CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through The Points Guy affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.

Many people are currently in the process of shrinking their household expenses, and one obvious way to cut costs is to eliminate the annual fee on your credit card. Fortunately, you can score a very rewarding credit card without ever paying an annual fee. Competition on the no-annual-fee front has intensified in recent years, and right now there’s a plethora of fee-free cards out there that offer compelling rewards and even sign-up bonuses.

CNN Underscored’s comprehensive credit card methodology compares every aspect of each no-annual-fee credit card to our “benchmark credit card” — the Citi® Double Cash Card — to determine which cards can potentially bring you maximum value in addition to lowering your balances. So check out our list of the best credit cards with no annual fee to decide which one will best fit your needs.

The best no-annual-fee credit cards of 2020

Citi Double Cash Card: Best for flat-rate cash back
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for flexible rewards
Chase Freedom: Best for rotating bonus categories
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card: Best for cell phone protection
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for food delivery
Discover it® Cash Back: Best sign-up bonus
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card: Best no-annual-fee travel card
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card: Best for 0% interest on purchases

Why did we select these cards as our best no-annual-fee credit cards for 2020? Dive into the details of each card with us, and see how they stack up.

Best for flat-rate cash back: Citi Double Cash Card

Why it’s great in one sentence: A quick glance at the features of the Citi Double Cash Card makes it clear why it’s our benchmark card. First, it has no annual fee, so it doesn’t cost you money each year just for the privilege of having it. Second, it earns 2% cash back on everything — 1% when you make the purchase and another 1% as you pay it off.

This card is right for: People who want a best-in-class return from a no-annual-fee card, with no hoops to jump through or bonus categories to remember.

Highlights:

  • 2% cash back on everything — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off.
  • 18-month 0% introductory rate on balance transfers (13.99%-23.99% variable afterward).
  • Expert users can convert the cash back to Citi ThankYou travel points at a ratio of 1 cent per point when combined with the Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Premier℠ Card.
  • No annual fee.

Sign-up bonus: None.

What we like about the Citi Double Cash: On top of having no annual fee, the Citi Double Cash has one of the best and most straightforward earning rates across all credit cards. You’ll earn 2% in cash back — 1% when you buy something, and another 1% when you pay it off — on every single purchase you make, with no caps of any kind.

For people who don’t spend a lot of money in a specific bonus category such as dining, groceries or travel, earning flat-rate cash back probably makes the most sense, and there’s really no other major credit card available today that offers as high of an ongoing flat-rate return on every single purchase without an annual fee.

The Citi Double Cash has one of the best flat-rate cash back returns of any credit card.

New Citi Double Cash card holders can also take advantage of a 0% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for 18 months. It’s important to note that after the introductory rate expires, you’ll pay a variable 13.99%-23.99% (depending on your creditworthiness) on the remaining balance, so you’ll want to be sure to either pay off your debt in full or transfer it to another card before the 18 months expire.

For most people, using the Citi Double Cash to earn and redeem cash back will be as far as they need to go (and if the rest of this paragraph and the next one sound like Portuguese to you, don’t worry about it — just use the Double Cash as a cash back card, the way it was originally designed). But for advanced credit card users, Citi recently added the ability to convert cash back earned with the Double Cash into Citi ThankYou Rewards travel points, with $1 in cash back equal to 100 ThankYou points.

One thing that could be better: You won’t find any bonus categories on the Citi Double Cash, and that’s the downside of simplicity. So if you routinely make a large number of purchases in a particular category, you may find another credit card that offers a bonus for those purchases is a better choice for you.

Why it’s our “benchmark” credit card: The ease of use and straightforward top-of-market cash-back earning rate of the Citi Double Cash are why CNN Underscored currently considers the Double Cash as our “benchmark” credit card. We use it as our benchmark card to compare the features of other credit cards and determine if they’re better or worse overall.

You can read more about our benchmark credit card concept in our credit card methodology guide, or dig into our complete review of the Citi Double Cash.

Learn more about the Citi Double Cash Card.

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Best for flexible rewards: Chase Freedom Unlimited

Why it’s great in one sentence: If you’re on the fence about whether you’d prefer to rack up cash back or travel points, the Chase Freedom Unlimited allows you to do both when paired with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

This card is right for: People who want maximum flexibility in a no-annual-fee credit card.

Highlights:

  • Easy earning structure: 1.5% cash back on everything.
  • Expert users can convert the cash back to flexible travel points when pairing the Freedom Unlimited with a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve card.
  • 15-month 0% introductory rate on purchases (14.99%-23.74% variable afterward).
  • No annual fee.

Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 bonus cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. (Offer only available when applying directly with Chase.)

What we like about the Chase Freedom Unlimited: If you prefer cash back now but think that a dose of adventure is in your future once travel returns to normal, the Chase Freedom Unlimited can give you the best of both worlds.

