Picking a Single Best Rewards Card When You Can Only Have One

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Reader Vinhsynd asks,

Alternate reality: people are only allowed 1 credit card at a time, there are no other loyalty restrictions.

Which card would you pick?
Would you focus on cashack, points, benefits, insurance?
How would you go about leveraging that card for your business trips and vacation plans?
What would parts of travel would you be willing to compromise?

I would choose points rather than cash back because I value the leverage, especially for premium cabin travel.

Limiting myself to personal cards, rather than business cards, the one I would pick is Chase Sapphire Preferred. I’d argue it’s:

  • The first points rewards card to get
  • The best card for beginners
  • The one card to get if you’re only going to get one card

It has a fantastic signup bonus, earns points quickly, and the points you earn are really valuable and flexible. And the card’s benefits are really strong, too.

    Double points on travel and dining are perfect for me (and folks who travel a lot, who travel for work and can use their own card, etc). It’s what I spend the most on.

    There are great transfer partners… in all 3 airline alliances.. United for Star so no fuel surcharges, Korean for Skyteam so great pricing for Europe business class (80k roundtrip) and access to amazing first class available on Korean, plus Singapore which means access to their premium cabin seats. And the best value hotel transfer partner of any of the transferrable points currencies in Hyatt.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Suites Class

    I earn extra points making online purchases through their shopping portal. It’s a Visa for acceptance and good insurance [I like primary collision damage, and trip delay coverage that only requires a portion of a ticket being charged to the card].

Bedroom of Suite at Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

So for me it’s the best one card solution especially for someone interested in premium cabin award travel. It has a $0 annual fee the first year, $95 thereafter.

If you’ve had the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card before and don’t any longer, you’re eligible to apply again and still receive a bonus provided it’s been 24 months since you last received the bonus.

Given one card to choose I’d take what I consider the best-rounded card, strong on signup bonus and earning and redemption with strong coverages as well. It earns fast on business (double points on travel and dining) and is great for redemption since you get to pick where you want the points to go when you know what points you need for an award. I’d use the one card for everything.

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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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. Fair enough, but in this alternate universe I envision I would also have the resources to make good use of the BOGO F benefit… 😀

  2. @gary leff OK. Can’t get the CSP because many apps in the last year, in fact, maybe can’t EVER get it. best card after that if I can only have ONE czard?

  3. Citi Prestige would be my choice: 3X miles on flights & hotels, 2X on dining & entertainment, Admirals Club access when flying AA, Priority Pass Select lounge access always and $200 annual cost after yearly $250 airline credit. (If I didn’t fly much, I think the Chase Sapphire Preferred would narrowly edge out Citi Premier. I like Premier’s 3X travel rewards, but value Sapphires primary rental car insurance.)

  4. @gary leff Ok, thanks! Got the Thank You Premier so the one you mention is likely my next Citi card once the cancel time comes on the Aadvantage card. I missed all the points on that one due to stupidity and illness last year after I applied for it. Gr!

    Just have not figured how to do the Minimum Spend on it now with all the new developments but have a couple plans I am gonna have to investigate.

    Thanks for the fast reply, Gary!

  5. By the way, since I’m not limited to just one card, I put most of my spend on CSP, Freedom, Ink, Premier & Amex Everyday Pref. If Citi Thank You didn’t allow transfers to Singapore Air, TY points wouldn’t be of much value to me.

  6. isnt there already an article about how great the CSP is on the front page. Feels repetitive and even with the higher AF im enjoying my prestige card. Not sure if i will renew but maybe.

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