The Best Travel Credit Cards With No Annual Fee

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Best Travel Credit Card No Annual Fee

Do you worry that you are going to run out of cash for your upcoming trip because your cash advance will not arrive on time? That’s a situation that, ideally, no one wants to deal with. However, there is an effortless way to get out of this predicament. Get a rewards credit card, especially for traveling, and you will have peace of mind. The best travel credit card with no annual fee is waiting for you just around the corner.

Some cards will be better for you than others. It all depends on how much you plan on spending, in combination with several other factors. If you feel lost in a sea of suggestions, don’t worry. We are here to help you navigate through it and come out with the optimal travel rewards card for you.

What Is a Travel Rewards Card? Is It Really Worth It?

The basic idea behind a travel rewards card is this: For every dollar that you spend with the card, you earn bonus points. Membership rewards you can redeem after you earn points include airline upgrades, hotel discounts, and lower transaction fees, in addition to balance transfers. Points can be easy to earn with these cards. The only problem is that they can be costly to maintain. Annual fees can add up to a considerable sum, and many people consider them unaffordable. That will not be the case if you find the best travel credit card with no annual fee offer out there. 

Thanks to advances in technology, more and more Americans travel abroad regularly. They need fast access to cash. The bonus of being able to earn rewards in the process of spending money is just icing on the cake. Your main goal is to find the card that best fits your travel profile and at the same time, gives you incentives to spend more with it. You may find it hard to pick the right choice for you at first. Thankfully, we have already done the research and found some of the best rewards programs for you to compare and contrast. 

What’s the Deal with No-Fee Travel Credit Cards?

Typically, travel credit cards fall into two categories: with and without annual fees. An annual fee is the amount of money you spend to keep your card and the perks that come with it. We are talking about a hefty amount of money that you probably wish you could spend on something else. That’s why many people turn their attention to no-annual-fee travel cards. 

Take Chase’s Sapphire Reserve credit card, for example. Easily among the top choices of a rewards travel card, this offer from Chase gives you three points toward each dollar you spend on travel as well as a $300 statement credit on travel purchases every year. Some restaurants work with Chase Sapphire Reserve to give you an additional 3 points per dollar spent, while other investments come with a single bonus point per dollar. Trip cancellation, interruption insurance, lost luggage insurance, and other travel perks are all bonuses.

Check the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to learn more details and sign up for the ultimate rewards in question. You get access to an exclusive airport lounge in over 1,000 locations around the globe. It all sounds great for sure, but such rewards don’t come for free. The annual fee you will have to pay for Chase Sapphire Reserve is pretty steep – $450, no more, no less.

So, What Do You Get with a No-Fee Card?

You may not be able to get quite the same travel perks with a no-annual-fee travel rewards card. The variable APR rate you will have to pay is also likely to be higher. But if you want to limit the amount of money that you spend on fees, these cards are a viable option. You can still gain access to the ultimate rewards that every frequent traveler craves. It takes a little ingenuity and patience to find the ultimate rewards travel card for you. Just browse through the many offers here and pick up the one best fitting to your requirements. 

What Do I Need to Qualify for a No-Annual-Fee Credit Card?

Unfortunately, it takes more than just goodwill on your part to qualify for a credit card with no annual fee. The main requirement that you will face is your credit score. For such a card, less than a good credit score won’t get you far. If you’ve forgotten what rates constitute what credit score, take a look at this quick reminder:

  • Poor – 500-599
  • Fair – 600-699
  • Good – 700-749
  • Excellent – 750-850

You have to be very careful with your debt management to qualify for a no-annual-fee credit card. Credit card issuers want a guarantee that you can keep up with the monthly payments on your debt. If you can do that, they are ready to give you a lot of perks in exchange for regular usage of their issued card.

How Can I Improve My Credit Score?

Getting a no-annual-fee travel card is a good enough reason to make an effort towards improving your credit score. That is not an easy task, especially if you’ve let things get out of hand lately. It may take you up to a whole year to raise your rate by merely 100 points. The main objective before you is to keep up with payments on credit cards, mortgages, car loans, etc. Applying for a new loan or even inquiring about your current score can be damaging.

