The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Friday, December 2, 2022

Best Travel Credit Cards With No Annual Fee 

Best Travel Credit Cards With No Annual Fee

credit card advice

Eric Bank

Written by: Eric Bank

Eric Bank

Eric Bank has been covering business and financial topics since 1985, specializing in taking complex subject matters and explaining them in simple terms for consumer audiences. In addition to his work on CardRates.com, Eric has appeared regularly on Credible.com, eHow, WiseBread, The Nest, Get.com, Zacks, Chron and dozens of other outlets. A former software engineer, Eric holds an M.B.A. from New York University and an M.S. in finance from DePaul University.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct instructor at the University of Florida. Today, she edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Reviewed by: Ashley Dull

Ashley Dull

With more than a decade of experience as a content manager and marketer, Ashley has specialized in finance coverage since 2015. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media campaigns. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among others.

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Advertiser Disclosure

Cost-savvy trip planning begins by choosing the best travel credit card with no annual fee. Yes, you could spend $95 and get a very good travel card or $600 for a great one. But we’ve found you nine terrific travel cards that won’t cost you a dime in annual fees. That’s savings you can apply to your next trip, perhaps staying an extra day or moving up to a business-class seat. 

These cards don’t pack the same perks as their more expensive cousins. A $0 annual fee only goes so far. But you may be surprised to discover how much value awaits you for free. 

Travel cards by category:

Best Overall Travel Card With No Annual Fee

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers one of the industry’s highest card membership reward rates on travel when booked through the Chase Ultimate Reward portal. Moreover, it provides remarkable travel benefits for a no annual fee card, including trip cancellation/interruption insurance, travel and emergency assistance services, and auto rental collision damage waiver. 

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Review

at Chase’ssecure website

  • INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back!
  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.99% – 26.74%.
  • No annual fee – You won’t have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
17.99% – 26.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

If you also have a Chase Sapphire card, you can transfer your Freedom points to your Sapphire card to increase the value of your Ultimate Rewards points even more.

In addition, Chase Freedom Unlimited® features zero liability protection, purchase protection, fraud monitoring, identity restoration services, free credit score access, and extended warranty protection. Although it’s easy to cash in your points, you’ll receive the most value for travel bookings.

Best Travel Card With No Annual Fee Or Booking Restrictions

The Discover it® Miles offers unlimited rewards on all your eligible purchases. The first-year Miles-for-Miles Match doubles the miles new cardmembers can earn during the first year after account opening. You receive the match at the end of Year 1 for all miles posted during the year.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card’ssecure website

TRAVEL RATING

★★★★★

4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Only Discover gives you an unlimited match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles.  There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase – with no annual fee.
  • Redeem Miles to pay any part of your monthly bill, including your minimum payment.
  • Turn Miles into cash in any amount, any time. Or redeem as a statement credit for travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more with no blackout dates. However you redeem, Miles keep the same value. And Miles never expire.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 15.74% to 26.74% Standard Variable Purchase APR will apply.
  • Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
15.74% – 26.74% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

You can redeem your miles as cash or statement credits for travel purchases with no restrictions or blackout dates. Security features include removing your personal information from select people-search sites, $0 fraud liability, instant account freeze and unfreeze, account alerts, and free overnight shipping for card replacement. And there’s no fee for the first late payment.

Best Travel Card With No Annual Fee For Students

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students earns a flat reward rate on all eligible purchases, and you can use your points for unrestricted travel with no blackout dates. Students will appreciate the 0% intro APR for new cardmembers and the bonus points available to BoA customers with a checking or savings account.

TRAVEL RATING

★★★★★

4.6

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 25,000 bonus points ($250 value) if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere
  • No blackout dates or restrictions apply, and points never expire
  • 0% introductory APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 18 billing cycles, then a variable APR applies
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 18 billing cycles
0% for 18 billing cycles
16.24% – 26.24% Variable
$0
None/Limited

Traveling students will not incur a foreign transaction fee on purchases abroad with this card. You can get the card without any credit history. Features include a $0 liability guarantee, available overdraft protection, digital wallet technology, free FICO scores, account alerts, and an award-winning mobile banking app.

Best Travel Card With No Annual Fee For BoA Preferred Rewards Members

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card may be a good choice for consumers with a BoA checking or savings account. That’s because Preferred Rewards members earn 25% to 75% more points on every purchase. Also, they never pay an annual or foreign transaction fee.

4. Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

This card is currently not available.

Bank of America® Rating

★★★★★

N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

You could earn up to 2.62 points for every $1 you spend, which would be among the highest flat rewards rate on all purchases available. Most cards cap flat-rate rewards on every purchase at 2%.

Best Business Travel Card With No Annual Fee

The Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card is one of the top business credit cards with no annual fee. It offers a high rewards rate on travel you book through the bank’s Travel Center. The bonus point value swells to 75% if you own a BoA business checking account and qualify for the highest Preferred Rewards for Business tier.

TRAVEL RATING

★★★★★

4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 30,000 bonus points when you make at least $3,000 in net purchases within 90 days of your account opening which can be redeemed for a $300 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases, everywhere, every time – no matter how much you spend
  • Earn 3 points per every dollar spent when you book your travel (car, hotel, airline) through the Bank of America® Travel Center
  • You can earn up to 75% more points on every purchase if you have a business checking account with Bank of America and qualify for Preferred Rewards for Business. That means you could earn up to an unlimited 2.62 points per $1 spent on all purchases and 5.25 points per $1 spent at the Bank of America Travel Center.
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases for 9 billing cycles from account opening, then a variable APR applies
  • $0 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 9 billing cycles
N/A
14.49% – 24.49% Variable
$0
Good

The card offers most of the benefits of a World Elite Mastercard but doesn’t charge an annual or international transaction fee. You can redeem points for cash back, a gift card, a statement credit to offset travel and dining-related purchases, and travel with no blackout dates when booked at the Bank of America Travel Center.

The card provides travel and emergency services, cash flow management tools, 24/7 online and mobile access, and the standard BoA security features so important for business credit cards.

Best Travel Card With No Annual Fee For Delta Loyalists

The Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card offers modest perks to fans of Delta who don’t want to pay an annual or foreign transaction fee. You can earn bonus miles on all eligible purchases made with Delta.

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card Review

at the issuer’ssecure website

TRAVEL RATING

★★★★★

4.6

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 6 months of card membership
  • Earn 2X miles at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and 2X miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1X miles on all 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
  • Take up to $50 off the cost of your flight for every 5,000 miles you redeem with Pay with Miles when you book on delta.com
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.74% – 27.74% Variable
$0
Good

You also receive a 20% discount on all in-flight purchases made with your card. You can take a set amount off the cost of your flight for every batch of miles you redeem with Pay with Miles when you book on delta.com. You also get car rental loss and damage insurance and access to the global assist hotline. 

Best Travel Card With No Annual Fee For American Airlines Loyalists

The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card is a good choice for fans of the carrier looking for a no annual fee credit card. It pays high rewards on American Airlines and grocery store purchases. You also get an instant discount when you use the card to purchase items on any American Airlines flight.

TRAVEL RATING

★★★★

4.4

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • No Annual Fee
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases
  • Save 25% on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.74% – 28.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.

You get one loyalty bonus point for every eligible mile you earn through purchases. The card’s welcome bonus is modest, and its APR is slightly higher than that of other cards. There’s no charge to add authorized users.

Best Travel Card With No Annual Fee For JetBlue Loyalists

The JetBlue Card offers TrueBlue points on eligible purchases from JetBlue, restaurants, and grocery stores, plus the standard 1% rate on everything else you buy. You’ll enjoy half off the price of inflight food and drinks and, when available, a signup bonus and 0% intro APR offer.

JetBlue Card Review

at the issuer’ssecure website

TRAVEL RATING

★★★★★

4.6

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • Earn 3X points on eligible JetBlue purchases, 2X points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1X points on all other purchases
  • Enjoy 50% inflight savings on cocktails and food purchases
  • 0% introductory APR for the first 12 billing cycles following each balance transfer that posts to your account within 45 days of account opening (transfer fee applies), then a variable APR applies
  • No foreign transaction fees, no blackout dates, and points never expire
  • $0 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 12 billing cycles
18.99%, 22.99%, or 27.99%, based on credit
$0
Good

You can redeem your points for any seat, any time, with no blackout dates on JetBlue flights. The points don’t expire, and you can pool them with other cardmembers. The card’s APR depends on your creditworthiness. There are no fees for foreign transactions.

