How to choose the best Visa card for you
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Credit cards are usually categorized by issuer or type (cash back, travel, cobranded etc.). The payment network for your card (including Visa, Mastercard, Amex or Discover) doesn’t matter as much.
However, there are times when it does make a difference. For example, Amex isn’t as widely accepted as other issuers (although that is starting to change) and bill-pay services such as Plastiq have limitations for Mastercard, Visa and Amex cards. Further, small vendors in the U.S. and many stores abroad often only accept one type of credit card. For these reasons, it’s important to have a diverse portfolio of cards from multiple issuers and payment networks.
Visa is the largest payment network in the world. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best Visa credit cards to have in your wallet.
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The Best Visa Credit Cards of 2021:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best for beginner travel benefits
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Best for business owners
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for premium travelers and restaurant-goers
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for nonbonus spending (and drugstores, dining and Chase Travel)
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for easy earning and redemptions
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Best low-cost card for Marriott guests
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card: Best for Alaska Airlines flyers
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Best for Bank of America members
Comparison of the best Visa credit cards of 2021
As you can see, our top picks run the gamut from starter cards to travel cards to business cards and more. Here is a general overview and comparison of our best Visa credit cards of 2021.
|CREDIT Card||Best for||sign-up Bonus/welcome offer||Annual Fee|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||Beginner travel benefits||60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.||$95|
|Ink Business Preferred Credit Card||Business owners||100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||$95|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Premium travelers and restaurant-goers||50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening||$550|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Nonbonus spending; drugstores, dining and Chase Travel||$200 cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||$0|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||Easy earning and redeeming||60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.||$95|
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card||Marriott guests||75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening||$95|
|Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card||Alaska Airlines flyers||50,000 bonus miles and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card||Bank of America members||50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening||$95|
The information for the Alaska Airlines Visa has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Details on the best Visa cards
Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these cards and see how they can fit into your wallet.
Sign-up bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
Annual fee: $95
Why you’ll love it: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is arguably the card that made travel points and miles what they are today and there are plenty of reasons why this Visa card should be the next addition to your wallet.
The card’s 2x points on dining and broad description of travel (including airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds, passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, parking lots and garages) will help you pile up points quickly. Also, you’ll earn 2x on grocery purchases through April 30, 2021.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are among the most valuable rewards available since you can get 25% more value on travel when you redeem your points directly through the Chase travel portal. You can also transfer your points to any of Chase’s 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners.
The Sapphire Preferred has no foreign transaction fees and offers valuable trip delay protection, trip interruption and cancellation protection, delayed baggage coverage and primary rental car insurance.
Check out our full card review for more details.
Sign-up bonus: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
Annual fee: $95
Why you’ll love it: Although it’s not Chase’s most-premium card offering, the Ink Business Preferred has an excellent sign-up bonus and rewards categories that fit common small-business expenses. The card’s 100,000 Ultimate Rewards bonus points are worth a mind-boggling $2,000, based on TPG’s latest valuations.
This is also a great Visa card that business owners can use long term. Your annual fee of $95 will get you access to free employee cards, no foreign transaction fees and cellphone insurance, as well as some strong business-friendly bonus categories, including 3x points for your first $150,000 each account anniversary year spent on travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone services, social media advertising and search engine advertising.
Check out our full card review to learn more.
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
Annual fee: $550 (though some with upcoming renewal dates are receiving a $100 statement credit to lessen the blow from coronavirus-related travel slowdowns)
Why you’ll love it: The Chase Sapphire Reserve continues to be one of the best credit cards for travelers. This Visa card’s $550 annual fee is offset by premium benefits — most notably a $300 annual travel credit (good for anything from Uber rides to plane tickets to hotels) that is even more flexible in 2021, bringing your actual out-of-pocket cost down to $250 a year. The Sapphire Reserve also offers 3x points on travel (excluding the $300 travel credit) and dining, which are both loosely defined to include spending on items such as public transit and meal delivery services. You’ll also earn 3x on groceries through April 30, 2021.
You get access to a concierge service and travel perks that include a Priority Pass Select membership and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit. The Sapphire Reserve also offers travel and car rental coverage similar to the Sapphire Preferred, although the terms are slightly different. Check out our guide to Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which Credit Card to Get for a full comparison.
Check out our full card review to learn more.
Sign-up bonus: $200 cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Annual fee: None
Why you’ll love it: The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a versatile Visa card that can be used alone or paired with other cards.
Earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on purchases.
As part of Chase’s latest rollout, the issuer recently added three higher-earning categories, giving cardholders an opportunity to boost their rewards on the following:
- 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3% back on dining
- 3% back at drugstores
However, since Chase lets you pool points between its credit cards, if you also hold one of the first three cards on this list — a Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred or Chase Sapphire Preferred — you can transfer your points from the Freedom Unlimited to these cards, turning them into full-fledged Ultimate Rewards points.
