Readers: What Are the Cards You’re Using Most?

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I’ve shared with you what’s in my wallet and why.

I earn various category bonuses, but in no case less than 1.5 transferable points per dollar spent.

Etihad First Apartment

The only spend I put on my Platinum Card from American Express is airfare to earn 5 points per dollar. I keep the Platinum card for the benefits, not primarily for spending.

And I do still put some unbonused spend on my Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express even though it’s perhaps a bit suboptimal to earn 1 Starwood point instead of 1.5 Chase points, but I want to build that account balance.

Starwood’s Al Maha Desert Resort

Finally I put $40,000 spend on my premium Citi AAdvantage co-brand card and $50,000 on the American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Silver Card to reduce the heavy lift necessary to retain my American Airlines Executive Platinum status.

This is your opportunity to take shots at my strategy, or to offer your own an explain why it makes sense for you. What cards are you using for the most spend?

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, 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. Upromise MasterCard you a minimum of 10% cash back on everything in the upromise shopping portal. Plus link it to your Sally Mae bank account get an additional 1% bonus every year on all earnings.

  2. My go to card for personal use is the Chase Sapphire Reserve for most spend but I put all of my flights on Citi Prestige. For my business, I’m all about the Citi AT&T Access More card for 3x on online spend. For 1x spend its either the SPG Business, AMEX Plat, or Ink Visa (emphasis on the Visa part — I wish there were more rewarding Visa’s!!).

  3. My current goal is those ANA First class tickets to Japan. I was able to obtain the 100K on CSR. I also received the bonus on Citi Premier. With the 35K bonus on Amex SPG, I have all the points I need. I put travel and dining on the CSR. I put gas and entertainment on Citi Premier. I only put SPG spend on that card. I also obtained the Chase IHG card and only put IHG spend on it. The CSR is my go-to card. That account accrued points really fast. The spend and bonus turned into 200K+ in a year. Most of that was normal everyday spend.

    Longterm, I will probably ditch the Amex SPG card. I can’t stand Marriott as a chain. And I can’t see them retaining the airline transfers. But if they do retain that benefit, I’ll reconsider not closing the card. If it becomes a new product like the Amex Hilton Ascend then I will definitely close it.

    Opening new accounts and doing the spend depends on my travel needs. Hotel wise, I don’t intend to open another card. But if some new product appears with ‘hybrid’ points, I will apply.

  4. I like my BofA cash rewards with 3% gas & 2% groceries with relationship bonuses and the best part is there’s no AF.
    IHG gives me the best value of any of my cards
    AA card gives me a lot since I fly them almost exclusively: 1 bag & early boarding even on basic economy, extra points when renting Avis and Budget, and 10% of my points back on award stays and other benefits.
    I also have citi premier with 3x travel, 2x entertainment, 2x restaurants.
    Hyatt for the free room each year.
    I’m studying the benefits of the BofA premium card to see if it’s worth it.

  5. I put most spend on the card I or my spouse is currently earning a sign up bonus on, and the remainder on the SPG Amex for non-bonus spend and CSR for dining. Most air travel is on points and hotel stays are on the SPG card (usually Westins).

  6. I use the Amex EDP a lot. I spend a lot at grocery stores, so this is a great card for me, and pair the Blue Business Plus. I’m debating on the Biz Platinum card for the benefits.

  7. I always have several thousand bucks’ worth of V/MC/Amex $200 GCs on hand. Bought from Officemax with Ink (5x UR), of which I have 2.

    If you value URs at 1.6 cents, let’s say, that’s 8%. Subtract 3.5% ($7 fee per $200), that’s 4.5% “everywhere.” Pretty hard to beat. And of course they often have discounts on these cards ($10-20 off per $300). Buy multiples when that happens.

    I cannot understand why people would rather have 1 SPG or 1.5 UR on “all” spending.

    Obviously one must do something else on most large purchases. For that SPG or Amex Business Plat 1.5 MR for purchases over $5K.

    CSR for travel. Amex Blue Preferred for supermarkets.

  8. When not meeting minimum spend I almost exclusively use Chase cards (CSR (probably going CSP next AF), Ink Cash, CF, and CFU). Only exception is the grocery store where I use my Amex card since it gets 2x (I never hit the 30 transaction a month :/). My strategy has been to get signup bonuses and use those for trips in the future. Between meeting the MS and taking the trip I’m usually using my Chase cards. By the time I’m done I have enough UR for something worth wild.

  9. Spend on Citi AAdvantage Executive and Platinum World Elite, maintain IHG Rewards Club Select and just picked up AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite for the sign-up bonus. Will soon pick up the Hyatt Credit Card.

    Almost exclusively fly paid on AA metal and spend miles on OW so the Citi cards work fine for me.

  10. Chase Freedom is my go to card of choice. The quarterly bonuses are fantastic and I somehow find a place or workaround to get 5 points for every dollar I spend at even non-bonus category stores. This quarter’s gas stations and mobile payments categories allow for about 80% of the places I purchase to earn me 5 points for every dollar. I even get targeted for extra bonuses like 10 points for every dollar I spend at Shoprite when using Chase Pay. Now I have an excuse to go get a bagel and chocolate croissant every morning. Transfer the points to my Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Plus and then to Singapore Airlines and then enjoy a wonderful first class flight to Singapore and many more.

  11. When not meeting minimum spend (on new hotel or airline cards), CSP for travel and dining, Costco for Costco and gas, SPG Amex for all other spend.

  12. Right now I concentrate more on cash back cards as we already have a gazillion MR, UR, Airline & Hotel miles/points. Barclay Uber Visa @ 4x Restaurants, Chase Freedom for gas @ 5x (this quarter only) everything else on Alliant Visa which pays 3x on EVERYTHING!.. and of course the occasional AMEX Blue Business Plus which pays 2x on everything. You ‘gotta Love this game. I feel sorry for some of my friends who goes on vacation and paying thousands for mediocre air and hotel accommodations. But they never listen. I can’t believe nor understand these kinds of people.

  13. Citi Sears MC, which earns TYP. Every quarter it has a 10x limited spend bonus, sometimes category restricted, sometimes not.

    Otherwise, it’s all on earning signup bonuses because you should never have such a thing as unbonused spend.

  14. AmeX Platinum for my high end spending – Amex reserve for online spending – Amex SPG for everything else

  15. Freedom for 5X quarterly bonused categories (overriding the following)
    Sapphire Reserve for travel/airfare and restaurants
    Ink Cash for telecom, cable, and office supply
    Citi Thank You Premier for gas and entertainment (and to diversify point collection)
    I use SPG AmEx for unbonused spend (to diversify point collection and, after $30K, to get SPG and Marriott Gold), but my wife uses Freedom Unlimited for unbonused spend to get the 1.5 points/$. This is overridden when meeting minimum spend for a good sign-on bonus.
    I keep but don’t put spend on IHG (for free night and elite status) and Red Aviator (for 10K AA miles at renewal, and for free luggage and early boarding on AA)
    Sapphire Reserve and SPG AmEx for foreign spend

  16. Chase Sapphire reserve for travel, restaurants…everything else on the Chase Unlimited. Air purchase with Amex Plat depending on price point and connections. Sparingly use the Venture One, IHG Card, Hilton No Annual Fee

  17. Barclay Arrival for unbonused spend, CSP for dining and travel other than airfare, AMEX Platinum for airfare, Ink for office supply stores.

  18. CSR and Freedom Unlimited mostly, but nobody has mentioned the Alaska Card (which I use also). Sure it’s no great return, but the points value is high. 80 K US to South Africa, BA first. 70 K JAL first, US to Tokyo, and on to Delhi. The points don’t fall in your lap like with some programs but they’re golden when you have them.

  19. I tend to mostly use Alaska for my international redemptions, and since I don’t have enough spend to amortize the cost of many annual fees, I’ve gone towards cards that mostly don’t have fees, aside from the Amex Platinum card for benefits.
    * 5X/5% on Amex Platinum for Airlines, Target Redcard, Amazon Prime Card
    * 4% on the Uber card for dining
    * 3% on the grandfathered Priceline card / Marukai JCB Card

  20. Currently in my wallet. Citi Prestige – $1500 monthly for $50 back retention offer. Then meeting spending for sign up bonuses for Delta Gold AMEX (targeted 75K offer, 2x time with the card but no once in lifetime language) and 60K JetBlue offer. Besides that, using AMEX Everyday to get 30 transactions per month for 1.5 MR on all other spend and 4.5 MR on groceries. Sapphire Reserve for all other travel and dining expenses.

  21. Five credit cards listed in order of most to least annual spend showing category spending and then the card all optimized to try to maximize in hand cash value at years end.

    Gas, groceries, pharmacy, big ticket items maybe requiring customer service: AMEX 5% Blue Cash
    Cell phone, cable, water/power, Amazon, un-bonused spend: Citibank Double Cash
    Dining and travel, would consider for big ticket items maybe requiring customer service: Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR)
    Un-bonused spend, Starwood/Marriott hotels (might use CSR at Marriott): AMEX Starwood personal
    Costco, limited fast food dining and Costco gas: Citibank Costco

    We travel infrequently domestically and overseas. Un-bonused spend allocated between AMEX Starwood and Citibank Double Cash depends on travel plans to not accumulate too many points subject to devaluation. Looking to consolidate cards. Thus, will drop AMEX Starwood personal if the final program point value is much less than 1 cent per point similar to today’s Marriott loyalty program (already cancelled the Marriott Premier card).

  22. Amex platinum for airfare from airlines. US bank altitude or Ink preferred for travel. Freedom for quarterly categories, which is a lot this quarter (gas, mobile payments). US Bank altitude for mobile payments in other quarters. Ink plus for gas in other quarters, cable, internet. Ink preferred for cell phone (protection plan). Freedom unlimited or Amex Blue Business plus for everything else.

