Abstract The flow-field for reactant distribution is an important design factor that influences the performance of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). Under-rib convection between neighboring channels has been recognized to enhance the performance of PEMFCs with serpentine flow-fields. This study presents a simple design method to generate multi-pass serpentine flow-fields (MPSFFs) that can maximize under-rib convection in a given cell area. Geometrical characterization indicates that MPSFFs lead to significantly higher under-rib convection intensities and more uniform conditions, such as reactant concentrations, temperature, and liquid water saturation, compared with conventional serpentine flow-fields. The implications of the enhanced under-rib convection due to MPSFFs on the performance of PEMFCs are discussed.