2017 Credit Card Inventory: Senior Points & Miles Contributor Richard Kerr

Aug 15, 2017

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Perhaps the most common question we get asked as TPG contributors is “What credit cards do you have?” In an ever-evolving rewards landscape with both loyalty programs and credit card issuers constantly changing rules and features, it’s important to stay on top of the cards in your inventory and have a plan moving forward.

Goal-Oriented Point Collection

Roughly 15 times a day, friends, family and readers ask me what card they should get next. The best way, and the only way, I ever answer this is by asking in return where they want to travel next or query them on their travel goals. Most respond they aren’t sure and want to stockpile points and miles.

Points and miles are a terrible long-term investment, although I do keep a stash of emergency points for a domestic flight. You should have a plan for how you’re going to redeem the points and miles earned from your next card. Haphazardly jumping from card to card, issuer to issuer, with no plan on why you’re collecting miles or getting a card should be avoided. More importantly, understanding and protecting your FICO score should always be paramount when signing up for credit cards.

With a goal and a plan always in mind, here is a look at my current 2017 credit card inventory:

Card Annual Fee Issuer
The Platinum Card® from American Express $550 American Express
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express $450 American Express
Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express $175 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
Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express $75 American Express
Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express $95 American Express
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card $75 Bank of America
Asiana Visa Signature Card $99 Bank of America
JetBlue Plus Card $99 Barclaycard
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard $89 Barclaycard
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard $95 Barclaycard
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card $0 Capital One
Chase Sapphire Preferred $95 Chase
Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) $0 Chase
Chase Freedom Unlimited $0 Chase
IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card $49 Chase
United MileagePlus Explorer Card $95 Chase
Chase Ink Business Plus Card $95 Chase
Citi Prestige Card $450 Citi
Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card $95 Citi
Citi Premier® Card $95 Citi
Citi AT&T Access More Credit Card $95 Citi
USAA Rewards Visa Signature $0 USAA
Luxury Gold Card $995 Barclaycard
Alliant Cash Back Visa Signature $59 Alliant
Chase Sapphire Reserve $450 Chase
TOTAL IN ANNUAL FEES BEFORE CHANGES: $2,691 (some fees waived for active duty military)
TOTAL IN ANNUAL FEES AFTER CHANGES: $2,205 ($486 in savings)

Keep reading for a look at why each card earns a place in my wallet.

American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express

Annual Fee: $550 (waived for active duty military)

My Take: I’m incredibly grateful American Express continues to waive the annual fee for active duty military on all its cards. Because of this, over the last five years I received incredible value from the issuer. Since I get all of the ancillary benefits in addition to the sign-up bonus with no annual fee, of course I’m going to have this card in my pocket. It’s now my number-one card for buying airfare directly from the airlines because I earn 5x points, which I can then combine with the points earned from the next card on my list.

Verdict: Keep

American Airlines Livery
I’m redeeming Amex points for 2 cents per point toward paid airfare as fast as I can.

The Business Platinum Card from American Express

Annual Fee: $450 (waived for active duty military)

My Take: The 50% pay with points rebate on airfare has delivered significant value for me. When I pay with points to make my airfare free, American Airlines (with Amex insider fares) treats it as a paid ticket. That means I’m eligible to be upgraded, earn elite-qualifying and redeemable miles and redeem System Wide Upgrades on free tickets. I opened this card just before American Express announced that the rebate would drop to 35%, meaning I still have almost a year to enjoy the benefit. Other perks like 10 Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes make the card almost too good to be true for me.

Verdict: Keep

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express 

Annual Fee: $175 (waived for active duty military)

My Take: I’ve recently ventured into buying online advertising space, one of the 3x-eligible bonus categories for this card. I chose advertising as my annual 3x category, which means I earn 2x points on four other categories including airfare purchased directly from airlines, shipping and purchases at gas stations and US computer hardware, software and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. Because I’m not eligible for the new Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, which also earns 3x on advertising purchases, I’ll keep this card.

Verdict: Keep

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Annual Fee: $95 (waived for active duty military)

My Take: Starpoints are the most valuable loyalty currency in existence, one reason being that they are so hard to earn. I will continue to put non-bonus category spend on my Starwood Amex to earn as many Starpoints as possible — always keeping an eye to the future with what Marriott will decide to do with the loyalty program in 2018.

Verdict: Keep

The business SPG Amex can get you access to the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers Club Lounge.

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

Annual Fee: $95 (waived for active duty military)

My Take: This card offers me the ability to earn Starpoints on non-bonus category spend and keep my business expenses separate from my personal ones. The card also has the highly valuable extra benefit of allowing access to Sheraton Clubs during your Sheraton hotel stays.

Verdict: Keep

Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express

Annual Fee: $75

My Take: I recently signed up for the card to earn the 100,000-point sign-up bonus and for the ability to earn a lot of Hilton points on my hotel stays. My loyalty remains with Hyatt 95% of the time, but thanks to Hilton’s generous Diamond status match last year, I’ll look for a Hilton property if Hyatt’s small footprint doesn’t cover a destination I’m visiting. I earn 12 points per dollar on Hilton stays with the card in addition to my Diamond bonus points and bonus points for booking through the app.

Verdict: Keep

The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express

Annual Fee: $95

My Take: With American Express points worth a lot to me now thanks to the 50% pay with points rebate (available to me for one more year), I needed a card that would allow me to earn more than 1 point per dollar on much of my household’s routine expenditures. The EveryDay Preferred card earns 3x at US supermarkets and 2x at US gas stations, and gives me 50% bonus points on all spending after 30 transactions in a month. This means I’ll have more points when I want to skip the search for award availability and pay for revenue flights with Amex points to trigger the 50% rebate.

Verdict: Keep

Bank of America

cathay pacific a350 featured
I’ve been saving up Alaska miles to book business class on Cathay’s new A350.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card

Annual Fee: $75

My Take:  I do anything I can to collect more Alaska miles, meaning a co-branded credit card must be in my portfolio. The value I get from the companion certificate can cover the annual fee, in addition to the 30,000 bonus miles the card came with after completing minimum spend. The versatility of Alaska miles is not to be missed; you can book with partner airlines from around the world and in competing alliances.

Verdict: Keep

Asiana Airlines Visa Signature Card

Annual Fee: $99

My Take: The Asiana Star Alliance and partner award charts continue to be the most overlooked loyalty program options capable of delivering significant value. The card comes with 30,000 bonus miles and a $100 annual Asiana travel rebate, and it earns 2x miles on groceries and gas. There’s also an anniversary bonus of two lounge passes and 10,000 miles. If I’m trying to reach the small amount of miles needed for business or first class to Europe, I’ll use the card for everyday spend.

Verdict: Keep


Fort Lauderdale, United States - February 17, 2016: A Jetblue Airways Airbus A320 with the registration N595JB taking off from Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL) in the United States. Jetblue is an American low-cost airline and the fifth biggest airline in the US with its headquarters in New York.
JetBlue is quickly becoming my favorite domestic carrier.

JetBlue Plus Card

Annual Fee: $99

My Take: Because JetBlue flies a few common routes I need out of Washington Reagan Airport (DCA) and because American Airlines never releases SAAver space on these routes, I needed more JetBlue points to get these flights for $5.60 (just airline taxes and fees). Since the carrier allows free family pooling, my wife and I each have the card, netting 60,000 more TrueBlue points in my account and the ability to earn Mosaic status after putting $50,000 of spending on the card in a year.

Verdict: Keep

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Annual Fee: $89 (waived the first year)

My Take: You can only redeem points toward travel purchases over $100 charged with the card. It’s nice to have a stash of miles that can cover things like train tickets, boutique hotels and theme park tickets. However, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll hold on to the card, since cash-back cards with higher returns are now hitting the market.

Verdict: Keep

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard

Annual Fee: $95

My Take:  Although my frustration with American not releasing SAAver inventory for award flights is reaching critical mass, it’s nice to get a 10% rebate of my redeemed points (up to 10,000 miles per year) thanks to having this card in my wallet. I was transitioned to the card from an old US Airways card, and I keep it for access to reduced mileage awards and for the rebate on redeemed miles.

Verdict: Keep

Luxury Gold Card

Annual Fee: $995 (no longer waived for active duty military)

My Take: I’ve covered the confusion surrounding this card in recent months, which continues to get stranger as the weeks go on. After receiving feedback from Barclaycard after my last post dealing with active duty military benefits and everything sounding like it was resolved, yet another memo showed up in my mailbox again addressing the annual fee. I’m dumping the card and running away from the confusion. There is nothing about this card that comes close to justifying a nearly $1,000 annual fee.

Verdict: Cancel

Capital One

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Annual Fee: $0

My Take: One of the most important contributors to your FICO score is the length of credit history. This Quicksilver card was originally a Capital One student credit card with a $600 limit — my first credit card 12 years ago. I will always keep this no-fee card and put a few dollars on it each year to keep it from being closed, since I don’t want to lose my oldest card account.

Verdict: Keep


Chase Sapphire Preferred

Annual Fee: $95

My Take: Because I’m not eligible for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card due to too many open accounts in the last two years, I keep the Sapphire Preferred so I have an avenue for earning 2x Chase points on dining and travel. I intend on product-changing at the end of the year so I can receive the Sapphire Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit, increased earn rate of 3x points on travel and the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents apiece toward paid travel.

Verdict: Keep until product change to Chase Sapphire Reserve

I want as many Ultimate Rewards as possible to continue booking Korean SkyPass SkyTeam partner awards.

Chase Freedom

Annual Fee: $0

My Take: This no-fee card allows me to effectively earn 5x points on a rotating quarterly basis. There’s no reason to ever give up the ability to earn 5x with no annual fee.

Verdict: Keep

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Annual Fee: $0

My Take: Depending on what my next trip is and which transfer partners I want to use to book, I may need to be earning more Chase points than Amex points. The Freedom Unlimited allows me to earn a flat 1.5x Ultimate Rewards on non-bonus category spend for no annual fee.

Verdict: Keep

IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card

Annual Fee: $49

My Take: With the annual fee waived for the first year, $1,000 of minimum spend in the first three months is all it took for me to earn 80,000 IHG points (offer no longer available). I’ll always keep this card because a $49 annual fee is all that’s required to get one free night at any IHG property in the world after each account anniversary.

Verdict: Keep

United Polaris Business Review

United MileagePlus Explorer Card

Annual Fee: $95

My Take: Although I rarely put any spend on this card, I gladly pay the $95 to have access to the extra XN fare availability the card offers. On at least 10 occasions I’ve needed last-minute award space, and XN fare availability has come through for me when other airlines (American) would never dream of having SAAver availability.

Verdict: Keep

Chase Ink Business Plus

Annual Fee: $95

My Take: The card (no longer available for new sign-ups) earns 5x points at office supply stores and on utilities, earning me thousands of Ultimate Rewards each year. $95 is a small price to pay for the travel this card yields.

Verdict: Keep


Amangiri property sign
A fourth night free at properties managed by Aman can easily save you $900 or more.

Citi Prestige Card

Annual Fee: $450

My Take: Despite all the devaluations this product recently saw, the saving grace of the card is the 4th Night Free for hotels. With just one stay a year, the card’s annual fee can easily be erased. The card also has some of the most generous trip delay and baggage delay insurance on the market, requiring that only a portion of your ticket be paid for with the card and even covering tickets booked wholly with ThankYou points.

Verdict: Keep

Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card

Annual Fee: $95

My Take: I picked up this credit card on the last day public links were available. Shortly after word got out that American Express would hold a monopoly on Hilton co-branded credit cards in 2018, Citi looked to quickly drop its existing Hilton products. The card came with two free weekend nights at the vast majority of Hiltons around the world.

Verdict: Keep

Citi Premier® Card

Annual Fee: $95

My Take: I like Citi ThankYou points because I can transfer to partners that have hidden value like Cathay Pacific and Etihad. The Premier card also allows me to earn 3x points on travel, including gas.

Verdict: Keep

Citi AT&T Access More Credit Card

Annual Fee: $95

My Take: This product, not available for new sign-ups, came with a free cell phone (up to $650) and allows me to earn 3x points on all online shopping at eligible retail and travel websites including online travel agencies and airline websites. As of June, purchasing or loading of gift cards online and rental or real estate payments no longer earns 3x points. I keep the card since my wife often shops online, and I want to earn bonus points. Still, I really wish Citi would make it easier to tell what earns 3x points and what doesn’t when reviewing your monthly statement.

Verdict: Keep


USAA Rewards Visa Signature

Annual Fee: $0

My Take: I’ll keep my second-oldest credit card account open as it has no annual fee and is often targeted with offers to earn quick cash bonuses after a manageable amount of spend. I hope soon to be able to product-change the card to an unlimited 2.5% cash-back card USAA is rolling out.

Verdict: Keep

Cash-back cards offering higher than a 2% return will soon replace the Arrival Plus for me when it comes to covering trip activities. Image courtesy of Worlds of Adventure.

Bottom Line

This is only one half of my household’s credit card inventory, as my wife has her own portfolio. Her cards double our sign-up bonuses and allow us to explore more products. Thankfully, American Express also waives annual fees for her cards as long as I’m an authorized user on her account. With all of those annual fees waived, we make a pretty sizable points haul each year.

Holding and managing this many credit cards requires you to be disciplined and organized — and that you never carry a balance. Make sure you have a strategy and a goal when pursuing your next credit card, and constantly re-evaluate what’s in your wallet.

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.