published: 3/16/23 | March 16, 2023
One of the easiest ways to save money while traveling
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 perks.
Not only does this increase your travel budget, it elevates your travel experience, offering free upgrades, lounge access, and much more.
Whether you want to stay on the road longer, take more trips, or simply save money on your next vacation, Points and Miles can get you there.
However, most of the best travel credit cards have a (sometimes huge) annual fee.
While the annual fee is usually worth it for frequent flyers (you can get a lot more value out of the card than its annual fee), if you’re new to hacker travel or don’t travel, you might want to get one without the card fee first.
And here they are a lot No-fee cards out there. Which one will you choose?
Here is a list of the best no-fee travel credit cards so you can start earning points for free travel today:
1. The Bilt Rewards Mastercard
Without a doubt, my favorite card for no-fee travel, the Bilt Mastercard allows you to earn points on paying rent (as well as on everyday purchases). The card is mainly intended for travelers and restaurant goers because it provides double the points spent on travel and 3 times the points when dining out.
You can transfer points 1:1 to travel partners, including American Airlines, United, Emirates, Hawaiian, Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, Air France/KLM, Hyatt, and IHG. The fact that you can transfer Belt Points to American Airlines really sets this card apart; No other Card Points are transferable to America, so accumulating Belt Points is the only way to get AA Points without getting an AA Card.
Bilt also integrates with point.me, a handy search and booking engine for reward flights.
With the Bilt Card, you get:
- 1x points on rental payments
- 2x points on travel
- 3 times the points on food
- American Airlines as a carrier partner (it’s the only card that does this)
- Rent Day Benefits: Monthly gifts and challenges plus 6x points on dinner, 4x on travel, and 2x on all other spends on the first day of the month
- Travel protection including trip cancellation and delay
- There are no foreign transaction fees
The Bilt Card is a no-brainer for renters who love to travel. To learn more, read our full Bilt review. It’s the card I use the most now (especially on my rental days).
2. Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
All cards in Capital One’s Venture deck are awesome. While Venture and Venture X are more popular, they come with an annual fee. If you’re looking for a no-fee card, VentureOne is an excellent choice. You will earn 1.25x points on all purchases plus 5x points on travel booked through the Capital One travel portal. Just like other Venture Cards, the points you earn with the VentureOne Card can then be transferred to over 15 Capital One Transfer Partners to redeem for flights and hotels.
With this card, you will get:
- 40,000 points when you spend $1,000 within 3 months of opening the account
- 1.25x points on all purchases
- 5x points on hotels and car rentals with Capital One Travel
- Travel accident insurance and car rental
- There are no foreign transaction fees
3. Chase Unlimited Freedom
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great no-fee card that offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases, 3% cash back on restaurants and drugstores, and 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The card also provides travel protection such as car rental insurance and trip cancellation/delay. However, it does charge a foreign transaction fee, 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 will 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 with Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3% cashback on restaurants and pharmacies
Another similar option is Chase Freedom Flex. Freedom Flex offers 5% cash back on quarterly rotating reward categories, 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining, and 1% cash back on all other spends.
Low fee cards
If the above cards are a bit basic for your travel hacking needs and you want something a little more intermediate, here’s a quick list of affordable travel credit cards:
Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee) – 3x points on dining, online grocery purchases, and select streaming services, 2x points on travel (5x when booking through Chase travel portal), travel protection, and a $50 annual hotel credit when you Reserve and prepay with Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Capital One Venture ($95 annual fee) – 2x points on all purchases, 5x points on hotels/rental cars booked on 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 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent each year on shipping, internet, phone, travel, 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 forgoing an annual fee may turn you away from travel cards altogether. 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 towards free flights and hotel stays today, without having to think about whether you’re getting enough value from the card to justify the annual fee.
Book your flight: logistics tips and tricks
Book your flight
Find a cheap flight with Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the world so you’ll always know that no stone is left unturned.
Reserve your accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it constantly shows the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will protect you from illness, injury, theft and cancellation. It is comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve 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 makes me travel so much for so little. Check out my guide to choosing the right card, current favorites to get started, and see the latest best deals.
Ready to book your flight?
Check out my resources page for the best companies to use when traveling. I list everything I use when I travel. It’s the best in class and you can’t go wrong with it on your trip.
Advertiser disclosure: “Nomadic Matt has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Nomadic Matt and CardRatings may receive commission from card issuers.”
Editorial disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analysis, and recommendations are those of the author alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities.