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For those who travel regularly, it only makes sense to have a credit card that rewards you for that spending. A travel-branded card is a natural fit, but maybe you don’t want to pay an annual fee to get one.
There are plenty of options on the market, but you need to think about what’s most important to you: higher rewards for travel, dining and gas; extra points for hotel stays; a way to earn airline miles; the chance for more points in rotating categories; or good perks. We’ll offer our picks in key categories, tell you why they work best for you and offer tips on how you decide which card makes your final cut. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.
|Best no annual fee travel credit cards|
|Best overall||Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card|
|Best for simplicity||Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card|
|Best airline-branded card||Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express|
|Best for earning airline miles||The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express|
|Best for dining||Uber Visa Card|
|Best for hotels||Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card|
|Best rotating bonus categories||U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card|
How we chose the cards in this roundup
Even with no annual fee, people expect certain benefits from a credit card. We chose these cards based on things like highest rewards per $1 spent, size of the sign-up bonus and how you get it, if there are foreign transaction fees and what travel perks are available. In short, we wanted to give you cards that will give you the biggest bang for the buck – for no annual fee.
Best overall: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Best for: This card packs a punch for those who travel regularly since it offers such robust rewards and perks for one with a $0 annual fee.
Why we like it: It’s as close to a perfect travel card as it gets, since it allows cardmembers to Earn 3X points on eating out and ordering in, 3X points on gas stations, rideshares and transit, and 3X points on travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals. Earn 1X points on other purchases. You also Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months, which adds up to $300. Lastly, it offers more points per $1 spent in the most popular card categories, covering dining, food delivery, gas, ride-shares, transit, flights, hotels, homestays, car rentals and streaming services.
TheWells Fargo Propel American Express® card comes with plenty of strong travel and purchase protection perks, like emergency medical, legal, personal and travel help, roadside assistance, rental car insurance, lost or damaged baggage insurance, travel accident insurance, retail protection, extended warranty, return protection and cell phone protection for repair or replacement. There is no foreign exchange fee.
Things to watch out for: You need to read the fine print when it’s time to redeem your rewards for travel. You’ll be charged if you make any changes, lose your tickets or cancel your flight on top of what the airline may charge. You’ll have to pay for any costs, fees and taxes above the cost of a ticket, and you’re not guaranteed advance seat assignments.
If you’re using rewards to book a hotel, you can only use them for the room rate and applicable taxes. Other charges, like resort fees, energy surcharges and incidentals, can’t be paid with your rewards.
Read our full review of the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card.
Simplicity: Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card
Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles
16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
- Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
- 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
- Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
- Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
- Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
- 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases. After the intro APR ends, 16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR will apply
- If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more points on every purchase
See additional details for Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card
Best for: If you want a simple card that offers one flat rate for points per $1 spent, this is it. The card lets you earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases no matter what you use the card for, so you don’t have to worry about different spending categories.
Why we like it: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card offers a 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases, which converts into a $250 statement credit for travel purchases. You can earn unlimited points, and they don’t expire as long as your account is open.
When you redeem your points, you can pay for things like flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees, on any website or app with the card, and get a statement credit based on the number of points in your account.
If you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% to 75% more points on every purchase, depending on whether you have gold, platinum or platinum honors status. There is no foreign transaction fee.
Things to watch out for: If you’re wedded to the idea of getting the highest points per $1 spent for the popular categories of travel, dining, groceries and gas, this isn’t the card for you. Those who look for cards that have good travel and purchase perks won’t get them with this card. The best you’ll get is a free FICO® score.
Read our full review of the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card.
Airline-branded: Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
Earn 2 miles per dollar at US restaurants. Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on other purchases.
Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
- Earn 10,000 Bonus Miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
- No Annual Fee.
- Earn 2 miles per dollar at US restaurants.
- Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on other purchases.
- Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Best for: If your carrier of choice is Delta Air Lines and you also want to maximize the benefits of your SkyMiles loyalty program membership, this is your card.
Why we like it: New card members earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months of card membership. That’s not quite enough miles for a round-trip flight on the airline, but you can redeem them for things like Delta gift cards, merchandise in the SkyMiles marketplace or magazines. And you can use the miles you accumulate to book flights around the globe on Delta and the other 19 members of the SkyTeam alliance.
