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There are a lot of misconceptions about how credit scores work, in particular people thinking that having a lot of credit cards will ruin your credit score. That’s not true… at all.
The beginners guide on the blog has a section about credit cards and credit scores, which explains why that’s not the case. About a year ago I shared my Experian credit score, which was 837 at the time, better than 98% of US consumers. And that’s despite the fact that I had over two dozen open credit cards at the time.
For those of you not familiar, here are the things which factor into your credit score:
- 35% of your score is made up of your payment history
- 30% of your score is your credit utilization
- 15% of your score is your credit history
- 10% of your score is made up of the types of credit you use
- 10% of your score is your request for new credit
What’s most important is that you pay your bills on time, don’t utilize too much of your credit (meaning you want to ideally use 20% or less of your total available credit), and keep some cards long term, which will help increase your average age of accounts. The only metric which is lowered by applying for cards is your requests for new credit, but that makes up just 10% of your score. Furthermore, credit inquiries fall off your report after 24 months.
With that out of the way, I’m often asked which credit cards I have open, so I figured I’d share my list. I’d note that I’ve made a concious effort to decrease the number of cards in my wallet lately, so this is a scaled back version of my “inventory” at some points in the past.
I’ll breakdown my credit card inventory into three categories:
- Cards I have for the ongoing perks — these are cards which are worth keeping and paying the annual fee on exclusively for the perks they offer me, even if I don’t spend a dime on them
- Cards I have for everyday spend — these are cards I use to supercharge the number of points I earn for my everyday spend
- Cards I have for other reasons or a combination of reasons — these are cards which are valuable for other reasons, or maybe because I have them for a combination of everyday spend and the annual perks.
Credit cards I have for the ongoing perks
This card offers an annual free night certificate, valid at any IHG property in the world. That more than justifies the card’s $49 annual fee. On top of that the card also comes with Platinum status as long as you have the card, and a 10% refund on redeemed points, up to 100,000 points per year.
This year I redeemed by free night at the InterContinental The O2 London, when the nightly rate would have otherwise been almost $500.
The Hyatt Credit Card also offers an annual free night certificate, valid at category 1-4 properties. To me that more than justifies the $75 annual fee of the card. This year I used the free night certificate at the Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi.
While the card has a $550 annual fee, it has all kinds of perks which more than offset it. This includes a $200 annual airline fee credit (which I used to purchase American Airlines gift cards a few months ago), access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (which I get a ton of value out of), Centurion Lounge access, and more.
This card offers HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card. That’s a really useful status level, as it gets you breakfast and/or club lounge access at Hilton properties. However, I recently got matched to Hilton Diamond status, so I’m not getting much use out of that now. Furthermore, The Platinum Card® from American Express now also offers Hilton Gold status, so I’m probably going to cancel the card when the annual fee is due.
One cool perk of this card is that you get a free weekend night certificate valid at any Hilton family property (including Conrad and Waldorf Astoria) if you spend $10,000 on the card per year. That has the potential to be well worth it, given that you can redeem it at a property which would cost 95,000 points per night.
Redeem your annual free weekend night certificate at the Conrad Koh Samui
This used to be one of the single most rewarding cards out there, as it offered a second free night on all award stays, which was incredible. Unfortunately that was discontinued last year, so the card isn’t nearly as useful as it used to be.
However, the card still offers a 40,000 point bonus upon your account anniversary each year, which is worth more than the card’s annual fee of $75. So while the card isn’t as compelling as it used to be, it’s still well worth it, in my opinion.
This card offers a 10% refund on miles redeemed through AAdvantage, and you can be refunded up to 10,000 miles per year. I easily redeem 100,000 miles with American per year. My thought process is simply that I’ll gladly pay the $95 annual fee to get 10,000 miles per year — that’s less than a cent per mile.
AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard
This is the former US Airways card issued by Barclaycard, which I got before the US Airways brand disappeared. To be honest, I was going to cancel it last week, but they offered to refund the annual fee when I called in, so I figured I might as well hold onto it. If it’s not costing me anything, I’d rather have a card which adds to my average age of accounts than not.
This card offers an annual companion certificate, where the companion pays just $99 plus taxes and fees. The best part is that the companion also earns miles, is eligible for upgrades, etc. That more than justifies the card’s $75 annual fee.
Credit cards I have for everyday spend
This is the top card in my wallet nowadays. It offers triple points at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year), and double points at US gas stations. On top of that you earn a 50% points bonus when you make 30 transactions in a billing cycle, meaning you’re really earning 4.5x points at supermarkets, 3x points at gas stations, and 1.5x Membership Rewards points on everything else. This makes it my “go to” card for everyday, non-bonused spend. To me that is well worth the $95 annual fee.
This card offers triple points on airfare, and double points at US gas stations, US supermarkets, and US restaurants. It’s a fantastically rewarding card, though given all the other cards I have for the purpose of maximizing points, I might cancel it when the next annual fee is due. As far as Amex products go, the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card is serving me very well.
While the benefits of this card have been reduced somewhat over the past few years, it still offers double points on dining and travel, and most importantly, accrues “premium” Ultimate Rewards points. So if nothing else it goes very well with the Chase Freedom® Card and Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card, as those points couldn’t be transferred to airline and hotel partners if I didn’t have the Sapphire Preferred.
This no annual fee card offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, for up to $1,500 of spend per quarter. This is basically an opportunity to earn 30,000 points on $6,000 of spend per year, in very popular categories. That’s a no brainer to me. Thanks to having the Chase Sapphire Preferred, I can also transfer these points to the Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel transfer partners, including Korean Air SkyPass and Hyatt Gold Passport.
This no annual fee card offers 5x points on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchased at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services each account anniversary year. That’s fantastic, especially since you can buy so many things at office supply stores. For example, I buy a lot of things through Amazon, and I always purchase Amazon gift cards at office supply stores so I earn 5x points.
This card offers triple points on travel and gas as well as double points on dining and entertainment. Along with the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, I consider this to offer one of the best returns on everyday spend, though I plan on cancelling it now that the annual fee is due. That’s simply because the Citi Prestige® Card is offering most of the same bonuses, and I’m holding onto it as well.
Credit cards I have for other reasons/combination of reasons
I consider this to be the all around best card out there, so I have it both for the return on everyday spend and for the perks it offers. The card has a $450 annual fee, but for that you get a $250 annual airline credit, an incredible fourth night free hotel benefit, the most comprehensive Priority Pass membership offered by any card, and a $100 Global Entry fee credit.
On top of that the card offers triple points on airfare and hotels, and double points on dining and entertainment. There’s also excellent travel coverage, making this my “go to” card for all my airfare and hotel purchases.
Simply put, this card is a no brainer.
This is a no annual fee card which I got several years ago, and have held onto ever since. It’s always good to hold onto some no annual fee cards long term to help your credit score. However, now that the Hilton HHonorsTM Surpass® Card from American Express has a 100,000 point sign-up bonus, I’m trying to decide whether to upgrade my existing card, or apply for a new card.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express & Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
I consider this to be one of the most lucrative cards in terms of return on everyday spend. I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each, so it’s a great card for everyday spend.
But the main reason I hold onto both of these cards is that they each offer two elite stays and five elite nights towards status annually. That means just for having both cards I start each year with four elite qualifying stays and 10 elite qualifying nights towards status. This should nicely help me requalify for Starwood Ambassador status.
I don’t think my card portfolio at this point is too unreasonable, though I’m always analyzing the merits of each card. I think I’m getting great value out of the cards I hold onto for the long term perks, while I think I need to cut 1-3 cards which help me maximize my return on everyday spend, because at some point annual fees negate the benefits of the increased return on spend.
Non-Affiliate Product Disclaimer: The information for the Chase Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card and AmEx Everyday Preferred has been collected independently by One Mile At A Time. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.