Best no-annual-fee hotel credit cards

May 6, 2021

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Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to pay annual fees topping $550 to get the best travel credit card. If you don’t travel enough to use all the benefits that come with a top-tier card — or simply don’t have room in your budget to justify these fees each year — there are still plenty of no-annual-fee cards to choose from.

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When it comes to hotel credit cards, the good news is that a no-annual-fee card can offer you more benefits than you would typically expect. From complimentary (or a pathway to) elite status to earning hotel points on your everyday purchases, you’ll only gain from owning these cards instead of worrying about outsizing the value from cards with no annual fees.

Related: Best hotel credit cards of 2021

While the best hotel card for you will depend on which hotel chain you prefer, the best options of the bunch are the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Card. Both brands are widely prevalent, meaning you have more opportunities to earn and redeem points at properties worldwide.

The best no-annual-fee hotel credit cards for 2021

Comparing the best no-annual-fee hotel credit cards

Card Rewards rate Intro bonus
Marriott Bonvoy Bold 3x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 2x on other travel purchases and 1x on all other purchases Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Hilton Honors American Express Card 7x points on eligible Hilton hotel and resorts purchases, 5x points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and at U.S. gas stations and 1x on other eligible purchases. Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases within your first three months of account opening. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the card in the first six months.
IHG Rewards Club Traveler’s Credit Card Up to 15x points at IHG Hotels & Resorts, 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants and 1x points on everything else. Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Choice Privileges Visa Signature Card 15x points at eligible Choice Hotels and 2x points on everything else. Earn 32,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases within 90 days of card membership; earn 8,000-anniversary bonus points every year you spend $10,000 or more on the card.
Best Western Rewards Mastercard 16x points on Best Western purchases and 2x points on everything else. Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 within the first three billing cycles after account opening; another 20,000 points when you spend $5,000 every 12 billing cycles.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card 1.25x miles on all purchases Earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $500 in purchases within your first three months of account opening.

 

The best no-annual-fee hotel credit cards

Marriott Bonvoy Bold Card: Best card for Marriott

(Photo by Eric Helgas / The Points Guy)

Current sign-up bonus: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 3x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 2x on other travel purchases and 1x on everything else.

Other benefits: You’ll become an automatic Silver Elite member as a cardholder, which gets you perks such as priority late checkout and 10% bonus points on stays. Therefore, you’ll have the ability to earn up to 14x points on eligible Marriott stays (3x points with this card, 10x for being a Marriott Bonvoy member and 1x for Silver Elite). Plus, earn 2x points on all travel purchases, from rideshares to plane tickets. You’ll have the opportunity to improve your elite status the more you stay with Marriott. This card comes with an impressive number of travel and purchase protections, including baggage loss and delay insurance and more. To top it all off, there’s no annual fee (and no foreign transaction fees), meaning you’ll only be a winner from owning this card.

Analysis: As you build up your credit card portfolio, you’ll eventually want to have a card that earns transferable points, along with an airline card and a hotel card. If Marriott is your hotel chain of choice (we don’t blame you, since there are more than 7,000 properties worldwide to choose from), the Bold is the perfect place to start. With a complimentary jump-start to Silver Elite status, the possibilities are endless to reach higher tiers of Marriott elite status.

Further reading: Marriott Bonvoy Bold card review

APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Bold

Hilton Honors American Express Card: Best card for Hilton

Current welcome offer: Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases within your first three months of card membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 points after you spend a total of $5,000 in purchases on the card in the first six months.

Rewards rate: Earn 7x points on eligible Hilton hotel and resorts purchases, 5x points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and at U.S. gas stations, plus 1x on other eligible purchases.

Other benefits: It’s not often that a no-annual-fee card provides you with as many perks as the Hilton Honors Amex card does. For starters, enjoy complimentary Silver Elite status to get 20% bonus points on stays and a fifth free night benefit. If you spend $20,000 or more on this card in a calendar year, enjoy a bump up to Gold Elite status, which comes with 80% bonus points on stays, room upgrades (upon availability) and free breakfast. In addition to a lucrative rewards rate on Hilton and everyday purchases, you’ll have secondary rental car coverage and no foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees).

Analysis: The Hilton Honors Amex proves that you don’t have to pay an annual fee to get top-notch perks. Its welcome bonus offers a healthy stash of Hilton Honors points (worth $780 based on TPG’s valuations) and ample ways to continue earning on your everyday spending. We recommend this card for those who enjoy staying at Hilton properties but want to keep costs as low as possible.

Further reading: Hilton Honors American Express card review

APPLY HERE: Hilton Honors American Express

IHG Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card: Best no-annual-fee card for IHG Hotels

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Current sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Rewards rate: Up to 15x points at IHG Hotels & Resorts (5x points for having the card and 10x as an IHG member), 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants and 1x points on everything else.

Other benefits: This hotel card comes with the unique benefit of a fourth-night reward, meaning you’ll pay the price of three nights to stay for a total of four nights. Get a 20% discount on points purchases when you pay for those points with your card. Last but not least, enjoy no foreign transaction fees, cell phone protection and travel and purchase insurance.

Analysis: The current sign-up bonus will get you an estimated $300 in value, according to TPG’s valuation. You’ll have the opportunity to receive IHG Gold Elite status after spending $10,000 or more on this card in a calendar year, which gets you priority check-in, extended check-out and welcome amenity at select hotels. By being strategic with this card, you can get a ton of value without ever paying an annual fee.

Further reading: IHG Traveler card review

APPLY HERE: IHG Traveler card

The information for the IHG Traveler Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.          

Choice Privileges Visa Signature Card: Best for Choice Hotels

Current bonus: Earn 32,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases within 90 days of card membership.

Rewards rate: 15x points at eligible Choice Hotels and 2x points on everything else.

Other benefits: If you can spend $10,000 or more on this card each year (roughly $833 per month), you’ll get 8,000-anniversary points posted to your account. You won’t have to keep up with confusing bonus categories with this card, as you’ll earn 2x points on all purchases (15x points at participating Choice Hotels stays). You’ll have Gold Elite status, which unlocks benefits such as an elite welcome gift, early check-in, late checkout and more.

Analysis: Being a Choice Hotels elite member will enhance your hotel experience, and with this card, you’ll be granted this status for free. While not the most lucrative no-annual-fee hotel card out there, this card offers simplicity — a reason to keep it in your wallet each year with the opportunity to earn anniversary points.

Further reading: Choice Privileges card review

Best Western Rewards Mastercard: Best for Best Western

Current bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 within the first three billing cycles after account opening.

Rewards rate: 16x points on Best Western purchases and 2x points on everything else.

Other benefits: After earning a sign-up bonus, you may not find long-term value with a card’s rewards rate. This isn’t the case with the Best Western Mastercard — by spending $5,000 or more every 12 billing cycles, you’ll enjoy an additional 20,000 bonus points. With this card, you’ll also enjoy no foreign transaction fees, 10% off room rates and complimentary Gold status, which guarantees you 10% bonus points for your eligible stays and early check-in and late checkout.

Analysis: The sign-up bonus alone is worth $240, but with the opportunity to earn bonus points every 12 billing cycles, you can find $120 in additional value (based on TPG’s valuation). For a card with no annual fee, this is a convincing offer — this means potentially lots of free nights just by spending on this card.

Further reading: Your ultimate guide to Best Western Rewards 

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card: Best for all hotels

(Photo by Eric Helgas/ThePointsGuy)

Current bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $500 in purchases within your first three months of account opening.

Rewards rate: 1.25x miles on all purchases.

Other benefits: While the hotel cards above can get you elite perks or other exclusive benefits, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to limit yourself to one brand. That’s why the VentureOne is our favorite for all hotel stays, as it offers a simple earning scheme (unlimited 1.25x miles on all purchases), plus an even simpler way to redeem. You can redeem your miles at 1 cent each for any hotel (or other travel) charges on your card. If you’re an advanced award traveler, you’ll be happy to know that you can now transfer your Capital One miles to 19 airline and hotel partners to find even more potential value. The hotel partners include ALL Accor Live Limitless, Choice Privileges and Wyndham Rewards.

Analysis: We like the flexibility that the VentureOne offers. Sure, you won’t get hotel elite status with this card, but you can use this card to pay for hotels from any brand. If all you’re looking for is a way to earn and redeem your travel rewards, this is the card for you. Plus, with no foreign transaction fees, you can take the VentureOne with you anywhere.

Further reading: Capital One VentureOne Review

APPLY HERE: Capital One VentureOne

Bottom line

Almost all of the no-annual-fee hotel cards in this guide get you automatic elite status, plus a pathway to the next level for even better benefits. The best pick for you will first depend on the hotel chain you prefer, but take a deeper look at the ongoing rewards rate and any additional benefits you can get from the card (such as no foreign transaction fees or any travel and purchase protections).

And remember: Since you’re not paying an annual fee on any of these cards, you won’t have to worry about if you’re stretching enough value to justify the cost each year.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex card, click here.

Featured photo of the Hotel Pitrizza courtesy of Marriott.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.