Best travel credit cards with no annual fee for 2021

Group of young hikers walking up mountainImage: Group of young hikers walking up mountain
Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.
Advertiser Disclosure

We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

These offers are no longer available on our site: Hilton Honors American Express Card, Capital One® VentureOne® 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.


Card Best for
Discover it® Miles Earning points at a flat rate
U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card Best for flexible redemption options
Hilton Honors American Express Card Hotel stays
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Sign-up bonus
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card Straightforward rewards

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.

From our partner

Discover it® Miles

4.3 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

See details, rates & fees

Best for flexible redemption options: U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card

Here’s why: If you want the ability to redeem rewards for either travel or cash back, this card will give you that flexibility with the benefit of several bonus categories.

You’ll earn … 

  • 4 points per $1 spent on purchases at restaurants (including takeout and delivery)
  • 2 points per $1 spent on groceries, gas and streaming services
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

You can also earn a sign-up bonus of 20,000 points (equivalent to $200 in redemptions) when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days after you open your account.

Points can be redeemed for travel, cash back, merchandise, gift cards and more.

For more info, read reviews of the U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® 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 80,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after your account opens. And if you can earn an additional 50,000 bonus points if you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases over the first 6 months.

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.

From our partner

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

3.9 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

See details, rates & fees

Best for straightforward rewards: Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Here’s why: If you’re looking for a card with a no fuss, easy-to-understand rewards program, look no further than the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card. With this card, you’ll earn a flat, unlimited 1.25 miles on every $1 you spend. Then once you’ve earned your miles, Capital One makes it easy to redeem them for travel (though there are other redemption options as well).

Here’s how it works: When you make a travel purchase with the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, you simply redeem your miles as a statement credit. That credit goes toward the cost of the travel purchase, and voilà — all or part of your travel purchase is covered.

Travel purchases include flights, hotels and more. Capital One also offers the chance to transfer your miles to one of its travel loyalty programs.

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. And what’s more, your rewards won’t expire as long as your card is open. Just make sure you redeem for a statement credit within 90 days of the travel purchase posting to your account.

Read more in our review of the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card.


How to make the most of a travel rewards credit card with no annual fee

Before settling on a travel credit card with no annual fee, it’s important to consider if you’re willing to sacrifice some rewards-earning power just to avoid paying an annual fee. 

While the cards mentioned in this article can help you get value for your purchases, most of our favorite travel credit cards charge an annual fee. If you want the most lucrative sign-up bonuses or best perks, you’re likely going to have to pay an annual fee. Otherwise, you might want to consider a cash back card over a travel card.

If you’re set on a travel card, though, then there are several issues to consider to find the right one of you. First, 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.


About the author: Ashley Chorpenning is a personal finance writer and content creator. In addition to being a contributing writer at Credit Karma, she writes for solo entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies. Ashley has a Bachelor of Bu… Read more.