American Express is amping up some perks for its card members starting in January.

The credit-card company

AXP, +0.47%

and hotel brand Hilton

HLT, -0.51%

 announced Wednesday they are offering four new cards, one without an annual fee. Cardholders who already have American Express Hilton cards will receive new benefits as well, without having to make any efforts themselves.

They’re offering the Hilton Honors American Express card with no annual fee; Hilton Honors American Express Ascend card, previously called the Hilton Honors Surpass card, which replaces the Ascend card on Jan. 18; the Hilton Honors American Express Business card; and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card, which will now come without foreign transaction fees.

With its no-fee card, American Express seems to be joining a recent trend in the card industry: Offering cards that have similar perks to high-end travel cards, but without the annual fee, said Matt Schulz, a senior industry analyst at the credit-card website

“It almost seems as if the new cards we see either have super-high annual fees, or none,” he said. “There’s a group of folks who are willing to pay that high annual fee if they get value for it, but I think a large majority of people just want a card that’s simple, easy to understand and ideally with no annual fee.”

There’s been a recent spate of no-fee cards

Just this month, Uber debuted a Visa card that has no annual fee, and offers perks including 4% cash back at restaurants and 3% on airfare, hotels and vacation home rentals. In September, American Express added another no-fee card to its portfolio, the Blue Delta Skymiles Credit Card, “designed for newer travelers,” that offers two miles per dollar at U.S. restaurants.

It may be a play for banks and card companies to establish relationships with young consumers, who will continue to turn to those companies for future cards and financial products, Schulz said. When it issued its popular Sapphire Reserve Card, J.P. Morgan Chase

JPM, -0.79%

 said it hoped customers would continue to use Chase in the future, in addition to holding the Reserve.

Each of American Express and Hilton’s new cards come with generous perks. The companies announced in June they were partnering exclusively on branded credit cards going forward.

Customers should be aware that if they collect interest on their balances, they could outweigh any benefits they would receive, Schulz said. The cards have annual percentage rates between about 17% to 25%, depending on cardholders’ creditworthiness. The average credit-card APR is now about 17%, according to the personal-finance website Bankrate.

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