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Discover it Secured Card review

The ever-growing Discover ‘it’ family has a new addition. This time, it’s a secured credit card. If your less-than-stellar credit places Discover’s regular credit card offerings out of reach, the Discover it Secured Credit Card (with no annual fee) may be worth pursuing. But before you apply, make sure you know all the details.

discover it secured card

The basics

If you’re not familiar with secured credit cards, they’re products designed specifically for consumers who want to rebuild their credit. If you’re approved for the card, instead of getting an unsecured line of credit (as you would with a regular card), you have to put down a deposit upon approval to secure your line of credit.

For the Discover it Secured card, here’s how it works:

  • First, you’ll apply and, if you’re approved, you’ll put down a security deposit. Your credit line will be equal to that deposit. For example, if you deposit $500, you’ll have a $500 line of credit. The minimum required deposit is $200, and the highest you can go is $2,500. Discover will determine your limit based on your income and ability to pay.
  • Then, use your card (responsibly) to build credit. That means paying on time and keeping your credit usage well below your limit.
  • Discover will review your account monthly (starting at the one-year mark) to see if you qualify for a security-deposit refund. If you’re eligible for a refund, that would essentially turn your card into a regular Discover rewards card.

Unlike some other secured cards on the market, this card has no annual fee.

The rewards and perks

Unlike most secured cards, the Discover it Secured Card offers rewards:

  • 1 percent cash back on all eligible purchases
  • 2 percent back at restaurants and gas stations (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter)
  • Double cash back the first year (for new cardholders only). However much cash back you earn in Year One, Discover will double it.

Plus, as with Discover’s other products, you get the following benefits:

  • Free FICO score access: You can see your TransUnion FICO score for free on your statements or via online banking.
  • Freeze-it: Freeze-it lets you temporarily block purchases, cash advances and balance transfers via an app if you misplace your card. This buys you some time to search for it and determine it’s really missing before you contact customer service for a replacement.

Is it a good option for rebuilders?

For something as important as rebuilding your credit, you’ll need to make sure you have the right card – and there are other cards for rebuilders to consider.

For example:

  • The Capital One Secured MasterCard is a no-annual-fee secured card with a unique security-deposit structure; your credit limit may be higher than the deposited amount. Your security deposit will be $49, $99 or $200. A $49 deposit gets you a $200 credit limit, and, if you deposit one of the higher amounts, you could get a limit of up to $3,000 (depending on your credit history). In other words, you may get a higher limit with this card for less money up front. The drawback? Unlike the Discover it Secured Card, you won’t earn rewards.
  • The Cash Back Rewards Card from Credit One Bank is designed for rebuilders, too, although it’s not a secured card (meaning no deposit). It also offers rewards (an unlimited 1 percent back on groceries and gas). However, this card comes with an annual fee of $35 to $75 the first year and $35 to $99 thereafter. It’s also worth noting that Credit One doesn’t have any prime cards in its portfolio. After you’ve built up your credit, you’ll have to close your card and move on to another issuer.

For more secured card options, go here.

The Discover it Secured card is a well-rounded and compelling option. While we usually advise consumers to put rewards on the back burner while they’re rebuilding credit, the rewards on this card are a nice perk (especially because there’s no annual fee). Because your (likely low) limit will keep you out of too much trouble, overspending to earn rewards is less of a concern.

More importantly, perhaps, is that Discover may refund your deposit and allow you to keep the card and its benefits. That basically turns your card into the Discover it Chrome card. There’s no guarantee Discover will raise your limit (which will be relatively low to start with). But even if it doesn’t, you can rest assured that you have a card with competitive rewards and benefits (and no annual fee) – and good enough credit to go for one of Discover’s prime products or for a prime product from another issuer.

