What is an annual Fee?

Annual fees are costs that the card issuer charge you to keep your account open.  These fees increase credit card costs, so any benefit you get from the card must exceed the costs or else you will be losing money.  For instance, Chase Sapphire Preferred has a whopping $550 annual fee, but the perks are worth it for some.  However, not all credit cards have one, but it’s important to know that the higher the fee, the better the perks.  Obviously, if a card doesn’t have an annual fee, it will most likely offer the most minimum of benefits.  Below we take a look at some of the best travel credit cards with no annual fee and help you decide if one of them might be for you.

Bank of America Travel Rewards

CURRENT WELCOME BONUS

25,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 during first 90 days

REWARDS

Earn 1.5x points for every $1 spent on ALL purchases

APR

0% intro (purchases) for 12 billing cycles, then 14.99% – 22.99%

ANNUAL FEE

$0

FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE

0%

RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE

670 – 850

Bank of America Travel Rewards: The Basics

The BoA travel rewards card is a solid travel card that allows cardholders to earn a competitive 1.5x points per $1 spent on every single purchase.  The welcome bonus is fairly easy to get and worth about $250 in travel spending.  While some travel cards have restrictions on where you can book travel, the BoA travel rewards card allows you to book on any website or agent.  Reimbursement comes as a travel credit, so no need to worry about blackout dates or seat restrictions etc.  However, there are restrictions on when you can redeem points, plus they must be done in increments.  Finally, if you are a Bank of America customer, you can earn even more points.

Discover it Miles

CURRENT WELCOME BONUS

Discover will automatically match all miles earned at the end of your first year

REWARDS

Earn 1.5x miles for every $1 spent on ALL purchases

APR

0% intro (purchases) for 14 months, then 11.99% – 22.99%

ANNUAL FEE

$0

FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE

0%

RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE

670 – 850

Discover it Miles: The Basics

Discover will match all of the Miles earned during your first year.  For example, if you earn 50,000 miles, Discover will add 50,000 bonus miles to your tally!  Additionally, there is a 0% APR on purchases for the first 14 months.  This can help save you a lot of money in interest.  While some travel cards allow redemption options outside of travel at a lower rate, Discover allows you keep the consistent rate of 1 cent/mile.  However, the appeal does diminish after the first year where cardholders earn a mere 1.5x miles per $1.  However, this is a non-issue for those looking for a no-frills  travel rewards card.

Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express

CURRENT WELCOME BONUS

10,000 Bonus Miles after spending $500 during the first 3 months

REWARDS

Earn 2x points on Delta purchases & dining; 1x points on everything else

APR

15.74% – 24.74%

ANNUAL FEE

$0

FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE

0%

RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE

670 – 850

Delta Skymiles Blue: The Basics

Best for occasional Delta flyers who don’t want to pay an annual fee but earn a decent amount of SkyMiles & don’t care for the extra perks.  It is actually the only Delta credit card without an annual fee.  While the welcome bonus is low, it also has a very low spending requirement.  You will earn the typical 2X miles per $1 spent on Delta purchases, which can be redeemed for flights on Delta or any of its partner airlines.  However, you also earn 2X miles on dining worldwide and 20% back in statement credits for Delta in-flight purchases.  Not too many extra perks, but that’s understandable for a no-annual fee card.

Hilton Honors American Express

CURRENT WELCOME BONUS

100,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $1,000 during the first 3 months

REWARDS

Earn 7x points per $1 on  eligible Hilton purchases; 5x points at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, & gas stations; 3x points on 3 points all other eligible purchases

APR

 15.74% – 24.74%

ANNUAL FEE

$0

FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE

0%

RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE

670 – 850

Hilton Honors: The Basics

The Hilton Honors card is one of the best no-annual fee cards, particularly for Hilton hotel loyalists.  Members earn the highest rates on Hilton stays, but other purchases are also competitive.  The card also comes with an automatic Hilton Honors Silver status, giving you a boost towards the Gold status.  The 80,000 welcome bonus is also particularly high, granted you spend at least $334/month for the first 3 months.  If you don’t want to use points for hotel stays, you can also transfer to any of Hilton’s travel partner programs.  Additionally, points can also be exchanged with other credit card companies.  Although this card doesn’t have the “extras,” such as complimentary room upgrades, it is a solid card for those who prefer Hilton Hotels.

Capital One Venture One

CURRENT WELCOME BONUS

20,000 Bonus Miles after spending $500 during the first 3 months

REWARDS

Earn 1.25 miles per $1 spent on every purchase

APR

0% intro for 12 months, then 15.49% – 25.49%

ANNUAL FEE

$0

FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE

0%

RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE

670 – 850

Capital One VentureOne: The Basics

The VentureOne is truly one of the most basic travel rewards cards.  Like the Discover it Miles, it offers an unlimited flat rate on every purchase – 1.25x miles per $1 spent.  Its welcome bonus of 20,000 miles is worth approximately $200 in travel spending, not too bad for a card without an annual fee.  Cardholders can book travel through any site, utilise Capital One’s flexible redemption options, or transfer to any of the 14 travel partners.  However, it’s important to know that JetBlue is the only U.S based partner.  Overall, the VentureOne isn’t a terrible card for budget travelers and those seeking simplicity, however, its earnings rate is on the lower end of the rewards spectrum.

A no-annual fee travel card is best for …

People who want no-frills, no complications.  Most travel cards with no-annual fee offer a low sign-up bonus, flat rate rewards structure, and simple redemption.  Therefore, if an annual fee doesn’t fit into your spending habits and budget, then consider a travel card without one.  In some cases, credit card issuers will allow you to downgrade from an annual-fee card to a no-annual fee card without a ding to your credit scores.  It’s important to know that, although you will avoid the fee, you most likely will have to forego some rewards.

Pros & Cons of No Annual Fee Travel cards

The first obvious advantage of having a card with no annual fee is the savings.  You save on having to pay a certain amount every single year to keep your account open.  Assuming you pay your monthly balance in full and avoid paying interest, a no annual fee card can be one of your cheapest cards in your wallet.  Finally, some of them have good benefits, such as 0% intro APR or decent welcome offers.

Some of the cons of having a travel rewards card with no annual fee include fewer perks and insurance coverages.  The welcome bonus and earning rates can also be measly compared to cards with annual fees.  For instance, as flexible and cheap as the Capital One VentureOne is, its earnings are on the lower end of the spectrum.

Bottom Line on No Annual Fee Travel Cards

Choosing a travel card without an annual fee will depend on the kind of traveler you are & your budget.  With many offering 0% APR, a cheaper card can help save money in the long run.  Additionally, most have flexible redemption options and/or a flat rewards rates, keeping everything simples!!  

However, if you are a frequent traveler and in need of some extra perks, a travel card with an annual fee might be a better option.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred or Capital One Venture cards carry a $95 annual tag, but come with some of the premier perks in the travel rewards card game.