Best travel credit cards with no annual fee for 2023

Many popular travel credit cards come with flashy perks like airport lounge access and annual travel credits. The downside of these luxury perks is that they usually only come at the expense of a high annual fee. And with that, you’ll have the constant stress of making sure you’re using the perks enough to justify the fee.

Luckily, there are plenty of no-annual-fee travel credit cards. The benefits may not be as robust as you’ll find with premium cards, but you can get some travel-related perks without forking over an annual fee for the privilege. The best no-annual-fee travel credit card for you depends on your spending style, how you want to redeem your rewards and the travel benefits you are hoping to get. This guide highlights the best travel credit cards with no annual fee and everything you should consider before you choose one.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: Best for beginners

Why we picked it: The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is a great way to ease yourself into travel rewards. You’ll earn 1.25X miles on all of your spending, along with 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. You can also earn a welcome bonus of 20,000 miles after spending $500 within the first three months. You can redeem your miles for travel, cash back, gift cards and more, but you’ll get the best value when you redeem for travel or transfers to travel partners (an uncommon feature with no-annual-fee travel cards).

Pros:

  • Generous rewards rate on select travel purchases
  • Earn a bonus offer with a low minimum spending requirement
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Ability to transfer rewards to Capital One travel partners

Cons:

  • Lower rewards rate than other no-annual-fee travel credit cards
  • No major travel perks included

Who should apply: Consider this card if you want some flexibility when it comes to redeeming your rewards. A lot of travel cards require you to book through their sites, but the VentureOne gives you the option of booking with a third-party airline, hotel or travel service and later redeeming your miles for a statement credit to cover the cost.

Who should skip: Capital One’s travel partners are good, but not great. If you’re looking for a credit card issuer with a fantastic list of airline and hotel transfer partners, you might be better off with a credit card from Chase or American Express, but note that you may have to pay an annual fee.

Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card: Best for Delta Air Lines

Why we picked it: With the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, you’ll earn 2X miles at restaurants worldwide and 2X miles on Delta purchases, plus 1X miles on everything else. The welcome offer is easily obtainable, too — you can earn 10,000 miles by spending $1,000 within the first six months of card membership.

Pros:

  • Earn bonus miles on dining and Delta purchases
  • Get a 20 percent discount on eligible in-flight purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons:

  • Frequent flyer perks are minimal (no free checked bags or priority boarding)
  • The welcome offer may not be enough for a one-way flight

Who should apply: Consider the Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card if you want the chance to rack up miles in the Delta SkyMiles program but you don’t spend enough to justify paying an annual fee.

Who should skip: If you travel with Delta frequently, you’ll benefit more from a Delta card that offers free checked bags, priority boarding, a better welcome offer and more miles for each dollar you spend.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card: Best for American Airlines

Why we picked it: While you won’t get major frequent flyer benefits like a free checked bag or priority boarding with the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card*, you will get the chance to rack up miles through credit card spending: You’ll earn 2X AAdvantage miles on groceries, 2X miles on American Airlines purchases and 1X miles on all other purchases. Additionally, you’ll get a 25 percent discount on eligible in-flight purchases, such as food and beverages.

Pros:

  • Earn 2X miles on groceries and American Airlines purchases
  • 25 percent discount on eligible in-flight purchases

Cons:

  • Frequent flyer perks are minimal (no free checked bags or priority boarding)
  • Charges a 3 percent foreign transaction fee

Who should apply: Consider the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card if you prefer to fly with American Airlines but fly infrequently and don’t want to pay an annual fee.

Who should skip: If you fly with American or its Oneworld partners frequently, you may be better off with a co-branded credit card that offers frequent flyer perks like a free checked bag or priority boarding. For example, you may want to consider the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®*, which waives its $99 annual fee for the first 12 months. Also, consider a different card if you travel internationally and want to avoid foreign transaction fees.

Hilton Honors American Express Card: Best for frequent Hilton stays

Why we picked it: Travelers who frequent Hilton hotel locations will find the Hilton Honors American Express Card to be a solid no-annual-fee option. This card offers a generous welcome bonus of 80,000 points after spending 1,000 in the first three months. You’ll also earn high rewards rates in numerous categories: 7X points on eligible Hilton purchases; 5X points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants; and 3X points on all other purchases.

Pros:

  • Comes with complimentary Hilton Silver status
  • Earns a generous rewards rate on Hilton stays
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons:

  • Minimal elite hotel benefits (for example, no room upgrades or complimentary breakfast)
  • Hilton points are worth 0.6 cents apiece on average, so take the high rewards rates with a grain of salt

Who should apply: Anyone who stays at Hilton properties regularly and isn’t interested in premium perks will get a fair amount of value out of this card.

Who should skip: Hilton travelers interested in better perks like annual resort credits and free weekend nights should consider other Hilton credit cards, including options that come with a higher tier of elite status, annual travel credits and other premium perks.

Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card: Best for Bank of America customers

Why we picked it: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is a good choice for earning travel rewards on each purchase, but it’s even better if you already do your banking with Bank of America. The card earns 1.5X points on every dollar spent, but you can bump up your rewards by 25 percent to 75 percent if you qualify for membership in Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program.