It’s not hard to see why a small-business owner may prefer a charge card to a credit card. With a charge card, you don’t have a hard and fast credit limit, but, instead, a fluid spending ceiling based on your purchasing and payment habits. That can give you more buying power if you need to finance a big purchase.Amex simplycash Plus card image

However, it’s also not hard to see why a new small-business owner may not get a charge card – they nearly always have annual fees. Because the issuer isn’t making any money on interest (payments are due in full every month with charge cards), an annual fee allows issuers to extend the generous benefits that often come with charge cards.

The new SimplyCash Plus card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) will offer a unique option when it’s launched in Spring 2016 – a card with charge-card-like powers that has no annual fee. It’s a compelling offer – but read our review to make sure it’s a good fit for your business.

How the flexible limit works

Unlike traditional charge cards, the SimplyCash Plus does have a stated credit limit – and that’s how much you’ll be able to carry from month to month (with interest). But the card also has an undisclosed spending allowance above your stated limit. It’s not unlimited, but “adjusts with your use of the card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to us, and other factors,” according to the card’s terms. Any amount you go over your stated limit must be paid in full every month (just like with a charge card).

So how do you know how far you can go into this uncharted territory above your official limit? As with AmEx’s charge cards, you can use the Check Spend Ability feature online (or call the number on the back of your card) to check your buying power for a particular purchase (pricey equipment, for example).

According to an American Express press release, this feature reflects the wants of business owners – the issuer surveyed 1,001 small-business owners in Dec. 2015, and 76 percent of respondents who use plastic for business expenses said a spending-limit increase at least once a year would benefit their business.

Rewards

The card has a rewards program with bonus categories that match common business expenses:

  • 5 percent cash back (for up to a combined $50,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1 percent back) on U.S. office supply stores and wireless phone services purchased directly from U. S. service providers.
  • 3 percent cash back (for up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1 percent back) on a category of your choice. Categories include: U.S. gas stations, U.S. restaurants, U.S. advertising purchases in select media, U.S. purchases for shipping, Airfare directly from airlines, Hotel rooms directly from hotels, Car rentals directly from rental companies, U.S. computer hardware, software and cloud computing purchases (directly from select providers)
  • 1 percent cash back on other purchases (with no limit).

Because this card is part of American Express’s OPEN suite (a program that includes its other business card products), you can earn 5 percent back with OPEN Savings partners, including:

  • FedEx
  • Hertz
  • HP.com
  • 1800Flowers
  • Barnes & Noble

However you earn your cash back, it will be automatically credited to your statement. An American Express spokesperson also confirmed that you will earn rewards on charges that go beyond your official limit.

Benefits

This card includes the same benefits you can expect to find on a no-annual-fee American Express card, including purchase protection (for accidental theft/damage up to 90 days from purchase), extended warranty, secondary rental car insurance, baggage insurance and access to the roadside assistance hotline.

Wait … isn’t there already a SimplyCash business card on the market?

Yes there is. The American Express SimplyCash Business Credit Card has been around for about a decade.

In addition to the “Plus” in the name, the SimplyCash Plus card offers the following things that the regular version does not:

  • A flexible spending allowance above the official limit
  • Higher spending caps on the 3 percent and 5 percent rewards — $50,000 in purchases per calendar year, as opposed to $25,000 with the regular SimplyCash card
  • More options for the 3 percent bonus category. The regular SimplyCash doesn’t offer bonus rewards on U.S. computer hardware, software and cloud computing purchases.

Is the SimplyCash Plus a good choice?

If you qualify, the SimplyCash Plus is a step above the regular SimplyCash. Even if you don’t plan on going above your credit limit, it’s a nice option to have. Plus, the rewards have been upgraded a bit for the Plus card.

As for how it compares to cards from other issuers, there really isn’t anything on the market quite like it. With other cards, if you want the ability to exceed your limit, you’ll have to pay a fee for a charge card. If you want no annual fee and rewards, you’ll have to sacrifice the ability to exceed your limit.

The rewards on the SimplyCash Plus card are generous, too, for a no-annual-fee card. The Chase Ink Cash comes close (and has no annual fee), but it doesn’t offer 3 percent back on anything (and doesn’t let you choose a bonus category). However, the bonus categories are otherwise similar, and it might be worth considering if you worry about American Express acceptance issues abroad.

Go here to compare more business card options.

Luxury Card (formerly known as Visa Black Card) review

Mastercard black cardAfter a several-month, uh, blackout, the formerly-named Visa Black Card from Barclaycard is back — rebranded as a suite of MasterCard products and renamed “Luxury Card.”

The old Visa Black card had a reputation for being overrated and overpriced. So are the new Luxury Card products as luxurious and exclusive as they claim? Our review will help you decide.

Three options

While the old version came in one color (black), there are three versions of Luxury Card:

 TitaniumBlackGold
Annual fee$195$495$995
Rewards1 percent cash back statement credit redemptions1.5 percent cash back statement credit redemptions2 percent cash back statement credit redemptions
Value for airline redemptions2-cents-per-point value when redeeming for airfare (50k points gets you $1,000 worth of airfare)
Annual Airline creditN/A$100$200
Lounge benefitsN/ALounge Club membership (495 participating lounges; some allow guests)
Global Entry application creditN/A$100 credit$100 credit
Luxury giftsN/AReceive luxury gifts from partner brands
Other travel benefitsAirport escort, chauffeured transportation, global luggage delivery, extra amenities on partner cruise lines, chartered yacht and jet services, upgrades at rental car partners
Sign-up bonus10k points after spending $1,000 in first 90 days25K points after spending $1,500 in first 90 days50k points after spending $3,000 in first 90 days
Made ofStainless steel24K gold

How do they compare to the competition?

The Black and Gold versions both offer more perks than the original Visa Black card. And the Titanium version offers a lower fee than that predecessor. However, while these cards have some good (and, in some cases, unique) benefits, they are overpriced compared to what else is out there.

Here’s why:

1. The rewards aren’t competitive: You will find no-annual-fee cards offering 1 percent, 1.5 percent or even 2 percent cash back. While your luxury card points are worth 2 cents each when redeemed for airfare, the Premier Rewards Gold card ($195 per year) from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) offers 3X points (which amounts to 3 percent back) on airfare. The Citi ThankYou Premier ($95 per year), meanwhile, offers 3X points on travel – and those points are worth 1.25 cents each when you redeem for travel (which amounts to 3.75 percent back). True, the Gold Luxury card gets you a 4 percent return on spending when you redeem for airfare – but you have to pay nearly $1,000 per year for it!

In other words, other cards with comparable (or lower) annual fees can get you an equal or higher return on your spending, even though the Luxury Cards double the value for airfare redemptions.

2. No transfer partners: Other cards let you transfer points directly to partner hotel loyalty and frequent flier programs. This helps you squeeze maximum value out of your points (if you redeem for premium-cabin international) and gives you some flexibility.

The Luxury Cards have no transfer partners. And that’s a notable omission because cards with comparable and lower annual fees do. The Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee), Starwood Preferred Guest Card ($95 annual fee), Citi ThankYou Premier ($95 annual fee), AmEx Premier Rewards Gold card ($195 annual fee), Citi Prestige ($450 annual fee) and the Platinum Card from American Express ($450 annual fee) all have affiliated transfer partners (see a complete list here).

3. Other cards offer Global Entry and airfare credits: Statement credits against Global Entry applications and travel expenses are one of the easiest ways to cancel out the annual fee – so it’s good to see the higher-priced Luxury cards offering them. However, again, other cards are more generous.

For example, you’ll notice in the chart above that the Black card offers a $100 annual airline credit. The good news is that you can use this credit against airfare (some cards allow you to use it only against airline fees). However, the Citi Prestige gives you a $250 airline credit. And the Platinum Card from American Express gives you a $200 airline credit (although this one can be used only against incidentals such as baggage fees and in-flight meals).

As for Global Entry application, both the Citi Prestige and American Express Platinum reimburse you for that, too.

