The Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards for Gaining Airline Miles

Grab a free(ish) boost on your points.
A couple booking travel online using their no annual fee credit card

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What are travel credit cards, and how do they work?

Travel credit cards are financial products that offer various rewards and benefits geared towards frequent travelers. They typically earn you points or miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases. These rewards can be redeemed for flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and other travel-related expenses. Travel credit cards may also include perks like travel insurance, airport lounge access, and no foreign transaction fees.

How do I choose the best travel credit card for my needs?

Choosing the best travel credit card depends on your travel habits, spending patterns, and preferences. Consider factors like the type of rewards offered (points, miles, or cash back), the card’s annual fee, sign-up bonuses, earning rates, redemption options, and additional travel perks. Analyzing these features will help you find a card that aligns with your lifestyle and offers the most value.

What are the benefits of using a travel credit card over other types of credit cards?

Travel credit cards provide unique advantages for travelers, such as earning rewards specifically tailored to travel expenses. Additionally, many travel credit cards offer travel-related perks like free checked bags, priority boarding, and travel insurance. Some cards also waive foreign transaction fees, making them ideal for international travelers.

What is a sign-up bonus, and how can I qualify for it?

A sign-up bonus is a promotional offer provided by the credit card issuer to entice new cardholders. To qualify for a sign-up bonus, you usually need to meet specific spending requirements within a certain timeframe after opening the account. The bonus can be in the form of points, miles, or cash back, and it’s a great way to jump-start your rewards earning.

Do travel credit cards charge foreign transaction fees?

Not all travel credit cards charge foreign transaction fees. Many of the top-tier travel cards waive these fees, making them ideal for international travel. However, it’s essential to read the card’s terms and conditions to confirm this before using it abroad.

How can I maximize the rewards earned with my travel credit card?

To maximize rewards, use your travel credit card for everyday expenses and large purchases. Take advantage of bonus categories and special promotions to earn more points or miles. Consider combining your travel credit card with loyalty programs to stack rewards and get even more value out of your purchases.

Getting the travel itch but know you shouldn’t be opening any more expensive credit cards?

We feel you.

There’s no getting around the fact that the biggest intro bonuses and beefiest perk armories belong to the pricier premium cards. Unless you know you can maximize their value, you shouldn’t have too many of them in rotation and you need to make up the points using some more affordable products. Or even better—find one with no annual fee whatsoever.

In this article, we’ll help you find the best credit card for airline miles with no annual fee. They might not send you off in first class, but they’ve got more than enough power to get you where you want to go…and do it cheaply.

How to find the best credit card for airlines miles with no annual fee

The best credit card for airline miles with no annual fee will depend on your individual situation. Each card has its pros and cons, so before making a decision, ensure you understand what you need from any given product.

Ask yourself these questions:

Knowing the answer to these questions can help narrow down the best credit card for airline miles with no annual fee. Let’s take a look at some of the best cards out there.

Best credit card for airline miles overall: Bilt Mastercard®

The best credit card for airline miles with no annual fee overall is without a doubt the Bilt Mastercard. This trailblazing card is unique in the market because it’s the only credit card designed to pay rent—whether your landlord accepts cards or not.

Current welcome bonus

The Bilt Mastercard does not offer an introductory bonus. However, its utility in covering significant expenses like rent makes it a highly valuable option for renters.

Rewards rate

  • Rent payments: Earn 1x points, up to 100,000 points annually.
  • Dining: Earn 3x points per dollar spent.
  • Travel: Earn 2x points per dollar spent.

Note: To activate these rewards, the card must be used at least five times within each statement period.

Additional benefits

Bilt points are considered some of the most valuable in the market due to a growing list of transfer partners. This makes the card particularly appealing for frequent travelers and renters alike.

Bilt Mastercard®

No Welcome Bonus

Annual Fee: $0  |  Terms Apply  |  Rates & Fees

The best for easy earning: card_name

Capital One is known for its excellent easy-to-earn travel cards, and its VentureOne Rewards card might just be the best credit card for airline miles with no annual fee.

Current welcome bonus

Despite having no annual fee, the card comes with a valuable 20,000-mile intro bonus earned after spending $500 within three months of opening the card—perfect for a quick points injection.

Rewards rate

  • General purchases: Earn a flat rate of 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases. This rate applies universally, making it simple and straightforward to accumulate miles.

Additional benefits

Venture Miles are among the most valuable travel currencies available. Cardholders can transfer their miles to a diverse array of 18 airline and hotel partners, enhancing the flexibility and utility of the miles earned.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

20,000 Bonus Miles

after you spend $500 on purchases in 3 months of card opening

Annual Fee: $0  |  Terms Apply  |  Rates & Fees

The best for small businesses: Chase Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

Small business owners with an eye on a new card could do far worse than the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card. Its incredible intro bonus helps make it the best credit card for airline miles with no annual fee for those with some business expenses to cover.

