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.
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 over two dozen credit cards, and my credit score is in the top couple of percent nationwide.
For those of you not familiar, here are the things that factor 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 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.
Closing credit cards that are no longer working for you potentially doesn’t harm your credit much either.
What I look for in credit cards
For me, there are three things I look for when applying for credit cards:
- They offer a big welcome bonus — often the introductory bonuses on cards are compelling, and enough reason to pick up a new card
- They 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
- They 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 spend on them, because they offer things like elite status, annual free nights, etc.
The 24 credit cards I have right now
Now let me share what cards I have at the moment. As mentioned above, I have 24 open credit cards right now, which is a few more cards than I had a year ago.
Here they are, broken down by issuer:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express — this card has a $550 annual fee (Rates & Fees), though offers many perks that help offset it, including Amex Centurion Lounge access, Hilton and Marriott hotel status, a $200 annual airline fee credit, a $200 annual Uber credit, a $100 annual Saks credit, and 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express — this card has a $595 annual fee (Rates & Fees), though offers many perks that help offset it (even if there is some overlap between this and the personal version of the card), though on the most basic level it offers a $200 annual airline fee credit, 10 Gogo wifi passes per year, and more; with the annual fee having recently been raised, I think I’m going to cancel this card when it’s up for renewal, though
- The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express — this $95 annual fee card offers 3x points at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 of spend per year) 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 — this $125 annual fee (Rates & Fees) card offers an anniversary free night certificate on your account anniversary every year valid at a property costing up to 35,000 per night, which more than justifies the annual fee
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card — I recently upgraded to this card, as I received a great upgrade offer; the card has a $450 annual fee, but offers 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 — 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, a $250 Hilton resort credit every cardmember year, and a $250 airline fee credit every calendar year; this card offers unbelievable value
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express — this card has a $0 annual fee (Rates & Fees), and I consider it to be the single most generous card for everyday spending, given that it offers 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent annually
I love the Centurion Lounge access offered with the Platinum Card
Bank of America
- The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card — this card offers an annual $121 companion certificate, which more than justifies the card’s $75 annual fee, in my opinion
- The Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card — much like the personal card, this card offers an annual $121 companion certificate, which more than justifies the card’s $75 annual fee (for one user), in my opinion. You also get 20% back on Alaska Airlines inflight purchases, including of food, beverages, and wifi
The Alaska companion certificate has allowed me to score some great deals on flights
- JetBlue Plus Card — 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
- AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard — in the past I’ve had this card because of the ability to easily earn elite qualifying dollars and elite qualifying miles for spending on this card; this card is no longer worth spending money on, but the new wifi credit and $25 daily food & beverage credit is causing me to hold onto the card for now
JetBlue Plus Card helps me save every time I redeem JetBlue points
- Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business — I picked up this card several months ago, given that the card earns two Spark miles per dollar spent, and Capital One miles can now be transferred to airline partners; the card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year
Spark miles can now be transferred to Etihad Guest for first class redemptions
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® — this card offers triple points on dining and travel, which are categories in which I spend a lot; while it has a $450 annual fee, it also offers a $300 annual travel credit, so the real out of pocket on the card is $150 per year
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card — this $95 annual fee card offers triple 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 — this no annual fee card offers 1.5x points on all purchases, so is one of the best cards for non-bonused business spend; points can be combined with Ultimate Rewards points earned on other cards
- Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card — 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® Card — 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® — 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 to this card in 2016
- The World of Hyatt Credit Card — I picked up this card last year, and find it to be well worth the $95 annual fee for the five nights towards status annually, anniversary free night certificate, as well as the ability to put spend on the card to earn more elite nights and a second anniversary free night certificate
- 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, though the $89 annual fee IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is open to new cardmembers, and offers great perks as well
Transfer Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt for redemptions at the Park Hyatt Paris
- Citi Prestige® Card — this card has a $450 annual fee (increasing to $495 as of September 2019) and offers a fourth night free hotel benefit, and 5x points on dining and airfare; however, the card’s fourth night free benefit will be getting worse, and the card is also losing travel protection
- Citi Premier℠ Card — this card currently has a bonus of up to 60,000 points, and I just applied for it; I’m trying to decide whether to keep this long term as a Prestige Card replacement, or eventually downgrade it to the Citi Rewards+℠ Card
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® — 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
The Citi Executive AAdvantage Card Admirals Club membership is a great value
- Radisson Rewards Premier Signature Visa Card — this card oaffers an annual bonus of 40,000 points, which more than justifies the card’s $75 annual fee
In 2016 I stayed at the Radisson Blu Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost hotel
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: 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), and Marriott Bonvoy Business Card From American Express (Rates & Fees).