4. The luxury perks may not justify the high annual fees: The marketing of these cards puts luxury travel front and center. The Black and Gold offer Lounge Club access, for example. But, at this point, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that other cards (namely, the Citi Prestige and American Express Platinum) offer more robust lounge access, thanks to the sheer size of the lounge networks they partner with (see full details here). It will depend, of course, on the airports you frequently travel through, but in general, with the Luxury Cards, you’ll be paying more for access to fewer lounges worldwide.

The Luxury Cards’ entire “VIP Travel” suite of benefits, meanwhile, revolves around convenience and ease, with perks like airport “Meet and Greet” service, upgrades and extra amenities at partner hotels and cruise lines, access to chartered car services, and global luggage delivery. Plus, with the Black and Gold cards, you will randomly receive gifts from luxury brands.

The big questions are how much you’ll use these perks – and how much their monetary value is to you. The fountain pen you got from the card may be an exciting gift to one person, but totally useless to another. In fact, some of the perks require you to pay out of pocket. Yes, you have access to private jets through the card, but the card won’t get you the jet for free.

If you want perks with easy-to-calculate monetary value that may help cancel out the annual fee, here are some to consider from other cards:

  • Free Boingo Wi-Fi access: Offered by the American Express Platinum and the Starwood Preferred Guest card.
  • Automatic hotel elite status: The American Express Platinum gives you automatic Hilton Gold status, which means free breakfast at some properties.
  • Free hotel nights: The Citi Prestige and American Express Platinum give you a free night stay if you book several consecutive nights at eligible hotels (see full details here).

The bottom line

It’s pretty clear from our review that we don’t think the Luxury cards are the best deal.

However, the Luxury Cards aren’t necessarily trying to appeal to customers on the hunt for a good deal – and who are going to take out a calculator to see how close the benefits come to cancelling out the annual fee. They’re after more aspirational consumers who want lavish gifts, the ability to hire a concierge to walk them through the airport and a card made out of metal or gold.

If that describes you, Luxury Card gives you three compelling options – and, to be fair, that in itself is a step up from the old one-size-fits-all Visa Black Card.

Best small business cards for 2016

Whether you’re founding a new venture in 2016 or trying to save your current business money, the right small-business credit card can help. We rounded up what we feel to be the best business cards on the market to help you weigh your options.

Before applying, though, make sure you have a full understanding of your business’s needs and each card’s terms – the cards we recommended may not be what’s best for you.best small business credit cards

Our ranking standards

Some of the cards below are from our issuing partners, but we didn’t base our choices on that. Instead, our picks were based on rewards and benefits.

We handled our best-of list for business cards a bit differently from how we handled our rankings for cash-back and travel cards. Because “business cards” is such a broad category, we broke things down into several categories and then recommended our top pick for each.


For travel perks – the Business Platinum card from American Express OPEN (a CreditCardForum advertising partner)

If you’re constantly traveling and are willing to pay for a card that helps alleviate the stresses of the road, consider this one. The annual fee of $450 (no, it’s not waived the first year) may seem like a lot, but it gets you perks that might cost you more money and time if you tried to get them on your own:

  • Entry to airport lounges: You get complimentary access to the Centurion lounges, Priority Pass Select lounges, Airspace lounges and the Delta Sky Club. Depending on the lounge, you may be able to bring others in with you for free or at a discounted rate.
  • Hotel and car rental company status: You get elite status from Starwood and Hilton just from having the card, even if you rarely stay at those properties. You also get elite membership with National Rental Car, Avis and Hertz.
  • Reimbursement for TSA Precheck or Global Entry: These programs cost $85 and $100, respectively, and save you one of the most onerous parts of travel – standing in lines.
  • Wi-Fi benefits: Each year you get 10 Gogo passes to use during flight, as well as complimentary Boingo membership.

In addition to all the above, you get a $200 credit each year to be used toward travel fees, including checked-bag fees and in-flight food and entertainment.

And don’t forget – American Express’s business cards give you access to the American Express OPEN Savings network, a program that lets you earn extra rewards with partners, including FedEx, Hertz, HP and Hyatt.