When you pair the Chase Freedom Unlimited with a premium Ultimate Rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can convert your cash back to travel points at a rate of 1 cent per point. Then you’re able to redeem those points for travel at an increased value of 1.25 to 1.5 cents apiece via the Chase travel portal.

Even better, once you’ve converted the cash back to points, you can transfer them to any of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel loyalty partners. This amazing flexibility is why CNN Underscored’s partner The Points Guy values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece. At that rate, since you’re earning 1.5% cash back on the Freedom Unlimited, you could effectively end up with a 3% return on your purchases.

Other benefits of the Chase Freedom Unlimited include purchase protection and extended warranty protection, a three-month subscription to DashPass and, for a limited-time now through May 31, you’ll earn 5% cash back on DoorDash and Tock orders, up to a maximum of $500 in combined purchases.

From now through May 31, you’ll earn 5% cash back on DoorDash and Tock orders on the Chase Freedom Unlimited, up to $25 in total cash back.

One thing that could be better: The 1.5% flat earning rate of the Chase Freedom Unlimited falls short of some other no-annual-fee cards, which top out at 2%. However, the ability to potentially transfer cash back to points might be worth the tradeoff, especially since Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of the better flexible rewards programs.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Sign-up bonus, purchase protections, introductory rate on purchases for 15 months.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash offers a higher overall cash back rate and an introductory rate on balance transfers.

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Best for rotating bonus categories: Chase Freedom

Why it’s great in one sentence: The Chase Freedom earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in rotating bonus categories each quarter, and the cash back you earn can be converted to Ultimate Rewards travel points when combined with certain premium Chase credit cards.

This card is right for: People who want a card that earns bonus cash back in rotating categories.

Highlights:

  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in rotating bonus categories each quarter you activate.
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Cash back can be transferred to airline and hotel travel programs when combined with select Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
  • 0% interest on all purchases for the first 15 months (16.49% to 25.24% variable afterward).
  • No annual fee.

Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 bonus cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. (Offer only available when applying directly with Chase.)

What we like most about the Chase Freedom: While you might sign up for the Chase Freedom for its introductory interest rate on purchases, it’ll likely become a staple in your purse or wallet thanks to its perpetual rotating 5% bonus categories on useful purchases like groceries and gas.

The current Chase Freedom bonus categories for April through June are grocery stores, fitness clubs, gym memberships and select streaming services. That means you could earn as much as $75 in bonus cash back just for your regular grocery purchases or monthly streaming fees while you’re staying at home.

Grocery stores are one of the rotating bonus categories on the Chase Freedom.

Plus, the Chase Freedom grows with you. If you apply for a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve card down the road, you can convert the cash back you earn with the Chase Freedom into Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed for travel at the Chase travel portal, or transferred to Chase’s airline and hotel partners to extract potentially even more value from them.

One thing that could be better: It’s hard to gripe about the Chase Freedom, but you should be mindful of its pesky 3% foreign transaction fee, and the fact that you must remember to activate the bonus categories each quarter in order to earn 5% cash back on them.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Sign-up bonus, introductory rate on purchases for 15 months.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has an introductory rate on balance transfers.

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Best for cell phone protection: Wells Fargo Propel American Express

Why it’s great in one sentence: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express card includes cell phone protection as well as the ability to earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on food, gas stations, travel and popular streaming services.

This card is right for: People who spend a significant sum on popular categories like dining, travel and fuel, as well as those who don’t have cell phone protection via their carrier.

Highlights:

  • Earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on dining (eating out and ordering in), gas stations, ride-share services, transit, flights, hotels, homestays, car rentals and popular streaming services.
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
  • 0% interest on all purchases for the first 12 months (13.99% to 25.99% variable afterward).
  • 0% interest for 12 months on balance transfers made in the first 120 days after you open the card (13.99% to 25.99% variable afterward).
  • Cell phone protection.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No annual fee

Welcome bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.

What we like about the Wells Fargo Propel Amex: This is one of the most comprehensive and multifaceted no-annual-fee cards on the market. While its points have a capped value of 1 cent per point, the 3x earning structure hits all of the right marks. The card’s bonus categories are very popular, and cover a broad swath of what you likely spend the most on as a consumer.

Then there’s the perks: purchase protection, extended warranty, lost luggage reimbursement, car rental loss/damage insurance and a stout welcome bonus to boot. Some of these perks aren’t even found on high-end cards that cost hundreds of dollars per year to hold.

And even while you’re not on the road, you’ll be covered for up to $600 in the event your cell phone is stolen or damaged (subject to a $25 deductible), so long as you pay your cell phone bill each month with the Wells Fargo Propel Amex.

The Wells Fargo Propel Amex card covers your cell phone if it’s damaged or stolen.

