I've written before about the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card, which I think is probably the best card for unbonused spend, assuming you can put an average of $100,000 into an eligible account for an average of 3 months. Other good candidates are the Discover it Miles card which doubles 1.5% cash back after 12 months (for a total of 3% cash back, if you don't mind the wait) or the USAA Limitless Cashback Rewards card which earns 2.5% cash back with far fewer hoops to jump through (if you're eligible for the card).
While working on a different project, I realized the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card has a different distinction: I think it might be the single best credit card. I mean, if for some reason you only carry one credit card, I think it might be the best one to carry.
To be clear, most travel hackers don't carry only one credit card, and someone who already carries a wide variety of cards for a variety of purposes shouldn't necessarily apply (unless they're able to trigger the higher earnings described in the link above).
What's so great about the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card?
Here's my case for the Travel Rewards card being the best credit card:
- No annual fee. $0 is the lowest an annual fee can be.
- No foreign transaction fee. If you travel outside the United States, a card that charges no foreign transaction fees is strictly superior to a card that charges foreign transaction fees.
- Chip-and-PIN enabled. I did not realize until recently that most (all?) BankAmericard credit cards with chips are PIN-enabled, making it possible to use them at unmanned kiosks outside the United States. You can set the PIN on your BankAmericard credit cards by logging into your account, selecting "Information & Services," and then "Manage card settings."
- 1.5% cash back rewards (unless you're able to trigger higher earning with Bank of America and affiliate account balances). This is lower than many other credit cards, but not that much lower, which will become important.
What's wrong with the rest?
BankAmericard Travel Rewards has a lot of competition for best single credit card. What's wrong with them?
- Chase Freedom Unlimited. No annual fee, 1.5% cash back, but with a 3% foreign transaction fee and not chip-and-PIN enabled.
- Citi Double Cash. No annual fee, 2% cash back, but with 3% foreign transaction fee and not chip-and-PIN enabled.
- Capital One Venture Rewards. $59 annual fee and 2% cash back, no foreign transaction fee and not chip-and-PIN enabled.
- Fidelity Rewards Visa. No annual fee, 2% cash back, and 1% foreign transaction fee. Not chip-and-PIN enabled.
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus. $89 annual fee, 2.105% cash back, no foreign transaction fee. Chip-and-PIN enabled.
The 1.5% cash back earning rate on the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card is lower than the maximum cash back available on unbonused purchases, but in each case you can see you're making an explicit tradeoff: you can pay an annual fee, a foreign transaction fee, or give up chip-and-PIN capabilities.
At this point I assume my readers are boiling over with outrage about not considering this, that, or the other thing in the world of travel and travel hacking.
Which brings me all the way back to my point. If you know anything about travel hacking this recommendation is absurd; there are so many better cards to apply for first, so many bonus categories to maximize, so many spending requirement thresholds to trigger! But most people don't know anything about travel hacking, and they need recommendations too.
To those people this is my recommendation: sign up for a BankAmericard Travel Rewards card and never think about it again.
For the sake of full disclosure, I personally don't carry this card since I don't have $100,000 in assets I can house with Bank of America, but am planning to product change my Better Balance Rewards card to Travel Rewards as soon as I hit that threshold.