In short, this card will save you time and energy on business trips and help you concentrate on getting work done.

Caveats to consider: While the perks are first class, you earn only 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar on most spending. So, if you’re looking to accrue rewards, consider coupling this card with one that earns more MR points. AmEx offers plenty.


For free flights – Chase Ink Business Plus

This card’s $95 annual fee isn’t too intimidating, and it’s a powerful rewards-earning vehicle. All those rewards can then be easily converted into free flights.

You’ll earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the first $50,000 spent at office supply stores and cable/phone services each year; 2 points per dollar on the first $50,000 spent with hotels and gas stations; and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

What really makes this card shine, however, is the ease with which you can turn those points into free flights. You can redeem points for flights via the Ultimate Rewards portal (and get a 20 percent point discount). Or, you can transfer your points (at a 1:1 ratio) into your frequent-flier programs with United, Southwest, British Airways, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic (and into some hotel programs as well).

This gives you the flexibility many business owners need. Need to fly out next week? You can either find a flight in the Ultimate Rewards portal or dispatch your points to your Southwest or United account and redeem for a free flight. You’re not stuck using one program, as you would be with an airline card.

To top it all off, you get primary coverage on car rentals when you use your card. That means you don’t have to worry about involving your personal auto insurance coverage when you rent a vehicle for a business trip.

Caveats to consider: While you may be able to earn free flights relatively easy with this card, it doesn’t carry as many travel perks as higher-annual-fee travel cards.


For cash back – American Express SimplyCash Business Card

Used correctly, this card becomes a cash-back powerhouse:

  • Earn 5 percent cash back at U.S. office supply stores and on wireless phone service (directly from service providers).
  • Earn 3 percent cash back in the category of your choice (airfare, hotels, gas, restaurants and more)
  • Earn 1 percent cash back on other purchases.
  • Earn 5 percent back with merchants in the OPEN Savings network (including Hyatt, FedEx and more).

With this card, you just spend money on things lots of businesses spend money on and then get automatic statement credits. There’s no need to worry about justifying an annual fee, because there isn’t one.

Caveats to consider: If you won’t hit many of the categories above, this may not be the card for you.


For simplicity – Capital One’s Spark Business cards

Just want to earn rewards without worrying about hitting certain categories, spending with certain vendors or plotting how to redeem the best way? Check out Capital One’s suite of Spark business cards.

Some have annual fees, some don’t. All of them earn a flat rate of cash back or generic “miles” per dollar that can be redeemed against purchases:

  • Spark Miles ($59 annual fee): 2 generic miles per dollar
  • Spark Miles Select (no annual fee): 1.5 generic miles per dollar
  • Spark Cash ($59 annual fee): 2 percent back
  • Spark Cash Select (no annual fee): 1.5 percent back
  • Spark Classic for average credit (no annual fee): 1 percent back

Caveats to consider: You sacrifice big wins for simplicity with these cards – there’s no room for maximization or space for strategizing. Make sure you’re happy with a flat rate of cash back or miles.


For payment flexibility – the Plum card from American Express OPEN

There was really only one contender in this category. The Plum card ($250 annual fee) stands out by offering a unique payment structure:

  • You get a 1.5 percent discount on the amount you pay (has to be at least the minimum payment) if you pay within 10 days of your statement closing date.
  • If you pay at least 10 percent of your balance from new purchases plus any previously deferred balance by the due date, you get 60 days interest free on the rest.

Plus, you get access to all the discounts that come with the OPEN Savings network.

Caveats to consider: A $250 annual fee is a bit high for a card that won’t earn you many rewards (unless you pay early). However, the comfort of having a little extra time to pay off your balance during the rough patches could be well worth it.

Best travel rewards cards for 2016

Planning on exploring the world in 2016? We rounded up the cards that will save you money on flights, accommodations, and other common travel expenses.

