Summer cleaning: the cards I’m keeping, canceling and downgrading in 2020
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I’ll come right out and say it: I’m a credit card nerd. New credit card announcements are like Christmas Day to me, and I’ve spent many quarantined nights researching how to best maximize my purchases. Heck, I even named my cat FICO. Throughout my credit card obsession, I’ve racked up a sizeable collection of cards over the years to maximize points earning and travel benefits.
Having so many credit cards can be great, but it can also be confusing at times. Analysis paralysis often hits me when deciding which card to use for a purchase; should I take the bonus points or work toward a big spend bonus? Plus, annual fees can add up quickly too, so I make it a point to assess which cards to keep or cancel at least once per year.
This time is usually in the early summer. Most of my annual fees come due around this time, so I pop open my handy credit card spreadsheet and assess which cards to keep, cancel or downgrade. This yearly ritual has helped me keep my wallet organized and ensures I’m not spending unnecessary money on annual fees.
I just finished this process for 2020, so I’m going to give you an insider’s look at what I decided to do this year. Let’s get started!
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The Cards I’m keeping in 2020
Due to the global coronavirus outbreak, I’ve really cut down my travel. I usually travel well over 100,000 miles per year, but this year I’ve only taken three round-trip flights. Unfortunately, this means I’m getting less value from my travel-focused credit cards.
That said, many issuers have added benefits or reduced annual fees, giving customers like myself a reason to keep their cards open through the pandemic. This drove my decision to keep many of the cards listed in this section for the time being.
Another thing I kept in mind when choosing to keep or cancel a card is rules around applying. Chase has its 5/24 rule, which prohibits those who’ve opened five or more new cards from opening a new Chase card. These rules had a big part in me choosing to keep a card open or not.
So without further ado, here’s a quick look at the cards I’m keeping this year, broken down by issuer.
American Express has long been my favorite credit card issuer. Its Membership Rewards points currency is top notch, with incredible transfer partners such as ANA Mileage Club, Avianca LifeMiles and Etihad Guest. Likewise, it has offers cobranded credit cards with Delta, Marriott and Hilton — and these cards each come with solid benefits.
Here’s a look at my suite of American Express credit cards — spoiler alert: I’m keeping all of them this year.
The American Express Gold Card is my overall favorite credit card. It has amazing points earning categories and a handful of statement credits that will keep the card in my wallet for years to come.
On the earning side, the card earns 4x points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x). In addition, it earns 3x points per dollar on airfare booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel and 1x point everywhere else.
Further, the card offers a monthly up to $10 dining credit that can be used at a handful of merchants, including Grubhub. I use this every month for food delivery, which is an expense I’d make regardless.
I get a ton of value from the card every year, and I don’t mind paying the $250 annual fee (see rates and fees). It’s earned me thousands of valuable points during quarantine that I can use to jumpstart my travel when the coronavirus outbreak is contained.
Related reading: American Express Gold card review
The Platinum Card from American Express holds a special place in my heart. It was my first truly premium travel credit card, and was the card that introduced me to airport lounges over six years ago. The card is an easy keeper in my eyes, especially because the benefits largely pay for the $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).
The first way the card pays for itself is through its monthly and annual credits. On a normal (see: not coronavirus) year, the card includes a monthly up to $15 Uber credit ($35 in December), a bi-annual up to $50 Saks Fifth Avenue credit and an annual up to $200 airline incidental fee credit per calendar year. I use each of these benefits in full, effectively paying back $500 of the $550 annual fee right off the bat.
On top of this, American Express added two new credits in light of the coronavirus outbreak. From now through the end of the year, Platinum cardholders get an up to $20 monthly statement credit towards streaming services and another for cell phone bills. I pay for Disney+, Apple Music and my T-Mobile bill with my Platinum, giving me a cool $40 back each month.
Plus, the travel benefits are second-to-none. The card includes access to American Express Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta and Priority Pass lounges. In a normal travel year, I visit these lounges multiple times per month, making the card a keeper for lounge access alone.
In addition, the card includes various rental car and hotel statuses, Marriott Bonvoy Gold status, Hilton Honors Gold status and other small perks. Truthfully, though, I don’t get much benefit from these as I’m a Hilton Diamond and Marriott Bonvoy Platinum member already. Regardless, it’s nice knowing that I have status to fall-back on if I don’t requalify.
Finally, I use the card to pay for all of my flights. It earns a whopping 5x points per dollar on flights when booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel, which is equal to a 10% return based on TPG’s most recent valuations. Starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. These flights are also covered by American Express’ new travel protections, meaning that I’m covered in case of flight delays and cancelations.
So, long story short: the American Express Platinum Card isn’t leaving my wallet any time soon. I was charged the annual fee in March, and happily paid it after asking for a retention offer. I was given 30,000 Membership Rewards after spending $4,000 on the card, which helped offset the fee even further.
Related reading: The Platinum Card from American Express review
It may seem redundant to hold both The Business Platinum Card from American Express and the standard Alex Platinum, but hear me out. The Business Platinum — with its $595 annual fee (see rates and fees) — has a handful of benefits that aren’t included with the standard card, and some have been added in response to the coronavirus.
The first is the up to $200 Dell.com credit per calendar year for U.S. purchases. This credit is dispersed in $100 increments twice a year, and can be used for anything on the Dell website. This credit has been upped to up to $400 for 2020 — which means the card’s fee is almost completely covered. This year, I used my credit for a handful of smart home accessories for my apartment.
Further, the card also added two new monthly credits: up to $20 for shipping and up to $20 for cell phone providers. I use these credits naturally each month, which saves me $40 I’d otherwise spend out of pocket. Plus, the card still includes an annual up to $200 airline fee credit per calendar year.
There are some other unique benefits included with the card too. You’re eligible for a 35% points rebate when booking flights with your preferred airline or any first or business class ticket through Amex Travel (up to 500,000 points back per calendar year). While not the best use of points, it’s a nice backup option to have to cover low-cost paid fares.
With all this in mind, I’m going to keep the card for the time being. That said, I may reconsider the next time the annual fee comes due — if the coronavirus benefits are extended though, I won’t hesitate to keep the card in my wallet.
The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express is a no-annual-fee (see rates and fees) business credit card that has excellent earning on non-bonus spend. The card earns 2x points per dollar on all purchases up to $50,000 per calendar year (then 1x), so I use it when I can’t earn bonus points with another card. Other than that, there’s not much to the card, and it’s staying in my wallet for the foreseeable future.
I started moving the bulk of my flying from United to Delta. I’ve found Delta’s customer experience to be better and its hubs in New York-LaGuardia and New York-JFK are both close to my Queens apartment. I started the year hoping to earn Delta Medallion qualifying status, so I applied for the Delta SkyMiles Business Reserve card — at a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).
This card offers a Medallion® Qualifying Dollar (MQD) waiver after spending $25,000 on the card ($250,000 for Diamond status) and lets you earn up to 60,000 bonus Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) per calendar year by spending on the card. In addition, it offers a Delta Sky Club membership and includes two guest passes you can use to bring travel companions into the lounge.
The lounge access isn’t a huge deal for me as I already get it with my Amex Platinum card. That said, I’m keeping the card around to earn bonus MQM. I put my tax payments and rent on the card, which has already earned me the first 15,000 MQM bonus.
My Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant’s annual fee came due two months ago, and it was an easy keeper for me. The card includes an up to $300 annual Marriott credit that can be used at any Marriott property. Further, you also get a free night that’s valid for hotel rooms up to 50,000 points per night when you pay the card’s $450 annual fee (see rates and fees).
This alone was enough for me to keep the card, but I decided to call Marriott after I was charged the fee to see if there was a retention offer on my account. Sure enough, I was offered 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to keep the card open, which sweetened the deal even further.
Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
The Marriott Bonvoy American Express card is not available to new applicants — instead, it was given to those who previously held the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. The card has a $95 annual fee, but I’ve opted to keep it open because of its annual free night credit, valid for properties up to 35,000 points per night.
I have no problem using this free night on rooms that cost more than the annual fee. That said, I only put a couple of purchases on the card every year to keep it open and don’t use it beyond that.
Bank of America
Bank of America isn’t the most well-known issuer out there, but it has a solid collection of cards. These days, it offers cobranded credit cards for Alaska Airlines, Air France, Virgin Atlantic and others. I’m only keeping one of my Alaska credit cards open — here’s why.
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card has a $75 annual fee, but comes with one standout benefit: a companion pass. You can use this pass to bring a guest with you on eligible Alaska Airlines flights for just $121 ($99 fare, plus taxes and fees from $22), which can be a great deal when flying transcontinental. The information for the Alaska Airlines Visa has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
I fly Alaska Airlines a few times a year to visit friends on the West Coast, so I use this pass to bring my girlfriend with me on one of these jaunts every year. Last year, it saved us more than $400 when booking a last-minute flight from New York-JFK to Los Angeles (LAX), which more than offset the fee.
This benefit alone makes the card a keeper for at least the next year. The card includes a free checked bag too, which comes in handy for bringing back craft beer from my favorite breweries in Seattle.
These days, I only have one Barclay’s credit card in my wallet — and it’s easy for me to keep around.
Being based in New York City, I fly JetBlue frequently from its New York-JFK hub. I recently received Mosaic status as a gift too, so my travel on the airline will increase once the coronavirus outbreak is behind us. I signed up for the JetBlue Business Card right after moving to the city — truthfully, in large part due to the high sign-up bonus. The information for the JetBlue Business 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.
I’ve kept the card around, however, for its annual mileage bonus. The card awards 5,000 bonus miles every time you pay your annual fee, which is worth $65 according to TPG’s valuation of 1.3 cents per point. This combined with the free checked bag that is included with the card makes the card an easy keeper for me.
Plus, you can earn Mosaic status by spending $50,000 on the card over the course of a single calendar year. This is a nice option to have, especially if I decide I want to my status after my gifted status period is over.
I have a number of different Chase credit cards — most of them are in the Ultimate Rewards family, but there is a cobrand one thrown in there too. I’ve opted to keep the majority of my Chase cards open, partially because I wouldn’t be able to reapply for them under the 5/24 rule. Plus, I use the cards for a variety of purchases.
Last year, I downgraded my Chase Sapphire Reserve to the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Truthfully, I wasn’t getting benefit from the Reserve as other cards in my portfolio already offer lounge access, bonus points earning on travel and various hotel benefits. That said, there is one benefit I used frequently: rental car insurance.
The Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred both offer a primary damage liability waiver on rental cars paid with your credit card. This saves me a ton of money when compared to paying $15 to $20 per day to purchase the waiver from a rental car company; and if I were ever in an accident, it’d pay for the car’s value in full.
This benefit alone makes the card’s $95 per year annual fee easily justifiable, so I’m keeping the card in my wallet for now.
The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Unlimited has been in my wallet for years. While it isn’t my go-to card for non-bonused purchases, I do use it when I want to earn Ultimate Rewards points. The card earns 1.5% cash-back on purchases — and when paired with my Sapphire Preferred — I can turn this cash back into transferrable Ultimate Rewards points.
My go-to card for non-bonused purchases is the Blue Business Preferred from American Express. Unfortunately, though, a number of merchants — for example, Sears — don’t accept Amex. I recently used the Freedom Unlimited when making a big reimbursable purchase from Sears, and the extra points were a welcome bonus.
Keeping the card open helps my credit score too. It’s one of my oldest credit lines so keeping it open with a $0 balance will only help keep my FICO score high.
I applied for the Ink Business Preferred last year and have switched much of my travel expenses to this card. It earns 3x points per dollar (up to $150,000 per account anniversary year) on popular business categories including travel, shipping, online advertising and internet and cable service. I put all my travel spend (excluding flights) on this card as well as my monthly internet bill.
This helps me rack up tons of bonus points throughout the year, so I’m keeping the card open for the time being. It has a $95 annual fee which I can easily justify, given the card earns me more than that amount of points over the course of a year.
As someone with United Premier Gold status for life, I fly United often on domestic hops. The now-discontinued United Club card gives me access to United Club lounges whenever I fly on the airline, which has proven to be helpful over the years. It’s saved me money on food, coffee and drinks over the course of my membership, and having a (mostly) quiet place to work before a flight is invaluable.
Plus, the card also offers complimentary Hertz President’s Circle status. This is my rental car company of choice, so having access to upgrades and bonus points earning is a valuable benefit for me.
That said, I don’t use the card much for purchases. It earns 2 miles per dollar on United purchases and 1.5 miles per dollar elsewhere, which isn’t bad for non-bonused spent. I’d rather put the purchases on my Freedom Unlimited though, as this gives me more options for using my points and miles.
The information for the United Club 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.
I’ve had the Citi Premier card for a couple of years now, and have used it for a handful of travel (excluding airfare), transportation and gas station charges. When I applied for the card in 2018, both of these purchase categories offered 3x points per dollar spent on the card — in addition, the card earned 2x points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment.
But the current earnings for the Citi Premier® Card are now:
- 3X on per dollar air travel and hotels
- 3X Points per dollar at restaurants
- 3X Points per dollar at supermarkets
- 3X per dollar at gas stations
The card also offers an annual up to $100 hotel discount, which is nice as it will completely offset the card’s $95 annual fee. To use the credit, you must book a stay of $500 or more through the ThankYou.com travel portal.
This isn’t the worst change on the planet, especially given the card added two new categories. The only major loss here is the removal of earning 3x points on travel that isn’t airfare or hotels. This includes things like Uber rides and subway fare. The addition of 3x earning on supermarkets and restaurants is nice too, but I’ll continue putting those expenses on my American Express Gold Card.
The only other major change is that you won’t be able to redeem your Citi ThankYou points at 1.25 cents per point through the Citi ThankYou travel portal. I try and only redeem my Citi points through transfer partners, so this isn’t a huge deal to me. Regardless, though, it’s unfortunate to see the benefit go away.
In the end, I’m keeping this card even after the change goes into effect due to the 3x points earning on gas and the upcoming $100 hotel credit. While I won’t use the new earning categories, I will continue to use the card to rack up points on gas purchases when I fill up rental cars.
Related reading: Redeeming Citi ThankYou Points for maximum value
These days, I only hold one U.S. bank card. The issuer’s portfolio has been lacking in terms of travel cards these days, but one still stands out for a long-term keeper: the Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card.
Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card
I signed up for this card in June 2019, and planned on using the points for an early 2020 trip to Orlando. While the trip has been put on hold, I’m still keeping the card open for two reasons: Radisson Rewards Gold status and the 40,000 point annual fee bonus. The information for the Radisson Rewards 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.
Radisson Rewards Gold status isn’t the most lucrative, but it does come with some interesting benefits like room upgrades, bonus points earning and a welcome gift. I stay at Radisson hotels once or twice per year, so having these benefits when I otherwise wouldn’t earn them is a nice perk.
That said, I wouldn’t keep the card for this benefit alone. The 40,000 annual bonus points is the real keeper for me, which is worth $160 per TPG’s most recent valuations, which is higher than the $75 annual fee. Plus, you can get much more value depending on how you redeem your points.
So as long as the card retains its annual 40,000 point bonus, I’m going to keep renewing the card. I can consistently profit from it by simply keeping the card open and paying the annual fee.
Related reading: Your ultimate guide to credit card annual perks
The cards I’m downgrading or canceling
I’ve held the Alaska Airlines Business credit card for just under a year, and plan on canceling it when the $75 annual fee comes due. The card has similar benefits to that of the personal version, and I haven’t a reason to keep both cards open. I should get all the benefits I need with the personal variant of the card, which — as discussed earlier — has a permanent spot in my wallet. The information for the Alaska Airlines Business 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.
I applied for the Avianca Vuela Visa when it offered a heightened welcome bonus in 2019. The card earns 3x points per dollar on Avianca purchases, 2x per dollar at gas stations and grocery stores and 1x points per dollar spent elsewhere. Unfortunately, there are no other worthwhile benefits. The information for the Avianca Veela Visa 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.
Because of this, I’ve opted to cancel it once the $149 annual fee is due later in the year. I still love Avianca LifeMiles and its hidden gems, but I’m better off earning miles with a card that earns American Express Membership Reward or Citi ThankYou points and then transferring the points at a 1:1 ratio.
Finally, we have the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. This is American’s standard credit card, which offers a free checked bag and preferred boarding on all American flights. Plus, you can earn 2x miles per dollar spent at gas stations, restaurants and on eligible American Airlines purchases.
I originally applied for this card when I lived in Chicago and flew American from its Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) hub on a semi-regular basis. While I never flew enough to get AAdvantage elite status, I did enjoy benefits through this credit card. Now that I’m in New York City, I hardly fly American and don’t see a reason to pay the card’s $99 annual fee.
Instead of canceling, though, I plan on downgrading to the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card. This no-annual-fee card has fewer benefits, but gives me the option to earn 2x miles per dollar at grocery stores. Plus, it will keep my credit line open.
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select 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 reading: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers
And there you have it: the cards I’m keeping, canceling and downgrading in 2020. I highly recommend that you take inventory of your credit cards every year too. This will help you assess what needs to stay in your wallet and what can go. In turn, you won’t spend unnecessarily on annual fees and can keep your wallet in order.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Blue Business Plus Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Business Reserve Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card, click here.
Featured photo by Shutterstock
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