I’ve recently been trying to shine a light on some credit cards that don’t get as much attention in the blog-sphere as they perhaps should. I thought it was time to make things a bit more interesting, so I asked a bunch of points, miles & travel bloggers which credit card they thought was the most underrated and why (I also asked them to focus on cards that didn’t have a limited time increased sign up bonus to make things a bit more interesting).
If you found somebody’s answer insightful, make sure you check our their blog. Below are the answers they gave me:
- 1 American Express
- 2 Bank of America
- 3 Barclaycard
- 4 Capital One
- 5 Chase
- 6 Citi
- 7 Discover
- 8 Comenity
- 9 GE Capital / Synchrony Bank
- 10 UFB Direct
- 11 U.S Bank
- 12 Wells Fargo
- 13 Final Thoughts
Fee-free Amex cards in general. Some of them may not have much value to use for regular spend, but they’re great for Amex Offers. If you have a couple authorized-users to add, you can get real value from them. I’m also constantly on the search for fee-free Amex cards from third-party issuers, which are eligible for Amex Offers via Twitter. For example, there’s a Macy’s American Express card that most people never heard of. – Chuck Sithe [Editor note: Chuck was mostly talking about AmEx cards not issued by American Express, but I thought this was the best place to put this suggestion]
Costco True Earnings
My honorable mention card is still the Costco True Earnings American Express. For the price of a Costco membership (as low as $55), the card offers the same benefit levels of the Premiere Rewards Gold Card and a credit line. The only reason why I downgrade it to “honorable mention” status is because 1) the gas rewards are limited ($4,000 per yer), and 2) cash back is given once a year as a reward coupon. Great if you buy in bulk from Costco (like I do), but not great otherwise. – Tagging Miles
1.5x everywhere, 3x on gas/uber, and 4.5x on groceries is easy. Just check your account 2 days before statement close to make sure you have 30 transactions and if you don’t, you can just buy 50 cent Amazon egfit cards to get up to 30.
AMEX MR often runs bonuses. Look at those multipliers during the current BA 40% bonus. Effectively you’ve earned 2.1x BA everywhere, 4.2x BA on gas/uber, and 6.3x BA on groceries. If you value BA at 1.5 cpm that’s 3.15% back everywhere, 6.3% back on gas/uber, and 9.45% back on grocery. More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/
archives/53929I can make the counter-argument for doing everyday shopping with Visa GCs bought via Ink, but I think the Ink cards have received too much blog coverage to ever be considered underrated ;). – DansDeals
Since I mainly focus on manufactured spending and earning points, can I mention the Amex Hilton Surpass card? A lot of people tend to focus on the SPG card because you can transfer points to various airlines, but if you want to actually earn points for a hotel stay then the Amex Hilton Surpass is often overlooked! I can easily earn 30,000 Hilton points in 1 visit to my grocery store that sells Visa gift cards. Since the card earns 6x points in the grocery category, it’s a FAST way to Hilton points! – Travel Hack Guy
Starwoods Preferred Guest
I add the Starwood Amex into that mix because I value Starpoints at slightly over 2 cents: http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2014/12/07/value-of-miles-and-points-by-airline/, that card used to be the staple of frequent flyers, turning the clock back several years before category bonuses were common (and back when SPG had several 1:2 mileage transfer partners, didn’t have a redemption category 7 for hotels, etc). Since the card has been pretty unchanged for years, other htan having added stay/night credit towards status, and other cards have introduced sexy category bonuses, the card has become pretty left behind in terms of attention.
So while not in my top 2-3 cards, I do think it’s undervalued. And I keep both the personal and business cards personally still — I have had the personal card for ~ 14 years [and have been putting large amounts of Starwood conference spend on the card..], the business card gets me 5% back at domestic Hyatts and I’m a Hyatt Diamond, and the two cards combine to put me over the top to SPG Plat. So there may be some personal circumstance bias here… – View From The Wing [Editor note: The 2% FIDO card was listed first by Gary]
SimplyCash Business Card
3% back at a category of your choosing – I chose gas stations, no annual fee, instant money maker with Amex Sync offers/Small Business saturday etc. – Just Another Points Traveler
Bank of America
Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express
FIDO American Express is undervalued. What I mean is that a large swath of rewards card holders put unbonused spend on cards earning just a single mile per dollar. And that means they’re effectively buying those miles for 2 cents since the opportunity cost is earn real 2 cents cash per dollar for that spend… and these are people who would not consciously buy miles at 2 cents apiece if offered to them by the airline. – View From The Wing
Since most of my miles come from sign up bonuses, for me I put all my “everyday” spend on the Fidelity AMEX or Barclays Arrival because I can use that 2% cash back to cover award taxes and stuff and not have to think about which card to use. Plus Fidelity AMEX has no annual fee. – Frequent Flyer University
Fidelity 2% Amex for non-bonus category spend – Are We There Yet
Without a doubt my vote goes to the Fidelity InvestAmex 2%. I wrote about it twice last year,Here and Here. I often talk to people and tell them about the importance of the card and am more often than not met with “But there’s no signup bonus.” It makes no sense to me to hear that. The card is important for the following reasons:
1. 2% back. Everywhere. Tolerance by FIA for exceeding CL seems to be somewhere around 1.25x CL a month (I almost always do my full CLs of $11k and $9k every month). Some months I push to the 1.25x, occasionally I’ve done 1.5x CL. Never a peep from them.
2. No Annual Fee. The most common card the Fidelity card is compared to is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus. at 2.2% vs 2% for the Fidelity you’ll need to spend $44,500 a year to just break even with the $89 annual fee. I would do that easily, but then if I use the Fidelity card for flights I could see as high as a 2.8% value from the card, so it still beats the Arrival for travel IMHO.
3. Amex Sync offers. For twitter/FB Amex deals, along with SBS the card can be worth hundreds a year in these alone. No other 2% card, annual fee or not, can match those offers.
4. Opens new avenues. Getting this card, and seeing how to make as much with it as possible will open you to new avenues of churning. Amex GCs? Great idea with this card. Mall GCs, yes as well. All everyday spending in non-bonus categories? Yes again. – Milenomics
The most underrated travel card to me–but the one that I would still be reluctant to recommend to everyone–is BoA Spirit. With the right positioning (and the right set of mind) this card can be worth 6 one-way flights–but there are qualifications.1. Best Spirit Air value is for non-stop flights, thus to me in NYC, Spirit is not an ideal carrier. I have had great values out of Spirit, but the ideal Spirit flier lives in or near FLL/MIA, DFW, ORD, DTW, and IAH.2. I ALWAYS fly in the Big Front Seat, or sometimes in an exit seat, unless I fly with family and take the whole row. The BFS is the most underrated value in Spirit. For $20-40 more you basically get a first class (domestic) seat. You don’t want to fly a regular Spirit seat next to a stranger. That’s misery!3. In order to maximize the value, one must travel light. They charge for both check in and carry on luggage. This is the best personal item bag I have found so far to avoid baggage fees. When you start paying these fees, it’s a slippery slope. 🙂 Spirit bag.
Most rewards cards are constantly being hyped up, so I’m not sure that I can even pick one that’s considered underrated by most people. I personally find the Barclay Arrival Plus card invaluable, for it’s flexible currency. With airline miles and hotel points constantly getting devalued, the Arrival Plus card has become more and more important for a travel hacker like me. Over the past year, I’ve saved hundreds of dollars and earned throusands of points thanks to this card.I’m taking a trip to Bali this year and rather than using 24,000 points per night at the Grand Hyatt (for two rooms), I’m opting to spend around 50,000 Arrival miles ($550) on a fully staffed villa overlooking the beach. It’s a major upgrade over a standard hotel room and requires pretty much the same amount of manufactured spending.This may not fit in with your post about underrated cards, but despite the occasional hawking, I don’t think the Arrival Plus card gets quite as much attention as, say, the Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Bold. – Points Chaser
Best underrated card for it’s sign up bonus. 5 nights in Stockholm (and a number of other places) with just one Credit card. – Mighty Travels
stacks 5% cash back on top of portal earnings when you purchase through the Upromise portal. It’s my go-to for online portal shopping unless there’s a really good mileage deal. Has other bonus categories like gas and dining, but they require using a participating station/restaurant, so I don’t bother. – Are We There Yet?
