Looking for the best travel rewards with no annual fee doesn’t have to be hard. There are plenty of great choices you can explore to help you earn and redeem rewards for travel.
If you aren’t quite ready to splurge for a premium card for travel – which typically has an annual fee in exchange for premium features – your next best option would be a travel card with no annual fee. But with so many options to choose from, how do you know which card is right for you?
Here we’ll review some of our top-rated travel card options that don’t charge a pesky annual fee. Use this guide to help choose the best credit card that works for your spending habits and specific travel lifestyle.
Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card: Best for flexible spending
Why we picked it: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card 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 from 25% to 75% with Preferred Rewards. You’ll get 25,000 online bonus points after spending $1,000 in first 90 days and 1.5 points per dollar on every purchase.
- You can earn unlimited points.
- Your points won’t expire if your account remains open.
- You don’t have to worry for blackout dates.
- You don’t have to pay foreign transaction fees.
- Cash rewards value is 0.6 cent per point.
Who should apply: The Bank of America Travel Rewards card can be a good fit for you if you’re looking for a no annual fee card with a good sign-up bonus. Cardholders with this card can earn a flat rate reward on every purchase.
Who should skip: This card might not be a good match for those who are looking for a better rewards rate. Consider another card with better rewards if you don’t mind paying an annual fee.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: Best for simplicity
Why we picked it: This entry-level travel card is so simple to use that any beginner in travel rewards could use it. Though Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card 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. On top of that, you’ll earn a 20,000-mile bonus (equal to $200 in travel) once you spend $500 on purchases within three months.
- You won’t have to deal with any blackout dates.
- There is no mileage minimum to redeem for travel.
- You can transfer miles to more than 15 travel loyalty programs.
- You can earn unlimited rewards.
- Large U.S. airlines are excluded from the list of airline partners.
Who should apply: This could be a good match for frequent fliers who spend $396 or more each month, and you can earn a pretty decent bonus with a lower spending requirement within the first three months from account opening. The card can also be beneficial for cardholders looking for a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then 15.24% to 25.24% variable APR).
Who should skip: This might not be a good fit for infrequent flyers who don’t spend a lot each month.
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for pairing with a premium travel card
Why we picked it: The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great card because it offers one of the highest cash back rates. You can combine rewards with other Chase cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. You can also stretch your points even further when you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
You’ll earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on everything else (on up to $20,000 of purchases in the first year). And, spend $500 during the first three months and you’ll $200 cash back. You’ll also get some travel-related perks, including car rental insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance and lost luggage reimbursement.
- The card offers flexibility for redeeming rewards.
- You can earn 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022.
- Points won’t expire if your account remains open.
- There is a foreign transaction fee of 3%.
Who should apply: Frequent travelers looking for flexibility should consider this card. Also, Lyft riders can earn a solid cash back when they use the card for every ride.
Who should skip: Cardholders who want to transfer miles to airlines’ frequent-flier programs should probably skip this one.
Discover it Miles: Best for first-year bonus
Why we picked it: The Discover it® Miles card has a great first-year offer that has the potential to boost your miles’ earnings substantially. Discover matches all the miles you earn during your first year as an account holder – essentially turning your 1.5 miles per dollar into 3 miles per dollar – with no annual fee.
You can choose to redeem miles for cash, statement credit or purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more – with no blackout dates. Plus, miles keep their value no matter how they are redeemed.
- You can earn unlimited 1.5 miles on every dollar you spend.
- You can redeem any number of miles.
- There are no blackout dates or expiration on miles earned.
- You can redeem rewards after your account is closed or inactive.
- Discover matches all miles earned after your first year.
- You can’t transfer your miles to airline frequent-flier programs.
- Partners and perks have limited international acceptance.
Who should apply: Occasional travelers looking for fewer restrictions can take advantage of the Discover it Miles. This flat-rate card enables customers to choose cash back or redeem miles to pay your bill.
Who should skip: Because 1.5 miles per dollar is not the best reward rate for a frequent flier, you might want to consider another option.
Hilton Honors American Express Card: Best for frequent Hilton stays
Why we picked it: The Hilton Honors American Express Card is a good choice for those who stay at Hilton properties frequently. You’ll get 80,000 points if you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership, and you’ll get 7 points per dollar at Hilton hotel properties.
You can also earn 5 points per dollar on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations, plus 3 points per dollar on everything else. Plus, there are no blackout dates or expiration dates on points.
Cardholders can also enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors silver status, which 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.
- Get bonus rewards in categories such as dining, groceries and gas.
- You can earn unlimited number of points.
- You can upgrade a reservation with your points.
- You can transfer points to over 25 travel partners.
- There are no foreign transaction fees.
- Points are redeemable for hotel stays, airfare, car rentals, cruises, shopping, dining or charitable giving.
- You can redeem points only or travel through the loyalty program.
- You can use the free night’s stay certificate only if a standard room is available.
- The transfer rate for airline partners isn’t great.
Who should apply: Travelers who frequent Hilton stays will get the most out of this card because they can earn points on their everyday purchases and redeem them for stays.
Who should skip: Although this card offers some of the best hotel benefits, it might not be a great fit for travelers looking for higher value points. It can take a while to accumulate the points to redeem for your next stay.
Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card: Best card for Delta Air Lines passengers
Why we picked it: If you live near a Delta hub, taking advantage of their co-branded Amex card could be a great choice. With the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, you can earn 2 miles per dollar at restaurants worldwide 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 coverage.
As a welcome bonus, you’ll earn 10,000 miles if you spend $500 within three months, plus you’ll get 2 miles per dollar on all Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else.
- Your Delta miles won’t expire.
- You can book trips without blackout dates.
- You can earn unlimited miles.
- Miles are redeemable for cash, statement credit or purchases like airfare, hotels and rideshares.
- Stopovers are not allowed.
- You’ll likely pay fuel surcharges on some partners and on Delta one-way flights from Europe.
Who should apply: This card is suitable for casual travelers who are loyal to Delta Air Lines and who don’t mind that it doesn’t offer free checked bags or priority seating.
Who should skip: Regular travelers looking for free checked bags or priority boarding should consider another credit card.
Compare the best no-annual-fee travel cards
|Card||Best for||Rewards rate|
|Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card||Best for flexible spending||Unlimited 1.5 points for each dollar you spend|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card||Best for simplicity||5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One travel and unlimited 1.25 miles for each dollar you spend|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Best for pairing with a premium travel card||5% cash back on travel purchase through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants and eligible delivery services; 1.5% on all other purchases|
|Discover it Miles||Best for first-year bonus||Unlimited 1.5X Miles on every dollar of every purchase; Discover will double all rewards earned after the first year|
|Hilton Honors American Express Card||Best for frequent Hilton stays||7X Hilton Honors points on Hilton purchases; 5X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; 3X points on all other purchases|
|Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card||Best for Delta fliers||2X miles on dining (including takeout and delivery) purchases and on Delta purchases; 1X miles on everything else|
How to choose a no-annual-fee travel credit card
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 a no-annual-fee travel 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.
If you match your spending and travel habits to available options, finding the best travel credit card with no annual fee will not be hard. The best card will ultimately be the one that enables you to get the best deals, special offers and discounts on your travel – with low or no fees and effort.
If, however, you can’t find the card with the travel rewards, perks and benefits you really want, 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 well worth it.