This, not that — Alternative card recommendations for these popular credit cards
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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.
Now, just because a card isn’t on this list, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to be valuable. In fact, multiple cards I’ll touch on are actually decent cards when you pair them with others within a broader credit card strategy. But if you’re searching for one card to use on most of your spending, there are certainly more flexible alternatives.
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 you get the new iPhone each year, there is a better option for everyday spending.
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 if you use a mobile wallet or pay with the physical card.
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 reading: Best cards for everyday spending
The information about the Apple Card have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been provided or reviewed by the card issuers.
Uber Card — Get the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card instead
On paper, the Uber Card offers a pretty solid rewards structure. You’ll earn 5% on Uber rides, Uber Eats, JUMP bike and scooter rentals; 3% on restaurants, hotels and airfare; and 1% on all other purchases. But when the card relaunched back in October 2019, it began earning Uber Cash rather than regular cash back. That means that while you can earn some solid rewards, you can only use them on Uber.
Instead of the Uber Card, consider the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card. You’ll get 3x on travel (which includes flights, hotels, taxis, ride-hailing apps like Uber, car rentals and more), dining (eating out and ordering in), gas stations and select streaming services.
Rather than earning 2% on Uber 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 Uber purchases. The Wells Fargo Propel charges no annual fee and comes with benefits including cell phone protection.
Related reading: Best cards for Uber and Lyft purchases
The information about the Uber Card and Wells Fargo Propel cards have 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 Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express instead
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 3 stars per dollar spent at Starbucks stores; 1 star per $2 spent on grocery stores, transit, internet, cable and phone services; and 1 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 Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. It earns 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in spending per year; then 1%) and select U.S. streaming services, 3% on transit and U.S. gas stations and 1% back on everything else. It does come with a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees), but the rewards earned make that cost easy to offset. Plus, the card gets you access to Amex Offers, which offers discounts and bonus points at popular merchants.
At this point you might be wondering why I’d suggest a card that doesn’t even earn rewards at Starbucks. Pro tip: You can buy Starbucks gift cards at most U.S. supermarket chains. So you can earn 6% back on those purchases, load your gift card balance into your app and then use the mobile app when at Starbucks to still earn Starbucks rewards on your purchases. Then you’re double-dipping your earnings and still utilizing the Starbucks rewards program. Win-win.
Related reading: 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 Card — Get the Chase Freedom Instead
The Venmo Card is actually a debit card, but it’s been on the receiving end of some enthusiasm. I personally know more than a couple of friends from college who have considered getting the card. With the card, you can earn rewards at a changing list of merchants powered by Dosh. According to the Venmo app, the current 5% cash back merchants include Macy’s, Dunkin, Wendy’s, Chevron, Macy’s, Papa Johns, Sephora and Sam’s Club — plus occasional surprise offers.
At TPG, we don’t recommend using a debit card when you can help it. Credit cards have more protections in the case of fraud, and you can earn better rewards with a rewards card than a debit. But even without diving into the debit vs. credit debate, the Venmo Card doesn’t stand up to the competition when it comes to rotating rewards cards.
Instead, check out the Chase Freedom. You’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 each quarter you activate, on rotating categories. These categories are broader than the specific merchant lists given by Venmo, making it easier to maximize rewards. For example, Q2 2020 categories are gym memberships, fitness clubs, groceries and streaming services. Department stores, drug stores and dining are all also common categories that tend to pop up throughout the year.
Related reading: Why you shouldn’t use your debit card
The information about the Venmo Card and Chase Freedom cards have 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
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 Disney and Star Wars related (including Disney Parks and Resorts, Disney movies at participating theatres, 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.
You’ll get 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, plus 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. When you buy your Disney World and Universal Orlando tickets from Disney, 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 reading: Best credit cards for Disney and Universal vacations
The information about the Disney Premier Visa and Capital One Savor have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been provided or reviewed by the card issuers.
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 Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred card, please click here.
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