The best travel credit cards aren't free. Most of them have an annual fee. But they can still be worth it. For example, each travel rewards card that I have came with a pretty lucrative sign up bonus. Not only that, but after the sign up bonus is used - they are still worth keeping. That's because most of mine pay for themselves.
Which cards do I have, and why do they pay for themselves?
Chase Freedom: This one is a no brainer. It has no annual fee and I get 5 percent cash back all year long on certain rotating categories. Sure, it can be annoying when you have to "sign up" for each category, but it's worth it. In addition, I can (and do) transfer the points from the Chase Freedom account to my Sapphire Preferred account which can make the points even more lucrative.
The other two cards I have, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus and the Chase Sapphire Preferred, don't pay for themselves. They are both extremely good travel cards, but I don't get a free room at a hotel on a yearly basis or anything like that. I do think they're worth keeping though. The CSP pairs very nicely with my Freedom card. The BAP is a great cash back card that I use for most everyday purchases because of its 2% cash back on everything.
These cards have benefits that, in my view, outweigh the annual fee of each card. That means they're worth keeping. Do you use any cards for the rewards?