  23. Chase Sapphire Reserve for travel and dining. Then depending on if I want AMEX MR or Chase Ultimate Rewards points I use either the Freedom Unlimited or the Everyday Prefered for all my other purchases except groceries which I’m putting on the HH Surpass right now.

  24. Chase Freedom Unlimited – Everyday
    Chase Sapphire Reserve – Travel and Dining
    Chase Freedom (categories)
    HHonors American Express – Groceries (few), Gas, and HHonors hotels
    The only major addition is the Discover card. With over 5% cashback (w gift cards), it is the oldest card in my wallet. Use on the specific categories like Chase Freedom. Why wouldn’t most have this no annual fee card?

  25. For years I have stuck with the Amex Platinum card. It is expensive but the service is superb and the access to lounges especially if I happen to not be flying on Air Canada who I mostly fly with. I am close to 1 million points on Amex and hope to complete an around the world trip in first class soon!

  26. I mostly use my Amex Biz Plus in conjunction with Schwab Plat. I hit bonus categories with EveryDay, CSR, and Freedom.

  27. Airfare Amex Platinum, spend on Amex SPG, unless staying at a branded hotel Amex Surpass (Diamond), IHG (Spire Elite), Club Carlson. Hyatt they just don’t have footprint where I travel. Marriott goes on my SPG,for now.

  28. Most of my spending is either travel/dining on CSR or unbounded on SPG Amex. I’d rather have 1 SPG than 1.5 UR just to keep my points portfolio diversified.

  29. Don’t know if this is relevant, but, I also tailor my spending to match bonus situations, and to replenish any particular currency I might have depleted. I am on am AMEX kick at the moment. Between the offers to accrue MR that seem to peak at calendar year’s end, and some irresistible opportunities with AMEX MR late in the year depleted my supply.

  30. Bonused spend: CSR for 3x on travel. Freedom and Discover for 5x bonus categories. Ink for 5x on telecom and gift card at office supply stores.
    General spend: Delta $25k/yr for 10k mile and MQM bonus. SPG $30k/yr for Gold status and very useful transferable points. Remainder split between Alliant Cash Back 3% first year then 2.5% and Freedom 1.5x.

  31. Benji, the uPromise website show 5% cash back at those stores, not 10%. Can you explain how you get 10%? 10% would be interesting. But 5% is less than using my 2.5-3% cash back card plus Shopping portal bonuses which range from 2-8% or miles/$. Thanks

  32. In the FWIW mode, co-branded cards, I generally (but not always) use at that specific brand. For instance, I *tend* to use my SPG Amex when staying <4 nights at any Starwood or Marriott hotel¹; my Hilton Surpass card at various Hilton brands, again when staying <4 nights — and IF the Hilton is within the US, as there *are* FTF's with the Surpass card. This will change with the new Hilton Ascend card, which will have *no* FTFs, so I'll use this for any Hilton stay around the world of less than 4 nights. (I use my Citi Prestige to get the 4th night free benefit whenever possible.)

    For short-haul domestic travel (e.g.: SFO-LAX, SFO-SEA, SFO-LAS), I'll generally use my Alaska Visa card when flying on AS. But when flying long-haul, or whenever there is a risk of delays, missing a connection, etc. — OR when not flying on AS — I use my Citi Prestige or Chase Sapphire Preferred.² I'll also use my AS card when making purchases through their shopping portal.

    For gasoline (well, diesel actually), I use my Citi ThankYou Premier card for 3x points. Dining out is a mix of my two Citi cards (3x) and my CSP (2x). Miscellaneous non-bonus spend, I'll put on either the CSP, the Citi TYP, or the SPX Amex, depending upon where I need/want the points.

    ¹ I always earn more points by using my SPG Amex at either brand than if I were to use my Marriott card by Chase. I keep the Marriott card for its automatic Silver status, as a fallback in case I fail to reach SPG Gold for some reason. Eventually, I'll probably kill the Marriott card.
    ² I am still blocked from applying for a Chase Sapphire Reserve card by 5/24 (though that time period should end soon). I'm still trying to decide whether I should downgrade my CSP to a Freedom card and apply for the CSR, or — for a couple of specific reasons — just upgrade. Once I acquire the CSR, I'll think about upgrading my Hilton Ascend for an Aspire . . .

  33. I put the majority of my spend on Chase cards. Internet/phone on Ink Cash (5%), gas on Citi Costco (4%), just started putting dining on Citi Costco (3%), everything else on Freedom Unlimited (1.5%). I just downgraded my Reserve to Freedom so I’ll begin putting rotating categories on that card (5%).

    Luckily my wife and I have enough Southwest and UR points (in her account) to cover planned flights for 2018 and 2019 so I don’t need a Chase premium card for a while. Sometime in 2019 I’ll get a Chase premium card so that I can once again transfer points to partner airlines.

    Those annual fees can really add up, so I’m happy that I won’t have any to worry about for at least 1 1/2 years.

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