Best cash back credit cards with no annual fee

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In a Nutshell

Great cash back credit cards don’t have to come with major annual fees or complex rewards systems. For those who qualify, a cash rewards card can come without an annual fee, and even offer straightforward perks and savings.

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These offers are no longer available on our site: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card, Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card, Chase Freedom®

At a glance: Best cash back credit cards with no annual fee

For no-hassle rewards Citi® Double Cash Card
  • 2% back on every purchase — 1% when you buy plus 1% as you make payments
For big cash back potential U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
  • 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible purchases (then 1%) on two spending categories you choose each quarter
  • 2% cash back on purchases in an everyday category (like gas or groceries) of your choice each quarter you activate
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
For mobile wallet users Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
  • 1.8% cash rewards on qualified mobile wallet purchases for 12 months from account opening
  • 1.5% unlimited cash rewards on purchases
  • $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
For a wider variety of perks Chase Freedom®
  • 5% back each quarter on up to $1,500 in combined purchases spent in rotating bonus categories that you activate
  • 1% back on all other purchases
  • $150 bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Cash back credit cards can earn you money for every dollar you spend — but if you’re paying an annual fee to use your card, the reward may not outweigh the cost by much.

Fortunately, you don’t have to lose out on your overall rewards, since a few cards out there get you cash back and come with no annual fee. Some even offer additional perks, such as higher earnings categories that you get to choose. And there are cards offering cash back rewards that are easy to understand and give you great incentives for everyday spending.


Citi® Double Cash Card

Who’s it for?

The person who wants straightforward, no-hassle rewards for every purchase.

Why we like it

The Citi® Double Cash Card is a stand-out card when it comes to earning cash rewards without complications. You’ll earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay off your purchases.

A total of 2% for every purchase is a bigger reward than you can get with many competitors, such as the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, which earns you an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. Plus since Citi® Double Cash Card gives you 1% back when you pay off your balance, it may be an incentive to pay off your balance on time. Not only is that a great financial habit, but it can help you build better credit, too.

From our partner

Citi® Double Cash Card

From cardholders in the last year

See Details, Rates & Fees

Watch out for

Although the Citi® Double Cash Card is a great no-fuss cash back card, it doesn’t come with one of the most sought-after perks: a sign-up bonus. If a sign-up bonus is important to you, you might want to consider other cards, like the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card or Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

If you like the Citi® Double Cash Card because of its enticing balance transfer offer, be sure to do all the math first. The card offers a 0% introductory APR for balance transfers for 18 months (after that, the variable APR for balance transfers will be 15.49% – 25.49%).

Keep in mind, you’ll still be charged a fee of 3% (minimum $5) on the total balance you transfer, and you need to request the transfer within four months of opening your account to get the intro balance transfer APR offer.

That means that if you transferred a balance of $2,500, you’d be charged $75 in fees. The fees might mean you end up paying more than you would have paid in interest if you had just left the balance on the original card. That’s why it’s important to do your due diligence first.

How to use it

For the biggest cash back earnings, consider using this card for every purchase, every day. But if you’re planning to do a balance transfer, make sure to crunch the numbers first and make every effort to pay off the balance before the introductory balance transfer APR period ends.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Who’s it for?

People who plan their spending in advance and are willing to put in the effort to earn bigger rewards.

Why we like it

Cash back rewards cards can be really complex. The more cash back you can potentially earn, the more-complicated the spending caps and categories tend to be.

This card is no exception, but unlike other cards with big cash back potential, the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card lets you leverage your rewards by choosing your own earnings categories.

In addition to earning 1% on your everyday purchases, you can earn 5% cash back on up to $2,000 in purchases (then 1%) each quarter after activating two combined spending categories of your own choosing. If you were to spend a combined quarterly total of $2,000 in your two chosen categories, you’d get $100 back each time.

Here’s a sample of some of the 5% cash back categories you can choose from.

  • Home utilities
  • Cell phones
  • Gyms
  • Furniture stores
  • Department stores

Plus you’ll earn 2% cash back, with no cap on earning, on your choice of either gas stations, grocery stores or restaurants.

From our partner

Watch out for

Taking advantage of this card’s cash back potential can require some careful planning and timing. If you fail to enroll in your chosen spending categories each quarter for both the 5% and 2% cash back groups, all of your eligible spending will earn only 1% cash back.

Also note that special spending categories are subject to change.

How to use it

For the biggest benefit, take some time to get clear about what you’ll be spending on. Planning ahead for big purchases, like a new furniture set, can result in big rewards if you have the foresight to sign up for the corresponding bonus category. Set up calendar reminders to select and activate categories every quarter so that you can take advantage of those great 5% and 2% cash back rates.

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card

Who’s it for?

Mobile wallet users and people who get a lot of cellphone wear and tear.

Why we like it

The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card does a little more for you than the average cash rewards card. You’ll earn a fairly standard 1.5% back on everyday purchases, but for the first 12 months you’ll get 1.8% back on all purchases made with a qualifying mobile wallet, including Google Pay™, Apple Pay®, Samsung Pay and the Wells Fargo Wallet™.

The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card comes with a $200 cash rewards bonus (as long as you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months).

But the biggest benefit for this card could be on potential cellphone expenses. You’ll get up to $600 in cellphone protection (subject to a deductible of $25) against covered damage or theft when you pay your cellphone bill with your Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card.

That protection, which includes reimbursement for damage or theft on your primary line, plus up to three additional lines, may be able to save you money if you use it to replace a preexisting cellphone insurance plan.

From our partner

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card

From cardholders in the last year

Watch out for

The sign-up bonus for this card might be high compared to other cards, but it’s also more difficult to obtain.

You’ll have to spend $1,000 within the first 3 months of opening the account in order to get the bonus. Compare that to Chase Freedom®, which only requires you to spend $500 in about the same time frame to earn a $150 sign-up bonus.

How to use it

To get the biggest cash back earnings and potential savings, look for ways to make your purchases and pay bills with your mobile wallet.

Chase Freedom®

Who’s it for?

People who want a wider variety of perks and can carefully plan spending to get a cash back boost.

Why we like it

This card comes with a variety of perks. You’ll get a base of 1% back for all regular purchases, and then 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in rotating bonus categories that you must activate each quarter. In the bonus category alone, you have the potential to earn $75 back each quarter, for a total of $300 a year.

Chase Freedom® has a sign-up bonus, too, and it’s relatively easy to cash in on. If you spend $500 in purchases on the card in your first 3 months from account opening, you get a $150 bonus. Plus you get an extra $25 if you add an authorized user and make your first purchase within three months from account opening.

Want something other than cash back? Chase Freedom® awards are initially issued to you as points. Your points can be redeemed for cash back, or you can use them toward other rewards like gift cards or travel.

From our partner

Chase Freedom®

From cardholders in the last year

Watch out for

You have to activate the 5% bonus category each quarter, otherwise you won’t get that sweet 5% cash back rate. You also don’t get to choose the quarterly category, which means there’s no assurance that the category will be one you want or need to spend money on. For example, if you don’t own a car and never buy gas, you’re out of luck if the quarterly category is gas stations.

Past 5% categories have included internet, gas stations and grocery stores. The grocery category, however, excluded purchases at Walmart® and Target®.

How to use it

Like the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card, getting the most out of Chase Freedom® means planning spending around bonus categories, plus you’ll have to activate each quarter so you don’t lose your 5% cash back bonus.


Bottom line

Cash back credit cards with no annual fee come in lots of shapes and sizes. We chose our top four based on fairly broad characteristics, but your needs may be more specific.

To narrow the list down and find the single best cash back card for you, consider analyzing your personal spending patterns. Ultimately, the best cash back credit card is the one that’s going to earn you the most cash back for the things you already spend on.