Best Travel Credit Card Without an Ongoing Annual Fee

Look, I don’t like paying for an annual fee if I don’t have to.  But I’ll be upfront regarding our discussion for the best travel credit cards without an annual fee. Sometimes paying an annual fee is the wisest choice.  Don’t automatically rule out cards with an annual fee, or it might be to your detriment.

About a year ago I had an email from a reader who was upset about the fact that Chase didn’t waive the annual fee for the first year on her British Airways card.  She explained how she had never paid an annual fee, and she wasn’t about to start.  Her questions was: how can I cancel the card and get my annual fee back?  The answer was simple – just call them, and they’ll do it.

However, I tried to convince her to keep the card, pay the $75 or $95 annual fee, purchase something, and get 100,000 Avios.  The points are worth much more than the annual fee.

But, to no avail, she couldn’t see how spending the annual fee made sense.

The point is this – this article is about the best credit cards without an annual fee, but there are several cards that I’d much rather have than the ones in this list even if I had to pay the annual fee.  In fact, the best of both worlds is getting cards that have good earning and redeeming opportunities that waive the annual fee for the first year.  Right now all the cards on the best credit card page (except for the British Airways card) waive the annual fee for the first year.

Best Travel Credit Cards Without an Annual Fee

Chase Freedom

This travel credit card card only gets added to the list *if* a person also had the Ink Bold or Chase Sapphire Preferred (both which carry an annual fee) or the Ink Classic (no annual fee).  The reason is because the Freedom card has rotating categories that offer 5% cash back.  If a person also has the Bold or Sapphire Preferred, those points can be transferred out to mileage programs where the value of the points can increase infinitely.

Chase Classic Business card

You’ll get 20,000 Ultimate Rewards after opening a new account and spending $3,000.  Best of all you’ll be able to earn 5x miles at office supply stores, internet, phone, and cable TV charges.  Additionally, you can earn 2x per dollar at gas stations and hotels.

Citi Forward Card

The Citi Forward card is ideal for individuals who spend a lot on entertainment or dining out.  These categories get 5x ThankYou Rewards points.  An ideal way to use this card is to accumulate points through the Citi Forward account.  Then when you get ready to redeem points for travel, get the Citi ThankYou Premier card (annual fee waived for the first year) where you’ll get an extra 33% value when you book your points for flights.

Best Travel Credit Cards With a Sort of Free Annual Fee Option

Chase Southwest

With the Southwest card you can get 25,000 bonus points, which translates into $417.50 worth of Wanna Get Away flights at Southwest.

While the card comes with a $69 annual fee, you’ll also get a 3,000 point bonus each year you renew the card.  The bonus is worth $50, so when you adjust the annual fee it is more like $19 per year.

Barclay’s US Airways Premier World

This Barclay’s card offers 40,000 miles when you sign up and make a purchase.

As far as the annual fee is concerned, there is an annual fee of $89 (waived for the first year).  However, like the Southwest card above, there is an annual bonus that is offered each anniversary of the card.  The bonus in this case is 10,000 miles.  With the US Airways card, the annual fee is less than the annual 10,000 bonus.  In addition, when you have the card and book flights on US Airways, you can also get a 5,000 mile discount, so it’s a very nice perk.

Did I miss any good no annual fee travel credit cards? 


  1. Lisa Killough says

    Hey Craig

    Are there any offers available for a Mastercard? I see Visa and American Express cards…..
    I shop quite a bit at Sam’s club for church and school and they only except Mastercard or Discover.

    • says


      Your best bet would be to get the Freedom card and then once it arrives you can call Chase and ask them to switch it over to a MasterCard since Sam’s doesn’t accept Visa. By the way, the same thing can be done with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

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