Emily: “These Are the 7 Credit Cards I Carry in My Wallet”

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Emily: “These Are the 7 Credit Cards I Carry in My Wallet”

EmilyEmily: “These Are the 7 Credit Cards I Carry in My Wallet”Million Mile Secrets Team

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By keeping a few different credit cards in your wallet, you can earn a boatload of points!  There are so many cards out there, it can be overwhelming to know which credit cards strategy to pursue.

If you’re new to using credit cards to earn rewards, be sure to check out our Beginner’s Guide to Miles & Points.  Start slow, with 1 or 2 cards.

The Best Travel Credit Cards
Using Credit Card Rewards Got Me a One-Way Ticket to Europe in Business Class for ~$20

As soon as I get approved for a new card, I set up auto-pay and put it at the front of my wallet (and add it to my LastPass account), so that I can immediately spend on it.  If I don’t have any minimum spending requirements to meet, I use my other credit cards to rack up points.

Don’t Turn Down a Card Just Because of the Annual Fee

At first glance, the annual fees on some cards seem like it’s not worth it.  I’ll pay an annual fee if I get more out of the card in a year than it costs.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of $450.  But its ongoing benefits, like 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) & dining, as well as the $300 annual travel credit (not to mention free Priority Pass lounge access), make it well worth the cost for me!

The real value of many credit cards lies in the ability to easily transfer points to airline and hotel partners.  This alone can unlock huge benefits that are worth way more than the annual fee!

Credit Cards Can Be Great for Your Credit Score

Link:   The 5 Dangers of Applying for Credit Cards

Link:   Does Applying For Credit Cards Ruin Your Credit Score?

When I first got into this hobby, my credit score was between 650 and 700. I signed-up for a credit card in college, did NOT sign-up for auto-pay (because I didn’t have reliable income), and got smacked with tons of interest fees.

I’ve since paid off that card and cleaned up my credit, mainly by keeping my oldest credit cards, applying for new cards, and spending responsibly.

The Best Travel Credit Cards
My Credit Score Is Very High Thanks to Spending Responsibly on Credit Cards

The most important aspect about this hobby is to pay off your credit card bills in full each month.  Essentially, treat your credit cards like debit cards!  Today, my credit score is near 800, and I use free websites like MyBankrate to regularly check my credit score.

You Don’t Need a Million Dollar Business to Apply for Business Cards

Link:   Take My Hand!  I’ll Guide You Through Applying for an AMEX Small Business Card

Link:   Step-by-Step:  How to Complete a Chase Business Card Application

Several of my favorite credit cards are small business cards.  By applying for small business cards as well as personal cards, you can rake in hundreds of thousands of points.

I have an Airbnb side business.  When I apply for new business cards, I use the revenue I’ve earned to help me get approved for a business card.  My Airbnb business is small and is linked to my social security number.

The Best Travel Credit Cards
Different Types of Businesses Can Qualify You for Business Credit Cards

Lots of other small businesses have incorporated business credit cards into their spending strategy, which have earned them lots of valuable points for Big Travel with Small Money!  If you earn money doing things like like providing child care, tutoring, freelance writing, or selling items on eBay, you might qualify for a small business card!

If you’re interested in applying for a small business card, check out these tips for Chase and American Express!

My Current Miles & Points Stash & Strategy

My travel goal is to take 1 or 2 international trips, and 3 or 4 domestic trips, each year.  I love using my miles to visit my family and friends around the US, so I get cards that earn miles towards those goals.

And lately, I have been using miles to book family and friends to join us on trips, which doubles the amount of miles needed.  We’ve been flying in coach to make our miles last longer and be able to take more trips.

The Best Travel Credit Cards
My Friends and I Visited Croatia Not Long Ago

As of this post, I have ~500,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, 150,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points, and almost 1 million American Airlines miles.

Here are my favorite cards to keep in my wallet to help me increase my balances in those programs.

Why Chase Is My Favorite Points Program

I LOVE collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards points because of their flexibility.  I can very easily transfer Chase points to lots of airline and hotel partners.  My favorite partners are Southwest for domestic flights and United Airlines for international flights.  And if I’m in the mood for a fancy hotel or want to treat my family and friends, I love transferring my points to Hyatt.

