Best travel credit cards with no annual fee for 2020

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These offers are no longer available on our site: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card, Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

If your trip could be — or already has been — affected by COVID-19, check out the Credit Karma travel resources page for more information.

If you’re looking for a travel rewards credit card with no annual fee, we know it can be hard to pinpoint the choice that both fits your lifestyle and offers the right kinds of redemption options. Read on for our picks in these categories.

Best for earning points at a flat rate: Discover it® Miles

Here’s why: The Discover it® Miles travel rewards credit card could be the right fit for anyone who wants to earn miles at a steady rate no matter what they’re purchasing.

With the Discover it® Miles travel rewards credit card, you’ll earn a flat rate of 1.5 miles per $1 spent on every purchase. For comparison, many travel credit cards with no annual fee will allow heightened rates on one or two categories — like three points on gas — without any accompanying multiplier for other kinds of purchases.

At the end of your first year, Discover will also match all the miles you earned in your first 12 months of card membership.

With the Discover it® Miles card, you don’t have to track how you’re earning rewards or — worse yet — consider changing your spending habits to maximize your earning potential.

Our point valuations set Discover Miles rewards at 1 cent per mile. This figure isn’t the highest you’ll see from a travel rewards program, but it’s a respectable rate that provides solid value — and there’s no foreign transaction fee.

Learn more in our review of the Discover it® Miles credit card.

Best for flexible redemption options: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

Here’s why: If you’re not sure if you’ll redeem your rewards for travel or other benefits, then the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card could be the best no-annual-fee option for you.

You’ll receive three Go Far® Rewards points for every $1 spent on travel and dining, at gas stations, on rideshares and transit, and on select streaming services. You get one point for all other qualifying purchases.

You’ll then have the flexibility to redeem your points for travel, cash back and gift cards. Your points don’t expire as long as your account remains open, and there aren’t any blackout dates for air travel redemption when you use Wells Fargo’s Go Far® Rewards system. You also won’t pay any foreign transaction fees.

Read more in our review of the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card.

Best for hotel stays: Hilton Honors American Express Card

Here’s why: The Hilton Honors American Express Card offers a lot to frequent Hilton guests looking to earn rewards without paying an annual fee.

The rewards multipliers for eligible purchases on this card are eye-popping, at least at first glance. The Hilton Honors American Express Card offers …

  • 7 Hilton Honors bonus points for each $1 spent at Hilton portfolio properties
  • 5 points on purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations
  • 3 points on all other eligible purchases

You can also earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after your account opens.

But it’s worth noting that the value of Hilton Honors points can be quite low, according to Credit Karma’s estimated point valuations. When assessing the welcome bonus, consider that potential value and not just the number of points you’ll earn.

Still, the Hilton Honors American Express Card brings meaningful perks to Hilton guests. The card includes complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status — good for late checkouts, the opportunity to earn a fifth night free on rewards bookings, and other benefits. It also offers the opportunity to achieve Gold status if you spend $20,000 on eligible purchases within a calendar year.

In addition, there are no foreign transaction fees, which could be especially helpful if you use the card to pay for hotels outside of the United States.

Get more details in our review of the Hilton Honors American Express Card.

Best for sign-up bonus: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Here’s why: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is a nice option for those who want to make their upcoming travel plans go further with a solid sign-up bonus.

Travel cards with no annual fee typically don’t offer the huge sign-up bonuses of pricier rewards cards, but there is still value to be had in this area.

With the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, you earn 25,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases within your first 90 days from account opening. That’s both a meaningful boost — a potential $250 value — and an attainable bonus in terms of the required spending level.

The card also earns a flat rate of 1.5 points per $1 spent on purchases, so the sign-up bonus is equivalent to $16,667 worth of purchases at the standard earning rate. And like other cards on our list — its foreign transaction fee? None.

Learn more with our review of the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card.

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How to make the most of travel rewards credit cards

When selecting the best travel credit card for your needs, you should figure out how you’ll usually use it and how often. It’s important to break down the benefits each card offers and decide which travel features are most important to you.

For instance, a hotel credit card that offers benefits for a single brand won’t make a lot of sense for you if you’re not particularly loyal to that company. At the same time, an airline-branded card might be the right option if you only fly with that airline.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that your travel card’s benefits should suit your regular habits. If you find yourself changing your spending habits or travel plans to fit the card’s offers, then it’s probably best to reassess your options.

How we picked these travel rewards credit cards

Naturally, we started our selection process by pinpointing the travel rewards credit cards with no annual fee. Once we established that list, we focused on the qualities of each card that matter to consumers interested in earning rewards without paying an annual fee.

We settled on the categories in this article because they represent some of the most practical and efficient ways of earning and redeeming travel rewards.

Different people find value in different places. Our goal was to offer a range of options to fit those different needs.