For many stores Upromise has the best or is tied for the best cashback rate. While the bonus categories on this card can be confusing, I think the 5% extra back on purchases made through the portal can be a great benefit. The real drawback of this card is complicated. Some stores pay the extra 5%, some restaurants qualify for the 4%, only Exxon Mobil gets 3% in gas, etc. – Miles To Memories
Too easy – the Travelocity AMEX card from Barclays. Points are worth 2 cents each when redeemed for Travelocity purchases in blocks of 20K, so all offers you see in the Arrival RewardsBoost portal are worth twice as much through the Travelocity card portal. And it’s a no-fee AMEX card you can use for sync offers (although I don’t do a very good job of that). – Miles4more
Spark Cash Business Card
I had suggested the Spark business card which gives you 2% cash bank on everything and will give you a 300 bonus when you 5k in 3 months and you add an “employee” card. The 59 annual fee is also waived the first year. Also spending the 5k will get you an additional 100 cash back. – Giddy For Points
the bloggers do love this one, but it’s a good card just for the rotating 5% categories and no annual fee. I use it to earn the limit each quarter and then put it away. It’s an easy way to get 30k UR each year. – Are We There Yet?
…Low annual fee, free night certificate and platinum status. – Travel With Grant
For those who don’t qualify for SCRA benefits, I think the Chase IHG Rewards card, with the free night ANYWHERE for only $49 annually, is a card everyone should have in their wallet (or in my case, in my extended credit card carrying attache) – Military Frequent Flyer
…platinum status, free annual night at ANY IHG property, all for a $49 annual fee – Just another points traveler
80K points and $49 for free night in bora bora! – RomsDeals
I’d have to go with Chase’s IHG MasterCard. I like that the card gives a free night each year you keep the card along with free Platinum status, plus it has a low $49 annual fee. The free night can easily be worth 8x as much as the annual fee when the free night is used at a top-tier IHG property. It’s hard to beat this hotel credit card, especially when it’s offering an 80,000 point sign-up bonus. – Well Travelled Mile
This card does not get enough love in comparison to other hotel credit cards. Staying at the Holiday Inn or Crown Plaza might not be fancy, but at the end of the day, it is just a room to lay your head down. If you’re traveling, hopefully you are seeing more than just the hotel. My favorite benefit: Free night certificate that you can use anywhere in the WORLD. Other chains will give you a free night at up to a certain category. This is worth more than then $49 yearly fee! – Waller’s Wallet
The IHG Rewards Club Select MasterCard is often downplayed by bloggers compared to other hotel loyalty cards but you always get a 80k signup bonus thanks to a link from Flyertalk (http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/chase-ultimate-rewards/1282804-80k-points-no-fee-1st-yr-ihg-rewards-priority-club-visa-mc-109.html) so any blogger that mentions the 60k offer isn’t worth your while.The 80k signup bonus will cover two nights at most IHG hotels except for some Intercontinental hotels and since IHG is the largest hotel chain (and growing with the Kimpton addition), you can always find an IHG hotel where you are going.
The reason I like the card and I think it is underrated is the annual free night and top tier Platinum status for a small $49 annual fee. Unlike other hotel loyalty credit cards (Marriott, Hyatt), the annual free night has NO restrictions and you only have to book the room by the expiration date, not stay in it by then, so that gives you more flexibility. I’m sure everyone would be willing to pay $49 for a hotel room annually even if it just a Holiday Inn or Crowne Plaza and there is still the option to redeem it for a $300+ night at an Intercontinental hotel. Platinum status won’t get you free breakfast or a guaranteed room upgrade but I’ve had good luck getting a nicer room and some small perks when checking in (water, snacks etc.). A lot of the smaller properties in the IHG family don’t see too many Platinum members so you will get treated better at these properties (I’ve gotten the best room in a Holiday Inn in Brookline, MA on an award reservation so upgrades do happen).The biggest drawback against IHG is perhaps the lack of “inspirational properties” but for most people this is a great chain hotel. The locations are super plentiful, cheap (both in points and cash) and having Platinum status will you get a good room, even if it isnt a suite. For most everyday people, you are more likely to stay a Holiday Inn than a Park Hyatt or JW Marriott. This isn’t a card for everyday spend but the benefits of the card for only a $49 annual fee makes this card a long term keeper for me and my wife. – Points Centric
Chase Ink Bold/Plus
I still think the Chase Ink Bold is by far the single best card for reselling. 5x points beats 5x cash back. Relatively high limit of $50k per year in 5x categories. I do a lot of reselling from Staples. Plus and buying gift cards through a portal gives you portal points plus 5x. Has access to ultimate rewards mall. Tons of gift cards at Office supply stores. Just do straight up MS when reselling is slow, or when Staples or Officemax put promos on Visa gift cards. Totally worth the annual fee without any start up bonus, but 50,000 points minimum is tough to beat on any day..Apologies if that’s too mainstream, but that is my most heavily used card. Sometimes for reselling it just doesn’t matter as much so use the card you need min spend or status on. When you get a 18x portal bonus double dip at Sears, whether you are getting 1 mile or 2% back isn’t like losing 1% of margin doing MS. – Big Habitat
Chase Ink Cash
I’m going to go with the Ink Cash, since it has no annual fee and some great bonus categories. – One Mile At A Time
Chase United Explorer
I hate picking just one card, but if I had to say which one card is overlooked/underrated it would be the UA Explorer: XN saver award space, better Plan B business saver awardspace for non elites, JN and YN last seat coach and business award space, CPUs for elites on awards, annual lounge passes, and $25K spend gets 10K RDMs (effective 40% bonus) and PQD waiver. Also had primary car rental insurance before any of the others, though more cards have that benefit of late. – DansDeals
My pick is the Citi Double Cash card because you get 2% on all purchases (1% when you charge and the additional 1% when you pay your bill). I like that there’s no limit on how much cash back you can earn and you earn it on everything.
It’s a great card for everyone: the newbie just getting started (or the reluctant spouse) who doesn’t want to have to remember which card to use. And for the more advanced who put a lot of spending on our cards each month; it’s a great replacement for the old Amex Blue Cash card. – Travelling Well For Less
I’d have to say the Citi Double Cash is currently the most underrated card. Why? Because this is the best card for a solid majority of the human population but you don’t hear about it much since it’s not particularly interesting to write about. But how many other 2% no annual fee cards are there? There’s the Fidelity Amex, of course, but Visa/Mastercard have slightly wider acceptance so you don’t have to worry as much about having a backup in case your primary card isn’t accepted. If somebody who doesn’t care at all about credit cards asks me what card to get, this is the card I’d recommend. – PFdigest
After some consideration, I think my choice for the most underrated credit card is the Expedia+ Voyager by Citi. This is an ideal card for travelers who enjoy saving money on their travel and don’t necessarily worry about gaining elite status as a result of their stays. The card offers a pretty plain sign-on bonus ($175 in hotel credits after $2,000 spend), but the additional benefits can add up in a hurry – including the $100 airline incidental fee credit. Plus, there’s a lot of opportunities to stack bonuses with the card: cardholders have Expedia+ gold status as long as they have the card, giving them immediate points bonuses on top of any stackable bonuses they may have. And the $95 annual fee puts it on par with many other hotel rewards cards – meaning travelers don’t necessarily need to carry multiple hotel cards for the benefits. – Tagging Miles
For those that still have it, is the Citi Forward with 5% back at restaurants, bookstores, and entertainment. I fortunately held on to it, and it became infinitely more valuable when Citi Thankyou points became transferrable, especially to Singapore and Air France. I can’t wholeheartedly nominate this one though, as most people probably don’t have it still (and because Amex Campus Edition is going away, which was an excellent way to accumulate a free 5k TY points per month). – Military Frequent Flyer
For military members who qualify to get annual fees waived through the SCRA, I’d say the Citi Prestige is pretty amazing, but not talked about nearly as much as the Chase and Amex cards. $250 of reimbursable airline fares ($500 over 2 calendar years), Priority Pass select, and 3 annual free rounds of golf. That’s at least $1k of value over the first year of having the card, and I’m not even including the sign-on bonus. – Military Frequent Flyer
Has great categories, and gives access to the awesome ShopDiscover/DiscoverDeals portal. – Chuck Sithe
As an honorable mention I’d go with any discover card. Not for use for purchases, but for the excellent Shop Discover (now Discover Deals) portal. At least once a month a purchase I make earns me 2-4% extra by going through Discover Deals instead of any public portal. Not a ton to write about with Discover cards besides that angle, but the number of people who don’t have one shocks me. So easy to get as well, in fact my very first credit card ever was a discover card, way back when I was 19 years old. – Milenomics
Discover It. While this card’s day to day earning power is pathetic (1%), it offers rotating 5% categories, the best paying shopping portal, and miscellaneous bonus deals. Best of all, Discover cash back can be worth more than its face value when redeemed for partner gift certificates. My favorite use is to redeem for National Car rental certificates at half price, but there are many other good deals as well. – Frequent Miler
I had to think long and hard about this, but this card seems to be overlooked. Possibly due to it being a travel rewards card or there referral money isn’t as high as other banks such as Chase or Amex, so it is just left out of the discussion? Probably the feature I don’t see mentioned enough is the Discover Deals. – Waller’s Wallet
Discover It – While it is a well known card, it doesn’t receive a lot of hype because it normally lacks a big sign-up bonus. I think the 5x categories and shopping portal make it one of the best cards out there. Also, you get to skip the entrance lines at Six Flags! 🙂 – Miles to Memories
I’d say the DiscoverIT card is one of the most underrated card – especially by me! I hardly ever use mine but the rotating 5X categories are very solid. But what I’ve noticed is when I shop online and check evreward.com, Discover seems to have better bonuses more often than not. In the past I often found myself turning down 5X on Discover to get 2X on something like the CSP. But now that I think about it, miles may be great for aspirational products, but the funny thing is that makes a lot of people underrate cold hard cash. – As The Joe Flies
I go for the benefit I wish my airline card had, the Virgin America Premium, $149 annual fee gets you free changes and cancels on paid tickets. Refunds go to a travel credit valid 12 months rather than cash, still it is great for flexibility. – Rapid Travel Chai
GE Capital / Synchrony Bank
PayPal Extras MasterCard
This card is linked to my PayPal account and I use it as a bank up funding source with my PayPal Business Debit Card. – Travel With Grant
Sam’s Club MasterCard
I would have to say that Sam’s Club Mastercard is one of the most underrated cards at the moment. I haven’t seen hardly anything on it in the blogosphere. I’m sure you are familiar with it, but here is a link to my post http://milesforfamily.com/2014/10/13/should-sams-club-mastercard-be-on-my-keeper-list/ It could make sense even for those who have no interest in shopping in Sam’s club. IMO low spenders who have considerable dining and travel expenses would do much better getting this card instead of Chase Sapphire Preferred. – Miles For Family
My underrated card is the UFB Direct Airline Rewards Debit Card. This is a great card for anyone who may have had credit struggles or who simply doesn’t want to open another credit card. While miles don’t accrue quite as fast as some cards (1 AAdvantage mile for every $2 in point-of-sale debit use), it can allow a holder to earn up to 120,000 miles a year. The attached checking account can be opened for as little as $100 and you can use mobile banking to deposit money orders if that’s part of a manufactured spending plan. It’s not quite as good as the US Airways and Alaska Airlines Bank of America cards that disappeared over the last couple of years, but still an important tool for some mileage junkies! – Jetsetter’s Homestead
I guess it isn’t talked about much is because there isn’t typically a great sign up offer and it is catered towards people who like a fixed redemption. You get 5% cash back on two categories that you select each quarter and 2% cash back on one category. – Deals We Like
very easy to MS for free nights, bogo deal, and 40K anniversary points – Travel With Grant
for the free award night on bookings of 2 or more nights and the fact that the 40,000 annual bonus points for paying the annual fee is totally worth it – Just Another Points Traveler
I’d say the Club Carlson is the most under rated card. The card is a powerhouse for us as full time travelers. This is nearly an endless way to get really cheap nights for us. So to start it gives points and gold status, but probably the best benefit of any card is the BOGO ability – get a free night with any award booking 2 nights or more. We book all of our awards as two night stays and effectively double the value of all Club Carlson points.
