As a personal finance writer, I review a lot of credit cards. Friends and family constantly come to me wondering what the best cards are to maximize mile and point earning opportunities for free travel and more, but I’ll do one better for you!
Here’s a look at what I carry in my wallet, plus other credit cards I keep on standby for their own special job. Here’s a look inside my Herschel Supply Co. wallet, where my favorite credit cards live within reach while I’m out and about or traveling the world.
Personal credit cards
This outstanding credit card is the oldest one with a permanent slot in my wallet, there since March 2012. Six years later, I have only considered getting rid of it to replace it with the higher-tier Chase Sapphire Reserve, but I have yet to pull the trigger and go for the $450 per year member of the Sapphire credit card family.
I use this card for all restaurant and travel related purchases where I don’t have a specific branded card for the airline or hotel. That gives me 2x points for every dollar I spend, or I can use it for 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
My “everything else” card is the American Express EveryDay Preferred. This card gives me 3x points at the grocery store, 2x points at gas stations, and 1x everywhere else. But this card has a not-so-secret weapon that makes it even more useful: a 50% bonus each month I use the card at least 30 times. As it is a joint account with my wife, we have no problem hitting that transaction count consistently.
An effective 4.5 points per dollar at the supermarket, 3 points per dollar for gas, and 1.5 points everywhere else makes this card quite lucrative. Combined with my Business Platinum card, I’ve been able to amass more than 300,000 American Express points. Now it’s time to take a trip!
Chase Freedom offers up to 5x cash back on rotating categories, which recently have included gas stations, grocery stores, Amazon.com, department stores, and Android or Apple Pay. When paired with a Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve card, Chase Freedom is even more valuable.
While on its own Freedom is only a cash back card, when you have another Ultimate Rewards earning card, your Freedom cash back can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points. That is how I got 5 points per dollar last quarter at the grocery store, among other purchases. Because a point is worth more than a cent, Freedom is most valuable when paired with a higher tier travel card.
Business credit cards
The most elite card in my wallet comes from American Express. This card has a steep $450 annual fee, but it comes loaded with so many perks that fee is completely worthwhile. Those perks include a $200 credit at the airline of my choice (I picked Southwest), a reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA Pre every 5 years ($100 value every 5th year), and lots of opportunities for earning miles and points.
When I got the card, it came with a massive 100,000 point signup bonus worth about two cents each, so my signup bonus was worth $2,000 alone. The points I’ve earned since, combined with my EveryDay Preferred card, give me the ability to fly to nearly anywhere in the world for free, or close to it.
By this point, you can probably tell that I really like Chase and Amex points. The last “always in my wallet” card is another Chase Ultimate Rewards card, the Chase Ink Business Preferred card. This card pays 3x points per dollar on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines up to $150,000 in combined purchases per year. I get 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
This isn’t my favorite card in my wallet, but it has its place. Thanks to the signup bonus I got with this card, I have nearly 300,000 Chase points in my account.
Credit cards on standby
This not my full list of credit cards. I have a big stack in a safe place. I use most of them for specific purchases at some airlines and hotels. Others are older accounts I downgraded but like to keep around to boost my credit score.
Here is a full list of other credit cards I have open:
- Amazon Prime Visa Signature from Chase
- American Airlines AAdvantage Bronze from Citi
- Blue from American Express®
- American Express Blue Sky
- BankAmericard Cash Rewards from Bank of America
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus
- Marriott Rewards from Chase
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier from Chase
- United MileagePlus Explorer from Chase
In total, that is 14 credit card accounts. While it sounds like a lot, I maintain an 800+ credit score, have never paid a penny of credit card interest, and keep all of my cards under control. Without great organization, I couldn’t make it all work.
Main goal: travel
For me, credit cards are a path to free and discounted travel. I have not paid full price for a plane ticket in years and don’t plan to start paying any time soon. Thanks to building up a massive stockpile of miles and points, even far-flung destinations are just a redemption away. To me, that’s what credit cards are all about.
More Clark.com Credit Card stories you might enjoy:
- Clark Howard: Here’s my philosophy on credit cards
- How to improve your credit score by 100 points in 30 days
- How to lower your credit card interest rate