Credit Cards I Use For Each Major Bonus Category

Credit Cards I Use For Each Major Bonus Category

21
In the interest of full disclosure, OMAAT earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. The information and associated card details on this page for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, and Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card have been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. The information and associated card details on this page for the Chase Freedom Flex℠ card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. These are the best publicly available offers (terms apply) that we have found for each product or service. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, hotel chain, or product manufacturer/service provider, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Please check out our advertiser policy for further details about our partners, and thanks for your support!

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 several 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.

The best credit card bonus categories

Given how much the credit card landscape has changed, I figured it was worth sharing the cards that I’m currently using for each major spending category, based on my portfolio of cards. This list is different than the credit cards that I spend the most on in absolute terms, since that one is heavily skewed based on my spending patterns.

Below are the cards I use for various categories, ranked from the most points per dollar to the fewest points per dollar (and the return on spending that I calculate is based on my valuation of points).

Airfare purchases

I use The Platinum Card® from American Express (review) for my airfare purchases globally, as the card offers 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or through Amex Travel, on up to $500,000 of these purchases per calendar year (which is a cap I certainly don’t hit; after that it is 1x). I value those points at 1.7 cents each, for a return of 8.5%. On top of that, the Amex Platinum offers excellent travel protection when putting airfare purchases on the card.

Learn more about the best credit cards for airfare purchases.

I earn 5x points on airfare purchases

Dining purchases

I use the Citi Prestige Card for my dining purchases, as the card offers 5x ThankYou points per dollar spent on dining purchases globally. I value those points at 1.7 cents each, for a return of 8.5%.

Learn more about the best credit cards for dining purchases.

I earn 5x points on dining purchases

Cellular phone, internet, and cable purchases

I use the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (review) for my cell phone purchases, as the card offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points, and has a great cell phone protection plan. Meanwhile I use the no annual fee Ink Business Cash® Credit Card for my internet and cable purchases, as the card offers 5x Ultimate Rewards points.

As you can see, I’m forgoing some points on cell phone purchases by using the Ink Business Preferred, but I find it to be worthwhile for the added protection.

The information and associated card details on this page for the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

I value the cell phone protection offered by the Ink Preferred

Office supply store purchases

I use the no annual fee Ink Business Cash® Credit Card (review) for office supply purchases, as the card offers 5x points. You can buy a surprising number of things at office supply stores, so I find this to be quite useful.

In conjunction with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review), Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review), or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, these points can be turned into Ultimate Rewards points.

Rotating quarterly category purchases

The no annual fee Chase Freedom FlexSM (review) offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, on up to $1,500 of spending per quarter. For example, in the first quarter of 2023 the card is offering 5x points on grocery stores (excluding Walmart), Target, and fitness clubs and gym memberships. In conjunction with select other cards, these rewards can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points.

Food delivery purchases

I use food delivery services, so I feel like in my case that’s worth putting in a separate category from dining. What’s interesting is how different credit cards categorize food delivery services, as some view them the same as restaurants, while others don’t.

Since most of my food delivery spending is with Uber Eats, I currently use the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card (review) (Rates & Fees). Thanks to a partnership between Capital One and Uber that’s valid through November 14, 2024, this card currently offers 10% cash back on Uber and Uber Eats spending. Those rewards can be converted into Capital One miles at the rate of one cent per mile, meaning I’m earning 10x Capital One miles per dollar spent.

For all other food delivery purchases, I use the Citi Prestige Card for food delivery, as the card offers 5x ThankYou points on these purchases, just as is the case with dining.

I earn up to 10x miles on food delivery purchases

Grocery & supermarket purchases

I use the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express (review) for U.S. supermarket purchases, as the card offers up to 4.5x Membership Rewards points on purchases at U.S. supermarkets, which I value at a 7.65% return.

Specifically, you earn 3x Membership Rewards points on the first $6,000 spent every calendar year at U.S. grocery stores (1x after that), and then you get a 50% bonus when you make at least 30 transactions per billing cycle.

Learn more about the best credit cards for supermarket purchases.

The information and associated card details on this page for the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

I earn 4.5x points on grocery store purchases

Hotel & other travel purchases

I use the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (review) for most non-airfare travel purchases, as the card offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points on all travel coded purchases globally, for a return of 5.1%. This includes everything from hotels, to rideshares and taxis, to cruises, to parking.

There are only three exceptions to this:

Learn more about the best credit cards for hotel purchases, learn more about the best credit cards for rideshare purchases.

The information and associated card details on this page for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

I earn 3x points on most travel purchases

Gas station purchases

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card offers up to 3x Membership Rewards points on U.S. gas station purchases, which I value at a 5.1% return. Specifically, you earn 2x Membership Rewards points at U.S. gas stations, and then you get a 50% bonus when you make at least 30 transactions per billing cycle.

Learn more about the best credit cards for gas station purchases.

The information and associated card details on this page for the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

I earn 3x points on gas station purchases

Drugstore purchases

I use the no annual fee Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review) for U.S. drugstore purchases, as the card offers 3x points on those purchases. In conjunction with select other cards, these rewards can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points.

International purchases

My go-to card for purchases abroad is the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (review) (Rates & Fees), given that it offers 2x miles per dollar spent, which I value at a 3.4% return.

Now, I still use cards with bonus categories internationally if there are no foreign transaction fees. But for all my international non-travel and dining purchases, this is my preferred card.

Learn more about the best credit cards for international purchases.

I earn at least 2x points on international purchases

Everyday, non-bonused personal spending

For personal spending I have two go-to cards. Up until recently my favorite option was the no annual fee Citi Double Cash® Card (review), which offers 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and 1% cash back when you pay for that purchase in the form of ThankYou points.

What makes this card so great is that in conjunction with a card earning ThankYou points, the cash back rewards can be converted into ThankYou points at a ratio of one cent per ThankYou point. So I basically earn two ThankYou points per dollar spent, which I value at a 3.4% return.

Lately I’ve switched most of my everyday spending to the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (review), which offers a flat 2x miles per dollar spent, all with no foreign transaction fees. While the card has a $395 annual fee (Rates & Fees), that’s quite easy to justify thanks to the benefits the card offers, including $300 in Capital One Travel credits every cardmember year, plus 10,000 bonus miles every anniversary.

Learn more about the best credit cards for everyday spending.

Everyday, non-bonused business spending

I split my business spending primarily between two cards. My go to card is The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (review), which offers 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent every calendar year (1x after that). I value that at a 3.4% return.

In addition to that, I use the Capital One Spark Cash Plus (review) (Rates & Fees), which offers unlimited 2% cash back, all with no foreign transaction fees. Best of all, rewards on this card can be converted into Capital One miles, at the rate of one cent per mile. I also value that at a 3.4% return.

Learn more about the best business credit cards.

Bottom line

It’s incredible how far credit card rewards structures have come, especially for those maximizing bonus categories. When all is said and done, I earn an average of over 3x transferable points per dollar spent, which I value at a return of over 5%.

While I’m not suggesting that everyone should 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?

Conversations (21)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. iamhere Guest

    The problem is for most people this strategy is with too many cards so it is difficult to remember and you spread yourself too thin. You have pockets of points, I mean some points here and there but on the whole not that much anywhere. You also focus on a handful of cards so clearly you are promoting those cards. There are other strategies which concentrate the points to one or two programs which would make more sense.

  2. Steve Guest

    Ben, what would you use for dining if not for the legacy Citi prestige which most of us cannot attain now?
    Also, why Chase vs Citi or amex for non-airline travel?

  3. Beschfan Guest

    Great article Ben.

    How many months of the year do you make 30 charges or mireon the Amex everyday preferred?

    The multiple swipes at gas stations or self service checkout got old fast for me.

  4. JapanAlpsRambler New Member

    Ben, the only category I see missing that I'd be interested to hear your views on is rental cars. Do you have a go-to card for that?

  5. Zman Guest

    Citi Custom Cash is worth a mention on a lot of these. 5x potentially transferable points (up to 2500 per month) with no annual fee.

  6. mjonis Guest

    Nobody ever seems to mention or like Discover card for the quarterly rotating categories. For example, this quarter, it's 5% on drugstores (beats the Chase Unlimited card any day at the 3%), Groceries, and Streaming. Plus you can redeem for 10-20% more for select gift cards. I use mine for Ace and Home Depot to get my propane tanks and other things.

  7. Never In Doubt Guest

    "The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes."

    The Doubts went through a drastic simplification of our credit card life a couple years ago and are far the better for it.

    1. DC Guest

      "The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes."

      Now I'm upset- I wanted to use this line, and you beat me to it!

      Our household agrees with the Doubts on this one- chasing smaller and infrequent category purchases for points multiples is more trouble than it's worth (and bloats the wallet with too many cards). You should get almost the same points with only 2-3 cards in the wallet.

    2. Tim W. Guest

      @Never In Doubt,
      If you don’t mind sharing, what have you simplified your credit cards to? I’m looking to simplify mine a bit as well.

    3. Never In Doubt Guest

      Flights, occasional Fine Hotel, AMEX Platinum.

      Amazon purchases, Prime Rewards VISA, 5% cash.

      For everything else, and the only card in anyone's wallet/ApplePay, BofA Premium Rewards VISA, 3.5% cash travel/dining, 2.62% cash otherwise.

      Just one card for Mrs. Doubt and the teen Doubts to carry/ApplePay unless they're Centurion lounge visiting. That was the important simplification for me.

      I'm pretty sure that anyone could cut down to 2-3 cards and get most of the benefits they...

      Flights, occasional Fine Hotel, AMEX Platinum.

      Amazon purchases, Prime Rewards VISA, 5% cash.

      For everything else, and the only card in anyone's wallet/ApplePay, BofA Premium Rewards VISA, 3.5% cash travel/dining, 2.62% cash otherwise.

      Just one card for Mrs. Doubt and the teen Doubts to carry/ApplePay unless they're Centurion lounge visiting. That was the important simplification for me.

      I'm pretty sure that anyone could cut down to 2-3 cards and get most of the benefits they want for a lot less hassle.

  8. Lee Guest

    Ben, I always enjoy seeing what you (and the other bloggers) do . . . even if my circumstances dictate a different strategy.

    To fellow readers, it's worth noting that all of these cards have their terms and conditions. It sounds geekish but you don't want to be surprised. Amex does not recognize gas purchases at Costco, Sam's, Walmart, etc. as gas purchases. With the US Bank Altitude Reserve, the 1.5cpp for travel purchases only...

    Ben, I always enjoy seeing what you (and the other bloggers) do . . . even if my circumstances dictate a different strategy.

    To fellow readers, it's worth noting that all of these cards have their terms and conditions. It sounds geekish but you don't want to be surprised. Amex does not recognize gas purchases at Costco, Sam's, Walmart, etc. as gas purchases. With the US Bank Altitude Reserve, the 1.5cpp for travel purchases only applies to US providers (airlines, hotels, etc.) - I tried to use it on a non-US airline purchase and no go. On the other hand, there's a card out there that offers 4% cash back on dining and groceries . . . and it expressly states that Target and Walmart qualify.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Jp Guest

      I've used the Real Time reward for British, Korean, Virgin and they all worked for me

    2. tiberius Guest

      which 4x - not amex gold (superstores, convenience stores, warehouse clubs, and meal-kit delivery services are not considered supermarkets)

  9. Ray Guest

    Anywhere that accepts Apple Pay, & Travel - US Bank Altitude Reserve (3x / 4.5% Cashback via RTR)
    U.S. dinning - Citi Custom Cash (5.5x TYP / 5.5% Cashback after Citi Rewards + rebate)
    Rotating Categories - Chase Freedom Flex (5x UR / 5% Cash back)
    U.S. Online Purchase - BoA Custom Cash Rewards (3% Cashback)
    Everything else - CapitalOne Venture X (2x) or new card needing to meet min. spend.

  10. Andrew Guest

    Based on this it doesn't look like you would get 30 swipes to get the full 4.5 AMEX Preferred earnings if you only use it for gas and grocery stores.

    1. Bryan Guest

      Grocery store self checkout…10 items, 10 swipes.

    2. Mark P Gold

      Ugh, so not worth this. I just use Amex Gold which is 4x MR without having to do any games.

  11. JP Guest

    US Bank Altitude Reserve for 3x mobile tap pay

  12. BenA Guest

    Can you use both the SavorOne and AMEX Plat at the same time on your Uber account for the Uber credits?

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      Yes.

      Just add both to the account. You can then charge rides/food to which ever card you want.

  13. Daniel Guest

    For non-direct hotel spend, I’ve been using my Prestige via hotels.com.

    This has been earning me 5X points on spend for “travel agencies” plus the hotels.com 10% rebate.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

iamhere Guest

The problem is for most people this strategy is with too many cards so it is difficult to remember and you spread yourself too thin. You have pockets of points, I mean some points here and there but on the whole not that much anywhere. You also focus on a handful of cards so clearly you are promoting those cards. There are other strategies which concentrate the points to one or two programs which would make more sense.

0
Steve Guest

Ben, what would you use for dining if not for the legacy Citi prestige which most of us cannot attain now? Also, why Chase vs Citi or amex for non-airline travel?

0
Never In Doubt Guest

Flights, occasional Fine Hotel, AMEX Platinum. Amazon purchases, Prime Rewards VISA, 5% cash. For everything else, and the only card in anyone's wallet/ApplePay, BofA Premium Rewards VISA, 3.5% cash travel/dining, 2.62% cash otherwise. Just one card for Mrs. Doubt and the teen Doubts to carry/ApplePay unless they're Centurion lounge visiting. That was the important simplification for me. I'm pretty sure that anyone could cut down to 2-3 cards and get most of the benefits they want for a lot less hassle.

0
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
5,163,247 Miles Traveled

32,614,600 Words Written

35,045 Posts Published

Keep Exploring OMAAT
  • October 28, 2023
  • Ben Schlappig
20
Ranking Credit Card Annual Travel Credits