A novel method is presented for electrically tuning the frequency of a compact radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag antenna. A tuning circuit, comprising a radio frequency (RF) switch and discrete passive components, was completely integrated into the antenna element, which is thus free of DC wires. The low-profile printed antennas were fabricated together with the layouts of the DC control circuits and other RF/baseband circuit footprints. A surface-mounted varactor was applied as a frequency-tuning element at the proper places of the meandered slots in the compact antenna. Prototype designs showed that the in-band frequency (return, loss < 10 dB) was tunable from, 2.4 Gift to 2.8 GHz when the bias voltage varied from 4 V to 7 V. The impact of the tuning circuit on the antenna's return loss and radiation pattern were experimentally studied through comparison with the performance of a reference antenna not incorporating the tuning circuit. The proposed frequency tuning concept can be extended to more complex compact structures as well as other types of antennas to give enhanced electrical performance.