Current welcome bonus

This card offers an introductory bonus that is unusually high for a cashback card: earn up to $750 or transform it into 75,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. To qualify for this bonus, cardholders must spend $6,000 within the first three months of opening the account.

Rewards rate

  • General purchases: Earn a consistent 1.5% cashback on all purchases without any category restrictions. This straightforward, flat rate makes it easy to accumulate rewards on business expenses.

Additional benefits

While technically a cashback card, a quirk unique to Chase means its up to $750 intro bonus can be transformed into 75,000 super-valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. This is only possible if you own one of Chase’s other points-earning cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Chase Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

$750 bonus cash back

after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee: $0  |  Terms Apply  |  Rates & Fees

The best for occasional American Airlines customers: American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp®

American Airlines AAdvantage program is arguably the most valuable points currency among the US’ big airlines. The problem? They’re hard to earn unless you fly with the airline or its partners. There are only a few ways to transfer points to the program, and it might not be possible for you. Instead, you can opt for the American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp® credit card.

Current welcome bonus

It currently comes with a 15,000-mile intro bonus, earned after spending $500 within three months of opening the card. 

Rewards rate

  • Groceries: Earn 2x miles per dollar spent, enhancing everyday earning potential.
  • American Airlines purchases: Also earn 2x miles per dollar, making it particularly rewarding for regular customers of the airline.

Additional benefits

This card is an excellent choice for those who frequently shop for groceries or fly with American Airlines, as it boosts mile accumulation significantly in these categories without an annual fee.

The best for occasional United Airlines customers: United Gateway℠ Card

United Airlines’ MileagePlus program is another valuable way to use points thanks to its huge number of partners. While you can transfer to United from a Chase card, a co-branded card like the United Gateway Card is a simple way to get a solid injection of the airlines’ miles.

Current welcome bonus

The card is running a 20,000-mile intro bonus earned after spending $1,000 within three months of opening the card. While that may not feel like much, 20,000 miles could fly you from Texas to Ecuador for $5.60.

Rewards rate

  • United purchases: Earn 2x points per dollar.
  • Gas stations: Earn 2x points per dollar.
  • Local transit: Earn 2x points per dollar, including taxis, mass transit, tolls, and rideshare services.
  • All other purchases: Earn 1x points per dollar on everything else.

Additional benefits

Apart from the initial mileage bonus, the card’s affiliation with United Airlines offers additional travel benefits and rewards, enhancing its value for regular travelers who prefer United for their travel needs.

The best for occasional Delta Airlines customers: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

We’re breaking our own rules slightly with this card. The Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex Card isn’t really a no-annual-fee card, it costs $150 a year. But there’s no annual fee for the first year (see rates and fees), making it a pretty amazing deal. Whether you choose to keep it after the first year is up to you, but it’s the only card on our list with any perks to speak of, as well as a solid intro bonus.

Current welcome bonus

The intro bonus is currently set at 40,000 SkyMiles, earned by spending $2,000 within the first six months of opening the card. 

Rewards rate

  • Restaurants worldwide: Earn 2x miles per dollar, including takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • U.S. supermarkets: Earn 2x miles per dollar, making everyday purchases more rewarding.

Additional benefits

You’ll also grab a free first-checked bag on Delta flights as well as some discounts on Delta’s travel portal. Those points can go a long way if used on one of Delta’s monthly deals or rock-bottom domestic rates.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

40,000 Bonus Miles

after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 6 months

Annual Fee: $0 intro annual fee the first year, then $150  |  Terms Apply  |  Rates & Fees

Bottom line

Specific airline miles can be hard to come by, and if you find yourself in need, it’s not always convenient or sensible to open a premium card with a hefty annual fee.

A no annual fee airline credit card is the perfect alternative, offering you a boost of points without the added cost.

Frequently asked questions

No annual fee credit cards for airline miles allow you to earn rewards on everyday purchases without the added expense of a yearly fee. These cards are great for budget-conscious travelers who still want to accumulate miles for future travel.

When choosing a card, consider your spending habits and travel goals. Look for a card that aligns with your most frequent expenses, such as groceries or gas, and one that offers rewards with airlines you use regularly.

Yes, many no annual fee cards offer valuable travel rewards. While these cards may not offer as many perks as premium cards, they can still provide substantial rewards, especially when used strategically.

Consider the rewards rate, sign-up bonuses, and the airlines you can redeem miles with. It’s also important to understand any limitations or caps on earning rewards.

Cards with transferable points allow you to convert your earned points into miles with various airline partners, providing greater flexibility in how you can use your rewards.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This post contains references to products from one or more of our partners and we may receive compensation when you click on links to those products.

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