When it comes to travel credit cards, many of us are usually hesitant to pay an annual fee, especially those of us who travel often and use our credit cards in foreign countries
Of course, with that in mind, choosing the best no-annual-fee travel credit card is kind of difficult since there's a lot to consider when looking to choose the best options that will meet our expectations.
However, there are plenty of options available that offer great travel benefits without the burden of an annual fee.
In this guide, we will explore some of the best travel credit cards with no annual fee, based on expert recommendations and analysis.
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What are the Best Travel Credit Cards With No Annual Fee?
With plenty of options available out there, choosing the best travel credit cards with no annual fee can be overwhelming.
Again, choosing the "best" travel credit card with no annual fee will typically depend on your specific travel habits and priorities!
With that said, I've considered five of the most popular preferences for travel credit cards and provided a couple of options for each preference.
Best for Flexibility and Rewards:
1. Chase Freedom Flex℠
This card earns unlimited 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories (currently groceries, gas stations, drugstores, and select streaming services), 1% on all other purchases, and comes with a welcome offer of 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. It lacks airport lounge access and travel insurance, but excels in versatile rewards and easy redemption for cash back or travel statement credits.
Best for Travel & Dining:
2. Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
This card offers a flat 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases and 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. It also boasts a $200 travel credit after your first anniversary and no foreign transaction fees. While the miles program lacks transfer partners compared to premium cards, its simplicity and travel-focused rewards make it a good choice for frequent travelers.
Best for Airline Miles:
3. United Gateway℠ Card
This card earns unlimited 1.5 United miles per dollar spent directly with United Airlines and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. It offers access to United Club lounges at SFO, LAX, and IAH, and free checked bags on domestic flights. The limited rewards outside of United Travel may not appeal to everyone, but it's ideal for frequent United Flyers.
4. Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
Frequent Delta Flyers unite! This card grants 2x miles on Delta purchases and restaurants, and 1x mile on everything else. Enjoy a welcome bonus, free checked bags, and priority boarding to elevate your Delta experience.
Best for Hotel Points:
5. Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
This card earns unlimited 6 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar spent at Marriott hotels and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases. It comes with an annual free night certificate at eligible Marriott hotels (after $3,000 spending) and automatic Marriott Gold elite status, offering perks like room upgrades and early check-in. This card shines for Marriott enthusiasts but lacks broader travel flexibility.
6. Hilton Honors American Express Card
This card is your passport to Hilton rewards, offering 6x points per dollar at Hilton hotels and 5x points on car rentals and prepaid hotels. A welcome bonus, automatic Hilton Silver Elite status, and travel insurance sweeten the deal.
Best for Budget Travelers:
7. Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card
This unique card allows you to earn points for paying rent on time (typically a missed opportunity for rewards). You earn 1 point per dollar on rent payments and 2 points per dollar on dining and travel booked through Bilt Travel. Points transfer 1:1 to over a dozen travel partners, including major airlines and hotel chains. It lacks lounge access and travel insurance but excels in maximizing rewards on everyday expenses, especially rent.
8. Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
This card is only available to Costco members but offers a massive 3% cash back on travel and gas, and 2% on Costco purchases and restaurants. The lack of foreign transaction fees and extended warranty coverage are additional perks.
Is a Travel Card With an Annual Fee Worth It?
Whether a travel card with an annual fee is worth it depends on your individual travel habits and spending patterns. Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons to help you decide:
- Potentially higher rewards: Travel cards with annual fees often offer better reward rates than cards without fees. For example, you might earn 2 miles per dollar spent on travel with a premium card, compared to 1 mile per dollar with a no-fee card.
- Travel perks: Many travel cards come with valuable perks like airport lounge access, travel insurance, and statement credits for things like airline fees or hotel stays. These perks can save you money and make your travel experience more enjoyable.
- Elite status: Some travel cards come with elite status with airlines or hotels, which can give you access to benefits like free checked bags, room upgrades, and priority boarding.
- Metal cards: Some high-end travel cards come with metal cards, which can be a status symbol and offer additional benefits like purchase protection and extended warranties.
- Annual fee: This is the most obvious downside. Travel cards with annual fees can range from $50 to $500 or more per year. You'll need to make sure you can justify the cost by taking advantage of the card's benefits.
- Foreign transaction fees: Some travel cards charge foreign transaction fees, which can add up if you travel internationally frequently.
- Complex rewards programs: Some travel cards have complex rewards programs that can be difficult to understand and maximize.
When deciding whether a travel card with an annual fee is right for you, always ask yourself these questions:
- How much do you travel? If you travel frequently, you're more likely to be able to take advantage of the benefits of a travel card with an annual fee.
- What type of travel do you do? Some travel cards are better for certain types of travel, such as business travel or international travel.
- What are your spending habits? If you spend a lot on travel, you'll be able to earn more rewards with a travel card.
- Can you afford the annual fee? Make sure you can afford the annual fee before you apply for a travel card.
The answer to these questions should help you determine which travel credit card is good for you.
While choosing the "best" no-annual-fee travel credit card is subjective, focusing on your individual travel habits and spending patterns is key. Consider the rewards offered, bonus deals, travel-specific perks, and any potential limitations before making your decision. Don't forget to factor in your favorite airlines, hotels, and rental car companies. With the options I've outlined, and a little research on your end, you're sure to find the perfect card to unlock rewarding and cost-effective travel adventures in 2024 and beyond. Happy travels!