Which No Annual Fee Credit Card to Earn Miles for Europe Award Travel?
Hilary Stockton

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Which No Annual Fee Credit Card to Earn Miles for Europe Award Travel?


Which no annual fee credit card can earn you miles for Europe award travel? TravelSort reader Ray writes:

"I want to get a credit card to build airline milage. Prefer no annual fee. I put about $3000-$4000 on a card each month. Next year I plan on flying to France or Italy or both.  I'd also like no foreign transaction fees, since this can be expensive.     I am not into a lot of detail so if you recommend a card please just make it simple."

Tip: Consider Credit Cards That Don't Charge an Annual Fee the First Year

The first suggestion I'd give Ray is to consider credit cards that don't charge an annual fee the first year, even though they do charge an annual fee in subsequent years. That's because these cards are far more valuable both in terms of sign-up bonuses and in terms of earning frequent flyer miles or points that can be transferred to frequent flyer miles, than no annual fee credit cards such as the Chase Freedom that do earn points, but require an annual fee card (the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus) in order to transfer points to frequent flyer programs.

Plus, if you really don't want to pay the annual fee, you can always cancel the card before it comes due in a year's time, and get a different travel rewards credit card, again with the first year's fee waived.


Make Sure to Plan Well in Advance and Have Ample Flexibility for Award Travel to Europe

There's a lot of demand for business class and first class award travel between the U.S. and Europe, so I do recommend planning well in advance and being as flexible as possible with dates and routing. 


Don't Want to Deal with Finding Award Availability? Use an Award Booking Service

If you're new to miles and points and don't want to invest time in searching for and booking award travel yourself, you can use an award booking service. TravelSort's award booking service is available to clients booking at least $3500 pre-tax in hotels or cruises per 1-2 people for the trip for which award booking assistance is sought.

Top Travel Credit Cards 

1. 50K Ink Plus 

If Ray is able to apply for a small business card, I recommend the Ink Plus, with its 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points signup bonus after $5000 spend (which Ray should be able to easily meet with $3000-$4000 credit card spend per month) and the valuable 5X category bonus for spend on telephone, cable and internet service, as well as office supply store spend. The card also carries no foreign transaction fees.

Ultimate Rewards points transfer to 1:1 to Singapore KrisFlyer (my favorite transfer partner), Korean Air, United MileagePlus, and British Airways Avios, plus some other transfer partners that are irrelevant for purposes of Ray's goal of earning miles for Europe award travel. 

Ray didn't mention where in the U.S. he is, but the good thing about Ultimate Rewards points are the various partner award options they offer, whether on Singapore Airlines via KrisFlyer (most likely the Houston-Moscow route with saver awards, then connecting to intra-European flights); United, SWISS, Lufthansa, Brussels Airlines or other Star Alliance partners with United miles; or Air Berlin, American or British Airways (with hefty fuel surcharges) with British Airways Avios.

2. 45K Sapphire Preferred

If Ray isn't able to apply for the Ink Plus Small Business Card, his next best bet is the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which also has no foreign transaction fee and waives the annual fee the first year. The signup bonus is 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points, with an additional 5000 bonus points after adding an authorized user. It's also possible that Ray will become eligible for the Chase Refer a Friend program, and able to earn additional bonus points that way.


3. 50K British Airways Visa

The British Airways Visa could be useful to Ray, even if he isn't planning to earn the British Airways companion voucher (which can only be used to fly British Airways operated flights, incurring high fuel surcharges). The BA Visa has no foreign transaction fees, and with the current offer the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, even though typically it's not waived.

OpenSkies Business Class to Paris can be booked one way for 50,000 Avios, but note that you'll pay similarly high fuel surcharges to British Airways: about $450 from NYC to Paris. We had quite good experiences in Air Berlin Business Class on our recent trip to Italy and Russia, and these are available without fuel surcharges. The caveat is that the business class seats aren't that long, so aren't the best for very tall people trying to sleep on their backs on night flights. British Airways Avios can also be used to fly Iberia Business Class to Spain; American Airlines, although there's very limited availability of business and first class awards (since this has to be at the saver level); and Aer Lingus via Ireland is another option, although note you'll have to call in for this, since it's not available on the Web site.


4. 50K Citi ThankYou Premier 

The Citi ThankYou Premier became a more interesting card once its full 50K ThankYou points bonus became available after $3000 minimum spend within the first 3 months (previously only half of the bonus was earned and one had to wait a year for the other half) and after Singapore KrisFlyer became a transfer partner. Other transfer partners include AirFrance/KLM Flying Blue, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and other airlines that aren't relevant for flying to Europe; see Best Travel Credit Cards for the full list.

The Citi ThankYou Premier also charges no foreign transaction fees and waives its $95 annual fee the first year. The card also has some great 3X categories: travel, which includes airlines, hotels, car rentals, travel agencies (including TravelSort's Award Booking Service), taxis, rail travel, parking garages, tolls, cruises, gas stations. 2X categories include dining out and entertainment.


Related Posts

First Class to Europe from the West Coast with Frequent Flyer Miles

Singapore First Class Review

Review: Castello Banfi Il Borgo in Tuscany, Italy

Review: Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel and Spa, Amalfi Coast

Four Seasons Paris Review

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