I have 26 credit cards, but there are just 4 I’d tell anyone to open

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Credit cards Holly Johnson Bahamas
Holly Johnson. Courtesy of Holly Johnson.

As of May 2019, my husband and I have 26 different credit cards spread across our personal profiles and our businesses.

We have cards we use specifically for travel, other cards that help us earn cash back, and business credit cards we use for all our business-related expenses.

I know what you’re thinking: 26 is a ridiculous number of credit cards for anyone to keep track of. The thing is, we don’t use them all – at least not all the time. We rotate them often, using the ones we are focusing on for a specific purpose. For example, I might focus intently on travel rewards for a while in order to reach a specific goal, and I always make sure I’m using cards that offer bonus categories for purchases that qualify.

Some cards are used specifically for their perks; for example,I always use my Chase Sapphire Reserve for rental cars to take advantage of the free primary rental car insurance it offers.

I am very aware most people thinking having 26 credit cards is a lot. Fortunately, you do not need a wallet full of credit cards to benefit from their perks and rewards.

Most people who don’t want to deal with the hassle of multiple credit cards opt to apply for just a few key cards they can glean the most benefits from. When anyone asks, here are the four I always recommend:

The flexibility of the Chase Sapphire Preferred is unmatched

While the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a travel credit card at heart, the flexibility in how you can redeem your rewards makes it a winner for everyone. Not only can you transfer your Chase points to hotel and airline partners at a 1:1 ratio, but you can use them to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You can also cash them in for high value gift cards or statement credits at a rate of one cent per point.

The signup bonus on this card is 60,000 points worth $US750 in travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards after you spend $US4,000 on your card within three months of account opening. Since you can cash in the bonus alone for $US600 in gift cards or statement credits, you’ll never be stuck with travel rewards you cannot use.

The Chase Freedom has no annual fee, but generous cash back

The Chase Freedom is another card anyone can benefit from. This card doesn’t charge an annual fee, yet you’ll earn 5% back on up to $US1,500 spent in categories that rotate each quarter (activation required). You also get 1% back on all other purchases, and a $US150 welcome bonus after you spend $US500 on your card within three months of account opening.

Quarterly bonus categories change each year but typically include popular options like grocery stores, dining out, home improvement stores, and gas stations. Everyone spends in these categories at least part of the year, so this is a card that always makes sense.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is a fit for anyone who dreams of travel

I always suggest the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard to people who plan to travel but don’t have any concrete plans. This card doles out 70,000 miles worth $US700 in travel after you spend $US5,000 within 90 days of account opening. You also earn 2x miles for each dollar you spend, and the $US89 annual fee on this card is waived the first year.

When it comes to redeeming your points, you can cash them in for any travel expense that’s over $US100, or 10,000 miles. That makes the rewards this card offers good for hotels, airfare, campgrounds, trains, and more. Rewards don’t get any more flexible than that.

The AmEx Blue Cash Preferred is a great pick to save money on food

Despite the fact the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express charges a $US95 annual fee that is not waived the first year, I still suggest it to anyone who is looking for a good credit card for supermarket spending. This card lets you earn an amazing 6% back on up to $US6,000 in spending at US supermarkets each year (then 1%). You also get 3% back at US gas stations and 1% back on all other purchases.

The fact that you get a $US200 welcome bonus after you spend $US1,000 on your card within three months of account opening is just icing on the cake. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t spend at least $US6,000 per year – or $US500 per month – at supermarkets. Earning 6% in this category and maxing it out will yield you $US360 per year in cash-back every 12 months, making this card a real no-brainer despite its annual fee.

Curious which credit cards I use the most and why? Here are some of my favourites: