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Best travel credit cards with no annual fee
You don't have to shell out every year for helpful travel benefits.
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
Quick look at travel credit cards with no annual fee
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
Other good picks: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit cardThis 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 hotels: Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Best for cash back: Uber Visa Card
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.
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.
- Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card.
Earn 2x miles on Delta purchases and at restaurants worldwide. Earn 1x miles on all other eligible purchases. Earn 15,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 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. As of January 30, 2020, the card has no foreign transaction fees. It also qualifies you for Pay with Miles fares, which lets you reduce your dollar-based fare cost with SkyMiles.
Compare travel cards with no annual fee
How to compare travel credit cards with no annual fee
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.
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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