My Credit Card Spring Cleaning – Which Cards To Keep, Cancel or Convert

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Update: The offers mentioned below for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards from American Express has expired. View the current offers here – personal, business.

Spring is here, the sun is shining (well, it is in Miami!), and it’s time for another round of credit card applications to boost my points balances. With several new lucrative offers out there like the 100,000-mile Citi Executive AAdvantage World Mastercard, the newly launched 40,000 points offer on the Platinum Card from Amex, the just-launched Barclaycard Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard, there are some interesting cards on the market at the moment, which got me thinking about my own wallet.

Time for a round of applications? Here are some great current offers.
Time for a round of applications!

As always, that means taking inventory of my current credit card portfolio, giving a long, hard look to the cards I am carrying, and weeding out a few before replenishing my stock with a new set of points-earning credit cards.

Here are the factors I consider in my decision-making process.

1) Are the perks/benefits of each card more than the annual fee?

2) Is there a duplicate/substitute card that can get me similar benefits/perks and a new sign-up bonus?

3) How long have I had the card? Is it worth keeping open to preserve the history of the account?

I go through each card in my wallet and do a quick cost/benefit analysis about whether it’s worth keeping it open. I don’t necessarily need to cancel any cards since my credit is excellent and most card issuers will let you open numerous cards as long as you pay your bills on time and keep your score up. However, I don’t like having unnecessary accounts open if I am not actively using a card or reaping valuable benefits. Plus, if I cancel a card now and give it a year or two, then hopefully I can get the sign-up bonus again down the line (this works for most issuers besides Chase and possibly Amex now, but timelines vary).

Main credit score factors
History is an important factor in determining your credit score.

While it is good to keep accounts open for a long time, the age of your accounts is only 15% of your credit score, so as long as you have a couple old accounts helping to keep the average long, that should suffice though there is really no set formula that will guarantee a high credit score. Learn more about maintaining a strong credit score in this post.

My considerations might differ from yours – especially since I consistently do a significant amount of spending on my credit cards. I put almost every single dollar of personal and business spend on cards, as well as a lot from family and friends. I buy a lot of Vanilla Reload cards to pay all of my mortgage/car/HOA and other bills by credit card (via Bluebird). So I can hit some lofty calendar year spend thresholds to get some of the best perks out there.

When evaluating your own needs, estimate your annual spend on credit cards and then decide which spend bonuses are worth your while and which cards best align to the categories where you spend most of your money.

Keep, Convert or Cancel 

Here’s how my decision-making process played out and how I decided to keep certain cards, cancel others, and convert some to duplicate or substitute cards with the same issuers for even more bonus points and perks. By “convert” I mean canceling my current card and applying for the same or similar one (if an issuer has introduced a new version) to get the sign-up bonus again.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold: Keep – I spend money on airfare, so the 3x per dollar earned on flights booked directly with airlines is the main way I boost my Membership Rewards balance with this card so I can take advantage of their (seemingly more infrequent) transfer bonuses. It also offers 2x points per $1 at US gas stations, so it’s a good everyday option there when other cards like the Freedom aren’t offering higher category bonuses. Plus I get 15,000 points at $30,000 in calendar-year spend, which more than justifies the $175 annual fee in my mind.

American Express Starwood Personal: Keep –  Due to recent United and Hyatt devaluations shrinking the value of Ultimate Rewards points in my eyes, I value Starwood points the highest. That’s thanks not-only to great award night redemptions at hotels, but also the versatility they give me to transfer to over 30 airline partners with a 25% bonus on 20,000-point transfers. I also like the 2 stays/5 nights’ elite credit this card automatically confers every year. All that justifies a $65 annual fee to me.

American Express Starwood Business: Keep – (see above). This business version of the card also offers Amex OPEN business card benefits like discounts at FedEx and Hyatt and more.

Chase British Airways Visa: Keep – Even though British Airways charges big fees on Companion Ticket redemptions, the bottom line is that I can get two business class roundtrip tickets from NY/Philadelphia to London for a total of 80,000 Avios and $800 a ticket (when I find the time to redeem them!). I value business class roundtrip to Europe at $2,500, so I’m coming out way ahead here – even with the fees.

Chase Freedom Visa: Keep – I earn 7,500 points per quarter by spending $1,500 in the rotating quarterly 5X bonus categories. They are currently gas stations, Starbucks and movie theaters until March 31, 2014 . Since there is no annual fee, I’m going to keep it around, though at some point I may switch to the Mastercard version if there’s another 20,000-30,000 sign-up bonus.

Chase Hyatt Visa: Keep – I don’t put any spend on this card, but the automatic annual free night I get at a category 1-4 hotel as a cardholder far outweighs the $75 annual fee, plus having it often gives me bonuses during Hyatt promotions.

Chase Ink Bold: Keep – This is my workhorse business card. I use it to make purchases at office supply stores where I can buy gift cards for major retailers like Starbucks while earning 5 points per dollar. It also offers 2x points per $1 at gas stations and hotels, and no foreign transaction fees, making it good for travel abroad. I may cancel since I prefer the ink plus (flexibility to pay over time) and benefits are the same essentially.

Chase Ink Plus: Convert – It’s basically the same thing as Ink Bold, but a credit card so you could theoretically run a balance and pay over time. I pay all of my bills off every month so I don’t need this duplicate version. If I were spending more than the $50,000 in some of the 5x categories I’d think about it, but I am focusing spend on other cards to hit bonuses/perks so I plan to let this one go. I like the benefits but want to open a new one for a new business I started to get the 50k boost again!

Chase Ink Exclusives (Discontinued): Keep – Once you spend $100,000 in a calendar year, you start earning 1.2 points per dollar spent. When you spend $25,000 you get a 7,500 point bonus (which is 1.5 points per dollar spent on average), if you spend $50,000, you get another 15,000 point bonus (which is about 1.65 points per dollar spent on average), and if you spend $100,00, it nets you another 25,000 points bonus (which equates to 1.675 points per dollar spent on average). So on large purchases, like tax bills, for me it makes sense to spend the 1.8 cents per dollar in fees for using a credit card to get 1.67 Ultimate Rewards points since I value UR points at about 2 cents each. There is however a 3% foreign transaction fee.

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa: Keep – I often use this card abroad because there are no foreign transaction fees and I can earn 2.14x points per dollar on travel and dining. At some point I may switch to the Mastercard version to get the sign-up bonus and enjoy most of the same benefits.

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve: Keep – The annual free weekend night at top-tier hotels more than pays for the $95 annual fee.

American Express Mercedes-Benz Platinum: Convert – I’m going to switch this card to the Business Platinum version so I can get the current 25,000-point bonus. I value (even relatively restricted now) lounge access and having access to Delta SkyClubs, which saves me from having to pay over membership fees. The $450 annual fee is further justified in my mind by the $200 yearly airline rebate, which I used on buying American Airlines gift cards, so in my estimation, this card essentially it costs me $250 for the lounge access and perks like Fine Hotels & Resorts and reimbursed Global Entry ($100 value) for each cardholder. 

Chase United ExplorerConvert – With this card I like the anytime awards and two annual United Club passes as well as the 10,000 bonus miles after hitting $25,000 in annual in spend. However, I’m going to switch it over to the business version so that I can earn 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores in addition to the 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchase from United.

US Bank Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa SignatureConvert - My plan is to hit renewal, earn the automatic 40,000 points then get the business version since it only has a $60 annual fee instead of $75 and carries another 85,000 bonus points as well as the last-night free award benefit that means half-priced awards on two-night stays.

American Express Platinum Delta SkyMilesCancel – When I was concerned about maintaining Delta elite status, I liked this card’s ability to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles based on spending and to help me circumvent the new Medallion Qualifying Dollar system by spending $25,000 annually on it instead, but given Delta’s recent devaluations and negative award program changes, I’m dumping the airline. Plus, I need room for the new Amex EveryDay cards that will be launching April 2, 2014.

American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business: Cancel – See above.

Bank of America Virgin Atlantic American Express: Cancel – I got this card for the 65,000 bonus miles (20,000 bonus miles after first purchase, 25,000 additional bonus miles after $2,500 in qualifying purchases in the first 90 days, 5,000 bonus miles when adding two additional Cardmembers and up to 15,000 Anniversary bonus miles if you hit a threshold of $25,000 in spend).

Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCardCancel – I got this card with a 60,000-mile sign-up bonus and have enjoyed the American Admirals Club access it gives me (especially since that benefit of the Amex Platinum cards will be discontinued March 22), and the ability to earn 10,000 elite-qualifying miles by spending $40,000 in a calendar year, but I’m going to cancel it and open up a new on in order to get in on the current 100,000 mile offer.

Stay tuned for the results of my latest round of applications – I got approved for 4 cards (some new and some repeats) and I’m excited to watch my accounts diversify and grow!!

Issuer Card Personal/Business Category Spend Bonus Benefits Annual Fee
Amex Premier Rewards Gold Personal 3x airfare, 2x gas and groceries 15k bonus points at $30k spend $175
Amex Starwood Preferred Guest Personal 2x on Starwood 2 stay/5 night elite credit, gold status at $30k spend $65
Amex Business Starwood Preferred Guest Business 2x on Starwood 2 stay/5 night elite credit, gold status at $30k spend $65
Chase British Airways Visa Personal 1.25x on everything, 2.5x on BA Companion Award Ticket at $30k in spend, no FX fees, Chip + Signature $95
Chase Freedom Visa Personal 5x quarterly categories (capped at $6k total per year) $0
Chase Hyatt Visa Personal 2x restaurant, airline, car rental Chip + Signature, no FX fees $75
Chase Ink Bold Business 5x office supplies/internet/phone, 2x gas and hotels Lounge Club, no FX fees $95
Chase Ink Plus Business 5x on office supplies/internet/phone, 2x gas and hotels Lounge Club, no FX fees $95
Chase Ink Exclusives Business 1.2 points per dollar + 7,500 points at $25k+ 15,000 at $50k + 25,000 at $100k $95
Chase Sapphire Preferred Personal 2x travel and dining 7% annual dividend, no FX fees $95
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Personal 10x on Hilton, 5x on airline and car rental Annual free night at $10k spend, Diamond status at $40k $95
Amex Mercedes-Benz Platinum Personal 5x on Mercedes-Benz purchases $200 annual airline rebate additional cardholders for $175, Global Entry refund, Priority Pass Select, Delta SkyClub access $475
Chase United Explorer Personal 2x on United No FX fees, free checked bag, priority boarding, anytime awards, 2 club passes, 10k bonus spending miles $95
US BANK Club Carlson Premier Personal 5x all, 10x on Club Carlson Free award nighst, automatic gold status, 40k bonus points on renewal $75
Amex Business Delta Platinum Business 2x on Delta Companion Pass, ability to earn MQMs, first checked bag free $195 (formerly $150)
Amex Delta Platinum Personal 2x on Delta Companion ticket, ability to earn MQMs $195 (formerly $150)
BOA Virgin Atlantic Personal 3x virgin, 1.5x everyday Ability to earn Tier Points, bonus spending miles $90
Citi Executive AAdvantage Business 2x on American Lounge access, ability to earn EQM’s first checked bag free $450
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