This means you can transfer them to Chase’s hotel or airline partners and potentially get much more than just 1 cent apiece. In fact, TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each; 1.5 points per dollar on purchases with the Freedom Unlimited multiplied by 2 cents gives you a consistent 3% return, making the card one of the most compelling cards for everyday spending even after the first year.
This makes a solid no-annual-fee card incredibly lucrative — and dare I say it, exciting.
Check out our full card review for all the details.
Sign-up bonus: 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
Annual fee: $95
Why you’ll love it: With this great beginner travel card from Visa, you’ll earn 2x miles on every purchase. The Venture offers a simple way to earn and redeem your miles. You can either redeem them as a statement credit for 1 cent apiece for recent travel purchases made with your card or you can transfer miles earned from the Venture card to transfer partners. Through April 2021, you can even redeem your miles against takeout orders and streaming services.
The Venture also offers a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100) — a feature many mid-tier travel cards do not have.
Check out our Capital One Venture card review.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Annual fee: $95
Why you’ll love it: If you stay at Marriott hotels, or would like to, the Bonvoy Boundless card is attractive because of its 6x earnings at participating Marriott properties. Plus, you get a free-night award on each account anniversary valid at any property charging up to 35,000 points per night. If used well, this free night should more than offset the card’s annual fee, although you won’t get your first annual free-night award until your first account anniversary. Plus, you’ll get automatic Silver Elite status in the form of 15 elite-night credits each year.
Additionally, Marriott just announced that they’ll be discounting the number of point required for a free night award by 10% for all award reservations booked by Feb. 21 for travel through Sept. 30, 2021 — allowing your credit card points to go even further.
Check out our full card review for more details.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you spend $2,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account.
Annual fee: $75
Why you’ll love it: Alaska Mileage Plan miles are consistently ranked as the most valuable airline miles in TPG’s monthly valuations. Alaska offers generous routing rules, amazing alliance and non-alliance partners and almost laughably low award rates. However, Alaska miles are hard to earn outside of frequent sales and its transfer partnership with Marriott. Because of that, its Visa credit card can be a valuable tool in your points-and-miles strategy. However, it may become easier for cardholders since Alaska Airlines is joining the Oneworld alliance (hopefully later this year) and has reupped its partnership with American Airlines.
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual fee: $95
Why you’ll love it: If you’re looking for cash back more than travel rewards, the Bank of America Premium Rewards card has the potential to be one of the most rewarding options for existing Bank of America customers. In addition to a sign-up bonus worth $500 (as points are worth a fixed 1 cent each), this Visa card has a unique earning structure. You’ll earn 1.5x points back on all purchases except for travel and dining, which earn 2x points. That isn’t groundbreaking, but certain Bank of America customers are eligible for higher bonus rates.
If you have an eligible Bank of America checking account and a three-month average combined balance of $20,000 or more in Bank of America and eligible Merrill investment accounts, you can sign up for the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program. This will increase your earnings on the Premium Rewards card by an amount based on your account balance:
|Spend Categories||Tier 1 – Gold ($20,000 – $50,000)||Tier 2 – Platinum ($50,000 – $100,000)||Tier 3 – Platinum Honors ($100,000+)|
|Travel/Dining Earnings||2.5x points||3x points||3.5x points|
|Other Earnings||1.875x points||2.25x points||2.62x points|
Even at the high end, this isn’t quite as strong as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offers an equivalent of 6% back on travel and dining. However, remember that the Premium Rewards card has a much lower annual fee. If you’re after a cash-back credit card and all the flexibility it affords, 2.625% for everyday spending is about as good as it gets — if you’re able to reach the Platinum Honors tier.
How we chose the best Visa cards
We reviewed the Visa credit card lineup and studied their sign-up bonuses, rewards, perks and annual fees. Since Visa does not issue cards directly like American Express, we evaluated cards from various financial institutions like Chase and Bank of America along with cobrand partners to determine this list.
As always, head to the TPG cards hub to see the best credit cards currently available.
What are the different types of Visa cards?
Visa is not a card issuer directly, but Visa cards come with a variety of benefits baked in. There are three variants: Visa, Visa Signature and Visa Infinite. Basic Visa cards usually come with standard benefits such as zero fraud liability and an auto rental collision damage waiver.
What is Visa Infinite and what is Visa Signature?
Visa Signature cards — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred — come with more enhanced travel benefits and purchase protection. Some Visa Signature cards include specific travel-related assurances like:
Visa Infinite cards are at the top of Visa’s lineup and have perks including Infinite concierge, car rental privileges, and a Global Entry application fee credit. These Visa Infinite cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, all have an annual fee of at least $550 or more.
It’s worth knowing which payment network your credit cards use. You shouldn’t apply for or use cards based solely on the payment network, but you should try to have a diverse mix in your wallet. Especially before you travel outside the country or try to make large purchases, you should have different types of credit cards available in case a merchant can’t process one of them. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a meal or a long cab ride in a foreign country, only to find out you don’t have a way to pay your bill.
Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor and Chris Dong.
Featured photo by The Points Guy.
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CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
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- 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 dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.