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Diversity at all levels is important for a successful points strategy. Having points in multiple different programs gives you options when you need to travel on a certain date and award availability is hard to come by. But what about diversity in your credit card portfolio?
Last summer a massive IT problem hit Visa’s European operations and prevented customers from using their Visa cards across most of the continent. While the issue was resolved relatively quickly, it served as a cautionary reminder of the importance of carrying a diverse wallet, including Visas, Mastercards and Amex cards to cover all eventualities. TPG has posts on the Top Visa Credit Cards and the Top Amex Cards — so here’s a look at the best Mastercards to add to your purse or wallet.
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 ThankYou Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
Annual fee: $95 (waived for the first year)
Why you’ll love it: The Citi Premier is a strong mid-tier Mastercard attached to a solid travel rewards program and backed up with lucrative bonus categories. The strength of the card starts with its current sign-up bonus — 50,000 ThankYou points are worth $850 based on TPG’s most recent valuations. But even after earning the sign-up bonus, this is a card you can keep in your purse or wallet, since it earns 3x points on all travel purchases (which even includes gas), 2x on dining and entertainment and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. You can redeem your points directly at Citi’s travel portal at a rate of 1.25 cents apiece toward airfare, or transfer them to Citi’s partners for even more value. You can also use this card overseas without worrying about paying extra, as there are no foreign transaction fees on the Premier.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening.
Annual fee: $495
Why you’ll love it: Although the recent refresh brought both positives and negatives, the Citi Prestige still has the potential to deliver the most outsized rewards of any card in your wallet, Mastercard or otherwise. Let’s start with the basics. You’ll earn 5x points on air travel and dining, 3x points on hotels and cruises and 1x everywhere else. You can transfer these points to Citi’s 16 travel partners, including Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, and Virgin Atlantic, to name a few. You’ll also get a $250 annual travel credit.
The real value of the Citi Prestige though is its 4th Night Free hotel benefit. This perk gives you a fourth night free on paid hotel stays of four nights or more, and you’ll still earn 3x points for booking the hotel with your Prestige card. Although this perk will be capped to twice per year starting in September 2019, it can still be massively valuable.
Sign-up bonus: You’ll earn $500 in cash after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)
Why you’ll love it: The Capital One Savor card was re-released last fall with some impressive 4% cash back bonus categories. You’ll earn 4% cash back on dining and entertainment purchases — which are both top-of-the-line for those particular bonus categories — plus 2% cash back on groceries and 1% on all other purchases. The card comes with no foreign transaction fees and will provide a statement credit for monthly Postmates Unlimited membership fees that are charged to the card through Dec. 2019.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days
Annual fee: $89 (waived the first year)
Why you’ll love it: The Arrival Plus has disappeared and reappeared several times over the last few years, but it currently features an all time high sign-up bonus of 70,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days. You can redeem Arrival miles at a rate of 1 cent each to offset travel purchases you’ve made in the last 120 days on the card, making this bonus worth a cool $700. You’ll also earn 2 miles per dollar on all purchases and a 5% rebate every time you redeem your miles. Just be aware that unlike the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, the Arrival Plus has a redemption minimum of 10,000 miles or $100.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening plus an additional 40,000 bonus points after spending a total of $5,000 on purchases within 6 months of account opening
Annual fee: $89
Why you’ll love it: This card comes with a massive 120,000 point sign-up bonus, which TPG values at $600. You’ll earn 10x points at IHG properties, 2x points at grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants, and 1x points on all other purchases. The card comes with automatic Platinum Elite status and you’ll get a fourth night free on award stays. Plus, you’ll get an Anniversary Free Night valid at properties costing 40,000 points or less per night on each account anniversary. The card has no foreign transaction fees and you’ll get a statement credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four years.
6. Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard
Sign-up bonus: For the personal card, earn 60,000 American AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. For the business card, earn 70,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $4,000 in the first 4 months.
Annual fee: $99 (waived first year)
Why you’ll love it: A refresh in 2018 breathed new life into American Airlines’ go-to consumer Mastercard, while the AA business Mastercard also got new features. The personal Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select was graced with two new bonus categories — 2x at restaurants and gas stations, in addition to AA purchases — and a $125 AA flight discount after spending $20,000 a year and renewing your card. You’ll also get preferred boarding, a first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries, access to reduced mileage awards and a 10% mileage rebate on AAdvantage redemptions up to 10,000 miles per year.
With the AAdvantage business card, you’ll earn an extra 10,000 miles over the personal card for a total sign-up bonus of 70,000 miles. Plus, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar spent on AA purchases as well as purchases at telecommunications merchants, car rental merchants, gas stations and now also cable and satellite providers. You’ll also save 25% off in-flight Wi-Fi purchases on American Airlines, get your first checked bag free on domestic itineraries and have preferred boarding.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 AA miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
Annual fee: $450
Why you’ll love it: The Citi AAdvantage Executive Mastercard comes with a steep price tag, but it can be a great option for serious American Airlines fliers. In addition to a sign-up bonus worth $700, you’ll get a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit and one of the most valuable perks of all — an Admirals Club membership. If you’re considering purchasing a membership anyway, this is arguably one of the cheapest ways to get it, as paying full price will be more expensive even if you have high-level AA elite status.
Speaking of elite status, you’ll also earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after spending $40,000 a year on this Mastercard, helping you requalify for your American elite status or reach up toward the next tier.
Sign-up bonus: N/A
Annual fee: $0
Why you’ll love it: If your eyes have started to glaze over by now and you’re looking for something simple instead of endless acronyms and complex program rules, consider the Citi Double Cash. While this Mastercard has no sign-up bonus, the card offers excellent shopping protections and does exactly as the name suggests. You’ll earn 1% cash back when you purchase, and another 1% in cash back when you pay your bill. You can use that cash as you please without worrying about maximizing transfer options or saving up for redemption minimums. Simplicity is the key here, and the card also comes with a simple annual fee of zero. Just be careful about taking this card outside of the US, as it does charge a 3% foreign transaction fee.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 15,000 ThankYou points after spending $1,000 in the first three months
Annual fee: $0
Why you’ll love it: The Rewards+ Card offers 2 points per dollar spent at gas stations and grocery stores and 1 point per dollar spent on other purchases. The points earned on each purchase are rounded up to the nearest 10 points, so all purchases earn at least 10 points. Unless you also have a Citi Prestige or Citi Premier, the Rewards+ will earn basic ThankYou points that can be redeemed for a $150 gift card but can’t be transferred to any partners besides JetBlue. You will get 10% of the first 100,000 points you redeem back each year. Like the Citi Double Cash Card, the Rewards+ features excellent shopping protections and a 3% foreign transaction fee.
Sign-up bonus: Earn $300 statement credit when you make at least $3,000 in net purchases within 90 days of your account opening
Annual fee: $0
Why you’ll love it: The Business Advantage Cash Rewards card provides 3% cash back on category of your choice; gas stations, office supply stores, travel, TV/telecom & wireless, computer services or business consulting services and 2% cash back on dining on the first $50,000 in combined choice category/dining purchases each calendar year; then 1% thereafter. This cash back is decent, but the true value is for Business Advantage Relationship Rewards clients since they get a bonus on the base earning of every purchase. In particular, Gold clients get a 25% bonus, Platinum clients get a 50% bonus and Platinum Honors clients get a 75% bonus. The Bank of America Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard credit card is similar, but offers 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases (except travel purchases through the Bank of America Travel Center, which earn 3 points per dollar spent). Both of these cards are best for Platinum Honors clients, as these clients will get the best return.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 10,000 AAdvantage miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 in the first 3 months
Annual fee: $0
Why you’ll love it: For someone new to points and miles, one of the hardest parts of getting started is often figuring out how to hit the minimum spending requirement on a new card without racking up expensive interest payments. The MileUp Card has a modest minimum spending requirement of just $500 over three months though. You’ll earn 2x miles a grocery stores and on purchases with AA, as well as 1x miles on all other purchases. Plus, you’ll get a 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights when you use your card.
While your primary concern should be earning flexible, valuable rewards that fit your travel goals, you shouldn’t overlook what types of credit cards are in your wallet. I make it a personal habit to never leave the house without at least two different “types” or cards — i.e.: one Visa and one Amex — in case I run into any problems such as a fraud alert on my account or a merchant who only accepts certain types of credit cards. So take a good look at this list of the best Mastercards and make sure at least one of them is part of your credit card inventory.
Updated on 4/8/19
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- Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel including gas stations
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and on entertainment
- Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- 50,000 Points are redeemable for $625 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center, or $500 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
- No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
- Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline loyalty programs
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases