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We all know the “best” credit cards. The travel blogosphere constantly sings the praises of the Chase Sapphire cards, the SPG Amex card, and others that consistently provide high value.
After those you’ll typically hear talk about churning the BofA Alaska cards, hanging onto the IHG card for a cheap annual free nights, and perks of having a premium card, such as the Citi Prestige or American Express Platinum card.
What other good cards are out there?
I’d like to explore the potential value of three credit cards that don’t generally receive a lot of press. They may not be quite up to the level of a Chase Sapphire cards, but there is certainly some value to be exploited in all of them. If you’re not sure what to apply for next, consider one of these three undervalued credit cards:
- Asiana Visa Signature Card – I’ve rarely seen this card given any press. Asiana’s Visa card is issued by Bank of America and currently offers a bonus of 30,000 miles after $3,000 in spending within 90 days. The bonus is decent, but nothing to write home about. However, the card is actually decent when it comes to earning miles. Unlike most airline credit cards, the Asiana Visa offers 2 miles per $1 on purchases at gas and grocery stores, as well as 3 miles per $1 on Asiana flights.
- Annual benefits of the card also include two Asiana lounge passes, an automatic $100 rebate on Asiana ticket purchases, and a 10,000 Bonus Mile certificate.The certificate basically allows you to shave 10,000 miles off the price of an award on Asiana metal. The Asiana Visa does come with a $99 annual fee that isn’t waived the first year, but this is easily offset if you can use the annual perks. Asiana has a fairly reasonable award chart, with a couple great sweet spots, although navigating through the award redemption table can be a bit confusing. There is some significant value in Asiana’s loyalty program, which I consider one of the most undervalued out there.
- Asiana *does* impose fuel surcharges on awards, but these could be worth paying in certain cases. A great example is Lufthansa first-class between the U.S. and Europe, which costs a mere 50,000 Asiana miles! A similar award on United goes for 110,000 miles (albeit without fuel surcharges).
- U.S. Bank FlexPerks Visa and Amex Cards – Compared to Chase and American Express, U.S. Bank doesn’t tend to get a lot of love. The U.S. Bank FlexPerks cards actually hold a ton of potential value. The FlexPerks Gold card currently offers a sign-up bonus of 30,000 FlexPoints (worth up to $600 in airfare) after $2,000 in purchases in the first four months of account opening. The card earns 3x FlexPoints at restaurants and 2x at gas stations. An additional perk of the FlexPerks Gold card is either GlobalEntry or TSA PreCheck reimbursement.
- FlexPoints can be redeemed for airline tickets at a rate of up to 2 cents per point (tiered structure). Awards start at 20,000 FlexPoints for a ticket of up to $400. The fact that you aren’t locked into any one airline is a major plus to earning FlexPoints since it offers great flexibility (thus the name, I guess). The card carries an annual fee of $85.
- If the annual fee is a turn off, the FlexPerks Visa Signature is an option. The sign-up bonus is only 20,000 FlexPoints (still up to $400 in airfare), but the annual fee is only $49, and it’s waived the first year.
- Banco Popular Avianca Vuela Visa – I just recently acquired this card. Aside from some initial hype, it is one that has been pretty much off the radar. The sign-up bonus of 40,000 LifeMiles (60,000 LifeMiles if you use promo code AVSPWE when applying…not sure if code is still valid) is awarded after the first purchase within the first 90 days. There isn’t even a minimum spend to hit! Like the Asiana card, the Avianca Vuela Visa earns 2x LifeMiles on gas and grocery purchases, and their miles are at least as valuable.You also get a free checked bag between North America and Central America and a 15% discount when purchasing LifeMiles. You can also get two 50% award ticket discount certificates each year when you hit $12,000 and $24,000 in spending. The card does have a $149 annual fee, which isn’t waived the first year.
- The biggest benefit to accruing LifeMiles is that Avianca doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges on award flights. Ever. Thus, one of the best LifeMiles redemptions is for Lufthansa first-class, which runs you 83,000 LifeMiles and no YQ. Contrast this with United’s 110,000 mile price tag.
- The card is issued by Banco Popular, who I had never heard of until I applied for the card. Do note that approval data points for this card are all over the map. I was lucky to be instantly approved (SEE: My highest credit limit ever came with…what new card?), but many people with better credit scores than mine have been denied.
- Barclaycard JetBlue Plus MasterCard – Maybe it’s because I live on the West Coast and not in the northeast, but I don’t hear a lot about this card. I’ve eyed it as my next Barclaycard pick, though, since the 30,000 point sign up bonus is worth a little north of $400 in airfare. The JetBlue Plus card earns 6x points on JetBlue flights, 2x on restaurants and grocery, and 1x on everything else. You also get a first free checked bag. The card does carry a $99 annual fee.If you’re a big spender, you can also earn TrueBlue Mosaic benefits by putting $50,000 in purchases on the card in a year. Mosaic status offers benefits such as waived change fees, a 1st and 2nd free checked bag, bonus points earned on JetBlue, and complimentary alcoholic beverages on board. Plus, you will get 15,000 bonus TrueBlue points when you qualify for Mosaic.
- For someone based in the northeast, or someone who frequently flies coast-to-coast, the JetBlue card may be a great one to have in your wallet.
These cards may not be for everyone. Consider your personal situation before applying. These three cards can certainly offer some good value, so including one of them as part of your next app-o-rama might make sense.
With the restrictions of Chase “5/24” and American Express’ once-per-lifetime rule for sign-up bonuses, a lot of good cards are becoming harder to obtain. Consider these as an alternative. They offer solid value and may be much easier to get.
Asiana 747 image courtesy of Sappho under CC 2.0 license.
Avianca image courtesy of J. Babinski under CC 2.0 license.