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12 Best Travel Credit Cards with No Annual Fee

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There are few things in life better than getting travel for free – especially when that travel involves luxuries like lie-flat seats, mega-hotel suites, and airport lounges. But racking up the points and miles you need for such things can be a daunting task.

Credit cards are the secret weapon for that task. Generous sign-up bonuses help make a big dent in the points and miles you need, while everyday spending earns you even more of them every time you swipe. Cash-back programs from your favorite banks can alternatively earn you dollars towards your trip without even thinking about it.

Even better is that many travel cards don’t charge annual fees, either. While you might not get the status, perks, and other benefits that higher-level cards do, you also won’t have to pay their hefty fees, which can range from $90 to over $600 per year. No annual fee cards are a wonderful way to earn rewards without adding to your monthly bills.

In an age where being smart about your spending is more important than ever for traveling, it’s essential to have the right credit cards in your wallet. Take a look below at some of the best travel credit cards with no annual fee and how to maximize their value.

Editor’s Note: Sign-Up Bonuses are current as of July 2023. These often change, so be sure to understand any terms prior to submitting an application.

What We Cover

TL;DR: The Best Cards with No Annual Fee for Travelers

Card Name Rewards Earnings APR Foreign Transaction Fees Other Major Benefits
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card 1.25 miles per dollar spent; 5 per dollar spent on Capital One Travel 0% for 15 months, then 19.99% to 29.99% No Travel accident insurance; rental car insurance
Chase Freedom Unlimited Cash back, 1.5% to 5% based on category 0% for 15 months, then 20.24% to 28.99% Yes, 3% Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card 1 to 14 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar 20.99% to 27.99% No Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite Status; 15 Elite Night Credits per year; 5th night free when using points; baggage delay, lost luggage, and trip cancellation/interruption insurance
United Gateway Credit Card 1 to 2 United miles per dollar 0% for 12 months, then 21.49% to 28.49% No 25% cash back on United in-flight purchases; rental car and trip cancellation/interruption insurance; Visa Signature Concierge service
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard 1 to 2 AA miles per dollar, plus 1 Loyalty Point per mile earned 20.99% to 29.99% Yes, 3% 25% cash back on AA in-flight purchases

Different Types of Travel Rewards Cards

Before we get started, it’s important to understand the different types of travel credit cards out there. Your travel plans, preferred airlines and hotels, loyalty program statuses, and other factors might make one type of card better for you than another. And since applying for cards impacts your credit score, you don’t want to be picking up new ones unnecessarily.

Bank Rewards Programs

Emirates new first class suite
M101Studio / Shutterstock.com

Many of the big banks that issue travel credit cards, such as American Express, Chase, CitiBank, and others, administer points-based rewards programs themselves. With these cards, every time you swipe (or, nowadays, insert or tap), the bank credits you with a certain number of points per dollar spent.

Sometimes, the no annual fee version of their cards offers cash back rather than points, but that cash back can be used to book travel or simply offset your own travel purchases.

The benefit of bank-specific rewards programs and cash-back benefits is being able to redeem your points on just about any airline, hotel, or travel experience. That makes these a great choice for some travelers.

If you don’t have a specific upcoming trip in mind, aren’t loyal to a specific hotel brand or airline, and want to keep your options open, these may be a fit. On the other hand, you may miss out on some higher earning rates and status perks that co-branded cards offer, which we’ll discuss next.

Co-Branded Hotel & Airline Cards

The pool, olive trees, and unique architecture at Domes Miramare, a Luxury Collection Resort, Corfu
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

These cards are associated with a specific airline, hotel chain, or other business – you can even find co-branded cards from DoorDash nowadays. The “co-branded” business’ name is usually part of the card’s name; for example, the “Marriott Bonvoy Bold” card. You earn points or miles for the hotel or airline the card is associated with.

