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I often get asked which credit cards I use most, and the answer isn’t always the same. I have some stalwart favorites that I use frequently, but with 24 accounts currently open, it’s a rotating cast. Sometimes I favor a card so I can meet a spending threshold and unlock a lucrative benefit. Other times I stick to whichever card can help me maximize my rewards with bonus earning categories. The key is that I always have a strategy, and what I don’t do is just lean on one card (or even two or three) for the majority of my spending.
To help illustrate the different reasons people have for choosing one card over another, and to give readers a sense of which travel rewards cards are popular at the moment, I asked some of the TPG team to share what’s in their wallets (and why). As you’ll see, there’s a lot of overlap, but also a few outliers.
The Cards I’m Using Now
First, I wanted to open up my own wallet. I have three cards that I’m using for the bulk of my spending thanks to their various bonus categories: the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for dining and travel (aside from airfare), the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card for airfare and groceries, and the Ink Plus Business Card for office supplies and gas. Between those three, I earn a good amount of Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards.
For general (non-bonus) spending, I use my Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. I value Starpoints at 2.4 cents apiece (the most of all loyalty currencies), so I still get a good return even when I’m only earning one point per dollar. Of course, I also use this card for spending at Starwood properties.
While it hasn’t arrived yet, I plan to use my new AAdvantage Aviator Silver card for all my American Airlines spending, and I’ll work on meeting the $40,000 threshold to earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles that will help me maintain AAdvantage Executive Platinum status into next year.
Here’s what the rest of the team had to say:
Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen
Since my wife and I dine out a lot, the Sapphire Preferred is one of my workhorse cards, used at restaurants and for many travel expenses. I also regularly use the Chase Freedom to max out the 5x bonus categories each quarter (up to $1,500), and I use Ink Plus to auto-pay my phone bill, and to buy gift cards at office supply stores for retailers like Target and Amazon that generally don’t offer a category bonus on other cards.
Another card I use frequently is the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card, mainly on Hilton stays and recurring (non-bonus) spending like my gym membership and storage unit. Those expenses help me hit $10,000 in annual spending to earn the free weekend night certificate each year. I typically split other non-bonus spending between the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature.
However, at the moment I’m using the Citi AAdvantage Gold MasterCard for a lot of everyday spending. I received a targeted offer in the mail for 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $1,500 in the first three months (which I already hit), plus another 10,000 bonus miles if I spend $5,000 in the first year. That offer was too good to pass up, but with few ongoing benefits, this card will go back in the drawer once I meet the spending threshold.
Content and Community Manager Ryan Gaines
As a Delta Platinum Medallion member, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card from American Express is my go to card as I try to hit $25,000 in spending annually to earn the Medallion Qualifying Dollar Waiver. This card also gives me 10,000 bonus MQMs at that threshold, which gives me a boost toward requalifying for elite status, and the companion certificate that I get each year has repeatedly saved me hundreds of dollars.
The Platinum Card from American Express is always in my wallet, but is seldom used. I have this card for the benefits, primarily lounge access. Since, I’m mainly a Delta flyer, I use this card for Delta Sky Club access, and since I’m based in New York, I’m also able to use the Centurion Lounge when flying out of LaGuardia. While this card has a $450 annual fee, I’m always able to make use of the $200 airline fee credit, so the net cost is $250 for me, which I think is a great deal for Centurion Lounge, Delta SkyClub and Priority Pass access. In addition, I have 3 authorized users (for $175) who also get lounge access benefits.
TPG Contributor Richard Kerr
I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred for my everyday spending here in Japan, partly for the 2x Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining, but especially because there are no foreign transaction fees. The delayed baggage insurance gave me $500 when my checked bag never made it to Tokyo from Chicago, and the new rental car coverage gives me piece of mind on work trips when I’m renting.
Both my wife and I got in on the previous 140,000 point sign-up bonus for the Ritz Carlton Rewards credit card, which means a Marriott Hotel + Air Package is now in our grasp. I also spent 7 nights on a work trip at the Ritz Carlton Okinawa, and the card gave me a $100 statement credit and 5 points per dollar spent at the hotel. I earned automatic Gold elite status with the card for my first year, and am working toward earning Platinum status with $75,000 in spending.
I use the Amex Platinum for Priority Pass for lounge access, and had success using the concierge service to have a baby sun hat waiting for my 3 month old upon arrival at the Hyatt Regency Guam. I also had a good experience using the one year extended manufacturer’s warranty to get a statement credit for the original purchase price of an LCD TV when it went bad 2 years after I bought it.
Points & Miles Editor Peter Rothbart
I recently applied (and was approved for) the British Airways Visa Signature Card and the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard, and I’ve just finished meeting the minimum spending requirements to earn both bonuses. I had been planning to use the British Airways Visa for some of my everyday spending, but now that the 1.25x Avios bonus is going away, I doubt it will see the light of day after April.
I have an old Citi Forward card that earns 5x ThankYou Points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment, so I use that when I go to restaurants, movie theaters, and sporting events. Unfortunately, that card is no longer available. Most of my non-bonus spending goes on the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card, since it has a base earning rate of 5x points per dollar spent, and I can get great value out of the free last award night feature. I also have the Chase Ink Plus, and use it even outside of 5x bonus categories because I value Ultimate Rewards points very highly.
Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express continues to be my go-to card for general spending wherever I don’t receive a bonus. I love earning Starpoints that can be transferred to over 30 different airline programs, or redeemed for free night awards with no blackout dates or capacity controls. At this point, I’ve had this card for many years, and it has proven its value to me time and time again.
I used the Sapphire Preferred card for several years, but I found that several of its key benefits overlapped with my Chase Ink Plus, such as points transfers to travel partners and no foreign transaction fees. So when my annual fee came due, I downgraded to the no-fee Chase Sapphire card in order to retain the 2x points bonus on dining.
Similarly, I downgraded my Amex Platinum to a no-fee card in the same program. In this case, the Amex Everyday Credit Card from American Express offered me continued access to my Membership Rewards balance without paying an annual fee. I also like the 2x rewards for purchases at supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year), and the 20% bonus for making 20 or more transactions in a single month. The best sign-up bonus we've ever seen from the SPG Amex is here, for a limited time only. Earn up to 35,000 Starpoints which can be used for hotel redemption around the globe, transferred to over 30 airline partners, and even transfer from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio.
The best sign-up bonus we've ever seen from the SPG Amex is here, for a limited time only. Earn up to 35,000 Starpoints which can be used for hotel redemption around the globe, transferred to over 30 airline partners, and even transfer from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio.