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How I Swipe: TPG Senior Travel Features Reporter Katherine Fan

Jan. 24, 2021
7 min read
Coronavirus Travel
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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 senior travel features reporter Katherine Fan to answer about how she spends on her credit cards, covering everything from the first card she opened to her go-to card for everyday spend to what cards are in her wallet when she hits the road.

The basics

TPG: What is the first credit card you opened?

KF: I’m an authorized user on a family member’s Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express — from 2011!

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TPG: How many credit cards do you have?

KF: I currently have 11 credit cards in my “wallet.”

Related: TPG reader credit card question: How many credit cards should I have?

TPG: How many credit cards do you actively use?

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KF: I actively use eight or nine of my credit cards each month for different expenses, but I usually just carry one at a time — and have another two cards memorized for online purchases. (This is a dangerous habit, though!)

TPG: What’s the last card you opened?

KF: I recently opened the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card for the free Wi-Fi and upgraded boarding perks, as well as the generous sign-up bonus.

Related: Companion Pass with one card: Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card review

TPG: What card do you want to open next?

KF: Because of the infamous 5/24 rule, I’d like to max out my Chase cards before expanding into other brands. I’m eyeing the Chase Freedom Flex or the World of Hyatt Credit Card next, although I’ll most likely need to wait a few more months before Chase will consider approving my application.

Related: Chase’s 5/24 rule: Everything you need to know

The nitty-gritty

TPG: How much do you pay in annual fees?

KF: I pay $2,600, which includes authorized user cards for my family to enjoy Priority Pass lounge access, plus business credit card fees I can write off.

TPG: What is your go-to card for everyday spend?

KF: I carry the Chase Sapphire Reserve with me every day for dining. I use the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card for business expenses from my rental property or shipping costs, and the Chase Freedom [card no longer available] for most other daily purchases.

Related: These are the best credit cards for everyday spending

TPG: What card perks are most useful day to day?

KF: The cell phone insurance benefit on the Ink Business Preferred is seriously underrated!

TPG: How many points on average do you earn from credit card spend per month?

KF: I typically earn between 4,000 to 10,000 points per month, depending on what I purchased, and/or how I stacked my earning opportunities. Of course, not all points are equal…

TPG: What is your favorite card stacking opportunity?

KF: You can go through a cashback portal to book Hilton hotels directly through the brand website, which allows you to earn elite-qualifying nights and enjoy elite status perks. And if you have the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you’ll have top-tier Diamond status with a slew of benefits and upgrades, while also earning up to 34 points per dollar on most stays — an impressive 20.4% cash value, at TPG’s valuations. That’s unheard-of! (The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex 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.)

Related: What are points and miles worth? January 2021 monthly valuations

Basically, your hotel rooms are almost 25% off if you stack a cashback portal with the Hilton Honors Aspire card when booking. That’s amazing, at least in my book.

And if you get super lucky, you might find an Amex Offer for a discount off of a Hilton spend. That’s four different ways you come out ahead on a single booking.

Taking this show on the road

TPG: What card(s) do you use to book travel?

KF: I use my Chase Sapphire Reserve for almost all travel bookings because of its amazing benefits.

TPG: What cards do you bring with you on the road?

KF: I bring my CSR, my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card and Hilton Honors Aspire, my United Club Business Card and my Southwest Business Performance cards — just in case I need to book a last-minute hotel room or get a back-up flight home. (I also bring my metro cards from various cities around the world, plus my insurance card!) I also have my Schwab debit card for fee-free withdrawals, anywhere in the world.

I normally just use a little phone wallet for everyday expenses, but I have a wallet for all these cards that also holds my passport. This wallet permanently lives in my travel bag.

The information for the United Club Business has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: 7 travel wallets to bring on your next trip

TPG: What card perks are most useful when traveling?

KF: Frankly, my Schwab debit card is one of the most versatile pieces of plastic I carry around the world. I visit a lot of countries where credit cards aren’t widely accepted, and this debit card lets me withdraw hassle-free cash, just about any time I need it.

Extra credit

TPG: What’s the best points redemption you’ve ever made?

KF: It’s either the time I booked a last-minute flight home to comfort my dad after my grandmother’s death, or the very first major international redemption I made to attend a childhood friend’s wedding on the Hobbiton film set in New Zealand.

For me, it’s never about the cash value of my points; it’s always about the priceless experience with someone I care about.

TPG: What’s a rookie credit card mistake you’ve made in the past?

KF: Back in 2012, I rage-closed my Bank of America credit card from college in a fit of pique over bank fees. I lost six years of valuable credit history in one fell swoop!

Related: 4 credit card mistakes to avoid

TPG: What tricks do you have for managing your card accounts?

KF: I keep a meticulous Google spreadsheet because I’m waiting on the TPG app! (Hint, hint…)

TPG: What’s a card perk that doesn’t exist, that you wish did?

KF: Once this pandemic is over, I’d love a credit card that reimburses all in-flight Wi-Fi. I don’t mind if it’s only offered on premium credit cards with $400+ annual fees!

TPG: Any credit card pearls of wisdom you want beginners to know?

KF: Just start with one card and learn to use it well. Don’t be overwhelmed by the depth of detail; it’s really more of a rinse-and-repeat lifestyle once you master your first card! For newbies, I always recommend the Chase Freedom Flex (for a no-annual-fee card) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for a great all-around card.

Featured image by (Photo by Katherine Fan/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.