One thing that could be better: It’s hard to knock the Wells Fargo Propel Amex, but the inability to transfer points to travel partners somewhat limits your redemption options, since the maximum you can redeem the points for is 1 cent. (However, there’s one way to increase the value of your points: If you also have the Wells Fargo Visa Signature® card, you can transfer your points between the cards and redeem them for airfare at 1.5 cents per point through the Visa Signature.)

Where it beats our benchmark card: Welcome bonus, purchase protections, travel protections, cell phone protection and an introductory rate on purchases.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has a longer 18-month introductory period on balance transfers and the option to convert its cash back to transferable ThankYou points if you also have the Citi Premier Card or Citi Prestige.

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Best for food delivery: Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards

Why it’s great in one sentence: The no-annual-fee Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards card offers an outstanding 3% cash back on entertainment and dining — including most food delivery services — plus 2% cash back on groceries and an introductory interest rate on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months.

This card is right for: People who spend a significant amount on entertainment and food delivery, but who also need a long introductory interest period on their purchases and/or balance transfers.

Highlights:

  • Earn 3% cash back on dining and entertainment.
  • Earn 2% cash back at grocery stores.
  • 0% interest on all purchases for the first 15 months (15.49% to 25.49% variable afterward).
  • 0% introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers (15.49% to 25.49% variable afterward).
  • Extended warranty protection.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No annual fee.

Sign-up bonus: Earn $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

What we like most about the Capital One SavorOne: Even after you’ve taken advantage of its introductory interest rate period, having a card that earns 3% back on two highly important categories — dining and entertainment — means that it will remain a useful part of your card arsenal.

But more importantly given the current worldwide situation, most food delivery services will also code as “dining” on the Capital One SavorOne, meaning if you’re staying at home and order from a service like GrubHub or Seamless, in most cases you should get the same 3% cash back that you would if you were physically dining at the restaurant.

Most food delivery services will earn 3% cash back on the Capital One SavorOne card.

You’ll also get 2% cash back on your grocery store purchases with the Capital One SavorOne. That’s not the very best return available on a credit card, but it’s uncapped and, combined with the 3% on dining and food delivery, makes for a compelling overall package.

One thing that could be better: There’s no cell phone insurance on the Capital One SavorOne card, which is becoming a common feature even on some no-annual-fee credit cards. You can also find cards with somewhat longer introductory periods if you need extra time to carry debt.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Sign-up bonus, introductory rate on purchases for 15 months, no foreign transaction fee.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has a longer introductory interest rate period of 18 months on balance transfers.

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Best sign-up bonus: Discover it Cash Back

Why it’s great in one sentence: The cash back match bonus and rotating categories (which include Amazon and groceries in different quarters) on the Discover it Cash Back card mean you can earn a ton of cash back in the first year you have the card.

This card is right for: People who routinely spend money on groceries, gas stations, ridesharing, restaurants, Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com. All of those (and more!) are included in Discover’s bonus categories, enabling you to maximize earnings if you’re strategic about when you spend.

Highlights:

  • Earn 5% cash back in rotating quarterly bonus categories up to $1,500 each quarter (must enroll each quarter to earn 5% cash back).
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% interest on all purchases for the first 14 months (13.49% to 24.49% variable afterward).
  • 0% introductory APR for 14 months on balance transfers (13.49% to 24.49% variable APR after that).
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No annual fee.

Sign-up bonus: Receive a match of all cash back earned at the end of your first year.

What we like most about the Discover it Cash Back: Discover’s rotating cash-back categories are quite useful, and if you don’t mind setting reminders of when to use it (and on what categories), the earnings can really pile up. Here are the categories for 2020:

January through March 2020: Grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS
April through June 2020: Gas stations, Uber, Lyft and wholesale clubs
July through September 2020: Restaurants and PayPal
October through December 2020: Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com

Gas stations are one of the rotating bonus categories on the Discover it Cash Back card.

On top of that, all the cash back you earn on the Discover it Cash Back will be matched at the end of the first year for new cardholders, making this an ideal card to have if you know you’ll be spending a lot on your credit card over the next year. This means those rotating bonus categories are worth 10% in the first year, and all your purchases outside of the bonus categories earn a solid 2% return the first year.

One thing that could be better: You need to manually activate the categories on the Discover it Cash Back each quarter online or by phone before you make purchases in order to earn the bonus cash back. The card also has no travel insurance coverage and no cell phone protection.

Where it beats our benchmark card: No foreign transaction fees and the cash back match in the first year equals the earning rate of the Citi Double Cash for everyday purchases, and beats it in the bonus categories.

Where our benchmark card is better: After the first year when the cash back match bonus ends, the Citi Double Cash earns a higher return on everyday purchases.

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Best no-annual-fee travel card: Capital One VentureOne Rewards

Why it’s great in one sentence: One of the few no-annual-fee credit cards with both transfer partners and easy-to-redeem direct redemptions already built in, the Capital One VentureOne features a lower earning rate than its more expensive brother but offers the same solid redemption options.

