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It’s no secret that some credit cards get more attention than others. Cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve that have won our loyalty time and time again are popular choices for travel rewards. But that doesn’t mean they’re the only game in town.
Today we’ll take a look at six of the most underrated credit cards, all of which offer cash back or a simplified “travel eraser” rewards structure, which means that to use those cards well, you won’t have to devote a lot of time to how you redeem your points.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)
Why you’ll love it: If the Capital One Venture Rewards card wasn’t on your radar before, it sure better be now. It’s been one of the hottest cards this year, thanks to a solid sign-up bonus worth a minimum of $500, a consistent 2 miles per dollar on all purchases and an eye-popping 10x miles on Hotels.com purchases.
The Venture Rewards card can be low maintenance if you want, and you can choose to redeem your miles for a fixed 1 cent each to erase the cost of travel. If, on the other hand, you dream about high-value, aspirational premium cabin redemptions, Capital One has made those possible as well, since miles earned on Venture and Spark business cards can now transfer to 14 different airline partners. This puts a lot of new redemption options on the table, including cheap Star Alliance premium cabin tickets booked with Aeroplan or Avianca LifeMiles, or cheap American Airlines business-class awards booked through Etihad Guest.
You can read a full review of the Venture card here, but between a solid earning rate, multiple valuable redemption options and a completely manageable annual fee, Capital One has packed a lot of punch into a single card. In addition to the new airline transfer partners, Capital One has also recently added a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit worth up to $100 and a partnership with Hotels.com that results in 10 miles per dollar when you pay using your Venture card and book through Hotels.com/Venture, all in 2018. Capital One is clearly committed to providing outsized value to Venture card holders, there’s no denying that.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 points (worth $500) after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days
Annual fee: $95
Why you’ll love it: The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card is a standout thanks to its strong perks, incredible freedom when it comes to redemptions and bonus opportunities that reward customer loyalty. You’ll get a $100 annual airline credit and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit worth up to $100, which more than makes up for the card’s modest $95 annual fee. Points earned with the Premium Rewards card are worth 1 cent each and you’ll earn bonuses on travel and dining, but your bonus categories will be amplified if you qualify for the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program, which is open to customers who have a Bank of America personal checking account and a 3-month average combined balance of $20,000 or more in a BoA and/or Merrill Edge or Merrill Lynch investment accounts. If you qualify, your bonus categories will be as follows:
|Spend Categories||Regular card holder||Tier 1 – Gold ($20,000 – $50,000)||Tier 2 – Platinum ($50,000 – $100,000)||Tier 3 – Platinum Honors ($100,000+)|
|Travel/Dining Earnings||2x points||2.5x points||3x points||3.5x points|
|Other Earnings||1.5x points||1.875x points||2.25x points||2.62x points|
The ability to earn up to 2.62x points (equivalent to 2.62%) on everyday spend makes this card highly competitive, as does the lack of foreign transaction fees and a sign-up bonus worth $500. Add in the ability to redeem your rewards for cash back, travel purchases or gift cards, and this card should be on the radar of every Bank of America customer. Read our full review of the card.
Sign-up bonus: $500 after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
Annual fee: $95
Why you’ll love it: The recently refreshed Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has a few things going for it. Not only is the $500 sign-up bonus among the highest of any personal cash back card on the market, but the Savor offers strong long-term earning potential. You’ll get an unlimited 4% back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores, and 1% everywhere else. This 4% back on the combination of dining and entertainment is a strong pair of bonus categories, and with Americans spending a record $61 billion dining out in July, it comes at a perfect time.
You’ll also enjoy all the flexibility of a cash-back card, including no redemption minimums and rewards that never expire as long as your account stays open. As long as you can earn enough rewards to offset the $95 annual fee, the Capital One Savor card can be a great addition to your wallet. Read our full review of the card.
Welcome bonus: 30,000 points (worth $300) after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
Annual fee: $0
Why you’ll love it: There are plenty of things to like about the revamped Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card. It combines a simple cash-back rewards structure with strong bonus categories that include 3% back on travel, dining, gas stations and select streaming services, with 1% back everywhere else and no annual fee. Huge props go out to Wells Fargo for going after millennials with the bonus for spending on popular streaming services, which include Netflix, Hulu, Spotify Premium, Apple Music and more. As a 22-year old traveler, I wish more card issuers would move in this direction.
While the 3% bonus categories are solid on their own, you can potentially get 50% more value if you also hold the Wells Fargo Visa Signature® card. Points with the Visa Signature card are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for airfare instead of 1 cent apiece, and you can combine points between the two cards. You can even get as much as 1.75 cents per point in value for airfare if you spend $50,000 a year or more on the Visa Signature, turning the Propel’s 3% bonus categories into an effective 5.25% return. Read our full review of the card. (The information for the Wells Fargo Visa Signature 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.)
Sign-up bonus: Discover will match the cash back on all purchases (including bonus categories) for your first year of card membership
Annual fee: $0
Why you’ll love it: While the Discover It bears a striking resemblance to the Chase Freedom, it doesn’t get nearly as much press. This is largely because it doesn’t have the same option to maximize your rewards that Chase’s Freedom family offers. Still, the Discover It is seriously worth considering. Similar to the Freedom, it offers 5% back on up to $1,500 when you enroll in rotating quarterly categories every three months, and 1% everywhere else. The categories in 2018 have included gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, and Amazon and wholesale clubs.
The real kicker on the Discover it Cash Back is the unique bonus. Instead of earning a fixed amount of points or cash after you spend a certain amount, Discover will match your first year’s cash back. This means the bonus categories are worth 10% for the first 12 months, and your non-bonus spending will earn a respectable 2%. The Discover it Cash Back has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, making the card ideal both at home and on the road.
Sign-up bonus: None
Annual fee: $0
Why you’ll love it: If all the jargon, acronyms, and program names make you question your commitment to this hobby, then the Citi Double Cash Card is perfect for you. It does one thing, and it does it quite well: simple, rewarding cash back. You’ll earn 1% back when you make a purchase and another 1% back when you pay your bill, but you should always remember to pay your bill in full each month to avoid accruing expensive interest. Once your rewards balance reaches $25, you can cash out by requesting a check, a statement credit, a gift card, or use your rewards to make a charitable donation.
While the card doesn’t have a sign-up bonus or any bonus categories to speak of, it does a great job letting you earn rewards without any effort. Just remember that there’s a hefty 3% foreign transaction fee on the Citi Double Cash, so you should leave this card at home when you travel overseas.
This list is focused on personal credit cards, as not everyone is eligible to apply for a business card. But if you’re in the market for a great and highly underrated business card, The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express is a terrific choice. The card earns 2 points per dollar on all purchases up to $50,000 each calendar year, and 1 point per dollar thereafter. Even better, you’ll earn full-fledged Amex Membership Rewards points with the Blue Business Plus that can be transferred to all of American Express’ airline and hotel partners without having to own any other Amex credit card. Best of all, the card has no annual fee, which is why it’s the top business credit card we recommend for everyday spending.
Chase and Amex offer some incredibly popular credit cards, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other lesser-known cards on the market worth considering. So don’t just look at the best-known cards on the market. Instead, broaden your horizons with some of the credit cards that don’t get as much attention, but which could very well be worth your time and consideration.