Choosing the best Mastercard credit card for you

May 31, 2020

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A few years ago a massive IT problem hit Visa’s European operations and prevented customers from using their Visa cards across most of the continent. Although the issue was resolved within hours, it served as a cautionary reminder of the importance of carrying a diverse wallet – Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards – to cover all eventualities. TPG has guides to the best Visa and the best American Express cards. Here’s a look at the best Mastercards.

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The best Mastercard credit cards of 2020

The information for the Citi Premier, Capital One Savor, Citi Prestige, Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card, Bank of America Business Advantage Cash 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.

In This Post

Comparison of the best Mastercard credit cards

Credit Card Best for Bonus Annual fee
Citi Premier® Card Sign-up bonus 60,000 ThankYou Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening $95
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card Dining and entertainment Earn a $300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening $95
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card Frequent IHG traveler Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening $89, waived the first year
Citi Prestige Card Premium travel Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening $495
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard American Airlines flyers Earn 50,000 AA miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening $99
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard American Airlines flyers who want lounge access Earn 50,000 AA miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening $450
Citi Double Cash Card Everyday rewards None $0
Citi Rewards+ Card Small purchases Earn 15,000 ThankYou points after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening $0
Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard credit card Bank of America members Earn a $300 statement credit when you make at least $3,000 in net purchases within 90 days of your account opening $0
CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard Business travelers who fly American Earn 65,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first four months of account opening $99, waived for the first year
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card Budget American Airlines flyers Earn 10,000 AAdvantage miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening $0

 

A closer look at the best Mastercard credit cards

Citi Premier® Card: Best sign-up bonus

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: 60,000 ThankYou Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $95

Why you’ll love it: The Citi Premier® Card is a strong mid-tier Mastercard attached to a solid travel rewards program and backed up with lucrative bonus categories. The value of the card starts with its current sign-up bonus — 60,000 ThankYou points that are worth $1,020 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.

Even after you earn the sign-up bonus, this is a card you can keep in your purse or wallet, since it earns 3x points on air travel purchases, hotels, gas stations, restaurants, and at supermarkets and 1x on all other purchases. You can redeem your points directly at the Citi ThankYou 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 incurring foreign transaction fees.

Cardholders will also receive a once-per-calendar-year perk: a $100 credit on any hotel stay costing $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) booked through thankyou.com. Beginning on April 10, 2021, you will no longer be able to redeem ThankYou points with a 25% bonus through the ThankYou Travel Center.

Related reading: The best Citi credit cards

Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for dining and entertainment

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: Earn a $300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $95

Why you’ll love it: The Capital One Savor card offers impressive 4% cash-back on dining and entertainment. These are top-of-the-line rewards for those categories. It also offers 2% back at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. The card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Related reading: The best Capital One credit cards

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Best for frequent IHG traveler

Sign-up bonus: Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $89, waived the first year

Why you’ll love it: The IHG Rewards Club Premier card comes with a 140,000-point sign-up bonus that TPG values at $700. You’ll earn up to 25x 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 reward night free. Plus, you’ll get an anniversary reward 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 of up to $100 for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four years.

Citi Prestige Card: Best for travel

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $495

Why you’ll love it: The Citi Prestige Card’s January 2019 refresh brought more negatives than positives, but the Citi Prestige still has the potential to deliver the biggest 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, which has currently been extended to supermarket and dining purchases.

The real value of the Citi Prestige, though, is its fourth-night-free hotel reward benefit. This perk gives you a free night 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 is now capped at twice per year, it can still be massively valuable.

Related reading: Citi Prestige credit card review

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®: Best for American Airlines flyers

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $99

Why you’ll love it: If you want to earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles and enjoy elite-like benefits (like a free checked bag) without paying a hefty annual fee, the Citi  AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard is a great choice. New applicants will get 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 in the first three months. That’s enough for a one-way SAAver-level business-class award to Europe, Japan or South Korea.

The card earns 2x miles on all eligible American Airlines purchases and at restaurants and gas stations and 1x miles on all other spending. In addition to a free checked bag on domestic itineraries, cardholders also get access to reduced mileage awards and a $125 AA flight discount when you spend $20,000 or more on your card during your membership year and renew your card.

If you have elite status with American in 2020, the great news is that it will be extended into 2021. In addition, every dollar spent between May 2020 and the end of the year on any cobranded American Airlines card (like this one) will count toward Million Miler status which makes this card even more lucrative.

