Best Visa Credit Cards of 2016
When it comes to credit cards, there are four distinct networks that operate in the U.S. Chances are, if you’ve got a credit card in your wallet, it’s either got a Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express logo on it.
Of the four, Visa boasts one of the highest acceptance rates. According to the Nilson Report, 56% of all card transactions worldwide in 2015 were made with a Visa card. There were just shy of 3 billion Visa cards in circulation.
Visa credit cards are offered by a variety of issuers, including some of the nation’s top banks and credit card companies. Some offer rewards for travel while others let you earn cash back on purchases. So how do you decide which Visa credit card rises to the top of the heap?
We spent some time combing through the ranks to pin down three Visa credit cards that represent the best of the best. Here are the cards we chose:
- Best Introductory Bonus and Premium Travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve℠
- Best Balance Transfer Card: Chase Slate®
- Best Basic Travel Card: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Keep reading for more on what makes each of these cards a winner. You’ll also find some helpful information on Visa offers and acceptance, along with a primer on Visa Platinum and Visa Signature® tiers.
MyBankTracker’s Picks for the Best Visa Credit Cards of 2016
Best Introductory Bonus and Premium Travel Card: Chase Sapphire Reserve℠
Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ is Chase’s newest travel rewards option and it’s a real head turner. The introductory bonus for this card is far and away one of the most impressive on the market. The only condition to earn this amazing bonus is that you have to make $4,000 in purchases within the first three months to qualify.
Cardmembers automatically receive up to $300 in statement credit each year as reimbursement for travel expenses charged to the card. Travel and dining purchases earn three points per dollar while all other purchases earn one point per dollar. The points are worth 50% more if you use them to redeem for travel through Chase’s online travel booking portal.
As if those benefits weren’t enough, you also get a $100 statement credit towards Global Entry or TSA Pre ✓® fees every four years, complimentary lounge access to more than 900 lounges worldwide under the Priority Pass Select membership, special car rental privileges, and exclusive benefits at selected luxury hotels and resorts.
The only catch? This card has a $450 annual fee. When you add up the value of the annual travel credit, the regular travel rewards, and the extra perks, however, the benefits easily outweigh the cost of the annual fee.
Who it’s good for:
Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ is designed for anyone who prefers travel rewards and has heavy spending on travel and dining out. Also, you shouldn’t be too worried about paying a higher annual fee for these perks. With the $300 annual travel statement credit, your effective annual fee is more like $150.
Best for Balance Transfers: Chase Slate®
The Chase Slate® card doesn’t offer points for purchases but it does have something that you may like even better. This card features a long 0% introductory APR period for balance transfers. The balance transfer fee is $0 if you complete a transfer within 60 days of opening your account. After that, it increases to $5 or 5% of the transfer amount, whichever is greater.
You also get the same 0% APR deal on purchases. Once the promotional period ends, the regular variable APR takes effect. You’ll need to plan your payoff carefully to avoid any interest charges for purchases or transfers. This is one of Chase’s credit cards that doesn’t have an annual fee.
Who it’s good for:
We’d highly recommend the Chase Slate® card for anyone who carries a lot of high-interest debt. With this card, you can transfer that debt to the card without any fees and enjoy 0% APR for many months. During this time, you can work on paying off your balance interest-free.
Best Basic Travel Rewards Card: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
With some travel rewards cards, earning and redeeming points or miles can get a bit complicated. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card keeps things simple.
With this one, you earn unlimited double miles on every purchase. There’s also a one-time new account bonus for eligible cardmembers. The minimum spending requirement is a slightly lower than what Chase requires. You’ll have to make $3,000 in purchases in the first three months to be eligible for the bonus.
When you want to redeem your miles for airfare, hotel stays, or cruises, all you have to do is apply them as a travel statement credit. There are no blackout dates or other travel restrictions to worry about.
There’s a $0 annual fee the first year. After that, the fee increases to $59. This card also comes with Visa Signature® benefits, which we’ll dig into in just a moment.
