The best Mastercard credit cards of 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 top Visa credit cards and the top American Express cards. Here’s a look at the best Mastercards.
The Best Mastercard credit cards of 2020:
- Citi Premier℠ Card
- Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
- IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
- Citi Prestige® Card
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Citi® Double Cash Card
- Citi Rewards+℠ Card
- Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
The information for the Citi Premier and the Citi Prestige and the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit 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: 60,000 ThankYou Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months
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 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 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 worrying about paying extra as there are no foreign transaction fees on the Premier.
Related reading: The best Citi credit cards
Sign-up bonus: Earn a $300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.
Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)
Why you’ll love it: The Capital One Savor card offers some impressive 4% cash-back bonus categories — dining and entertainment purchases, top-of-the-line rewards for those particular bonus categories — plus 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
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
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 free on award stays. 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.
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: Its January 2019 refresh brought more negatives than positives, but 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 fourth-night-free hotel reward benefit. This perk gives you a fourth night reward 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.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 AA 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, there’s no better choice than the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. New applicants will get 60,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 in the first three months. That’s enough for a one-way 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 a 25% discount on eligible inflight purchases, 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.
Related reading: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers
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 a year on this Mastercard, helping you requalify for your American elite status or reach toward 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 outside the country.
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 you 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.
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 up to the first $6,000 per year (then 1x point) and 1x 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 Card, the Rewards+ will earn basic ThankYou points that can be redeemed for gift cards at 1 cent apiece but can’t be transferred to any partners besides JetBlue. 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.
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, 2% cash back on dining up to the first $50,000 you spend each calendar year on the combination of your choice category and dining, then 1% thereafter. The cash back is decent, but the true value is for Bank of America’s Business Advantage Relationship 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.
Related reading: The best Bank of America credit cards
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. You’ll earn 2x miles at grocery stores and on eligible purchases with American Airlines, 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.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 70,000 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), priority boarding and 25% back on inflight purchases (Wi-Fi, food and beverages). 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 to open 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, I would apply.
Your primary concern in your credit card strategy should be earning flexible, valuable rewards that fit your travel goals, but 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 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.
Featured image by Getty Images.
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
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.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 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, 60,000 points are worth $750 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.