Best Travel Card With No Annual Fee For Bad Credit

Travelers and homebodies with low credit scores should consider getting the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card. The card offers relatively generous rewards on your category of choice (including travel) and bonus cash back on grocery store and wholesale club purchases.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★

4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • A minimum refundable security deposit of $200 (maximum of $5,000) is required to open this account
  • Access your FICO® Score updated monthly for free, within your Mobile Banking app or in Online Banking
  • Optional overdraft protection option helps prevent declined purchases, returned checks or other overdrafts when you link your eligible Bank of America® checking account to your credit card. Transfer fees may apply.
  • $0 Annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
25.49% Variable
$0
Bad/Limited

This no annual fee secured Visa card can be yours for a modest security deposit, though you can deposit more if you want a higher credit limit. You get free FICO scores, optional overdraft protection, and valuable security features. However, we think the APR is a little high for a secured card.

What Is a Travel Credit Card?

A travel credit card makes traveling less expensive and more convenient by offering valuable benefits and rewards. These cards usually pay rewards as points or miles that can be redeemed for cash back (though this usually isn’t the most lucrative option) or travel accommodations, among other things.

Travel cards usually pay 1.5x to 6.5X per $1 spent, with a 1X rate on everything else. It’s up to the credit card issuers to structure the rewards, including their denomination, value, and redemption options.

Co-branded cards frequently offer higher rewards on purchases from the issuing carrier but standard (1X) miles or points on most other purchases. It may require quality spreadsheet time to calculate which card will pay you the most rewards in light of your lifestyle and travel habits. 

The picture is further clouded by:

  • Quarterly or annual caps on bonus rewards
  • The likelihood you will always fly on your favorite airline
  • The number of points/miles you need for a free flight or seat upgrade
  • The transferability of your miles to a partner airline’s frequent flyer program
  • The card’s APR and fee structure

You’ll find that most travel cards offer signup bonuses for a set amount of spending during an initial period (usually three months) after account opening. Better cards offer benefits that make travel less costly and more secure. 

Travel rewards do not typically expire as long as the account remains open — you may want to avoid cards with expiring rewards if you don’t travel often (and, in which case, we may suggest a cash rewards credit card instead).

Many credit card issuers offer cards with and without annual fees. The presence of a yearly fee usually translates into better perks. 

But the value of those extra rewards and benefits depends on whether you will use them. For example, if your local airport doesn’t have a lounge, paying for an expensive travel card with lounge access may be less appealing.

Can I Get a No Annual Fee Travel Card?

Nearly all no annual fee travel cards require applicants to have a good credit score. The issuers figure that there isn’t any point in offering travel perks to consumers who are more likely to default on their cards. 

FICO Scale
Applicants generally need good credit to get a travel card with no annual fee. But there are student and secured cards with travel benefits and no annual fees for applicants who have fair or worse credit.

Issuers must absorb losses when they charge off a credit card, and the size of the loss directly relates to how much value the cardmember has already extracted from the card. Without an annual fee to cushion the loss, issuers may be more vulnerable to write-offs from free credit cards than cards with hefty fees. 

Therefore, issuers must ration no annual fee cards among only the most trustworthy applicants.

If you have bad or limited credit, your best bet for obtaining a travel rewards card is to get a secured card, such as the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card. Most secured cards rely more on applicants’ security deposits than their credit scores. 

If you can muster $200 for a refundable deposit, you can own a secured travel credit card and receive valuable benefits. 

What Should I Look For In a Travel Credit Card With No Annual Fee?

The lack of an annual fee constrains the number of goodies an issuer can lard onto a travel card. Credit card companies must profit from their products if they want to survive. 

To earn those profits, issuers consider many variables, including:

  • The number of people who want, and can qualify for, a travel credit card
  • The percentage of the travel card audience that refuses to pay an annual fee
  • The potential revenue a card will earn each year from interest and fees
  • The cost of the card’s rewards based on the points or miles the average cardholder will accumulate over a year
  • The potential cost of offering a welcome bonus and/or intro 0 APR
  • The estimated cardholder default rate
  • The cost of each benefit, considering the percentage of cardholders who will take advantage of it
  • How the card stacks up against its main competitors
  • The direct and indirect costs of producing the card.
  • The issuer’s required profit margin
  • Changes in the regulatory environment

