These low-maintenance cards make it easy to earn rewards

All 5 of these credit cards have no annual fee and require little or no work

Lyn Mettler
Personal finance writer
Specializes in writing on travel, family and food

No annual fee cards that make it easy to earn rewards for travel

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Putting your everyday spending on rewards credit cards can be a simple way to save money and earn free travel, but some cards with bonus categories and tiered rewards can be complicated. 

To watch your rewards pile up stress-free, I’ve picked five cards that offer great travel benefits, but don’t take a lot of maintenance. With all of these no-annual-fee cards you won’t have to remember the bonus rewards categories every quarter. 

1. Discover it® Miles credit card

The Discover it® Miles credit card is about as simple as it gets when it comes to travel credit cards. Just charge your groceries, gas, back-to-school purchases and everything else and you’re earning rewards toward your next vacation.

With the Discover it Miles card, you earn unlimited 1.5x miles with every purchase, and Discover will match all the miles you earn at the end of your first year of membership. That's essentially 3x miles. Discover also throws in a $30 credit for in-flight Wi-Fi, which you can simply charge to the card.

Each mile is worth 1 cent, which is not a huge return, but the Discover it Miles card is simple to use.

To redeem your rewards, you simply charge a travel expense (including flights, hotel rooms, car rentals, online travel sites and commuter transportation) to the card, which you can then redeem as a travel credit.

2. Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card requires little to no work to put money back in your pocket. The Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5 percent cash back on every $1 you spend, and each point is worth 1 cent when you redeem your rewards for travel expenses.

Note that the Freedom Unlimited (like its quarterly bonus category cash back sibling, the Chase Freedom) earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. I’m a big fan of Ultimate Rewards points because I can transfer these points almost instantly to Southwest, my family’s favorite airline, or to Aer Lingus for cheap flights to Europe.

You can stretch your Freedom Unlimited and Freedom rewards further by transferring them to either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve cards. When redeeming points for travel with those cards, your Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.25 cents with the Preferred and 1.5 cents with the Reserve.

See related: Best flat-rate cash back cards for 2018

3. Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards credit card earns an unlimited 1.25 miles on all your spending, but you can earn 10x miles per $1 if you book and pay for your travel accommodations through Hotels.com/venture using your card.

To use your miles, which are valued at 1 cent each, simply charge a travel purchase with airlines, hotels or car rental companies to your card and redeem your miles as a card credit.

4. Hilton Honors American Express Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Card, one of just a few hotel credit cards with no annual fee, is about as low maintenance as it gets for a hotel credit card.

The Hilton Honors AmEx card earns a hefty 7 points per $1 on Hilton expenditures, as well as 5 points per $1 on restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations in the US. All other purchases earn 3 points per $1.

If you enjoy staying at Hilton properties, this card will let you accumulate a bunch of Hilton Honors points on everyday expenditures fairly quickly.

See related: Hotel cards: Get the most points free nights for the fewest points

5. Blue Delta SkyMiles® Card from American Express

Finally, for Delta flyers seeking an easy-to-use, no-annual-fee airline credit card, consider the Blue Delta SkyMiles card from American Express.

The Blue Delta SkyMiles Card earns 2 miles per $1 on Delta and restaurant purchases. Everything else earns 1 mile per dollar.

An added bonus on Delta flights: You will save 20 percent on some in-flight purchases with Delta.

With any of these five credit cards in your wallet, just pay with the card – and pay off the bill every month – and you’ll build a pile of points or cash back year-round. For easy-peasy rewards, you can’t get much simpler than these cards.

See related: 5 ways to earn airline miles – without an airline rewards card


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Updated: 09-23-2018