First, the usual disclaimer – the right card for you will depend on your spending, appetite for maximization and travel goals. Don’t assume our top-ranked cards will be the best fit for you.travel rewards cards 2016

About our ranking standards

Some of the cards below are from our issuing partners. However, we didn’t base our rankings on that. Instead, we based them on the following:

Flexibility: Travel plans change, so we gave preference to cards that let you redeem for flexible travel credits, or that give you several redemption options. You’ll therefore notice that there aren’t many co-branded airline/hotel cards on our list.

Earning power: Travel is expensive, so you want all those little rewards points and miles to add up quickly. Cards with all-around higher earnings or bonus categories therefore had an edge.

Extras: Travel credits that cancel out annoying travel fees. Perks that make travel just a little more comfortable. These things helped lift a card’s ranking.

Annual fee: While an annual fee didn’t disqualify any cards, the fee had to be justifiable for most travelers.

Sign-up bonus: If your trip is in the near future, getting a bunch of rewards right out of the gate is vital. So we took each card’s sign-up bonus into account.

Fees: If you also want to use your travel card while traveling, you don’t want to pay foreign transaction fees if you leave the country. Because these pesky fees can cancel out rewards, all the cards we chose waive them.

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Why we ranked it we did: You’ll find this one at the top of many a travel-cards list, and for good reason. It combines a reasonable annual fee with plenty of flexibility.

The Sapphire Preferred is part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, so you have plenty of redemption options, including travel (for which you get 20 percent off on Chase’s website). You can also transfer points directly into Chase’s airline and hotel partners, where they can be worth more if you redeem strategically. Finally, while we don’t necessarily recommend it, you can redeem your rewards for good-old cash back and still get a penny per point.

Things are pretty sunny on the rewards-earning side, too, as you get 1 point per dollar on most spending and 2 points per dollar on dining and travel – categories you’ll probably hit a lot while purchasing travel and while on the road. You can get even more points by utilizing Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Mall partners.

Finally, the Sapphire Preferred gives primary rental car insurance. You’ll like this benefit if you rent cars frequently. Most cards provide rental car insurance of the secondary variety, meaning you have to file a claim with your regular auto insurance before your card’s coverage pays out. But this card covers you from the beginning, a rare perk.

Caveats to consider: The Sapphire Preferred isn’t as perk-heavy as some of the top-tier travel cards. It’s more about earning rewards and redeeming them strategically — not about sipping wine in the airport lounge. Also, because it’s not an airline card, you’ll still have to pay for checked baggage (if the airline you’re flying charges you for it), which can add up if you traveling a lot (you probably are).

In the recent past, the spending requirement for the sign-up bonus has been a bit high – in the neighborhood of $4,000 in three months.

2. American Express Premier Rewards Gold

Why we ranked it where we did: This card offers some higher-level perks while still charging an annual fee within the realm of “reasonable.” We put it below the Chase Sapphire Preferred because the $195 annual fee (waived the first year) might be a bit too much if you don’t maximize all the benefits, and we wanted to keep things friendly for the entry-level rewards chasers.

Like Chase, American Express has its own robust rewards and redemption marketplace, called the Membership Rewards program, where you can use your points in pretty much all the ways you can with Chase. That includes transferring your Membership Rewards points to AmEx’s partner hotel and flight programs.

Your rewards-earning reach is also robust. You get 3X points on purchases directly from the airlines; 2X rewards at gas stations; grocery stores and restaurants; and 1 point per dollar on everything else, meaning you can rack up points from travel and everyday life.

What could put this ahead of the Sapphire Preferred for you is the $100 airline fee credit, which can be used toward baggage fees and in-flight refreshments. If you use this credit in full every year, that brings the annual fee down to $95 (same as the Sapphire Preferred).

Finally, you get some unique perks, including premium roadside assistance and a $75 credit against spa services, dining and more when you stay at a hotel in AmEx’s portfolio.

If the recent past is any indication, you can expect a decent sign-up bonus with a reasonable spending requirement.

Caveats to consider: AmEx may not be accepted outside the country. The 3X airline category may not be flexible enough for some travelers, as you won’t get any bonus points for hotels, ground transportation or flights purchased through online booking sites.

3. Starwood Preferred Guest card

Why we ranked it where we did: Remember how we said above that almost no co-branded airline/hotel cards made the list? This one’s the exception.

Yes, it’s a hotel card, but you can transfer Starpoints directly to partner airline programs, the list of which outstrips that of the two cards above. You also get a 5,000-point bonus if you transfer 20,000 points.

Want to use your Starpoints for hotel stays? Starpoints have a good reputation. In various point-valuations, they consistently are worth more than other hotel points.

Rewards aside, you get complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi and in-room premium Internet. You also get credit toward SPG elite status.

The $95 annual fee is waived the first year, and it’s conceivably low enough cancel out with a free stay or free flight, with little effort.

The sign-up bonus tends to fluctuate on this card, but, if you time it right, you can start out with a lot of points for a reachable spending requirement.

Caveats to consider:
The only bonus category is Starwood stays. You get 1 point per dollar on pretty much everything else, meaning it may be harder to accumulate points quickly on your everyday spending. You’re also limited to Starwood for hotel redemptions, whereas the cards above allow you to redeem with other chains.

Plus, Starwood is merging with Marriott, and nobody really knows what is going to happen with the SPG program and the card when that happens.

4. Discover it Miles


Why we ranked it where we did: This card is a newcomer on the scene, and it makes our list because it offers a respectable return on spending (especially in the first year) and charges no annual fee.

You get 1.5 percent back on everything AND double miles (that’s 3 miles per dollar) the first year. You also have access to Discover Deals for additional rewards (or discounts) on certain purchases.

We ranked it below the cards above because your points have fixed value, and there’s no way to squeeze more value out of them by redeeming strategically. Instead, you’ll redeem your reward miles for a penny each for statement credits against travel (hotels, flights, train tickets and more). You might consider that a good thing.

Despite having no annual fee, Discover gives you some unique perks. If you purchase Wi-Fi on the plane, the card covers up to $30 per year. You also get free FICO score access and Discover’s “Freeze-it” feature, which allows you to lock down your card remotely via an app if, say, your wallet gets stolen on a trip.

Caveats to consider: There’s no traditional sign-up bonus with this card. Instead, all your points earned the first year are doubled. This means two things: 1) You have to concentrate a lot of spending on this card the first year and 2) You have to wait a full year for the doubling of points to occur.

You may also encounter acceptance issues abroad with Discover.

5. No-annual-fee Barclaycard Arrival

Why we ranked it where we did: There’s also an $89-annual-fee version of this card, but the benefits on that card got downgraded big-time this year. Still, we feel the lesser-known, no-annual-fee version still has a lot to offer travelers in search of an easy-to-use, no-annual-fee card.

You might think of this card as a very-stripped-down Chase Sapphire Preferred. You get double miles on dining and travel (1 mile per dollar on everything else) and can redeem for travel statement credits (for 1 cent per mile) or cash back (0.5 cents per mile). You can up your earnings a bit by shopping on Barclaycard’s rewards mall.

What helped this card slide onto our list is the redemption bonus – you get back 5 percent of your miles every time you redeem. Free FICO access helped, too.

Caveats to consider: While this card may help you earn rewards for travel, it offers no on-the-road perks for travelers. Barclaycard also nerfed the redemption bonus this year, decreasing it from 10 percent to 5 percent.

Honorable mention: Platinum card from American Express

We figured many of those looking for best-of rankings for travel would be coming at this from an entry-level angle. So we picked cards that don’t require a large financial investment up front. If you’re a frequent business traveler or are looking for luxuries like lounge access, the American Express Platinum ($450 annual fee) might be the card for you, with its airport lounge program, $200 travel-fee credit, Hilton HHonors Gold status and more. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to publish a Top Travel Cards list without at least mentioning it.