This is one of several airline-branded cards that has boosted the miles per $1 spent on non-travel categories. Cardmembers now Earn 2 miles per dollar at US restaurants. Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on other purchases. Delta-related spending includes flights booked on Delta.com, Sky Club membership or passes, Delta Vacations packages, seat upgrades and in-flight purchases like food, beverages and audio headsets. The card also comes with a 20% statement credit for using the card for in-flight purchases.
You get an extended warranty, purchase protection and early access to entertainment like concerts and sporting events.
Things to watch out for: Outside of Delta-related spending and dining, the miles per $1 spent on non-Delta-related travel, like hotels, ride-shares, car rentals, cruises and home shares are lower than other travel-branded credit cards. The card’s welcome offer bonus points aren’t enough to book a ticket on the airline. If you use this card outside of the U.S., you’ll pay a foreign transaction fee of 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars..
Read our full review of the Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Earning Airline Miles: The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
Best for: If you want the flexibility and service offered by American Express without the higher fees that come with its other branded cards, then consider this card.
Why we like it: It starts with a welcome offer of 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. You earn 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases. If you use the card to make 20 or more purchases during your statement cycle, you’ll earn a 20% bonus on the points you earn.
The best way to maximize the Membership Rewards points you earn on travel with this card is to use it at amextravel.com. You’ll double your points for spending on airfare, prepaid hotels, flight and hotel vacation packages or cruises. There are no blackout dates or seating restrictions when you book travel on the website and your points don’t expire.
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express offers a lot of the benefits and flexibility that come with other American Express cards, including the chance to use points and cash to pay for travel via the website, transfer Membership Rewards points to 18 airline and three hotel loyalty programs, no blackout dates and no seating restrictions when you book travel on the website and points that don’t expire, along with an access to presale tickets for entertainment and sporting events and return/price protection.
Things to watch out for: Again, there are competing no annual fee cards that offer more miles/points per $1 spent for dining, gas and travel purchased outside of amextravel.com. Your points don’t go as far if you use them for non-travel things like merchandise and gift cards.
You don’t earn double travel points at amextravel.com on purchases including car reservations, non-prepaid hotels, ticketing service or other fees or interest charges. If you don’t have enough points to pay for travel, the balance will be charged to your card.
If you want to transfer your points to an airline loyalty program, it will cost you $0.0006 per point or a maximum fee of $99 to cover federal excise tax. And if you use this card outside of the country, you will pay a foreign transaction fee of 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.
The information related to The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.
Read our full review of The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
Dining: Uber Visa Card
Best for: This is a dream credit card because of the cashback it offers for dining, travel and hotels, thanks to the ability to earn 5% back in Uber Cash on Uber rides, Uber Eats, and JUMP, 3% in Uber Cash on restaurants, bars, hotels, and airfare, and 1% back in Uber Cash on all other purchases
Why we like it: This is a great option because of the broad travel-related ways you can earn rewards. Dining covers restaurants, fast food joints, bars and UberEats food delivery. Travel includes airlines, hotels, travel agencies and home-share exchanges. The foreign transaction fee is None, so you can spend without worry outside of the U.S. New cardmembers Earn $100 in Uber Cash after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening.
Things to watch out for: There are other cards in the travel category that offer higher cash back for airfares. You have to have an Uber account and have a cashback balance of at least $25 on your card before you can redeem it. You can only redeem it for a statement credit, direct deposit or gift cards. Your cashback redemption is capped at $500 a day.
The information related to the Uber Visa Card has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.
Read our full review of the Uber Visa Card.
Hotels: Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
1.25 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
0% intro on purchases for 12 months
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
- $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
- Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
- Earn 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
- Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
- Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
- Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 13.74% - 23.74% variable APR after that
- Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
See additional details for Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Best for: If you don’t want to think about what points you can earn in which category, this card is the one for you.
Why we like it: Earn a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening, equal to $200 in travel. Once you have the card, you earn 1.25 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day.
It’s easy to redeem the miles you earn with the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card. You use your card to purchase travel then use the Purchase Eraser® feature to get a statement credit. Or you can book travel directly at capitalone.com and use your miles to pay for it. Both options use a rate of $100 for every 10,000 miles. And you can transfer the miles you earn to 15 airline loyalty programs, with more partners to be announced in the future.
On the off chance you don’t want to use your miles for travel, you can redeem them at 2:1 for cash as a check or account credit, gift cards and more. Your miles don’t expire and there’s no cap to the amount you can earn on purchases. The card’s foreign transaction fee is None.
You’re not tied to one airline or hotel when it comes to earning or redeeming your miles. You earn 10 points per $1 spent when booking hotel rooms through its partnership with Hotels.com. And the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card comes with the following perks: free upgrades and special savings at hotels, resorts and spas; access to the Visa Signature Concierge; auto rental collision damage waiver; and an extended warranty.
Things to watch out for: While the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card’s rewards cover every category, there are cards that offer more miles in the most popular categories — travel, dining, gas and groceries. There are also other cards with more generous sign-up bonuses.
Read our full review of the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card.
Rotating bonus categories: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
Best for: This card is great for those who want to earn more points per $1 spent in travel-related categories, thanks to the flexibility it offers.
Why we like it: The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card offers 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases ($100 per quarter) on two categories you choose. That adds up to $400 cash back! The card also allows new cardmembers to $150 after you spend $500 in eligible net purchases in the first 90 days of account opening If you’re busy, you can set up text and email alerts as a reminder to register for bonus categories each quarter.
One of the 5% categories is ground transportation, which covers bus and passenger rail tickets, taxis, car services, ride-shares, limousines, Zipcar and ferries. Others include car rentals, fast food and cellphone providers, all of which can be handy when traveling. The gas category also includes food and drink purchases. Restaurants include cafes, cafeterias, grills and fine dining establishments.
For a card with a $0* annual fee, it comes with some pretty sweet perks like: travel accident insurance; lost luggage reimbursement; auto rental collision damage waiver; roadside dispatch; Visa Signature Concierge; discounts and upgrades at top hotels, resorts, and cruise lines; movie ticket offers at fandango.com/visasignature; special book and music offers; access to special dining, wine and sporting events; discounts and special offers at premium retailers; purchase security; and extended warranty.
Things to watch out for: Remember to set those reminders because if you don’t choose your cashback categories before the start of a quarter, you won’t earn the bonus. Instead, your purchases drop to the lowest cashback amount allowed.
There are limits to what activities are covered under cashback rewards. Ground transportation does not cover purchases like travel agencies, tour operators, steamships, cruise lines, freight trains, parking meters, parking garages and tolls. Cell provider purchases don’t include cell phone or accessory purchases from electronic stores, cell phone resellers or independent dealers. If you have a bundled cell phone plan, you may not get the higher rewards.
The gas rewards category doesn’t include truck stops, marinas, home heating companies or other direct fuel, oil or propane sales. Under restaurants, fast-food eateries have their own category. You don’t earn higher cash back at restaurants located within department stores, truck stops, casinos or sports venues. Check the card’s Rewards History page after logging in to see if stores like Walmart or Target with grocery stores are eligible for higher rewards.
You can only get your cash back either as a statement credit or a deposit made to your U.S. Bank savings, checking or money market account or as a U.S. Bank Rewards Card with a $20 minimum redemption. You lose your cashback if your account is closed and it expires 36 months after the billing cycle when they were earned.
Read our full review of the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card.
The bottom line: Choosing the right travel card for you
Choosing a no annual fee travel card comes down to what benefits and perks are most important to you and how you plan on using the card. So before you make that final pick and apply for one, you need to ask the following questions:
What’s the sign-up bonus/welcome offer?
While it can be tempting to go after a quick points/miles hit, ask whether the amount you must spend on a card in order to get it is worth it to you.
Can I transfer my points/miles to airline or hotel loyalty programs?
If you belong to one of these programs, having the ability to move points/miles to them is a good benefit.
Do points/miles expire and are there quarterly or yearly maximums on what you can earn?
The ideal card has points/miles that don’t expire and don’t limit how many you can earn. If they to expire, make sure you’re able to do what it takes to keep from losing them. And make sure you check on earning limits before you apply for a card.
Which card offers the best miles per $1 spent in travel-related categories?
If you’re on the road regularly, you want one that offers more points/miles for things like air and rail fare, hotels, ride-shares, car-shares, cruises, parking, tolls, dining and gas.
What travel perks does the card have?
Many people don’t know all the travel-related perks their cards have, so you may be leaving great benefits on the table. Look for things like lost luggage/trip interruption insurance, travel accident insurance car rental loss/damage insurance, roadside assistance and access to a concierge.
Now you’re armed with all the information you need to make the right decision when it comes to a no annual fee travel credit card.