5 Credit Cards for Cost-Conscious Travelers

These low-cost cards won’t gouge you and serve as a handy travel companion.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

There’s a lot of buzz anytime a credit card company launches a new premium travel credit card. But these cards often charge annual fees of $400 or more for the privilege of accessing their benefits. (You can read more about these types of cards here.) For occasional or budget travelers who want a cost-conscious card, these high annual fees just aren’t realistic. Luckily, there are plenty of low-cost cards that won’t gouge you and serve as a great travel companion.

The way we see it, cards for the budget-conscious traveler need to meet a few requirements. Foreign transactions should be free, there should be no annual fee and the card should have some additional travel perks or incentives. With that in mind, check out our picks.

1. BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card

Annual Fee: None

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% on purchases for 12 months, then variable 15.74% to 23.74%

Signup Bonus: 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days

Why We Picked It: This card earns points that can help travelers get to more destinations and comes with a nice signup bonus.

Benefits: Every dollar spent on purchases earns 1.5 points that can be redeemed toward flights, hotels, cruises and other travel expenses. The signup bonus alone is worth $200 in travel credits. Bank of America customers get an extra 10% in points for every purchase.

Drawbacks: If you don’t have a Bank of America account, you won’t get the full earnings potential.

2. Discover it Miles

Annual Fee: None

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

APR: 0% on purchases for 14 months, then variable 11.74% to 23.74%

Signup Bonus: Discover will match all the miles you earn at the end of your first year.

Why We Picked It: This card racks up miles for travel, and Discover will match all earned miles after your first year. Plus, there’s flexibility to use it as a travel or cash back card.

Benefits: This card earns 1.5 miles for every dollar spent on purchases, and miles can be used to book travel with no blackout dates. Cardholders even have the option to use it as a cash back card, as you don’t lose any value when redeeming for cash. Discover’s matching offer means your first year earns double the miles. You’ll also get up to $30 of in-flight Wi-Fi credits per year.

Drawbacks: You’ll have to wait until the end of your first year to get your match bonus, while many card bonuses process after three months.

3. Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card

Annual Fee: None

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

APR: 0% APR on purchases for 12 months, then variable 12.74% to 22.74%

Signup Bonus: 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in the first three months

Why We Picked It: This card comes with a signup bonus, decent mileage return and additional perks that come standard with premium travel cards.

Benefits: The card earns 1.25 miles for every dollar you spend on purchases, and miles can be used to book travel through any website or app. Cardholders can earn a nice signup bonus worth $200. Additional travel benefits include free 24-hour concierge services and upgrades at hotels.

Drawbacks: According to Capital One, this card requires excellent credit, so you may not be able to qualify if your credit isn’t up to par. (Not sure? You can find out by taking a look at two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

4. JetBlue Card

Annual Fee: None

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

APR: Variable 12.74%, 20.74% or 25.74%, based on creditworthiness

Signup Bonus: 5,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days

Why We Picked It: Loyal JetBlue customers and anyone looking for a solid airline card can appreciate this card’s rewards.

Benefits: Cardholders earn three points per dollar with JetBlue, two points per dollar at restaurants and grocery stores and one point per dollar elsewhere. Points can be redeemed for any seat on JetBlue flights, with no blackout dates. You’ll also save 50% on in-flight food and drink purchases. If you fly frequently, or even occasionally, with JetBlue, this card could be worth it.

Drawbacks: You’re essentially locked into JetBlue’s program since the points aren’t transferable to other airlines.

5. USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature

Annual Fee: None

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

APR: Variable 12.65% to 26.65%, or 4% during military deployment

Signup Bonus: None

Why We Picked It: This card is a great cash back option for military members and their families, and also provides some key travel benefits.

Benefits: USAA membership is available to active and former military members, their families, cadets or midshipmen. This card earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase. It also includes concierge services, rental car insurance and emergency travel assistance. If you have good credit, you can qualify for a low interest rate.

Drawbacks: This card is limited to USAA members.

Choosing the Right Budget Travel Card

The right budget travel card has benefits that match your spending habits. While it’s a given that you want no annual fee or foreign transaction fees, card benefits can differ. The best cards will earn points, miles or cash back on the types of purchases you tend to make.

You’ll also want to pick a card that fits your lifestyle. If you travel infrequently but want a budget travel card just in case, you may be better off with a card that can be redeemed for travel or cash back. (You can take a look at some of the best cash back cards here.) You’ll also want a card that can help you get to your desired destination. So, for example, if JetBlue doesn’t fly to your destinations of choice, that airline’s credit card won’t be appropriate.

If you’re gunning for a signup bonus, make sure you can meet the requirements. If you can’t afford the needed spending amount, it may be better to shoot for a smaller bonus with modest requirements rather than stretch your budget trying to pass a spending threshold. After all, carrying a balance means you’ll probably lose out on the perks thanks to interest fees.

At publishing time, the Capital One VentureOne rewards card, Discover it Miles, USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature and JetBlue Card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, these relationships do not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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