April 2018 credit card applications

It's been a long time since I've applied for a new credit card. So long, in fact, that I was astonished to log into the credit monitoring service I got for free from one of our semiannual security breaches (or maybe from one of the semiannual security breaches of the credit monitoring services; who can say at this point?) and see that I've only signed up for one new credit card in the last two years.

This practically puts me in the position of a complete newbie to the travel hacking game, albeit a complete newbie who already has a ton of credit cards. So I thought I'd take the opportunity to run down a list of the credit cards I'm considering and give readers a chance to chime in — especially if they have a particularly brilliant powerplay I should consider!

Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa

I've never had one of these cards (not that that particularly matters given Bank of America's approval process), but virtually all my family members are on the West Coast and the 30,000-mile and $0 first-year companion fare ($99 after the first year) are both good deals for a $75 annual fee.

While I'm generally a very strong skeptic of companion tickets, the Alaska Airlines companion ticket differs from the companion fares offered by the American Express Delta Platinum and Reserve credit cards because you can use any credit card to book it (as long as the ticket is for the Alaska Airlines credit cardholder or the credit card used is in the Alaska Airlines cardholder's name). That means it's easy to combine with travel statement credit cards like the US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards card (with Real-Time Rewards), Barclaycard Arrival Plus, or Bankamericard Travel Rewards card.

Chase Slate

I don't want to bore longtime readers with everything I love about the Chase Slate card, but for new readers, it offers:

  • no balance transfer fees for the first 60 days;
  • 0% APR on up to $30,000 in balance transfers for 15 months ($15,000 cap per 30 days, but you have 60 days to transfer with the $0 balance transfer fee);
  • ability to product change to a new Chase Freedom (or Freedom Unlimited if you don't have one already).

I don't know how valuable 15 months of free money is to you, but 15 months of free money is extremely valuable to me.

Consumers Credit Union Visa Signature Cash Rebate Card

I've had a Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking account for years, since it offers 3.09% APY on balances up to $10,000 when you make 12 $0.50 Amazon balance reloads per month (yes, this process is exactly as boring as it sounds).

But the account really shines when you combine it with a credit card, since spending $1,000 per month on that card increases the interest rate to 4.59% APY on up to $20,000 in deposits.

Unfortunately, they seem pretty stingy with credit card approvals, and I haven't been able to get approved for one of those cards yet. Now that my credit report is practically clear, hopefully they'll give me a chance.

American Express Amex EveryDay Preferred or Premier Rewards Gold

These two cards offer flexible Membership Rewards points and bonus points at US supermarkets, which make them obvious candidates to rack up some big Membership Rewards balances, even if I were just to transfer them to Delta SkyMiles.

The Premier Rewards Gold has a $195 annual fee, but it's waived the first year, which makes it a possible candidate for a one-year effort to accumulate a big balance before cancelling.

Meanwhile, the EveryDay Preferred card is the kind of low-key card I can imagine keeping for the long term, even though its $95 annual fee isn't waived the first year, since it can earn 27,000 Membership Rewards points per year with minimal time or effort.

Conclusion

It's no secret that most professional travel hackers pursue big signup bonuses much more aggressively than me. But it's also no secret that they constantly have big unredeemed and unredeemable points balances!

Simpleton that I am, my view has always been that your least valuable mile or point will always be the one you don't redeem, and so I devote all of my energy towards earning miles and points I'm sure to redeem, instead of accumulating them speculatively.

With that in mind, what big signup opportunities do readers see out there that my personal blinders have kept me from noticing?

Some bonus categories I never think about

I belong to the noisy-but-unpopular school that believes everyday spending should properly be a rounding error in the typical travel hacker's overall miles and points strategy. That's because more miles can be earned in an afternoon of light manufactured spending than will be earned in a month or year of trying to earn as many points as possible on actual purchases.

The flip side of that is a blind spot when it comes to the bonused categories of spend on cards that I already carry, either for purposes of manufactured spend or recurring annual bonuses. In the interests of keeping my blind spots few and far between, I decided to take a closer look at a few of those categories.

Hotels

With increasingly limited access to gas station manufactured spend, you may find that you're not able to manufacture $50,000 in spend in a Chase Ink Plus's double point category of "gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel."