Travelers loyal to a specific airline or hotel brand should definitely have one, if not more, of its cards. This is especially true if you have elite status, or if one airline dominates your home airport.

When I was living in Hawaii when I got my first credit card, and the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard was an obvious choice. While your points or miles will only be good for one specific loyalty program, you can get exceptional value from co-branded cards when used properly.

The Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards: Bank Rewards Programs

Now that we’ve got that distinction out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the best no-annual-fee cards tied to bank rewards programs. Remember, these may be good choices for travelers who want open options when it comes to redemptions and aren’t necessarily drawn to a specific airline or hotel chain.

1. Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Capital One / Capital One

Capital One is a major bank that’s one of the newest to travel platform operations, having launched Capital One Travel in 2021. The SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is a no-fee option that earns cash back rather than points, allowing the holder to utilize their earnings as they please, whether that be in redemption for flights and hotels or for a statement credit.

Here’s a summary of the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards card perks, along with other things to know:

  • Cash back rewards that never expire and can be used for travel, gift cards, and statement credits:
    • 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
    • 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, major streaming services, and grocery stores
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Sign-up Bonus: $200 bonus after spending $1,000 within three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR for new purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then 19.99% to 29.99%; balance transfer fee of 3% for the first 15 months
  • Travel accident insurance for trips booked with the card
  • No foreign transaction fees

2. Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Capital One / Capital One

The VentureOne Rewards Credit Card from Capital One is a solid miles-earning option from this reputable bank and its new travel platform. It has many similarities to its cash-back counterpart, the SavorOne card, but earns miles for every dollar spent and from its welcome bonus instead.

Those miles can be redeemed for trip expenses through Capital One Travel, transferred out to more than 15 hotel and airline partners. They can even be used to reimburse you for past travel expenses.

Here’s a summary of the Capital One VentureOne Rewards card perks, plus some other things to know:

  • Miles earned that never expire and can be used for booking travel, transferred to a hotel or airline program, or redeemed for statement credit (at a lower value):
    • 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase
    • 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • Sign-up Bonus: 20,000 bonus miles after spending $500 within three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR for new purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then 19.99% to 29.99%; balance transfer fee of 3% for the first 15 months
  • Travel accident insurance for trips booked with the card
  • Rental car insurance on eligible vehicles booked with the card (this benefit is unique to this card and not included with the SavorOne)
  • No foreign transaction fees

See Related: Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access (Ranked!)

3. Chase Freedom Flex

Chase Freedom Flex credit card
Chase / Chase

Chase is one of the widest-reaching banks in America and has a huge travel rewards program. While the Chase Freedom Flex doesn’t earn you Chase Ultimate Rewards points, as the fee-based cards do, it does earn you some great cash-back benefits that can be used towards your next trip. The benefits include earning 5% on travel purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards and the same amount on bonus categories that rotate quarterly.

Here’s a summary of the Chase Freedom Flex card perks, as well as other things to know:

  • Cash back rewards that never expire and can be used for travel, gift cards, and statement credits:
    • 5% cash back on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards and on quarterly bonus categories
    • 3% cash back on restaurant dining, eligible delivery services, and drugstore purchases
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Sign-Up Bonus: $200 bonus after spending $500 in the three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR for new purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then 20.24% to 28.99%
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance on travel purchases made with the card
  • This card DOES charge foreign transaction fees (3%)

4. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card
Chase / Chase

This card might look rather similar to the Chase Freedom Flex – and it is. The welcome offers, benefits, and other details are almost identical, but there is a difference in cash-back earnings rates.

This card doesn’t have quarterly bonus categories like the Flex; however, it earns 1.5% cash back on non-specific purchases rather than the 1% of the Flex.

Here’s a summary of the Chase Freedom Unlimited card perks, as well as other things to know:

  • Cash back rewards that never expire and can be used for travel, gift cards, and statement credits:
    • 5% cash back on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • There are NO quarterly cash-back bonus categories (one of the differences from Chase Freedom Flex)
    • 3% cash back on restaurant dining, eligible delivery services, and drugstore purchases
    • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases (higher “everything” earnings than Chase Freedom Flex)
  • Sign-Up Bonus: $200 bonus after spending $500 in the three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR for new purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then 20.24% to 28.99%
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance on travel purchases made with the card
  • This card DOES charge a foreign transaction fee (3%)

5. Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card

Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card
Management / Bank of America

You’ll earn points on every purchase with the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card, but it becomes even more interesting if you are eligible to become a Preferred Rewards Member. This secondary program utilizes your total balance across all Bank of America deposits and Merrill investments.

The totals are used to put you in the Gold, Platinum, Platinum Honors, or Diamond Tier; the minimum balance for this is $20,000. While a higher tier will increase your points earnings, you can still get great value from this no-fee card, even as a standard member.

Here’s a summary of the Bank of America Travel Rewards card perks, along with other things to know:

  • Points earned that never expire and can be used for reimbursing any travel expenses, which include broad things like dining and activities, or redeemed for statement credit (at a lower value):
    • 1.5 points per dollar on every purchase
    • 25% to 75% more points if you’re a Preferred Rewards Member, increasing earnings to 1.87 to 2.62 points per dollar
  • Sign-up Bonus: 25,000 bonus points after spending $500 within three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on new purchases and balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then 17.99% to 27.99%; balance transfer fee of 3%
  • Visa Signature rental car, lost luggage, and trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • No foreign transaction fees

6. Apple Card

Apple Card and iPhone with logo
Bank of America / Bank of America

A sort of honorable mention, the Apple Card is not travel-specific. However, it’s a popular one that does offer some valuable cash-back earnings, leading to savings for future vacations. Apple will even recommend how big your payment should be to minimize the interest they charge you.

Here’s a summary of the Apple Card perks, as well as other things to know:

  • Cash-back earned on every purchase that can be used however you like:
    • 3% on Apple purchases and from select partners when you use your Apple Card and Apple Pay
    • 2% on all other purchases made with your Apple Card and Apple Pay
    • 1% on all other purchases
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 15.99% to 26.99%; no current promotional rates or balance transfer deals
  • Instant card availability via digital wallet after approval
  • Lacks other major perks and benefits

See Related: Amex Gold vs Chase Sapphire Preferred: What’s Better?

The Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards: Co-Branded

As I mentioned, co-branded cards can offer amazing value for travelers who use them properly. While having points or miles tied up in a specific program might not sound ideal to many, these cards can do wonders for those who have a specific redemption idea, want to build up or maintain elite status, or generally prefer a particular hotel or airline.

7. The Hilton Honors Card by American Express

The Hilton Honors Card by American Express
American Express / American Express

If you’re a Hilton loyalist, you should definitely have one of the mega-chain’s cards in your wallet. And even if you’re not, the Hilton Honors American Express Card is an easy way to earn free points that will get you at least one, if not several, free nights at their many hotels around the world. With a high welcome bonus for a low spending requirement, plus a high rate of points earnings, it’s a great card to have that costs nothing to own.

Here’s a summary of The Hilton Honors Card by American Express perks and other things to know:

  • Hilton Honors points earned for every purchase you make:
    • 7 points per dollar spent at Hilton hotels and resorts
    • 5 points per dollar spent at US gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, including takeout and delivery
    • 3 points per dollar spent on everything else
  • Sign-up Bonus: 80,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 20.74% to 29.74%; no current promotional rates or balance transfer deals
  • Hilton Honors Silver Elite status for as long as you have the card
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
  • No foreign transaction fees

8. IHG One Rewards Traveler Credit Card

IHG One Rewards Traveler Credit Card
Chase / Chase

I’m a huge fan of the Intercontinental Hotels Group because of their huge global footprint and the attractive points redemption rates, especially at low-tier hotels like Holiday Inn’s. The chain offers this no-fee card through Chase, and it has surprisingly great earnings potential that includes a generous sign-up bonus and high per-dollar points.

Here’s a summary of the IHG One Rewards Traveler card perks, plus some other things to know:

  • IHG points earned for every purchase you make:
    • 17 points per dollar spent at IHG hotels and resorts (5 from the card, 10 for being an IHG One Rewards member, and 2 for having Silver Elite Status, which comes with the card)
    • 3 points per dollar spent at US gas stations, dining, utilities, and select streaming services
    • 2 points per dollar spent on everything else
  • Sign-up Bonus: 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 within three months after account opening; plus, a $50 statement credit for use at IHG hotels and resorts
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 21.24% to 28.24%; no current promotional rates or balance transfer deals
  • IHG One Rewards Silver Elite status for as long as you have the card; earn Gold if you spend $20,000 on the card in a year
  • Stay 3 nights on points, get the 4th free
  • Baggage delay, lost luggage, and trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • No foreign transaction fees

9. Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card
Chase / Chase

My Marriott card is currently my payment method of choice – I have Bonvoy Titanium Elite status and love racking up these points, as I find redemptions to be of exceptional value with this chain. The Bonvoy Bold Card has no annual fee but consistently offers awesome welcome bonuses, plus Elite Night Credits that get you closer to that top-tier status. I could never qualify for Titanium without these.

Here’s a summary of the Marriott Bonvoy Bold card perks, as well as other things to know:

  • Marriott Bonvoy points earned for every purchase you make:
    • Up to 14 points per dollar spent at Marriott hotels and resorts (3 from the card, 10 for being an IHG One Rewards member, and 1 for having Silver Elite Status, which comes with the card)
    • 2 points per dollar spent on any travel expenses
    • 1 point per dollar spent on everything else
  • Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within three months after account opening; plus, 50,000 more if you stay 6 paid nights at Marriott properties within the bonus period
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 20.99% to 27.99%; no current promotional rates or balance transfer deals
  • Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status for as long as you have the card; plus 15 Elite Night Credits per year
  • Stay 4 nights on points, get the 5th free
  • Baggage delay, lost luggage, and trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Complimentary Visa Signature Concierge service
  • No foreign transaction fees

See Related: Do You Need a Good Credit Score for the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

10. United Gateway Credit Card

United Gateway Credit Card
Chase / Chase

International flights have become ridiculously expensive in the last year or so, making miles more important than ever. Luckily, United Airlines has one of the most extensive international networks of all US airlines, and its no-fee card is a great way to get started with the miles you need for a free flight.

Here’s a summary of the United Gateway perks, along with other things to know:

  • United miles earned for every purchase you make:
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, including tickets, Economy Plus, in-flight expenses, baggage, and more
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on gas stations, ridesharing, local and mass transit, and tolls
    • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
  • Sign-up Bonus: 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR for the first 12 months on new purchases, then 21.49% to 28.49%; no balance transfer offers
  • 25% back as a statement credit on in-flight and Club purchases
  • Rental car and trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Complimentary Visa Signature Concierge service
  • No foreign transaction fees

11. Delta Skymiles Blue American Express Card

Delta Skymiles Blue American Express Card
American Express / American Express

Delta’s major footprint across America and beyond makes it an attractive airline to be loyal to. And while miles redemption rates can be high on this carrier, its SkyMiles Blue Card from American Express makes racking them up a much simpler task. Plus, DeltaOne first-class seats are some of the best in the North American skies.

