These Are The 5 Credit Cards I Use Most

Filed Under: American Express, Chase
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I have about two dozen credit cards, though I hold onto these cards for a variety of reasons. I have some of these cards because they help me maximize my everyday spending, while I have other cards because of the ongoing perks that they offer.

Credit cards that are worth having for the benefits

There are cards I keep long term primarily for the benefits they offer, without actually putting much spend on them. Just to give a few examples:

Credit cards that I spend the most money on

With the above out of the way, I figured I’d talk a bit about the cards I use most for everyday spending. Which cards are at the top of my wallet, and under what circumstances do I use them? Here are the five cards that I’m spending the most money on:

Citi Prestige Card

We’re seeing some significant changes to this card in 2019. The card has a $450 annual fee (increasing to $495 as of September 2019), though it also offers a $250 annual credit that helps offset the fee.

The real reason I love this card nowadays is that it offers 5x points on airfare and dining purchases. This is my go-to card for dining and airfare purchases.

I value Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, so to me, this card offers an 8.5% return on dining and airfare.

The Citi Prestige is my go to card for airfare purchases

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

This card has a $450 annual fee, though offers a $300 annual travel credit that can be applied towards any purchase coded as travel. Therefore I consider this card to really cost me $150 per year. The card also offers several useful perks, including a Priority Pass membership.

When it comes to spending, this card offers triple points on dining and travel. In the past, this was my go-to card for those spending categories, though with the Citi Prestige I no longer use the Sapphire Reserve for dining and airfare.

However, I still use the card for virtually all other travel purchases, ranging from hotel stays to Ubers to car rentals.

I value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so to me, this card offers a 5.1% return on dining and travel.

The Sapphire Reserve is my go-to card for most travel purchases

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

This no annual fee card is the best companion to the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. That’s because this card offers a flat 1.5x points per dollar spent with no limits. There are no bonus categories, so the reason I like this card so much is because it’s the best card for earning Ultimate Rewards points on everyday spend.

If you have this card independently then each point can only be redeemed for one cent. However, if you have it in conjunction with the Sapphire Reserve, then you can transfer points to that account, and you’d be able to transfer points to the Ultimate Rewards airline or hotel partners, or redeem them for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase.

I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so to me this card offers a 2.55% return on everyday spending, in conjunction with the Sapphire Reserve.

Redeem Chase points for travel in JetBlue Mint

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

This is my absolute favorite card for non-bonused spending. Specifically, the no annual fee (Rates & Fees) Blue Business Plus offers 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent annually. That makes this the single best credit card for everyday, non-bonused spend.

I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so to me, this card offers a 3.4% return on everyday spending.

Redeem Amex points for travel in Etihad first class

The World Of Hyatt Credit Card

While I wouldn’t ordinarily say this is the best card for everyday spending, I put $15,000 of spending on this card for a reason.

The card already offers five elite qualifying nights plus a Category 1-4 free night certificate annually just for paying the $95 annual fee.

On top of that, you get an additional two elite nights towards status annually for every $5,000 you spend, and you also get a second Category 1-4 free night certificate when you spend $15,000 on the card in a cardmember year.

So if you spend $15,000 on the card you’re getting an incremental six elite nights (which helps me earn Globalist status) plus a second free night certificate, which I find to be well worth it.

I also try to make as much of my spending be at Hyatt hotels (where I earn 4x points) or on fitness and gyms (where the card earns 2x points).

I consistently get outsized value with the Category 1-4 certificate

Other cards I spend money on

The above are the five cards that I’ve been putting the most spending on, though there are some other cards that I put spending on for specific reasons:

All of these are cards that I find useful as well, though I don’t put $15,000+ of spending per year on any of those cards.

Bottom line

I’d like to think I have a pretty good credit card setup, as I’m earning anywhere from 1.5-5x points per dollar spent on my credit cards. When you factor in all the cards, I’d say I’m earning about 3x points per dollar spent on average, which I’d value at being a return of about 5%. That’s excellent if you ask me.

To recap:

What are the primary cards you use for your credit card spending?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees).

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  1. BOA Preferred is my go to for non-bonus. With the platinum preferred tier I am earning 2.62% back which is pretty tough to beat for someone without access to Business CCs.

  2. Based on recent trends, and excluding spending for sign-up bonuses

    1) AMEX Gold (4x dining and groceries)
    2) Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x travel)
    3) AMEX Delta Platinum ($25,000 spend for the MQM boost, will help me hit Plat this year)
    4) Chase Freedom Unlimited (random purchases – plus I am in the 3x bonus year)
    5) Amex Platinum (airfare, plus random purchases that I want extended warranty on)

    However, this set up changes by the month. Right now, I have replaced 1 and 2 with a Citi Premier as I am earning a signup bonus and want to earn on travel and dining. Long term, not sure whether I will keep the Premier or stick with Chase for that stuff.

    Next year, 3) will be replaced with a Delta Reserve and spending upped to $30K.

    Other cards I spend on
    Amex Bonvoy Brilliant (Marriott, some unbonused spend)
    Hilton Ascend/Surpass (Hilton, some unbonused spend)
    Chase Freedom
    AA Mileup (2x AA miles on groceries)

  3. Dining & Airfare: AMEX Gold
    Non-bonus USD: AMEX BBP
    Non-bonus foreign: CapOne Venture
    Marriott hotels: AMEX Marriott Brilliant

    Annual fees: $250 + 0 + $95 + $450 = $795. (Effectively $395 after considering AMEX Gold $100 airline incidental credit and AMEX Marriott Brilliant $300 hotel credit).


  4. CitiAadvantage 2X gas 2X restaurants
    Current summer promotion 3,000 bonus miles for spending 2,000 per month from 7/1-9/30

    Barclays Wyndham Rewards 2X groceries 2X utilities (cable , WiFi, electric )

    I can do better.

  5. Are you thinking of switching back to Amex Plat for airfare with all the travel protections devaluations on the Prestige? Or you’re just going to keep it that way?

  6. Hotel, airline, restaurants … Citi Prestige
    Uber, hotel… Chase Sapphire
    Shopping… Amex Blue Business
    Phone, internet, gift cards (Whole Foods, Amazon, etc)… Chase Ink Business Plus
    Anything 5k plus… Amex Business Plat
    Shopping up to 30k… BA Chase for companion voucher

  7. Citi Prestige: air fare, dining, hotel
    Amazon Prime Rewards: Amazon 5% back
    Amex Blue Cash Preferred: Grocery
    BoA Cash Rewards: Costco, gas
    BoA Travel Rewards: Everything else

    Last two with BoA Platinum

  8. AMEX Gold is by far my biggest spend $25k+ (no MS). When buying groceries, I’ll throw in an additional $200 Visa GC that in turn gets used where any “non-bonused” spend would likely go. Airfare is mostly the same. If I have a flight I’m paying “cash” for, I’ll buy GCs via grocery store, apply them, and pay remainder w/ CSP for insurance purposes.

    I will likely product change CSP to CSR, and CFU to a second freedom to increase 5% spend. Aspire gets Hilton spend, but that’s pretty insignificant compared to others. Depending on value I get from the AMEX Delta platinum companion fare, I’ll decide if I keep that or not, but it’s likely it’ll get downgraded.

  9. Perfect Trifecta of cards I use almost exclusively to *only* UR points and avoid “points currency dilution” (I no longer have a single Citi card):
    — Chase Sapphire Reserve®
    — Chase Freedom Unlimited®
    — Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

    In addition, AMEX Aspire for Hilton stays; Chase WoH Visa or CSR for Hyatt Stays. I no longer stay at Marriott hotels, but I do have the Chase Marriott Premier and one of the AMEX BONVoYs…

    Lastly, the AMEX Biz Plat for lounge access and $200 airline credit (Wifi mostly), or just showing off …

  10. 20 cards is too many for anyone who isn’t running a “cards, points and miles” website. For most people it is hard to see a need for more than a half dozen or so. And those annual fees mount up while some of the benefits require you to spend more money e.g. “free” hotel stays.

    Also it is extravagant to have more than one “premium” card ($450 a year or so annual fee) as many of their benefits duplicate e.g. priority pass membership, pre-clear credit, travel insurance and so on.

    For me this simple portfolio works:

    Chase Sapphire Reserve
    Chase Ink business card
    Alaska Air card
    Chase BA card
    Bonvoy Boundless

  11. Tom – Disagree. For example,

    Chase Sapphire Reserve – 3x return on dining/travel
    Hilton Aspire – Diamond status, free night, credits
    Amex Delta Reserve – Delta Sky Club, free companion ticket

    Can all make a ton of sense for a someone that flies Delta and stays at Hilton hotels. The key is that these people should be those that travel regularly on paid fares – i.e. business travelers.

  12. Lucky… you know Citi Prestige is 5x on hotels right? Is there a tactical reason to earn 40% fewer UR?

  13. Amex Blue Business Plus to $50K for 2x – already finished for 2019
    Amex Everyday Pfd for 4.5x groceries and 1.5x for non bonus
    Citi Prestige – airfare and dining
    Citi Premier – entertainment 2x, parking/tolls 3X
    Amex Gold groceries 4x after Amex Everyday maxxed out at $6K

    Later this year I will be off Chase 5/24 and pick up Ink Business and Hyatt cards

  14. @ stvr — That’s news to me? It earns 3x on hotels, as far as I know (and as far as Citi’s website shows).

  15. These are the credit cards I have in my wallet right now:

    Chase Sapphire Reserve (pretty much all of my travel related items – air tix, car rental, parking, uber, etc) charged in this card. Really liked the primary insurance coverage for rental car with this card.
    Chase Freedom and Chase Unlimited (for all other charges)
    AmEx Hilton Aspire (for all Hilton stays, including all charges with my Hilton HGV timeshare, of course love the Diamond status with this card and 14x Hilton spent on points earned; $200 resort credit is great – I used it shortly after I got the card when I visited Puerto Rico and stayed at DoubleTree there in San Juan; the airline fee credit is now not that great since the gift card route is out). I used to stay mostly with Marriott, but now mostly with Hilton.

    Other cards I have:
    Marriott cards (one AmEx [the old Starwood card] and one Chase [the old one with lower annual fee]; mainly for the annual night certificate; only use the AmEx for all Marriott charges)
    IHG card (the old one with lower annual fee; mainly for the annual night certificate; for IHG charges only)
    Alaska Airlines card (just got this one early this year and met the spend requirement; only use on Alaska charges from now on)
    AmEx Corporate Card (only use for work travel)
    Citi Dividend Card (their rotational categories just aren’t that great compared to Chase Freedom, so it’s not in my wallet)

    Just applied:
    Citi Premier Card (for the bonus TY points)

    Recently Cancelled:
    Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Word Elite Master Card (Had been trying to cancel for a number of years, but every time they offered to give me credit back for the annual fee, so I stayed a bit longer)

  16. Oh, I forgot, I recently also got the Cathay Pacific Credit Card. Got the bonus points, and now use it for other foreign transaction since I earn 1.5x on them.

  17. Does the Citi Prestige still make sense after September’s devaluations are fully implemented? One would need to find $245 of value on top of the travel credit just to break even, and it’s not clear that this will be achievable through the 4th night credit anymore given the move to booking on Citi’s travel portal exclusively. I’m seriously thinking about moving to Amex Platinum for this reason, but would love to hear more about pros and cons of doing so…

  18. Current _actively used_ premium cards: CSR Visa & AX Gold.
    Secondary cards: BofA Cash Rewards Visa & Citi/CostCo Visa.

    Under consideration for swapout: Existing AX Blue Sky for (newly-introduced) AX Cash Magnet.

    We’ll see how @Lucky feels about the (no-fee) Cash Magnet card as compared to the (no-fee) Blue Sky. (Note that AX did away with the old Blue Sky Preferred product which did have an annual fee.)

  19. Anthony,

    Those cards can make sense if you use Delta and Hilton a lot (I never do).

    But that’s 3 cards and my point was that not many people need more than 6, even if which those 6 are can vary from person to person. At some point you are paying annual fees for duplicated benefits.

  20. @Lucky – Why do you put all airfare purchases on your Citi Prestige card rather than your Amex Platinum? Are thank you points better than amex points?

  21. Currently I use:
    Citi Prestige: Dining & Airfare at 5x TYP
    Chase Sapphire Reserve: Hotel and Other Travel at 3x CUR
    AmEx Blue Preferred: Grocery (6%), Streaming (6%), Gas (3%) (when not at CostCo)
    AT&T Access More: 3x TYP online shopping and MPX (card is no longer available for PC)
    Chase Freedom Unlimited: Other unbonused spend when not working on MSR

    Given the increased fee on Citi Prestige and decreased usefulness of 4th night perk I’ll probably cancel and get AmEx Platinum unless they offer a generous retention offer since dining is not a category I spend enough on to justify the fee.

  22. Do you really benefit from the Prestige still? The card has been gutted and the fee has been raised. You sure you got the right card and this isn’t some Citi promo.

  23. At 5x vs 3x for Air/Dining one needs to spend around 8k just to cover the cost of the prestige.

    I’m not so sure I value that when they have cut all their benefits.

  24. One thing that I find interesting is that my earn rate of American Express cards (in aggregate) is actually higher than expected. After 6 months of earning, I earned, on average, 3.9 points/$. I have taken only a few flights this year so far (babies do that to you!), so this is quite good earn rate.

    I think Amex Offers are incredibly valuable in this. I keep see +1 to +2 at Walmart, Best Buy, (now) Amazon, Staples, which are incredibly usable. +2 means 3pts/$ for Amazon, which is amazing.

  25. For me right now it’s these.
    Main use cards:
    Amex Gold = dining and groceries
    Chase Sapphire Reserve = flights and other travel charges
    Freedom Unlimited = non-bonus everyday spend
    Secondary cards which I use selectively and keep mainly for annual benefits:
    Amex HH Aspire = HH spend + benefit of Diamond and free night
    Amex Bonvoy = Marriott spend + benefit of free night
    Radisson Rewards = Radisson spend + 40k annual
    Chase Bonvoy = benefit of free night

  26. @lucky you are right I am wrong. I don’t know where I got that idea. Thanks for setting me straight. Eating a slice of humble pie. Sorry.

  27. If I valued UR at only 1.7 I would stick to the Alliant 2.5% cash back card. .05% more compared to cash in hand? I don’t redeem UR at less than 2.0 and usually over 2.5.

  28. @Tom. Such a know it all. What a jerk.
    I manage 32 cards, it’s just a hobby,and I regularly make sure I’m getting good value for what I use.
    Please go back to your cave.
    (And, FWIW, I no longer MS. Too much trouble these days for those of us who work full time.)

  29. Lucky, What do you use for non-bonus spending when you’re abroad? Both the Freedom Unlimited and Blue Business Plus have foreign transaction fees so the value of them goes down significantly when spending money internationally.

  30. Lucky – will you continue to put airfare spend on the Citi Prestige after the delay/cancellation/luggage insurance is discontinued next month?

    I’ve used that benefit more times than I would have expected – so I’ll be redirecting my travel spend to the Sapphire Reserve.

    With the $245 net annual fee on the Citi Prestige, I’m uncertain if 5x on dining is enough for me to keep this card once the insurance is gone.

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