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Best travel credit cards with no annual fee in 2021

How to choose the best credit card

Summary

Looking for the best travel rewards with no annual fee doesn’t have to be hard. There are plenty of great credit cards you can explore to help you earn and redeem rewards for travel.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

If you are not yet ready to splurge for a premium travel card – which typically has an annual fee in exchange for premium features – your next best option would be a travel card with no annual fee. With so many options to choose from, how do you know which card is right for you?

If you are looking for the best travel card with no annual fee, we’ll review some of our top-rated credit card options from plenty of reputable card issuers. This way, you’ll see all the card perks, features and benefits available so you can choose the best credit card that works for your spending habits and specific travel lifestyle.

Best for flexible spending: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Card highlights:

  • 25,000 online bonus points after spending $1,000 in first 90 days
  • 1.5 points per dollar on every purchase
  • No expiration on rewards
  • Preferred Rewards member earn 25% – 75% more cash back on every purchase

The Bank of America Travel Rewards cards is ideal for anyone who wants simple, hassle-free cash back options in a travel rewards card. There’s no need to activate spending categories or watch for special bonus categories every quarter — the rewards simply accrue to your account at the same flat rate. Another plus is that if you are a Bank of America or Merrill account holder, you can boost your rewards rate with Preferred Rewards.

See related: Bank of America Travel Rewards vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred: Which is best for you?

Best for simplicity: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Card highlights:

  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Transfer your miles to over 15 travel loyalty programs
  • No expiration on rewards or limits on the amount of rewards you can earn
  • This entry-level travel card is so simple to use that any beginner in travel rewards could use it. Though the rewards rate isn’t especially high, it’s slightly higher than cards that offer unlimited cash back at the industry-standard 1%. The flat 1.25 miles-per-dollar rate applies to all spending, no matter the time or category.

Redeeming points is pretty straightforward, too. You can redeem miles for a travel statement credit that allows you to book travel yourself or through a travel agent.

Best for pairing with a premium travel card: Chase Freedom Unlimited

Card highlights:

  • $200 cash back after you spend $500 in the first three months
  • Earn 5% cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2022); 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year; 3% cash back on dining; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases; 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
  • Transfer rewards as Ultimate Rewards points to other Chase cards
  • No limits on cash back
  • No expiration on rewards or limits on the amount of rewards you can earn

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great card because it offers some of the highest cash back rates for a credit card. With this card, you can combine rewards earned with other Chase rewards cards. And since premium Chase cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred card boost rewards’ redemption ratio for travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you can stretch your points even further.

Finally, this card comes with some travel-related perks, including car rental insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance and lost luggage reimbursement.

Best for first-year bonus: Discover it® Miles

Card highlights:

  • Discover matches all miles earned at the end of your first year
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 miles on every dollar of every purchase
  • Redeem miles for cash, statement credit or purchases like airfare, hotels, ride-shares, gas stations, restaurants and more with no blackout dates.
  • Miles keep their value no matter how they are redeemed
  • No blackout dates or expiration on miles
  • The Discover it Miles card has a great first-year offer that has the potential to boost your miles’ earnings substantially. Discover matches the miles you earn for the first year of having the card – essentially turning your 1.5 miles per dollar into 3 miles per dollar – with no annual fee. What’s even better is that these miles have plenty of redemption options while keeping the same value.

Best for frequent Hilton stays: Hilton Honors American Express Card

Card highlights:

  • Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points if you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of card membership, plus earn an additional 50,000 bonus points if you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases in the first six months.
  • Earn 7 points per dollar at Hilton hotel properties; 5 points per dollar on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; 3 points per dollar on general purchases
  • Redeem points for hotel stays, airfare, car rentals, cruises, shopping, dining or charity
  • Can transfer points to 41 airline partners
  • No blackout dates or expiration on points

The Hilton Honors is a good card for those who stay at Hilton properties frequently. Cardholders can also enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors silver status.

Silver status includes an annual fifth-night free reward (when you book at least four consecutive nights with points) and a 20% bonus on each Hilton Honors base point you earn for hotel stays.

See related: Check out our ultimate guide to credit card limited time offers

Best card for Delta Air Lines passengers: Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

Card highlights:

  • Earn 10,000 miles if you spend $500 in first 3 months
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases; 2 miles per dollar at restaurants worldwide; 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
  • Redeem miles for cash, statement credit or purchases like airfare, hotels, ride-shares,
  • No blackout dates or expiration on miles

If you live near a Delta hub, taking advantage of their co-branded Amex card could be a great choice. With the Delta SkyMiles card, you can earn points on Delta travel and access other card benefits offered to Amex cardholders: 20% discount on in-flight Delta purchases, car rental insurance, event presales, lowest hotel rate guarantee, purchase protection and extended warranty.

It also helps that Delta has several airline, hotel and car rental partners you can use your miles with as well. Though there are plenty of redemption options available for your points, you’ll get the most value redeeming your miles for eligible travel purchases.

How do I choose a travel rewards card with no fee?

The best travel credit cards with no annual fee have a few features you should look for. Because these cards don’t have an annual fee, like elite or luxury travel cards, it might be hard to find many features in just one card. But if you take time to research, you are bound to find a card that would work for you.

Here are a few features to look for in the ideal card:

  • Welcome bonus
  • Introductory APR for balance transfers and/or purchases
  • High earning potential for travel-related spending
  • Bonuses for redeeming rewards for travel-related spending
  • The potential to combine rewards with other cards to boost rewards value
  • Minimal restrictions like blackout dates or expiration on rewards
  • Flexible options for redemption like miles, cash, gift cards, statement credits or direct deposit
  • Travel-related perks and benefits like trip protection, luggage insurance, hotel discounts, airline discounts, etc.

What’s the best travel rewards credit card with no annual fee?

If you understand the options available along with your spending and travel habits, finding the best no fee travel credit card will not be hard. The best card will ultimately be the one that will help get the best deals and discounts on your travel with minimal fees and effort.

If, alas, you don’t find the card with the travel rewards, perks and benefits you are looking for, it might be time to graduate to a premium travel rewards card. If you spend enough and travel enough to justify the annual fee, it could be time for an upgrade.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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