For the average American, the single best way to maximize travel rewards is to make sure you’re applying for the best credit cards, and using the right credit cards for your daily spending. Having the card that best suits your spending patterns can be the difference between earning a single point per dollar on a purchase, and earning five points per dollar on a purchase.
Over the past few years we’ve seen the introduction of so many great new cards that can really help you maximize every dollar you spend. I remember that back in the day I’d typically only earn around one point per dollar spent, while nowadays I’m averaging multiple points per dollar spent. I do travel a lot internationally, so for me, it’s always worth having a couple options of cards with no foreign transaction fee.
Given how many credit cards we’ve seen introduced lately, I think it’s worth sharing the cards I’m using for each major category every so often. So, here are the cards I use for various categories, starting with the most points per dollar to the least points per dollar:
I use the Citi Prestige Card, which offers 5x ThankYou points on airfare purchased directly with airlines or with travel agencies.
Until recently I used The Platinum Card® from American Express, which offers 5x Membership Rewards points but doesn’t offer great travel protection, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points and offers great travel protection.
However, the Citi Prestige wins since it offers 5x points and great travel protection. You really get the best of both worlds.
Until recently I used the Chase Sapphire Reserve® for these purchases, as the card offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points.
However, the Citi Prestige Card now offers 5x ThankYou points on dining globally, so it’s my go to card.
Cellular phone, internet, and cable purchases
Until recently I used the no annual fee Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card, which offers 5x points but doesn’t offer any sort of travel protection.
This is a category where I’m not maximizing the points earned, and am forgoing some points for coverage.
Office supply store purchases
I use the no annual fee Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card, which offers 5x points. You can buy a surprising number of things at office supply stores, so I find this to be quite useful.
Special rotating quarterly category purchases
The no annual fee Chase Freedom® Card offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, on up to $1,500 of spending per quarter. For example, this quarter the card is offering 5x points at grocery and home improvement stores.
US supermarket purchases
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express offers up to 4.5x Membership Rewards points on purchases at US supermarkets. Specifically, you earn 3x Membership Rewards points on the first $6,000 spent annually at US grocery stores, and then you get a 50% bonus when you make at least 30 transactions per billing cycle.
Food delivery purchases
I use Postmates a lot, so I feel like in my case that’s worth putting in a separate category. What’s interesting is how different credit cards categorize food delivery services, as some view them the same as restaurants, while others don’t.
I use the Citi Prestige Card , which not only offers 5x ThankYou points and treats Postmates as a restaurant, but also offers $5 off every offer of $25+ order on account of being a World Elite Mastercard.
Non-airfare travel purchases
I use the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points, on all travel coded purchases (this even includes things like Ubers, taxis, parking, etc.).
The only two exceptions to this are that I use The World of Hyatt Credit Card for my Hyatt purchases (so that I earn 4x World of Hyatt points), and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card for my Hilton purchases (so that I earn 14x Hilton Honors points).
US gas station purchases
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express offers up to 3x Membership Rewards points on US gas station purchases. Specifically, you earn 2x Membership Rewards points at US gas stations, and then you get a 50% bonus when you make at least 30 transactions per billing cycle.
Everyday, non-bonused personal spending
For personal spending, my go to card is the no annual fee Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which offers 1.5x points.
Everyday, non-bonused business spending
For business spending, my go to card is the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, which offers 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent every calendar year.
Beyond that I use the no annual fee Ink Business UnlimitedSM Credit Card, which offers unlimited 1.5x points that can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points.
When all is said and done, I earn an average of around 3x points per dollar spent, which I’d say is a solid return. While I’m not suggesting that everyone have as many credit cards as I do, I do think there’s a lot of value in strategically getting a few cards that have big bonus categories for the things you spend most on.
How does this compare to the cards you use to maximize your spending?