If you collect miles and points by using your credit cards, knowing what cards to use for each type of purchase will maximize the points you’ll earn. However, making sure you have the right card with you at all times and staying up to date on the current bonus categories is a lot of work. If you’re the type of person who, like me, wants to maximize earnings on every purchase, you might need to carry at least 3-4 cards with you at all times. If you’re someone who, like Sharon, just wants to have one card for all of your purchases, you’ll want to make sure the card you are using is good for the majority of the things you buy. Looking at the cards that I have in my wallet compared to what cards Sharon carries can give you a glimpse into two different strategies for earning points and miles.
Joe’s Wallet – Maximizing Every Spending Category
Chase Sapphire Reserve – I use this card for all of our dining expenses because it earns three Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent. I can use Ultimate Rewards to book travel through the Chase portal and get 1.5 cents per point value or I can transfer points to United Airlines or Hyatt Hotels to redeem for rewards in those programs.
Citi Thank You Preferred – I keep this card with me to pay for all gas station purchases since this card earns three Citi Thank You Points per dollar. I can redeem Thank You points for 1.25 cents each towards travel booked through the Citi portal. I can also transfer Thank You points to Airline Programs like JetBlue, KLM/Flying Blue (where I can book Delta flights) and Singapore Airlines (where I can book United flights). Since this card is a MasterCard, it’s the one I use when we occasionally go shopping at Costco.
American Express Everyday Preferred – Despite my aversion to adding authorized users to credit cards, this is one account where we both have cards. While I’m not the primary shopper for groceries in the family, I’ll occasionally find that I’ll need to stop and pick up a necessary item on the way home from work that we need for dinner. I keep this card in my wallet because it earns three points per dollar for all spending at supermarkets. I also use this card for my small purchases, like a bottle of soda or a coffee. This is because if you use the card for 30 purchases in a billing cycle, you earn a 50% bonus on the points earned. So three points per dollar on groceries becomes 4.5 points per dollar.
Wild Card Space – This is the place I save for a card I’m using to meet a spending requirement either for a new card or an offer for a card that I already had (either a retention offer or just a limited time bonus), If I don’t have any card I’m using for that, then I’ll keep my Starwood AMEX card here. I’ll use this Wild Card for all of my spending that doesn’t have a category bonus and it’s the card I’ll use for my monthly bills (utilities, subscriptions, etc.)
Sharon’s Wallet – Simplified Points Earning
When we first started this blog, we joked in our bio that we were a husband who was into miles and points and his wife who didn’t really care. That’s changed a bit but Sharon still doesn’t want to have to worry about which credit card to use for each purchase. If I put a card in the front of her wallet, she’ll use it and that’s about as far as I’ve been able to get with her.
American Express Everyday Preferred – I mentioned this as the card that I use for my grocery store spending but it is also a wonderful card for people who don’t want to learn the ins and outs of miles and points. It is a fantastic “one and done” card to have in your wallet. It earns 3 points per dollar for spending at supermarkets, 2 points per dollar spend at gas stations and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. As I mentioned before, The Everyday Preferred earns a 50% bonus if you use the card 30 or more times in a billing period, With both of us using this card, we can easily hit the 30 transaction limit each month.
Chase Sapphire Preferred – While the AMEX Everyday is a great card, it’s still a fact that not everywhere accepts American Express cards. It’s for these cases where I’ll have Sharon use her Sapphire Preferred as a backup. It’s a Visa card, so it’s accepted almost everywhere, It earns 2 points per dollar on travel and dining expenses and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Even if she only earns 1 Ultimate Reward point per dollar spent, I can never have enough Ultimate Rewards points.
The cards I mentioned are good for us but they might not be the best for every situation. For instance the AMEX Everyday only counts grocery spending done at supermarkets so if you go to Big Box stores like Target and Walmart or do your grocery shopping at Discount Clubs like Costco or BJ’s Wholesale Club, you wouldn’t get any extra points. In that case, you might be better off getting a card like the Citi Costco Anywhere card that gives you 4% cash back on all gasoline purchases, including Costco, and 2% back on all Costco purchases. If you spend a bit of time outside of the United States, most of these bonus categories are only for U.S. purchases so for you it would be most important to have a card with no foreign transaction fees. Everyone’s situation will be different, just make sure the plan you choose works for you.
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