Since Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed for paid airfare, or more when transferred to Hyatt Gold Passport, Southwest Rapid Rewards, and (usually) United MileagePlus, you're strictly better off paying for your hotel stays with a Chase Ink Plus than with the 2% cash back card you use for your other everyday purchases. One possible exception is if you are having trouble finding eligible expenses to redeem your Barclaycard Arrival Plus, Capital One Venture, or BankAmericard Travel Rewards miles against, although you can always consider refundable reservations in that case.

I'm fond of paying the revenue component of my Hyatt stays with Hyatt gift cards purchased at a discount using cashback rewards, but if you pay for Hyatt stays directly, the 3 Hyatt Gold Passport points earned per dollar with the Chase Hyatt credit card are superior to the 2 Ultimate Rewards points earned by both the Chase Ink Plus and Chase Sapphire Preferred — assuming you plan to transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt Gold Passport at any point in the future.

The math is somewhat less favorable when paying for Hilton stays with the American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass card, which earns 12 HHonors points per dollar spent at Hilton properties. According to the Wandering Aramean visualization tool, 12 HHonors points are worth a median 5.376 cents, while 2 Ultimate Rewards points, transferred to Hyatt Gold Passport, are worth a median 3.724 cents. That's an edge, but it's an edge that's highly dependent on your actual redemption pattern.

Finally, the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier credit card is by and large not worth holding for either its recurring benefit (one free category 1-5 night each account anniversary) nor for manufactured spending (one elite night credit for each $3,000 spent). But if you do have it for one reason, the other, or both, you are still unlikely to get more value from the 5 Marriott Rewards points earned per dollar spent at Marriott properties than you would from 2 Ultimate Rewards points earned on the same spend — unless, of course, you are already planning to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott for some reason, like booking a 7-night Hotel + Air package.

Restaurants

As I've written before, most of the time one or more rotating cashback bonus card is offering 5% cash back at restaurants, so the idea of needing a particular card "dedicated" to restaurant spend is misleading: you should use your most lucrative card, which will, at least 6 months of this year, be a Discover it or Chase Freedom card. But that leaves the other half of the year, which makes it a legitimate question whether there are better cards than a straight 2% cashback card for use at restaurants.

Using the same median Hilton HHonors point value as above, the 6 HHonors points earned per dollar with the Hilton HHonors Surpass American Express at restaurants slightly edges out a 2% cash back card, earning the equivalent 2.688 cents per dollar spent, while the Chase Hyatt credit card earns 2 Hyatt Gold Passport points per dollar spent, or a median 3.724 cents per dollar.

This matters because the Chase Sapphire Preferred, often promoted by affiliate bloggers for its high affiliate payout and earning rate on travel and dining, earns 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. In other words, for just $75, rather than $95, you can earn 2 Hyatt Gold Passport points at restaurants with a card that also offers a free night at Category 1-4 Hyatt properties worldwide. That's a fact that's helpful to keep in mind the next time someone tells you the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card to carry for restaurant spend.

Airline tickets

Finally, I very rarely find myself booking air travel directly through an airline (preferring to use miles, Ultimate Rewards points, or Flexpoints earned with a US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards card), but if you do book air travel directly, or need to pay the taxes and fees attached to award tickets, you can do better than a 2% cashback card with cards you may already carry.

If you periodically sign up for a "spare" US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards card, for example during the current Olympics promotion, you can use that extra card to pay for airfare, earning 2 Flexpoints per dollar spent, and transfer the resulting bonus Flexpoints to your primary account for future redemptions.

If you use an American Express Premier Rewards Gold card to manufacture grocery store spend on an ongoing basis, you may as well use it to pay for airfare, earning 3 Membership Rewards points for your airline tickets as well, which can be transferred to potentially lucrative travel partners like Delta SkyMiles. The same goes for a Citi Prestige card you may carry to raise the value of your existing Citi ThankYou points.

And the Chase Hyatt credit card earns 2 Hyatt Gold Passport points per dollar spent on airfare, giving it an edge over a straight 2% cashback card, depending as always on your actual planned redemptions.

Conclusion

I don't think it's useful, let alone necessary, for a travel hacker to stress over every possible bonus point at every possible merchant. But for the kind of purchases that you know you make frequently, it's at least worth considering finding additional value by keeping in mind the bonus categories offered by cards that you already use to manufacture spend, or hold for their recurring annual benefits.

As I indicated above, I don't usually pay for airline tickets or hotel stays with credit cards. But digging into my existing cards' bonus categories, I realized I could replicate the majority of the Chase Sapphire Preferred's "travel and dining" bonus categories with cards I already had: the Chase Ink Plus and Chase Hyatt credit cards. Between the two, they cover hotels, airlines, restaurants, and rental cars.

Obviously that leaves out things like cruises, travel agency bookings, local transportation, and so on. But they do include the bulk of reimbursable business travel, so if you do spend a large amount in those categories each year, you may find yourself coming out ahead by examining the bonus categories on your existing card card portfolio.

Quick hit: in defense of Blue for Business

Yesterday I dismissed the Blue for Business American Express credit card out of hand, writing that the "product earns 1 non-flexible Membership Rewards point everywhere, which isn't very interesting."

I was quickly corrected by reader Stvr, who commented, "Blue for Business is 1.3 MR per dollar."

What Stvr is referring to is the 30% bonus Membership Rewards points credited each year within 30 days of your account anniversary each year.

And Stvr is right! If you are willing to wait to receive 23% of your Membership Rewards points until the end of your cardmember year, you can think of the Blue for Business card as earning 1.3 points per dollar spent everywhere.

Does it matter?

The only situation in which I can imagine the Blue for Business card playing a useful role is if you also have a flexible Membership Rewards-earning credit card that isn't the EveryDay Preferred.

If you have a Business Platinum American Express, your Membership Rewards points are worth 1.43 cents each for paid airfare on a single airline you designate each year (the same airline you choose for your $200 statement credit). That makes your 1.3 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on the Blue for Business worth 1.86 cents towards paid airfare. That's not great, but it's not terrible for a fee-free American Express card and it's 30% better than putting spend on the Business Platinum card itself, which earns just 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent everywhere.

Similarly, if you use a Premier Rewards Gold (2 points per dollar spent at supermarkets) or Business Gold Rewards (3 points per dollar spent at gas stations) card to manufacture spend in their respective bonus categories in order to transfer those points to their airline partners like Air Canada's Aeroplan, Delta SkyMiles, or Singapore KrisFlyer, you might get so much value out of your airline transfers that 1.3 Membership Rewards points per dollar gives you more value than putting the same spend on a 2% cash back card.

Of course, if you have an Amex EveryDay Preferred, then you can already earn 1.5 flexible Membership Rewards points per dollar spent everywhere with the card, as long as you make 30 or more purchases per statement cycle, which makes that card strictly superior to the Blue for Business.

The 5 best cards for manufactured spending at 7-11

[updated 7/25/13: see this post for the results of my experiment earning bonus points with American Express cards at 7-11. Long story short: it doesn't work, which takes options 3 and 4, below, off the table.]

As I reported yesterday, at least some 7-11 store locations that are coded by Visa as gas stations now allow Vanilla Reload Network reload cards and PayPal Cash cards to be purchased using credit cards. While the cost per dollar of manufactured spend is the same as reload card purchases made at CVS ($3.95 for up to $500), the ability to earn bonus points on Vanilla Reload and PayPal Cash purchases drives the cost per point earned down into even more lucrative territory.

Here are the cards that I believe offer the best return on manufactured spending at store locations coded as gas stations, in order of value to the average travel hacker: 

