How I Swipe: TPG Credit Cards Editor Juan Ruiz
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Welcome to How I Swipe, a credit card routine series with a focus on strategic credit card spending while at home and on the road. Below is a short list of questions we asked TPG Credit Cards Editor Juan Ruiz to answer about how he spends on his credit cards, covering everything from the first card he opened to his go-to card for everyday spend to what cards are in his wallet when he hits the road.
TPG: What is the first credit card you opened?
JR: Back when I was in college in Miami, I opened a Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® and remember being so excited about the sign-up bonus of 50,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
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TPG: How many credit cards do you have?
JR: Right now I have 20 credit and charge cards. I’ve actually closed a few during the pandemic as the annual fees no longer justify keeping some.
TPG: How many cards do you actively use?
JR: The American Express® Gold Card for dining at restaurants, The Platinum Card® from American Express for gas at U.S. stations and groceries at U.S. supermarkets, plus a handful of specialized cards. I’ve got 8 in my wallet right now that I use.
TPG: What’s the last card you opened?
JR: I opened an Amex Platinum back in December 2020, when Amex was targeting some people with 100k and 125k welcome offers and 10x at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations for the first six months of card membership.
TPG: What card do you want to open next?
JR: For the first time in a long time, I’m not chomping at the bit for a new card. My approach is to spend strategically and rack up lots of points and miles with the cards I currently do have. Ok, who am I kidding? I’m waiting to fall back under 5/24 and get the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
TPG: How much do you pay in annual fees?
JR: I am unabashed by what I pay in annual fees each year because I make sure to get a ton more value from the cards I possess. I pay $1734 annually on credit card annual fees.
TPG: What is your go-to card for everyday spend?
JR: Right now I use my Amex Platinum for U.S. supermarkets, Instacart and U.S. gas station purchases (10x points per dollar) and the Amex Gold Card for dining at restaurants). The rest of my non-bonus spend goes on The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express that earns me 2x Membership Rewards points on everything else (on up to $50,000 in purchases each calendar year; then 1x).
TPG: What card perks are most useful day to day?
JR: The Amex Platinum and Amex Gold monthly UberEats in the U.S./Grubhub dining credits (up to $120 per calendar year) pay for my work-from-home lunches, making it incredibly easy to order lunch while churning out TPG editorial content daily.
TPG: How many points on average do you earn from credit card spend per month?
JR: On average, I accrue about 10,000-15,000 points per month through credit card spend.
TPG: What is your favorite card stacking opportunity?
JR: Though right now I’m Amex-heavy, I love my Chase Trifecta. I use the Chase Freedom (now the Chase Freedom Flex) for 5x quarterly bonus categories, Ink Cash for cell phone and cable bills and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for travel and dining.
Taking this show on the road
TPG: What card(s) do you use to book travel?
JR: I use my CSP to book travel as the extra protection benefits it’s equipped with give me peace of mind.
TPG: What cards do you bring with you on the road?
JR: When I go on the road, I take my most versatile cards with me. My lineup looks a bit like this: CSP, Amex Platinum, Amex Gold, Chase Freedom, Chase Hyatt (if staying at a Hyatt), Amex Blue Business Plus.
TPG: What card perks are most useful when traveling?
JR: I never leave home without a card that covers me if there’s a trip delay, if my baggage is lost or stolen or if my flight gets canceled unexpectedly. That card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
TPG: What’s the best points redemption you’ve ever made?
JR: I was able to find four seats in Cathay Pacific’s award-winning business class from the U.S. to Southeast Asia for my family of four (wife and twin daughters) for only 50k Alaska Airlines miles. Though that trip didn’t happen due to the pandemic, I’ve also flown Japan Airlines first class with my wife for 70k AA miles which was a favorite premium flight experience of mine.
TPG: What’s a rookie credit card mistake you’ve made in the past?
JR: I once tried to apply for too many cards in one day and was denied for several. Should have read TPG’s issuer rules on application limits story.
TPG: What tricks do you have for managing your card accounts?
JR: If you have a P2 that needs constant reminding of which cards to use for what purchases, put a small sticky label on the cards with the spend categories to remind them.
TPG: What’s a card perk that doesn’t exist, that you wish did?
JR: Going with the times, it would be nice to see a credit issuer step up to the plate and offer waived COVID-testing fees for cardholders.
TPG: Any credit card pearls of wisdom you want beginners to know?
JR: Don’t start off applying for too many cards in a short period of time. Take your time, meet minimum spend requirements, and show some healthy financial habits with the issuers over a period of time.