2017 Wallet Inventory: Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig Explains His 40+ Credit Cards
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One of the many perks of working at TPG is that we reimburse credit card annual fees, enabling full-time employees to build familiarity with a large variety of products and programs. That doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all, though — we encourage employees to choose their cards wisely based on their personal spending habits, just like they otherwise would. They also need to be mindful about minimum-spend requirements — to use restraint and not bite off more than they can chew whenever another fantastic offer pops up.
Now, in response to feedback received following TPG’s own 2017 inventory post, we’re asking our editors to open up their wallets, detailing which cards they currently have and why. Today, it’s Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig’s turn to dig in.
For some TPG staffers, putting together a credit card inventory post takes a few hours of careful concentration. But I have more than 40 (yes, FORTY) active card accounts, making digging through them all — and determining which to keep and which to cancel — quite an undertaking.
Let’s take a look…
What’s Currently in My Wallet
|The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express||$0||American Express|
|Blue for Business Credit Card from American Express||$0||American Express|
|The Business Platinum® Card from American Express||$450||American Express|
|Hilton Honors Card from American Express||$0||American Express|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||$550||American Express|
|Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express||$195||American Express|
|Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express||$95||American Express|
|Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express||$95||American Express|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum Mastercard||$0||Bank of America|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard||$79||Bank of America|
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card||$0||Bank of America|
|Merrill+ Visa Signature Card||$0||Bank of America|
|Bank of America Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard credit card||$0||Bank of America|
|AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard||$95||Barclaycard|
|Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card||$0||Capital One|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||$0||Chase|
|IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card||$49||Chase|
|Ink Business Cash Credit Card||$0||Chase|
|Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card||$85||Chase|
|Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card||$99||Chase|
|Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card||$450||Chase|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||$450||Chase|
|United Club Credit Card||$450||Chase|
|United MileagePlus Explorer Card||$95||Chase|
|United MileagePlus Explorer Business Credit Card||$95||Chase|
|The Hyatt Credit Card||$75||Chase|
|Citi Forward Credit Card||$0||Citi|
|Hilton Honors Visa Signature Card||$0||Citi|
|Citi Prestige Card||$450||Citi|
|Citi Premier Card||$95||Citi|
|Discover it Card||$0||Discover|
|U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card||$400||U.S. Bank|
|Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card||$75||U.S. Bank|
|FlexPerks Business Edge Travel Rewards Card||$55||U.S. Bank|
|Business Green Rewards Card from American Express||$95||American Express|
|American Express Green Card||$95||American Express|
|Alaska Airlines Visa Business Credit Card||$75||Bank of America|
|Chase Fairmont Credit Card||$95||Chase|
|Citi AAdvantage Bronze Mastercard||$0||Citi|
|CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard||$99||Citi|
|Ink Business Preferred Credit Card||$95||Chase|
|TOTAL IN ANNUAL FEES BEFORE CHANGES: $4,937|
|TOTAL IN ANNUAL FEES AFTER CHANGES: $4,482 ($455 in savings)|
Since I have so many cards, rather than listing out all 41 here, I’m going to focus on 10 of the highlights, in some cases explaining why they continue to earn a place in my wallet despite the hefty annual fees.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express
Annual fee: $450
My take: I upgraded my Business Gold Rewards card to the Business Platinum in April, since I was targeted with a generous upgrade offer of 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $10,000 in the first six months. This ended up netting me an even more valuable benefit, though — since I had upgraded prior to June 1, I’ll be able to book paid flights with the previous 50% points rebate all the way through April 2018. Cha-ching!
The Platinum Card from American Express
Annual fee: $550
My take: I just upgraded my Amex Green Card to the Platinum Card a couple weeks ago, following the card’s recent overhaul. The move made a ton of sense for me — since I was upgrading, my annual fee ended up being just $95, considering that I’m just a couple months away from my original Green Card renewal date. I imagine I’ll keep this card open once the full $550 fee hits, but in the meantime I got to take advantage of some serious perks (a $200 travel credit and a couple months of $15 Uber credits) for just the $95 upgrade charge.
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
Annual fee: $95
My take: Ultimately, this card (and its business counterpart) get me a ton of value each year — sure, I value Starpoints quite highly, so I do put some spend on these cards from time to time, but the real return comes in the form of 10 annual elite night credits, which get me 20% of the way to SPG Platinum. Considering that top-tier status earns me suite upgrades, free breakfast, bonus points and other benefits, it’s easy to justify the $190 in total annual fees.
Bank of America
Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard
Annual fee: $79
My take: I really had to defend my pick in TPG’s “annual staff credit card draft” last month, but I remain a big proponent of Amtrak’s credit cards — the $79-annual-fee Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard in particular. I live in NYC, but my parents are in Philadelphia, a short 90-minute Amtrak ride from Penn Station. And, considering I often book my train tickets just hours before departure, the Amtrak card (and its points) have really come in handy for me. The annual companion ticket and one-class upgrade certificates don’t hurt either!
IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
Annual fee: $49
My take: This is one of my most valuable credit cards, and I don’t even know where it is. But no matter — I never use it for spend. Instead, I keep paying the $49 annual fee in exchange for the annual certificate that scores me a free night at any IHG hotel in the world. I usually use these for InterContinental stays that would otherwise run me $300+, so keeping this card around (or my account active, at the very least) makes a ton of sense.
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
Annual fee: $95
My take: I’ve been eager to add the Ink Business Preferred card since the day it was announced last year. I value Ultimate Rewards points quite highly, especially considering I can transfer them instantly to United and Hyatt to book premium flights and (otherwise) pricey hotel stays. So a sign-up offer of 80,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months is very appealing to me, as is the 3x points I could potentially earn on TPG advertising purchases. Of course, I’m well over 5/24, so unless Chase changes its policy for this particular product, I won’t be able to add it to my wallet anytime soon.
Verdict: Keep… trying!
United Club Card
Annual fee: $450
My take: From an earning perspective, it doesn’t make any sense for me to have this card. I pay $450 per year for a single benefit: unlimited access to the United Club. I’ve never put any spend on this card; I simply keep it open to save $100 on United Club lounge access. The situation may change in the near future, but for now United remains my airline of choice, which means I end up visiting the airline’s lounge (often with guests) several dozen times a year. Factoring in the annual fee, I’m paying a fraction of the $59 one-time pass fee.
United MileagePlus Explorer Card
Annual fee: $95
My take: I have United Premier 1K elite status, so most of the MileagePlus Explorer card’s benefits are lost on me — with one notable exception: complimentary first-class upgrades on award tickets. That means I can book economy flights within the US for 12,500 miles and end up flying up front. The most prestigious domestic flights are excluded, of course, such as United’s nonstops between Newark and Los Angeles/San Francisco, but I’ve ended up scoring complimentary upgrades on countless other award flights, including a few redeyes from San Diego to Newark. If I didn’t have elite status, the card would be even more valuable, especially when it comes to the expanded Saver award space available exclusively for cardholders and premier members. Either way, I don’t see myself closing this card anytime soon.
Verdict: Keep forever
Annual fee: $450
My take: This is hands-down the most valuable credit card I’ve ever owned. In the two years that I’ve been a cardholder, I’ve earned more than $10,000 in statement credits thanks to the 4th Night Free benefit alone. That’s insane. So, even though Citi’s cutting some serious benefits next month — eliminating AA Admirals Club access, dropping all airfare redemptions to 1.25 cents per point and axing the free golf perk — there’s no question that this card is well worth the $450 fee for me.
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Card
Annual fee: $400
My take: I was so intrigued by U.S. Bank’s new premium offering that I didn’t hesitate to sign up when the card launched on May 1. This particular card is unique in that it’s only available to existing U.S. Bank customers, but I was eligible since I have a couple of the issuer’s other cards, including the Club Carlson Premier card. With up to $325 in (super-flexible) annual travel credits, 12 Gogo passes, discounts on GroundLink and Silvercar, 3x points on mobile wallet purchases and a handful of other perks, I didn’t see any reason not to sign up for this new card.
Long story short, I have a lot of credit cards. Too many? Yeah, perhaps a few, but I’m trimming my inventory by six, leaving me with “just” 35 active accounts. That counts for something, right?
Of those that remain, I have a couple “on notice.” First, the United Club card, which won’t make a whole lot of sense for me if I end up moving my business away from UA, which could very well happen if the airline doesn’t scale back basic economy (and if AA and Delta don’t match United with customer-unfriendly rollouts of their own). I’m also considering cutting the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card when the annual fee becomes due later this year, since the $300 annual travel credit is a bit of a hassle to use. The Amex Premier Rewards Gold card could also land on the chopping block, as could the Amex Platinum card, given that many benefits are shared with the Business Platinum Card, which I intend to keep open at least through April 2018, since I’m grandfathered into the 50% airline rebate until then.
A few cards are safe for years to come, assuming there aren’t any major devaluations. I continue to get tremendous value from my Citi Prestige, and will even after the changes expected in July. My Chase Sapphire Reserve will also remain a go-to for travel and dining, given the fantastic 6.6% return (based on TPG’s valuations) and super-flexible $300 annual travel credit. And I get decent value out of most of my low and no-fee credit cards, so I wouldn’t expect any more changes there in the near future.