The card also gives 5 points per dollar everywhere. For me, I have absolutely no reason to go to Simon Mall or something that doesn’t have a category bonus without a card like this. This makes cheap and free uncategorized spends worth it. It’s not just 5 points per dollar, it’s 5 points per dollar in a program where all my stays are half priced. Ya know? –
So the other day we stayed at the Radisson Blu Budapest (and got a huge suite) for 15,000 points. Now at Simon that’s less than $18 for that amount of points. And that got us two nights. $18 for two nights, and less if you’ve got cheaper methods. Underrated all the way around from top tier awards to 9,000 point hotels which at most would cost you $5 with this method. Travel Is Free
I think the most underrated credit card is the US Bank Club Carlson Card. A few reasons:
- The signup bonus of 85k is one of the best hotel credit card signup bonuses out there.
- Club Carlson casts a wide net of properties, from lower range and lower point properties like Park Inn to super upscale places like Radisson Blu. This means you can splurge and indulge or stretch your points.
- Cardholders get Buy 1 Get 1 free nights when they use points. If you book 2 nights on points, you’ll get the last night free, which is night #2. This equates to Buy 1 Get 1 free, and means your 85k signup could really be 170k if used right!
Flexperks. It’s the very first thing to pop into my head. This card absolutely deserves more attention. For people who spend big bucks in grocery stores, the card is a gold mine. Anyone who plays the application game can rack up points in a hurry. But when it comes to paid tickets, Flexperks points are incredibly helpful to have. This card is usually an afterthought, but for the right person, it can be amazing. – Mile Nerd
As FQF mentioned the points are worth anywhere from 1.5 cents to 2 cents per point. They are also pretty generous with the targeted bonuses. In the 1.5 years I’ve had the card, been targeted three times, 1 time in 2013 (spend $3,500 get 3,000 points), and 2 times in 2014 (one was spend $1,250 get 3,500 points and the other was spend $3,000 get 3,500 points). And if you spend $24,000/card member year they give you bonus points enough to cover the annual fee. And the annual fee is pretty low for what you can redeem the points for. Also this card, as you mentioned with the Sallie Mae, also covers the 2 categories most families regularly use – but they only 2x the category that has the most spend so it’s really gas OR groceries. And if you redeem for a cheap flight, they give you a $25 incidental which people have used to redeem for a gift card. – Chasing The Points
I do think that Flexperks is underrated from a business perspective. Helped my former company save about $50k a year in employee travel with that card! Company saved money, employees still got their miles and upgrades. Everyone was happy! – Jeffsetter
Best underrated card for manufactured spending. 4x on all grocery spending when redeemed for airfare i.e. a $595 gift card will make you $20 in free airfare – Mighty Travels
Wells Fargo Visa Signature
This one goes against your rules since you only have 6 months to earn 5X, but I do think it is underrated since 5X is worth more than 5%. See more here: http://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2014/11/13/a-card-i-wrongly-ignored/ – Frequent Miler
I just want to thank all of the other bloggers for taking time to answer my question. I hope some of these cards get more exposure in the future, I’ll continue to try and highlight cards that I think are underrated. For now I have a few questions for my readers:
- Which credit card do you think is the most underrated?
- Which blogger do you think had the best response and why?
Let’s try to keep the comments on this post positive in nature, rather than highlighting choices you don’t agree with – try to highlight choices you do agree with or cards that were overlooked.