One of the main points of this blog is that its possible to get tons of value from using credit cards wisely. Oftentimes, the most value comes from cards with annual fees. However, there are some people who simply don’t like annual fees. These people are willing to avoid them at all costs but still want to earn rewards. This post highlights some of my favorite travel credit cards that don’t have annual fees.

All of these cards are Tier II cards because they don’t have an annual fee, but they earn rewards. The beauty of having Tier II cards is that they serve as a foundation for your credit history. You can keep these cards open forever and maintain your credit score.

 

Bonus Categories

American Express Everyday Card

This card tops the list for one very simple reason. It’s the only personal card that lets you directly transfer points of any sort to travel partners without an annual fee. The American Express Everyday card earns valuable Membership Rewards (MR) points.

The Everyday Card earns 2x MR points at Grocery Stores and 1 point for all other purchases. You will receive a 20% points bonus on all transactions if you use your card 20 times per calendar month. This points bonus gives you the potential to earn 2.4x points at Grocery Stores and 1.2x points for all other purchases.

The Everyday Card also has a sign-up bonus worth 10,000 MR points. It can be earned after spending just $1,000 within the first three months. The card also comes with a 0% intro APR period that lasts 15 months.

This card is a fantastic option if you are interested in traveling, points, and miles. It’s also the best points-earning personal card if you want to use only one card and not pay an annual fee.

Citi Rewards +

This card from Citibank is the successor to the Thank You Preferred card. It earns Citi Thank You (TY) points and integrates you into Citi’s points “ecosystem”.

The Citi Rewards + earns 2x points at Gas Stations and Grocery Stores. But the highlight of this card comes from the rules of rounding. Citi rounds up the amount of points earned to the nearest 10 for all purchases. For example, if you spend $1 at a convenience store, you will earn 10 points. This makes the Rewards + the best card in the industry for small purchases.

The Rewards + also offers a 15,000-point sign-up bonus. It can be earned after spending $1,000 in the first three months.

You can transfer your points to the Citi Prestige or Citi Premier if you decide to open either of them later. This lets you take advantage of Citi’s transfer partners and travel the world for less. You can’t directly transfer to Citi’s partners (except JetBlue) with this card.

 

5x Rotating Categories

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom is a great option if you’re interested in earning Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points. You will earn 5x UR points on rotating quarterly categories. There is a spend limit of $1,500 per quarter for each category.

The last four categories are as follows:

  • 2nd Quarter 2019: Grocery Stores & Home Improvement Stores
  • 1st Quarter 2019: Gas Stations, Tolls, & Pharmacies
  • 4th Quarter 2018: Department Stores, Wholesale Clubs, & Chase Pay
  • 3rd Quarter 2018: Gas Station, Lyft, & Walgreens

This classic Chase card offers a 15,000-point sign-up bonus. It can be earned after spending only $500 in the first three months. 15,000 points is a good amount to get you started on saving for travel.

You can transfer your points to a Chase Sapphire Card or a Chase Ink Business Preferred if you decide to open either of them later. This lets you take advantage of Chase’s transfer partners and travel portal. You can’t transfer your points directly from this card.

Discover It

Discover is the pioneer of no annual fee cards. Their original card was released in 1986 and was known for having no fees of any sort and earning cash back rewards. Discover’s current flagship card, the Discover It, earns 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories.

For 2019, the categories are as follows:

  • 1st Quarter: Grocery Stores
  • 2nd Quarter: Gas Stations, Uber, & Lyft
  • 3rd Quarter: Restaurants & PayPal
  • 4th Quarter: Amazon.com, Walmart.com, & Target

Discover does not offer a fixed sign-up bonus for any of its cards. But they will match the cash back that you earned in your first year of card-membership.

 

Flat Rate

Chase Freedom Unlimited

This card is a good choice if you’re interested in earning Chase UR points and you have varied spending. It’s also a great choice if you want a flat rate “workhorse” card that earns UR points. The Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5x UR points on all purchases with no spend limits.

Like the Freedom, it offers a 15,000-point sign-up bonus. It can be earned after spending $500 in the first three months.

You can transfer your points to a Chase Sapphire Card or a Chase Ink Business Preferred if you decide to open either of them later. This lets you take advantage of Chase’s transfer partners and travel portal. You can’t transfer your points directly from this card.

American Express Blue Business Plus

This is a favorite travel card for many points and miles enthusiasts for several reasons. It’s the only business card that lets you directly transfer points of any sort to travel partners without an annual fee. In this way, its like the Amex Everyday Card. However, the Blue Business Plus’ earning structure is better for many people and small businesses.

The Blue Business Plus earns 2x MR points on the first $50,000 in annual purchases. After that, it earns only one point on all purchases. This earning structure is a favorite among MR point collectors and its often paired with at least one Amex charge card.

Bank of America Travel Rewards Card

This dark blue card is a solid alternative to the popular Bank of America Premium Rewards Card. It earns 1.5x Bank of America points on all purchases.

The Travel Rewards Card has a sign-up bonus worth 25,000 points (or $250). This bonus can be earned after spending $1,000 within the first three months. Furthermore, points can be redeemed at 1 cent each (CPP) for statement credits. This makes the Travel Rewards Card a “travel cash back card” like the Discover It Miles or the Barclaycard Arrival +.

 

Final Draw

While more value can be had with annual fee cards, there are many solid options that don’t have annual fees. The beauty of all these cards is that you can keep them forever and let your credit history and credit score grow.

Some of these cards are also complements to bigger travel cards with perks and annual fees. If you’re interested in perks, you should consider at least one card with an annual fee. This is especially true if you get a card with a first-year annual fee waiver. You will likely receive more value, perks, and points with a nice card combination.

You should think about your lifestyle, job, budget, and desire to travel. As with most credit and travel related situations, your mileage may vary.

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