Posted: 3/16/23 | March 16th, 2023
One of the easiest ways to save money on travel is by
travel hacking. Using credit cards (responsibly) to collect points and miles essentially turns your everyday spending into free flights, free hotel stays, and other great travel benefits.
This not only stretches your travel budget but elevates your travel experience, providing free upgrades, lounge access, and much, much more.
Whether you want to be on the road longer, travel more, or just save money on your next vacation, points and miles can get you there.
However, most of the best travel credit cards there is an annual fee (sometimes large).
While annual fees are usually worth it for frequent travelers (you can get more value out of a card than its annual fee), if you’re new to travel hacking or don’t travel much, you might want to get a no-fee card first.
And there are many of chargeless cards outside. Which would you choose?
Here’s my list of the best no-fee travel credit cards so you can start earning points toward free travel today:
1. The Bilt Rewards Mastercard
Without a doubt my favorite free travel card, the Bilt Mastercard allows you to earn points when you pay your rent (as well as on everyday purchases). The card is mainly aimed at travelers and restaurant-goers as it offers 2x points spent on travel and 3x points on dining out.
You can transfer points 1:1 with travel partners, including American Airlines, United, Emirates, Hawaiian, Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, Air France/KLM, Hyatt, and IHG. The fact that you can transfer Bilt points to American Airlines really sets this card apart; no other card’s points are transferable to American, so accumulating Bilt points is the only way to earn AA points without an AA card.
Bilt also comes with point. mean easy-to-use search and booking engine for award flights.
With the Bilt card, you get:
- 1x points on rental payments
- 2x travel points
- 3x dining points
- American Airlines as a transfer partner (it’s the only card that does)
- Rent Day benefits: monthly giveaways and challenges plus 6x points on dining, 4x points on travel, and 2x on all other spend on the 1st of the month
- Travel protection including trip cancellation and delay
- No foreign transaction fees
The Bilt card is really a no-brainer for renters who like to travel. To learn more, read my full Bilt Review. This is the card I use the most these days (especially on rent days).
2. Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
The cards in Capital One’s Venture lineup are all impressive. While Venture and Venture X are more popular, they have an annual fee. If you’re looking for a no-fee card, VentureOne is a great choice. You’ll earn 1.25x points on all purchases as well as 5x points on travel booked through the Capital One travel portal. Like other Venture cards, the points you earn with the VentureOne card can be transferred to Capital One’s 15+ transfer partners to redeem for flights and hotels.
With this card, you get:
- 40,000 points when you spend $1,000 within 3 months of account opening
- 1.25x points on all purchases
- 5x points on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
- Travel accident and car rental insurance
- No foreign transaction fees
3. Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great no-fee card that offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases, 3% back at restaurants and drugstores, and 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The card also offers travel protections such as rental car insurance and trip cancellation/delay. However, it charges foreign transaction fees, so you don’t want to use it while traveling abroad, just to book travel in advance.
When you sign up for this card, you get:
- Earn an additional 1.5% on all purchases in the first year (up to $20,000)
- 1.5% cash back on all purchases
- 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3% cash back at restaurants and drugstores
Another similar option is the Chase Freedom Flex. Freedom Flex offers 5% cash back in quarterly rotating bonus categories, 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on restaurants, and 1% back on all other spending .
CARDS WITH LOW FEES
If the cards above are too basic for your travel hacking needs and you want something more intermediate, here’s a quick list of travel credit cards with affordable fees:
Chase Sapphire is preferred ($95 annual fee) – 3x points on dining, online grocery purchases, and select streaming services, 2x travel points (5x when booked through the Chase travel portal), travel protections, and a $50 annual hotel credit when you book and prepay through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Capital One Venture ($95 annual fee) – 2x points on all purchases, 5x points on hotels/rental cars booked with Capital One travel, $100 Global Entry/TSA pre-check credit, 2 airport lounge visits per year.
Chase Ink Plus Business preferred ($95 annual fee) – If you’re a business owner, this card offers 3x points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent each year on shipping, internet, phone, travel, and online advertising, and free cards for employees.
While fee-based cards have better earning structures and travel benefits, if you’re new to the points and miles game, the idea of forking out for an annual fee can be off-putting. yours from travel cards entirely. But if you love to travel (or want to travel more), not collecting points and miles is the biggest mistake you can make.
No-fee cards are a great place to start so you can start working toward free flights and hotel stays now, without worrying about whether you’re getting enough value from the card to justify the annual fee.
Want to know all about points and miles?
Stop paying full price for airfare! Download our free travel hacking guide and learn:
- How to Choose a Credit Card
- How to Earn Miles for Free Flights and Hotels
- Is Travel Hacking Really a Scam?
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find cheap flights by using Skyscanner. This is my favorite search engine because it searches for websites and airlines worldwide so you always know that no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel at Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use it Booking.com as it always returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellation. This is comprehensive protection in case something goes wrong. I never travel without it as I have had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Want to travel for free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodations. They are what keep me traveling so much. Look my guide to choosing the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
See my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I have listed everything I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.
Advertiser Disclosure: “Nomadic Matt has partnered with CardRatings for our range of credit card products. Nomadic Matt and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.”
Editorial Disclosure: “The opinions, reviews, analysis, and recommendations are solely those of the author, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.”