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3 credit cards every 40-year-old should have

Aug. 31, 2022
19 min read
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I turned 40 last month. Along with checking a different box for "age range" on forms these days, I'm also taking a fresh look at both my credit and my credit card strategy.

If you've hit the big four-oh like me (or are getting close), you probably started learning about credit a few decades ago. From saving money and paying your credit card bills the right way, you've hopefully got a good credit score at this point. If so, congratulations. Good credit takes years of discipline.

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However, good credit is only meaningful if you're using it — not sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust. In fact, now may be the perfect time to take a look at your credit card strategy and see how much value you’re getting from it. If you’re leaving points, miles or cash-back opportunities on the table, it’s probably time for an adjustment.

Related: 7 credit cards every 30-year-old should consider

Today, I'll walk you through three different credit cards every 40-year-old should have.

A travel rewards card

If you don’t already have a great travel rewards credit card — or if you have a card that’s not giving you enough bang for your buck — it might be worth applying for a new account. Travel rewards cards can offer more than just a monstrous sign-up bonus: they can offer ongoing perks, benefits, points and miles that lead to (nearly) free travel or everyday benefits that improve your quality of life.

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However, keep in mind that travel reward cards often charge an annual fee — sometimes a hefty one. The Platinum Card® from American Express, for example, charges its cardholders a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).

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For many people, the benefits of premium travel rewards cards can outweigh the cost. Plus, welcome offers for new applicants can add significant value to these cards during the first year.

Take the Platinum Card as an example: its current welcome offer is 80,000 bonus Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on the card within the first six months of card membership. By TPG's valuations, this bonus is worth $1,600.

Related: Is the Amex Platinum worth the annual fee?

There are also plenty of less-expensive travel cards available if you see this annual fee as a turnoff. Other cards worthy of your consideration include:

Card nameCurrent welcome offerValue of the welcome offer*Key benefits of the cardAnnual fee
American Express® Gold CardEarn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card within six months of account opening.$1,200.$250 (see rates and fees).
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit cardEarn 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on the card within 90 days of account opening.$500.
  • Up to $100 in annual airline incidental credits.
  • Reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.
  • Our full review of this card.
$95.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardEarn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on the card within three months of account opening.$1,387.50.$95.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit CardEarn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on the card within three months of account opening.$1,387.50.$395.
Chase Sapphire Preferred CardEarn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first three months from account opening.$1,200.$95.
Chase Sapphire ReserveEarn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first three months from account opening.$1,200.$550.
Citi Premier® CardEarn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first three months from account opening.$1,020.$95.
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressEarn 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership.$1,600.$695 (see rates and fees).

* Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.

Every 40-year-old should have a travel rewards credit card that earns bonus points at places where you tend to spend money, that adds perks and benefits to improve the quality of your travels and, ideally, adds perks to your home life as well.

A cash-back card

There’s no question that you can earn great rewards by using the right travel rewards card strategy. However, for some people, the process of keeping up with points and miles — especially over multiple credit cards — feels like too much. Plus, cash can be used to pay for purchases on which you can't redeem your points and miles.

MIXETTO/GETTY IMAGES

If you find yourself in that camp, a solid cash-back credit card option might be a good fit for you. The Citi® Double Cash Card is a great example. Not only does the card have no annual fee, it ALSO allows cardholders to earn 2% cash back on purchases across the board. This comes as earning 1 ThankYou Rewards point on each dollar you spend and another point for each dollar paid on your bill. You can redeem these points for cash at a rate of 1 cent each or use them in other ways, such as gift cards or travel.

On the flip side, some cash-back cards allow you to choose bonus categories, which can be handy if a category is available for merchants where you tend to spend a lot of money. For example, the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card. allows for choosing cardholders to earn 3% back on one of six categories and 2% back on additional categories. However, the bonus earnings are limited to the first $2,500 spent across these categories each quarter, then your earning rate will change to 1% until the start of the next quarter.

Keep in mind that cash-back cards might not give you the best value available, especially when you consider that other rewards cards will often allow you to earn up to 5 points per dollar on popular spending categories, such as dining and travel. But a simple cash-back card can make the process of understanding and managing your rewards simpler.

If you’re considering a cash-back card for your wallet, here are some of the top current options:

Card nameCurrent welcome offerValue of the welcome offer*Key benefits of the cardAnnual fee
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit cardEarn a $200 rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days from account opening.$200.
  • Choose your preferred 3% earning category (options: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings).
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs.
  • Bonus earnings are limited to the first $2,500 spent across the categories each quarter.
  • 0% introductory APR for 18 billing cycles on purchases, and any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (3% or $10 minimum balance transfer fee), then a variable APR of 16.99% - 26.99%.
  • Up to 75% bonus earnings for Bank of America Preferred Rewards members.
  • Our full review of this card.
$0.
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit cardEarn a $200 rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days from account opening.$200.$0.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressEarn up to $250. Earn 20% back as a statement credit on purchases when you use your new card to check out with PayPal at merchants in the first six months of card membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 back as a statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first six months of card membership.Up to $250.
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from the date of account opening, then a variable APR of 17.74% to 28.74% (see rates and fees).
  • Enjoy $0 Buy Now, Pay Later introductory offer on Plan It fees on plans created during the first 15 months from the date of account opening. After the introductory period, fees can be up to 1.33%.
  • Access to Amex Offers.
  • Up to $84 in annual credits for the Disney Bundle.
  • Up to $180 in annual credits for Home Chef.
  • Enrollment required for select benefits.
  • Our full review of this card.
$0 (see rates and fees).
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressReceive a $250 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first six months of card membership.$250.
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable APR of 17.74% to 28.74% (see rates and fees).
  • Enjoy $0 Buy Now, Pay Later introductory offer on Plan It fees on plans created during the first 12 months from the date of account opening. After the introductory period, fees can be up to 1.33%.
  • Access to Amex Offers.
  • Up to $84 in annual credits for the Disney Bundle.
  • Up to $120 in annual credits for Equinox memberships.
  • Enrollment required for select benefits.
  • Our full review of this card.
$0 intro annual fee for first year, then $95 (see rates and fees).
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit CardReceive a $300 bonus after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months from account opening.$300.$95.
Chase Freedom FlexEarn $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.$200.$0.
Citi Custom Cash℠ CardEarn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first six months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.$200.
  • 5% back in your top spending category each billing cycle (on $500 of these purchases, then earn 1%).
  • 0% introductory APR offer for 15 months from account opening on purchases and for balance transfers within four months of account opening. After this period, a variable APR of 18.24% to 28.24% applies. A balance transfer fee applies.
  • Premium event access.
  • Cash-back rewards are earned as ThankYou points, which you can use for cash back or with transfer partners, depending on which Citi credit cards you have.
  • Our full review of this card.
$0.
Citi® Double Cash CardEarn a $200 bonus after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first six months from account opening.$200.
  • Unlimited earning at a flat rate: 1 point on each dollar you spend and another point on each dollar when paying the bill. Points can be redeemed as cash back or with transfer partners, depending on which Citi credit cards you have.
  • Introductory 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 18 months, then a variable APR of 17.74% to 27.74% and is based on your creditworthiness. A balance transfer fee applies.
  • Premium event access.
  • Our full review of this card.
$0.
U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card (see rates and fees)Earn a $200 rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening.$200.
  • Choose your preferred category for 5% back each quarter (on the first $2,000 of these purchases, then 1%).
  • Choose a preferred category for unlimited 2% back.
  • Extended warranty protection.
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 billing cycles, then a variable APR of 18.74% to 28.74%. A balance transfer fee applies.
  • Our full review of this card.
$0.

* Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.

The information for the Capital One Savor 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.

A co-branded credit card

Do you have a certain airline you travel with frequently? Is there a particular hotel brand that you enjoy above others? If so, a cobranded airline or hotel credit card might make a great addition to your wallet.

It’s important to understand that cobranded cards are not created equal. In many instances, a quality travel card, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, will outshine a cobranded card in point-earning potential and in perks. However, you’d be mistaken to believe that’s always the case. There are times when spending on a cobranded credit card makes more sense from a value standpoint.

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is one example. The card will earn you 14 points per dollar on purchases at Hilton hotels and resorts. That's an 8.4% return on spending, according to TPG's valuations. By comparison, the Chase Sapphire Reserve only gives you 3 points per dollar on that same purchase — a 6% return. Of course, 6% isn’t shabby by any means, but, in this case, it’s not the top value you could earn.

The information for the Amex Hilton Aspire 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.

IZUSEK/GETTY IMAGES

Getting a cobranded card with every airline or hotel chain probably isn’t a good choice, either. But if you have a few particular brands that you frequent more than others, you might benefit financially from signing up for a cobranded card — especially one with an attractive welcome bonus or other annual perks.

Comparing all of the available cobranded credit cards here would be impossible. Instead, here's some links to further reading on hotel credit cards:

and airline credit cards:

Bottom line

There’s no such thing as the perfect credit card strategy that works equally well for every 40-year-old in the country. You’ll have to decide for yourself which cards fit your spending habits and which rewards are the most beneficial to your lifestyle.

That being said, having at least one solid credit card option from the three categories above can be helpful for most people. If you’re worried about keeping a tab on your rewards, the TPG app can help you keep track of your cards, loyalty accounts and what rewards you have (as well as how you can use them).

Finally, remember to manage your credit cards carefully with on-time payments and by paying off your full statement balance each month. Managing your credit cards (and the rest of your accounts) well is key to earning great credit — the most valuable reward of all.

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred card, please click here.

Updated on 10/3/22.

Featured image by PA Images via Getty Images
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.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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