The 5 best new or refreshed credit cards of 2020
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We saw change after change (after change) in 2020.
The credit card industry as a whole also saw a variety of developments, from tightening of credit limits to shifting bonuses and benefits and even the launch of new and refreshed card products. Yes, even in an economic environment where fewer people were applying for cards, issuers still revealed new and updated products throughout the year.
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Many of these launches were in the works before the pandemic took hold in 2020. And contrary to previous years, many of this year’s card updates were focused on things that weren’t just about traveling. After all, travel was lower on the priority list for many cardholders.
Let’s take a look at some of the major card launches and permanent refreshes of 2020 — and what TPG readers thought was the most significant of the bunch. Note that not all cards are included, only permanent refreshes or entirely new products from major issuers.
All-new Verizon Visa Card
Back in June, Verizon and Synchrony Bank unveiled the no-annual-fee Verizon credit card, a product that has proved to be an ideal complement to existing Verizon customers. The card includes an impressive array of bonus categories:
- 4% back on gas and groceries
- 3% back on dining
- 2% back on Verizon purchases
- 1% back on everything else
Earnings come in the form of “Verizon Dollars.” For instance, you’ll get four cents back per dollar spent on gas and groceries, but those cents can only be redeemed towards Verizon purchases and bills. Cardholders also receive up to $100 in wireless bill credits over 24 consecutive months for monthly bill payments.
All-new Venmo Credit Card
In early October, Venmo launched its own card in partnership with Synchrony Bank. Venmo, most usually recognized by its peer-to-peer payment platform, entered the cash-back credit card space for the first time.
One of the most important elements of any cash-back card is its earning structure — and Venmo came out with a very competitive offering. You’ll earn 3% back on your highest spending category each month, 2% back on your second highest spending category and 1% back on everything else.
With the Venmo app, there is functionality to track activity in real-time organized by spending categories, split and share purchases, view cash back status and make payments.
United Club℠ Infinite Card
Back in March, United and Chase revealed a new, premium travel card for United Club lounge access.
Instead of simply refreshing the previous United Club card, United decided to launch a new product that offered not only United Club access but also an impressive 4x miles per dollar spent on United purchases, 2x on all other travel and dining and 1x on everything else.
Related: United Club Infinite Card review
Unfortunately, the timing was not ideal for this travel card with its launch in March. Nevertheless, if United lounge access is what you’re looking for, this is the card to get.
The perennial perk of the Infinite Card is a United Club membership, which typically costs $650 per year for a general United MileagePlus member. Chase Freedom Flex and refresh of Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Chase significantly overhauled its no-annual-fee card lineup in September with the launch of the new Chase Freedom Flex (replacing the Chase Freedom) and a refresh of the Chase Freedom Unlimited card.
First, with the Freedom Flex, Chase took the original Freedom’s rotating category rewards structure and added to it. Here’s a quick rundown of the bonus categories offered with the Chase Freedom Flex:
- 5% on the first $1,500 spent on rotating categories each quarter (activation required)
- Q4 2020 categories include Walmart and PayPal
- 5% on Lyft rides through March 2022
- 5% on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards (new)
- 3% on dining (new)
- 3% on drug stores (new)
- 1% on all other purchases
That’s an impressive lineup of earning categories for any card, nonetheless a no-annual-fee credit card. Additionally, the Chase Freedom Flex is a Mastercard, unlike most of Chase’s credit cards. As part of the Mastercard network, you have access to a solid cell phone protection plan. You’re covered for $800 per claim for theft or damage, with a maximum of two claims and $1,000 total in a 12 month period.
The Freedom Unlimited’s premier feature is a flat 1.5% back, making it a popular pick for beginners and experts alike. The refresh saw the addition of three new bonus categories, similar to the Freedom Flex:
- 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards (new)
- 3% back on dining (new)
- 3% back at drugstores (new)
The best part of both of these cards listed above? You can unlock the full potential of Ultimate Rewards points if you also hold a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. With just one of these cards, you can pool your points into one Chase Ultimate Rewards account which allows you to transfer to lucrative travel partners.
Refresh of Citi Premier® Card benefits
- 3x ThankYou points per dollar at restaurants
- 3x ThankYou points per dollar at supermarkets
- 3x ThankYou points per dollar at gas stations
- 3x ThankYou points per dollar on air travel and hotels
Cardholders also began receiving an annual $100 hotel credit each calendar year (eligible on single hotel stay $500+ purchases, excluding taxes and fees made through ). However, Citi did eliminate the bonus on entertainment purchases (previously 2x) and the broad category of travel (previously 3x).
Related: Citi Premier card review
The winner, according to TPG readers…
All-new Chase Freedom Flex and refresh of Chase Freedom Unlimited®
The addition of the new bonus categories on both the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited pushed this no-annual-fee dynamic duo over the edge to take the crown for the best new or refreshed card(s) in 2020.
In particular, the 3x bonus on dining was particularly impressive, matching the $550-per-year Chase Sapphire Reserve and even beating the $95-per-year Chase Sapphire Preferred‘s 2x bonus. Interestingly, the perks on the Flex and Unlimited highlight how the Reserve and Preferred may need additional benefits to keep them competitive.
Here are a few comments from TPG readers:
Shana G.: I really liked the Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited bonus categories of 3x points on dining (since I intend to downgrade my Chase Sapphire Reserve) & drugstores (I shop a lot at Walgreens)!
Sarah P.: The Chase Freedom Unlimited and Freedom Flex is really competing with my Chase Sapphire Reserve right now. Mine renews in April and I’m not sure I’ll keep it considering the new bonuses on the no-annual-fee cards.
Chris M.: I have to say the Chase Freedom Unlimited with 3x on dining throws a lot of shade on my Chase Sapphire Reserve. I’m not a big Ultimate Rewards portal user (1.5x return with the Reserve) so truly the Freedom Unlimited combined with the Chase Sapphire Preferred would probably get the job done to unlock access to transfer partners.
The Freedom Unlimited is no stranger to winning, as it also took home the crown of the Best No-Annual-Fee Card at this year’s TPG Awards.
Featured photo courtesy of Venmo.
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