How to Take Advantage of the Gaping Hole in the Credit Card Market

The few midrange credit cards for travel with annual fees between $100 and $450 can be great finds.

Jason SteeleJan 15, 2021
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Imagine going to a store to buy a new pair of jeans and being presented with a choice of low-end ones for $25 or a few premium designer styles for $200 and up. You would be disappointed if the store didn’t have an option in between.

That’s essentially the market that travel rewards credit card users face. There are dozens of decent rewards cards with annual fees under $100 and a growing number of ultra-premium travel rewards cards with annual fees of $450-plus.

But which travel credit cards fill the gap between these two staggeringly different price points?

Though they can be hard to find, when you do, it can be a very good deal. Read on to find a list of midrange travel credit cards to help you take advantage of this gaping hole in the credit card market.

Midrange American Express travel cards

Whether by design or by coincidence, American Express offers most of the cards with annual fees between $100 and $450.

American Express® Gold Card

The American Express® Gold Card has an annual fee of $250, and its most valuable benefits include 4x points on all takeout and dining purchases, including Uber Eats, and on your first $25,000 spent each year at U.S. supermarkets. It also pays 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on AmEx Travel. Terms apply.

These features are a great way to quickly accumulate valuable Membership Rewards points that you can transfer to airline and hotel partners or redeem directly for travel through the Membership Rewards portal or Expedia. The card also comes with a $120 worth of dining credits each year. Terms apply.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Another American Express card in this price range is the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, which has an annual fee of $250, and is not to be confused with The Platinum Card® from American Express, which has a $550 annual fee.

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card offers 3x miles on Delta purchases and 2x miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. Benefits include your first bag checked free, priority boarding and a $100 statement credit toward the Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee. Terms apply.

But the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card’s most valuable feature is a domestic, main cabin, round-trip companion certificate that you receive each year when you renew your card. This benefit alone can easily be worth the cost of its annual fee, and potentially much more. Terms apply.

American Express® Green Card

There’s also the American Express® Green Card, which now has a $150 annual fee. It offers 3x points on travel including ride share and transit purchases, and 3x points at restaurants. It also offers you a $100 annual credit toward a Clear membership, which helps you speed through security at select airports and stadiums. Terms apply.

Other midrange credit card options to consider

If AmEx isn't for you, consider adding one of these three other mid-tier travel credit cards to your wallet.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Chase offers the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card with a $149 annual fee, which can be a great value for several reasons.

First, you get a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, which brings the net cost down to a more reasonable $74. But you also get 7,500 points each year on your account anniversary, which are worth about $120. Finally, the card offers you four upgraded boardings a year, which can be worth over $100.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®

Another option in this price range is the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®, which is issued by Barclays and has a $195 annual fee. It offers 3x miles on American Airlines purchases, 2x miles on hotels and car rentals and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Benefits include a free checked bag, priority boarding and $25 per day in statement credits toward inflight food and beverages. You also get a $50 annual statement credit toward inflight Wi-Fi. On top of that, you get an anniversary Companion Certificate good for two guests to fly with you for $99 each after you use your card to spend $20,000 in a calendar year.

Nerdy tip: This card gives you the ability to earn up to 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) each calendar year. You earn 5,000 EQMs after spending $20,000 on purchases and another 5,000 EQMs after spending an additional $20,000 on purchases. You can even earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $50,000 on purchases each calendar year. These last two features can help you reach the next level of elite status and enjoy upgrades and other perks.

If the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard® sounds like a good choice for you, then you should know that there’s one small catch. You can’t actually apply for this card directly. Instead, you must first apply for the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, which has a $99 annual fee. Then, you’ll have to contact Barclays and request a product change to the Silver version.

This card is so highly valued among American Airlines flyers that many go through those steps to get it.

The bottom line

There aren’t many travel rewards credit cards with annual fees between $100 and $450, but the ones that fill this hole are often worthwhile alternatives to cheaper cards and to more expensive cards. When you take a closer look at this price point that most credit card issuers have neglected, you might find just the right card for your needs.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for: