Selecting the right credit card is a personal decision with multiple factors to consider. You have think about rewards, fees, APRs, and benefits to determine what cards best suit your needs. Luckily, competition is fierce among issuers for your business. Out of that competition comes better rewards and better benefits for consumers, something we witnessed in 2016. From generous sign-up bonuses to benefits, these credit cards stood out this year.
Premium Travel Card: Chase Sapphire Reserve
This won’t come as a surprise to most: the Chase Sapphire Reserve deserves the top spot for new premium travel card. Launched in August, it even attracted typically credit-adverse millennials in droves. Though it has a $450 annual fee, it also has:
- 100,000 point sign-up bonus after $4,000 spend in 90 days
- $300 annual travel voucher
- Earns 3X on travel and restaurants and 1X on all other eligible purchases
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
- TSA PreCheck/Global Entry Reimbursement
- Priority Pass membership
- Primary Car Rental Insurance
Points are worth 50% more when you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Premium Business Travel Card: Chase Ink Business Preferred
Chase made a big play with the Chase Sapphire Reserve and followed it up in November with a stellar business travel card. The Chase Ink Business Preferred, which has a $95 annual fee (the first year fee is waived if you apply in branch, but not if you apply online), earns 3X on up to $150,000 in annual spend in the following categories:
- Advertising on social media and search engines (like Facebook and Google AdWords)
It earns 1X on all other eligible purchases. The sign-up bonus is 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Other valuable card benefits include:
- Employee cards at no additional cost
- No foreign transaction fees
- Cell phone protection against covered theft or damage when the monthly cell phone bill is paid on the card (with a $100 deductible)
- Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance and auto rental collision damage waiver
- Price, purchase, return, and extended warranty protection
- Fraud early warning and zero liability protection
At first blush, the Chase Freedom Unlimited doesn’t stand out compared to other flat cash back cards. Introduced in March, it earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases, making it less rewarding than its competitor Citi Double Cash. However, the 1.5% can be converted to more valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards, which will really maximize the points you earn for an effective $0.0189 per dollar spent on everyday purchases (1.5 x $0.0126, what we value each Ultimate Rewards point). It also has no annual fee and comes with Visa Signature benefits (if you quality). It does, however, have a 3% foreign transaction fee.
At the end of October, USAA quietly launched a pilot program for the USAA Limitless Cash Back Rewards Visa Signature. With most flat cash back cards topping off at 2%, the USAA Limitless Cash Back Rewards Visa Signature earns:
- 2.5% cash back on credit card purchases when you have a free USAA Bank checking account with a qualifying direct deposit of at least $1,000 every month
- 1.5% cash back on credit card purchases without a direct deposit
At the least, the USAA Limitless Cash Back Rewards Visa Signature competes with other 1.5% cash back cards like the Capital One Quicksilver. At its maximum potential, the USAA Limitless Cash Rewards Visa supersedes flat 2% cards like the Citi Double Cash. Even if you have Preferred Rewards with Bank of America, you’ll still earn a better return on non-bonus spending with the Limitless Cash Back Rewards Visa Signature.
Other card benefits include:
- No Annual Fee
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
- Visa Signature Benefits like access to the Visa Signature Luxury Collection
- Chip/Pin Enabled
Eligibility extends to:
- Active, retired and honorably separated officers and enlisted personnel of the U.S. military
- Officer candidates in commissioning programs (Academy, ROTC, OCS/OTS)
- Adult children whose eligible parents have or had a USAA product
- widows and widowers of USAA members who have or had a USAA auto or property insurance policy
Keep in mind that the USAA Limitless Cash Back Rewards Visa is currently only available in Louisiana, Kansas, Idaho, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington, and New Mexico.
Best Card for Giving Back: Charity Charge World MasterCard
You may already give back by donating miles, rewards, and cash back through your credit card issuers. The Charity Charge World MasterCard, issued by Commerce Bank, makes donating to charity even easier. Introduced in June, it earns 1% cash back on all net purchases. Rewards are automatically distributed to the charity, nonprofit, K-12 school, college or religious organization of your choice. The card has no annual fee and comes with MasterCard World benefits, including:
- Concierge Service
- ID Theft Protection
- Extended Warranty
- Purchase Protection
Additionally, cardholders can keep track of their credit with free access to their FICO score online.
Charity Charge underwrites 100% of the donation fees. This distinguishes the card from other affinity credit cards like the Pink Ribbon BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card and World Wildlife Fund BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card, which take a cut of the donation fees.
Best Card for Superhero Fans: Marvel MasterCard
- Select Entertainment (including movies, concerts, amusement parks digital apps and games, and aquariums)
- Marvel’s official merchandise booths
Cardholders earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. All cash back is paid out in the form of a statement credit in $25 increments. Special extras include a $25 statement credit after the first purchase using the card, 10% off all merchandise purchases at MarvelShop.com and free shipping offers on MarvelShop.com during certain times of the year.
Most co-branded cards (including the Star Trek and Star Wars Visa) don’t offer much reward flexibility outside of the brand. The Marvel MasterCard is different. It offers cash back in everyday categories like dining and entertainment, making it a surprisingly solid card.
After delaying the transition from American Express to Citibank and Visa, Costco announced that rewards for the Costco Anywhere Visa would be better than its predecessor, the Costco American Express Card:
- 4% cash back on eligible gas worldwide, including at Costco (up to $7,000 per year), then 1%
- 3% cash back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases worldwide
- 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
Compared to the legacy Costco American Express, rewards increased from 1% to 2% for Costco purchases, 3% to 4% for gas purchases (with an increased annual cap from $4,000 to $7,000), and from 2% to 3% for restaurant and travel purchases.
The JetBlue Plus Card has a compelling list of rewards and benefits. Core rewards are:
- 6 points per $1 on JetBlue purchases
- 2 points per $1 at restaurants and grocery stores
- 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
Other benefits include:
- 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
- 5,000 bonus points every year after your account anniversary
- No foreign transaction fees
- 0% Intro APR period
- 10% of your redeemed points back (unlimited)
- Free first checked bag for you and up to three companions
- Points awarded in your TrueBlue account don’t expire. Earn and share points together with Family Pooling
- 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases including cocktails, food and movies & your first checked bag is free on JetBlue-operated flights
- $100 statement credit after you purchase a Getaways vacation package of $100 or more with your JetBlue Plus Card
It has a $99 annual fee which is not waived the first year.
The Blispay Visa offers a twist on traditional cash back credit cards. In addition to earning 2% back on all purchases, it also offers no payments no interest on all purchases over $199 if paid in full in 6 months.
Other Card Features:
- Mobile Pay compatible: Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay
- No Annual Fee
- Visa acceptance
- Purchase APR is currently 19.99%
- 3% Foreign Transaction Fee
In compiling this list, we compared the 300+ credit cards we added to CardBase this year to find the best credit cards that launched in 2016. Are there any cards we missed? Let us know in the comments!
Like this post?
Get Wallaby Way in your inbox. Subscribe and we'll email you new posts each time they are posted: