These 4 Credit Cards Are Hidden Gems — and Can Give You Exceptional Value

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A few big names  in the credit card world — the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express, for example — get a lot of press. They may offer a large welcome bonus, like the Sapphire Preferred; a suite of perks useful for frequent travelers, like the Sapphire Reserve; or access to the exclusive Centurion lounges, like the Amex Platinum. And while they may carry annual fees, those perks can certainly offset the cost

Yet, there are plenty of cards on the market that don’t get as much fanfare, but can still provide a ton of value to cardholders.

Ultimately, a card’s value to you is all about your personal preferences, and there’s no such thing as the “best” one. It’s all about finding the one that best matches your spending habits and financial goals. It’s also important to pay your credit card bills on time and in full every month; otherwise, the interest you pay on that debt can negate the value of any perks or benefits that may come with your card.

With that in mind, we’re taking a closer look at what we think are the best among those lesser-known cards.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

If you didn’t know better, you may think this card’s bonus offer is too good to be true. You’ll earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after you pay the $99 annual fee and make a purchase within the first 90 days of card membership.

There’s no minimum amount for that purchase, either — meaning you can spend about $100 and earn 60,000 American Airlines miles, in a very short amount of time. Per our valuations, those miles are worth $840. That figure alone more than makes up for the annual fee.

Every anniversary year, you’ll get up to $25 back as statement credits for inflight Wi-Fi purchases on American Airlines flights, as well as a companion certificate for one guest valued at $99 after you spend $20,000 on purchases. Your account must remain open for 45 days after your anniversary date, as well.

Cardholders also receive 25% off food and beverages on American Airlines flights, and will earn 2 miles per dollar on all eligible American Airlines purchases.

Usually we only recommend co-branded airline and hotel credit cards to travelers who fly on that airline or stay at that hotel chain frequently. In this case, though, it may make sense for even a casual flyer to apply for the card due to that relatively easy to reach signup bonus. 

Pro Tip

You can earn 60,000 American Airlines purchases just by paying a $99 annual fee and making a purchase in 90 days.

With 60,000 American Airlines miles, you can travel from New York to Rome and back for just the cost of taxes and fees, or round trip from New York to Los Angeles and have 20,000 miles left over, or take two people with you from Philadelphia to Miami round trip.  

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

The Amex Blue Cash Preferred card is a cash back credit card that earns 6% cash back at U.S supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases annually, then 1%) and some streaming subscriptions. In fact, it’s one of the only cash back cards available that we think is worth the  annual fee (which is $95, $0 introductory annual fee for the first year.) (See rates & fees)

Eligible streaming categories on this card include: Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, Apple Music, Spotify and so many more. In other words, this card essentially rewards you for watching your favorite shows and listening to all of your favorite albums.

It also earns 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, which can also add up significantly. By comparison, the American Express® Gold Card, another top card for groceries, earns 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1x). While they do differ in terms of earning cash back versus points for travel, and choosing either one can depend on your financial goals and lifestyle, the Blue Cash Preferred card is a clear top card when it comes to groceries and streaming services.

Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Editor’s Score: (4.0/5)
  • Intro bonus:
    50,000 miles
  • Annual fee:
    $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
  • Regular APR:
    20.99% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site
  • Intro bonus:
    60,000 miles
  • Annual fee:
    $99
  • Regular APR:
    15.99%, 19.99% or 24.99% variable based on your creditworthiness
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Editor’s Score: (4.3/5)
  • Intro bonus:
    $300
  • Annual fee:
    $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Regular APR:
    13.99%-23.99% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

For a no-annual fee credit card, this one carries some of the most flexible perks around. With it, you’ll earn 5% cash back on two categories of your choice every quarter; it includes categories that most cards don’t offer, such as department stores, furniture stores, gyms, fast food and even movie theaters.

In addition, you’ll earn 2% cash back on your choice among gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores, which can help you maximize your earnings even more.

This card offers a flexible way to match your credit card strategy to your budget and lifestyle.

Spark Miles for Business from Capital One

This business credit card, like a handful of Capital One Spark cards, comes with a coveted but rare credit card perk: Price protection. It’s an insurance against price fluctuations on your purchases. In other words, if the price of an item you just bought drops, your credit card’s issuer will refund you the difference in price, if you bought the item with that card.

It differs from purchase protection, which is a type of credit card insurance that gives you peace of mind if an item you purchased is broken or stolen within a certain timeframe.

With the Spark Miles for Business card you may be refunded up to $500 per item and up to $2,500 per year. If you purchased an item within a 60-day window and another retailer decreases the price of the item, you can be refunded that difference.

Bottom Line

There are a handful of credit cards out there that may not be top of mind, but still offer great value in terms of perks, welcome offers or even insurance. Depending on your preferences, one or more of these could  fit into your overall credit card strategy.

*All information about the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card, Capital One Spark Miles for Business and AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® has been collected independently by NextAdvisor and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of Blue Cash Preferred Card, please click here