We all know the “best” credit cards. The travel blogosphere constantly sings the praises of the Chase Sapphire cards, the Amex Platinum, the Citi Prestige, and others that can provide high value (but may have a high annual fee).
But what other good cards are out there, beyond the typical Citi, Chase, and Amex options? I’d like to explore the potential value of five credit cards that don’t generally receive a lot of press. They may not be quite up to the level of the Chase Sapphire cards, but there is certainly some value to be gained in any of them. If you’re not sure what to apply for next, consider one of these five 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 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 $450 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 1.5 cents per point. 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 $300 in airfare), but the annual fee is only $49, and it’s waived the first year.
Banco Popular Avianca Vuela Visa
Aside from some initial hype, it is one that has been pretty much off the radar. I got this card in late 2016 but canceled it 12 months later. The sign-up bonus of 40,000 LifeMiles is awarded after the first purchase within the first 90 days. Yes. First purchase. There isn’t even a minimum spend to hit! There is a promo code (LM17WB) from a few months ago that may get you an additional 20,000 LifeMiles on first purchase, but I do not know if it is still valid.
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. Also note that LifeMiles can be a pain to redeem sometimes. Make sure you do some research first, since unlike other programs, awards that may not show up online are pretty much not bookable by agents. Agents are also less than helpful in general from most reports.
I don’t want to rain on the parade I just introduced you to, but I do want to make sure you are aware of all the concerns when jumping into LifeMiles. There is some great value in the program (SEE: 3 reasons I wam SUPER excited about the new LifeMiles shorthaul awards), but it may mean you deal with some headache.
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. The typical 30,000 point sign up bonus is worth a little north of $400 in airfare. However, the card is currently offering a bonus of 40,000 miles. I unfortunately applied for the 30,000 point bonus last year prior to the elevated offer of 60,000 miles. Whether that is coming back again is definitely up for debate.
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 on JetBlue flights. The card does carry a $99 annual fee that is not waived the first year.
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 between JetBlue-served cities, the card may be a great one to have in your wallet.
Cathay Pacific Visa Card
Synchrony Bank issues the Cathay Pacific Visa Signature card that currently offers a 60,000-mile sign-up bonus. This offer expires at the end of June 2018, so look into it soon if you are interested in applying. I picked up the card with a 50,000-mile bonus several months ago.
The Cathay Pacific Visa Card earn 2 Asia Mile per dollar spent on Cathay Pacific flight purchases, 1.5 miles per dollar on dining and purchases outside the U.S., and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. The most unique feature of the card is the 1.5x earning on purchases outside the U.S. The card also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, so don’t expect to get hit with fees on your international spending.
Although they may have just devalued their program slightly, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is still a decent Oneworld option for collecting miles. Like some other Oneworld airlines, the Asia Miles award chart is distance-based. As a quick taste of what the bonus offer will get you, 45,000 miles is enough for a one-way ticket in business class from the eastern U.S. to Europe.
The real value was (is?) in the Oneworld award chart. Tickets on this chart are based on total distance flown and are for tickets that include more than one Oneworld partner besides or along with Cathay. Here is our post all about the great uses of Asia Miles, though recently they have devalued some of the better awards
These cards may not be for everyone. Consider your personal situation before applying. These five 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.
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I think the brevity leaves a bit of info out of Avianca Visa card:
“.You also get … a 15% discount when purchasing LifeMiles… get two 50% award ticket discount certificates each year when you hit $12,000 and $24,000 in spending. ”
Per card terms (https://www.lifemilescreditcard.com/WLInternet/WlInternet_ProductFeatures.aspx?ProductId=2#!)
* 15% discount on purchases of miles with Multiply Your Miles
* A 50% discount on an award ticket redeemed for travel to Central America or Colombia from the United States
these are the 2 things that shut it down for me
How about Merrill + ? Most under-pimped card out there right now in my humble opinion.
Actually, I am waiting to use my sign up bonus from that card for a flight to see how that process works. Once I have that detail nailed down, I hope to write something. I agree that it is a great card!
I don’t think it is possible to get the Merrill+ anymore – that is probably why.
What value per point do you usually get with JetBlue points?
Kenny, it will run between 1.3 and 1.6 cents per point. Of course, the card means that you get 10% of your points back on all redemptions, so you have to factor that in.
I spent 50k on the card last year to get Mosaic status, and that has real value. The waiver of fees on award flight changes helps a lot, and I like always getting extra-legroom seats, expedited security, and having my bags be the first ones off the carousel upon arrival.
Plus, JetBlue is just more fun to fly than other airlines in coach. IFE, better seat pitch, Wifi, and good snacks—what’s not to love?
The FlexPerks Visa also has the best charity reward rate I’ve found anywhere (3x FlexPerks/$).
The Asiana card is tempting, given that we are moving to Asiana for our primary rewards program. But the problem is the Asiana lounges are also PP lounges, covered by our CSR, and the 10K rebate isn’t useful until we earn our status and start using awards instead of paying for flights. The $100 off tickets is fine, but booking in the US, the Asiana site is actually more expensive than using OTAs. So I am tempted to get the card, but it makes no sense to get it until two years from now. 🙂
James, the Flexperks Visa reduced the charity rate to 2x at the start of the year.
On the positive side, US Banki recently added Real Time Rewards to the Flexperks and Altitude cards, which is a very convenient way to redeem points. (It’s especially helpful when purchasing Southwest tickets, since they cannot be purchased through the Flexperks portal.)
Hhonors AE. Bonus spending categories, gold status, and a free night. No me, often overlooked and pretty lucrative.
jetBlue lets you combine accounts (I assume at the same address). The only other program that allows that is Avios (British Airways).
Interesting, and great point! I was unaware of this feature of their program.
If you happen to be a frequent transatlantic flyer, then the Iberia Visa might be a good option as well. With a $1K discount after meeting annual spend it’s pretty nice. Factor in 10% discount on all Iberia-operated flights and it’s a decent option if flying Iberia or other IAG airline at least a couple of times per year.