Pros:

  • Earns a flat 1.5X points per dollar on all purchases
  • Bank of America Preferred Rewards members can earn 25 to 75 percent more rewards
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Flexible redemption options

Cons:

  • No major travel perks

Who should apply: This is a solid card for those who want to earn a flat rate of flexible travel points on each dollar spent. Bank of America customers with a considerable amount of savings will especially benefit due to the boosted rewards rates for Preferred Rewards customers.

Who should skip: Skip this card if you want travel-related perks like free checked bags or elite status.

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

Why we picked it: The Chase Freedom Unlimited® isn’t a travel rewards card, but it is a no-annual-fee card that you can pair with Chase’s premium travel cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, to boost your points value by 25 percent to 50 percent when booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Essentially, you can combine the points you earn with your Chase Freedom Unlimited with the points you earn with your Sapphire card. Then, with your Sapphire card, you can redeem your rewards for higher-value redemptions like transfers to Chase travel partners or travel through Chase.

Pros:

  • 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 5 percent cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2025); 3 percent cash back on dining and drugstore purchases; 1.5 percent cash back on all other purchases
  • Additional 1.5 percent cash back on top of all purchases’ original cash back rate (on up to $20,000) for the first year (exclusive offer through Bankrate)
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance

Cons:

  • 3 percent foreign transaction fee
  • Can’t transfer points to Chase’s travel partners without a premium card

Who should apply: Consider this cash back credit card if you already have a Sapphire card and want to earn better-than-average rewards on drugstore purchases and non-category purchases.

Who should skip: Skip this card if you need an option that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, or if you want travel perks that are specific to a frequent flyer or hotel loyalty program.

Discover it Miles: Best for flexible redemptions

Why we picked it: The Discover it® Miles is a flat-rate card that earns an unlimited 1.5X miles on all purchases. Like all other Discover cards, the rewards you earn within your first 12 months will be doubled at the end of that year.

Pros:

  • A generous flat rate of 1.5X miles on all purchases
  • Discover matches your first-year earnings
  • No foreign transaction fees (this is true for all Discover credit cards)
  • Redeem rewards for flexible travel options

Cons:

  • You have to wait a full year for the welcome bonus
  • No travel perks

Who should apply: Consider the Discover it Miles if you want to earn flexible rewards that you can redeem for any type of travel.

Who should skip: Skip this card if you want travel-related benefits or if you want to earn a generous sign-up bonus within the first few months of account opening.

Compare the best travel credit cards with no annual fee

Card Welcome offer Rewards rate
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $500 within 3 months of account opening
  • 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 1.25X miles for all other purchases
Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card 10,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases within 6 months of account opening
  • 2X miles on restaurants worldwide (including takeout and delivery in the U.S.)
  • 2X miles on Delta purchases
  • 1X miles on everything else
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit when you spend $500 within 3 months of account opening
  • 2X miles at grocery stores
  • 2X miles on American Airlines purchases
  • 1X miles on everything else
Hilton Honors American Express Card Earn 80,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of card membership
  • 7X points on Hilton purchases
  • 5X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations
  • 3X points on all other purchases
Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card 25,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases within 90 days of account opening
  • 1.5X points on all purchases
Chase Freedom Unlimited Additional 1.5 percent cash back on top of all purchases’ original cash back rate (on up to $20,000) for the first year (exclusive offer through Bankrate)
  • 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 5% cash back on Lyft rides (through March 2025)
  • 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
Discover it Miles All miles earned within the first 12 months will be matched at the end of your first year
  • 1.5X miles for each dollar you spend

Benefits of no-annual-fee travel credit cards

In general, no-annual-fee travel cards come with many perks:

  • They’re great for beginners who are new to the travel card space.
  • You won’t have to worry about recouping a high annual fee through spending or earning credits.
  • With a co-branded card, you can earn rewards in a hotel or airline loyalty program through credit card spending.
  • You may receive a 0 percent intro APR on purchases or balance transfers for a limited time.
  • You’ll typically receive more travel-related perks than other no-annual-fee rewards cards, such as rewards on travel purchases or travel-related redemption options.

How to choose a travel credit card with no annual fee

As you review the best travel credit cards with no annual fee, there are a number of important factors to keep in mind. Here’s everything you need to think about as you choose your next card.

  • Consider your spending style and habits. Ideally, you’ll find a no-annual-fee travel card that’s suited to your budget. Look for a card that gives boosted rewards on the types of purchases you spend the most on each month. If your spending is pretty scattered, a flat-rate card may be best.
  • Compare welcome offers. Earning rates are important, but you should also consider welcome offers. Many travel credit cards with no annual fee make it easy to earn $200 or more in rewards right off the bat (as long as you meet the terms).
  • Pay attention to cardholder perks. Airline cards and hotel cards with no annual fee tend to offer in-flight discounts or automatic elite status, while some general travel credit cards in this niche offer travel insurance benefits.
  • Look closely at redemption options. Be sure to select a travel credit card that lets you redeem your rewards for the type of rewards you want. If you’re unsure, look for a flexible travel credit card that lets you redeem for statement credits to cover numerous types of travel purchases.

The bottom line

Many of the best travel credit cards charge annual fees, but there are plenty of good no-annual-fee options, too. Find a card that works with your spending habits and your future travel plans to maximize your earnings, then work to pay your balances off each month so you don’t take on added costs in the form of interest payments.

*The information about the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card and Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Artur Starke
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