The best course of action would be to refrain from such steps until you are sure that you are in the Good or Excellent category. The amount of debt you have and the time it takes you to pay it off are crucial to your score. Rearrange your finances in such a way as to get rid of your debt in the quickest way possible. This strategy will not only help you get a credit card without annual fees, but it will also assist you on your path to saving money. 

How Does a Travel Card Work?

Travel cards fit into a particular category of credit cards that target frequent travelers. They come with loyalty programs and rewards in the form of points and miles that you can earn for every dollar you spend on the road. Spending more money earns you more points, which is the primary business model of travel cards. Companies know that people on trips (for business and pleasure alike) tend to spend more money, and they try to encourage them to go even further.

You can redeem the points and miles that you accumulate through spending in a variety of ways. You can purchase airline tickets at lower rates or get upgrades during your hotel stays. There are other perks, too, including what some companies call “the ultimate rewards.” Those vary from card to card but may come in the form of gas station refunds, travel insurance, and exclusive VIP resort packages. The more points you earn, the more ultimate rewards you reap. Since the target audience of travel cards is frequent travelers, they often include no fees for foreign transactions.

Standard Reward Card vs. Travel Reward Card

The main difference between an ordinary reward card and a travel rewards card is how you redeem the points you’ve earned. In the case of travel cards, there are two main methods to consider: statement credit and travel portal redemption. The former will erase the credit card amount that you’ve spent on travel purchases, while the latter gives you the chance to redeem points/miles on a special portal. Every credit card issuer has a different portal that offers access to the ultimate rewards. If you already own a travel card, go to the website and check how you can spend the points you already have. 

More About Statement Credit

When you are looking at travel credit card offers, it’s best to pick one that comes with statement credit redemption. The reason is simple – it offers the most flexible choices to redeem the points that you’ve already earned. Usually, there is a flat rate for which one can redeem miles and points. The typical rate is around one cent per mile or point. When you spend a point/mile, you get that one cent back on travel purchases with the card. You can accumulate tens of thousands of points and then use them to “erase” your bill for travel. The good thing about statement credit is you choose how much of it to use and when to use it. This way, you can wait until you’ve accumulated enough reward points to purchase your round trip to another continent for free, or at least obtain a very modest sum. 

Additional Perks of Statement Credits

Freedom of choice is, of course, the most significant selling point to statement credit. You don’t need to wait for an overseas trip to use it. You can redeem reward points to pay for small stuff – fuel at the gas station, car rentals, cash rewards, or even riding the subway. There is no maximum amount of points that you can accumulate. Credit card companies use this strategy to encourage you to spend more and more often. Bargain hunters love statement credit because it allows them to hunt for discounts without running the risk of damaging their credit score. By using redemption points, you can purchase more items and not fear the credit card bill at the end of the month. The more you spend, the more points you earn. This system is a closed circuit that consumers and credit card issuers alike appreciate. 

What About Travel Card Portals?

The majority of credit card issuers prefer to maintain a travel portal in addition to their statement credit redemption options. Those portals look like ordinary travel portals. You can book hotel stays, flights, and rental cars through them. One difference is that the prices are not in dollars but points and miles. Purchasing with points is one of the most significant advantages offered by travel card portals – they are an instant way to redeem points. 

Statement credit requires an application for redemption. At the same time, the price for a particular commodity can be higher on travel card portals. For instance, an airline ticket can cost you the equivalent of $500 in miles. You can, at the same time, find the same flight for $450 directly from the airline. You should be careful when using the travel card portals to make sure that you are indeed getting the best deal possible. 

The Benefits of Sign-up Bonuses

Your credit card issuer is likely to give you a special bonus upon signing the contract for your account. Usually, they require you to make individual purchases on that account within 90 days of opening before the bonus arrives. Traditionally, travel card accounts with no annual fees have very high initial bonuses. That is helpful if you want to put your new card to work immediately and save money on flights, hotel stays, and other spending opportunities. There are two types of bonuses. The more frequent one gives you a large number of points when you meet the initial requirements for purchases with your travel card account. The second one doubles the points that you’ve earned after the first year. It’s not a common practice, but respectable companies such as Discover It Miles offer this to new account holders. 

Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card

What we love about the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is the simplicity of using it. Bank of America is an institution with decades of experience in the field of credit cards. The process of issuing cards and keeping clients happy is in its perfect form here. That is visible from the tons of redemption opportunities, the ability to redeem cash back, and other chances to earn a bonus or two that this particular card offers. The fact that it comes with no annual fee whatsoever makes things even better. 

Do you want another reason why you should go for Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card? If you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days after you get the card, you receive a bonus of 25,000 points, which you can use on hotel stays and other travel benefits. If you can find a better sign-up bonus for no annual fee cards, please tell us. We can honestly say that we were not able to find one. 

More to Know About This Card

You’ve already seen what we consider to be the best things about this Bank of America card. There is, however, a lot more that we can add. For starters, you can earn an extra 1.5 points on every dollar that you spend with it. Let’s say that you vacationed in Mexico, and you spent $3,000 on the trip so that your family could have a perfect time. That means you will have 4,500 points on your next trip to delegate to airport lounge access, hotel upgrades, to redeem baggage fees, and more. 

The variable APR on purchases that this card comes with is between 16.99% and 24.99%. That is not a bad rate, considering the other options available to you. It is already clear, from the card’s presence on this list, that there are no annual fees. On top of that, it should be clear that no foreign transaction fees exist either. When you think about all the cash you are saving, this card becomes more and more attractive. 

Should You Go for the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card?

Simplicity is the one positive side of this rewards program that makes it stand out among the competition. It is an all-in-one solution that you will have no problem using. If you have a Bank of America Travel Rewards card, you do not need anything else. Its design makes it perfect for both frequent and infrequent travelers. If you go abroad regularly, it is a must. We should note that you can get a better rate and more frills if you do in-depth research and calculations. 

In this case, if you use several other cards at once, you will be able to spend even less money and get a broader range of travel perks. Things will become much more complicated, though. If that is not a problem for you, maybe you should look beyond the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card and find other solutions. 

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Capital One VentureOne comes with a pretty attractive offer, as well. The company is one of the giants in the field of credit cards. Their cards are available even to people with a relatively bad credit score (worse than excellent, but not necessarily bad on the scale). However, we are not looking at bad score credit cards here. What we do have an interest in finding out is whether the travel rewards card offered by Capital One is worth it. The short answer is yes. 

For starters, the amount of bonus points that you will earn in the first three months (if you spend at least $1,000) is 20,000. From then on, you get an extra 1.25 miles for every dollar spent to redeem toward your next flight with an airline of your choice. Did we mention that there is no variable APR on purchases for the first year? Yes, you heard us right. The standard rate applies once that initial year is over, but before that, you can go wild. The same goes for the annual fee. However, there is a catch. Even though Capital One VentureOne will not charge you an annual fee for the first year, you will have to pay $95 for the next one.

A Little More About This Card

If you think what we’ve already said is enough to sign up for a Capital One VentureOne Travel Rewards credit card, then wait one minute. There are a lot more things that you can earn thanks to being a cardholder. Take a look at just some of the travel perks that you can get your hands on:

  • Auto insurance (travel collision)
  • Travel upgrades for individual hotels and spas that are part of the loyalty program
  • Theft insurance
  • Travel insurance 

There is no need to spend all your hard-earned cash on all of those necessities when you can put your rewards points to work. It is that simple. The credit card in question helps you travel in style. The best part is that there will be no unnecessary complications. Everything that has to do with terms of use, earning and spending points, and so on is straightforward, and you are going to know it from the get-go. 

Should You Opt for the VentureOne Rewards Credit Card?

