There are a lot of really great Visa cards out there. Banks, airlines, and major retailers all regularly hand out Visa cards to help you spend money and earn specific rewards. For this “best Visa” roundup, I’m going to focus on Visa cards distributed by major banks, and highlight eight different cards that are great for earning cash back, earning travel rewards, transferring a balance, and more.
I selected these cards after looking at a lot of Visas and comparing rewards, APRs, and other benefits. These aren’t the only great Visa cards — I don’t have enough space to list them all — but they’re all solid choices if you’re looking to start a new line of credit.
The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks for the Best Visa Credit Cards
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Best for Travel Rewards
- Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Best for Earning Cash Back
- Chase Slate®
Best to Transfer a Balance
- U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card
Best for Rebuilding Your Credit
- USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® and Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Credit Card
Best for Travel Rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a favorite at The Simple Dollar — in fact, it has named the card its all-time favorite rewards card. And those rewards are juicy: 2 points for money spent on dining and travel (which includes anything from Uber rides to hotel stays to air fare), and 1 point for all other purchases — plus 50,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
Once you earn those points, you’ll want to be sure to redeem them through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. If you use Chase Ultimate Rewards, your points are worth 25% more — those 50,000 bonus points, for example, are now worth $625 toward travel expenses (80 points per dollar). You can also transfer those points one-to-one with other big-name programs, like Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Marriott.
The only downside to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is if you don’t travel (or dine out) a lot to begin with — while those two categories are broad, they don’t jive with everyone’s lifestyle, and they are the only way to get double points. It’s a travel card that rewards you the more you travel.
If you’re looking for a card that rewards you with travel perks for everyday at-home stuff, I like the U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card. You’ll earn 1 point for every $1 you spend on purchases, but you also have the opportunity to earn double points on gas stations, grocery stores, or airlines — whichever of the three is your top spending category that billing cycle — and on most cellphone service providers. There are triple points, too, for qualifying charitable donations.
You also earn 20,000 bonus points if you spend $2,000 in the first four months of your account opening, which U.S. Bank states is worth up to a $400 plane ticket. That’s a smaller intro bonus than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s 50,000 points and $625 — but if you can’t afford $4,000 in three months, it’s still a nice bump.
The U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa® Signature Card also comes with little extras like an allowance for in-flight meals, a free rental car each year, and the opportunity to earn frequent flyer miles. If you’re not a frequent flier, your points can also be used for cruises, hotels, and even gift cards.
Both these cards are great if you want travel perks that can be used in lots of ways — choosing the best one for you means taking a look at your lifestyle and your spending habits.
Best for Earning Cash Back
If you prefer rewards in the form of cash as opposed to points, there are two cards you’ll want to look at. First up is the Chase Freedom®. It gets you 5% cash back (!) on up to $1,500 in purchases within specific categories that change every quarter, and 1% cash back on everything else. Plus, there’s the chance to earn an extra $150 after spending $500 in the first three months of opening your account — and no, that $500 doesn’t have to be confined to a specific spending category.
For example, if you max out your Chase Freedom® rewards and spend $1,500 on that quarter’s chosen categories, you’ll get 5% back on that $1,500, or $75. Maybe you spend an additional $2,000 that quarter and get 1% cash back on every purchase, or $20, bringing your total cash back rewards to $95. (Check the Chase Freedom® 2017 Cash Back Calendar to see upcoming cash back categories. They’re all really broad, like “restaurants” or “gas.”)
The other card is the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. This card gives you a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases, plus the same $150 after spending $500 in the first three months of opening your account.
To compare offers, let’s say you spent the same amount of money — $3,500 total — using your Chase Freedom Unlimited® card. You’d get a flat 1.5% cash back, or $52.50. That’s about half the cash you could earn with the Chase Freedom® card, but keep in mind that you can only max out those Chase Freedom® rewards if you commit to spending $1,500 on whatever categories get the 5% cash back bonus that quarter. You’ll have to figure out which cash back plan is best for you. My advice: Look through your spending history over the last year and do the math.
Looking to level up your rewards even more?
Consider bundling two cards together. A great combo is the Chase Freedom® and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. With those two, you always get double points for travel and dining, plus 5x points on whichever category is in play with Chase Freedom®. Even better, you can pool your points and redeem them through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
Best to Transfer a Balance
If you’re looking to transfer a balance and pay it off interest-free, Chase Slate® has what you need. You’ll get a 15-month 0% intro APR on both balance transfers and new purchases, giving you over a year to pay off an old balance interest-free (as well as any other purchases you make during that time).
Three of the other Chase rewards cards I’ve mentioned already also offer this 15-month 0% intro APR, but there’s one big reason why Chase Slate® stands out for balance transfers: You don’t pay balance transfer fees on anything transferred within the first 60 days of opening your account. For comparison, Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited℠ both have 5% balance transfer fees — which is also what you’ll pay on balances transferred to Chase Slate® after the 60-day intro period.
Here’s how your Chase Slate® savings might work: If you are transferring a $3,000 balance to one of the Chase cards that include a 5% balance transfer fee, you’ll pay $150 to make that transfer. If you are transferring to Chase Slate® within the first 60 days, that transfer will be $0. It’s a great deal, and one of the only cards out there — Visa or otherwise — that gives you a fee-free period at all.
Best for Rebuilding Your Credit
If you want to rebuild your credit, consider the U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card. This secured Visa card requires a deposit to open up a line of credit and is designed to help you establish or rebuild your credit. The idea behind a secured card: once you’ve proven you can manage credit responsibly and pay off your balances, you’ll upgrade to an unsecured card and get your deposit back. (The U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card lets you make a deposit of $300 to $5,000. Your credit line is equivalent to the deposit you make.)
On the other hand, the U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card lets you earn interest on your deposit. You aren’t going to earn a lot of interest on a $300 deposit, but if you’re thinking about depositing a few thousand dollars, it’s worth keeping in mind. (Also, I’d advise strongly against putting your entire savings or emergency fund into a secured credit card just to get a higher line of credit. You want to be able to pay off your balance no matter what happens — otherwise you could lose your deposit, not to mention all of that good credit you’re building up.)
Full disclosure: If you’re looking for a Visa with low APR, the best place to start might be your local bank. I have a Commerce Bank Special Connections® Visa® with Rewards card that comes with a 10.49% – 20.49% variable APR and cash back rewards, but that’s because I used to live in Illinois and had a Commerce Bank checking account. (I actually called Commerce Bank to confirm that anyone could apply for this card — not just people with Commerce Bank accounts — and the company said it was available to everyone.) If you’ve got a small, local bank nearby, it’s worth looking into its credit card offerings.
For another option, there’s the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature®, which has a variable APR of 13.15% – 27.15% (Variable) and gives you 1.5% cash back on all purchases. It’s a great card — but is only available to people with a military affiliation (whether you’re in the military, joining the military, a military veteran, or have a parent or spouse in the military), so it won’t be applicable to everyone.
There’s also the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Credit Card. Its variable APR is 13.74%-25.74% (Variable), and you’ll also get 1.5% cash back on every purchase (plus 1.8% cash back on purchases made via Android Pay™ or Apple Pay® during the first 12 months your account is open).
The Perks of Using a Visa
All of my Visa credit card recommendations are based on the perks that their issuers dictate — the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s great rewards, for example, are decided by Chase, not by Visa. But Visa does bake in some extras as well.
In the US, there are really only two types of Visa cards: Platinum and Signature. The Platinum card is pretty basic, featuring customer service, emergency card replacement, and rental car collision damage coverage. Visa Signature cards are more robust, including everything from roadside dispatch and a 24/7 concierge to deals on sporting events, emergency travel assistance and extended warranty coverage.
There’s also a new, elite Visa Infinite tier — so new that the US doesn’t even have a website for it yet. Only two cards are currently available at the Infinite tier (the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card and the Crystal Visa Infinite Credit Card), and it’s basically a souped-up version of the Signature with even more luxe perks, like $100 off round-trip domestic flights, VIP “welcome service,” and a portfolio of high-end hotels.
Some cards have “Signature” included in right in their name, but often the only way to see what tier a card is available at (and that you quality for) is to apply.
Visa has way more credit card options than I can highlight in a single post, but these eight cards all offer excellent benefits or rewards. If you’re looking for a Visa credit card to help you transfer a balance, earn cash back or travel rewards, or rebuild your credit, start here.
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