount on your new card within a certain timeframe. Some cards’ minimum-spending requirements are easier to meet than others.

Ongoing bonus opportunities: Everyone likes credit cards that keep rewarding you, even after you earn the initial big intro bonus.

Benefits: These can make a difference, as it’s incredibly important to match a card’s benefits to your needs and spending habits.

If you’re just starting out in the miles-and-points hobby, a no-annual-fee card can help you learn the ropes. Plus, these cards can help increase the length of your credit history, which can potentially boost your credit score.

Summary of the best no-annual-fee credit cards

There are tons of no-annual-fee credit cards you can choose from, and they’re dramatically different:

If you’re interested in traveling, any Chase Ultimate Rewards points-earning credit cards are an absolute must. You can even earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points with the bonus from one no-annual-fee card, the Ink Business Cash Credit Card. That’s practically impossible to beat.

If you are a Citi ThankYou points collector, you need the Citi Rewards+ in your life. You’ll get a 10% rebate on all Citi ThankYou points you redeem, up to the first 100,000 points you redeem each year.

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Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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I prefer the Amex Blue Business Plus as the Best No Annual Fee Credit Card for Everyday Purchases as it offers 2 MR points per $ on 1st 50k annual spending. After 50k I’d go with the Chase Freedom Unlimited 1.5 UR per $

I agree w/both choices. The Amex Blue Business doesn’t get much press because of the lack of a welcome bonus, but it’s a no brainer to keep once it’s in your wallet. No annual fee and 2X everywhere is strong. I wish I had the Freedom Unlimited, but I’m capped out on 5/24. For anyone just getting into the hobby, start w/Chase cards.

With Amex’s refer a friend, I can refer someone to get 10,000 points and I’ll get 15,000. I plan to do that for SO this fall.

Yep, I’ll second this advice. Start with Chase cards because of their 5/24 rule. Don’t want to be locked out from a great card for as many as 24 months, the suspense would be unbearable for me!

I can’t help but wonder: Are merchants increasing their prices because of credit card processing fees? Are the rewards we are getting just a refund of that extra expense?

I have a referral offer for $250 blue cash everyday. leave a reply with your email and I can send it to you.

I used to receive Emails but they stopped 2 months ago. I thought U closed the shop…

Chase freedom and AMEX blue everyday are my favorite .

I like Chase Sapphire. Working on getting more.

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