When it comes to credit cards, the best things in life aren’t free.
Generally speaking, credit cards that come with an annual fee offer better rewards, and that can easily offset the cost of the fee you are paying. It’s the main reason why we encourage readers to do the math before ruling out even cards with a hefty annual fee.
But we get it. Not everybody has an appetite or the budget – especially with travel largely still on hold, and the economic uncertainty we are seeing from coronavirus – to pay a fee just for holding a travel rewards credit card.
There are a number of no annual fee credit cards offering travel rewards that are worth a spot in your wallet. In no particular order, here is our list of the top no annual fee credit cards for 2021 travel.
The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is a great card that provides a lot of flexibility in how you use your miles. Venture miles can be transferred to 17 different airline & hotel transfer partners. Think of the VentureOne Card as the younger sibling of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card which provides a better-earning rate, bonus miles, and credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
Capital One Venture Miles are fantastic for covering the cost of things traditional points and miles cannot cover like cruises, tours, or Airbnb.
See our guide on the Capital One Venture vs. VentureOne Card to see which is right for you.
- Welcome Offer: Earn 20,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months of card membership. ($200 in travel)
- Earn 1.25x Miles: Earn a fixed 1.25x miles per dollar spent on every purchase.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
Click Here to learn more about the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited Card
The Chase Freedom Unlimited earns a straight 1.5% cashback on all spending with no annual limit.
It’s also easily among the best no annual fee travel rewards credit cards. And it gets better if you hold a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, as that allows you to transfer your cashback into Chase points. Every cent of cashback gets you 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards point.
You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cashback (1.5x points) on every dollar you spend. You’ll also earn 5% back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022, and 3% back on dining at drugstores.
Make sure to check out our guide on Freedom Flex vs Freedom Unlimited to help you decide which version is right for you.
Click Here to learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited card.
The Chase Freedom Flex Card
Like the Freedom Unlimited card mentioned above, If you hold a Sapphire card, you can combine the cash back earned from the Freedom card into Chase Ultimate Rewards at a ratio of 1 cent equals 1 point and redeem them at 1.25 or 1.5 cents (depending on the Sapphire card you have) towards travel in the Chase portal. More card details below:
- Welcome Offer: Earn $200 Bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months of card membership.
- Earn 5% Cash Back: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in spending in rotating quarterly bonus categories.
- Earn 5% Cash Back: On travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Earn 3% Cash Back: At restaurants and eligible delivery services
- Earn 3% Cash Back: On drugstore purchases
- Earn 1% Cash Back: On all other purchases
- Affected By The Chase 5/24 Rule: This card is subjected to Chase’s 5/24 rule, so this is something to be aware of before applying.
Click Here to learn more about the Chase Freedom Flex Card.
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
Delta has four different co-branded credit cards, but the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card is the only one without an annual fee. But with that comes a lack of benefits. You won’t get free checked bags, lounge access, or priority boarding, but you will earn 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases and have foreign transaction fees waived.
We think it’s one of the best cards for beginner Delta travelers.
- Earn 10,000 SkyMiles after spending $500 in the first three months of card membership.
- Earn 2x SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta purchases.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- 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.
- No Annual Fee (see rates & fees)
- Terms Apply
Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card.
Hilton Honors American Express Card
The no annual fee Hilton Honors American Express Card is offering a welcome offer bonus of 80,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn an additional 50,000 points after you spend a total of $5,000 in the first 6 months.
Just for holding the card, you will receive Hilton Honors Silver status. You can earn Hilton’s Gold status by spending $20,000 or more in a calendar year. We think Hilton’s Gold status is the best mid-tier hotel program.
See the full card details below:
- Welcome Offer: Earn 80,000 Points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn an additional 50,000 points after you spend a total of $5,000 in the first 6 months.
- Earn Hilton Honors Silver Status: For as long as you have the card.
- Earn Hilton Gold Status: If you spend $20,000 or more in a calendar year, you will earn Hilton’s Gold status.
- 7x Hilton Honors Points: At participating hotels in the Hilton portfolio.
- 5x Hilton Honors Points: At U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
- 3x Hilton Honors Points: On all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- No Annual Fee (see rates & fees)
Check out our post on all four of the Hilton Honors Credit Cards!
Click Here to learn more about the Hilton Honors American Express Card.
Citi Double Cash Card
The Citi Double Cash Card earns 2% cash back on every single purchase you make. You’ll earn 1% cash back when you make the purchase, and an additional 1% cash back when you pay off those purchases.
And if you hold one of Citi’s top tier travel credit cards like the Citi Premier Card or the Citi Prestige card, the cashback you earn can be transferred directly into your Citi ThankYou Rewards account.
The card doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus but also doesn’t have an annual fee.
Click Here to learn more about the Citi Double Cash Card.
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
The Blue Business Plus® Credit Card from American Express is one of my favorite no-annual fee credit cards (see rates & fees). It is a business card, but it earns 2x Membership Rewards points on all purchases up to $50,000 a year. I place a high value on Membership Rewards because of the flexibility they provide. For example, they can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio directly into your Delta SkyMiles account.
Earning 2x Membership Rewards points on every purchase is an incredible offer. And almost anybody can be approved for an American Express business credit card. Read our guide to applying here.
More card details below:
- Welcome Offer: None
- Earn 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 in purchases each year. Earn 1x points thereafter.
- No Annual Fee (see rates & fees)
Click Here to learn more about the Blue Business Plus Card from American Express.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card
You won’t earn an annual free night certificate like you will with either the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, or the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, but you can currently earn 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of card membership with the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card.
You’ll also earn 3x points per $1 spent at Marriott Hotels, 2x points per dollar spent on other travel purchases, and 1x point on all other purchases.
The Card also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
Click Here to learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card.
While you can typically earn far more points and miles on cards with an annual fee, no annual fee credit cards can still provide good value. This list contains our favorites and should be the nine you focus on if you are considering no annual fee credit cards to earn points and miles for your 2021 travels.