Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell is a promising energy conversion device with applications involving rapid start-up and low operating temperature. Proper cooling of PEM fuel cell stack is an essential requirement in ensuring its durability for which separate cooling channels between each cell are often used. This study involves a detailed three-dimensional numerical investigation on cooling channel designs based on traditional serpentine and spiral designs. Four new designs - divided serpentine, divided spiral, distributed serpentine and distributed spiral are proposed to predict the fluid flow and thermal characteristics. An in-house code based on Streamline upwind/Petrov Galerkin finite element method is used to solve the three-dimensional governing equations. Simulations are carried out for Reynolds number ranging from 415 to 1247. Results indicate that the novel designs have better performance compared to serpentine in terms of uniformity in temperature distribution at all Re. The merits and demerits of all the designs in terms of maximum and average temperature on the cooling plate is also discussed. The pressure drop required to drive the flow is higher in the spiral and new designs compared to serpentine due to the presence of complex turns. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.