The 21 Credit Cards That I’m Starting 2018 With

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It has been over six months since I’ve shared my credit card inventory, so I figured it’s time for an update, as we start the new year. At the moment I have four more cards than I had about six months ago, though fewer cards than I had prior to that — I’m starting 2018 with 21 credit cards.

With that out of the way, first I’ll share a brief intro regarding how applying for credit cards impacts your credit score, then I’ll talk a bit about why I get certain cards, and then I’ll share the cards I have open.

How credit cards impact your credit score

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. A couple of years 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. While my credit score has changed slightly since then, it’s still over 800.


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

Credit score breakdown

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 typically fall off your report after 24 months.

What I look for in credit cards

For me, there are three things I look for when applying for credit cards:

  • They offer a big welcome bonus — often the introductory bonuses on cards are compelling, and enough reason to pick up a new card
  • They offer a generous return on everyday spend — there are some cards you have because they help you maximize the points you earn for everyday spend
  • They offer ongoing perks that more than justify the annual fee — some cards are worth holding onto even if you don’t plan on putting much spend on them, because they offer things like elite status, annual free nights, etc.

The 21 credit cards I have right now

With that in mind, let me share which cards I have at the moment. As mentioned above, I have 21 open credit cards right now, which is more than I had six months ago, but less than I had a couple of years ago.

Here they are, broken down by issuer:

American Express:

I love the Centurion Lounge access offered with the Platinum Card from American Express

Bank of America:

The Alaska companion certificate has allowed me to score some great deals on flights


The Aviator Silver Card has helped me requalify for Executive Platinum with American


I love redeeming Ultimate Rewards points for travel in Korean Air first class


The Admirals Club membership offered with the Citi Executive AAdvantage Card is tough to beat

US Bank:

In 2016 I stayed at the Radisson Blu Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost hotel

Bottom line

I know that’s a lot of credit cards, but to me they all serve a specific purpose. A vast majority of these are cards I plan to hold onto long term, given that they offer outsized return, either in terms of the perks offered, or in terms of the return on spend.

How many credit cards do you have right now?

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  1. Two questions:
    1. Do you really need the extra nights/stays with hotel programs given that you basically live out of hotels?
    2. Somehow with all your other credit cards, I feel like your Barclay Arrival+ is not necessary. Do you spend enough money on it to justify the annual fee?

    Not trying to criticize – just trying to understand your decisions.

    Happy New Year!

  2. @lucky: Just looking for an insight. My credit utilization went up from ~1-2% to ~10-12% last month because I swiped my card for my wedding. My credit score dropped ~50pts. This month, it’s back to ~1-2% utilization. Should/Will my score go back up ~50pts when the credit companies report to the bureaus? Just curious. Still >750.

  3. Hey lucky how do you physically receive these cards when they are posted to you if you have no fixed address? Do you get them sent to Ford in LA or your parents before that?

  4. @ Jon — I generally use the Amex Platinum Card for airfare purchased directly with airlines, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred for other purchases.

  5. @ EF — It’s strange that it dropped that much from utilization of 10-12%, which is still quite low. I imagine over the coming months your score should rebound, though I’m not sure if it’s after one month, or takes a bit longer. Either way, if you’re still at 750+ you have nothing to worry about.

  6. @ A — Well I just recently applied for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus given the great sign-up bonus. Truth be told, I’m not sure I’ll renew it when the annual fee comes due again. As far as the extra nights go, I split my stays a lot nowadays, so last year I just squeaked by with 100 SPG nights, so it certainly does help, though maybe I’d still make it without that.

  7. Lucky that’s a lot of credit cards and a lot of money on annual fees.
    So to help us out why don’t you tell which cards you use for things like: hotels, airfare, taxi, gasoline, groceries, non bonus spending, etc. That would help out a lot. I’m always looking for ways to maximize spending on credit cards.

  8. I see that you get a Free IHG night a year and a free Hyatt category 1-4 each night.
    Lucky why don’t you have the Marriott card which gives you a free category 1-5 on the consumer and the business credit card? That’s two more free nights.

  9. The Hilton Surpass card with convert to the Ascend card on January 18, 2018 and offer no real improvement. The free night on your anniversary will be deleted and now you need to spend 15,000 on the card to get the free night. What can I do to complain to Hilton as I just got the card last June. Paid the 95.00 for a year and get no free night. And will have to pay 95.00 for the new card by February 2, 2018

  10. @ Wonderful Wanda – I have the Marriott card and am about to drop it. I really struggle to find a category 1-4 hotel that I want to stay at each year, particularly in the US where they’re generally poorly located suburban or even rural hotels. Convenient if you road trip a lot, but not so handy for my travel patterns.

  11. Lucky,

    Could you please explain why you carry both the AA Exec and AA Plat. Select? I know the Exec card comes with Admirals Club Access, but does that not make the Plat. Select card redundant?

  12. I think the arrival+ is unnecessary as is both Citi & Barclays AA cards. You’d be better off with a Double Cash or BoA Premium Rewards depending on your assets. Also, no Discover, US Bank Cash+, or Citi Divided? I guess you need the no FTF.

  13. @ Tav Tabanian — The reason is because the Platinum Select offers a 10% refund on redeemed miles (up to 10K points per year), which the Executive doesn’t. So basically I get 10,000 miles per year for paying the $95 annual fee, which I find to be worthwhile.

  14. @ ShawnWong — It should be the last one mentioned under Amex Cards, unless I’m missing something. 🙂

  15. Wow, I only have 2 credit cards. I don’t know if I could handle with 3, 4 o 5 credit cards.
    Would you like to share the uses purpose of your cards? Just to have an expertise insight.

