I’m Using Too Many Credit Cards To Maximize My Points… Or Am I?

Filed Under: American Express, Chase
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Last Friday I wrote a post outlining all the credit cards I have. I broke down the cards based on whether I have them for the return on everyday spend, the ongoing perks, or for a combination of reasons.

The category in which I had the most cards was the “ongoing perks” one. For example, I have the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card because it gives me a free night at any IHG hotel in the world annually. I have The Platinum Card® from American Express because it offers a $200 airline fee credit, Centurion Lounge access, and more. I only keep cards for the perks if the ongoing perks outweigh the annual fee, which they do for all the cards I have.

But as I reflected on my cards, I realized I may be using too many cards to maximize my return on everyday spend.

Which cards do I use to maximize everyday spend?

As I explained in the previous post, I have the following cards I’m using to maximize my return on everyday spend (including the annual fees and why I’m using them):

  • Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card
    • Annual fee: $95 annual fee
    • 3x points on first $6,000 spent annually at US supermarkets, 2x points at US gas stations, 50% points bonus when making 30 transactions per billing cycle; this means I earn 4.5x points at supermarkets, 3x points at gas stations, and 1.5x points on everyday spend
  • Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
    • Annual fee: $195
    • 3x points on airfare, 2x points on US dining, US gas stations, and US groceries
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
    • Annual fee: $95
    • 2x points on dining and travel
  • Chase Freedom® Card
    • Annual fee: none
    • 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, on up to $1,500 per quarter
  • Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card 
    • Annual fee: none
    • 5x points on office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services, 2x points at gas stations and restaurants
  • Citi Premier℠ Card
    • Annual fee: $95
    • 3x points on travel and gas, 2x points on dining and entertainment
  • Citi Prestige® Card
    • Annual fee: $450
    • 3x points on airfare and hotels, 2x points on dining and entertainment

When I wrote the post the other day, I thought to myself “hmmm, I’m spending $930 on annual fees in order to maximize my points. Surely I could be a bit more efficient there.” So I started thinking about which cards I should cut from my wallet.

Which cards should I cut?

Citi cards I’m definitely keeping

The Citi Prestige® Card is a no brainer. While the annual fee is $450, I don’t actually allocate any of it to the return I get on everyday spend. That’s because the card is more than worth it for the $250 airline creditPriority Pass membership with guesting privileges, and most importantly, the fourth night free benefit.

While I use this card for my airfare and hotel purchases, I don’t allocate the cost of the annual fee to that. As far as I’m concerned it’s a no annual fee card as far as my spend goes. 😉

I get Admirals Club access with the Citi Prestige Card

Chase cards I’m definitely keeping

I don’t actually use the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card much for everyday spend anymore. But the reason I pay the annual fee is because it allows me to maximize the value I get out of the no annual fee Chase Freedom® Card and Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card. Those cards allow me to earn 5x points on all kinds of spend.

The Chase Freedom® Card allows me to earn 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, while the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card allows me to earn 5x points on office supply stores, where I purchase gift cards for Starbucks, Amazon, etc. The points earned on those two cards can only be converted into airline miles or hotel points in conjunction with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, though.

Amex cards I’m definitely keeping

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card is the one I use for everyday, non-bonused spend. It offers 3x points on the first $6,000 spent annually at US supermarkets, 2x points at US gas stations, and a 50% points bonus when making 30 transactions per billing cycle. I don’t actually spend much on gas and supermarkets, so this is my go to card for everyday spend. Earning 1.5 Membership Rewards points for non-bonused categories is the best return I get on any card.

I find that to be worthwhile. For example, you can pay your taxes online for a fee of 1.87%. So when I’m earning 1.5 Membership Rewards points per dollar, that’s like paying 1.25 cents per Membership Rewards point, which I consider to be a great deal.

Earn bonus points at grocery stores with the EveryDay Preferred Card

The cards I’m not sure about…

This brings me to the two cards I’m considering cancelling. The way I see it, the Citi Premier℠ Card is the single most rewarding card for everyday spend. However, it’s only marginally more rewarding than the Citi Prestige® Card. The difference is that the Premier Card offers triple points on gas and all travel purchases, as opposed to just airfare and hotel purchases. While I certainly spend some money in other travel categories, it’s not enough to justify the $95 annual fee, as I explained in a past post.

Then there’s the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, which has a $195 annual fee. However, the card offers a $100 airline fee credit, which I value at close to face value. So the real cost to me of having the card is closer to $95 per year.

But what am I really getting for that?

That being said, last year I saved more than $95 through Amex Offers on this card, so the card isn’t actually costing me much to hold onto.

Bottom line

While I have a lot of credit cards, I find most of them to be well worth the annual fees. As much as I try to justify closing more of them down, it’s tough to do when I’m earning 3-5x points per dollar spent in so many categories.

Based on my spend patterns, I think I should close the Citi Premier℠ Card, given that it doesn’t offer enough marginal return over the Citi Prestige® Card, given that I plan on holding onto that card.

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express is fantastic and I’ve had it for years, so I’m tempted to keep it since I’m not really losing anything by having it. Still, if the goal is to decrease the number of cards I have, it doesn’t seem to be adding much, given how much value I get out of the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card.

What do you think — do I use too many credit cards to maximize my return on everyday spend? In my shoes, which cards would you cancel?

