My Credit Card Inventory: Summer 2016

Jun 13, 2016

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At the beginning of the year, I took stock of my current credit cards and decided to add a few while axing some others. Now that we’re halfway through 2016, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this subject with an updated look at the pieces of plastic (and metal!) in my wallet.

Below, I’ll run through each of the cards I hold, with a look at their top benefits and current sign-up bonuses. If you’re looking for the best options for earning plenty of miles or point

s quickly, make sure to check out my top card offers post, updated each month. Additionally, don’t forget to take a look at the CardMatch tool, where you may find higher, targeted offers for specific cards. And before you go crazy with card applications, take a look at the following posts to make sure you have a solid grasp on your credit score and how applications affect it:

Before I jump into my most up-to-date list, note that my considerations might differ from yours, especially since I consistently spend a significant amount on my credit cards. I use my various credit cards for almost every single dollar of personal and business spending, as well as a lot from family and friends, so I can hit some high spending thresholds and earn some of the rarer credit card perks out there. When evaluating your own needs and habits, estimate how much you spend annually on each credit card, and then decide which spending bonuses are worth your while and which cards best align to the categories where you spend the most.

Here’s my inventory for personal cards:

Personal Card Annual Fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve $450
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express $95
AAdvantage Aviator Silver $195
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard $450
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express  $195
Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express $95
Citi Prestige Card $450
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card $95
JP Morgan Palladium Card $595
Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) $0
Chase Freedom Unlimited $0
Citi Premier® Card $95
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard $89
JetBlue Plus Card $99
Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card $450
British Airways Visa Signature Card $95
New York Knicks NBA American Express Card $0
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card $0
United MileagePlus Explorer Card $95
The Hyatt Credit Card $75
IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card $49
Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card $75

And for business cards:

Business Card Annual Fee
The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN $175
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express $95
Chase Ink Plus Business Card $95
Business Centurion Card from American Express $2,500
The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN $450

Keep reading for an in-depth look the perks of each card, organized by how frequently I use each of them:


1. Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual fee: $450

My take: When this new premium card launched in August, it didn’t take much digging to see that it blows the competition out of the water. Not only can you earn 3 points per dollar on all dining and travel purchases — more than you’ll get with the lower-end Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — but you also get great perks like a $300 annual travel credit good for a huge variety of purchases, the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents apiece through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal (vs. 1.25 cents apiece for other cards like the CSP), Priority Pass Select lounge access for you and travel companions, a Global Entry application fee credit and more. This card is a complete no-brainer for frequent travelers thanks to its earning rate and selection of benefits — and the 50,000-point sign-up bonus (after spending $4,000 in the first three months) is just icing on the cake. While it took some serious effort on my part to get approved due to Chase’s 5/24 rule, I finally have this card in my wallet and I couldn’t be happier.

2. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

My take: Though Amex raised the annual fee on this card last year, it also added new benefits including waived foreign transaction fees, complimentary unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi and complimentary premium in-room internet access. You also earn 2 Starpoints per dollar spent on purchases at participating SPG hotels. The card automatically gives cardholders credit for 2 stays/5 nights each year toward earning elite status, and if you spend $30,000 on it in a calendar year, you get automatic Gold status. Not only that, but Starwood points are among the most valuable points currencies out there. Amex’s purchase protection is solid as well, so I put all my SPG stays on these cards and any big-ticket items that aren’t in a bonus category for other cards, such as clothing purchases. For more, check out this post on One Year of Earning and Burning with the SPG Amex.

3. AAdvantage Aviator Silver

Annual fee: $195

My take: When US Airways merged with American, Barclaycard changed its US Airways MasterCard cardholders over to various versions of these Aviator cards. I got the highest-tier one, the Silver. Though its annual fee is rather high at $195, it comes with a $100 Global Entry application fee waiver, and earns 3 miles per dollar on American flights and 2 miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals. Not only that, but you can earn 5,000 elite-qualifying miles for each $20,000 in annual purchases up to 10,000 miles maximum each year. You also get a 10% mileage rebate up to 10,000 miles per calendar year on award redemptions and a companion certificate each year good for up to two guests at $99 each with $30,000 in purchases each cardmember year. It doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, and comes with World Elite MasterCard perks as well.

4. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Annual fee: $450

My take: The main benefits of this card that I value are Admirals Club access (an especially good value with membership prices about to go up), which the card recently extended to authorized users (of which you can add up to 10 per card account for free). It also offers a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, which equals another $100 in value. It also lets me earn 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. However, the other major benefit I derive is the ability to earn 10,000 elite-qualifying miles for spending $40,000 on the card within a calendar year. That’s 10% of the way toward maintaining my Executive Platinum status, just through spending alone. Check out this post on Whether to get the Citi / AAdvantage Executive Card.

5. American Express® Gold Card

Annual fee: $195 (waived the first year)

My take: Though this card has a pretty significant annual fee, it offers several great benefits that make it worth keeping. The annual $100 airline fee rebate cuts that annual fee down to $95 in my mind, and earning 3 points per dollar on airfare is a great earning opportunity for me since I spend a lot on airline tickets. I also put a lot of my domestic gas and super market purchases on it since I earn 2 points per dollar on them, and the card waives foreign transaction fees as well. Dining and non-airline travel spend all go on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, though you can earn 2 points per dollar on US restaurants with this card.

6. Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee: $95

My take: I use this card for grocery purchases, since I get 3x Membership Rewards points on the first $6,000 spent at US supermarkets per year. The Amex EveryDay Preferred is also a solid choice for everyday, non-bonus spending, since when I make at least 30 purchases with the card in a billing period, I earn a 50% points bonus. That means I get at least a 2.85% return on spending, based on my valuations — not too shabby!

7. Citi Prestige Card

Annual fee: $450

My take: I finally caved and signed up for this card because, despite the high annual fee, it offers an extremely valuable 4th Night Free benefit for paid hotel stays booked through the Citi concierge. This perk saved TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig almost $1,500 on a single night, and there’s no limit to how often you can use it or how much it can save yet. On top of that amazing perk, this card offers an annual $250 air travel credit plus 3x ThankYou points on air travel and hotels, 2x on dining at restaurants and entertainment purchases and 1x on everything else. Unfortunately, the card will be losing some key benefits such as Admirals Club lounge access in July 2017 (and if you apply for the card now you won’t be eligible for this perk), but it’s still worth keeping thanks to 4th Night Free alone.

amanpulo hotel island featured
The Citi Prestige gets you a 4th Night Free on paid hotel stays — perfect for expensive properties like Amanpulo.

8. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

Annual fee: $95

My take: This card offers a ton of great benefits, including the ability to earn 10 HHonors points for every dollar spent on hotel stays within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio, 5 points for every dollar spent on airline and car rental purchases and 3 points for every dollar spent on all other purchases. It also comes with automatic Hilton HHonors Gold status, and lets me earn Diamond status with $40,000 in annual spending. However, I don’t stay at Hiltons very often; my Business Platinum Card gets me automatic Gold status already; and I value top-tier status with Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton and Starwood much more than Hilton Diamond. The one major reason I keep this card is that it gets me a free weekend night certificate on the account anniversary when I spend $10,000 in a year, which can far outweigh that annual fee. For more information, check out this post on the card.

9. JP Morgan Palladium Card

Annual fee: $595

My take: Unlike the Business Centurion Card from Amex, qualifying for this card doesn’t require spending a specific amount of money per year. Instead, you have to be a private banking client of JP Morgan. Unfortunately, the biggest perks are bragging rights and cool design; the card is made of palladium and 24K gold, but there’s no sign-up bonus and the only bonus category is 2x for travel, including airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruise lines. If you spend $100,000 on the card in a year, you’ll get 35,000 Ultimate Rewards points, but considering you can earn more than that with the sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card alone, this isn’t a good deal. Other perks include a concierge service, complimentary United Club membership and discounts and freebies when you reserve a private jet. Ultimately, the Palladium Card is more style than substance, so I’m not sure how long it will remain in my wallet.

brian palladium
I’m not completely impressed with the Palladium Card.

10. Chase Freedom

Annual fee: $0

My take: The Freedom Card is among the top cash-back credit cards out there thanks to no annual fee and rotating categories in which you can earn 5 points per dollar on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter. Because I also have the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus, I can also combine the points I earn with my Freedom with those from my other two cards and transfer them to Ultimate Rewards’ 11 travel partners.

11. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Annual fee: $0

My take: Since I got the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I decided to switch my Chase Sapphire Preferred to the no-fee Chase Freedom Unlimited Card. I no longer need the Sapphire Preferred when I can earn 3x points vs. 2x points on travel and dining with the more recently launched Sapphire Reserve Card, and the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card is actually a great pick for everyday spending, offering 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Since I hold Ultimate Rewards-earning cards, that cash back can become 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points — offering me a return of 3.15% on non-bonus spending. This is excellent, especially for a card with no annual fee, and it will help me further boost my Ultimate Rewards account balance so I can redeem with the program’s great selection of transfer partners.

12.  Citi Premier® Card

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

My take: There are many reasons to have this card, in my opinion. The annual fee is relatively low compared to the benefits, which include bonus spending categories where you can earn 3 points per dollar on a wide range of travel purchases and 2 points per dollar on dining and entertainment. ThankYou Rewards has also improved dramatically over the past year, adding more than a dozen transfer partners. The points game is all about diversification, so having such a strong transfer program has really upped ThankYou Rewards’ significance in my book. I use this card for entertainment such as movies and amusement parks, and travel expenses that the Sapphire Preferred’s 2x bonus does not cover. Check out this post on One Year of Earning and Burning with the Citi Premier.

Singapore Airline's KrisFlyer program is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Rewards.
Singapore Airline’s KrisFlyer program is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Rewards.

13. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Annual fee: $89 (waived the first year)

My take: I like having a card that can cover the in-between costs of travel — from Uber to bed and breakfasts to even private jets. Plus, 2.11% on travel redemptions is better than the cash back I could get on cards like the Citi Double Cash, even though the Citi card offers much more flexibility when it comes to redemptions. I’m not crazy about the latest changes to this card and its benefits — such as raising the minimum point redemption from 5,000 to 10,000 and the elimination of the tourist attraction category — I keep this card to diversify my points.

14. JetBlue Plus Card

Annual fee: $99

My take: Earlier this year, JetBlue introduced three cards with its new partner Barclaycard, and this one is an especially great option. I love the airline’s premium Mint product, and I earn 6 points per dollar on paid airfare (in addition to the points I’ll earn from booking depending on my fare class). Other great benefits include a first bag checked for free, a 10% rebate on redemptions and a 5,000-point anniversary offer. Plus, big spenders can enjoy Mosaic status benefits — well, most of them, anyway — after charging $50,000 to the card annually.

Brian in JetBlue Mint
I earn tons of valuable points when I use the JetBlue Plus Card to book a Mint flight.

15. Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: $450

My take: This is one of the top premium travel credit cards out there thanks to benefits like the annual $300 travel credit, a $100 hotel credit on paid stays of two nights or more, automatic Gold Elite status for your first year and subsequent years when you spend $10,000 or more, Lounge Club membership and Club Level upgrades. For me personally, this card is a no-brainer because I’ve been staying at more Ritz-Carlton properties lately, such as the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman Cookout. The upgrade and status benefits alone are worth the annual fee for me, and that $300 travel credit is a great deal-sweetener as well. For more information, see this post on the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card: Should it be in Your Wallet?

16. British Airways Visa Signature Card

Annual fee: $95

My take: Despite some major Avios program devaluations, I still think this card is worth having for a few reasons. It earns 3 Avios for every dollar spent on British Airways purchases and 1 for every dollar spent on all other purchases. Cardholders also get 10% off British Airways ticket purchases with the CARDOFFERU cardholder code through the end of 2016, which pretty much pays for that annual fee itself (though you may be able to use that code with other Visa cards as well). Perhaps most valuable, every calendar year that I make $30,000 in purchases on the British Airways Visa Signature Card, I’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for the rest of the year and the following, which can be worth thousands of dollars if I redeem for business or first class. I’m not sure I’ll go for this benefit this year, but it’s a nice option to have.

17. New York Knicks NBA American Express Card

Annual fee: $0

My take: I love taking in an NBA game — especially if I can score VIP seats such as through the SPG Moments program — and this card is a great choice for ticket purchases since it earns 3 points per dollar when you purchase from a licensed NBA distributor. (You also get 2 points per dollar at gas stations and supermarkets, and 1 point per dollar on everything else). Even better, during NBA All-Star Weekend and the NBA Finals (going on right now), you get 5 points per dollar. For more info on this card, see TPG Contributor Richard Kerr’s post on its benefits.

18. Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: $0

My take: Earlier this year I decided to switch the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to the Quicksilver Card. Some of the perks have expired, so I’m not sure if I’ll be keeping this card in the long term. Still, it does offer a solid 1.5% cash back on every purchase and plenty of flexibility when it comes to redemptions.

19. United MileagePlus Explorer Card

Annual fee: $95

My take: I can earn 10,000 bonus award miles each calendar year I spend at least $25,000 on this card, which brings the potential earning rate to 1.4 miles per dollar on everyday purchases. This card also gives cardholders access to expanded award availability, which can open up a lot of travel possibilities, even at the higher standard level. If you don’t have United elite status, this card’s airline-specific perks like a free checked bag and priority boarding can also be worth it. And if you do hope to earn United elite status but the Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD) requirements are an issue, note that they’re waived for Silver, Gold and Platinum Premiers who spend $25,000 on this card in a calendar year (though not 1Ks).

20. Hyatt Credit Card

Annual fee: $75

My take: This card has a couple of great benefits in its favor. First, the current sign-up bonus gets you two free nights after you spend $2,000 in the first three months. Plus, it earns 3 points per dollar on Hyatt purchases and 2 points per dollar on restaurants, car rentals and airfare purchases made directly with the airline. It also offers automatic Discoverist status and a free night at a Category 1-4 property (which can be worth well more than the annual fee when you use it at properties like the Andaz Papagayo) on each cardmembership year anniversary. Though normally I’d rather earn Ultimate Rewards points, which I can then transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, I might actually put more spending on the card this coming year.

Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica.
The Hyatt Visa offers an annual free night that can be redeemed at a Category 4 property like the Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica.

21. IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card

Annual fee: $49 (waived the first year)

My take: This card comes with several benefits that make its low annual fee well worth it. First, it confers automatic Platinum elite status, and a 10% rebate on points redemptions, as well as an annual free night upon renewal. Though it earns 5 points per dollar on IHG purchases and 2 points per dollar at gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores, I actually don’t spend too much on it, but keep it for the other benefits instead.

22. Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card

Annual fee: $75

My take: Though Carlson isn’t my main hotel program and has made some recent negative changes both to its awards and its card benefits, I like this card thanks to some great benefits like earning 10 points per dollar on Carlson stays and 5 points per dollar on everyday purchases. Cardholders also get an automatic 40,000-point renewal bonus each year (which more than makes up for that annual fee) along with the ability to earn one free night at US properties when they spend $10,000 on purchases each cardmember year upon renewal, automatic Gold Elite status or credit for 15 qualifying nights toward reaching a higher status.


1. Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

Annual fee: $175 (waived the first year)

My take: With this card, it’s all about the points-earning potential since you can choose a spending category in which to earn 3 points per dollar, including airfare; US advertising in select media; US purchases at gas stations; US shipping purchases; or US computer hardware, software and cloud computing. Then you earn 2 points per dollar in the remaining four categories. Personally, I get 3 points per dollar on internet advertising, which is huge for me since I spend a lot on Facebook advertising for TPG, and I can pay with this card with no fee. I spend the $100,000 category maximum a year on internet advertising, earning me 300,000 Membership Rewards points (which I value at about $5,700). I’d receive just 100,000 points with another card like the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (which I would value at about $2,500). That makes this card one of the most powerful weapons in my credit card arsenal.

2. Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

My take: I like this card for all the same reasons I like the personal version — including the fact that it’s great for non-bonus spending — and it even comes with additional benefits such as OPEN Savings discounts and Sheraton Club access. Plus, just having it gets me another 2 stays/5 nights of credit toward elite status this year — well worth the $95 annual fee.

St. Regis Bali
I earn valuable Starpoints with the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. Image courtesy of the St. Regis Bali.

3. Ink Plus Business Card

Annual fee: $95

My take: Among the benefits of this card I value are the waived foreign transaction fees; the ability to transfer points to 11 travel partners including British Airways, United and Hyatt; and its tremendous earning capability. With it, I get 5 points per dollar at office supply stores; and on cell phone, landline, internet and cable TV services (on up to $50,000 in spending annually), and 2 points per dollar spent at gas stations and on hotel accommodations (again, on up to $50,000 in spending annually).

4. Business Centurion Card

Annual fee: $2,500

My take: A few months ago I bit the bullet and accepted my invitation to this ultra-exclusive card, which is only available to big spenders and requires a hefty initiation fee of $7,500 in addition to the $2,500 annual fee. As I previously explained, I was able to qualify for this card thanks to business spending, and while I don’t necessarily think it offers the best value, so far I’ve enjoyed the extensive perks such as the dedicated concierge service (which helped me score cheap Hamilton tickets) and complimentary Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion status. Plenty of premium travel rewards cards offer arguably more valuable perks with much lower annual fees, but since I’ve recently paid the fee on this card I’m planning to keep it open.

I’ve been intrigued with the Amex Centurion (Black) Card for years, and I’m enjoying testing out its various exclusive perks.

5. Business Platinum

Annual fee: $450

My take: Though this card has one of the highest annual fees out there, benefits like the $200 annual airline rebate, lounge access, automatic Hilton Gold status and automatic Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status — not to mention the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credits and complimentary Boingo and Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes — are far more valuable than the cost of the annual fee. I also love getting access to the Centurion Lounges when I travel (though I also have access via my Centurion card). Finally, this card also offers perks that the personal version does not, including those Gogo passes and a 30% redemption bonus on points you redeem directly for airfare through Amex travel. Check out my post on 9 Reasons I Love My Amex Business Platinum.


Since last checking in earlier this year, I added a handful of my cards to my wallet, and I’m not planning on canceling any immediately. I’m especially excited about the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Citi Prestige Card and the JetBlue Plus Card, and I look forward to getting great value out of their benefits in the coming months and years.

Are you planning on canceling or signing up for any credit cards? Feel free to share your plans in the comments below!

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.