Even experts need advice: How I chose my next credit card with help from fellow TPGers
"Which credit card should I get next?" It's easily one of the most common questions we at TPG get from readers, friends and family members. It's also one of the most common questions we ask ourselves. Most of us are constantly chasing our next sign-up bonus and trying to optimize the travel perks we hold in our wallets with our changing spending habits and travel needs each year.
We've extensively covered how to choose the best card for you — whether you're a beginner learning how to build your card portfolio, a frequent traveler wanting a jump-start on earning elite status or just someone wondering what cards TPG staffers can't live without. But sometimes, the best way to learn is to see someone's thought process firsthand.
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It had been a little over a year since I applied for my most recent credit card and I had upcoming moving expenses to cover — the perfect scenario to add another card to my wallet and snag a sign-up bonus. Here's the step-by-step walkthrough of how I came to my decision to help you outline how you can decide on your next card.
Evaluating what I already had
Regardless of why I want a new card, I always start my decision-making process by evaluating what's currently in my wallet. The more cards I collect, the more important this step becomes. This way, I can figure out what perks or bonus categories I'm missing, as well as take stock of any cards I might want to get rid of after I apply for my new card. Both help set the stage for coming up with a list of potential card options.
Here was my card lineup coming into the process:
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: For the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement and the 2 miles per dollar spent on all non-bonus purchases.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: For 3 points per dollar spent on drugstore purchases and as a flat-rate card I can use that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
- American Express® Gold Card: For 4 points per dollar spent on dining and U.S. supermarket purchases (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year), 3 points per dollar spent on air travel booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel, and valuable Amex Offers.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: For free checked bags on Delta flights.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: For 2 points per dollar spent on travel purchases, 3 points per dollar spent on select streaming services and its 1.25 cent-per-point redemption value through the portal when I can't find a better deal with transfer partners.
- Citi Rewards+® Card (see rates and fees): One of my sock drawer cards that I never use and I'm strongly considering canceling it. The general rule of thumb is to keep no-annual-fee cards rather than cancel them because it can help your credit score. However, my personal preference is to cancel when I haven't had the card for a long time.
- Discover It® Card: I don't use it anymore, except for an occasional purchase to keep the account open, but it's good for my credit history since this is the card I've had the longest.
The information for the Discover It Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
There honestly aren't any obvious holes in my portfolio in terms of bonus categories or rewards programs. I have points and miles stockpiled with issuers like Capital One, Chase and American Express as well as loyalty programs like Delta SkyMiles, American Airlines AAdvantage (thanks to living near a hub for three years, not due to any of my credit cards) and World of Hyatt (thanks to work travel).
Based on all of that, it made the most sense for my next card to focus on sign-up bonus value and perks — specifically either helping me earn elite status or granting me lounge access, since they were both priorities for me this year.
Coming up with a shortlist
When coming up with my shortlist of cards, I thought about both my short- and long-term goals for the card. Plenty of people don't mind having a sock drawer with 20 credit cards they rarely (if ever) use. To be frank, the idea of 20 cards chilling in a drawer somewhere gives me more anxiety than it's worth, so I only like to apply for cards I know I'll keep in my wallet and use for the foreseeable future, even if it's only for the perks, such as my Delta Gold card.
In the short term, I knew my upcoming moving expenses would give me a great opportunity to easily hit a sign-up bonus and bolster my points stockpile. But in the longer term, I wanted a card that would remain useful after my move, too. With my spending and travel habits, a card that offers flexible rewards, lounge access and a way to save money on travel is the most attractive to me. (I may travel for a living, but I'm still a young woman in my mid-20s — it's budget travel or bust in my house.)
Here are the five cards I was considering:
World of Hyatt Credit Card
- I am a Hyatt Discoverist, the hotel brand's lowest tier of elite status, and this card would help me keep that status next year while also giving me a jump-start on the next status tier.
- Earning an additional 4 points per dollar spent on top of base points and my Discoverist 10% points bonus on eligible Hyatt stays would make it easier to rack up Hyatt points — it's certainly higher than any of the earning categories from my other cards.
- The annual free night benefit is a nice perk that could easily save me over $100 (and potentially more) each year if strategically used.
- During personal travels, I prefer to stay at Airbnbs rather than hotels.
Check out our full review for additional information about the World of Hyatt card.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Card
- You can use Capital One miles to cover travel purchases other than hotel stays and airfare, such as Airbnb stays. It's not the most valuable use of those miles, but saving money on amazing Airbnb stays I can share with friends while having a full kitchen at my disposal makes me happy.
- I'd get Priority Pass and Capital One Lounge access with this card. When flying through Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) on my way home to Arkansas during the holidays, access to DFW's Capital One Lounge would make that layover so much more enjoyable.
- The card offers other valuable perks I know I would use long-term, particularly the $300 annual travel credit, 10,000 bonus anniversary miles each year and the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit.
- I did miss the 100,000-mile sign-up bonus that was offered when the card first launched in November 2021. Earning 75,000 miles after spending $4,000 in the first three months is still a solid bonus, but would I want to hold out for a potential return of the 100,000-mile bonus in the future?
- I also do have the Capital One Venture, so I’d likely downgrade my Venture card after getting the Venture X.
Check out our full review for additional information about the Venture X card.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
- It's hands-down the best card for lounge access out there.
- There are a lot of ways to save money with the card — especially if you live in a major metropolitan area (like I do) where you can maximize perks such as credits with Uber, Equinox and Saks Fifth Avenue.
- Automatic elite status with Hilton and Marriott and the $200 annual hotel credit would be nice, too, even if I don't stay at properties within those brands all the time.
- Because I already have the Amex Gold, I'm unlikely to be targeted for the elusive 120,000-point welcome bonus that you can find via the CardMatch tool (offer is subject to change at any time).
- I'm not going to lie — the idea of a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees) makes me want to cry a little bit.
- Keeping up with monthly credits is not my strong suit and I know I'd end up leaving perks on the table because I'd forget to use them each month.
Check out our full review for additional information on the Amex Platinum Card.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
- When I was originally weighing my options, the Boundless featured a pretty stellar sign-up bonus of five free nights (worth up to 50,000 points each). However, the current sign-up bonus of three free nights (each valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening is still a pretty tempting offer.
- Between the ability to earn up to 17 points per dollar spent on Marriott stays and the annual free night award (up to 35,000 points in value), I could save a lot of money on Marriott stays each year.
- As I said earlier, I typically prefer to stay at Airbnbs on my personal trips; when I do stay at a hotel, I generally prefer Hyatt.
- Aside from the sign-up bonus and the annual free night, I don't know how much use I'd get out of this card.
Check out our full review for additional information on the Bonvoy Boundless card.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
- I do fly American Airlines pretty regularly, and since none of my current card rewards transfer to the airline, a card that could earn AAdvantage miles would be useful to me.
- I have Gold elite status (earned right before the switch to Loyalty Points), but there's no realistic way that I can requalify for Gold status for 2023 without some help from card spending. If I want to keep my status or have any hope of earning higher-tier elite status, a cobranded American Airlines card is my best bet.
- This card would grant me lounge access when flying with American Airlines.
- The sign-up bonus isn't anything to write home about.
- While I do fly American Airlines regularly out of necessity, they are far from my favorite airline. And now that I just moved closer to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), it might make sense to switch my airline loyalty over to United.
Check out our full review for additional information on the Citi / AAdvantage Executive card.
Even experts need a sounding board — heck, I can't even pack for a weekend getaway without sending potential outfit choices to no fewer than five friends for approval. Deciding on my next credit card was no different.
The Venture X was my preference going in but it's always helpful to hear different perspectives. Thankfully, there's no shortage of top-notch credit card advice at TPG.
I threw a condensed version of my shortlist into one of our Slack channels at work. Here are the suggestions TPG staffers gave me based on my goals, current card lineup and shortlist of cards:
TPG credit cards editor Senitra Horbrook agreed that the Venture X was likely my best foot forward: "It sounds like lounge access is important to you," she said. "So I’d go with the Venture X because it has the lowest annual fee between it, the Amex Platinum and the AAdvantage Executive card."
Senior director of SEO Taylor Jenkins proposed switching gears and snatching the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: "Very different than what you're considering, but for what it's worth, the Amex Blue Cash Preferred was super helpful during my move given its 12-month 0% APR offer. I'm still enjoying that and using it for streaming, groceries and gas purchases." Note - After the intro APR period, APR is 18.99% - 29.99% thereafter (see rates and fees).
TPG credit cards writer Ryan Smith also suggested a card outside of my list: "Have you considered the British Airways cobranded card from Chase? The bonus doesn't get as much attention as I think it deserves. You can also get some discounts and statement credits on British Airways flights originating in the U.S., if you see yourself using that. If not, the Avios are a great use for American Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights within the U.S. as well."
I also posed the same question to a few of my industry friends outside of TPG, and the general consensus was that my instincts were spot on with the Venture X — even if I would have to settle for the lower bonus since the 100,000-mile offer was over.
Making my decision
While I have more credit cards than the average person (three more to be exact, according to Experian), I do keep a rather lean card strategy compared to a lot of points and miles enthusiasts (and especially my co-workers).
This is mostly because I'm more passive when it comes to earning and burning points and miles — I don't want to spend a significant amount of time trying to remember what perks I have or haven't used each month, balancing the spending categories across 20 cards or justifying over $1,000 in combined annual fees each year. Additionally, I loathe keeping sock drawer cards that I never use. Even though it's a good idea to hold on to no-annual-fee cards or downgrade cards with an annual fee rather than cancel, the benefits don't outweigh the personal anxiety it gives me to have to remember to use them to avoid account closure.
Therefore, I try to only add cards to my wallet that I think I'll use long-term (and I tend to cancel cards I don't get value from anymore — with the exception of my Discover It, since it's my account with the longest credit history).
While adding a British Airways cobranded card to my wallet would help diversify my points balances, it wouldn't help me with lounge access and I don't use Avios often. The Blue Cash Preferred is a fantastic card, but I can't see myself using it long-term since my other cards cover all of the spending categories except for gas (and I don't have a car, so earning on gas is low on my priority list). And aside from the Venture X, the other cards on my shortlist just didn't feel like the right move for me at this point in my life.
After all of that, I ended up applying for the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. Even though I already have the Venture, I received instant approval for the Venture X and was able to earn 2 miles per dollar on moving expenses while also working my way toward the sign-up bonus. I'm already thinking of winter trips I can take to spend that bonus (hit me up if you have suggestions).
I already used my Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit on the Venture earlier this year to apply for myself, but I am going to use the Venture X's credit to pay for my little sister's application. And the other perks offered by the card are benefits I'll easily use year after year to save money on travel.
I'll end up downgrading my Venture to the no-annual-fee version or outright canceling it later this year. Right now, I'm leaning toward canceling because it frees me up to apply for another Capital One personal card in the future (you can generally only have two personal Capital One cards open at once). However, that's a decision for another day.
Related: Should I cancel my credit cards if I don't use them anymore?
The biggest takeaways are to know what's most important to you and to never hesitate to ask for advice — even if you don't end up taking it and go with your gut instead. I'm of the mind that there is no such thing as a "best" credit card; rather, there is a "right" credit card for your situation.
My advice would be to be honest with yourself about your spending habits and travel goals. Yes, the Amex Platinum is a flashy card that offers a ton of excellent perks. However, I know that I wouldn't use half of them and while Membership Rewards points are incredibly valuable, I'd prefer the flexibility of Capital One miles (even if we don't value them as highly).
All in all, I'm super happy with my decision to grab the Venture X. And I hope seeing my decision-making process helps you if you need some guidance on choosing your next credit card.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Blue Cash Preferred, click here.