I have 18 credit cards, but there are just 5 I keep in my wallet at all times

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Credit cards walletSimon Potter/Getty Images

As someone who has been studying and writing about the credit card industry since 2008, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I have quite a portfolio of plastic – 18 cards, to be exact.

Many of these cards I retain just for occasional use, and I even has some no-fee cards that I only need to help me write about their features and benefits.

In fact, there’s actually just a handful of cards that I keep in my wallet at all times. Here are the ones I keep with me:

Chase Sapphire Reserve

This product lit up the industry in 2016, and it even attracted the attention of many people who rarely think about credit cards.

The Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points on all travel and dining purchases (excluding a $US300 travel credit), but just one point per dollar spent elsewhere. But more importantly, these points are part of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program, and can be transferred to airline miles or hotel points.

These points can also be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Center, which is now powered by Expedia. The Sapphire Reserve also comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, which is good for access to over 1,000 airport lounges around the world for myself and up to two guests.

You can also receive a $US27 credit per person at dozens of airport restaurants as well. Yes, the Sapphire Reserve has a $US450 annual fee, but the net cost for most people is just $US150. That’s because it comes with a $US300 annual travel fee credit.

I use the Sapphire Reserve for: All travel purchases (except airfare) and purchases made outside the United States

American Express Gold card

The latest version of this card has some great features. First, you get 4x points on all US restaurants and on up to $US25,000 spent each year at US supermarkets, then 1x. You also get a $US10 monthly credit towards several featured restaurants and delivery services, which is easy to use.

The AmEx Gold card offers American Express Membership Rewards points which can also be transferred to airline miles. It has a $US250 annual fee, but you get an annual air travel fee credit up to $US100 that I have no problem using.

I use the AmEx Gold for: All my domestic restaurant and supermarket purchases

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Whenever I’m making a purchase that doesn’t qualify for a bonus, I try to use this card.

The Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases, and these points can be combined with points from my Sapphire Reserve. This allows me to transfer those points to airline miles and hotel points, or redeem them for 1.5 cents each towards travel reservations booked through Chase.

Best of all, there’s no annual fee for this card. But since it has a 3% foreign transaction fee, I leave it at home when I travel outside the United States.

I use the Freedom Unlimited for: Every domestic purchase that doesn’t qualify for a bonus

American Express Platinum

This card offers an amazing 5x points on airfare booked with airlines or amextravel.com, and with hotels booked through amextravel.com. Other benefits of the AmEx Platinum include an annual air travel credit up to $US200, an annual Uber credit up to $US200 and an annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit up to $US100.

The AmEx Platinum also offers a Priority Pass Select airport lounge and restaurant membership, but I keep this card with me to make sure I can get into the American Express Centurion lounges, which are nicer than most Priority Pass Select lounges. It has a $US550 annual fee, but I get plenty of value from all the bonus points, fee credits, and airport lounge benefits to justify its cost.

I use the AmEx Platinum for: Airfare purchases and Centurion Club lounge access

Chase Ink Business Cash

The Ink Business Cash has an exceptional feature: It offers 5x points on up to $US25,000 spent each cardmember year at office supply stores and on telecommunication purchases including telephone, television, and internet service. The points you receive are also part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, just like those from my Sapphire Reserve.

I use the Ink Business Cash for: Office supplies and telecommunications purchases

Learn more about the Sapphire Reserve from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about the AmEx Gold from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about the AmEx Platinum from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about the Ink Business Cash from our partner The Points Guy »

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