You don’t need a hotel or airline-branded credit card with a high annual fee to enjoy benefits such as accelerated rewards earning, on-site hotel perks, and airline flight benefits.
You may be surprised to learn that regardless of your brand of choice, chances are there is a no-annual-fee card offering brand benefits that can save you money or make your trip more comfortable.
Our objective today is to focus on those hotel and airline-associated credit cards that do not charge an annual fee, yet still add potential value for the cardholder.
We’ll look closely at the earning potential and brand benefits offered with each of our featured cards. However, if you’re looking for even greater benefits and are willing to pay an annual fee, you may have interest in our picks for a likely alternative card that is sure to provide value with the associated hotel or airline brand.
The 6 Best Hotel Credit Cards With No Annual Fee
Hotel-branded credit cards can provide great value for the brand loyalist with accelerated rewards earning, hotel perks, and a faster path to hotel loyalty program elite status.
1. Hilton Honors American Express Card
It’s rare to find a no-annual-fee card that provides as much value with a top hotel brand as the Hilton Honors card. Not only will you experience accelerated earnings, but you’ll also enjoy complimentary elite status and on-site perks.
Here’s what you can expect with the Hilton Honors card:
- 7x Hilton Honors points at a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio
- 5x points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. supermarkets
- 3x points on all other purchases
- Complimentary Hilton Honors Silver elite status with the opportunity to earn Gold status after spending $20,000 in a calendar year on the card
- Hilton Honors Silver status provides you with late checkout, 20% more earnings on Hilton stays, the fifth consecutive standard reward night free, no resort fees on award stays, elite rollover nights, and 2 bottles of water
- Use your card abroad as the card does not charge foreign transaction fees
Additional Card Option for Hilton Loyalists
Jumpstart your Hilton Honors points account with a generous welcome bonus worth several free hotel nights, stellar earning levels, and other valuable benefits with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.
Hilton-branded cards come packed with hotel perks, statement credits, and more. Find out which card may be a match by accessing our article on the best cards for Hilton loyalists.
2. Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card
For a basic entry-level hotel-branded card, the Marriott Bold card surprises with excellent earning levels, elite benefits, and a faster path to higher elite status.
- Up to 14x points per dollar spent at hotels participating in the Marriot Bonvoy program
- 2x points on other travel purchases
- 1x point per dollar for all other purchases
- 15 elite-qualifying night credits annually, more than enough for Marriott Bonvoy Silver elite status
- Silver Elite status offers member-only hotel rates, fifth consecutive reward night free, late 2 p.m. checkout, free internet, 10% bonus points, and welcome points
- No foreign transaction fees
Additional Card Option for Marriott Loyalists
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card comes with valuable benefits like complimentary Silver Elite status and a free annual hotel certificate at card renewal.
To learn more about the benefits of all Marriott-branded cards, our article on the best cards for Marriott Bonvoy loyalists goes into greater detail.
Bottom Line: Hotel-branded credit cards can deliver a lot of value when you frequent a particular brand. One of the most valuable benefits of no-annual-fee hotel credit cards is accelerated earnings, which allow you to earn free nights faster.
3. IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card
With an IHG property in nearly every major city, you’ll find it easy to reap the benefits of IHG One Rewards. IHG-branded cards also partner well with the IHG One Rewards program to offer a combination of earnings and benefits any IHG loyalist will value.
Here’s how the IHG Traveler card delivers that value:
- Earn up to 17 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
- Earn 3 points per $1 spent on purchases on monthly bills, gas stations, and restaurants.
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
- 20% discount on IHG One Rewards point purchases
- Fourth consecutive award night free
- Automatic Silver Elite status
- Gold Elite status after spending $10,000 on the card in a calendar year
Additional Card Option for IHG Loyalists
If you frequent IHG hotels, there’s another card option to consider that provides even greater value. The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card has a generous welcome bonus worth several free hotel nights, a free annual hotel night certificate, and complimentary Platinum Elite level status.
Learn more about these card options, including additional benefits and the value of elite status in our article on the best cards for IHG loyalists.
4. Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Card
Choice hotel properties include 14 different brands that range from economy lodging options to downright luxury. Having the Choice Privileges card will allow you to earn points quickly and score free hotel nights.
- Welcome bonus worth up to 4 free hotel nights
- 5x points per dollar spent at Choice properties or on Choice Privileges points
- 2x points per dollar on all other purchases
- 8,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in a year
- Complimentary Gold elite status
- Up to 15x points per dollar spent at Choice properties (5x points for paying with the card + 10x points per dollar for Choice program membership)
- Gold status offers late checkout, early check-in (when available), complimentary reserved parking, member discounts, free amenities, and 10% bonus points when staying at Choice properties
5. Wyndham Rewards® Earner℠ Card
If you stay at Wyndham properties even a few times each year, you’ll appreciate the earning power of having a rewards-earning card.
The Wyndham Rewards Earner card comes with the following earnings and benefits:
- Welcome bonus
- 5x points per dollar at Wyndham and at gas stations
- 2x points on dining and at grocery stores
- 1x point per dollar on all other purchases
- Complimentary Gold elite status level with Wyndham Rewards
- Gold status delivers benefits such as late checkout, member-only rates, free Wi-Fi, preferred rooms, and accelerated earning
- Receive 7,500 points after spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year
- 10% redemption discount on qualifying reward night purchases
Additional Card Options for Wyndham Loyalists
- Wyndham Rewards® Earner Plus℠ Card — Qualify for a generous welcome bonus, earn 6x points for every dollar spent at Wyndham and on gas, 4x at grocery stores and on dining, complimentary Platinum level status, and 7,500 points after each card renewal.
Wyndham has some sweet spot redemptions and member promotions, and there are lots of ways to earn Wyndham Rewards points.
6. Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®
We like that Best Western chooses to surprise us every time we cross the pond and stay at a Best Western property abroad. Sure, you’ll find budget properties, but you’ll also find boutique properties that are unique, comfortable, and affordable.
The Best Western Rewards card offers earnings and benefits that can help you earn free nights and make your stay more comfortable.
- Welcome bonus after your first purchase, another after your first stay
- 3x points per dollar spent at Best Western
- 2x points per dollar for all other purchases
Best Western Benefits
- Up to 13x points per dollar spent at Best Western (3x points for paying with the card, 10x points for being a member of Best Western Rewards)
- Automatic Gold elite status that includes late checkout, early check-in, and 10% off room rates
Additional Card Options for Best Western Loyalists
- Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® — Qualify for the generous welcome bonus worth several hotel nights, receive bonus points at each card renewal, earn up to 20x points at Best Western properties, and enjoy onsite property perks just for having the card. The card also comes with Platinum elite status.
To learn more about Best Western credit cards, plus some of the best value redemption options for your Best Western Rewards points, check out our article with recommendations for some of our favorite properties.
Bottom Line: Hotel credit cards that don’t charge an annual fee can provide minimal benefits such as accelerated earnings and in some cases, entry-level elite status. If you frequent a particular brand, however, you’ll find much greater value by moving to the next level rewards card where you may find better brand benefits, free hotel night certificates, greater earnings, and generous welcome bonuses.
The 5 Best Airline Credit Cards With No Annual Fee
While no-annual-fee airline credit cards might lack the equivalent perks that hotel-branded cards offer, you’ll still find the opportunity for increased earnings, inflight purchase discounts, and more.
Let’s look at what you can expect from no-annual-fee airline credit cards.
1. American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
The American Airlines MileUp card does not offer premium airline perks such as free checked bags or priority boarding, however, you will find several earning opportunities when using the card.
You’ll also want to carry the card with you on your American Airlines flights for inflight food/beverage savings.
- 2x miles per dollar spent on American Airline purchases
- 2x miles at grocery stores (including grocery delivery services)
- 1x mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
- 25% discount on inflight food and beverage purchases
- Accelerated earnings help you earn a free flight faster
Additional Card Option for American Airlines Frequent Flyers
American Airlines frequent flyers have several card choices. Learn about the full benefits of each card in our detailed article on the best American Airlines credit cards.
2. Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Credit Card
If Delta is your airline of choice and you’d like to earn more Delta SkyMiles, you’ll have several card options. Let’s start with the Delta Blue card, a no-annual-fee card with earning options that can help you get closer to earning that free flight.
