- I have almost 30 credit cards, but I don’t carry all of them in my wallet with me on a daily basis.
- Instead, I always bring a smaller selection of cards to maximise my most frequent purchases.
- I always carry the Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn bonus points on dining and travel, the Chase Freedom Unlimited to earn 1.5% back on non-bonus spending, and the Discover it® Cash Back to maximise its quarterly bonus categories.
- Keep reading to learn more about the cards I always have on me and why.
- Read more personal finance coverage.
While establishing your credit profile and building your credit score is important, I think that the most appealing benefits of using credit cards regularly are the rewards, points, and cash back you can gain on purchases that you need to make anyways.
In order to maximise your rewards earning, you should use a combination of cards. I personally have almost 30 cards open. While not everyone wants to carry 20-plus credit cards at once, using a small rotation of cards can still get you a tremendous amount of additional value if you utilise them correctly.
Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.
Here are the five cards I always keep in my wallet all the time, and why:
Chase Sapphire Reserve
This is one of the most popular cards among people who love to travel, and it’s my number-one card, too. While it does come with a pretty sizeable $US450 annual fee, there are numerous benefits that make the Sapphire Reserve worth it. Along with not charging foreign transaction fees (a must for travellers!), every year it offers you statement credits for up to $US300 spent on travel. You also get 3x points on all travel purchases (excluding the $US300 travel credit).
You also get 50% more value if you redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards, meaning 50,000 points are worth $US750 if you use them for travel booked through Chase. You can also transfer your points to Chase’s partners like United and Hyatt for potentially even more value.
In addition to travel benefits, you also can earn 50,000 bonus points by spending $US4,000 on purchases within 3 months of opening your account. You’ll also receive 3x points on dining and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
In conjunction with all of the points you earn, you get a number of additional benefits including a statement credit of up to $US100 as reimbursement for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four years. You also get Priority Pass Select membership, which offers access to over 1,200 airport lounges around the world.
Discover it Cash Back
The Discover it Cash Back card doesn’t come with an annual fee, in contrast to the Sapphire Reserve. The highlighted feature of this card is the 5% cash back you can earn on purchases on up to $US1,500 each quarter you activate.
Every quarter, the 5% bonus category rotates. In the past, categories have included grocery stores, gas stations, Uber, Lyft, Restaurants, PayPal, Amazon, Target, and Walmart.com. All other purchases receive 1% cash back.
The Discover it’s cash-back rewards can be redeemed in any amount at any time, as they never expire. Plus, at the end of your first year, Discover will match the amount of cash back you’ve earned, with no limit on how much it will match. This is effectively the welcome bonus for the card, so the Discover it is an especially great option for anyone with a year of big spending coming up.
The best no-annual-fee credit cards
The Chase Freedom card is nearly identical to the Discover it Cash Back card, with no annual fee and rotating quarterly 5% bonus categories for up to $US1,500 in spending. The main differences are that instead of matching cash back at the end of the year, Chase will give you $US150 back (or 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points) after you spend $US500 within three months of opening the account.
You earn cash back with the Freedom card, but if you also have a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can convert your cash back into Chase points and potentially get more value by using your rewards for travel. This way, you’re earning 5x points on the bonus categories, and given that travel website The Points Guy values Chase points at 2 cents apiece, that’s double the return of earning 5% cash back.
Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card
This is a great no-annual-fee, 2% cash-back card that you can use for all other purchases. The rewards are earned as points, so for every dollar you spend, you get 2 points. These can be redeemed once you have reached 5,000 points ($US2,500 in spending).
Since there are no limits or expiration on your points, and no restrictive categories, this is a good card for making purchases that don’t fall into travel, dining, or one of the bonus quarterly categories.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is another no-annual-fee card I keep in my wallet for purchases outside of the high-earning bonus categories. As with the Chase Freedom, if you have a premium Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer your rewards to airline and hotel partners.
It offers 1.5% back (or 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points), on every purchase. You can earn 3% back (or 3x points) on the first $US20,000 you spend in your first year of cardmembership (a public offer of $US200 back/20,000 points after you spend $US500 in the first three months is also available).
The Freedom Unlimited is an excellent option to make sure you’re never leaving points on the table. It’s also worth noting that there is no minimum required to redeem for cash back.
As you can see, you don’t need to have two dozen credit cards to be earning rewards daily. By researching and applying for cards that fit your lifestyle, keeping a small rotation of credit cards in your wallet, and monitoring credit card sign-up offers, you can earn valuable points or cash back on every purchase.
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