Here’s a summary of the Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express card perks, as well as other things to know:

  • Delta miles earned for every purchase you make:
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on US restaurant dining, takeout, and delivery
    • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
  • Sign-up Bonus: 10,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within six months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 20.74% to 29.74%; no current promotional rates or balance transfer deals
  • 20% back as a statement credit on in-flight purchases
  • Get up to $50 off the cost of a flight for every 5,000-mile redemption
  • Rental car collision damage waiver insurance
  • No foreign transaction fees

12. American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard
Citi / Citi

American Airlines’ no-fee card, the AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard, is a CitiBank product great not only for free flight redemptions but also for earning status with the airline through spending. Along with the miles you’ll earn for every dollar spent, you also get Loyalty Points, which translate into things like seat upgrades, access to preferred cabins, and same-day standby priority.

Here’s a summary of the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard perks, in addition to other things to know:

  • AAdvantage miles earned for every purchase you make:
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on grocery stores
    • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
    • 1 Loyalty Point for every mile earned through these purchases
  • Sign-up Bonus: 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 within three months after account opening, plus a $50 statement credit
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 20.99% to 29.99%; no current promotional rates or balance transfer deals; 5% balance transfer fee
  • 25% back as a statement credit on in-flight purchases
  • This card DOES charge foreign transaction fees (3%)
  • No car rental or trip insurance benefits

FAQ

What factors should I consider when choosing a travel card with no annual fee?

First and foremost, make sure your spending habits and credit health are sufficient to take on a new card so as to not get into any unmanageable debt. Choose a card that is compatible with your travel styles and future plans, whether that be an airline or hotel chain-specific card or a third-party rewards program that is flexible for all kinds of travel. Finally, always go for cards with great benefits like no foreign transaction fees, promotions for balance transfers, a generous sign-up bonus, or 0% intro APR, for example.

Can I earn airline miles and hotel points with travel cards that have no annual fee?

You absolutely can, and you should – there is no reason NOT to earn points or miles for every dollar spent on your credit card! Use these cards for daily spending at places like grocery stores, gas stations, your monthly cell phone bill, and all kinds of other eligible purchases that may even be considered bonus categories that earn double, triple, or even more points and miles.

How do I redeem rewards earned through my no-annual-fee travel card?

How you redeem points depends on whether you have one of the co-branded hotel or airline credit cards, like the Marriott Bonvoy Bold or United Gateway Card, or a card from a bank that has its own points, like Chase Ultimate Rewards. If it’s the former, your points or miles will be credited directly to that hotel or airline loyalty account each month, and you can simply search for flights and rooms for free. If it’s the latter, use the bank’s rewards program site to see various redemption possibilities on airlines, hotels, and even rental cars booked with your points.

Related Resources

  • Cash back rewards that never expire and can be used for travel, gift cards, and statement credits:
    • 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
    • 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, major streaming services, and grocery stores
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Sign-up Bonus: $200 bonus after spending $1,000 within three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR for new purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then 19.99% to 29.99%; balance transfer fee of 3% for the first 15 months
  • Travel accident insurance for trips booked with the card
  • No foreign transaction fees

2. Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Capital One / Capital One

The VentureOne Rewards Credit Card from Capital One is a solid miles-earning option from this reputable bank and its new travel platform. It has many similarities to its cash-back counterpart, the SavorOne card, but earns miles for every dollar spent and from its welcome bonus instead.

Those miles can be redeemed for trip expenses through Capital One Travel, transferred out to more than 15 hotel and airline partners. They can even be used to reimburse you for past travel expenses.

Here’s a summary of the Capital One VentureOne Rewards card perks, plus some other things to know:

  • Miles earned that never expire and can be used for booking travel, transferred to a hotel or airline program, or redeemed for statement credit (at a lower value):
    • 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase
    • 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • Sign-up Bonus: 20,000 bonus miles after spending $500 within three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR for new purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then 19.99% to 29.99%; balance transfer fee of 3% for the first 15 months
  • Travel accident insurance for trips booked with the card
  • Rental car insurance on eligible vehicles booked with the card (this benefit is unique to this card and not included with the SavorOne)
  • No foreign transaction fees

See Related: Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access (Ranked!)

3. Chase Freedom Flex

Chase Freedom Flex credit card
Chase / Chase

Chase is one of the widest-reaching banks in America and has a huge travel rewards program. While the Chase Freedom Flex doesn’t earn you Chase Ultimate Rewards points, as the fee-based cards do, it does earn you some great cash-back benefits that can be used towards your next trip. The benefits include earning 5% on travel purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards and the same amount on bonus categories that rotate quarterly.

Here’s a summary of the Chase Freedom Flex card perks, as well as other things to know:

  • Cash back rewards that never expire and can be used for travel, gift cards, and statement credits:
    • 5% cash back on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards and on quarterly bonus categories
    • 3% cash back on restaurant dining, eligible delivery services, and drugstore purchases
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Sign-Up Bonus: $200 bonus after spending $500 in the three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR for new purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then 20.24% to 28.99%
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance on travel purchases made with the card
  • This card DOES charge foreign transaction fees (3%)

4. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card
Chase / Chase

This card might look rather similar to the Chase Freedom Flex – and it is. The welcome offers, benefits, and other details are almost identical, but there is a difference in cash-back earnings rates.

This card doesn’t have quarterly bonus categories like the Flex; however, it earns 1.5% cash back on non-specific purchases rather than the 1% of the Flex.

Here’s a summary of the Chase Freedom Unlimited card perks, as well as other things to know:

  • Cash back rewards that never expire and can be used for travel, gift cards, and statement credits:
    • 5% cash back on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • There are NO quarterly cash-back bonus categories (one of the differences from Chase Freedom Flex)
    • 3% cash back on restaurant dining, eligible delivery services, and drugstore purchases
    • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases (higher “everything” earnings than Chase Freedom Flex)
  • Sign-Up Bonus: $200 bonus after spending $500 in the three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR for new purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then 20.24% to 28.99%
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance on travel purchases made with the card
  • This card DOES charge a foreign transaction fee (3%)

5. Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card

Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card
Management / Bank of America

You’ll earn points on every purchase with the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card, but it becomes even more interesting if you are eligible to become a Preferred Rewards Member. This secondary program utilizes your total balance across all Bank of America deposits and Merrill investments.

The totals are used to put you in the Gold, Platinum, Platinum Honors, or Diamond Tier; the minimum balance for this is $20,000. While a higher tier will increase your points earnings, you can still get great value from this no-fee card, even as a standard member.

Here’s a summary of the Bank of America Travel Rewards card perks, along with other things to know:

  • Points earned that never expire and can be used for reimbursing any travel expenses, which include broad things like dining and activities, or redeemed for statement credit (at a lower value):
    • 1.5 points per dollar on every purchase
    • 25% to 75% more points if you’re a Preferred Rewards Member, increasing earnings to 1.87 to 2.62 points per dollar
  • Sign-up Bonus: 25,000 bonus points after spending $500 within three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on new purchases and balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then 17.99% to 27.99%; balance transfer fee of 3%
  • Visa Signature rental car, lost luggage, and trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • No foreign transaction fees

6. Apple Card

Apple Card and iPhone with logo
Bank of America / Bank of America

A sort of honorable mention, the Apple Card is not travel-specific. However, it’s a popular one that does offer some valuable cash-back earnings, leading to savings for future vacations. Apple will even recommend how big your payment should be to minimize the interest they charge you.

Here’s a summary of the Apple Card perks, as well as other things to know:

  • Cash-back earned on every purchase that can be used however you like:
    • 3% on Apple purchases and from select partners when you use your Apple Card and Apple Pay
    • 2% on all other purchases made with your Apple Card and Apple Pay
    • 1% on all other purchases
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 15.99% to 26.99%; no current promotional rates or balance transfer deals
  • Instant card availability via digital wallet after approval
  • Lacks other major perks and benefits

See Related: Amex Gold vs Chase Sapphire Preferred: What’s Better?

The Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards: Co-Branded

As I mentioned, co-branded cards can offer amazing value for travelers who use them properly. While having points or miles tied up in a specific program might not sound ideal to many, these cards can do wonders for those who have a specific redemption idea, want to build up or maintain elite status, or generally prefer a particular hotel or airline.

7. The Hilton Honors Card by American Express

The Hilton Honors Card by American Express
American Express / American Express

If you’re a Hilton loyalist, you should definitely have one of the mega-chain’s cards in your wallet. And even if you’re not, the Hilton Honors American Express Card is an easy way to earn free points that will get you at least one, if not several, free nights at their many hotels around the world. With a high welcome bonus for a low spending requirement, plus a high rate of points earnings, it’s a great card to have that costs nothing to own.

Here’s a summary of The Hilton Honors Card by American Express perks and other things to know:

  • Hilton Honors points earned for every purchase you make:
    • 7 points per dollar spent at Hilton hotels and resorts
    • 5 points per dollar spent at US gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, including takeout and delivery
    • 3 points per dollar spent on everything else
  • Sign-up Bonus: 80,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 20.74% to 29.74%; no current promotional rates or balance transfer deals
  • Hilton Honors Silver Elite status for as long as you have the card
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
  • No foreign transaction fees

8. IHG One Rewards Traveler Credit Card

IHG One Rewards Traveler Credit Card
Chase / Chase

I’m a huge fan of the Intercontinental Hotels Group because of their huge global footprint and the attractive points redemption rates, especially at low-tier hotels like Holiday Inn’s. The chain offers this no-fee card through Chase, and it has surprisingly great earnings potential that includes a generous sign-up bonus and high per-dollar points.

Here’s a summary of the IHG One Rewards Traveler card perks, plus some other things to know:

  • IHG points earned for every purchase you make:
    • 17 points per dollar spent at IHG hotels and resorts (5 from the card, 10 for being an IHG One Rewards member, and 2 for having Silver Elite Status, which comes with the card)
    • 3 points per dollar spent at US gas stations, dining, utilities, and select streaming services
    • 2 points per dollar spent on everything else
  • Sign-up Bonus: 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 within three months after account opening; plus, a $50 statement credit for use at IHG hotels and resorts
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 21.24% to 28.24%; no current promotional rates or balance transfer deals
  • IHG One Rewards Silver Elite status for as long as you have the card; earn Gold if you spend $20,000 on the card in a year
  • Stay 3 nights on points, get the 4th free
  • Baggage delay, lost luggage, and trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • No foreign transaction fees

9. Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card
Chase / Chase

My Marriott card is currently my payment method of choice – I have Bonvoy Titanium Elite status and love racking up these points, as I find redemptions to be of exceptional value with this chain. The Bonvoy Bold Card has no annual fee but consistently offers awesome welcome bonuses, plus Elite Night Credits that get you closer to that top-tier status. I could never qualify for Titanium without these.

Here’s a summary of the Marriott Bonvoy Bold card perks, as well as other things to know:

  • Marriott Bonvoy points earned for every purchase you make:
    • Up to 14 points per dollar spent at Marriott hotels and resorts (3 from the card, 10 for being an IHG One Rewards member, and 1 for having Silver Elite Status, which comes with the card)
    • 2 points per dollar spent on any travel expenses
    • 1 point per dollar spent on everything else
  • Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within three months after account opening; plus, 50,000 more if you stay 6 paid nights at Marriott properties within the bonus period
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 20.99% to 27.99%; no current promotional rates or balance transfer deals
  • Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status for as long as you have the card; plus 15 Elite Night Credits per year
  • Stay 4 nights on points, get the 5th free
  • Baggage delay, lost luggage, and trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Complimentary Visa Signature Concierge service
  • No foreign transaction fees

See Related: Do You Need a Good Credit Score for the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

10. United Gateway Credit Card

United Gateway Credit Card
Chase / Chase

International flights have become ridiculously expensive in the last year or so, making miles more important than ever. Luckily, United Airlines has one of the most extensive international networks of all US airlines, and its no-fee card is a great way to get started with the miles you need for a free flight.