  1.  US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards Visa Signature. As I explained in Chapter 2 of the Free-quent Flyer's Manifesto and in this blog post comparing fixed-value rewards points, the Flexpoints earned by this card are worth between 1.5 and 2 cents each when redeemed for paid airline tickets. The card has a somewhat confusing earning structure, whereby you'll earn 2 Flexpoints per dollar on purchases at whichever one of gas stations, grocery stores, or airline tickets you spend the most on each billing cycle. Using this card to purchase Vanilla Reload Network reload cards at a gas station, you can buy 3-4 cents in airfare for .79 cents, a 74-80% discount on mile-earning airline tickets. Once you account for the value of the frequent flyer miles you'll earn flying these tickets, this makes airline travel very close to free or even profitable if spent on 3-4 cent per mile mileage runs.
  2. Chase Ink line of small business credit cards.  These cards earn either fixed-value (Ink Cash) or flexible (Ink Bold and Ink Plus) Ultimate Rewards points. All three cards earn 2 points per dollar spent at gas stations on up to $25,000 (Ink Cash) or $50,000 (Ink Bold and Ink Plus) in purchases per year. If you have an account that earns flexible Ultimate Rewards points, you can then transfer the points to Chase's airline or hotel partners at a 1:1 ratio. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you can also redeem these points at a value of 1.25 cents each for paid, mile-earning airline tickets, giving a total discount of 68% on paid airline travel.
  3. American Express Premier Rewards Gold/Business Gold Rewards.  Both of these cards earn 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at gas stations. These points can be redeemed for paid airline tickets at 1 cent each, or transferred at various ratios to American Express's transfer partners.
  4. American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass. In the very early days of Vanilla Reload Network cards, many people (your humble blogger included) signed up for the no-fee American Express Hilton HHonors credit card, which at the time earned 6 HHonors points per dollar spent at drug stores. We earned hundreds of thousands of points buying reload cards at CVS until American Express eliminated drug stores as a bonus category with our May statement closing dates. However, gas stations are still a bonus category.  Using the standard "no-fee" HHonors card you'll only earn 5 points per dollar spent at gas stations, but the HHonors Surpass card still earns 6 points per dollar at gas stations, the same earning rate that attracted people to the Hilton cards in the first place. The Surpass card does have a $75 annual fee, so you'll need to make an individual decision on whether the additional HHonors point per dollar spent will be worth more than the cost of that annual fee.
  5. Bank of America Bankamericard Cash Rewards.  In terms of cash value, this card is second only to the US Bank Flexperks card, earning 3% cash back on gas station purchases. The reason I place it fifth on this list is that the 3% cash back is limited to $1,500 per calendar quarter. While $300 per year at a cost of $47.40 is a perfectly good deal, it's not possible to leverage it to the extent possible with the 4 options I've described above.

 

 

What's the best way to book a paid ticket?

Travelling on international premium cabin award tickets is one of the most lucrative uses you can make of your airline miles and flexible credit card points.  The example I usually give is a 100,000 United MileagePlus award to Europe in Business Class.  If you manufacture those points at .79 cents each, you'll pay $790, plus up to a few hundred dollars in taxes and fees.  The point is that you aren't saving much money over a paid economy ticket, but you get to enjoy the comfort of flying in a premium cabin instead.

The downside is that you don't earn elite status-qualifying airline miles for the distance you travel on award tickets, which can be substantial on international flights.  If you value the benefits of elite status, then you'll need to make some paid domestic flights to reach the elite status threshold you're interested in.

That's why today I'm going to cover the most lucrative methods for booking paid airline tickets.

Booking Directly Through an Airline

he most obvious reason to book through an airline's website directly is to use a credit or certificate issued by the airline.  Airlines typically hand out these certificates in exchange for voluntarily giving up your seat on an overbooked flight.  Likewise, if you cancel a non-refundable flight you may have a credit available to use for a later flight (after subtracting any cancellation fees).

When you do so, it's best to use a credit card that gives bonus points on airline purchases.  For example, the Sapphire Preferred Visa and MasterCard issued by Chase give double flexible Ultimate Rewards points on all "travel" purchases.  The American Express Business Gold Rewards and Premier Rewards Gold cards likewise offer triple Membership Rewards points on purchases made directly through an airline.

In terms of fixed-value and cash back cards, the US Bank Flexperks Travel Visa Signature card offers double points on airline purchases, if that is the bonus category you spent the most in during a given statement cycle.  These points are worth up to 2 cents each, meaning you can earn up to 4% back in value on travel redemptions.

Otherwise, your best bet is a 2% cash back card like the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express or Visa card, or a card you're meeting a minimum spending requirement on.

If you have elite status with Delta, you'll also earn 1 Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoint per dollar spent on airfare directly through the Delta website.  As you'll see below, that's not necessarily the most lucrative method of making paid Delta reservations.

Clicking Through Ultimate Rewards to an Online Travel Agency

If you have a Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card, you have access to the Ultimate Rewards Mall, which allows you to earn bonus Ultimate Rewards points on purchases made through online travel agencies, or OTAs.  You can earn 1 bonus point per dollar spent at Expedia, Priceline, or Orbitz and 2 bonus points per dollar spent at Travelocity or Hotwire.  These OTAs can price out itineraries very differently, so it's always worth checking whether you can find a better price or more convenient itinerary on one OTA rather than another.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred bonuses all travel spending, including OTA reservations, so that's a reliable way to earn a total of 3-4 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on airline tickets (depending on which OTA you use).  In my experience, when booking only an airline ticket (and not a package which includes a hotel, rental car, or cruise) through Travelocity, there will be two credit card charges, one from the operating airline which covers airfare, taxes, and fees:

With a second charge from Travelocity to cover their booking fee (up to $10.99):

n these situations I believe the American Express Premier Rewards Gold and Business Gold Rewards cards will give triple points for the first, airline charge, for a total of 2 Ultimate Rewards points and 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent, a 5-10% rebate, depending on how you value those points.

Cash Back Portals

If you don't have access to he Ultimate Rewards mall, and you don't have a card that bonuses airline or travel purchases, and you don't have elite status on Delta (to earn 1 Starpoint per dollar), then you can still earn a small rebate on your flight purchases by clicking through a cash back portal.  All three of these cash back portals offer a fixed or variable amount of cash back when you click through to online travel agencies and make an airline reservation. 

  • TopCashBack (Expedia: $2.25, Travelocity: $3.00, CheapTickets: $5.50, Priceline: $5-$7)
  • BigCrumbs (Expedia: $1.75, Travelocity: $2.80, CheapTickets: $3.15, Priceline: $2.80)
  • Fat Wallet (Expedia: $1.25, Travelocity: $1.50, CheapTickets: $20(!), Priceline: 1%)

Conclusion

As this analysis makes clear, the best method of making paid airline reservations depends heavily on what tools you have at your disposal.  The single best combination is using the Premier Rewards Gold or Business Gold Rewards card from American Express at Travelocity or Hotwire, after clicking through to one of those travel agencies from the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal.  To get access to that shopping portal, however, you'll need at the least least a no-annual-fee Chase Freedom card.  To turn those fixed-value Ultimate Rewards points into flexible Ultimate Rewards points, you'll need either a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus card.  However, even if you just redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for cash back through your Freedom card, you'll still be earning a generous 2% cash back on all your paid airline reservations, in addition to whatever awards you earn through the credit card you ultimately make your purchase with.

"True" credit card earning rates

Nothing's ever simple in the world of loyalty programs, and that's doubly true f credit card rewards.  While most cards seem to offer a straightforward earning structure of 1 point per dollar, in fact that number can be somewhat higher because of bonuses that accrue either annually or at certain high levels of spending.  If you don't take those bonuses into account, you're not correctly evaluating the earning rate of your rewards credit cards.

Today we'll take a look at several popular rewards-earning credit cards nd compute the true earning rate on each.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Sapphire Preferred is a good example of a card with a "hidden" bonus.  Every calendar year (not cardmember year) in early January you're awarded a 7% bonus on all the Ultimate Rewards point you earned the previous calendar year.  This means that on unbonused spending, you earn a total of 1.07 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar, and on bonused spending (travel and restaurants) you earn a total of 2.14 points per dollar.

After the first year of card membership, the Sapphir Preferred has an annual fee of $95.  Valuing Ultimate Rewards points at 1 cent each (their cash redemption value; much higher value can be realized by redeeming them for travel or transferring them to airline, hotel, and rail partners), the first $9,500 you spend on the card each year only earns you enough points to pay your annual fee.  Taking into account the 7% annual bonus, however, you earn enough Ultimate Rewards points to pay the annual fee after only $8,879 in spending, a fairly low amount if you're manufacturing spend.

United MileagePlus Explorer

The MileagePlus Explorer card earns 1 mile per dollar on most spending.  However, if you spend $25,000 in any calendar year on the card, you earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles.  This makes the true earning rate on the card 1.4 miles per dollar, if you are able to spend exactly $25,000.  This card is essentially only worth spending any money on (after meeting the minimum spending required by the bonus you signed up for) if you intend to spend exactly $25,000, since the Sapphire Preferred has the same annual fee and allows transfers to United, while also allowing you to redeem your points for cash, travel, or transfers to other travel partners.