Who it’s good for:
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a great travel rewards card for people who don’t travel frequently with a specific airline or hotel chain. Because you can redeem for travel retroactively, you’re able to shop anywhere for the cheapest travel prices and have those purchases “erased” with the miles that you earned.
Visa Platinum vs. Visa Signature®: What’s the Difference?
Besides the features the card issuer offers, you can take advantage of other benefits for being a Visa member. Those benefits are tiered, based on whether you have a Visa Platinum or Visa Signature® card. Here’s how the two tiers measure up.
Visa Platinum is a step up from the classic Visa card. At this level, you’d enjoy all of the following:
- $5,000 minimum credit limit
- Emergency card replacement
- Emergency cash service
- Cardholder inquiry service
- Lost/stolen card reporting
- $0 liability for fraudulent purchases
- Emergency medical/legal assistance if you’re traveling
- Car rental collision/loss damage insurance
- Roadside assistance
- Travel accident insurance
One thing to keep in mind here is that the coverage limits on things like car rental coverage or travel accident insurance may vary based on the card issuer. While these benefits are complimentary, there may be fees involved if you use outside services. For example, you could use roadside assistance to call a tow truck but you’d have to pay the towing company’s fee.
If you have a Visa Signature® card, you get all of that and more. That includes things like:
- 24/7 concierge service
- Exclusive entertainment and sporting event access
- Access to special wine and food events
- Discounts on shopping
- Travel upgrades and savings
- Extended warranty protection
- Purchase protection
- Lost luggage reimbursement
As you can see, Visa Signature® status can make your card more much valuable. There’s just one thing to consider. But you are more likely to pay an annual fee for those added benefits.
Visa Infinite® is one tier above Visa Signature® but it's only on a few cards that are available in the U.S. Not much is known about this card tier because Visa doesn't offer much information on it.
Many of its benefits overlap with Visa Signature® but the terms on the benefits may be better with Visa Infinite®:
- For purchase protection, each claim has a maximum of $500 on Visa Signature® versus $10,000 on Visa Infinite®.
- For trip cancellation and interruption insurance, you're covered for up to $5,000 with Visa Signature® versus $10,000 with Visa Infinite® per trip.
- For trip delay reimbursement, you're eligible if the trip is delayed for 12 hours with Visa Signature® versus 6 hours with Visa Infinite®.
Save on Shopping, Dining, Travel, and More With Visa Offers
If you’re looking for a deal, Visa Offers delivers. When you shop through Visa Offers portal, you have access to savings on everything from clothes to vacation packages to subscription services.
When you click on a deal, you’ll get a redemption code and be transferred to the partner merchant’s website. The code is applied when you make an eligible purchase and pay with your Visa card.
As an example of what you can save, here are some recent Visa Offers promotions:
- Get 25% off a regular menu price order at PapaJohns.com
- Save $20 off online purchases of $100 or more at Aeropostale
- Get 15% off admission at Maui Ocean Center
- Save 5% and get a free upgrade at Alamo Rent a Car
- Save 20% on single-day tickets to LEGOLAND® Discover Centers
The list of offers goes on and on and the choices are pretty varied. Remember to read the fine print before choosing a deal to make sure your purchase qualifies.
Visa Acceptance Basics
According to the official Visa website, Visa is accepted in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. Approximately 39.6 million merchants around the globe take Visa as a form of payment. In the U.S., the acceptance rate is around 8 million merchants.
That’s pretty comparable to MasterCard’s acceptance. MasterCard also enhances its card benefits with different tiers, like Platinum, World, and World Elite status. So which one is better, especially if you plan to travel outside the U.S.?
A Visa card is likely to be accepted virtually anywhere - but it's important to also understand the individual card’s features. The four cards we’ve profiled made the cut for different reasons, aside from the fact that they have the Visa logo. Bottom line, acceptance is an important factor when you’re shopping for a new card but, ultimately, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.