A no-annual-fee card that offers the same perks as premium travel cards may sound too good to be true. But the new TravElite American Express from First National Bank offers several of the same perks you’ll find on heavyweights like the $550-a-year Platinum Card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) and $450-a-year Chase Sapphire Reserve — for no annual fee.
Part of the reason that’s possible is that the TravElite card will be open for applications for a limited time only. By narrowing its applications in this way, First National Bank can limit its risk while still offering above-average benefits.
“Limited time only” doesn’t necessarily mean “Apply for this card immediately no matter what.” Our review will help you decide if you should hurry to apply before the window closes.
The card earns the following rewards:
- 3X points per dollar spent on travel
- 1.5x points per $1 spent on other purchases
First National Bank’s rewards program allows you to redeem for merchandise, gift cards, travel (airline, hotel and car rentals via a travel portal), cash back (via statement credit) and more. Your redemption value will vary for these options, but, when it comes to cash-back statement credits, you’ll get 1 cent per point. For example, 10,000 points will get you a $100 statement credit.
The card offers a sign-up bonus of 25,000 points if you’re approved and spend $2,500 in the first three billing cycles.
The card offers some generous benefits for a no-annual-fee card, including:
- $100 Global Entry credit: After you use the card to pay for the Global Entry application fee, you’ll receive $100 back as a statement credit. Note that Global Entry also includes TSA PreCheck.
- $100 annual credit for travel incidentals: This benefit refunds you up to $100 (via statement credit) for travel-related charges, such as baggage-check fees, airport lounge access and in-flight food and beverages. This credit is not usable toward airfare.
- No foreign transaction fee
How it compares
This card’s rewards and perks are above what you can generally expect from no-annual-fee cards.
Most no-annual-fee cards, for example, may give you 1.5 cash back on all spending or 3 percent cash back in a bonus category, but almost never both.
As for benefits, no other no-annual-fee card currently provides both a $100 statement credit against travel incidentals and reimbursement for Global Entry.
We have list of cards that provide travel-incidentals statement credits here. If you want a $100 travel-incidentals credit, your lowest-cost options are the $95-a-year Expedia+ Voyager, $195-a-year American Express Premier Rewards Gold and several other similarly-priced cards.
As for Global Entry application refunds, that perk is most common on high-annual-fee premium cards, such as The Citi Prestige, Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum. However, a few lower-annual-fee cards carry it too, such as the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express Card ($85 annual fee).
Suffice it to say, if you don’t get the TravElite card, you’ll probably have to pay $100 or more a year to keep a card that offers both Global Entry and a travel statement credit.
Even so, applying for a card requires a hard pull. So make sure the TravElite card fills an actual hole in your wallet by considering the following:
- How much you spend on travel: Getting 3X rewards is lucrative only if you spend a substantial amount on travel. If you do travel, the fact that this card has no annual fee could make it a good addition to other cards that hit other categories. Capital One’s Premier Dining Rewards card, for example, offers 3 percent cash back on dining. And the Blue Cash Everyday card from American Express has you covered for groceries with 3 percent back. Combining these three cards could have you maximizing your cash back in three major spending categories.
- What you want to redeem for: First National Bank’s rewards program is somewhat limited, as is the value of your points (capped at 1 cent each). It’s about what you’d expect for a no-annual-fee card. However, if you want more options (redeeming for real airline miles, for example) and are willing to pay an annual fee, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee), which has far more redemption options for hard-core travelers.
Overall, though, the TravElite card gives more than you’d expect from a no-annual-fee card. It could be a good fit if you’re looking for low-effort, cash-back returns on your travel spending – or simply want to snag Global Entry for no annual fee.
Why we gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars
We ranked this card based on our standards for no-annual-fee generic travel rewards cards.
|No-annual-fee cards: This card exceeds our standards by offering at least 1X points on all spending AND at least 2X miles in a bonus category. It offers 1.5X and 3X, respectively.|
|Bonus-earning opportunities: This card offers a sign-up bonus, but no other bonuses (like redemption bonuses) for the remaining life of the card.|
|Rewards simplicity/flexibility: You have several redemption options, including an easy one – redeeming for a statement credit.|
|Unique perks: This card offers statement credits against travel incidentals and Global Entry, both unique perks for a no-annual-fee card.|
|No annual fee: This card has no annual fee.|