Maximizing credit cards is one of the best ways to elevate your travel. This can include signing up for the credit cards with the best welcome bonuses, using the right credit cards for your everyday spending, and also taking advantage of other credit card perks.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the impact that applying for credit cards can have on your credit score. I have over two dozen credit cards, and my credit score is excellent.
In this post I wanted to first share a brief intro regarding how applying for credit cards impacts your credit score, then I’ll talk about what goes into my credit card decision making process, and then I’ll share the cards I have open.
How credit cards impact your credit score
There are a lot of misconceptions about how credit scores work, in particular people thinking that applying for credit cards hurts your credit score. That’s generally not true, and in many cases applying for cards can even help your credit score in the long run.
The beginners guide on the blog has a section about credit cards and credit scores, and should provide some insights on that. For context, I have a lot of credit cards, and my credit score is almost perfect, in the top couple of percent nationwide.
For those of you not familiar, here’s what factors into your credit score:
- 35% of your score is your payment history (the percentage of payments you’ve made on-time)
- 30% of your score is your credit utilization (how much credit you’re using compared to your total limits)
- 15% of your score is your credit age (the average age of your open accounts)
- 10% of your score is the types of credit you use (how many different types of requests for credit you have)
- 10% of your score is your requests for new credit (how many times you’ve applied for credit)
What’s most important is that you pay your bills on time, don’t utilize too much of your credit (meaning you want to ideally use 20% or less of your total available credit, and/or pay your credit card bills early), and keep some cards long term, which will help increase your average age of accounts.
The only metric that’s lowered by applying for cards is your requests for new credit, but that makes up just 10% of your score. Furthermore, credit inquiries typically fall off your report after 24 months.
What I look for in credit cards
For me, there are three things I look for when applying for credit cards:
- Credit cards that offer a big welcome bonus — often the introductory bonuses on cards are compelling, and enough reason to pick up a new card
- Credit cards that offer a generous return on everyday spending — there are some cards you have because they help you maximize the points you earn for everyday spending
- Credit cards that offer ongoing perks that more than justify the annual fee — some cards are worth holding onto even if you don’t plan on putting much spending on them, because they offer things like elite status, annual free nights, etc.
The 27 credit cards that I have right now
Now let me share what cards I have at the moment. I have 27 open credit cards right now — so far this year I’ve canceled one card and have applied for two cards, so I have one more card than I had at the beginning of 2021.
Here are the credit cards that I have, broken down by issuer:
My nine American Express cards
- Platinum Card® from American Express (review) — this card has a $695 annual fee (Rates & Fees), and offers many perks that help offset it, including Amex Centurion Lounge access, Hilton and Marriott hotel status, a $240 annual digital entertainment credit, a $200 annual airline fee credit, a $200 annual Uber credit, a $200 annual hotel credit, a $179 annual CLEAR credit, a $100 annual Saks credit, and more. Some of these benefits require enrollment.
- Business Platinum Card® from American Express (review) — this card has a $595 annual fee (Rates & Fees), and offers perks to help offset that; I signed up for this card earlier in the year when I received a great targeted offer
- American Express® Business Gold Card (review) — this card has a $295 annual fee (Rates & Fees), and has a solid rewards structure; I signed up for this card earlier in the year when I received a great targeted offer
- American Express® Green Card (review) — this card has a $150 annual fee, and offers all kinds of great perks, including 3x points on dining and travel, a $100 annual CLEAR credit, and a $100 annual LoungeBuddy credit
- Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express (review) — this card has a $95 annual fee, and offers 3x points at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 of spending per year and then 1x) and 2x points at US gas stations, plus a 50% points bonus when you make at least 30 transactions per billing cycle
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (review) — this card has a $125 annual fee (Rates & Fees), and offers an anniversary free night certificate on your account anniversary every year valid at a property costing up to 35,000 points per night, plus 15 elite nights per year, which more than justify the annual fee
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (review) — this card has a $450 annual fee (Rates & Fees), and offers benefits that more than justify the annual fee, including a $300 annual Marriott credit plus an anniversary free night valid at a property costing up to 50,000 points per night
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (review) — this $450 annual fee card offers incredible perks, including Hilton Honors Diamond status for as long as you have the card, an annual weekend night reward (which is more flexible than ever before), a $250 Hilton resort credit every cardmember year, and a $250 airline fee credit every calendar year
- Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (review) — this card has a $0 annual fee (Rates & Fees), and I consider it to be the single most generous business card for everyday spending, given that it offers 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent every calendar year (1x after that)
My two Bank of America cards
- Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card (review) — this card has a $75 annual fee (for one cardmember), and offers several valuable perks, including an annual companion certificate, 50% off Alaska Lounge day passes, a first checked bag free, and 20% back on Alaska Airlines inflight purchases
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card (review) — this card has a $75 annual fee, and offers virtually the same perks as the business version of the card
I was prepared to dump both of these cards when the annual fees come due since I live in South Florida (which is weak for Alaska Airlines). However, with American and Alaska cooperating more closely, and Alaska now being in oneworld, I could see these becoming more useful again.
My one Barclays card
- JetBlue Plus Card (review) — this card offers a 5,000 point bonus on the account anniversary each year, plus a 10% refund on JetBlue points redemptions, which to me justifies the $99 annual fee
My one Capital One card
- Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business (review) — this card has a $95 annual fee (waived the first year), and is one of my all around favorite business credit cards, given that it offers 2x Spark miles per dollar spent, and Capital One miles can be transferred to airline partners
My ten Chase cards
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® (review) — this $550 annual fee card offers 3x points on dining and travel, a $300 annual travel credit, and lots of other great perks
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (review) — this $95 annual fee card is the all around best business card, as it offers 3x points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases every cardmember year on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable, and phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines; the card also offers a great cell phone protection benefit
- Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card (review) — this no annual fee card offers 1.5x points on all purchases, so is one of the best cards for non-bonused business spending; points can be combined with Ultimate Rewards points earned on other cards
- Ink Business Cash® Credit Card (review) — this no annual fee card offers 5x points on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases every cardmember year on office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services, and 2x points on the first $25,000 spent at gas stations and restaurants; points can be combined with Ultimate Rewards points earned on other cards
- Chase Freedom FlexSM (review) — this no annual fee card offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, and these points can be combined with Ultimate Rewards points earned on other cards
- Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review) — this no annual fee card offers 1.5x points in non-bonused categories, and these points can be combined with Ultimate Rewards points earned on other cards; I downgraded my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review) to this card in 2016
- British Airways Visa Signature® Card (review) — this $95 annual fee card is well worth it to me thanks to all the benefits it offers, like 10% off British Airways flights, up to $600 in reward flight statement credits, and more
- World of Hyatt Credit Card (review) — This $95 annual fee card is worth it for the five nights towards status annually, anniversary free night certificate, as well as the ability to put spending on the card to earn more elite nights and a second anniversary free night certificate
- IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (review) this card offers all kinds of great perks, including an annual free night certificate valid at any IHG hotel retailing for up to 40,000 points per night, a fourth night free on award redemptions, and a lot more
- IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card — this card offers an annual free night certificate valid at any IHG hotel retailing for up to 40,000 points per night, which more than justifies the card’s $49 annual fee; this card is no longer being issued
My three Citi cards
- Citi® Double Cash Card (review) — this no annual fee card offers 1% cash back when you make a purchase and 1% cash back when you pay for that purchase, and those rewards can be converted into ThankYou points; this is my go-to card for everyday spending
- Citi Prestige® Card (review) — this card has a $495 annual fee but offers lots of great perks, including a $250 annual travel credit, 5x points on dining and airfare, and more; I’m seriously considering downgrading this card to the Citi Premier® Card (review)
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (review) — this $450 annual fee card offers an Admirals Club membership for the primary member, and also lets you add up to 10 authorized users, each of which gets Admirals Club access as well
My one US Bank card
- Radisson Rewards Premier Signature Visa Card — this $75 annual fee card offers an annual bonus of 40,000 points, which makes it worth holding onto
Has coronavirus changed my card strategy?
Coronavirus hasn’t caused me to tweak my credit card strategy that much, in spite of the major impact the pandemic has had on the travel industry, so let me explain why. First of all, I’ve always viewed optimizing credit card rewards as a long-term strategy. I do everything I can to collect transferable points, since these give me the most flexibility, and they also devalue the least.
There’s no doubt that travel will eventually fully recover, and that’s why it has been “business as usual” for me, though my strategy does give me flexibility:
- My go-to card for everyday spending is the Citi® Double Cash Card, and that card gives me the flexibility to earn cash back or transferable points, all at a great rate; cards with this kind of flexibility are more valuable than ever before
- Having the Chase Sapphire Reserve® gives me a lot of flexibility within the Chase Ultimate Rewards ecosystem; while I still intend to use these rewards for travel, Chase has a “Pay Yourself Back” feature that allows you to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards everyday expenses
- I’ve long loved hotel credit cards that offer annual free night certificates, and as of now I find these cards continue to offer great value, as these free nights largely have more flexibility in terms of where they can be redeemed, and expiration on many has also been extended
To approach my credit card portfolio a bit differently:
- Six of my credit cards have no annual fees, so there’s no cost to holding onto those
- The math is continuing to work for me on the “premium” cards earning transferable points (Chase Sapphire Reserve, Amex Platinum, Citi Prestige, etc.), though I’ll continue to assess that as annual fees come due
- All of my hotel credit cards are offering rewards that more than offset the annual fees, even in this environment
The only cards I’m questioning are the following:
- I might not renew the Alaska cards when the annual fees come due, since I live in South Florida, and Alaska Airlines’ service there is limited
- I might simplify my business card portfolio a bit and get rid of the Capital One Spark Miles Card when the annual fee comes due, as I’m pretty well served by my Amex and Chase business cards
- The Amex EveryDay Preferred is always kind of only marginally worth it to me, given the requirement to make 30 transactions per month to really maximize it; I might just downgrade it to the no annual fee Amex EveryDay Card in order to maintain credit history and access to Amex Offers on yet another card
Hopefully the above is an interesting rundown of the credit cards I have. I’d like to think that almost all of these credit cards serve a purpose as part of my long-term credit card strategy, either because they offer an excellent rewards structure, or because they offer perks that make the cards worth holding onto.
There are a few cards that I plan on canceling at their account renewal, though I’ll deal with those situations as they arise.
As you can see, my credit score is also excellent in spite of how many credit cards I have, which should hopefully put some of you at ease who are considering applying for new cards.
How many credit cards do you have right now?
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Business Gold Card (Rates & Fees), The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees), Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (Rates & Fees), and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (Rates & Fees).