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When people get into the points and miles hobby, they often start by searching the internet for the “best credit card for travel”. However, anyone in this hobby will tell you that there isn’t a “best card” for everyone. In fact, the best card (or cards) for a person depends on a variety of factors.
In this video/post, I thought I would share my collection of credit cards and why I use each one. The last time I did this sort of video/post was at the end of 2018, so I thought it would be good for me to do another one at the mid-year point. Hopefully, it gives you an idea of how I use my collection of cards to earn travel rewards.
Newcomers to my wallet
The following are cards that have been added to my wallet since December 2018.
1. Chase Ink Business Unlimited:
I already have the other two Ink Business cards, so I thought I’d get the third and final card. It came with a 50,000 point welcome offer with no annual fee, which was an incredible deal. It’s quickly become my primary business credit card for Trip Astute due to it’s earning structure. Since a lot of my expenses for Trip Astute are around technology products and services (i.e., non-bonus spend), this seems like a better card for those purchases.
Also, in case you’re wondering — when I applied for the Ink Business Unlimited, I did not get an automatic approval. It took about two weeks for me to hear the approval status change when calling the Chase status line. I was eventually approved with a $3,000 credit limit. Since I was planning to shift more of my business spending to this card, I asked to have some of the credit lines moved from my other Chase business cards.
2. American Express Blue Business Plus:
I wasn’t planning to get this card, but I received a targeted offer from American Express for 20,000 Membership Rewards points. Since I’m also earning Membership Rewards points with my Gold Card, I thought this card would be handy. If I decide to cancel the Gold card, then it this would be a useful card to have in order to retain my Membership Rewards points.
Despite my reasoning, it is a great business credit card that earns 2X Membership Rewards on all purchases with no annual fee.
3. Citi Dividend:
If you’ve seen our rotating bonus categories video/post, you’ll know that I recently got this card. The card is not available for new applicants, but it is available as a product change. Since I had a Citi Double Cash card that wasn’t being used, I product changed it to the Citi Dividend for the rotating 5% cash back categories.
Citi will allow you to convert most of their cards to the Dividend card. Even co-branded and Thank You rewards cards are eligible for conversions. It’s something to consider f you have a Citi card that you’re not using.
4. American Express Blue Cash Everyday:
This is another card that was a result of a product change. I previously used the American Express Blue Cash Preferred (learn more) for all my grocery and fuel expenses since it earns 6% on groceries and 3% on fuel. However, since I got the American Express Gold Card, that’s become my primary card for groceries. I decided to downgrade the Blue Cash Preferred to the Blue Cash Everyday.
Though this might change before the end of the year. It depends on whether I’m going to keep the Gold card, which I’ll discuss later in this post.
My everyday carry cards
1. Chase Sapphire Reserve:
No surprises here. You all know how much I love Chase Ultimate Rewards points. I still get significant value from my Sapphire Reserve. The $300 travel credit is very easy to redeem, making the annual fee feel more like $150. Plus, the Priority Pass lounge benefit has been very useful when traveling. I’ve even had a chance to use the restaurant credit a few times at the airport. The $30 credit per person (per visit) is a great benefit and helps offset the annual fee. Even the travel benefits are worth the annual cost.
Some of you might be wondering why I’ve kept the Sapphire Reserve when I have the American Express Gold for dining out purchases. It’s a good question! It’s an area where I honestly feel conflicted. Since I’m not 100% sold on keeping the Gold card after my first year, I wanted to keep the Sapphire Reserve. Plus, the travel bonus category is valuable to me, along with the lounge benefit. I know that many people have had problems with lounges claiming no additional capacity for Priority Pass members. However, we’ve managed to maximize the benefit and save money on food or drinks while traveling.
2. Chase Ink Business Cash:
This is a powerhouse business card that I love. I have another small business that I run, so I use the Ink Business Cash for all those expenses. I also charge my internet and streaming services on this card since it earns five points per dollar on purchases from office supplies stores, internet, cable, and phone services. This card easily earns me over 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points per month with just my normal spending. To top it off, t doesn’t even have an annual fee.
I’ve also been driving more for work with my new job, so this has become my primary fuel card since it earns 2X points on fuel purchases.
3. Chase Freedom:
The Chase Freedom is another workhorse in my wallet. This is my favorite rotating bonus category card since it also earns Ultimate Rewards points. There are a few quarters during the year where I’m able to earn 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points with my general spending. Since the card has no annual fee, it’s definitely a keeper in my wallet.
4. Chase Freedom Unlimited:
This is my go-to card for most of my non-bonus spend. Like the Ink Business Unlimited, it only earns 1.5X points on all purchases. Though since I can redeem each point at 1.5 cents using my Sapphire Reserve on the Chase Travel Portal, the Freedom Unlimited has an adjusted earning rate of 2.25%.
5. US Bank Cash+:
The US Bank Cash+ is another 5% rotating bonus category card. However, the catch is that you get to pick your 5% categories every quarter. It also has 2% categories where you can earn unlimited cash back. I primarily use it to earn 5% on my gym membership and home utilities. It’s a great card to fill in bonus category gaps in your card collection.
Though I prefer points over cash back, I allocate any cash earned toward our travel budget.
Card I have, but don’t necessarily keep in my wallet
I do have a bunch of other credit cards that I don’t necessarily carry with me all the time, but keep active since I get some kind of benefit or reward with them.
1. Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier:
I have the older version of this card (IHG Rewards Club Select) and have covered it in many of our posts/videos. I keep it since I get Platinum Elite Status with IHG and a free anniversary night certificate as part of my $49 annual fee. These two perks alone are worth more than the annual fee.
Chase is encouraging me to upgrade to the new IHG Rewards Club Premier card. However, I don’t feel rushed to do it. There are compelling new perks, like a free night when you redeem points for stays that are four nights or more. Though I don’t want to pay the $89 annual fee right now. That may change in the future when we start planning our trips for 2020.
2. Chase World Of Hyatt:
The next card on my list is the Chase Hyatt card. I still have the older Hyatt card which has now been replaced by the World of Hyatt card. Like the IHG Rewards Club card, the older card provides a bump in loyalty status and a free night every year with an annual fee of $75. The World of Hyatt card offers additional perks and benefits at $95 per year.
There are numerous aspirational hotels in Hyatt’s portfolio where you can use your annual certificate. Since I can always get a room for more than the value of the annual fee, it’s worth keeping this card.
IHG Rewards Club Premier vs World of Hyatt
A lot of people have asked me whether I prefer the IHG Rewards Club Premier or World of Hyatt. They are both great cards! The IHG Rewards Club Premier gives you a more valuable status upgrade and redemption perk. However, I tend to avoid transferring Chase UR points to my IHG account since the points tend to hold less value.
The opposite is true for Hyatt. The status bump doesn’t provide much value. Though I regularly transfer Chase UR points over to Hyatt since I get high award redemptions with my points.
3. Chase United Explorer:
I rarely use my United Explorer card, but I keep it for the lounge passes, free check-in baggage, priority boarding, and additional award availability. If you have this card, you’ll see more award seat availability for flights when redeeming points. These benefits are worth the $95 annual fee. I’ve contemplated canceling this card, but the additional award availability and perks are extremely valuable.
4. USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa & USAA Cashback Rewards Plus Amex:
I have two USAA credit cards that I rarely use. I got these two credit cards when I was a cadet in college. The reason I keep these cards is that they are my oldest credit cards. Canceling them would affect my credit score by decreasing the average age of my accounts.
Cards that are likely leaving my wallet
There are three credit cards that may be canceled this year. I haven’t canceled these cards yet, but I’m trying to decide how to move forward. I’ll probably keep one of them, so I’d love to get your opinions on which card I should keep.
1. American Express Gold Card:
I keep hinting that I’m going to cancel the Gold card. It’s mostly because I prefer Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Even though I can earn more points with the Gold card, I am less excited about earning Membership Rewards points. I simply prefer the flexibility of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program.
Also, while I like having a strong reason to go to Shake Shack every month to use the monthly credit, it’s not something that I would normally do. In fact, I’m not a fan of how American Express structures their credit redemptions. I find them harder to use for my lifestyle.
This card will likely be canceled this year. That means that I’ll product change the American Express Blue Cash Everyday back to the Blue Cash Preferred and make it my primary grocery and fuel purchase card. Even though it earns cash back instead of points, I can put it toward our travel budget.
2. Chase Ink Business Preferred:
The Chase Ink Business Preferred was my primary business card for Trip Astute. Though to be honest, I’m not sure I am going to keep it. I’ve shifted most of my business spending onto the Ink Business Unlimited since it’s a better fit for my business spending patterns.
There are two reasons I am hesitating with canceling the card. One is the cell phone protection offered by the card. I’ve never used it and I’m usually careful with my electronics, so it might not make sense to pay the annual fee for this benefit. The second reason is no foreign transaction fees. Several of my business expenses for storage and website plugins are outside the US. I can avoid foreign transaction fees by using this card.
3. Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business:
The Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business is also a card that I rarely use. I got it since I wanted to extend my Southwest Companion Pass another year and the welcome offer points counted toward the qualification. The card has an annual points benefit that mostly offsets the $99 annual fee. However, with the new Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business card that just came out, it might be worth canceling this card and applying for the new one. I like that the new card has some overlap with the Ink Business Preferred in bonus categories. Also, I find the upgraded boardings and inflight wifi credits to be valuable.
My original plan was to cancel the Ink Business Preferred and keep the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card instead since it doesn’t have any foreign transaction fee. Though now that the new Southwest card has been released, it’s complicated the situation!
Fiona’s credit cards?
I’m thinking of doing a review of Fiona’s credit cards. She’s not as hardcore when it comes to maximizing points, so I think it might be fun to look at what cards she uses. Also, it might help to see how we navigate earning points when we have different levels of interest in this hobby.
Let me know what you think of my credit card set-up. Also, I would love to hear what cards have joined, stayed, and left your wallet this year.
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