Best travel credit cards with no annual fee

You don't have to shell out every year for helpful travel benefits.

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It’s true that the best travel cards typically have annual fees — some running $95, $450 or more each year.

Luckily, you can get a great travel card without the hassle of paying an annual fee. Many card providers want your business, and they’re willing to offer attractive travel benefits to get it.

Our pick for a travel card with no annual fee

Hilton Honors American Express Card

  • Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Honors portfolio of brands.
  • Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees. Enjoy international travel without additional fees on purchases made abroad.
  • Enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status with your Card. Plus, spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
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Best travel credit cards with no annual fee

While comparing these products, consider your spending habits. If a card’s bonus-rewards categories match with your shopping style, you may have found an effective travel card.

Best overall travel card: PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card
Among no-annual-fee travel cards, the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card may well be the best. One of its main draws is the already-accelerated rewards can be bumped up if you’re a PenFed Honors Advantage Member.

Other good picks: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

This card offers a flat rewards rate on every purchase, which is a solid for a no-annual-fee card. However, the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card edges out this card with its bonus rewards tier for travel.

Best for a welcome offer and co-branded hotel card: Hilton Honors American Express Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Card welcome offer and accelerated rewards on Hilton properties and everyday purchases makes it a strong travel credit card.

Best for hotels: Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Consider this card if you’re a frequent traveler. It offers decent rewards on every purchase, but its main attraction is its accelerated rewards on eligible Hotels.com bookings. No other card offers a hotel rewards rate as strong.

Best for a guaranteed-value welcome offer and gas rewards: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
This card’s biggest strength is its welcome offer, but that’s definitely not its only feature. It offers accelerated points in everyday spending categories.

Best for cash back: Uber Visa Card

Uber Visa Card
You might be surprised to see this card on this list. But it’s a legit travel pick, offering accelerated cash back on hotels and airfare, and even more back on dining.

Frequent flyer picks

If you’re a frequent flyer on a particular airline, you might like one of these cards.

  • United℠ TravelBank Card.
    Earn 2% in TravelBank cash on tickets purchased from United. Earn $150 in TravelBank cash on all other purchases. Earn in TravelBank cash after you make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months card membership. Get a 25% discount in the form of statement credit on in-flight food, beverage and Wi-Fi purchases.
  • American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card.
    Earn 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and at grocery stores. Earn 1x miles on all other purchases. Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles and a statement credit after you make $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of card membership. Get a 25% discount in the form of statement credit on in-flight food and beverage purchases.
  • Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.
    Earn 2x miles on Delta purchases and at US restaurants. Earn 1x miles on all other eligible purchases. Earn 10,000 bonus miles after you make $500 in purchases within 3 months of your account opening. Get a 20% discount in the form of statement credit on in-flight food, beverage and audio-headset purchases.

How we selected our top cards

We took all travel credit cards with no annual fee and we compared features such as rewards rate, signup bonus, intro APR and additional perks. Then, we selected the credit cards with the best combination of benefits for travel.

Compare travel cards with no annual fee

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
20,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
1.25x miles on all purchases and 10x miles at hotels.com/venture
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
75,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
$0
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
10,000 miles after spending $500 in the first 3 months
2x miles at US restaurants and on direct Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0
Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
25,000 points after spending $2,500 in the first 90 days
3x points on travel or 4x points if you’re a PenFed Honors Advantage member and 1.5x points on all other purchases
$0
25,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days from account opening.
25,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
1.5x points on all purchases
$0
Earn 25,000 online bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days from account opening.

Compare up to 4 providers

How to compare travel credit cards with no annual fee

  • Rewards.
    This is one of the key factors travelers usually consider when comparing travel cards. If you’re looking at a tiered-rewards card, check if your spending lines up with the card’s bonus categories. You’ll accumulate rewards faster this way. If you don’t spend much in the card’s bonus categories, you might get more out of another card. If you spend evenly across many categories, you might like a flat-rate-rewards card.
  • Signup bonus.
    A signup bonus is an excellent benefit from a no-annual-fee card, as it’s all upside. Plus, you can find cards with low spend requirements. Compare bonuses between cards and consider how you might use them.
  • Consider what you want to use your rewards for.
    If you’re sure you want to use your rewards for a certain loyalty program, you might like a cobranded card. For example, the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card can be useful, but you must use your points through American Airlines’ rewards portal.
  • Intro APR.
    Travel cards with intro APRs can be few and far between, which is why you might want to pay special attention to a card that has one. An intro APR on purchases or balance transfers can give you a helpful break from interest.

Getting the most out of a no-annual-fee travel card

Here are a few ways to maximize value out of your no-annual-fee travel credit card. For more tips, check out our guide to travel credit cards.

  • Scoop up the signup bonus.
    No-annual-fee cards typically have lower spend requirements to obtain their signup bonuses. Plan out your spending over the spend window so you get the bonus. This will give you a burst of points or miles you can put toward great travel redemptions.
  • Earn rewards.
    Your card may offer accelerated rewards in certain categories. If that’s the case, use your card more for those spending areas. For non-bonus categories, a flat-rate cashback card might be useful.
  • Extra perks.
    If your card offers benefits like travel credits or elite status in loyalty programs, take advantage of them when you can.

Bottom line

Travel cards are a very competitive space, and there are plenty of no-annual-fee products that offer excellent travel benefits.

Look for a card that offers bonus rewards for your preferred spending categories. Pay attention to signup bonuses, too, as they can give you an attractive burst of initial rewards. If finding a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees is more important to you than travel benefits, compare no-annual-fee and no-foreign-fee cards.

If you’re not sure about the credit cards we listed above, consider other travel products.

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