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I’m constantly evaluating which credit cards I’m using most for my everyday spend. There are several variables which go into this decision:
- Which general categories I’m spending the most money in — Lots of cards offer lucrative category bonuses, so as my spending patterns shift, so should the cards I use most. For example, living in hotels full time I get tons of value out of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card offering triple points on all travel purchases.
- Which points I’m most in need of — While I have different valuations of points, at times I have more points in one currency than I know what to do with, while I can’t get enough of another currency; it all depends on what my travel patterns look like. For example, right now I have tons of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, while I’m short on American Express Membership Rewards points, which is why the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card is getting a lot of my spend.
- How the value of different points changes over time — The value of specific points currencies, and even flexible points currencies, can change drastically over time based on award chart devaluations, changes in partnerships, etc. For example, Citi ThankYou points became much more valuable when they began allowing mileage transfers.
- Card benefits changing over time — In many cases these can be subtle, but over time changes in benefits on cards can shift value propositions. For example, the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card being refreshed earlier in the year and offering triple points on gas and travel really changed the value of the card for many.
With that in mind, 90% of my spend has gone onto two cards as of the past several months. It has not only simplified my credit card strategy, but I also think I’m maximizing my rewards in a vast majority of instances.
So which cards am I using for almost all of my purchases nowadays?
Citi ThankYou® Premier Card for travel, gas, dining, and international purchases
This card offers the following bonus categories:
- 3x points on travel
- 3x points on gas
- 2x points on dining out and entertainment
- 1x point on all other purchases
So the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card offers triple points on all travel and gas purchases, double points on dining, and no foreign transaction fees. Those are the categories of spend I put on this card. It also has a very broad definition of what constitutes travel purchases, including the following:
airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies, gas stations, commuter transportation, taxi/limousines, passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, campgrounds and trailer parks, time shares, bus lines, motor home/RV Rental and boat rentals
As you can see, that’s a fairly liberal interpretation of travel, as it includes parking, booking through online travel agencies, etc.
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card for everything else
This is one of American Express’ newest products, and as far as I’m concerned is one of the most underrated and all around most lucrative cards. What makes this card so awesome? It offers:
- 3x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 2x points at US gas stations, 1x points on other purchases
- Use your card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period and get 50% more points on those purchases less returns and credits
Since I easily achieve the 30 transactions per month, this means I’m earning the following:
- 4.5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at supermarkets (the first $6,000 per year)
- 3.0x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at gas stations
- 1.5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on everything else
4.5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at supermarkets is huge. Unfortunately I live in hotels at the moment, so don’t benefit all that much from it (though once I settle down and live in one place, I’m sure I’ll maximize that).
But mainly what I love about this card is that I’m basically earning 1.5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on everyday purchases. I value Membership Rewards points at 1.8 cents each, so that’s like a return of ~2.7% on otherwise non-bonused spend.
As far as I’m concerned that’s by far the best return on everyday spend offered by any card, including the otherwise lucrative Citi® Double Cash Card or Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
- 4.5x points at supermarkets
- 3x points on travel and at gas stations
- 2x points on dining
- 1.5x points on everything else
For two mid-range credit cards, I’d say that’s a pretty incredible return on everyday spend.
Does anyone else have a “two card strategy” for maximizing return on everyday spend? Which cards do you use most?