Using an airline credit card can bring down the cost of your air travel, and you stand to benefit in other ways as well. These credit card benefits are even better if you can avoid paying an annual fee.
Best Airline Credit Cards for No Annual Fee in 2023
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Most of the top no-annual-fee airline credit cards are co-branded. This means they are associated with the loyalty programs of specific airlines. For example, the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card is linked to the SkyMiles Loyalty Program run by Delta Air Lines.
If you don’t favor using any one particular airline, you may want to consider getting a non-co-branded airline card such as the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.
The leading no-annual-fee airline credit cards tend to do away with foreign transaction fees, which is appealing if you want to travel internationally. Some even offer purchase and travel coverage.
MoneyGeek’s Take: Top 2 Airline Credit Cards With No Annual Fee
When you run a no-annual-fee airline card comparison, one of the first things you notice is that not all offer the same number of miles per dollar spent. Plus, they come with varied introductory bonus offers. We’ve selected the best cards from this category after accounting for these factors as well as APRs, foreign transaction fees and added benefits.
- Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
- up to 2 Miles per $1*Rewards Rate
- 20.99% – 29.99% VariableAPR
- $0Annual Fee
- Good–ExcellentRecommended Credit
- United Gateway Card
- 1 Mile per $1Rewards Rate
- 21.49% – 28.49% VariableAPR
- $0Annual Fee
- Good–ExcellentRecommended Credit
Summary of the Best Airline Cards for No Annual Fee
Use the corresponding table to take a quick look at reward rates, foreign transaction fees and welcome offers of other good no-annual-fee airline credit cards.
- Credit CardBest ForAvg. Reward RateAnnual FeeCredit Needed
- Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express CardA great miles rewards card with no annual feesup to 2 Miles per $1*$0
- United Gateway CardA great no-annual-fee rewards card for people who fly United1 Mile per $1$0
- American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp® CardA great travel card with no annual fee for frequent flyers on American Airlines1–2 Miles per $1$0
- Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit CardBest balance transfer card with travel rewards
If you're not traveling much, but still want to earn airline miles on your purchases, a no-fee airline card is a great idea. Once you start flying more, you can decide if upgrading to another card to get other benefits makes sense. -- Lee Huffman, credit card expert at BaldThoughts.com.
How to Compare Airline Credit Cards & Intro Offers
There is no single best airline credit card with no annual fee because these cards come with different features and benefits that serve distinct purposes. As a result, various aspects require your consideration.
Narrowing down on a suitable card becomes fairly easy if you favor using any one airline over others. If not, you may consider getting a travel rewards card that does not limit your reward-earning potential to any particular airline.
The number of miles you stand to earn may vary based on the card you get as well as on category-based spending. For instance, the Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card offers 2x miles on purchases made directly with Delta and on dining at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, whereas all other purchases earn 1x miles. The VentureOne Rewards Card from Capital One offers 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 1.25x miles on all other purchases.
Ways to redeem
If you get a co-branded airline card, chances are that you’ll need to redeem the miles you earn through its linked airline loyalty program. This is the case with the Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card and the United Gateway Card Credit Card. If you want more freedom surrounding how you may redeem your miles, consider getting a non-co-branded travel card.
Foreign transaction fees
Using your card outside of the U.S. might require that you pay foreign transaction fees. While the Delta SkyMiles Blue Card and the United Gateway Credit Card do not charge this fee, the AAdvantage MileUp Card by Citi comes with a 3% foreign transaction fee.
The best airline credit cards with no annual fee give cardholders the ability to earn bonus miles through time- and spend-based welcome offers. For example, the Amex Delta SkyMiles Blue Card has a welcome offer through which you can earn 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.
Airline cards usually come with higher APRs when compared to cards with no rewards. If you intend to carry your balances over from month to month, you might be better off getting a credit card that comes with a low APR.
Some of the best airline cards without annual fees offer statement credit or discounts when you use them to make in-flight purchases onboard specific carriers. Other card-specific features might include purchase protection, extended warranty, car/auto rental loss and damage insurance, trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, and access to a concierge service. If you get a non-co-branded airline card, transferring your miles to popular frequent flyer programs might be an option.
About Rajiv Baniwal
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