Related reading: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: Best for American Airlines flyers who want lounge access

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 AA miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

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 at TPG valuations, you’ll get a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application-fee credit of up to $100 and one of the most valuable perks of all — an Admirals Club membership. If you’re considering purchasing a membership anyway, this is one of the cheapest ways to get it. Paying full price will be more expensive, even if you have high-level AA elite status. You can also share your Admirals Club membership with authorized users.

Speaking of elite status, you’ll earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after spending $40,000 per calendar year on this Mastercard, helping you requalify for your American elite status or reach the next tier. You also get a 25% credit on food and beverage purchases with the card and you won’t pay foreign transaction fees.

Every dollar spent between May 2020 and the end of the year on any cobranded American Airlines card (like this one) will count toward Million Miler status. That makes this card even more lucrative.

Related reading: Credit card review: The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Citi Double Cash Card: Best for everyday rewards

(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: None

Annual fee: $0

Why you’ll love it: If you’re looking for something simple, consider the Citi Double Cash Card. Although this Mastercard has no sign-up bonus, the card does exactly as its name suggests – it earns cash. You’ll get 1% cash back when you purchase, and another 1% in cash back when you pay your bill (for a total of 2% cash back).

You can use that cash without worrying about maximizing transfer options or saving up for redemption minimums, although Citi has added the ability to convert these rewards into transferable ThankYou Points if you also hold a Citi card with an annual fee, such as the Citi Prestige or Premier.

Simplicity is the key here and the card comes with a simple annual fee of zero. Just be careful about using it outside the U.S., as it does charge a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Related reading: Citi Double Cash card review

Citi Rewards+ Card: Best for small purchases

(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: Earn 15,000 ThankYou points after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $0

Why you’ll love it: The Citi Rewards+ Card offers 2x points per dollar spent at gas stations and supermarkets on the first $6,000 per year (then 1x point) and 1x point per dollar spent on other purchases. All purchases 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® Card, the Rewards+ will earn basic ThankYou points that can be redeemed for gift cards at 1 cent apiece. You’ll also get 10% of the first 100,000 points you redeem back each year.

Like the Citi Double Cash Card, the Rewards+ charges a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Related reading: Citi Rewards+ credit card review

Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard credit card: Best for Bank of America members

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: Earn a $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 the category of your choice; gas stations, office supply stores, travel, TV/telecom and wireless, computer services or business consulting services and 2% cash back on dining. You’ll get 3% and 2% cash back on the first $50,000 in combined choice category and dining purchases each calendar year and 1% thereafter.

The cash back is decent, but the true value is for Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards members since they get a bonus on the base earning of every purchase. Gold members get a 25% bonus, Platinum members get a 50% bonus and Platinum Honors members 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 Bank of America Preferred Rewards for Business Platinum Honors members who will get the best return.

The information for the Bank of America Business Advantage Travel Rewards 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.

Related reading: The best Bank of America credit cards

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card: Best no-annual fee card for American Airlines flyers

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: Earn 10,000 AAdvantage miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $0

Why you’ll love it: For someone new to points and miles, one of the hardest chores is often figuring out how to hit the minimum spending requirement on a new card without racking up expensive interest payments. But the MileUp Card has a modest minimum spending requirement of just $500 over the first three months of account opening.

You’ll earn 2x miles at grocery stores and on eligible American Airlines purchases, 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.

Every dollar spent on this card between May 2020 and the end of the year will count toward Million Miler status.

Related reading: Credit Card Review: AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Best business card for American Airlines flyers

Sign-up bonus: Earn 65,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first four months of account opening.

Annual fee: $99, waived the first 12 months

Why you’ll love it: This card comes with all the perks you’d expect on an airline credit card, like a free checked bag (for the cardholder and up to four companions) and priority boarding. You can also earn a companion certificate after you spend $30,000 or more on the card during your cardmember year and renew the card (your account must remain open at least 45 days after anniversary date). The certificate is valid for domestic economy flights and to redeem it, you’ll pay $99 plus any taxes and fees.

The CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card is also a good business credit card because it’s issued by Citibank, which means it won’t add to your Chase 5/24 count. So if you’re looking to earn AA miles and you qualify for a business card, consider this card.

Related reading: CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard credit card review

Bottom line

Your primary concern in your credit card strategy should be how to earn flexible, valuable rewards that fit your travel goals, but you should also pay attention to what types of credit cards are in your wallet. I never leave the house without at least two different “types” of cards — i.e., one Visa and one Amex — in case I run into problems, such as a fraud alert on my account or a merchant who only accepts certain types of cards. So take a good look at this list of the best Mastercards and at the list of the best credit cards and make sure at least one of them is part of your credit card inventory.

Additional reporting by Chris Dong.

Featured image by Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.