  16. “@ Tav Tabanian — The reason is because the Platinum Select offers a 10% refund on redeemed miles (up to 10K points per year), which the Executive doesn’t. So basically I get 10,000 miles per year for paying the $95 annual fee, which I find to be worthwhile.”

    But your Advantage Aviator Silver card from Barclays also offers the up to 10,000 miles per year benefit according to the Barclay’s website when being prompted to upgrade and regardless of the number of cards held you can only receive 10,000 miles back so if you are planning on keeping your Advantage Aviator Silver there is really no point in keeping the Citi Advantage Platinum Select Card.

    And even if you were only planning to keep 1 of the 2 cards it makes more sense to keep the Barclays version since you can earn EQDs with the Advantage Aviator Red card. The only exception would be if you haven’t opened or closed a Citi Advantage card in the last 24 months and were looking to get another signup bonus on a Citi Advantage card.

    Also, agree with others that the Arrival card is redundant and offers little overall value as does the Hilton Honors Surpass card since you already receive Hilton Gold status from your American Express Platinum Card.

    I am also surprised you are planning on applying for the Blue Plus for Business card and closing your Blue for Business card instead of just product trading the card which would save the inquiry especially if there is no signup bonus. Any particular reason that applying is preferred to product trading in this situation?

  17. Lucky,

    Just FYI – the word “spend” is a verb. Please stop using it as a noun. For example:

    Incorrect: “…maximize the points you earn for everyday spend.”

    Correct: “…maximize the points you earn for everyday spending.”

    Or better yet: “…maximize the points you earn for everyday purchases.”

  18. After the launch, no one talks about the US Bank Altitude anymore. I think it’s great if you have a current relationship with US Bank and have a smart phone, especially a Samsung. You get 3x points for travel spending and mobile pay and Samsung Pay works at many more places than Apple Pay or Android Pay. This is great for otherwise un-bonused brick and mortar spending. Points are worth 1.5 cents toward their travel portal. This is a return of 4.5% on mobile and travel spending on a card with only a $75 annual fee ($400 – $325 annual travel credit). My only disappointment is you’ll get 4 Priority Passes/year instead of unlimited.

    End sales pitch.

  19. Re: Arrival+, when my annual fee came up I downgraded to the no-fee version. Kept to keep the lower credit utilization and to have a true Chip-and-PIN available to me. Agree the annual fee version is mostly pointless based on other cards available.

  20. Very informative post, Ben.

    I too was surprised with your Barclay’s Arrival inclusion– it’s a great card for sure on its own but given all the other cards you have is it adding anything?

    Also wanted to clarify one thing: the Chase Sapphire $300 airline credit can be used for ANY airline cost (including ticket price). But the $200 AMEX platinum credit can only be used for airline-related charges (i.e., bag check, food on board, etc) but not actual airfare, is that correct? If so, that’s a significant difference in quality of the credit.

    Finally, while the airline credit and free hotel nights are quantifiable perks, the free lounge access is less so, because it assumes that you otherwise would have paid for it. Most economy travelers (myself included for the most part) would not be doing so. And J/F travelers typically get some lounge access anyway.

  21. Lucky, can you please use arrowasand circles to make it easy for us to follow you.

    You know you are almost there. Do it!

  22. @lucky can you please explain what benefit you have with the club Carlson card, why do you still have it open?

    Btw the sign up bonus on it now is 50K

  23. @ John smith — The card offers 40,000 points on your account anniversary every year just for paying the $75 annual fee, and I value those points at significantly more than that. So that it makes it worth holding onto the card, in my opinion.

  24. @baxter – Google the word “spend”. It’s a noun and a verb. Nothing’s worse than a know-it-all who gets it wrong.

  25. Thanks for sharing, Lucky. I had the mistaken impression that you just got cards for the sign up bonuses and traveled the world for almost free but you have everyday cards, like the Chase Freedom Visa.

    I am a party pooper because I still use a Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Visa, which has a 1.5% cash back, for general use. I also have some limited use cards and airline affiliated cards, partly to help separate personal and business expenses. I also have one foreign credit card so that there is no foreign exchange conversion for one other country. However, I’ve gained insight to better credit card management thanks to you, Lucky!

  26. @Baxter in this game, spend is most certainly a noun. The English language is not so rigid that it doesn’t adapt, especially on the Internet, especially in a field that is pretty modern and rapidly changing.
    Go edit a dissertation, professor.

  27. @Lucky would love a post about new/upcoming/expected cards you plan to apply for (I.e. Hilton premium card from Amex and new spg/Marriott cards expected to be introduced)

  28. I used to use everyday spend(ing) on the Arrival+ for Kimpton stays. Now that IHG has merged them in, I downgraded to no-fee Arrival.

  29. I don’t spend/travel enough to justify annual fees for so many cards. If you could only have 7 cards which ones would you pick?

  30. @Lucky – Besides the sign-up bonus, what is the value in holding onto the Hilton Honors Surpass American Express if you: a) already receive gold status from having the Platinum Card and b) feel the the return is better using the CSR at Hilton hotels?

  31. @lucky I use exclusively the Aeroplan VISA infinite card.
    It has a $120 CAD annual fee which is payed for by my employer.
    I know that by 2020 this card will be useless to me since I fly almost exclusively on Air Canada, otherwise on Star Alliance.

    There has been no news as to what will happen to points accumulation until 2020 and transferability into Air Canada’s new own program which I suppose they’ll call Altitude.

    I have almost 2 million Aeroplan miles accumulated which I was eventually going to use to bring my family on vacation in business class when kids get older…

    So what’s my question? What card will come to save the day for me and what will happen to all my points?

  32. I know its personal but I am from India and I love your every posts. I wanted to get a fair idea about how much credit line an average american gets ? How much limit you have in your various cards. Other peoples comments will also be very appreciative.

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