Personal finances are such a touchy subject. Even mentioning using credit cards can be a hot topic. Someone recently acted like I was an idiot for using just one credit card. The exact quote was “credit cards are a complete scam”. So I share the information on my best credit cards for travel because there are many strategies to maximize points. My way is not necessarily the right way for you, and many may find it wrong.
Keep in mind using any credit card is a mistake unless you pay off the balance every month. If you prefer to use debit cards because otherwise you will overspend then more power to you! My goal is to maximize the dollars I spend to support what I love – travel.
Best Credit Cards for Travel – My Strategy
Oh right…back to the point. I’ve actually run the numbers to make sure the benefits of having multiple cards outweighs the cost of annual fees. I’m pretty cool so I even did it in Excel. As I nervously disclosed here I actually have 12 credit cards. Yup, typing that sounds so scary! People really into getting travel points will think that’s NBD, the average person is probably a little horrified right now. There are a few reasons for this, and a few I may be canceling. For the few I’m planning on canceling I’ll probably find some interesting new options to sign up for!
No annual fee cards/keep for credit score
None of these except for the Costco Visa are actually in my wallet. As discussed in my previous post I’ve had all of these for a minimum of 8 years. I keep the accounts open because it helps establish a long and healthy credit history and contributes to a good credit score.
None of these have an annual fee. Although to have the Costco Visa you do get charged annually for your Costco membership.
- Wells Fargo Visa
- American Express Blue
- Discover card
- Costco Visa (formerly offered by AmEx)
Cards for everyday charges
I discussed this quite a bit in my post about the best credit cards for travel and earning points – my perfect trifecta for 10,000 points a month. So click on over for the details of the how and why of these. But these are the 3 cards at the front of my wallet. I use these for basically every charge except Hilton stays and maybe a couple other outliers.
- Chase Freedom
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- American Express Everyday Preferred
Why are these in my wallet again?
That leaves 5 cards left from the dozen. I have these for a variety of reasons – ongoing perks, just got for the sign-up bonus, etc. I’ll dive into these a little more since there are no previous posts explaining the how and whys.
- Citi Prestige: This is a great card, but with the release of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, considering I don’t use its 4th night free feature, and loss of access to Admiral’s Clubs starting in July, I can’t justify the steep annual fee unfortunately. Cancel
- Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express: I got this when it was featuring a higher sign-up bonus about a year ago. It is an awesome card for everyday spend but I use my AmEx Everyday Preferred for any charges that aren’t a bonus category already. I don’t like paying annual fees for no reason so I need to evaluate this one. What is really compelling is when you stay at SPG or Marriott properties you get 2 SPG points per dollar. SPG points can be exchanged at a 1:3 rate with Marriott due to the marger so really is 6x Marriott points per dollar. Maybe Cancel
- Hyatt Credit Card: I used the two nights free at any Hyatt sign-up bonus for part of my awesome stay at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos all-inclusive over New Year’s. I will keep this card open since it provides a free night at any category 1-4 property on your card anniversary every year and I can easily get $75 in value to justify the annual fee. Keep
- Marriott Credit Card: I got this because I got married at a Marriott property and wanted 5x bonus points on the many, many charges! This also provides a free night on your anniversary for any Marriott category 1-5 property. That sounds like a lot of categories but really I struggle to use this annually on a hotel I actually want to stay at. With the recent merger with SPG there is no real benefit to this card for me. Cancel.
- Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express: I have this particular Hilton card because it gives me Hilton Gold status which is valuable (free breakfast is a big perk even when it’s powdered eggs), plus 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton’s which is FANTASTIC. I typically stay at Hilton’s when traveling for work because with their standard earning rates, nonstop excellent promos, and this card I get a great return on my spend. Keep
A dozen credit cards sounds CRAZY to the average person. I get it, I’m not in denial. But I truly believe for any cards that I’m keeping I can easily justify any annual fees. And it is a no brainer to keep open long established accounts with no annual fee to keep your credit report excellent.
But I actually look at my list and am missing some very solid options. Mainly the IHG credit card, more on that in another post. #badblogger
I should say, Ben doesn’t use nearly as many cards as me when it comes to racking up hotel and airline points. But, I’m going to the Maldives this summer and he’s not. So there are a lot of ways to travel in style, my way isn’t the best or only way!
So – am I crazy to have a dozen open credit cards while planning to pick up a few more? Or are you on my side?