If choosing a clear winner among the no annual fee travel cards seems challenging, it’s because the issuers have designed their offerings with clear tradeoffs to lure consumers. The following suggestions should help you decide which is the best credit card for you, assuming you don’t want to pay an annual fee:

  • APR: The best cards in this review offer their most creditworthy cardmembers APRs below 17%. Some cards charge more than 27% to applicants with less than good credit. The APR is irrelevant when you pay your entire balance off each month.
  • Foreign transaction fee: Some of the reviewed travel cards waive this fee. Others usually charge 3% to 5% for each transaction.
  • Signup bonus: Look for a relatively modest signup bonus from a no annual fee credit card. You may not qualify for the signup bonus if you recently owned the same card or another from the same issuer.
  • 0% APR offer on purchases and balance transfer transactions: Several of the reviewed cards provide this promotion for new cardmembers. You may find this perk compelling if you are planning an expensive vacation and want to finance the cost over several months. A 0% APR balance transfer promotion can help you consolidate your debt if you owe money to multiple credit card companies.
  • Travel benefits: Don’t expect the reviewed cards to offer the avalanche of travel benefits (e.g., reimbursement for TSA Precheck and Global Entry fees, etc.) available from expensive credit cards, such as Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Nonetheless, some no annual fee travel cards offer valuable benefits that make traveling more secure and less costly. The best reviewed cards offer trip insurance, rental car collision damage waiver, no blackout dates or travel restrictions, and no foreign transaction fees.
  • Other benefits: Many of the reviewed travel cards offer significant consumer protections such as $0 fraud liability and free FICO score reporting.

To save you the headache, our CardRates.com rating system evaluates these considerations to calculate an easy-to-compare travel rating between 0.0 and 5.0. But the numbers don’t always tell the whole story. 

For example, our top overall card, Chase Freedom Unlimited®, may have a slightly lower travel score than the Discover it® Miles. But the former outranks the latter because of its superior cardmember security benefits, such as extended warranty protection, purchase protection, and identity restoration services.

What Is the Best Card For Traveling Abroad?

If you’re planning a trip abroad, look for a card that doesn’t charge a fee (typically 3%) for foreign transactions. Understand that you may still have to pay a currency conversion fee, usually between 2.7% and 3%, whether or not the card charges a foreign transaction fee. 

There are two alternative ways you’ll pay a conversion fee:

  • Credit card conversion: The card issuer applies a conversion rate to foreign transactions, and you pay merchants in their local currency. This is usually a fair deal and the one to pursue.
  • Dynamic currency conversion (DCC): The merchant reprices the purchase in US dollars before charging your credit card. The merchant decides the fees and exchange rates. This is hit-and-miss depending on the merchant’s greed index, so try to avoid DCC if you can.

Another card benefit worth considering is travel accident insurance with support for emergency evacuations. A few no annual fee cards offer this perk. 

Many credit cards have international hotlines you can call if trouble develops. That’s a feature worth confirming before applying for a travel card.

Is Paying an Annual Fee Worth It?

It depends. You have to ask what extra benefits you’ll be getting for the annual fee and how much those benefits are worth. For example, you may have to pay a yearly fee of at least $300 to get free airport lounge access. This may be worthwhile if:

  • You frequent airports that have airport lounges.
  • You like the lounges available to you. Lounges vary in quality — do you like the lounges you have access to?
  • You want the type of discount you’ll receive. Some cards give unlimited admission to you and two fellow travelers. Other cards limit how many times you can get in for free and how much your guest must pay.
  • You fly often enough for this perk to be worth the extra money.

The same sort of analysis applies to other credit card perks, such as Global Entry reimbursement and baggage delay insurance. If you fly infrequently and don’t need fancy benefits, a no annual fee travel card may be your best bet. 

If you travel often and like a little pampering, you may want to cough up a three-digit annual fee. The nice thing is that the top no annual fee cards offer some excellent benefits and are cheap to keep.

These Cards Offer Savvy Travelers Handsome Rewards

We hope our article on the best travel credit card for no annual fee has awakened you to the merits of frugal travel, at least when it applies to your credit card. You can get a travel card with great rewards, valuable benefits, and increased security without forking over an annual fee. 

As always, read the cardholder agreement before accepting any credit card offer. Devilish details may trip you up, not something you want on your trip. The right card can make your next vacation a little more pleasant, and it could be yours for free. 

Advertiser Disclosure

CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation for referrals for many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across CardRates.com (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.