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This, not that: Alternative card recommendations for these popular credit cards

Jan. 22, 2021
10 min read
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"Choosing the right credit card is important. A good rewards credit card can help you hit your financial goals, save money on monthly expenses and travel on a budget."

While there are more card options available now than ever before, that also means there are more than a few that are less than optimal for maximizing purchases. Today, I’m walking through a few card options that get a lot of hype but fall short if you’re looking for just one card for your primary spending.

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Now, just because a card is on this list doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to be valuable. In fact, multiple cards I’ll touch on are actually great cards when you pair them with others within a broader credit card strategy. But if you’re searching for one card to use for most of your spending, there are certainly more flexible alternatives.

Related: Why there’s no such thing as the ‘best’ credit card

Apple Card — Get the Citi® Double Cash Card instead 

For Apple users, the Apple Card has been subject to some serious hype since it launched back in August 2019. And while there are some nice benefits to having the card if you almost always use Apple Pay or get the new iPhone each year, there is a better option for everyday spending.

Related: Maximizing points, miles and coverage with Apple’s iPhone 12

Aside from earning 3% on Apple products and a random selection of specific merchants, the primary rewards category is 2% cash back with Apple Pay. Rather than rely on a merchant having to accept mobile wallets, you can just use the Citi® Double Cash Card. You’ll get 2% back on every purchase (1% when you pay, 1% when you pay your bill), regardless of whether you use a mobile wallet or pay with a physical card.

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In addition, you can convert your cash rewards to points when you link your ThankYou account to your Double Cash account. The transfer ratio is $1 to 100 points. If you also have a Citi Premier or Citi Prestige card, this allows you to access all of Citi’s transfer partners, which opens up options for some fantastic travel redemptions.

The Citi Double Cash charges no annual fee and is a great alternative to the Apple Card if you’re looking for an easy way to earn rewards on every purchase.

Related: Best cards for everyday spending

The information about the Apple Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been provided or reviewed by the card issuers.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card — Get the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express instead

(Photo by The Points Guy)

With its 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, it’s certainly understandable why frequent shoppers may be tempted to reach for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card when making purchases. In addition, cardholders receive 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores, and 1% back on everything else. While the card has no annual fee, it is only available to those with an Amazon Prime membership (which costs $119 a year).

However, if you’re more of an occasional Amazon shopper or someone who shops at Amazon but doesn’t have a Prime membership, apply for the Blue Cash Preferred Card instead. It earns 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in spending per calendar year, then 1%) and select U.S. streaming services, 3% on transit and U.S. gas stations and 1% back on everything else. Plus, the card gets you access to Amex Offers, which offers discounts and bonus points at popular merchants. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

The information about the Amazon Prime Visa card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been provided or reviewed by the card issuers.

Starbucks Rewards Visa Card — Get the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card instead

(Photo by The Points Guy)

If you are a coffee drinker and frequent Starbucks customer, you may have considered getting a Starbucks Rewards Visa Card. For a $49 annual fee, it earns up to three Stars per dollar spent at Starbucks stores; one Star per $2 spent on grocery stores, transit, internet, cable and phone services; and one Star per $4 spent elsewhere. It’s a unique rewards structure. But considering you can only use those Stars toward Starbucks purchases, it’s not a great card.

Instead, apply for the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card. You’ll get 3x points on dining (eating out and ordering in), travel (which includes flights, hotels, transit, ride-hailing apps such as Uber, car rentals and more), gas stations and select streaming services. The Wells Fargo Propel card is no longer available for new applicants. The information for this card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Rather than earning 3x on Starbucks specifically, you will earn 3x across an even broader selection of categories — and those points can be used on so much more than just future Starbucks purchases. The Wells Fargo Propel charges no annual fee and comes with benefits, including cellphone protection.

Related: Best cards to use at Starbucks

The information about the Starbucks Rewards Visa has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been provided or reviewed by the card issuers.

Venmo Credit Card — Get the Chase Freedom Flex Instead 

The new Venmo Credit Card, a Visa issued by Synchrony Bank, may seem appealing with its ability to earn up to 3% cash back on your purchases each month. The catch is that the 3% back is only earned on your highest spending category, with categories including dining and nightlife, travel, bills and utilities, healthy and beauty, grocery, gas, transportation and entertainment.

Your second highest spending category earns 2% back and everything else earns 1% back. The card’s other major limiting factor? The 3% and 2% benefit is capped at an annual spending limit of $10,000. After that, all purchases only earn 1% back.

The Venmo Credit Card doesn’t stand up to the competition when it comes to cash-back cards.

Instead, check out the Chase Freedom Flex. You’ll earn 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstores and 5% cash back on up to $1,500 each quarter you activate on rotating categories. Some examples of rotating categories with Chase include groceries, wholesale clubs, streaming services, department stores and gas stations.

If you max the rotating 5% categories every quarter, you will earn 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points or $300 if you redeem your points for cash, making it equivalent to the amount you can earn with the Venmo Credit Card. The 5% back on travel and 3% on dining and drugstores opens up the opportunity to receive even more cash back, surpassing the Venmo card’s 1% return after you max your 3% or 2% category.

The Freedom Flex charges no annual fee, and you can even pair it with Ultimate Rewards cards to turn your cash back into valuable travel rewards points.

The information about the Venmo Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been provided or reviewed by the card issuers.

Disney Premier Visa — Get the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card instead 

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
For casual Disney fans, the Capital One Savor card offers more rewards on entertainment purchases. (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Disney enthusiasts may be tempted to grab a Disney Premier Visa. The card charges a $49 annual fee and earns 2% in Disney Rewards dollars on card purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and most Disney locations, plus 1% on all other purchases.

You can then use those Disney Rewards dollars on airfare and most anything related to Disney and "Star Wars," including Disney parks and resorts, Disney movies at participating theaters, Disney Cruise Line and more). You’ll also get special vacation financing, 10% savings on eligible Disney purchases and cardmember-exclusive character experiences.

While a Disney card can be beneficial for someone who spends a lot of money at Disney parks and the Disney store each year, casual Disney fans and parks visitors will likely be better off with a card that earns rewards on entertainment purchases, such as the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card.

You’ll get 4% cash back on dining, entertainment and popular streaming services, plus 3% at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target) and 1% on all other purchases. When you buy your Disney World and Universal Orlando tickets from on the Savor card, TPG data points suggest they’ll code as entertainment more times than not.

Your movie tickets to Disney and "Star Wars movies will code as entertainment. And any Disney dining you do within the parks should code as dining. That cash back can be used as a statement credit to cover pretty much any purchases — Disney tickets or other related expenses included.

Of course, if you typically book your Disney vacations through a hotel or online travel agency, you should consider a travel credit card instead.

Related: Best credit cards for Disney and Universal vacations

The information about the Disney Premier Visa and Capital One Savor cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been provided or reviewed by the card issuers.

Bottom line

Just because a card is branded to a certain retailer, that doesn’t always mean it’s the best card to use on those purchases. And even though many cards like this also earn rewards across a wide range of expenses, there are almost always better card options available to help you maximize your earning potential and redemption opportunities.

Featured image by (Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.