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.
Hyatt Credit Card: I earned 2 free nights at any Hyatt in the world last month. That could easily be worth $1,000. In addition, I get an annual free night at a category 1-4 Hyatt hotel. That's worth at least $75, which is the annual fee (waived the first year). In addition, I am automatically given Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum status, which qualifies me for free upgrades, late check out, and premium internet access. The annual free night alone makes this card pay for itself, but the additional benefits are also nice.
IHG Rewards Club Credit Card: Having this card gives me an annual free night at any IHG property worldwide. That gives you a plethora of choices, including several luxurious InterContinental, and Crowne Plaza hotels, as well as The Venetian & The Palazzo in Las Vegas. That is easily worth the $49 annual fee of this card (waived the first year). I also earned 60,000 points after meeting the minimum spend requirement of $1,000 for this card. That's easily worth $200-$300.
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?