By Megan Doyle | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor
5 Min Read | October 1, 2021 in Cards
So you’re thinking about getting a travel rewards credit card. But maybe you’re not a frequent traveler, or maybe you’re not sure you need the bells and whistles – and annual fee – of a premium travel rewards card. If so, you might want to start with a no annual fee travel credit card. But with so many options, how can you choose?
If you’re ready to dip your toes in the world of travel rewards cards – and maybe a pool in Cancún – read on to learn how to choose a no annual fee card that best suits your lifestyle.
To be able to choose the best no annual fee travel rewards credit card to fit your needs, you need to first understand what’s available to you. There are two main types of travel rewards cards with no annual fee options:
Co-branded travel credit cards: These travel rewards cards are co-branded with a specific airline or hotel chain, meaning the miles and points you earn can only be used to book flights, hotel stays, or upgrades within the card’s specific company. This makes them a good choice for travelers who are loyal to a particular airline carrier or hotel company. For example, American Express offers no annual fee co-branded Credit Cards among its Delta and Hilton cards. Perks usually include points or miles multipliers on specific spending categories or even boosted loyalty program status, depending on the card.
General purpose travel credit cards: These travel rewards cards are not tied to any particular airline or hotel chain. Rewards are usually earned in the form of points that can be redeemed for travel within a list of approved airlines or hotels depending on the card issuer. While these travel cards offer a little more flexibility when choosing a flight or hotel booking, card members may not get the same loyalty program perks often offered with co-branded cards. General purpose travel rewards cards with no annual fee tend to offer more straightforward benefits than their annual fee counterparts.
Just because a travel rewards card has no annual fee doesn’t mean it won’t have benefits that can help make your journeys more affordable or enjoyable. Of course, not all cards are the same, but here are some common features to consider when looking for the best annual fee travel rewards card for you:
Despite the benefits of no annual fee travel cards, it’s important to consider that many travelers find the added benefits of annual fee cards are worth the cost. For example, even a lower fee of $95 a year can enhance the travel experience by adding extra perks like free checked bags, priority boarding, airport lounge access, and even travel insurance.
You may want to consider a no annual fee travel credit card if you’re an infrequent traveler who wants to earn points or miles for the purchases you regularly make. It might just add some perks while making travel a bit less expensive. But if you travel at least once a year and would benefit from added perks like free checked bags or priority boarding, you may want to consider whether an annual fee travel rewards card is worth the cost.
If you’re just starting to venture into the world of travel rewards credit cards and are not a frequent flyer, one with no annual fee might be perfect for you. Even with no annual fee, you can get perks like points or miles that can be redeemed for flights and hotel stays, and protections like rental car insurance. Still, the best travel rewards credit card is the one that aligns with your travel and spending style. In some cases, it may be worth considering a travel card with an annual fee if you’d benefit from added perks like free checked bags.