- 2x miles per dollar spent on Delta
- 2x miles at restaurants worldwide
- 1x mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
- 20% statement credit for inflight food, beverage, and headset purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
Additional Card Option for Delta Air Lines Frequent Flyers
If you’re a frequent Delta flyer, you may find value with a Delta-branded card that has greater benefits yet charges an annual fee. With free checked bags, priority boarding, companion flight certificates, lounge access, and more, the increased benefits may offset the annual fee.
With plenty of benefits and strong earning rates, you’ll quickly earn enough miles for a free flight with the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card.
For greater detail on the expanded benefits of several cards offering Delta perks, check out our overview of the best cards for Delta frequent flyers.
3. United Gateway℠ Card
If you simply want to earn United miles and have expanded access to award availability, the United Gateway card will serve those purposes nicely.
- 2x miles per dollar spent United purchases, at gas stations and on local transit and commuting
- 25% statement credit on inflight United purchases
- Expanded award availability
Additional Card Option for United Frequent Flyers
The United℠ Explorer Card comes with a variety of benefits, from baggage to United Club access.
You’ll have plenty of choices for earning United miles and enjoying flight benefits with any of the cards in this collection of the best cards for United frequent flyers.
4. The JetBlue Card
A no-annual-fee airline card ensures you’ll be earning rewards much faster. The JetBlue card serves that purpose perfectly with elevated earnings on JetBlue, and also at restaurants and grocery stores.
- 3x points per dollar spent on JetBlue
- 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores
- 1x point per dollar spent on all other purchases
- Up to 6x points per dollar spent on JetBlue (3x points for using your card + 3x points for being a JetBlue TrueBlue member)
- 50% savings on inflight food, beverage, and movie purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
Additional Card Option for JetBlue Frequent Flyers
- The JetBlue Plus Card — With a free checked bag for you and up to 3 traveling companions, 5,000 rewards points at card anniversary, an accelerated path to TrueBlue Mosaic elite status, and a 10% rebate when redeeming points for flights, The JetBlue Plus card could be worth the $99 annual fee if you fly JetBlue frequently.
Learn more about these 2 popular JetBlue cards and the business card version in our article reviewing the best cards for JetBlue flyers.
5. Free Spirit® Travel Mastercard®
This basic card Free Spirit card provides some modest earning power, inflight savings, and priority boarding — not bad for a no-annual-fee card.
- 2x points per dollar spent on Spirit
- 1x point per dollar on all other purchases
- 25% rebate on inflight food and beverage purchases
- Zone 2 shortcut boarding
- Receive 5,000 bonus points each card anniversary after spending $10,000 each year on the card
- Access to points pooling
Additional Card Option for Spirit Frequent Flyers
It doesn’t cost much to kick it up a notch and enjoy the associated benefits of a World Elite Mastercard.
- Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard® — With a generous welcome bonus, a $100 companion flight voucher, 3x earnings on Spirit, and 2x earnings at grocery stores and restaurants, you could find enough value to offset the $79 annual fee. You’ll also save by having award redemption fees waived.
Hotel and airline-branded cards that do not charge an annual offer few benefits compared to cards that do charge an annual fee. It’s wise if you frequent a particular hotel or airline to consider a card with an annual fee if you will use the associated benefits.
For example, if you value airport lounge access, free checked bags, priority boarding, an upgraded seat advantage, and an annual companion flight certificate, paying the large annual fee on the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card may make good economic sense. Lounge access alone can exceed $550 each year.
Even an airline card with a $95 annual fee that offers free checked bags could save you plenty if you travel frequently.
Additionally, paying the annual fee on a card such as the Hilton Honors Surpass card that offers a generous welcome bonus worth several free hotel nights, Hilton Honors elite status, 10 Priority Pass lounge passes, and an annual free weekend night certificate, might work well for you if Hilton is your brand of choice.
You’ll want to weigh the amount of the annual fee with the benefits you’ll actually use of course, including any travel/shopping benefits and protections. Travel insurance benefits and protections can provide tremendous value. And don’t forget to look for shopping protections such as purchase protection and extended warranty.
And even if you’re loyal to a specific brand, it’s still possible to fare better with the right travel rewards credit card in addition to, or instead of, a hotel or airline-branded card.
The information regarding the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Card, Wyndham Rewards® Earner℠ Card, Wyndham Rewards® Earner Plus℠ Card, Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®, Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®, Citi®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Credit Card, The JetBlue Card, The JetBlue Plus Card, Free Spirit® Travel Mastercard®, and Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, click here.