Of My 16 Credit Cards, These Are the 4 I’m Keeping in My Wallet Through March 2017

Yes, that’s right, I have 16 credit cards open at the moment.  Believe it or not I have had more open in the past.  Now I definitely don’t carry all of them in my wallet all the time.  So which ones am I carrying for the next few months and why?  Here are the answers!

SPG American Express Business Card

This card earns a “mere” one point per dollar spent on most purchases but with SPG’s Starpoints worth about 2.5 cents each I use this card for quite a few everyday purchases.  I’ll quickly consider whether the purchase could align with a bonus category and if not, then I’ll use this card.

My most recent SPG redemption was for the Sheraton Grand Los Angeles in early January.  I was able to book a room that was going for about $350/night for 11,000 SPG points/night, yielding a value of roughly 3.2 cents/point.  Getting the hotel room (and flights) for free made dropping some coin on a ticket to the 2017 Rose Bowl doable!

Whereas I currently have the business version of the SPG Amex card, Patty carries the personal version of it.  Both the business version and the personal version are offered now with their highest-ever signup bonus of 35,000 Starpoints (offer ends 05 April 2017).

Secure application link for the *business* version of the SPG American Express card.
Secure application link for the *personal* version of the SPG American Express card.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

These days, all of my travel and dining purchases go on this card for the 3X points. Since I can redeem Ultimate Rewards (UR) points directly for travel at a rate of 1.5 cents per point, I get an effective rate of at least 4.5% back on those travel and dining purchases. If I transfer the UR points to travel partners like United or Hyatt I can usually get over 2 cents of value per point meaning I’m getting an effective return on the travel and dining purchases of over 6%! Unfortunately the massive 100k UR point signup bonus is no longer available online but you can get it in Chase branches until March 12th, 2017.

Secure application link for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

Chase Freedom

The 5X points you get for bonus categories with this card simply can’t be beat.  This quarter the Freedom’s bonus categories are gas stations and local commuter transportation (not including parking, tolls or Amtrak). The kicker with this card is that I can take the points I earn with it and transfer them into my Chase Sapphire Reserve Ultimate Rewards account, instantly increasing their value.

I used Chase Ultimate Rewards points, many of which I racked up with my Freedom card, to book a United flight for my Big Sky (Montana) ski trip earlier this month.

Per my note above, I’m therefore getting a minimum of 7.5% return on gas station and local commuter transportation charges (if I redeem through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal).  And if I transfer Ultimate Rewards points (that I originally earned at a rate of 5X) to travel partners like United or Hyatt (for which I routinely get over 2 cents per point/mile in value) I can get a net return of over 10% back!  And that’s not for some obscure type of purchase – it’s for gas purchases, which are essential for me.

Secure application link for the Chase Freedom card.

Discover it

The Discover it card is one of the few non-travel cards I use.  It earns a spot in my wallet right now though because like the Chase Freedom, the Discover it card has rotating 5% back categories.  And like the Freedom the categories are usually appealing.

Redemption is a bit different than with the Freedom though.  You can theoretically redeem for gift cards or at Amazon.com but I keep it simple with this card and simply redeem for statement credit.  The Discover it bonus categories for the first quarter of 2017 – gas stations, ground transporation and wholesale clubs – overlap a bit with the Chase Freedom card. However the inclusion of wholesale clubs is different than the Freedom card so for this quarter I’m using my Discover it card for BJ’s purchases (Discover is not accepted at my other wholesale club of choice, Costco). I may buy a large gift card from BJ’s with my Discover it card before the end of the quarter, thereby getting myself 5% off of my BJ’s purchases for the foreseeable future.

Secure application link for the Discover it card.

There’s a huge qualifier I have to add here: If I acquire a new card and am in the process of meeting the minimum spending requirement, I’ll use that card almost universally. Yes, I may lose out on a few bonus points by not using another card but the return you get for a signup bonus is way beyond the return you’ll get for purchases, even in bonus categories. The only exception to that may be if the minimum spending requirement is so low (say, $1,000) that I’ll easily meet it within the timeline required.

On the flip side, my list here illustrates also that there are some cards which have incredible signup bonuses, like the Southwest Plus and Southwest Premier cards, but aren’t valuable enough to earn a consistent spot in my wallet after the signup spending requirement is met.

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What are your thoughts on my four-pack?  Which cards are you using right now and why?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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7 thoughts on “Of My 16 Credit Cards, These Are the 4 I’m Keeping in My Wallet Through March 2017

  1. Thanks so much for this post–I’ve learned SO much from your blog (the only bummer being that it’s made me realize how much free money I’ve been losing out on over the years)! Quick question about the above though: can you elaborate a bit on how you earn up to 10% on purchases that you transfer from your Freedom card to your Sapphire Reserve card? Do you mean balance transfers? Not quite understanding that. Thanks again!

    1. Thank you for the kind words! Glad my site has been helpful.

      Yes, when you have a full-fledged Ultimate Rewards card like the Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus or Ink Preferred, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners such as United, Hyatt, and many others. Once you’ve transferred your UR points into those programs you can often get 2 cents per mile or point in value. If you are getting 5 points per dollar spent on your Freedom card (in the bonus categories) and then you end up getting 2 cents of value per point, you’ve earned a net return on your purchase of 10% (5 points/dollar*2 cents/point=10 cents/dollar). Does that clear it up?

  2. At one time you mentioned keeping cards that do not charge annual fee, but I really do not use them. Will cancelling them affect credit? Also is there a rate at which one should cancel two or more cards?

    1. Hi Sage! Canceling a card doesn’t necessarily affect your credit score in a meaningful way if you haven’t had it long and it doesn’t have a huge credit line. If you’ve had the account open for a while and there’s no annual fee I would generally recommending keeping it open (unless you’re looking to get the signup bonus again) as it’s helping your credit history. If you’re dead-set on cancelling it though, and the account has a large credit line, you may want to move the credit line to another card with the same bank. Conversely, when I’m applying for new Chase cards these days I actually ensure my total credit line with Chase is not very high as that seems to increase chances of auto approval. You can see that canceling cards didn’t affect my credit score much over the past several years: http://thehoneymoonguy.com/heres-how-opening-12-and-closing-7-credit-cards-affected-my-credit-score/

  3. Michael, will we see you at the Zilara in June ?? Can you tell me the cards that one can cancel and tend to be able to reapply for bonus and perhaps how long one has to wait to reapply?

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