What Credit Card Does Obama Use? And What Mistake is He Making?

As part of the UK Daily Mail‘s coverage of President Obama cutting the line at the extremely popular Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas, they carried a photo of him paying for the order of the father and daughter who were first in line ahead of him.

And this photo reveals Obama’s credit card of choice.

He’s carrying a JP Morgan Select card.

You cannot apply directly for this card any longer. When it was available it was basically a Chase Sapphire Preferred card without double miles on dining, or a signup bonus, but (based on a comparison I did for Wendy Perrin at Conde Nast Traveler a couple of years ago) with:

  • An EMV chip (chip and signature), before Sapphire Preferred offered this.
  • 25,000 bonus points after $100,000 spend each year.
  • Primary collision damage waiver on rental cars.

The card is still available, though, to Palladium card cardholders.

The Palladium card is a $595 annual fee product with laser-engraved signature into a heavy metal card, available to JP Morgan Private Client and Private Bank customers. It comes with United Club membership, what was once a highly regarded concierge service but that has apparently experienced slippage, and 35,000 bonus points after $100,000 spend each year. It earns double points on travel, and doesn’t report each month to cardmember’s credit (“hidden trade line” so use of credit line doesn’t increase utilization ratio and reduce credit score).

Chase will give Palladium cardmembers a Select card on request, either in place of or in addition to their Palladium since some customers prefer the attractively designed but less flashy card (avoiding the “thud” and cashier comments that come along with having a unique-looking and very heavy metal card).

We do not know whether Obama is a legacy Select cardmember or a Palladium cardholder. However, I’ve previously heard that at least one Chase employee was fired for looking up Obama’s assets with the bank without authorization.

But what of his card choice?

Sapphire Preferred comes with the same rewards plus double points on dining (Franklin Barbecue even features in a Chase ad). It now has the EMV chip. And it would have come with a signup bonus.

The Palladium card makes no sense for Obama presently, and carries a much higher annual fee. (Nor does he need the ‘bling’ since he’s, you know, POTUS and all.)

Even as a legacy Select cardholder he’ll clearly do better with Sapphire Preferred than with JP Morgan Select unless he spends $100,000 per year on the Select card and with less than 25% of his spend in travel or dining categories.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] The card comes with Marriott Gold status the first year, and then you keep it by spending $10,000 on the card each year. There’s a $200 airline fee credit as well that helps take the sting out of the annual fee. There are also some fairly restrictive club lounge upgrade and $100 folio credits with Ritz-Carlton stays as well. Concierge service that I’ve heard is now handled by the same company which takes care of Palladium card customers (which may even include President Obama). […]


  1. Yeah, but he can save points by flying AF1. I bet he gets a great lie-flat seat with tremendous service.

  2. He also can’t take advantage of double points on Uber as secret service requires he ride with them.

  3. My heavens. You really will stop at nothing to pimp the Chase Sapphire card. It is almost impressive in a sort of desperate, sad, mundane way.

  4. Q: What Credit Card does Obama use?

    A: Who cares?

    Q: What mistake is he making?

    A: What mistake is he NOT making?

  5. @Darth Chocolate –

    Someone’s taking this post a little too seriously.

    Thanks for posting the President’s credit card, Gary. I can just make out the account numbers. You don’t think he’d mind a little shopping spree, do you?

  6. @Fart McCloud .. I’ve often thought that comments reflect as much or more on the commenter and their own interests and issues than on the subject about which they are choosing to comment.

    I wonder how closely you read this post, and whether you realized that there were no links to the Sapphire card contained in it? Or any affiliate links at all for that matter?

    And I wonder how you feel about having been named “Fart McCloud” and whether the personal issues associated with it are what led you to select “douche@bag.com” as your email address?

  7. The President’s use of this card would be a mistake only if he gave a hoot about points or other silly card perks. It is wise for any President to use a card that does not require a signature

  8. Gary! Great post hehe….I myself always wondered that. Perhaps we also need to make a list of famous peeps and their choice of cards: I personally would like to see the choice cards for:
    1. Vladimir Putin (if any)
    2. Bill Clinton
    3. Michael Moore (big buy who always rants about the banks)

  9. @john – whether Franklin barbecue asked him to sign the sales slip or not, at most merchants a signature is still required even with a card that has an EMV chip. First the card is chip and signature anyway and not chip and pin. Second most merchants aren’t yet set up to use the chip in any case.

  10. You’re really going to ask “What mistake is (Obama) making?” on the internet? Here it comes!

  11. I’m pretty hard on shameless credit card pimping, but honestly, this is pretty funny original content and the kind where Gary SHOULD be pimping that CSP link!

  12. I’m pretty impressed by how restrained this thread has been, on all fronts! (Especially considering how many thousands of times it has been viewed.)

  13. The President does not strike me as the type of guy who would pay any attention to the “value” he was getting on his credit card. His management of his own personal finances was never impressive: like despite significant income (including the hundreds of thousands of dollars the University of Chicago started paying his wife as he climbed the political ladder) Obama didn’t pay off his student loans until his 40s. In this regard, Obama’s kind of like a celebrity who doesn’t pay much attention to his finances, but manages to make enough that it doesn’t matter. I’m sure there are a lot of Hollywood celebrities who ridiculously overpay for their credit cards, too!

  14. BTW, I bet Mitt Romney manages his credit card spending effectively. He’s got the right financial background and temperament for it. Was there any reporting on this during the campaign?

    Maybe for the next Presidential election, we should ask the candidates “what’s in their wallet.” It would likely provide some insight into their financial savvy.

  15. Mistake? Showing everyone on the planet his credit card number (try Google Image Search)? Cutting the line at Franklin BBQ?

  16. NO doubt that he’s paying the annual fee, and this fits perfectly given Chase’s connection with the Chicago Financial District.

  17. It seems to be the credit card he’s using is called the american taxpayer’s wallet:)

  18. Remember Under Obama, that man has been trying to take away all perks for fliers and hotels programs as a wealth redistribution for his “Obama-ites”.

    Too bad he and his wife are a pair of disgusting racists.


  19. Rats, I’m sad that “douche@bag.com” is already taken as a custom email address!!

    This is probably one of the better posts I’ve seen on here in a long time, actually made me chuckle…

  20. I bet the president’s signature (on the bill) is worth more than the meal was.

    Gary… Fart might be a douche bag, but you do promise that mail, which is required, “will not be published”

  21. @Darth Chocolate – hah! +1

    @Ozaer, I have this on good authority:

    1. RussianExpressBlack – “Don’t leave Russia”
    2. Citigroup Chairman Amex, big “C” on the card reminds him of his wife.
    3. First PREMIER® Bank Gold, he spends A LOT eating and real banks see him as a heart attack risk – which means not paying his bill.

  22. I’d love to see which card Bush put the Iraq war and Medicare Part D on. I’m guessing Bank of China?

  23. If he does not know credit cards, what does he know of the economy?

    That is a serious question for us to ponder whether for the US or for the world!
    Perhaps he got to being POTUS by not sweating the small stuff?
    or was it just luck?
    Was he too busy studying politics and law to bother with it?
    Enquiring minds want to know the answer for the implications it may have for the world.

    Anyway I think Gary is wrong as well
    He does not spend on travel or food.
    Most of that is free and paid by the taxpayer.
    And I am sure he can spend 100k on it in a year, so should not be an issue to get the bonus
    Perhaps he does know the small stuff?
    Who knows …

  24. Good post, Gary. I’d guess that BO might be at the far end of the bell curve that charts wealth/”caring about which card you use”. My hypothesis is that neither the very poor nor the very wealthy spend much time thinking about bonus categories and the like. Where card choice really makes a difference is with folks in the middle.

  25. “He does not spend on travel or food.”

    Actually, that is not true. Presidents have to pay for food at the White House for them and their family. And if they have dinner parties that are not official state business that have to pay the food of their guests as well.
    Before the multi-millionaire presidents that we have nowadays, there were several cases of First Ladies complaining that they were spending tons of money on food and that getting into the White House was a very poor financial decision for their families (at least in the short-term).

  26. The bitterness on this thread is so discouraging. Absolutely no one cares what a random internet poster has to say about politics. That being said, I would love to know what’s in the wallet of other influential figures, whether I approve of their politics or not. Elizabeth Warren, Dick Cheney and Paul Ryan’s wallets would be particularly interesting. Maybe Gary can get some interviews!

  27. @JS – what’s in Elizabeth Warren’s and for that matter Richard Cordray’s wallet would be interesting indeed! I do not think I would take financial advice from Dick Cheney (other than how to get rich off of contacts developed through politics).

  28. Sounds like a 1%’er card to me. $100k spend, lazar engraving. Too funny. The best part of the story is how he pulled out cash and then decided to use the card. Like he’s joe 6 pack that stopped on the ATM on the way. What in the world would the President have cash on hand for anyway?
    I wonder if he can expense this out?

  29. The OBUMMERCARD..I wonder how many have now rushed to cancel theirs. You know, if obummer has it, it can’t POSSIBLY be any good.

  30. @Gary Steiger – would that even be legal? Wouldn’t the President have to report that on financial disclosure forms, since he’s in effect receiving a gift [and if it’s a Palladium card he’s got, of a $595 annual fee]?

  31. Would be interesting to know whether he can pay the White House dinner bills with a credit card, and if so does that earn him points for ‘dining out’….

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