There is a simple principle that you should apply when you choose a credit card for travel. It should be easy to use and provide the travel perks that you require. Those perks can be different. Some people prefer cards that allow them to earn a lot of points. Others love the cash-back card system. The third option is to combine multiple cards so that you can get the lowest variable APR possible. The Capital One VentureOne Rewards credit card is perfect for frequent travelers who do not like complications. If you have it in your pocket, you will not find yourself caught in the web of a hard-to-understand rewards program. You pay for your purchases and the services that you get, and then you move on. You earn some bonus points in the process. It is as simple as that. 

If you’ve spent a lot of money on your past several trips, there might be credit cards that are better to suit your habits. The chances are that you are going to find a more attractive deal with some of the other cards that we discussed. Feel free to continue your search. The goal is to find the wisest way to spend your money on the road. At the same time, you would want to redeem at least a part of those expenses. The comfortable yet cheap traveling options that a rewards credit card can provide you with are something you have to work for.

Amex Everyday

American Express is a brand name that people have been associating with credit cards for decades. It’s no wonder that their rewards credit card for travelers is immensely popular. The bonus points you earn and redeem by using Amex Everyday are plenty, and you can use them for a variety of purposes. The process is easy to follow, as well. The only possible problem that you may experience is with your credit. A check should reveal that your credit score is nothing less than excellent. Otherwise, American Express will not issue you this card. If everything is fine in that respect, then the sky is the limit. 

Sometimes the limit can be even higher because rewards points can easily become frequent flyer miles. The sign-up bonus that other travel rewards cards have is also part of the package offered by Amex. Note that it is a little lower than similar cards that Bank of America and Capital One offer you. You need to spend at least $1,000 in the first 90 days after you get the card. The bonus points you earn in that way amount to 10,000. 

More About This Card

There is one significant advantage in Amex Everyday that makes it perfect for people who travel a lot. If you use it more than 20 times during the statement period (usually one month), you earn an exclusive 20% bonus on top of the points that you earned during that time. Add the fact that you can transfer all points you’ve earned into frequent flyer miles with as many as 17 major airlines that operate in the United States. If there is an airline you prefer, you will not have a problem accumulating extra points. The carriers that are part of this rewards program include:

  • Virgin America
  • British Airways
  • Delta
  • Air Canada
  • JetBlue

One more definite bonus is the fact that you get double the rewards points in as many as 6,000 American supermarkets.

Best Travel Credit Card No Annual Fee

Should You Choose Amex Everyday?

American Express’s offer is suitable for people who often travel throughout the United States. That is evident from the many opportunities to earn extra points for purchases within the country. The problem is that there is a 2.7% fee for foreign transactions. That means that if you plan on going on a trip abroad, this card will not be the wisest choice. The same goes for those situations in which you don’t use what your travel credit card offers frequently. You can earn the optimal number of points only if you make more than 20 transactions a month. 

Discover it Miles

Another excellent choice for frequent travelers with a good to excellent credit score is the Discover it Miles travel credit card. You get your frequent miles doubled at the end of the first year as a cardholder. That means that if you’ve accumulated 10,000 miles in your first year, Discover will give you 10,000 more as a gift. The rate you receive is 1.5 miles per dollar you spend with the card. 

The no-annual-fee policy that the Discover it Miles credit card comes with is a bonus and has allowed the card to make this list. Another one is the variable APR – 13.99% to 24.99%. It’s hard to imagine a better deal for rewards points to frequent flyer miles transfer on the market today. 

More Perks with This Card

Discover it Miles gives you the chance to redeem rewards points at one cent per point as a statement credit. That applies to all travel reservations that you make using the card. The math is simple – you earn 1.5 miles per every dollar you spend, and there is no limit to how many points you can gain. For example, if you’ve accumulated 10,000 miles in your first year, you get an additional $100 to spend on travel. Don’t forget that Discover matches your points at the end of the year. You will have $200 extra travel money for spending on your next trip. 

Should You Consider the Discover it Miles Credit Card?

If you plan on traveling a lot in the next year, there is a big incentive, since they will be doubling the points you earn this year. Another bonus is the ease with which you can transfer the points that you earn to frequent flyer miles and other membership rewards. People can fly nearly for free thanks to the wise use of Discover it Miles. 

On the other hand, if you do not think that you will be doing that much traveling in the next 12 months, maybe this card is not the best option for you. Another drawback is availability. Discover works almost everywhere in the U.S. Overseas access, however, is limited. The fact that foreign transaction fees are not in play when you use Discover it Miles makes little difference. 

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JetBlue Credit Card

Co-branded cards typically come with a hefty annual fee. The JetBlue Credit Card is an exception to that rule. Barclaycard is the co-brand that pairs up with JetBlue on this credit card offer. JetBlue is a major airline, and it is only logical that the majority of the points that you accumulate by using their card can turn into frequent flyer miles. The good news is that the whole process takes no time and effort.

Restrictions are almost non-existent, too. While other airline travel credit cards do not allow you to use your frequent flyer miles on blackout dates, this will not be a problem here. It’s worth mentioning that casual travelers have a lot of praise for JetBlue’s overall frequent flyer program. 

More About This Card

Eliminating blackout dates is often a good enough reason to choose JetBlue Credit Card from Barclaycard. If you need more motivation, you will earn 5,000 bonus points on the first purchase that you make with the card. All purchases made from JetBlue give you triple the points. The money you spend at restaurants and grocery stores will give you a double-the-points bonus. On top of everything, each dollar you spend on other purchases awards you a single point. Earning and spending points with JetBlue is as easy as it comes. 

The apparent reason to become a holder of these particular co-branded cards is if you fly with JetBlue a lot. The ease with which you can receive free flights is just too attractive. So, if JetBlue is not your favorite airline, or you are merely looking for more flexibility, move on to the next credit card offers. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

This card from Chase is one of the most popular travel credit cards out there. There are many excellent reasons for this, and the annual fee of $0.00 is just one of them. Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with the largest sign-up bonus you can find on the credit card market today. It gives you 60,000 bonus points if you spend more than $4,000 in the first three months. That translates to a $750 statement credit that you can use for multiple purchases within the network. No other card gives you the same opportunity, so if you are a frequent traveler and you’ve spent a lot in the past, don’t hesitate. 

Some Additional Travel Perks 

It is good to know that you get more as a cardholder, even if the perks you receive aren’t vital to your trip. With Chase Sapphire Preferred, you will get cancellation insurance, a car-rental collision waiver, purchase protection, and more. Feel free to browse the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal to learn more about how to use ultimate reward points that you earn with the assistance of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. There you will learn about the Reserved and Freedom Unlimited credit card offers, too.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited cards come with 15 months of zero interest and no annual fees. That fact alone should make you consider them. If that’s not enough, Chase has prepared extra perks that make becoming a cardholder attractive, even if you forget about the 15-month no-interest period. How does 1.5% cash back on all purchases sound? Or a $200 bonus after you’ve already spent $500? The variable APR on this card is between 16.99% and 25.74% after the initial 15-month period. 

One of the few bad things that we can say about Chase Freedom Unlimited is that it comes with 3% foreign transaction fees. The cash back is not bad, but it’s not great either. It might be best to match the Freedom Unlimited card with another of Chase’s credit card offers – Sapphire Preferred, for example. Thus you will be able to achieve better results when you redeem your bonus points. 

Hilton Honors Card from American Express

This card is another one of the many co-branded cards that you can find on the market. It’s not hard to guess the primary benefit that cardholders enjoy. They can redeem reward points toward free stays at hotels under the Hilton brand. An honorary Silver status comes with the card. Should you spend more than $20,000 with the card in a single year, you receive Gold Status and all the membership rewards that come with it. The best thing about this card is that blackout dates are not an issue when it comes to redeeming points.

More About This Card

Like all the cards we’ve talked about here, you don’t have to pay an annual fee. Note, however, that there is a charge for foreign transactions at a rate of 2.7%. You can be issued such a card only if your credit score is good or excellent. The bad news is that you will have a hard time redeeming most of your points for purchases outside the Hilton chain. The ultimate rewards are waiting for you at Hilton.

