These Are The 4 Credit Cards I Use Most

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As I’ve explained before, there are different factors to consider when applying for credit cards. These include the welcome bonuses, the ongoing perks offered by the cards, and the return the cards offers on everyday spend.

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:

With that in mind, I figured I’d talk a bit about the cards I use most for everyday spend. Which cards are at the top of my wallet, and under what circumstances do I use them? Here are the cards I use, roughly in order of how much I use them:

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.

However, the real reason I have this card is because it offers triple points on dining and travel, and those are the categories I spend most money in. Both dining and travel are such broad categories. They don’t just include restaurants, flights, and hotels, but include things like coffeeshops, Ubers, train tickets, and much more.

Furthermore, having the Chase Sapphire Reserve® increases the value of the Ultimate Rewards points I earn on all cards, as you can redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase when you have this card.

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

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 spend, in conjunction with the Sapphire Reserve.

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

The card that I put the third most spend on is a business credit card. Specifically, the no annual fee 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 spend.

Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card

When it comes to earning Membership Rewards points, this is the personal card that I consider the be most valuable. The $95 annual fee card offers:

  • 3x points at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year
  • 2x points at U.S. gas stations
  • A 50% points bonus when you make at least 30 purchases per billing cycle

Given that I make 30 transactions per billing cycle, I earn:

  • 4.5x points at U.S. supermarkets
  • 3x points at U.S. gas stations
  • 1.5x points on everyday purchases

I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so to me this card offers a return of 7.65% at U.S. supermarkets, 5.1% at U.S. gas stations, and 2.55% on everyday purchases.

I largely use this card to earn 1.5x points on everyday purchases, though the truth is that I spend almost nothing at grocery stores and gas stations, so I don’t get as much value out of this card as I used to.

Bottom line

Of the cards I have, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® are an unbeatable combo, because between them I earn 3x points on dining and travel, and 1.5x points on other purchases.

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express is great for non-bonused purchases as well, given that it offers 2x points. The only major limitation is that you earn double points on at most $50,000 of spend per calendar year.

These are the cards I spend most on, though they aren’t the only cards I spend money on. I also appreciate the following cards for their bonus categories:

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


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Comments

  1. Well — I used to spend dining/travel on my CSR and the rest on my SPG card. With the devaluation of the SPG amex (and a big ZERO upgrade offer to the SPG luxury card), I had to rethink my non-bonused spend card. Looked at a lot of options and chose . . . .

    The Bank of America Travel Rewards card. $0 annual fee, and because I have rolled over an old 401k account into an IRA at Merrill Edge (>$100k), I get a 75% bonus on cash back points. Therefore, I’m getting 2.625% back with no annual fee.

    So that’s my new 1-2 punch — CSR for dining/travel and BofA card for most everything else. I’ll still use my SPG card for spend at those properties and to pick up some Amex offers, and I’ll still use my plat card for 5x points on airfare. But that’s pretty much it. Amex just lost a very loyal 10+ year customer.

  2. Oh — forgot to add: I’ll still use my Prestige card for 4th night free stays until they take that perk away!

  3. How come the Amex Platinum isn’t higher in the list in terms of spend? Is it just a function of having a significant Chase UR balance from Reserve + Freedom Unlimited & redeeming those through the travel portal for paid tickets?

  4. Plan for 2019

    CSP – All “Travel” (mainly Uber), half of dining
    Hilton Ascend – All groceries, other half of dining, up to $15,000 annually
    Delta Amex Plat – Unbonused spend up to $25,000 annually (I’ll see if I can push to $50,000)
    Amex Platinum – Airfare, other various spend

    I’ll look to eventually upgrade the CSP to CSR

  5. Also – if staying at Hilton, Marriott, Starwood hotels, I will use those respective cards. However, 80% of my travel is booked on a corporate card, which reduces the amount of earnings I get from the hotel/airfare categories. As a result, my spending is geared towards earning/maintaining status (Delta Plat) and generating points/certs for free vacation stays (Hilton, Amex Plat, CSP).

  6. Any tips on getting to 30 transactions per month on the EP? If the EP offered a bonus on dining spend I could comfortably get to 30 transactions with it, but I don’t necessarily have 30 transactions per month that aren’t already better put on some other card.

  7. I’m in the same camp as BCO. Used to do dining/travel on CSR and everything else on SPG Amex. Currently can’t decide between Everyday Preferred or Freedom Unlimited for everyday spend. Any thoughts from other on smart use of MR vs UR from these two cards?

  8. Bgriff, any time I pass through self checkout, I’ll split my purchase into several transactions if the line isn’t busy. Great way to turn one grocery purchase into 2 or 3 transactions.

  9. Barclay Silver for the EQM and EQD
    Citi executive for the EQM (between the two, 6k eqd and 20k eqm)
    Chase Ink Cash for 5x bonus for internet, telecom, gift cards (amazon, Starbucks) from staples

    The fourth used to be SPG Amex, probably will substitute WoH card given the attractive rewards do continuing (stay credit, maybe free night ifispwnd enough)

  10. Chase Reserve = 3X for all Food/Dining + 3X for Some Travel (Depending on if i want Trip insurance or not)
    Amex Platinum = 5X for Most Travel (again…Depending on if i want Trip insurance or not) + Amex Offers is definitely a great focus
    Chase Freedom = 5X for Bonus Category Spend (i.e Amazon gift cards purchased at Walgreens since Amazon is a significant spend in my household + 5X for all gas station purchases)
    Amex Blue Biz = 2X for All my other/non-bonused Spend (up to $50k)
    Citi Prestige = I ONLY hold onto this for the 4th night free

    (**Sadly I have phased out almost ALL my SPG spend…)

  11. @ Ben — I am shocked that you don’t spend a lot on Platinum AMEX for the 5x on airfare. That is the only reason I would ever keep this card after year 1.

  12. @ Gene — I do spend a significant amount on the card, just not quite as much as I spend on other cards. Lately I’ve found myself flying a lot of airlines that either don’t accept Amex, or on tickets that aren’t that expensive, where I value Chase travel protection more than the bonus points through Amex.

  13. Gene – If you visit SkyClubs / Centurion Lounges 10+ times a year and spend any amount of money on Uber, Amex Platinum is worth it without spending a penny on the card. Amex Offers are great tioo. I try to run a couple of thousand a month through the card at least.

  14. Lucky, why do you need to spend at grocery store? Why do you put 30 transactions on everyday preferred? What possibly can you be spending on such that some card is not a better option.

    So many questions. I had my salt shaker handy while reading your post.

  15. Will having a Chase Ink card permit the transfer of UR points from the Chase Freedom Unlimited to transfer partners?

  16. If not too rude, it would be nice to know how much do you spend a year using credit cards? As a non U.S citizen, in order to get something out of the credit cards perks in my country, one should spend hunderds of thousands of dollars in order to get real value.

  17. @Lucky: Since you don’t use the EDP for gas & groceries, there is no need for you to use it 30 times at 1.5 when you could be using the BBP. You should downgrade the EDP to the ED and save the $95 AF.

  18. The problem with the EDP is that they don’t code a lot of stores such as Walmart, Target and Fred Meyers as grocery stores. If they did I would get this card. For now I will continue to use my CITI Costco and PenFed Plat Rewards for fast and grocery.

  19. @Lucky

    what is your strategy for non-bonus spend/everyday purchases on international purchases? i assume its mostly put on the chase sapphire reserve.

    i previously used the spg amex for non-bonus spend while overseas but since the point are now devalued, that is no longer an option. specifically looking for card thats wouldn’t charge an international transaction fee.

    would love to hear your thoughts. thanks

  20. Lucky:
    If the AMEX Blue Business offers 3.4% why would you ever use the Chase Freedom at 2.55%?

    I add my voice in favor of the Bank of America Premium Rewards card which pays me a cash return of 2.625% but that is still lower than AMEX Blue Business so why bother unless cash is more meaningful to you?

  21. One card that should be in everyone’s “wallet” is the Amazon card. 5% off at Amazon and Whole Foods and that covers a lot of unfocused spend. It may not be points, but 5% is equivalent to approximately 3X points.

  22. Hi Lucky, I have an AMEX Gold card, but I’m realizing that I could get more value by using the AMEX every day preferred instead. I’m interested in point transfers and I’m wondering if canceling the AMEX Gold card is an option if I get the everyday preferred card. Would canceling the Gold card stop to my transferring capabilities? Do I need to keep both cards? Thanks!

  23. In the FWIW mode, and in alphabetical order, the four cards I use the most are:

    — Chase Sapphire Preferred
    — Citi Prestige
    — Citi ThankYou Premier
    — and formerly the SPG Amex (personal)¹

    _______________
    ¹ It remains to be seen whether this card remains in “heavy rotation,” but I rather doubt it. I *presume* that it will instead by the Hilton Aspire Amex, or the Chase Freedom Unlimited, but haven’t decided for sure.

  24. While I think this largely makes sense but with the Amex blue business there’s really less reason to use the unlimited unless you’re trying to hoard UR points or spend an exorbitant amount (>50k) which I’m of course some do but not many on this blog.

    Mine has largely become:

    1. Reserve
    2. Amex blue business.
    3. Amex plat (airfare)
    4 whatever fits. (Freedom for cat bonus, aspire for Hilton stay, sign up bonus requirement)

    I’m largely down to 2 cards due to the reserves generous and broad travel and dining.

  25. For general spend overseas, other than hotels, dining and transport (CSR) and entertainment/museums (Citi Prestige), maybe the SPG or Marriott cards are still the way to go.

  26. I get 4.5% back on every in-person transaction by using the most overlooked and undervalued card out there: the USBank Altitude Reserve. Every mobile payment get 3x points which are worth 1.5% each as cash toward any travel pay. This is basically cash back since I can use those points for 1.5 cents toward Lyft rides, train tickets, airfare, etc. And the net cost is only $75 annual fee ($400 af with $325 travel credits). I have a Samsung phone so this makes it super easy since I can swipe anywhere a magnetic card can (Apple and Android pay can’t do this). That makes it better than any other phone but now mobile pay is becoming more common and most people could use it in most places.
    For other transactions: Sapphire reserve for other travel and dining, and Citi DoubleCash for online merchants (the only spending where I get less than 4.5% return)

  27. My current usage:
    Chase Sapphire Reserve = travel + dining
    Amex HH Ascend = grocery + dining till I reach $15k then grocery to Amex EDP and dining to CSR
    Amex EDP = everyday spend if I need MR points (getting to 30 transactions is easy if you stop at Starbucks every morning for a coffee)
    Chase Freedom Unlimited = everyday spend if I need UR points

  28. Hi Jeff, another USBank Altitude Reserve fan here who would agree with you. For all purchases, I would check first if I may use this card for 3x points (4.5% for travels as you mentioned). I don’t even need to carry this card with me, as it is in my Android phone Pixel 2L. I visited Hong Kong recently, it was a delight to see at most of the shops there, I could use mobile payment with my phone. I booked hotel recently for our family’s upcoming Las Vegas vacation with Altitude’s travel portal.

  29. Bank of America Premium Rewards card is my favorite now. 2.625 on everyday spend and 3.5 on dining and travel because I’m Platinum Honors in Preferred Rewards.

  30. Hello Lucky!

    I love your site!

    I’m living in the UK and almost all credit card offers are for the USA. Do you have any information on the best card offers for travelers looking to maximize their spend if living in the UK or Europe?

    Thanks for all your help, keep up the great work.

    Best Regards,
    Scott

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