It’s nice to get cash back rewards on your credit card spending, but the top cash back credit cards come with an annual fee that can take a bite out of your earnings. If you’re not a big spender, the best option is a no-fee cash back credit card.
Best No-Fee Cash Back Credit Cards
You can still earn big rewards with a no-fee card. I used the MBNA Smart Cash card for over a year, and collected $700 in cash back.
With this no-fee cash back credit card, you’ll get 5% back on groceries and gas for the first 6 months, and 2% back thereafter. You’ll also get 1% back on all your other purchases, including recurring bill payments.
RBC’s Cash Back MasterCard pays 2 percent back on up to $6,000 of grocery spending per year, plus up to 1 percent back on everything else.
Capital One’s Aspire Cash Platinum card is also worth a look. With 1 percent back on all your spending, and no limit on how much cash back you can earn.
Unfortunately, Capital One discontinued its Aspire Cash World card, which paid cardholders 1.5 percent back.
To find the best credit cards, you need to figure out how much money you spend on average each month. Some annual fee credit cards offer juicy rewards, but unless you have a high income and spend more than $2,000 per month on your card, you’re probably better off with a no-fee rewards credit card.
Related: Best Credit Cards For Travel Rewards
No-Fee Cash Back Credit Card Comparison
I took a look at the best cash back credit cards with no annual fee, and compared them based on spending $1,000 per month and $2,000 per month to see which one came out on top.
I also looked at how much cash back you’ll earn after using the card for three years to balance out the cards that pay big bonuses in the first year.
|Credit Card||Annual Cash back $1,000/month*||After 3-years||Annual Cash back $2,000/month**||After 3-years|
|MBNA Smart Cash||$240||$576||$270||$666|
|RBC Cash Back||$138||$414||$270||$810|
|Capital One Aspire Cash||$120||$360||$240||$720|
|TD Rebate Rewards||$120||$360||$240||$720|
|Scotia Momentum No-Fee||$102||$306||$204||$612|
*based on spending $400 per month on groceries and $100 per month on gas
**based on spending $800 per month on groceries and $200 per month on gas
Which Card Is Best?
For higher spenders, the RBC’s cash back card comes out ahead over the long term. That’s because there’s no limit on how much you can earn at the 1 percent tier. The Smart Cash card, on the other hand, caps your earnings after you spend $1,250 in a month.
But if you spend a lot on groceries and gas, but not on much else, the MBNA Smart Cash card is your best bet. You’ll get 5% cash back for six months on grocery and gas spending, and 2% cash back thereafter. The downside to the Smart Cash card is that there’s a $400 per month cap on grocery and gas spending, and it only pays 1% on all other purchases, up to a maximum of $1,250 a month.
One helpful tip for Smart Cash cardholders is to upgrade to the Smart Cash World MasterCard after a year or so of using the Smart Cash Platinum card. Since it’s a World card, you’ll need to earn $60,000 personal income in order to qualify. But once you make the switch, you’ll no longer have a cap on how much cash back you’ll earn, plus, you’ll get another 6 months of the 5% cash back on groceries and gas purchases.