Should You Pick the Hilton Honors Card from American Express?

If Hilton manages your favorite hotels and resorts in the United States then this might be the best choice for you. You get the most points for purchases that you make within the system. Similarly, spending those points at a Hilton property gives you the most rewards. That’s why companies prefer it as a business credit card, especially for significant corporate events. The card’s main benefit is also its major drawback. If you do not stay at Hilton that often (especially if you do not plan on spending $20,000 a year there), you have better options awaiting you. The foreign transaction fee is also off-putting. It would be more practical to use another travel credit card to redeem points as a statement credit if you go abroad often. 

Expedia Rewards Card from Citi

Expedia is an online platform that allows you to book hotel stays, airline tickets, gas station fees, and rental cars all in one place. Thanks to the co-branded cards of Expedia Rewards from Citi, you can now earn points doing just that. Expedia eliminates the need to deal with airlines, hotels, travel agents, rental car companies, etc. They introduced their credit card in partnership with Citi to make customers even more comfortable when they want to redeem points on the money they’ve spent on their trips. There are a few catches, though.

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More to Know About This Card

The first $1,000 you spend in three months will bring you 15,000 bonus points. Expedia purchases give you 3 points, and all others give you a single point. Each point is worth 1.33 cents as a statement credit in hotels that Expedia marks as VIP. The redeeming value for hotels that are not in that category, as well as flights, is lower. The 3% foreign transaction fee is also pretty high for some. The apparent reason is that you make your travel arrangements entirely on Expedia. The card gives an excellent incentive to stay at upscale hotels, too. Some prefer to have the choice to book flights or hotels directly from the providers of the service. If you are one of them, you will not have the necessary benefits to want to take a card from the Expedia brand. 

Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

Another of the many co-branded cards that you can come across is Costco Anywhere. What makes this Visa Card by Citi so valuable is the partnership with Costco. You may think of Costco as a wholesale supermarket chain. You should know that it is one of the most prominent players on the discounted travel packages market as well. Costco’s Travel portal allows you to book vacations, cruises, and individual flights for less money than you would typically spend. It comes with an extended warranty and no annual fee. 

What’s better is that you earn 3% cash back on all dining purchases that you make while on the road. There is also a 4% refund on the cash you spend at gas stations. That is particularly valuable if you enjoy going on cruises that Costco organizes. As you know, they depart from just several ports around the United States. If you prefer to travel by car instead of flying to your port of departure, you can use the gas station cash back you get with Costco Anywhere. 

Things to Consider 

The 2% cash rewards you earn on Costco purchases are not impressive. However, they are not below the standard for cash-back cards. If you expect to earn more by shopping at Costco, you are wrong. Another possible discouragement is that you cannot get your rewards any time you like. You will have to wait to receive a certificate at the end of each year. You can redeem it at Costco warehouses only. The 4% cash-back reward for gas purchases kicks in only after you’ve spent at least $7,000 at gas stations within the year. 

Considering that most other no-annual-fee reward cards offer huge initial bonuses, the lack of one from Costco Anywhere is a little confusing. On the plus side, the variable APR that you will have to pay is just 17.24%, which is lower than most alternatives you find on the credit card market. You can make great use of the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi. However, to get the best results from this card, you should have another similar rewards card in your wallet when you are traveling for business or pleasure. 

Best Travel Credit Card No Annual Fee

More Credit Card Offers Available

The best travel credit cards aim to provide a broad spectrum of services and opportunities to earn points. You might be happier with the results that some niche cards can provide. For example, you might target specific offers to redeem points or want to spend money on just one hotel chain/airline. We’ve already seen that Hilton issues co-branded cards for patrons of their establishments. Many airlines do the same thing. It would be a shame not to explore the opportunities that they offer. The main advantage of using the following travel credit cards is that you will be able to earn more points to take advantage of discounts rather than convert points to statement credit. The important thing is to always read the fine print of the contract you sign. 

