The past few days and weeks, there is no doubt that the newly revamped Citi Prestige Card and Amex Gold Card and their effect or lack thereof on the Chase Sapphire Reserve have been top-of-mind and front-and-center in discussion for miles and points enthusiasts (and for good reason: benefits are strong and apply to a wide range of customers). However, at the Chicago Seminars last weekend, a question came up during the closing panel that seemed pretty intriguing: what are the best cards that nobody is talking about?
We should probably start by qualifying “best”. That’s obviously a highly subjective term to begin with, and the waters only become muddier when you factor in personal circumstance. Further, I’d argue that some of the highly popular cards are indeed the “best” in many instances. For example, I’d first focus on getting Chase cards before eclipsing 5/24.
|Chase's 5/24 Rule: With most Chase credit cards, Chase will not approve your application if you have opened 5 or more cards with any bank in the past 24 months.
To determine your 5/24 status, see: 3 Easy Ways to Count Your 5/24 Status. The easiest option is to track all of your cards for free with Travel Freely.
Similarly, I think there is more wisdom in transferable currencies for most folks than chasing obscure credit cards. That said, we list more than 150 cards on our Best Offers page — and I do think there are some gems in there that aren’t often discussed but are intriguing. Here are the ones mentioned in response to the title question and the ones I should have added.
Asiana Credit Card
Asiana’s award chart has some great sweet spots: Star Alliance business class to Europe for 40K each way (or first class for 50K), Africa or the Middle East in business class for 60K each way, South America zone 2 in business class for 35K each way, and more. If you’re originating in other parts of the world, there are some other strong sweet spots. Fuel surcharges vary from none to substantial, but it’s certainly not hard to find excellent value in Asiana’s chart. Those traveling with a lap infant make out particularly well, with the little one requiring just 10% of the adult mileage ticket.
While the card usually offers what looks like a weak welcome bonus, two miles per dollar at the grocery store can add up pretty quickly. While I’d generally rather earn 4 transferable points per dollar at the grocery store, the 2x on this card can look pretty good with the right plan in mind, especially if you would otherwise max out the grocery store caps on other cards. Further, the annual $100 rebate on Asiana ticket purchases includes Asiana award tickets, so you can probably offset the fee with one redemption a year.
Ducks Unlimited Visa
This card is an oddity on our Best Offers page for a number of reasons. First, it offers no intro bonus. Second, it’s issued by First Bankcard, a division of First National Bank of Omaha (not a major player in the rewards card space).
However, it offers intriguing 5% bonus categories. I certainly know some folks who spend plenty at Sporting Goods stores each year to make that a worthwhile bonus category (no hidden MS opportunity there – I just know people who spend a lot on sporting goods). Those who drive often, especially for work, could do really well with 5% back at gas stations. Living in rural America, I know plenty of people who fill up more than once a week who could easily net a couple hundred bucks a year in cash back. While gas stations often make the rounds on rotating 5x category cards, a card that offers an ongoing 5% can be appealing.
That said, note the weird redemption levels. You can’t redeem odd amounts of cash back, but rather must redeem in $25, $50, $100, and $250 increments. With no maximum stated and no annual fee, that may still be worth the hassle for some.
To be fair, this card isn’t very exciting at the moment. Greg has written about it before, but unfortunately its value proposition mostly died with Toys R Us. That said, with Gift of College being revived, this card might become relevant again depending on the expansion of $500 Gift of College gift cards. That’s because this card has no annual fee and offers an ongoing 3% back on “select entertainment”, which covers a broader range of stores than one might anticipate. It’s a stretch including this card in a “best” list right now, but it’s one that you’ll almost surely never hear floated in points-and-miles circles — yet it could become solid for college savers soon.
Wells Fargo Visas
Speaking of college savers, Gift of College cards are available in Fred’s Pharmacy locations in the Southeast of the US. I’ve read mixed reports of Fred’s stores allowing the purchase of Gift of College cards with a credit card, but for those that do, earning 5x on up to $12.5K spend in the first 6 months might be a good way to cap out that bonus category on one of the above Wells Fargo cards if you’ve got the money ready to set aside for college.
Also noteworthy is the fact that points can be combined between the two cards in order to use them all for 1.5c in value towards flights. Furthermore, Wells Fargo customers have been getting targeted for some incredible spending offers — like as much as 40% back at Kohl’s.
Banana Republic Visa
Similarly to the Wells Fargo spending bonuses, the Banana Republic Visa has offered terrific spending bonuses over time. We do not currently have a page for this card, but it’s one that could be well worth it for its targeted spending offers if you’re interested in outfitting your family via Banana Republic / Old Navy / Gap. Miles to Memories has written extensively about this card, so it’s worth checking out their archives on this one if you’re interested.
Business cards may seem like they are hardly an overlooked category, but I’d argue that many newcomers wrongly pass on these cards assuming that having a business means owning a multinational conglomerate. While newcomers to this space should probably continue to ignore all of the cards above, business cards deserve a newbie’s attention.
|Applying for Business Credit Cards
Yes, you have a business: In order to sign up for a business credit card, you must have a business. That said, it's common for people to have businesses without realizing it. If you sell items at a yard sale, or on eBay, for example, then you have a business. Similar examples include: consulting, writing (e.g. blog authorship, planning your first novel, etc.), handyman services, owning rental property, renting on airbnb, driving for Uber or Lyft, etc. In any of these cases, your business is considered a Sole Proprietorship unless you form a corporation of some sort.
When you apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor, you can use your own name as your business name, use your own address and phone as the business' address and phone, and your social security number as the business' Tax ID / EIN. Alternatively, you can get a proper Tax ID / EIN from the IRS for free, in about a minute, through this website.
Is it OK to use business cards for personal expenses? Anecdotally, almost everyone I know uses business cards for personal expenses. That said, the terms in most business card applications state that you should use the card only for business use. Also, some consumer credit card protections do not apply to business cards. My advice: don't use the card for personal expenses if you're not comfortable doing so.
While I definitely wouldn’t say that any of these cards is a contender for best on the market, these are all cards that fly under the radar while having some specific use cases that make them shine. Further, while the Wells Fargo cards have picked up more press again lately, these are mostly cards that aren’t often discussed. That makes sense; with pretty focused use cases, they don’t belong in discussion of general “best of” lists. But if you’ve tapped out most of the rest of the 5,000,000 points and miles available via new cardmember bonuses found on our Best Offers page, these might be a few cards worth a look.