Which Credit Cards Do I Have?

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Back in February I wrote a post sharing which credit cards are in my wallet. That’s to say which credit cards I currently have “open,” since I sure don’t carry all my cards in my wallet. With each card I’ll share the annual fee and whether I intend to keep the card when the annual fee comes due again or not, by placing the card in either the “Keep” or “Cancel” category.

With that in mind, here’s what’s in my wallet right now:

Ink Plus® Business Credit Card and Ink Bold® Business Charge Card (business) — Keep one, cancel the other
Annual fee: $95

The Chase Ink cards are the best business cards out there at the moment, in my opinion.

  • You get double points on the first $50,000 spent annually at hotels and gas stations
  • You also get 5x points on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cell phones, landlines, internet, and cable TV

The last category alone justifies the annual fee on the card (which is waived the first year), given that those are fixed monthly expenses for me, and when I add them up and calculate the 5x points I’m earning, I’m already coming out ahead.

I’ve had the Ink Bold for a while and just applied for the Ink Plus last week and got approved. Chase recently rebranded these cards as Visas rather than Mastercards, which means you’re eligible for the card even if you’ve had the Mastercard version in the past. I wrote about strategies for applying for the Chase Ink cards earlier this year, so you’ll want to review that post as well.

Chase Freedom® (personal) — Keep
Annual fee: none

I’ve wanted this card for a long while now, though only took the “plunge” last week. Chase has so many great credit cards, so it can be tough to decide which makes the most sense. But the thing about this card is that I was actively losing points by not having it. The card has no annual fee and offers 5x points in rotating categories for up to $1,500 in spend every quarter. That’s an easy way to pick up 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points per year.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (personal) – Keep
Annual fee: $95, waived first year

This one is of course a no brainer, and a card everyone should have.

  • The card offers double points on dining and travel
  • That means you’re earning 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants and on just about all travel expenses, including hotel, airline tickets, car rentals, transportation, and even parking

While I can get a good return on hotels and airline tickets with other cards, it’s the dining and other travel expenses (taxis, trains, parking, etc.) that make this card awesome. Since it has no foreign transaction fees I use it when I’m traveling abroad almost exclusively.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (personal) – Keep
Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

On a per point basis, Starwood points are probably the most valuable points currency out there. I value SPG points at about 2.2 cents each, and they’re actually the only points currency I value at over two cents per point. So I put all my Starwood hotel stays on this card, along with any spend in categories that don’t earn bonuses on other cards.

That being said, I’d keep the card alone for the fact that it offers two stays and five nights towards Starwood status annually. In the past I’d qualify for Starwood Platinum on 25 stays instead of 50 nights, but now I’m qualifying on nights given that you don’t get the 10 suite night awards annually if you qualify on stays. That’s basically like picking up night credits towards status at $13 each.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express (business) – Keep
Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

I like this card for exactly the same reasons as the personal card. They both offer the same bonuses, so the one reason to have both of them is because they each offer you two stays and five nights towards status annually. Between the two cards that’s four stays and 10 nights towards status, a very nice head start each year.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® (personal) – Keep
Annual fee: $99, waived first year

Last year Citi added new benefits to this card, including a 10% rebate on award redemptions, up to 10,000 miles per year. I easily max that out every year (since I make at least 100,000 AAdvantage miles worth of award redemptions per year), so by keeping this card I’m basically buying 10,000 miles at $99 annually, which is 0.99 cents per mile. Deal. I don’t put a dime in spend on the card, though.

US Airways Mastercard (personal) – Keep
Annual fee: $89, waived first year

I had this card earlier this year and applied for it again during my latest round of credit card applications. This is an easy 35,000 US Airways miles which will eventually be converted into American miles, and you get them after the first purchase. Since it’s almost certain that Citi will be the credit card issuer of American’s co-branded credit card post merger, this card is very much in the “use it or lose it” category, since the card and bonus probably won’t be around for long.

Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card (personal) — Keep
Annual fee: $95

Back when this card was introduced it was somewhat revolutionary, since it offered Hilton HHonors Gold status just for having the card for as long as you have the card. Hilton HHonors Gold status is probably the single most attainable and valuable mid-tier status level since it offers internet and club lounge access/breakfast, so that was worth something. However, in the meantime you also get Hilton HHonors Gold just for having the American Express Surpass Card, for having the American Express Platinum Card, or for buying a Milepoint Premium membership.

You also get Diamond status if you spend $40,000 on the card in a year, which I actually went for. However, based on my few stays as a Diamond member I can’t say I really noticed any marginal benefit over Gold. So it’s still an all around solid card, but given how many ways there are to get HHonors Gold status now, probably just a bit less solid.

Chase Hyatt Visa Card (personal) — Keep
Annual fee: $75

The only time I spend a dime on this card is for international Hyatt stays, since you earn three points per dollar (for domestic Hyatt stays I use the Starwood Business AmEx). Other than that I keep the card for the annual free night certificate, redeemable at category one through four properties. That more than justifies the annual fee, given that it can be redeemed at some great properties.

The Platinum Card® from American Express (personal) — Keep
Annual fee: $450

This card is expensive but worth every dime to me. It offers lounge access with American, Delta, US Airways, and Priority Pass. If I were to purchase a lounge membership with one of those airlines alone it would cost me about $350 per year.

But beyond that you get an annual airline fee credit for $200, which in practice can be used to purchase airline gift cards. So I’m able to purchase $200 in American Airlines gift cards per year and have it reimbursed. What sweetens the deal even further is that the annual fee is based on a rolling 12 month period, while the airline fee credit is based on a calendar year. So that means with your first year’s annual fee you can actually pick up two airline fee credits, worth $400.

The other thing that makes this card awesome is access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express — Keep or Cancel?
Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $195

I’m still a bit torn on the value of this card. It offers triple points on airfare and double points on gas, dining, and groceries. Gas and groceries are pretty moderate expenses for me, though if you have a family or a commute you’d likely get a ton more value out of this card. I decided to cancel the card back in April, though they offered me 12,500 points to keep the card, so I decided to keep it and continue to spend strategically on it.

Hilton HHonors Card from American Express — Keep or Cancel?
Annual fee: none

This is a no annual fee credit card that used to be worth keeping solely for the ability to redeem for Hilton’s AXON awards. However, Hilton devalued AXON awards in June after devaluing the rest of their program in March, so the card isn’t as useful as it used to be.

  • Maybe I’ll need an AXON award in the future, though for me a card without an annual fee is worth having just for the positive impact it has on my credit score.
  • One of the things that factors into your credit score is the average age of your accounts, so this card helps since I have no intentions of using it otherwise.

Furthermore, I have a fairly high credit line on the card so can transfer some of it to my Starwood American Express, where I value having a higher credit line.

Alaska Airlines Visa Card (personal) — Keep
Annual fee: $75

I actually have two of these cards at the moment. The sign-up bonus on the card is presently 30,000 miles upon approval. As a matter of fact the miles usually post before you even receive the card, which is pretty awesome. Alaska miles are incredibly valuable since they allow stopovers on one-way awards and have some amazing redemption opportunities on carriers like Cathay Pacific and Emirates.

But also I value the fact that the card comes with an annual $118 companion certificate for travel in coach on Alaska. The companion still earns miles and is upgradable, so as far as I’m concerned, the more of these cards I can pick up the better. I know people that have a handful of these cards active, so I’ll likely pick up another one in a few months.

Alaska Airlines Visa Business Card (business) — Keep
Annual fee: $50

The Alaska Business Visa only has a 25,000 mile sign-up bonus after the first purchase, but is still a great card since it also comes with a companion certificate. So between my two personal and one business cards I get three companion certificates annually, which I find to be a great value. Beyond that, the business annual fee is even lower than the personal annual fee.

Anyway, that’s a summary of the cards I have. If my math is right that’s 16 active cards right now, and while it represents quite a bit in annual fees, I’m also getting tons of annual benefits out of each card, be it from everyday spend or for the annual bonuses they offer.

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  1. You mentioned you don’t put any spending on some of the cards. Do the credit card companies ever shut down cards for not having any activity? I have a card I never use, but I put my monthly renter’s insurance charge on it so I at least have some activity.

  2. @Jon, I’ve had a Chase freedom card that I haven’t spent a dime on in over three years and it is still alive and well.

  3. How much time passed between when you got your first Alaska personal card and when you got the second? I have one, want to get a second but don’t want to pull the trigger too soon. Thanks!

  4. @Jon

    I have credit cards (no annual fee ones) that I never even bothered to activate, and they still send me new ones near the expiration date.

  5. If you really believe your 1.6 cent point valuation for MR then keeping PRG would be a no brainer. Just walk across the street to QFC, buy $9K of Visa GCs, set pin, drive to walmart, pay bill, done.

  6. I had Chase cards that I didn’t spend on and didn’t get shut down but what I got was turned down trying to get the Ink card because I “wasn’t making enough use” of the credit they’d already extended, even though it was personal vs business cards. They told me to try again when I’d shown more use of their products. It was really upsetting at the time because I read so many people talking about having fistfuls of cards (two Inks! two Alaskas!) and I was getting burnt by a CSR for not spending on my stupid AirTran card that I wanted just so I could go free to Aruba. I think it might be that it was just too close to a past churn and they were suspicious.

  7. I don’t understand how you justify the Amex Platinum’s $450 fee. Since you fly premium classes most of the time, the card’s lounge access has little value. And since you have elite status with hotels, the Fine Hotels program is also not of much value. Then the $400 credit works only for the first 2 years you have the card, not after that. Maybe the credit for Global Access helps, but not much to me. I’m thinking of getting the card, but I have a hard time justifying it. How do you do it?

  8. @S I’m on the same boat as you are. Im fine with paying for the FIRST annual fee, but after that, it’s not worth it for me either. Take the $400 in credit + global and RUNNNN

  9. @S-

    I think you are missing the total value of the Amex Platinum. It’s 200.00 per year airline credit (I use those for gift cards and it works fine), I’ve got Global Entry from it, and I use the lounges like crazy. I’ve got Hilton Gold through the card and get upgraded every time, even when I use points to stay. The first year of the card is free, but I would pay it. I’ve probably made over 2000.00 this year in terms of savings. There isn’t a card that comes close to it in my opinion. And Amex customer service kills everyone in the business bar non. I had a 400.00 dispute with Priceline and they just said no problem and took it off.

  10. @John K: I was totally prepared to hang up and call again, as you suggested, but what the CSR did was keep putting me on hold to figure out if she had enough information yet (talking to a supervisor? running my spend numbers? not sure) and I kept expecting she would come back and approve me, so I didn’t hang up. Then she came back and said “no” and specifically informed me that they were documenting that they went through this reconsideration process with me and were sending me a letter to confirm my rejection. It was basically a way of saying don’t bother to HUCA. Maybe I could have tried anyhow, but this was my first time being rejected on the reconsideration line so I was stunned.

    I guess this is all a long way of saying that it surprises me sometimes how people keep managing to get cards on top of cards without spending on them. If I had no significant spend on my BoA Alaska, why would they give me a second one?

  11. On the fence with PRG?? Easily the most valuable card in my wallet – and I have the majority of cards you do (but will not keep AS cards unless retention offers). 15K bonus on $30K spend pays the AF. The ability to MS at 2x makes it indispensable (and 3x on airfare is nice). I’d drop every other card before the PRG.

    Why the personal Carlson? Biz version has same bennies but lower AF. Why not get both? Hint: don’t put your existing Carlson account number on biz card – that way you can double team that second night free Benny. So book 2 nights with personal, get 1 night free. Book another 2 nights with Biz, get second night free. You can theoretically repeat as much as you want by alternating accounts.

  12. @ Elliot — I waited about six months due to laziness, though would have felt comfortable applying for another one after three months or so.

  13. @ HikerT — That’s limited to $1,000 per day at Walmart, no? I live ~20 minutes from the nearest Walmart, so hardly worth it if that’s the maximum in my opinion.

  14. @ Steve — Typically they limit you to four personal credit cards. One of my cards is a business card (the SPG AmEx) and two are charge cards (the Premier Rewards Gold Card and Platinum Card). So only two are personal credit cards.

  15. @ S — Since I get $200 in airline gift cards each year just for having the card, the annual fee is really only $250. For me that’s worth it for access to the Alaska Board Room or American Admirals Club, as either individual lounge membership would cost far more than that. Then there are tons of other benefits that help me justify it further, but those two lounge access opportunities are really enough for me.

  16. @Jon – my wife had a Chase card cancelled a couple of years ago because of no use on it (I think it was like 2 years of non-use). They did give warning, though.

  17. Am I reading this right? You intend to keep all the cards marked keep? By my calculations that comes to over $1,000 in annual fees. Yes there are alot of value propositions there but can you actually execute all of them?

  18. So it seems that you were able to get Hilton HHonors Card from American Express , even if you already have HH Reserve card. I currently have HH Surpass card and used to have HH Reserve card. Can I still get sign up bonus Hilton HHonors Card with no annual fee?

  19. Lucky, let us know if you are approved for the USAir card. I was turned down twice and my sweet talking self couldn’t get any rhythm at the reconsideration line. Denial based soley on # of apps, not credit score which is dandy.

  20. With regards to value of Plat AmEx — if you travel occasionally but not enough to qualify for SPG Gold (10 stays or 25 nights) or Hilton Gold (10 stays or 40 nights), getting Gold in each program (plus status with car rental companies) may be worth $250 (assuming you get $200 in airline gift cards or other spend every year).

    What’s interesting is that Global Entry and hotel/car rental status benefits extend to authorized users so it’s definitely worth it to pay an additional fee for the first year. After that, it may depend on whether the authorized users travels separately (and can use status) or together with main cardholder.

  21. Wyndham from Barclays- NO FEE- Points transfer to most airlines at an effective rate of 4/5 mile per $. Plus a sign up bonus.

  22. Steve – I had a similar but less painful experience with Chase. I already had 1 personal, 2 business cards. Spent heavily in 2012 (to get Southwest CP and build up RR point balance) but not much in 2013. When I applied for Sapphire Preferred, I was asked to phone in. The credit analyst said because my recent use was light they would not approve me for additional credit (even though my income and credit score are solid), but would allow me to move credit from existing cards to the new card.

    Paul – Club Carlson may water down or eliminate the “2nd night free” bonus if too many folks do as you have suggested. (They already have a history of making changes to the program without notice. Suggest burning CC points as quickly as you earn them.)

  23. If you’re 25 years old, and each year you were to invest that $1000 that you’re currently spending on annual fees, assuming an average 7% growth rate (roughly the historical average of the market), by the time you’re 65, you’d have about $215,000. Just food for thought.

  24. @Andrew, $215K will be chump change in 40 years. Lucky is gonna need to save a lot more than $1K a year for retirement.

    @Lucky, you could unload $9K in 1 visit no problem. I hit the Bellevue WMs every other day, maybe I’ll see you there one day. FWIW, you have the wrong AS card. 😉

  25. @ Andrew — Yes and yes. I’m paying over $1,000 in annual fees, but with each card I’m getting annual benefits that far outweigh that cost.

  26. @HikerT – what’s your strategy? Multiple BB cards and the rest through MO’s? I have two Bluebird cards but am beginning to wonder at what point any of my banks will question a large amount of MO deposits.

  27. @ HikerT, I was in no way suggesting Lucky’s retirement be only $215,000. I was simply saying, look what you could do with only $1,000 year. Hopefully all of us are socking away far more than that!

    Also, I’m a different Andrew from the Andrew in comment #24, I’m not questioning the benefits that are received!

  28. The thing I think people are not considering with the platinum AMEX is, if you cancel you can reapply a year later. So you give up some benefits for the year without the card, but potentially gain a 100,000 resigning bonus (worth $2200!) a year later (at least I have done this with the business version for which I get regular targeted offers)

  29. @Tony – In order to get the Palladium card, don’t you have to have a ridiculous amount of money with a Chase private banker?

  30. Question on US Airways M/C:
    I have a personal one, but was considering adding the business version before it disappears.
    Online link I found only offered 25,000 miles after 1st purchase + up to 10,000 miles for balance transfers w/in 1st 30 days.
    Is this the best deal out there?
    While it’s nothing special, 25,000 for 1 purchase sounds better than nothing.
    Thanks in advance for any input!

  31. What’s the issue w Cap One Venture card? 2 points on ALL spending, easy redemption, total flexibility, low fee. No one ever mentions.

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