The Four Favorite Cards in My Wallet

I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same). Terms apply to the offers and benefits listed on this page.


There are four credit cards in my wallet that I like the most for purchases. That’s out of a couple of dozen cards total. I want to earn miles as quickly as possible. I also want to jumpstart my elite status and have access to the best airport lounges.

So these are the four cards I’m playing with most right now.

  • Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

    Why it’s worth it: The best initial bonus out there of 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening; earns 3x on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines (up to $150k spend in these categories each calendar year).

    How I use it: It’s a great ‘Chase hub’. It’s just a $95 annual fee card, points transfer to a variety of airline and hotel programs, and you can move points from no annual fee Chase cards to this one and then move them onto airline and hotel points. That way you can take those no annual fee cards that earn fast, and make the points from those cards more valuable.

  • The World Of Hyatt Credit Card

    Why it’s worth it: In addition to the card’s initial bonus you get a free night every year after your cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel and earn an extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel if you spend $15,000 during your cardmember anniversary year.

    How I use it: for the 5 elite qualifying nights just for having the card and 2 more elite nights for each $5000 spend. It’s a no brainer for $15,000 spend since you earn points from the spend and a second free night. However I spend more because I value the benefits from status and want to make it easier to earn — especially confirmed suite upgrades at time of booking.

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express

    Why it’s worth it: Earns 5 points per dollar on airfare, and provides tons of benefits — airfare discounts with the International Airline Program; Hilton and Marriott elite status; and it’s the single best card for airport lounge access. You’ve got American Express’ own Centurion lounges, Delta lounges when flying Delta, a Priority Pass card with unlimited visits and two complimentary guests, plus access to Escape, Airspace, and Plaza Premium lounges.

    How I use it: I use the $200 in annual Uber credits and I use the $200 airline credit. Historically I’ve used it with American Airlines (purchasing gift cards, no longer works). And I use the card for lounge access. While its Priority Pass no longer includes airport restaurant credits, the card has a more extensive lounge network than any other. It gets you into Delta lounges when flying Delta, American Express’ own Centurion lounges, plus Plaza Premium, Escape, and Aspire lounges. No one else matches that.

    American Express® Gold Card

    Why it’s worth it: Earns 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and on the first $25,000 spent annually at U.S. supermarkets (plus 3 points per dollar on airfare).

    How I use it: Precisely to earn rapidly in bonus categories. I make a point of never earning just one mile per dollar, and this is my go-to card for restaurants and grocery stores.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »

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 any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. How do you redeem MR points? I prefer UR, just because I don’t do a lot of international travel and would rather use the points to top off existing balances.

  2. I think the Hyatt card spending will vary greatly in terms of usefulness. For a lot of people it is probably wasting money to spend $15,000 for 1 cat 1-4 free night. If you are giving up bonus earning on some other card just to get 1X on this card that could be a good 15,000 points you are losing. Dining and flying is better put on other cards.

    Now if you are earning a bunch of bonus points on this card from spending at Hyatt that would be a different story. Some fall into that category but I sure don’t and can’t see much of a reason to spend $15K for a night that may be in the $250-350 range (i.e., at most 2 cents back).

  3. It depends on your valuation of Hyatt Points and the free night. 15K points can usually net you about $300 of value. So 15K pts PLUS the free night is worth about $600, especially if you factor in taxes and fees.

    For many people who spend some at Hyatt but not $15K, then you’re only in need of some lesser number of points to reach the 15K threshold that equates to $600 of value. If it’s even 7500 points (split the difference), now you’re at 8 cents per point. For me, there’s enough non-bonused spend that getting to 15K is worth it, as my opportunity cost is mostly 2% back on Arrival Plus (all dining and non-Hyatt travel goes on other credit cards). Heck, in my house we do it on two cards, as my wife has the Hyatt card as well.

  4. After much fun going crazy with credit card sign ups, chasing promotions, heading to Simon malls, Office Depots and Target stores, and other manufactured spending peaking in 2014-2016 when we first discovered points blogs (Thank you, Gary et al.), our spend is now down to 3 personal cards.

    1) US Bank Altitude for 3x points on travel and mobile pay spending. These are redeemed for 1.5 cents each at non-chain hotels (preferably upscale hotels like ryokans in Japan that I’d never pay cash for). Also includes 4 pairs of Priority Pass lounge passes and we have 10 more single entries with the Hilton Surpass.

    2) Sapphire Preferred for 2x points at restaurants, fees on award flight redemptions for the travel insurance and car rentals for the insurance. Redeem for international J flights and some Hyatt nights. (still playing the game for UR points with Chase checking account and business card signup bonuses.)

    3) Chase Freedom Unlimited for 1.5x points on everything else. Transfer points to Sapphire for redemption.

    Then there’s the sock drawer of cards that I drag out one at a time and use once to keep points active in any hotel or airline programs that went unused for a year.

  5. Great article, Gary, and smart comments from everyone!

    I also like:
    Sam’s Club Mastercard for 5% cash back on all gas, and 3% cash back on all travel and dining
    Amazon store card for Amazon (5% Amazon rewards on all Amazon purchases),
    Discover for their 5% cash back rotating quarterly bonus spend categories (Amazon, Walmart and Target for 2019Q4)
    Capital One for double miles or 2% Purchase Eraser on otherwise unbonused spend.
    Alliant Credit Union Visa for 2.5% cash back on unbonused spend (3% cash back first year)

  6. I have four credit cards but my primary is the Bank of America Premium Rewards. Having Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards status makes it a no brainer for the ability to earn points.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *