Nearly everyone would like to use their credit cards to earn a free flight, but unfortunately most airline credit cards charge an annual fee of $95 or more. Thankfully, there’s a small, but growing number of airline credit cards that have no annual fee.
But even without an annual fee, are these entry level products worth having, or do the perks and benefits of the more expensive airline cards justify their fees? Let’s take a look at the best no-fee airline cards, and see which one might be right for you:
1. Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.
This card was just released and offers impressive bonus miles for dining out. First, new applicants can earn 10,000 bonus miles after making $500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. You also earn 2x miles at US restaurants and on all Delta purchases including flights booked on Delta.com, Sky Club® membership or passes, Delta Vacations® packages, seat upgrades, or in-flight purchases like food, beverages, and audio headsets. Another benefit is you can receive a 20% In-Flight Savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
Other perks include extended warranty coverage, damage and theft protection, and a return guarantee. You also get entertainment benefits including exclusive access to ticket presales and cardmember-only events. There’s no annual fee for this card, but there’s a 2.7% foreign transaction fee imposed on all charges processed outside of the United States.
If you are willing to pay an annual fee, the next product in this lineup is the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. It offers new applicants 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on new purchases within three months of account opening. Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases. $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
2. United TravelBank Card from Chase.
Instead of offering frequent flyer miles, this new card from Chase allows you to earn credits in United’s TravelBank program that work much like store credit. New applicants earn $150 in United TravelBank cash after spending $1,000 on new purchases within three months of account opening. You also earn 2% bank TravelBank cash from United ticket purchases, and 1.5% back from all other charges. TravelBank cash can be used to purchase flights operated by United and United Express. However, you can’t use TravelBank cash to pay for other United charges and fees, or for flights operated by its Star Alliance and other airline partners.
Other benefits include trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance, as well as purchase protection and price protection policies. And when you purchase food or beverages on board a United-operated flight using this card, you’ll get 25% back as a statement credit. There’s no annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
Before selecting this card, you have to look at the cost and benefits of the United MileagePlus Explorer card, also from Chase. It offers new applicants 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on new purchases within three months of account opening, and another 5,000 miles after adding an authorized user who makes a purchase within the same time. You earn 2x miles on United purchases, and 1x miles elsewhere. You also get a free checked bag, priority boarding, and can earn 10,000 bonus miles each year after using your card to spend $25,000. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
3. The JetBlue Card from Barclaycard. (Offer Expired)
JetBlue introduced it’s no fee credit card last year, and it’s been a hit. With this card, you can earn 10,000 bonus points after making $1,000 in purchases within 90 days of account opening. It also offers 3x points on JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. You also get a 50% savings on inflight purchases. There’s no annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
Barclaycard also offers the JetBlue Plus card with a $99 annual fee, that has all of the benefits of the no-fee card, plus plenty more. With this card, you can earn 30,000 bonus points after making $1,000 in new purchases within 30 days of account opening. It offers 6x points on JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1x elsewhere.You also get a 5,000 point bonus when renewing your card. Other benefits include a free checked bag, 10% of your redeemed points back, and TrueBlue Mosaic elite status after spending $50,000 in a calendar year.
Which Card Should You Get?
The common features separating these the no-fee cards from the ones with annual fees include free checked bags and larger sign-up bonuses. The Delta and United cards with annual fees also offer priority boarding, while the no fee versions don’t. With the JetBlue plus card, you earn 6x points on JetBlue purchases, while the no-fee card only offers you 3x. The JetBlue Plus version also grants you a 10% rebate on your redeemed points and a 5,000 point annual bonus. The only example of a benefit in a no-fee card that’s missing in the version with an annual fee lacks is the 2x miles at restaurants that the Delta Blue SkyMiles card has.
By closely examining both versions of a card from each airline, you can decide if the additional benefits of the higher end cards are worth the annual fee, or if the no fee version is your best option.
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