What’s in my wallet?
What credit cards are in my wallet is a question I get a lot. Friends and family aren’t being nosy, they’ve just seen our family take some great trips with reward points. I’m not really doing anything extra, I’m just maximizing the rewards on every purchase I make.
I’ve shared 5 steps to maximizing earning loyalty points, here. But a lot of people wanted specific points and cards that I used. I’m not providing any links, and I’m not making any money off of these credit issuers, just so you know. The most important rule before you start is that you should always pay your balance off in full each month. If you keep any sort of balance, the rewards aren’t worth it. With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s dig in.
1) Chase Ultimate Rewards are one of my favorite points groups. Their points transfer to United, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, and IHG just to name a few. I didn’t feel like I had to learn a new language when I started transferring and redeeming points. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a card that I consistently use for travel and dining since it earns 2x points in those categories. I even have it written in sharpie on the card to help me remember. The Chase Freedom has quarterly rotating categories that earn 5x points. The categories this quarter are restaurants and a few specific retail stores. The Chase Freedom is actually a cash back card. However, if you have another card that earns Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer you Chase Freedom points to Ultimate Rewards also.
2) American Express Membership Rewards are another flexible point group that I have just began to use. Their points transfer to Delta, British Airways, Hilton and more. The American Express Everyday Preferred card is a no brainer for me with a large family. It earns 3x points at grocery stores, and 2x points at gas stations, which I’ve written on the card with a sharpie. I also have the American Express Platinum card that rarely gets used. The card came with a 100,000 point targeted sign up bonus I could not refuse. I only use it to take advantage of special perks and benefits that come with the card, not necessarily to earn more points on a daily basis.
3) Specific hotel and airline credit cards only earn points in their programs and are not very flexible. The only reason I acquired any of these cards was due to the sign up bonus. I’ve only kept the cards that have an annual bonus or status that exceeds the amount of the annual fee.
Hotels: The Club Carlson Signature Visa has an annual point bonus and it helped me get free rooms in Iceland for this summer. The Chase Hyatt Visa gives an annual free night (in their lower category hotels) and I got it during a promotion that took 20% off rewards points bookings for a while.
Airlines: The Citi Aadvantage World Platinum Card was one of my first reward earning cards and I’ve been told that longevity of credit matters, so I keep it. It also got me 10% of my miles back after I used them to get to Thailand at the beginning of the year. The US Airways Premier World MasterCard was an effort to get an easy sign up bonus before they merged with American Airlines. After the merger it will mean I have 2 American Airlines cards. Once those rewards points post, I’ll cancel this card for sure.
4) Cash Back Cards are not something I’ve typically been interested in. As I’ve learned how to maximize travel points redemptions, I’ve been able to do better than what a cash back card can offer me. One exception is the Barclay Card Arrival Plus. This card gives 2x points on every purchase and can be redeemed to wipe travel expenses right off of my statement. This helps cover obscure things like rental cars and airbnb among others. It is also the only card I have that is chip and pin enabled. Some kiosks in Europe only allow this type of card, so naturally I have to be ready just in case.
This may seem like a lot of credit cards for the average person to keep up with. Although the first 3 credit cards I listed are the true workhorses and have a permanent place in my wallet. Hubby only keeps one personal and one business card in his wallet, with no plans to expand. But I will tell you he switched one of them out to a card that made more sense for us.
There are tons of blogs dedicated to the points and miles game. The Points Guy, Mommy Points, Mile Value, Million Mile Secrets and Frequent Miler are all great places to start. Don’t get discouraged by the quantity of information. Most of those blogs have a beginners section. I took small steps to get where I am in this hobby and still have room to grow. You’ll be surprised at how much further you can stretch your vacation budget with a few simple changes. So once you’ve earned those points and are looking for your next destination, come back and visit me again for a little more inspiration!