American Airlines AAdvantage 

American Airlines’ ultimate loyalty program comes with the ultimate rewards. Thanks to this card, you can earn 2 points for every eligible purchase and 1 mile for every dollar spent on other purchases. The sign-up bonus is more welcoming, too. Traditionally, credit card issuers require you to spend at least $1,000 within the first 90 days of having the card to earn the bonus points. In the case of AAdvantage, you will have to part with merely $500. For that amount, you earn 10,000 bonus points and a $50 statement credit on top. The card can save you up to 25% on in-flight purchases (including food) that you make on American Airlines’ flights. You can choose what you will be spending your bonus points on. Tickets, hotel stays, car rentals, gas station fees, and travel packages are all viable options. 

Blue Delta SkyMiles

This loyalty program came into existence to serve long-time, frequent Blue Delta customers. It is a very generous one, in that you earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend on direct purchases from Delta and restaurants they affiliate with at the present moment. All other purchases bring you one mile per dollar, which should not come as a surprise. In-flight food, drinks, and audio-headsets come 20% off when you purchase them with a Blue Delta SkyMiles card thanks to statement credits. If you spend $500 within the first three months as a cardholder, you get the “Welcome Offer” – 10,000 bonus points to redeem toward membership rewards. Make sure to read the Terms of Use while signing the contract. This way, you will know how to convert the points that you earn most efficiently. 

United TravelBank Card

This card is a cash-back card, meaning you get 2% on all the money you spend on airline tickets from United. The good news is that the cash rewards do not come only when you fly with United. Other airlines give you the chance to earn cash of up to 1.5% of the value of your tickets. Food, drinks, and wireless Internet will cost you 25% less on United flights, too. The cash bonus for $1,000 of purchases within the first three months is $150, which is not bad at all. The United TravelBank Card is often among the top cards for frequent travelers in the United States. It is easy to use, and the number of complaints against it is surprisingly low. 

SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card

As far as no-annual-fee travel credit cards go, the Platinum Card that SDFCU and Visa offer is probably the best one. One reason you should love it is that you can get one even if your credit score is less than stellar. Other credit card issuers might have a problem with giving you their confidence to make you an unsecured cardholder. That is not a problem with the Platinum Card by SDFCU. 

All you need to do is leave a $250 deposit in an exclusive account. After the first year, SFDCU runs a credit check on you. If everything is OK, they will upgrade you for free to an unsecured card. Naturally, you will receive your deposit back. The variable APR is between 8.99% and 16.99% – considerably lower than other no-annual-fee credit cards. Match this with the fact that when you initially apply for a Platinum Card, you will not have to submit to a credit check. The Secured Visa Platinum Card is ideal for people who have run into some temporary trouble with their credit score. Another bonus is the lack of foreign transaction fees or an annual fee of any sort. 

When Not to Apply

If your credit score is good or excellent, you will be eligible for other loyalty programs and credit cards. They also come with no annual fee but provide better travel perks and the opportunity to earn rewards points. Not to mention that you will not have to secure the credit card with a $250 deposit. You can spend that money much more productively during your trip and even redeem the points you earned through them toward additional comfort while traveling. Another drawback people note is that there are some additional fees that you don’t find with other credit card issuers. One example is the $20 fee to replace a card that you’ve lost. 

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card is as close as you get to travel rewards cards with an annual fee. The combination of the card being free and the many travel perks that you will have access to should immediately drive it to the top of your list. 

Perks

  • $100 annual air travel credit
  • Four points per every dollar spent on travel purchases
  • 1.5 points per every dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Variable APR rate between 12.74% and 17.99%
  • 25,000 bonus points for new account holders
  • Zero annual fees, making it unique for a package of this caliber

Considering those points, one should wonder where the catch is. PenFed Pathfinder Rewards offer the best terms for veterans, military personnel on active duty, and members with PenFed checking accounts. You will not be able to utilize the best ways to redeem reward points if you do not fall into some of those categories. To give you an example: You will be able to earn 4 points per dollar on travel purchases only if you have a PenFed Honors Advantage Membership. Otherwise, the rate at which you earn points is 3 points per dollar. That is still not bad, but it makes sense to opt for a Pathfinder card only if you are current or ex-military. You will need a PenFed checking account, as well. In theory, anyone can open one. In practice, the process can prove to be too tricky to bother. 

Uber Visa Card

Uber began the revolution in shared travel and broke the monopoly of taxi companies across the United States. It was only a matter of time before they got into the co-branded cards business. This card is among the very few no-annual-fee travel cards you will find that offer rewards points for dining. They get up to 4% cash back on the money you spend at a restaurant in partnership with Uber. Frequent travelers tend to use restaurant services a lot, which is the main reason why you should consider obtaining an account with the Uber Visa Card. 

Travel cash back of 3% is also at play. That’s on top of the $50 bonus for spending $5,000 a year through your account. You can request an Uber Visa Card through the Uber app. That is not a surprise. What raises eyebrows, however, is the fact that you don’t get many exclusive perks for traveling with Uber and this particular travel credit card. The most you can hope for is 2% back on your rides. You get significantly better results with other similar cards. 

SavorOne Rewards from Capital One

This card looks like a typical no-annual-fee credit card, but its zero-percent foreign transaction fees make it perfect for frequent travelers. It involves dining cash back but also similar opportunities for concert tickets, theme parks, and movies. It is only logical because SavorOne advertises its product as concentrating more on experiences than on possessions. There is no minimum amount of points that you can redeem at one time or another. You fill out your statement credit redemption request or directly redeem the points on SavorOne’s portal. 

The drawback is that items not on the shortlist of preferred purchases earn you just a single point for every dollar you spend. That means you will need another travel rewards card when you are leaving at the airport. We’d recommend you opt for SaviorOne Rewards in case your other credit card has foreign transaction fees, and you wish to save some money off dining. 

BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card

The Bank of America travel rewards card is an excellent choice for a straightforward reason – the credit card comes with no spending rewards whatsoever. Why should you consider it then? There are a couple of good reasons. Reason number one is the fact that by design, BankAmericard Travel Rewards offers a balance-transfer option for your account. It will give you the chance to pay off your credit card debt without rushing. In the meantime, you won’t accumulate interest that only puts additional strain on your checking account. 

There is no annual fee, of course, but the balance transfer fee is 3%. The card aims at financing debt and will not earn you luxuries while traveling. It is, however, perfect when you are dealing with improving your credit score. The variable APR on it is between 14.99% and 24.99%. It might not be as low as you’d want it to be. Consider this: For the first 18 months after you get your BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card, you will have to pay 0.00% APR! Not a bad deal, when you come to think of it. 

Is a No-Annual-Fee Travel Card Right for You?

The most straightforward answer to that question is that it depends on how much you plan on spending the next time you travel in the U.S. or abroad. Travel rewards cards that carry an annual fee usually give you more points for every dollar you spend. The difference in rates can be up to 0.5%. It makes sense to pay the annual fee if you are spending a lot while on the road.

On the other hand, no-annual-fee travel credit cards give more flexibility to bargain hunters. Fees of up to $500 may not be worth it if you are in that category. You should take your spending habits and capabilities under serious consideration before you sign up for a travel card with an annual fee. The rule of thumb is that if you spend less than $20,000 a year on travel, you are better off with a no-fee alternative. When you prepare your budget, you should note that you will likely be unable to pay for some significant expenses (car loan, insurance premiums, and mortgage) with your credit card. Thus, the rewards points you can potentially earn by spending this money will not materialize in your account.

Suggested Reading: 0% APR Credit Cards: All You Need to Know

What do You Think?

Having said all of that, it becomes crystal clear that no-annual-fee credit cards are a must for anyone who considers themselves a frequent traveler. The rewards you can reap by having one or more such cards in your wallet make it worthwhile doing research and opening an account. 

If you have any experience with the best travel card no-annual-fee-attached out there, share it with us. Do you have any tips or impressions? Let us know in the comments section below!

Suggested Reading: Understanding National Debt Relief

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