Here’s a summary of the United Gateway perks, along with other things to know:

  • United miles earned for every purchase you make:
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, including tickets, Economy Plus, in-flight expenses, baggage, and more
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on gas stations, ridesharing, local and mass transit, and tolls
    • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
  • Sign-up Bonus: 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within three months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 0% intro APR for the first 12 months on new purchases, then 21.49% to 28.49%; no balance transfer offers
  • 25% back as a statement credit on in-flight and Club purchases
  • Rental car and trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Complimentary Visa Signature Concierge service
  • No foreign transaction fees

11. Delta Skymiles Blue American Express Card

Delta Skymiles Blue American Express Card
American Express / American Express

Delta’s major footprint across America and beyond makes it an attractive airline to be loyal to. And while miles redemption rates can be high on this carrier, its SkyMiles Blue Card from American Express makes racking them up a much simpler task. Plus, DeltaOne first-class seats are some of the best in the North American skies.

Here’s a summary of the Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express card perks, as well as other things to know:

  • Delta miles earned for every purchase you make:
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on US restaurant dining, takeout, and delivery
    • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
  • Sign-up Bonus: 10,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within six months after account opening
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 20.74% to 29.74%; no current promotional rates or balance transfer deals
  • 20% back as a statement credit on in-flight purchases
  • Get up to $50 off the cost of a flight for every 5,000-mile redemption
  • Rental car collision damage waiver insurance
  • No foreign transaction fees

12. American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard
Citi / Citi

American Airlines’ no-fee card, the AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard, is a CitiBank product great not only for free flight redemptions but also for earning status with the airline through spending. Along with the miles you’ll earn for every dollar spent, you also get Loyalty Points, which translate into things like seat upgrades, access to preferred cabins, and same-day standby priority.

Here’s a summary of the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard perks, in addition to other things to know:

  • AAdvantage miles earned for every purchase you make:
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on grocery stores
    • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
    • 1 Loyalty Point for every mile earned through these purchases
  • Sign-up Bonus: 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 within three months after account opening, plus a $50 statement credit
  • Interest & Balance Transfers: 20.99% to 29.99%; no current promotional rates or balance transfer deals; 5% balance transfer fee
  • 25% back as a statement credit on in-flight purchases
  • This card DOES charge foreign transaction fees (3%)
  • No car rental or trip insurance benefits

FAQ

What factors should I consider when choosing a travel card with no annual fee?

First and foremost, make sure your spending habits and credit health are sufficient to take on a new card so as to not get into any unmanageable debt. Choose a card that is compatible with your travel styles and future plans, whether that be an airline or hotel chain-specific card or a third-party rewards program that is flexible for all kinds of travel. Finally, always go for cards with great benefits like no foreign transaction fees, promotions for balance transfers, a generous sign-up bonus, or 0% intro APR, for example.

Can I earn airline miles and hotel points with travel cards that have no annual fee?

You absolutely can, and you should – there is no reason NOT to earn points or miles for every dollar spent on your credit card! Use these cards for daily spending at places like grocery stores, gas stations, your monthly cell phone bill, and all kinds of other eligible purchases that may even be considered bonus categories that earn double, triple, or even more points and miles.

How do I redeem rewards earned through my no-annual-fee travel card?

How you redeem points depends on whether you have one of the co-branded hotel or airline credit cards, like the Marriott Bonvoy Bold or United Gateway Card, or a card from a bank that has its own points, like Chase Ultimate Rewards. If it’s the former, your points or miles will be credited directly to that hotel or airline loyalty account each month, and you can simply search for flights and rooms for free. If it’s the latter, use the bank’s rewards program site to see various redemption possibilities on airlines, hotels, and even rental cars booked with your points.

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