This card is right for: People who like the features of the Capital One Venture, but are willing to exchange a lower everyday earning rate for no annual fee.

Highlights:

  • Earn 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases with no limit
  • Redeem miles for any travel purchase at a rate of 1 cent per mile
  • Miles can also be transferred to any of Capital One’s 15 airline partners
  • 0% interest on all purchases for the first 12 months (14.49%-24.49% variable afterward)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee

Sign-up bonus: 20,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account.

What we like about the Capital One VentureOne: Usually when there are two versions of the same credit card — one with an annual fee and another without — you can expect the one with no cost to be a fairly stripped-down offering. But that’s not necessarily the case with the Capital One VentureOne.

Most of the features of the more expensive Capital One Venture remain intact on the VentureOne, including the same 1 cent per mile redemption value when using the card’s “Purchase Eraser” to wipe out any travel charge (as well as food delivery and streaming services between now and June 30), access to the same airline and hotel transfer partners at the same transfer ratios, the same travel and purchase protections, and even the same no foreign transaction fees.

The main two downsides of the VentureOne are a reduced 1.25 miles earned for every dollar you spend (instead of the 2 miles you get on the Venture) and only a 20,000-mile sign-up bonus, albeit with a lower minimum spending requirement of just $1,000 in purchases in the first three months you have the account. Depending on how much value you can get from these two features, you could consider the VentureOne with no annual fee and most of the best perks.

Use your miles from the no-annual-fee Capital One VentureOne card to take a sorely-needed vacation when travel resumes.

One thing that could be better: Unless you’re going to take advantage of Capital One’s transfer partners, you’d be better off with our benchmark Citi Double Cash card over the VentureOne. That’s because you’re only earning 1.25 miles per dollar with the Capital One VentureOne, and you only get 1 cent per mile when redeeming them using the “Purchase Eraser,” meaning you’re effectively getting a return of 1.25 cents per dollar spent, while the Citi Double Cash earns 2 cents per dollar spent.

That equation changes if you can utilize the transfer partners, since you can score a higher redemption rate than just 1 cent per mile if you do your homework. But if you’re ready for that more advanced step, you’re probably better off starting with the more powerful Capital One Venture card anyway, especially since the $95 annual fee on that card is waived for the first year and it comes with a bigger sign-up bonus.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Sign-up bonus, purchase protections, travel protections.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash offers a higher overall cash back rate and an introductory rate on balance transfers.

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Best for 0% interest on purchases: U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card

Why it’s great in one sentence: For those who’d rather pay no interest on purchases for as long as possible, instead of earning cash back or travel rewards, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card offers 0% interest on all purchases for the first 20 billing cycles you have the card. (The interest rate rises to a variable 13.99% to 23.99% after the introductory period ends.)

This card is right for: People who need a lengthy period of paying no interest on their purchases.

Highlights:

  • 0% interest on all purchases for the first 20 billing cycles (13.99% to 23.99% variable afterward).
  • 0% interest for 20 billing cycles on balance transfers made in the first 60 days after you open the card (13.99% to 23.99% variable afterward).
  • Cell phone protection.
  • No annual fee.

Sign-up bonus: None.

What we like about the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum: If you need extra time to pay your current bills, 20 billing cycles without interest is exceptional compared with other credit cards, and that long runway enables a peace of mind that you can weather a storm without a looming interest rate hike.

This card also pairs that great introductory interest rate on purchases with an identical offer on balance transfers, so long as they’re made within the first 60 days after you open the card. That means with a high enough credit limit, you can use the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum to consolidate all your debt if you need to.

Use the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum to consolidate your debt at a lower interest rate.

There’s also an added perk on this card: ongoing cell phone protection. When you pay your cell phone bill with the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum, you’ll be covered for damage or theft to your cell phone up to $600, with a $25 deductible, for up to two claims per 12-month period.

One thing that could be better: The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum isn’t a long-term credit card. It doesn’t earn any rewards at all, doesn’t come with a sign-up bonus and doesn’t have any other significant perks. It has no annual fee but charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, so you definitely won’t want to use it overseas.

In other words, its utility is limited beyond the introductory rate period. You might consider using it on an ongoing basis to pay your cell phone bill to get the included cell phone protection, but you’re probably better off with the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card even on that front since it earns rewards as well.

Where it beats our benchmark card: An introductory interest rate on purchases, a longer period of 20 billing cycles for no interest on introductory balance transfers, cell phone protection.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash earns easy-to-redeem cash back on all purchases and has a longer four-month period to complete any introductory balance transfers.

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Looking for a new credit card but don’t mind paying an annual fee? Check out CNN Underscored’s list of the best credit cards of 2020.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.