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When people talk about credit cards, most of the time they focus on the bank or airline/hotel brand who issues the card. You’re more likely to hear “I can’t wait to finish meeting the minimum spend requirement on my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card,” not “I can’t wait to get the bonus points on this new Visa card I have.” That’s because it rarely matters what type of credit card — Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover and so on — we’re using.
But there are times when it makes a difference. For example, a large number of merchants don’t accept American Express (though this is starting to change). Maybe you’re using a bill-pay services like Plastiq, which features different limitations for Mastercard, Visa and Amex cards. Or when you’re traveling abroad, it’s not unusual to see stores that are only set up to process one type of credit card, not the colorfully diverse wallets many of us have.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the top ten Visa credit cards worth having. Don’t pay particular attention to the ranking, as the best Visa card for you will depend on your individual travel and spending habits.
Sign-up bonus: 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 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 that this Visa card should be the next addition to your wallet if you don’t have it already. The card’s 2x points on travel and dining will help you pile up points quickly. You can then redeem your points directly through the Chase travel portal at 1.25 cents each, or transfer your points to any of Chase’s 13 airline and 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: 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months
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 it’s a great Visa card for businesses to both get and keep. The card’s 80,000 Ultimate Rewards bonus points are worth a mind-boggling $1,600 based on TPG’s latest valuations.
And while that kind of value could help out any business, there’s more to get excited about. Your annual fee of $95 will get you access to free employee cards, no foreign transaction fees and cell phone 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 combined. Check out our full card review to learn more.
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
Annual fee: $450
Why you’ll love it: The Chase Sapphire Reserve has been near the top of almost every list it’s been on since it launched in 2016. The Visa card’s $450 annual fee isn’t nearly as bad as it seems, thanks to a $300 annual travel credit (good for anything from Uber to plane tickets to hotels) that brings your real out of pocket cost down to $150 a year. The Sapphire Reserve also offers 3x points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining, which are both loosely defined to include spending on items like public transit and meal delivery services.
You’ll also get access to a premium concierge and travel perks like 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 and be sure to read our full Sapphire Reserve card review.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 3% cash back on all purchases in the first year up to $20,000 in spending (after that, 1.5% back)
Annual fee: N/A
Why you’ll love it: The Chase Freedom Unlimited is the Visa card I recommend to points enthusiasts just starting to build credit. The card is incredibly simple, with no annual fee, a flat 1.5% back on all purchases.
But the best part of this card is that cash back is issued in the form of points — redeem them for cash back and they’re worth 1 cent each. 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, and 1.5 points per dollar on everything 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. Check out our full card review for all the details.
Sign-up bonus: $150 after you spend $500 in your first 3 months
Annual fee: N/A
Why you’ll love it: Although its potential is a lot smaller than the Chase Freedom Unlimited, the Chase Freedom can be a useful tool in your points-building arsenal. It’s identical to the Freedom Unlimited in nearly every way — same sign-up bonus, same zero annual fee and the same ability to maximize the value of your points by combining it with another member of the Chase Trifecta. The only difference lies in earning.
Where the Freedom Unlimited gets a flat 1.5% back on all purchases, the Chase Freedom earns 5% on your first $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly categories (activation required) and 1% everywhere else. The categories change each year, but in the past they’ve included gas stations, grocery stores, Lyft and mobile payments like Apple Pay. If you can max out all four quarterly sets of categories, you’ll earn 30,000 points per year on these purchases. Check out our full card review to learn more.
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
Annual fee: $95 (waived first year)
Why you’ll love it: This card made waves when Capital One launched a partnership with Hotels.com, allowing you to earn 10x miles when you book accommodations through a special link and pay with your Venture Card. You’ll earn 2x miles on all other purchases — and as of December 2018, you can transfer miles earned from the Venture Card to a selection of airline partners. That’s a huge step up considering that previously you could only redeem miles for 1 cent apiece to offset travel purchases on your billing statement.
Plus, this card offers a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100), and its $95 annual fee is waived the first year. Check out our full card review here — or, if you’re looking for a no-annual fee card that still earns 10x on Hotels.com purchases, consider the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.
Sign-up bonus: 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual fee: $95
Why you’ll love it: If you stay at Marriott hotels, or would like to, the Bonvoy Boundless card may be attractive due to 6x earnings at participating Marriott properties. Plus, you’ll get a free night award on each account anniversary that is 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 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. Check out our full card review for more details.
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual fee: $95
Why you’ll love it: If you’re looking for cash back over travel rewards, the Bank of America Premium Rewards card has the potential to be one of the most rewarding options for certain 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 1.5% back on all purchases except for travel and dining, which earn 2%. While that isn’t especially groundbreaking, certain Bank of America customers are eligible for higher bonus rates.
If you have an eligible Bank of America checking account and a 3-month average combined balance of $20,000 or more in Bank of America and/or Merrill Edge or Merrill Lynch investment accounts, you can sign-up for the separate 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||Regular Cardholder||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|
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. But the Premium Rewards card has a much lower annual fee, so if you’re after cash back 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. See our full card review to learn more.
Sign-up bonus: Get 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22), after you spend $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of account opening.
Annual fee: $75
Why you’ll love it: The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature is an incredibly underrated card because Alaska Mileage Plan miles consistently rank as the most valuable individual airline mile in TPG’s monthly valuations. That’s due to generous routing rules, amazing alliance and non-alliance partners and almost laughably low award rates such as 70,000 miles for a first class ticket to Asia.
While Alaska is a transfer partner of Marriott, its miles are otherwise hard to earn outside of frequent sales, so its Visa credit card can be a valuable tool in your accumulation strategy. The $75 annual fee is lower than most co-branded cards and the included annual companion certificate can more than make up for that minimal cost. Check out our full card review for more information.
Sign-up bonus: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
Annual fee: $95 (waived first year)
Why you’ll love it: This card recently got a refresh and is a compelling offer for several reasons. In addition to 2x miles on all United purchases, you’ll now also earn 2x on dining and hotels, and 1x everywhere else. You’ll also enjoy an up to $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit, a 25% discount on in-flight purchases, and elite like benefits like priority boarding, a free checked bag for you and up to 2 travelers when you use your card to purchase tickets on United flights, priority boarding, two one-time United Club passes and the unpublished benefit of additional award space. If you fly United frequently, this card could be useful.
If you haven’t paid much attention to it before, it’s worth knowing whether the cards in your wallet are issued by Visa, Mastercard, Amex or someone else. Especially before you travel outside the country or try to make any large purchases, you should make sure you have a few different types of credit cards available to you in case your 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 awkwardly find out you don’t have a way to pay you bill.
Know before you go.
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NEW INCREASED 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
- 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®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- 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
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards