Mid-Tier credit cards are great for travelers who want a little bit more from their credit card, but don’t want to pay a $500 annual fee. Increased earning structures relative to modest annual fees provide a nice balance that’s attractive to many travelers. The purpose of this post is comparing the best mid-tier credit cards.
Mid-Tier credit cards are also known as Tier III cards. This is because most of them have an annual fee of $95; and they offer big sign-up bonuses, a few perks, and great earning structures. Many co-branded mid-tier cards have benefits that outweigh their modest annual fee, making them “keeper cards” for certain travelers.
Transferrable Points Cards
American Express Green Card
The American Express Green Card was revamped in the fall of 2019 for the first time in 27 years! Fortunately, the Green Card is now a more valuable product than ever before. It’s on the higher-end of the mid-tier cards because it has a $150 annual fee (NOT waived the first year). But it has more than enough earning opportunities and perks to justify that fee.
Amex’s verdant charge card earns 3x Membership Rewards (MR) points on General Travel and Dining. It also earns just one point on non-bonus spend. Amex’s definition of travel has been expanded just for the Green Card. It now includes hotels, airfare, toll roads, ride sharing services, and taxis. This is a great move by Amex because the Green Card can compete more closely with the Chase Sapphire cards.
Furthermore, the Green Card comes with a public sign-up bonus worth 30,000 MR points. This bonus can be earned by spending $2,000 within the first three months. The Green Card also comes with a $100 annual LoungeBuddy credit and a $100 annual CLEAR credit as its main perks.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of my favorite mid-tier cards for domestic flights and hotels. It has a $95 annual fee (NOT waived the first year) and is one of the original mid-tier travel cards.
The Sapphire Preferred earns 2x Ultimate Rewards (UR) points on General Travel and Dining. It also earns just one point on non-bonus spend. Chase’s definition of travel is very broad, and it even inspired American Express’ revamp of the Green Card.
Furthermore, the Sapphire Preferred comes with a sign-up bonus worth 60,000 UR points. This bonus can be earned by spending $4,000 within the first three months. Plus, the Sapphire Preferred comes with some of the best travel insurances in the industry. These include Trip Cancellation Insurance, Baggage Delay Insurance, and Primary Car Rental Insurance. For many travelers, these insurances can justify the card’s annual fee because you can only get them with Chase.
The Citi Premier is one of the best mid-tier credit cards for international travel. It has a $95 annual fee and has plenty of earning opportunities. Currently, it earns 3x Thank You (TY) points on General Travel and Gas expenses. Plus, it earns 2x points on Dining and Entertainment; and one point on non-bonus spend.
However, this card will be changing for the worse in August 2020. Starting on August 23, 2020, the Citi Premier will earn 3x TY points on Air Travel, Dining, Gas, Grocery, and Hotel Expenses. The General Travel and Entertainment categories will be going away.
The Citi Premier also comes with a sign-up bonus worth 60,000 TY points. This bonus can be earned by spending $4,000 within the first three months. And it will continue to be offered after the changes come in August 2020.
However, the Citi Premier lacks in benefits because Citi stripped their cards of them in 2019. Citi will offer a $100 hotel credit for hotel purchases that cost at least $500. But the hotel purchases must be made on Citi’s travel website, which is generally more expensive than the hotels’ own rates. Unfortunately, this only negates the credit and does not provide much value.
Barclays Jet Blue Plus Card
The Barclays Jet Blue Plus Card is one of the most underrated mid-tier credit cards for domestic travelers. It has a nice earning structure, a great sign-up bonus, and great perks for a $99 annual fee.
The Jet Blue Plus Card earns 6x TrueBlue points on Jet Blue flights. Plus, it earns 2x points at Grocery Stores and Restaurants. And it earns one point for all non-bonus spend. The Jet Blue Business Card comes with a sign-up bonus worth 40,000 points. You can earn it after spending just $1,000 in the first three months.
This card also offers a 50% discount on in-flight purchases, free checked bags, a $100 statement credit for JetBlue vacation packages, and the chance to earn Mosaic Elite Status.
American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Card
The American Express Hilton Honors Business Card is a great earner that also comes with some awesome benefits. It has a $95 annual fee (NOT waived the first year) and it comes with a sign-up bonus worth 125,000 HH points. This bonus can be earned after spending $2,000 in the first three months. It also has a modest $95 annual fee (NOT waived the first year).
Furthermore, the Hilton Surpass Card earns 12x Hilton Honors (HH) points on Hilton hotel purchases and 3x points for non-bonus spend. It also earns 6x HH points on Dining, Groceries, and Gas. The 6x categories are useful for everyday spend because they are common categories.
The Amex Hilton Surpass Card comes with some nice perks. These include Gold Elite Status, free breakfast, and free room upgrades (up to Executive Rooms). These perks can justify the card’s $95 annual fee with just one hotel stay per year.
Chase World of Hyatt Card
The Chase World of Hyatt Card is one of the best mid-tier credit cards for hotel dwellers and Hyatt loyalists. It has a $95 annual fee (NOT waived the first year) and it comes with a nice sign-up bonus, cool bonus categories, and some great perks.
The World of Hyatt Card earns a total of 9.5x Hyatt points on Hyatt purchases. That includes 4x points for having the card and 5.5x points for Discoverist status. But that’s not all. The card also earns 2x points on Gym Memberships, Car Rental purchases, Airfare, and Dining. It also earns one point per dollar on non-bonus spend. Despite the low multiplier for non-bonus spend, the World of Hyatt Card is a great everyday card. That’s because World of Hyatt points are highly valuable.
Moreover, the World of Hyatt Card comes with a two-part sign-up bonus worth up to 50,000 points. The first part requires you to spend $3,000 to earn 25,000 points within the first three months. The second part requires you to spend another $3,000 to earn another 25,000 points within the first six months. That’s a total of 50,000 points for $6,000 spend.
The World of Hyatt Card also comes with Discoverist Status, an annual free night, and room upgrades (up to the same type of room booked).
Mid-Tier credit cards are fantastic for all sorts of travelers. They strike a balance between annual fees, perks, and earning. Such a balance is attractive for many travelers because they can get lots of value for relatively little fees. Premium cards normally have annual fees of around $500. That means you can get four or five mid-tier credit cards (and possibly even more perks and earning opportunities) for that same $500.