Airline credit cards with no annual fee

Earn miles for your next trip from everyday spending.

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An airline credit card can offer rewards such as money off flights and seat upgrades. For many, you’ll pay an annual fee to reap these benefits, but there are some that waive the fee the first year, or don’t charge one at all. This can save you anywhere from $70 to $450 a year.

Compare airline credit cards with no annual fee

These airline credit cards either boast no annual fee or have a waived annual fee for the first year.

Name Product Annual fee Balance transfer APR Purchase APR Filter values
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.24% to 26.24% variable
17.24% to 26.24% variable
Earn 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a direct Delta purchase in the same timeframe. Rates & fees
CardMatch™ from
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Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
17.24% to 26.24% variable
17.24% to 26.24% variable
Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
United℠ Explorer Card
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.99% to 24.99% variable
17.99% to 24.99% variable
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening plus 25,000 miles after spending $10,000 in the first 6 months.
JetBlue Card
0% intro for the first 12 billing cycles (then 17.49%, 21.49% or 26.49% variable)
17.49%, 21.49% or 26.49% variable
Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

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Our picks for no-annual-fee credit cards

While available cards of this type are limited, they offer solid perks across a few different categories.

Here’s a quick look at our top picks for no-annual-fee credit cards.

Our pick for Delta: Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is a great mid-tier card for Delta loyalists. While you’ll pay $0 for just the first year’s annual fee (see rates & fees), the card’s perks easily offset the $95 annual fee — even for the occasional traveler.

Our pick for everyday spending: JetBlue Card

JetBlue Card
In addition to 3x points on eligible purchases, this card also earns 2x points on restaurant and grocery stores, and 1x on all other purchases. This makes it a great card for passively racking up points on your day-to-day shopping needs, which you can later turn into a vacation flight.

Our pick for signup bonus: United℠ Explorer Card

Of all of the no-annual-fee airline credit cards, you’ll find the biggest signup bonus with the United℠ Explorer Card. You can earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 within the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, you’ll earn an additional 25,000 miles if you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months. Other similar cards offer just 10,000 points in their respective programs, with only the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express coming close.

What types of no-annual-fee airline credit cards are there?

No-annual-fee airline cards

Airline credit cards allow you to earn miles or points to transfer to an airline program. These types of cards often feature an annual fee to help offset the number of perks they offer. With that said, you can find a few no-annual-fee airline credit cards to choose from. These cards come in two varieties:

No annual fee

There’s a small selection of airline credit cards that offer no annual fee for cardholders. However, these cards often lack extra features found in annual fee cards, such as lounge access or free checked bags. It’s also less common for these airline cards to have introductory bonus point offers.

But if you get one of these cards and pay the balance off each month, it does give you a way to earn airline miles per $1 spent without paying fees.

$0 annual fee in the first year

Some airline credit cards will offer to waive the standard annual fee during the first year as part of an introductory offer. After the first 12 months, you’ll be charged a standard annual fee for the account.

These cards typically have higher signup bonuses and additional features compared to a no-annual-fee airline card.

Is a no-annual-fee airline credit card right for me?

The differences between a no-annual-fee airline credit card and an annual-fee airline credit card can prove large, both in the benefits offered and the price of the annual fee. So which should you choose and when?

A good rule of thumb is to choose your airline card based on your spending and travel habits. If you’re just an occasional traveler or are new to traveling and looking for flight discounts, no-annual-fee airline cards are a great place to start. Without annual fees to worry about, you can get a good idea of how often you’ll get these bonuses and be able to use them, without worry. If you’re signing up for an airline loyalty program for the first time, a no-annual-fee credit card is a safe, reliable choice for rewards.

However, if you’re a big spender and travel often, you might consider going the extra mile for an airline credit card with an annual fee. These cards come with much more valuable perks and the potential for big earnings through the airline’s loyalty program. These perks can include statement credits, boosts to an airline’s loyalty status, travel insurance and more. But if you travel infrequently, these perks can go to waste — and your wallet will be lighter with nothing to show for it.

How can I compare airline credit cards with no annual fee?

Consider these features when you’re looking for a credit card that earns airline miles and has no annual fee.

  • Airline access. Check if your local airport has the airline you want. Otherwise, you probably won’t be able to take advantage of that airline’s credit card effectively.
  • Annual fee details. Check the fine print to see how long the $0 annual fee lasts — you may be on the hook for fees after the first year.
  • Bonus miles. See if the card you’re looking at offers introductory bonus miles, and if you can meet the spending threshold to earn them.
  • Miles per dollar. Determine the value of your spending. Many no-annual-fee cards offer 1x miles, while some offer 2x miles on certain categories. Check the details to determine if you spend enough in each category.
  • Interest rates. Try to pay off your balance monthly, as these types of airline credit cards can have high interest rates. Paying fees can offset any miles you’ve earned.
  • Additional cardholders. Boost your airline point balance by sharing the account with a partner or family member. Check if the card charges for additional cardholders.
  • Complimentary extras. Weigh any perks, such as complimentary insurance, lounge passes or annual travel credit. If the card offers a $0 annual fee in the first year, consider whether these benefits will outweigh the cost of the standard annual fee once it applies.

Bottom line

If you’re an occasional traveler, an airline credit card with no annual fee is a great way to earn some value without over-committing and losing value. Start by comparing different options to find the card that works best for you. You can also compare a wider range of airline credit cards if miles are your priority, or look at other no-annual-fee cards if your goal is to save on account costs.

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