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Wake Up & Smell the Coffee – Don’t Sleep on These Cards from Lesser Known Banks

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Overlooked Credit Cards

Overlooked Credit Cards Issued by Mid-Tier Banks

I’ve been busy talking Amex, Citi, and Chase lately.  It’s time to focus a bit more on mid-tier banks and the often overlooked credit cards they offer.  Many of us focus on the big issuers at the expense of the smaller ones.  Indeed, most all of my new cards have come from one issuer lately – Amex.  We can often do just as well, if not better, with banks beyond the heavyweights.  So let’s take a stroll on a side street and see what those other ones are currently offering.

Navy Federal Credit Union

Sure, NFCU cards aren’t available to everyone, but you may be surprised to find out you’re eligible.  They offer a variety of cards, but two in particular stand out to me:

Navy Federal More Rewards Amex

This card offers 15k points (a $150 value) after spending $2k within the first 90 days of holding the card.  Not impressed?  Cardholders earn 3x on all supermarket, dining, and gas/transit spend, and 1x everywhere else.  Points are worth one cent per point for deposit into your Navy Federal savings account, or you can decide to redeem for airline ticket purchases, gift cards, or merchandise.  I like that this product is a third-party Amex card, an increasingly endangered species in our hobby.  And there’s no annual fee!

Navy Federal Visa Signature Flagship Rewards

The Flagship card offers 40k points (a $400 value) after spending $3k within the first 90 days of holding the card.  Navy Federal also provides a free year of Amazon Prime membership.  Cardholders earn 3x on travel purchases and 2x on everything else.  You can also receive up to $100 in statement credits on Global Entry and TSA Precheck charges.  Redemption rates and options are similar to the More Rewards Amex card.  The annual fee is a reasonable $49.

Overlooked Credit Cards

Synchrony Bank

I’ve discussed my love of the Banana Republic Visa plenty, so let’s focus on a few other useful options from Synchrony:

Rakuten Visa

People don’t flock to this card for the welcome offer.  They come for the ongoing spend opportunities of this card, particularly the Amex Membership Rewards-earning version.  When you use this card for any purchase, you earn 3x Membership Rewards plus whatever rate is currently on the Rakuten portal.  Many have largely forgotten this card since low caps were put in place on Giftcardmall and spend last year.  Nonetheless, I’ve continued to enjoy a minimum of 4x on all spend with this card via the Rakuten portal.

Sam’s Club Mastercard

There’s a $30 welcome offer for the Sam’s card, but let’s get to the good stuff.  This card works out great for Sam’s Club fans, particularly Plus members.  I became a Plus member last year and will be sticking with that level for the foreseeable future.  As a Plus member, cardholders earn 3% cash back on all Sam’s club purchases in addition to the base 2% cash back on all spend.  Beyond this 5% cash back on all Sam’s purchases, cardholders earn 5% cash back on all gas station spend, up to $6k spend annually.  The card rewards dining spend at 3% cash back and all other spend at 1%.  That’s pretty solid for no annual fee, plus it replaces your Sam’s membership card.

Cathay Pacific Visa

Not many cobranded airline cards are currently offered beyond those of the big banks.  But Synchrony has the Cathay Pacific Visa, which is currently giving 35k miles with $3k spend within the first 90 days of card membership.  The card earns 2x miles on Cathay Pacific purchases and 1.5x miles on all dining and purchases outside of the US, and 1x everywhere else.  Ryan picked up this card not recently, albeit with a bit of drama.

Overlooked Credit Cards

PenFed Credit Union

I’ve discussed Penfed’s Power Cash Rewards Visa plenty.  A few other cards are worth noting, though:

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards Visa Signature

The Pathfinder card offers 50k points after $3k spend within the first 90 days of holding the card.  PenFed Honors Advantage members (easily attainable with $500 in a checking account) earn 4x on all travel purchases.  Otherwise, cardholders earn 3x on travel.  All other spend earns at 1.5x.  Point values vary but are generally around ~0.85 cents per point (good for travel, gift cards, and shopping).  Also, the card has a $100 annual domestic air travel credit, $100 Global Entry/$85 TSA Precheck credit, and a Priority Pass lounge membership in exchange for the card’s $95 annual fee.  However, the annual fee is waived for Honors Advantage members at the time of application.

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature

The Platinum Rewards card offers 15k points after $1.5k spend within the first 90 days of holding the card.  Cardmembers earn 5x on all gas spend at the pump, 3x on all supermarket, dining, cable, and streaming service spend, and 1x everywhere else.  Point value is similar to that of the Pathfinder Rewards card.  PenFed provides all this without an annual fee.

First National Bank of Omaha

Finally, First National is currently offering the Best Western Rewards Premium Mastercard with an elevated 80k bonus points on $3k spend within the first three billing cycles.  The card also provides an annual big spend bonus of 40k points when a cardholder spends $5k every 12 statement cycles.  Cardholders earn 10 extra points at Best Western properties and 2x on all other spend.  The card also comes with Platinum elite status in Best Western’s program.  Best Western fans can more than make up for the $89 annual fee by spending exactly $5k on the card each year.

Overlooked Credit Cards – Conclusion

I find something to like about all of the above cards.  I’m most interested in the Sam’s Club, PenFed Platinum Rewards, and the Best Western card in the near future.  As active hobbyists, many of us have run out of new card options with the big banks.  It’s always worth checking out the smaller ones.  While I highlight these cards, I’m always on the lookout for new ones.  What are your favorite cards from smaller banks currently?

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


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