  • Southwest – You can usually find Southwest flights for ~7,000 to 9,000 Southwest points, depending on where you’re going.  And even if the points required to fly my desired dates are higher than I would like, they are effectively half price if I add my partner to the flight itinerary.  That’s because with the Southwest Companion Pass, any companion flies free on paid or award flights.  The fees for most mainland US fares are just ~$11 round-trip per person, making Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Southwest an incredible value!
  • United Airlines – I recently flew my cousin and his wife one-way from San Francisco to Paris in coach.  It cost 60,000 United Airlines miles total (30,000 miles X 2 people), and a whopping ~$6 per person in fees!
  • Hyatt Hotels – It costs 5,000 Hyatt points for a low-category Hyatt hotel, and up to 30,000 Hyatt points for super fancy hotels, like the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome.  The standard rate of that hotel can start at nearly $900, making it an excellent value for your Chase points!
The Best Travel Credit Cards
Use Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Stay at Fancy Hotels That Can Cost Hundreds and Hundreds per Night!

Chase won’t approve folks for most of their cards if they’ve opened more than 5 cards in the last 24 months.  This is referred to as the “5/24 rule”.  So if you plan on applying for lots of credit cards, it is wise to get the Chase cards you want first, and then apply for cards from other banks.

The Best Credit Cards to Keep in Your Wallet

1.   Chase Sapphire Reserve

Link:   Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Link:   Our Review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve

You’ll receive 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  That’s $750 in travel when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, and potentially much more when you transfer to airline and hotel partners.

You can also earn 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining.  And each cardholder year, you’ll get up to a $300 statement credit for travel purchases (including hotels, airfare, car rental, etc.).  I used my statement credit within a month of receiving my card, and the credits were automatically applied to my credit card, making it a great no-hassle perk!

You’ll also receive Priority Pass Select membership for access to airport lounges, and up to $100 statement credit for Global Entry that you can use for yourself or others.  I love using airport lounges between layovers (or if I arrive at the airport super early)!

The Best Travel Credit Cards
The Priority Pass Lounge Access Will Give You a Quiet Place Away From the Terminal to Wait for Your Flight. Along With Free Snacks and Beverages!

The annual fee is $450 (NOT waived for first year), which seems high for some.  But I’m happy to pay this fee because of the $300 travel credit and the 3X bonus on travel and dining purchases!

2.   Chase Sapphire Preferred

Link:   Apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred

Link:   Our Review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best travel credit card to have if you’re new to miles & points.

You’ll earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.  That’s $625 in travel when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.  And again, potentially much more when you transfer them to airline and hotel partners.

You can also earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining.  The annual fee is $95, waived the first year, making it more attractive to some people than the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

3.   Chase Ink Business Preferred

Link:   Our Review of the Ink Business Preferred

You’ll earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from opening the Chase Ink Business Preferred.  I pay my monthly cell phone bill with the Ink Business Preferred, because I automatically get up to $600 in cell phone insurance.

The sign-up bonus is worth $1,000 in travel when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.  And potentially much more when you transfer them to airline and hotel partners.

The Best Travel Credit Cards
The Ink Business Preferred Sign-Up Bonus Is Enough for a Round-Trip Coach Ticket to South Africa When You Transfer Your Points to United Airlines!

Plus, I earn 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites, and search engines (up to a maximum of $150,000 in combined purchases per account anniversary year).  These bonus categories are a boon if you have a small business!

The annual fee is only $95, which makes the Ink Business Preferred a steal!

4.   Chase Freedom

Link:   Apply for the Chase Freedom

Link:   Our Review of the Chase Freedom

With the Chase Freedom, you’ll earn a $150 bonus (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months of account opening.  I’ll be keeping the Chase Freedom forever, because it has NO annual fee.  It’s also one of my oldest cards, so hanging onto it helps my credit score by increasing the age of my credit history.

The Chase Freedom is a regular card I keep in my wallet because of its category bonuses.  Each quarter, you can earn 5% cash back (5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points) on up to $1,500 in combined spending in categories folks often spend a LOT in.  Like grocery stores, Amazon purchases, and gas stations!

The Best Travel Credit Cards
If You Spend a Lot at Amazon or Grocery Stores, You’ll Probably Benefit a Ton From the Chase Freedom Quarterly Bonus Categories

You’ll have to remember to activate the bonus, but once that’s done, the extra points add up quickly!  To help me remember the current category bonus, I write it in a section of a Post-it note and tape it to the card.  Otherwise I forget what the category is, and tend not to use it, losing out on valuable points!

And if you have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred, you can transfer the points you earn from the Chase Freedom to travel partners like Southwest and Hyatt!

The information for the Chase Freedom® has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

5.   Chase Freedom Unlimited

Link:   Apply for the Chase Freedom Unlimited

Link:   Our Review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited

With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you’ll earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.  This card also has NO annual fee!

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is in my wallet because it earns 1.5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on all purchases.  I love this card because it has a simple rewards earning structure, and I use it for all my spending where I won’t earn bonus points, such as paying for a doctor’s bill.

The Best Travel Credit Cards
For Non-Bonus Spending, the Chase Freedom Unlimited Is a Wise Choice!

And just like the Chase Freedom, if you have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred, you can transfer the points you earn to travel partners, like Singapore Airlines and United Airlines!

The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited® has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

6.   Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Link:   Apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Link:   How to Use Starwood Points

Currently, the AMEX Starwood Business card has a welcome bonus of up to $200 in statement credits.  You’ll earn a $100 statement credit after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account.  Plus an additional $100 statement credit after your first purchase at participating Starwood or Marriott Rewards hotels in the first 6 months.  The annual fee is $95, waived the first year.

Starwood points aren’t as easy to earn as other points.  But they can be incredibly valuable!  And because I don’t do a lot of paid hotel stays, my primary way of earning Starwood points is by spending with my AMEX Starwood Business card.

The Best Travel Credit Cards
Team Member Jasmin and Her Kids Stayed at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi, an Incredible 5-Star Hotel, for 12,000 Starwood Points per Night

When you transfer Starwood points to an airline partner with a 1:1 transfer ratio in increments of 20,000 points, you’ll get a 5,000 mile bonus.  This makes it more useful for non-bonus spending than many airline cards!

Link:   Apply for the The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

Link:   Our Review of The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

When you open the AMEX Business Gold Rewards card, you’ll earn 50,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  You can also earn 3X AMEX Membership Rewards points when you choose 1 out of 5 categories:

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • US purchases for advertising in select media
  • US purchases at gas stations
  • US purchases for shipping
  • US computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers
The Best Travel Credit Cards
If You Spend A LOT in Bonus Categories Like US Gas Stations, The AMEX Business Gold Rewards Is a Good Card for You!

You’ll earn 2X AMEX Membership Rewards points on the 4 remaining categories.  The annual fee is $175, waived the first year.

I like having lots of points to use in different programs.  This increases my flexibility when I have a trip I’m planning for, and I love having an emergency stash of points to use as a backup.

I use Chase Ultimate Rewards points most of the time, which I transfer to Southwest or United Airlines for domestic or international flights.  But American Express Membership Rewards points can be extremely valuable, because you can transfer them to 19 airline and hotel partners or use points for gift cards at popular stores (though I don’t recommend that option).

Delta and Air Canada Aeroplan are a couple of my favorite transfer partners.  My mom lives in Traverse City, Michigan, and there are lots of Delta flights available.  And I used Aeroplan miles to book Business Class flights to Europe for my family of 4, making them a valuable alternative to using my prized Chase Ultimate Rewards points!

Honorable Mentions for the Best Travel Credit Cards

Link:   Apply for the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Link:   Our Review of the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

With the Capital One Venture, you’ll earn 50,000 Capital One Venture miles (worth $500 in travel) after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  You will also get 10 Venture miles per $1 you spend on hotel stays booked and paid for with your card through this Hotels.com link (through January 31, 2020).

I’ve booked through hotels.com in the past, and I like it because if you stay 10 nights, you get 1 free!  But you will NOT earn points or elite night credits for your stay, or have your elite status recognized by the hotel.

The Best Travel Credit Cards
Through Capital One’s Hotels.com Link, You Can Book Any Popular Hotel and Earn 10 Venture Miles per $1 (Effectively 10% Back) With Your Capital One Venture Card. In Addition to the 10th Night Free Through Hotels.com!

You can use your Venture miles for nearly any travel purchase, like taxi rides, hotels, room service, and free flights.  All without having to worry about searching for available award seats or hotel nights!

To redeem your miles, just buy travel like you normally would with your card.  Then you’ll have 90 days to sign-in to your online account, find the travel purchase, and “erase” it with your miles!

The annual fee is $95, waived the first year.

2.   Citi Prestige

Link:   Apply for the Citi Prestige Credit Card

The Citi Prestige currently doesn’t offer a welcome bonus.  But you’ll receive a $250 statement credit for airfare & baggage fees each calendar year, and a $100 Global Entry application fee credit every 5 years.  You can earn 3X Citi ThankYou points for airfare & hotels, and 2X Citi ThankYou points for restaurants & entertainment (including amusement parks & movie theaters).

The Citi Prestige offers a 4th night free benefit, which can easily be the most lucrative perk of ANY credit card, depending on how often you use it.

