The Best Credit Cards EVER… For Now

I want to start this off by apologizing to my dad and Dave Ramsey, both adamantly against credit cards. I was raised in a home that praised the debit card and cash because they were low risk and made over spending less likely. But, as all kids do, I left the path laid out by my parents and found a world full of rewards, credit building, and a thorn or two. Not to mention credit cards and their offers are fun to discuss at parties, right? Or maybe that’s just me.

Below I will discuss the best credit cards available in the Winter of 2020. We will cover the best cashback cards (some of my favorite due to simplicity), best travel cards, and the best beginner cards for those with no credit history or are trying to rebuild their credit. I will top off the list with the coolest credit card out there (I know “cool” is subjective, but this one has clout.)

Best Cashback Credit Cards

Citi Double Cash Card: This card is the best cashback option if you spend less than $15,000 per year. It provides simple cashback rewards that help you receive a small discount on every transaction.

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Minimum Credit Score: 750
  • Rewards: 2% cashback on all purchases, 1% back when purchased, and 1% back when the balance is paid off.
  • Other Benefits:
    • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, balance transfers don’t earn cashback and cost 3% or $5, whichever is greater.

Alliant Cashback Visa: This cashback card is better than the Citi Double Cash Card in year one, but in all years after, you must spend over $19,800 annually to provide a higher cashback reward.

  • Annual Fee: $99, waived for the first year.
  • Minimum Credit Score: 750
  • Rewards: 2.5% cashback on all purchases, Maximum of $250 in rewards per billing cycle ($10,000/mo).

X1 Visa Signature: THIS CARD ISN’T EVEN AVAILABLE YET. With the expected launch in the winter of 2020, this new card has caused a stir in the credit card community. Each point is worth a corresponding 1% so 2 points = 2% cashback 3 points = 3% etc.

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Minimum Credit Score: 750, not to mention the waitlist that has already begun (I’m in the 198,000 range if you’re wondering).
  • Rewards: 
    • 2x points on all purchases.
    • 3x points on all purchases in a year when you spend at least $15,000 on the card in that year.
    • 4x points for 30 days when you refer a friend to the card, and they get the card, no limit to how many people you can refer, and the person referred also earns 4x points for 30 days.
    • No limit to the number of points earned, and points never expire.
  • Other Benefits:
    • The X1 allows you to create one-off card numbers that expire in a set number of days. This one-off card number will enable you to create a different card number to enter for a free trial, and you won’t have to worry about canceling the trial because the card number they have will expire.
    • One-click subscription cancellation helps when reviewing your statements online, and you see a subscription such as “Catster” that you no longer desire.
    • 2% balance transfer fee, instead of the typical 3-5%.
    • It can boost credit score by providing higher limits than other cards. They can offer higher limits because they will focus more on income and less on current credit available or debt. The website claims up to 5x higher, but that is yet to be seen.
    • Bonus Code: fjD0xMT This code will give you 4x points for the first 30 days if you qualify.

Best Travel Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred: The best starter travel card with a massive sign-on bonus.

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Minimum Credit Score: mid 700’s
  • Rewards: 2x points on travel and dining + 1x point on all other purchases
  • Other Benefits:
    • 25% discount on points when you purchase airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises through Chase ultimate rewards.
    • Bonus Offer: 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. ($1,000 value when redeemed through Chase)

American Express Gold Card: This card offers better dining and travel benefits than almost any other card on the market.

  • Annual Fee: $250
  • Minimum Credit Score: 700+
  • Rewards:
    • 4x points on dining out
    • 4x points on groceries (up to $25,000 per year)
    • 3x points on flights (when booked through
    • 1x on all other purchases
    • $120 annual dining credit ($10 statement credit per month)
    • $100 annual airline fee credit
  • Other Benefits:
    • 35,000 reward points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.

Chase Sapphire Reserve: One of the two most popular premium travel cards currently available.

  • Annual Fee: $550 + $75 for each added authorized person
  • Minimum Credit Score: 720
  • Rewards:
    • $300 annual travel credit
    • Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check fee credit ($100)
    • Complimentary airport lounge access
    • 3x points on travel and dining worldwide
    • One year complimentary Lyft pink membership ($199 value)
    • DashPass unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for one year
    • $120 statement credit on DoorDash purchases, $60 in credit through Dec. 2020, and $60 through Dec 2021.
  • Other Benefits:
    • Currently offering 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. ($625 value when redeemed through Chase)
    • 50% discount on points when you purchase airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises through Chase ultimate rewards.
    • Trip, luggage, and rental car insurance details can be found here.

American Express Platinum Card: The other one of the two premium travel cards currently available, the Amex Platinum is known for its excellent customer service.

  • Annual Fee: $550
  • Minimum Credit Score: 715
  • Rewards:
    • $200 annual travel credit
    • Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check fee credit ($100)
    • Centurion lounge access, international AMEX lounge access, Delta sky club, and priority pass
    • 5x points on flights and hotels + 1x points on all other purchases
    • Earn up to $40 per month in statement credits when you use the new card to pay for select streaming services/subscriptions. $20 for things like Netflix, HBO, Audible + $20 on wireless phone service charges. ($480 value)
    • Uber, $15 in uber cash for rides or eats orders in the US every month + $20 in December. You’ll also be considered an Uber VIP to be matched with top-rated drivers. ($185 value)
    • $100 credit annually for purchases at Saks fifth ave or, $50 on a semi-annual basis
  • Other Benefits:
    • 75,000 membership reward bonus after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months
    • 35% bonus with one airline per year: point deduction of 35% if you book with that specific airline
    • 1.5x points for any purchase of $5,000 or more
    • Trip, luggage, and rental car insurance
    • Known to have the best customer service, who help their members find entertainment tickets and emergency travel assistance, among other things.

Due to the complexity of benefits between the Chase Reserve and Amex Platinum above, I’ll lend my two cents on choosing between the two. If you travel often and can take advantage of lounge access, rideshare and will use all the other benefits along the way, it can be worth paying the $550 annual fee. Because of the 75k platinum rewards + $40 per month in subscription/cell phone credit, I lean towards the American Express Platinum, but that could change as time goes on and offers shift.

Best Beginner Credit Cards

Discover IT Secured Card: Essentially a prepaid credit card, the Discover IT Secured Card is excellent for people who lack a credit history or who have a less than stellar credit score.

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Minimum Credit Score: None
  • Rewards: 2% cashback at restaurants and gas stations (up to $1,000 in purchases each quarter) + 1% back on everything else, and they match all rewards after the 1st year.
  • Other Benefits:
    • Your credit line is the size of your security deposit (refundable deposit). That means a $200 deposit for a $200 credit line. Or a $500 deposit for a $500 credit line.

Apple Card: It’s made out of titanium! That’s fun. 

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Minimum Credit Score: 600 
  • Rewards: 3% cashback on apple and select merchants, 2% back on purchases made with iPhone or Apple Watch paid with your Apple card, and 1% back on everything else
  • Other Benefits:
    • Unlike most cards, Apple provides cashback credit every day instead of monthly, which is a small bonus.
    • Easy integration with the wallet app on your iPhone to track spending.

Amazon Prime Rewards Card: Not surprisingly, this card is most beneficial to those of you who are on a first-name basis with your amazon delivery person. If you’re already an Amazon Prime member and the majority of your purchases are on Amazon or from Whole Foods, then this card may make sense for you. Plus, you can receive a $70 Amazon gift card upon approval.

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Minimum Credit Score: 640
  • Rewards: 5% back on Amazon/Whole Food purchases (5% is only for Prime members, 3% for non-members), 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, 1% back on all other purchases.

The Coolest Credit Card!

Without a doubt, the coolest credit card I have found is the American Express Black card with current holders Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, Eva Longoria, John Mayer, Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Jerry Seinfeld, and Oprah Winfrey; it’s safe to say that it’s a star-studded cast. This card is invite-only, and to be invited, you should spend and pay off $350,000+ per year on other Amex credit cards to be noticed.

  • Initiation Fee: $10,000
  • Annual Fee: $5,000 (yes, the first year will cost $15,000) + $5,000 for an additional cardholder (maximum of 2)
  • Minimum Credit Score: If you can spend $350,000 per year and pay it off, then they don’t care what your credit score is.
  • Rewards: 1 membership point per dollar spent and 1.5 points per dollar spent on transactions over $5,000 up to a limit of 1 million points per year.
  • Other Benefits:
    • Complimentary Equinox fitness membership: regular membership to this gym is $300 per month + $500 initiation fee, and they have locations all across the US/UK, mainly in larger cities.
    • $1,000 Saks Fifth Ave Credit: $250 per quarter can be credited for and Saks Fifth Ave purchases.
    • International travel guide when entering and exiting the country.
    • No spending limit
    • Wine buying consultations with experts

If you want to know more, you can read about the details HERE and watch a video HERE.

Cardholder Beware

Just like casinos give away free drinks, Credit Card Companies aren’t giving away rewards because they are nice. They only make money when you pay interest, which is why they are incentivized to reduce purchasing friction and increase social acceptance. As it turns out, they are doing a great job making spending easier for us. Studies show that we typically spend 12%-18% more when using credit cards versus cash, and will spend up to 100% more on small purchases when using credit cards! This sounds insane, but I don’t have the time to run my own study, so I’ll have to settle for theirs. Forbes also quoted the 100% study if you want more validation.

Good luck out there, and maybe, just maybe, the best rewards are found in controlling your spending and not leveraging a credit card. The saying, “tripping over dollars to pick up pennies,” comes to mind. If you’re wondering, I’m still going to apply for the X1 card.

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Stephen Boatman
Stephen has been investing for over 10 years and has always had a passion for helping others understand money and teaching them how their hard earned assets can be leveraged to meet their financial goals. Stephen has understood how wealth management and financial planning can change lives ever since he was in his teenage years thanks to his parents ensuring he was well versed in the topic. Within this realization, he discovered his purpose: making a positive difference in the lives he is surrounded by and the financial industry he works in.
Stephen Boatman