When you spend most of your days writing about credit cards, like I do, you become somewhat of a credit card connoisseur. And just as a self-respecting wine enthusiast isn’t going to offer you a cheap box of wine from the corner liquor store, I am please to present you with a selection of some of the finest, and least appreciated credit and charge cards on the market.
Iberia Bank Visa Classic – For those who tend to carry a balance and must eschew reward cards, this little known product features an incredibly low interest rate of as little as 7.25%, depending on the applicant’s credit worthiness. But is Iberia just some fly-by-night start-up with an unrealistic teaser rate? No, it is a 125 year old institution based in Louisiana. There is no annual fee for this card.
Morgan Stanley American Express Platinum – No list of fine cards would be complete without a mention of the American Express Platinum. This charge card offers an impressive array of travel benefits that include business lounge access, $200 worth of airline fee credits, and the ability to earn valuable Membership Rewards points.
And while the vaunted Platinum card is well known, the Morgan Stanley edition exists in relative obscurity. Whereas holders the standard Platinum card must pay an additional $175 to enroll an additional card member, Morgan Stanley Platinum cardholders can add one additional platinum card at no extra fee, and set an individual spending limit for that card.
Big spenders also receive an anniversary bonus of $500 from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney each year they spend $100,000 on their card. There is a $450 annual fee for this card, but once you add up the value of all of its benefits, it can actually seem a reasonable expense for business travelers.
J.P. Morgan Select from Chase – Chase’s Freedom, Sapphire, and Ink cards are all the rage as they earn coveted Ultimate Rewards points. Look more closely at Chase’s product offerings and you may discover their J.P. Morgan Select card. It offers double points on travel purchases and features a wide range of travel insurance and assistance services.
Unlike most cards, it features an EMV smart chip that is compatible with European card readers. And just like the more expensive Amex Platinum, cardholders receive personalized service from dedicated customer representatives. It has a $95 annual fee, but no foreign transaction fees, late fees. or over the limit fees.
Asiana Airlines American Express Card from Bank of America – What the heck is Asiana Airlines and why do you need a credit card from them? Asiana is a Korean carrier, but more importantly, it is part of the Star Alliance group. That means that the miles you earn from this card can be redeemed for flights on United, US Airways, Air Canada, Lufthansa and two dozen others. So why not just get a credit card from United or US Airways? The Asiana card offers one mile per dollar spent on most transactions, and two miles for purchases from gas stations and grocery stores, so the miles can add up fast.
Not convinced? Consider that Asiana’s award chart is distance based and allows up to four free stopovers. Therefore, a business class ticket from the east coast to Europe is only 80,000 vs. 100,000 on United or US. So you could conceivably visit London, Paris, Vienna, and Milan on one trip. The annual fee for this card is $99.
Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express Card – You won’t find this little sleeper of a card on American Express’s web site, possibly because it may be the best cash back reward card they offer. This card returns a leading 2% cash back on all purchases into a qualified Fidelity Investments account including cash management accounts, brokerage accounts, Fidelity-managed 529 accounts, and retirement accounts. So this product offers superior cash back rewards while serving as a savings tool. There is no annual fee for this card.
So while you may be content with the most popular cards offered by the biggest banks, discriminating cardholders will wish to consider some of the more unusual and more refined cards on the market. And only by sampling the true depth and breadth of what this industry has to offer can you learn which products you palette prefers.