Team member Keith and his wife have saved over $2,800 with this card.  He advises to always book via the Citi Concierge and NOT online.  That way you still earn hotel points, stay credits, and elite perks.

The Best Travel Credit Cards
Keith Has Stayed in Some Pretty Amazing Hotels. The Nicer the Hotel, the Better the Deal With The 4th Night Free Perk!

Bottom Line

My credit score has increased over the years, thanks to responsible credit card spending.

Credit card rewards can be VERY lucrative if you know how to use them.  And cards with annual fees can be the best way to accomplish your travel goals!  The annual fee is worth it if you save more than you spend on the fee.

My travel goal is to take at least 3 trips per year to visit family and friends around the US, as well as 1 or 2 international trips.  The credit cards in my wallet help me to earn the points necessary to achieve those goals.

What are the favorite cards you keep in your wallet?

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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How did you get all those American miles? Did not mention anything about cards for that.

Author

In our Hot Deals page, we have links to several cards where you can earn American Airline miles. https://millionmilesecrets.com/hot-deals/airline-cards/

Here’s our review of the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®: https://millionmilesecrets.com/2018/05/03/two-increased-offers-earn-a-round-trip-ticket-to-europe-with-a-single-credit-card-sign-up-bonus/

Author

We’ve posted before about how to earn American Airline miles. 🙂

Emily,
Enjoyed this article. I continue to learn about how to juggle the various cards with the most efficiency. To clarify what you said, you carry both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred cards? Seems these two cards are somewhat redundant to each other, recognizing the obvious different benefits paid for with the Reserve. Also you said you have a million American miles. That’s impressive! American is where I’ve collected the most miles as of this point from having their card for years. But I don’t hear you say much about using these miles. Just wondering your thoughts on American.
Keep up the good work. I learn something new each day!

Author

Hi Vince, Yes, I love American Airline miles and have used them towards trips to Japan, Europe, Hawaii, etc. You can check out our trip reports to see how I used them!

Some further clarification please.

Do you carry both the Chase Preferred and Chase Sapphire cards at the same time? Your list seems to indicate that.

This seems redundant to me. Why would you do this?

Also, you “love” and have accumulated so many American miles, yet you don’t list any American related card on your list of what you carry. What card/means do you use to collect your American miles? Thank you.

Author

Hi Vince, We have published lots of articles in the past about ways to earn American Airline miles and are writing new posts as well. I’ve been collecting miles & points for about 8 years now, and have managed to build a large pool over those years. As for the AAdvantage cards, there are different ones with regards to annual fee, benefits, etc, so look and compare what would be the most useful to you. As for the Reserve vs. Preferred, soon after I got the Reserve I downgraded my Preferred to the Freedom Unlimited. This way, I kept my long credit history with the Sapphire.

To keep 5 Chase credit cards is a very stupid advise.

Bank of America MERRILL+ is a great card to keep, as well as Barclays Arrival Plus.

Why is 5 cards bad advice? There are easily 5 Chase cards worth having at once. IHG and Hyatt are worth keeping for free night alone. Chase Freedom combined with sapphire reserve for maximized earning and redemption. Ink for 5x points on all gift card purchases at Staples, cell phone bills and cable bills. Five without even trying! 🙂

…and then you will pay every year thousands dollars extra in mortgage payments, because it’s worth it to get a free annual hotel night certificate for less than hundred dollars, right?

Reallocate your credit lines from multiple cards with same financial institution into the oldest credit card with a high combined credit line.

Do it with each bank, keep the oldest card.

Sign up for new cards when you are eligible for signup bonus. After 11-14 months reallocate it into the oldest card and close the new card.

Repeat and enjoy.

John, this is just a stupid thing to say. Who is paying thousands in mortgage interest? Me? My home is paid free and clear. My cars are paid with cash. A $49 and $75 fee card get me about $450 worth of hotel stays. None of what you says makes any sense at all. You should study up on how credit works. It only impacts things like mortgage rates if you are reckless. Five Chase cards is very far from that. Good luck!

why would having 5 chase cards cause you to pay thousand dollars extra in mortgage payments?

also why would reallocating multiple cards with same financial institution into one card matter? I know it would help avoid annual fees, but is there any other benefit to doing this?

Go figure!

By the way, creditors don’t see your annual fees (so that factor is irrelevant for others than you), but they see your account credit lines (higher is obviously better), balances, utilization ratio, age of account (older is obviously better), history, etc.

Too many opened accounts is a negative factor. Usually going beyond 7-8 credit cards is a bad idea.