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  1. I’ve actually gone through the same dilemma re: the Amex PRG in terms of whether to *get* the card. Currently (among many other cards), I’ve got the Citi Prestige (with a 25% annual bonus on all points earned through CPB relationship) and the Amex Platinum and Everyday Preferred. So from a bonus earn perspective, I pretty much have covered what the PRG will do, albeit in separate currencies. And from a benefits perspective, I get Amex FHR and Hotel Collection with the Platinum Card. To me, then, the only reason to get the PRG would be for the bonus offer. I’ve decided not to pull the trigger unless I get a targeted offer more than 50k for $1k in spend, which I can still find easily online.

  2. Phew, glad it’s not just me.
    Seriously, I imagine you will also add the Freedom Unlimited to get 1/5 UR’s on everyday spend to your collection as well.
    1.5 points and no annual fee and ability via CSP to transfer is another strong combination.After all, it’s hard to have too many Hyatt points(PHV anyboday?).
    As a very serious traveler it seems that all of the cards you mentioned play a pretty vital role in maximizing your benefits as you do your job.
    Not sure I’d cancel any of them in your case.

  3. I worry about keeping a card and not using it enough. Example: I keep the IHG card for the same reason you do, but sometimes pay for an IHG with a more rewarding card like Citi Prestige.

    I also only use my freedom card for bonus categories.

    Do I run the risk of getting shut down?

  4. Same problem. Citi made the decision more difficult when I tried to close. Waived the fee and gave me 10K points for 2K spending…

  5. Hey Ben,
    assuming you carry all these cards + i dont know how many non-credit plastic cards all the time – what kind of wallet do you use? I am struggling to find a good (as in compact & practical) one for the 10-12 cards I carry, so I guess your wallet situation must be a nightmare…

  6. Hey Ben –
    Could you keep the benefits from UR with Chase if you downgrade to the Sapphire card? It is no longer available, but recently called Chase and it is still available to downgrade to. I am in the same dilemma as I no longer use this card for everyday spend but find UR very valuable.

  7. after i got the citi prestige (essentially $100/year for priority pass +2 after using the airfare credit and $100 citigold discount), i realized that i was now essentially paying $250/year for centurion lounge access with my platinum, which, while awesome, isn’t worth it to me anymore, especially as SFO is no longer my home airport.

    instead, i keep the premier rewards gold and pay $95/year so that i can transfer membership rewards and earn triple on airfare (i value membership rewards more than thankyou points).

  8. Prestige also pays triple points on anything purchased through a travel agency, which pretty much leaves gas (and bonus point offers, which seem to be more prevalent on the premiere) as the only real difference.

  9. It seems to me that it may be a good idea to close the Amex Everyday Preferred and substitute it with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. No annual fee, 1.5x points on everyday spend, and no minimum transactions requirement to get the 1.5x points.

  10. @Miguel — But don’t forget that the Amex Everyday Preferred does have *some* bonus categories, the most lucrative (to me at least) being 3x points at grocery stores — which ends up being 4.5x points at grocery stores if you hit the 30 transactions per billing period threshold, which I’ve had no problem doing. That’s a huge difference to me, but I guess whether it’s right for you may depend on your spending habits.

  11. I agree: it really depends on your spending habits. For me, I find that the grocery stores bonuses have become really diluted with the advent of stores like Costco and WalMart (which has really improved the quality of its groceries). My wife does have the regular Amex Everyday and uses it at supermarkets, but at this time I really can’t justify upgrading to the Preferred because the extra points will not offset the annual fee. It all really depends on each person’s particular situation.

  12. I think you should drop the Amex Everyday Preferred for the Blue Cash Preferred. The latter offers 6x points for groceries (where you can buy a lot of different gift cards), 3x on gas and department stores, and the fee is 75 vs the Everyday’s 95

  13. You don’t have the Silver Aviator card?

    If you had it, you could eliminate a couple of MRs in coach or one in F. Maybe the Copa club in Panama city was worth the trip anyway :>)

    I hate paying for Citi Executive and Silver Aviator both, but it’s worth 20k EQM.

  14. I value MR more than TY points, as I generally fly on DL. So, I have the same cards you do, and will be keeping Amex Gold, but may drop the premier, unless they make it worth my while to keep it.

  15. I would say close the AmEx PRG, unless you get the annual fee waived as a retention offer. You get AmEx Offers with SPG and Platinum.

  16. @nightliner check out bellroy I have them since I found out I never look back my wallet now holds my Nexus 6p and a good 12+ cards. Also holds 2 passports + phone.

    I’ve also been thinking about dropping my AMEX cards for chase / citi route because the redemption seems so much easier. I’m still not 100% sure.

  17. I went through same process recently and also decided to get rid of Thank You. I was transfered to a retention specialist who offered me 5k thank you points if I spent 1k in next 6 months. This did not commit me to pay annual fee which wasn’t due for 6 month so I did it and put my wife on phone to do it as well. Probably will still cancel but easy way to pick up another 5K points. FYI just spent 3300 TY via prestige account for one way to Miami from LGA so the 5K not insignificant!

  18. Although several people have mentioned the Freedom Unlimited card, most of us won’t be getting that. The new Chase policy for their own cards, (CSP and both Freedom cards), is to deny the apps of anyone who has opened more than 5 cards with any bank in the last 2 years. The only readers here who would qualify for a Freedom Unlimited are people who have just recently discovered this blog. Or perhaps there are a few who just read it for the entertainment value, but ignore the advice on ccs, such as in this post.

  19. What are the chances of getting the Ink if I’ve gotten 4 other Chase cards in the past 2 years + 2 other store cards? And I just received the Freedom Unlimited.

  20. I realize that Amex cards are once in a lifetime for the bonus, but if you are keeping all these cards shouldn’t you think about closing some in order to re-apply in 24 months to obtain the bonus?

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