Platinum Delta American Express

Like the nited MileagePlus Explorer, the Platinum Delta card gives a bonus of 10,000 redeemable miles after spending $25,000 on the card in any calendar year.  However, along with the bonus redeemable miles, it also awards 10,000 valuable Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM), which can make a huge difference when qualifying for elite status.  Unlike the MileagePlus Explorer, the Platinum Delta card awards another 10,000 redeemable miles and 10,000 MQM at $50,000 in calendar year spending.

Most travel hackers who carry the Platinum Delta Amex therefore attempt to spend exactly $25,000 or $50,000 on the card each calendar year.  t those levels of spending, the card earns 1.4 miles per dollar, plus 10,000 or 20,000 valuable MQM.

Reserve Delta American Express

The Reserve card has a similar earning structure to the Platinum card, except instead of earning 10,000 mile bonuses at $25,000 and $50,000, the card earns 15,000 bonus miles and MQM after $30,000 and $60,000 in spending.

At those evels of spending, the Reserve card earns 1.5 miles per dollar, plus 15,000 or 30,000 MQM.

 

American Express Premier Rewards Gold

The Premier Rewards Gold card earns 1 flexible Membership Rewards point per dollar on ost spending.  At $30,000 in calendar year spending, the card earns an additional 15,000 Membership Rewards points.  If you are able to spend exactly $30,000 on the card, then you'll earn a total of 1.5 points per dollar.

Bank of America Virgin Atlantic Credit Card

The Virgin Atlantic card has a quite complicated earning structure.  On most purchases, the card earns 1.5 miles per dollar spent.  Then at $15,000 in purchases per cardmember year (not calendar year, like with the American Express cards), on the card anniversary, the card also awards 7,500 miles if you reached $15,000 in spend and another 7,500 if you reached $25,000 in spend.  However, you must renew the card for an additional year in order to receive the miles (unless you are able to cancel the card after the miles post and have the annual fee waived).  So the true earning rate of this card is 2 miles per dollar if you spend exactly $15,000 and 2.1 miles per dollar if you spend exactly $25,000 each year of card membership.  Since these miles transfer at a 1:2 ratio to Hilton HHonors points, this is like earning 4.2 HHonors points on all purchases, slightly better than the fee-free Hilton American Express card.  However, since the Virgin Atlantic card has a $90 annual fee, you would have to value the marginal 30,000 Hilton HHonors points at over .3 cents each in order to justify paying the annual fee each year and claiming the anniversary bonus.  

he card is probably not worth getting just for the 20,000 miles signup bonus, since the annual fee is not waived the first year

Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard

The Arrival World MasterCard earns 2 points per dollar spent on the card, and each point can be redeemed for 1 cent towards travel purchases ade with the card.  However, the card also gives a 10% rebate on all redemptions, meaning you earn approximately 2.22 cents for each dollar spent on the card.  I say "approximately," since when you redeem points received from the 10% point rebate, you'll receive another 10% rebate on those points, ad infinitum.  Thus if you redeem 100,000 points you'll receive a 10,000 point rebate, and when you redeem those points you'll receive another 1,000 point rebate, then a 10 point rebate, then a 1 point rebate.  Add it up and  $50,000 in spending earns 111,111 points ($1111.11 towards travel redemptions), a 2.22 point per dollar earning rate, which gives it a slight earning advantage over the 2% cash rebate Fidelity Investment Rewards cards.  However, the Arrival World MasterCard has a $89 annual fee after the first year of card membership.  To pay for that annual fee with the marginal earning advantage, you'd need to spend $40,050 on the MasterCard!  In other words, after the first year only spending above $40,000 is more lucrative than the Fidelity 2% cash back cards, which is probably unrealistic unless you have high business expenses you can charge to the card, or enough spare cash to consider aggressively making Kiva loans with the card.

 

However, the annual fee is waived the first year, so thanks to its competitive earning rate this is a good card to consider including in a credit card application cycle, as long as you're sure to cancel it before you pay the annual fee for the second year.