Advertisements
Middle Age Miles

What’s In Our Wallet? – Why We Acquired and Hold Each Card

What’s in our wallet?

This article is Part 2 of our What’s in our Wallet? series. 

Here is Part 1 – What’s In Our Wallet? – Our Cards and Breakdowns by Annual Fee and Date Acquired.

And here is Part 3 – What’s In Our Wallet? – Our “Spend Matrix” – How We Use Bonus Categories to Maximize Our Points-and-Miles Earning and Travel for Less.

Introduction

In this article, Part 2 of our What’s In Our Wallet? series, we’ll examine each of our cards individually and let you know why we acquired and hold each card in our portfolio. We hope that you’ll enjoy this card-by-card analysis. With any luck, it’ll help you understand the strategy considerations that go into the mix when we choose what card to apply for and when. And ultimately, we hope it’ll help you earn points and miles, and then use them for fun travel to your dream destinations! 

Hopefully, you already enjoyed Part 1 of the What’s In Our Wallet? series. In Part 1, we looked at our card portfolio from a more macro perspective – 
how many cards we have from each major issuer; how many personal versus business cards we hold; our annual fees; and our card acquisition by date, order, and velocity of new cards. And we hope you’ll also look forward to Part 3, where we’ll present our “spend matrix.” There, we’ll look at what card we use for each category of spend in order to maximize our ongoing points-earning and get us closer to our dream travel destinations.

  • One thing worth noting is that, after we posted Part 1 of the What’s In Our Wallet? series, I was approved for an Amex personal Platinum card. Yes, the one that was on my wish list at the end of Part 1. We’re including the Amex personal Platinum card here in Part 2 even though it was not included in Part 1.

If you’re wondering whether having so many cards kills our credit score, the answer is no. My credit score is right around 800 and Philly’s is comfortably above 800. If you manage your credit responsibly, you can certainly hold many cards without hurting your score.

At this point, let’s jump into a card-by-card analysis of our portfolio. I’ll try to arrange them in an order that makes sense. First, I’ll separate my cards from Philly’s cards. Next, I’ll break them down by card issuer and personal versus business cards. And finally, within each grouping, I’ll try to order them in a reasonable way. 

Card-by-Card Analysis – Craig’s Cards

Amex Personal Cards

1. Amex Platinum (personal) ($550)

Amex Personal Platinum card

Why We Hold This Card – We acquired this card in December 2018, using a self-referral with the standard sign-up bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards (MR) points after $5,000 spend within 3 months. Key benefits include $200 per calendar year in airline credits, 5x MR points earning on all flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel (including net 4x MR points on the “price” of our “free” flights paid with MR points!), the ability to earn 5x MR points on Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) bookings, and the $15/month Uber credits ($35 in December). We’ll also use the $50 credit at Saks Fifth Avenue every half-year. Some would also enjoy the Centurion airport lounge access, although I already had this benefit through my Business Platinum card.

Our December application/approval means that we’ll be able to squeeze an extra $200 airline credit someday when we cancel the card (that is, the “triple dip” of $200 each in 2018, 2019 and 2020, if we were to cancel after one year).

2.  Amex Gold ($0 first year / $195 thereafter (now $250))

Why We Hold This Card – We acquired this card on October 3, 2018, its last day as the Premium Rewards Gold card, before it “updated” to Amex Gold. In doing so, we got the first year annual fee waived, which is no longer available to new cardmembers. Earning 4x MR points on US restaurants is best-in-class (6% points rebate, at our baseline value of 1.5 cents per MR point). Earning 4x MR points on US supermarkets (up to $25k/year) is also best-in-class. We use the $100 annual airline credit for American Airlines gift cards to offset the annual fee. We can also use the limited $10/month dining credit at Shake Shack during most months. This one will be an interesting call come renewal time next October.

3.  Amex EveryDay ($0)

Why We Hold This Card – This no-annual fee card is the oldest card in my wallet. It currently gets little use for spend, other than an occasional purchase to use an Amex Offer, especially since the new Amex Gold earns 4x at US supermarkets (beating the 2-to-2.4x on the EveryDay card). We’re keeping this card forever, though, for a few reasons. First, it’s very valuable to me to help my average age of accounts (AAoA). Second, 2 of the Middle Age Miles kids are authorized users (AUs) on this card, which has helped them establish credit and also helps their AAoA. And third, we can sometimes pick up valuable Amex Offers on the kids’ AU cards for some extra value out of this card.

4.  Amex Hilton Aspire ($450)

Why We Hold This Card – The Amex Hilton Aspire card is one of the most valuable cards in our wallet. It has a slew of benefits that we regularly use:

  • 14x Hilton Honors points for Hilton stays (7% rebate at 0.5 cents per HH point)
  • $250 airline credit per calendar year (which we use for AA gift cards)
  • $250 Hilton “resort” statement credit per cardmember year (applies at 200+ specifically-listed properties, and includes room rate; we recently used ours at the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas)
  • A Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificate each cardmember year (we’ve recently used Free Weekend Night Certificates at the new Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills and at the Hilton Nashville Downtown)
  • Automatic Diamond elite status with Hilton

To us, this suite of benefits gives us value well in excess of the $450 annual fee.

5.  Amex Hilton Ascend ($95)

Why We Hold This Card – We originally got the Ascend card in October 2017 for strategic reasons. We already held the then-Citi Hilton Reserve card, which would soon be converting to the Amex Hilton Ascend. We wanted to get the Ascend before the conversion, as we were worried (correctly) that we’d become ineligible for a sign-up bonus on the Ascend once our Citi card converted. Fast-forward to now – the sign-up bonus on the Ascend is still very compelling – 150,000 Hilton Honors points (baseline value $750) if you sign-up through a referral link.

We recently wrote an entire “Keep or Cancel” article on the Amex Hilton Ascend, detailing why we decided to keep the card, even though it’s not top-of-wallet for us in any category of ongoing spend. In summary, we keep this card because we get outsized value through:

  • Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificate with $15,000 spend in a calendar year
  • A good recent targeted spend offer (which does not seem to be unusual for Amex’s Hilton co-branded cards)
  • Potential for a good offer to upgrade to the Aspire card
  • Potentially valuable upgrade/downgrade play each year if we hold both the Aspire and the Ascend cards
  • A retention offer for a $50 statement credit, for $1,000 spend that we were going to make anyway

6.  Amex SPG Luxury ($450)

Why We Hold This Card – We got the Amex SPG Luxury card in August 2018, during the 3-day window before restrictions went into effect that would have made us ineligible to get it in the future. By doing so, we were able to earn the sign-up bonus of 100,000 Marriott Rewards points (worth $750 at our baseline value of 0.75 cents per Marriott Rewards point).

The Amex SPG Luxury card holds essentially no value to us for ongoing spend. The only spend category for which it’s potentially top-of-wallet is at Marriott/SPG hotels, where it earns 6x Marriott Rewards points per dollar (4.5% points rebate, at our 0.75 cent baseline value). And even in that category, we hold other Marriott/SPG cards that earn the same, or we could use a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which also gives us a 4.5% points rebate in the form of 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points.

Going forward, our decision on this card will come down to whether the $450 annual fee is outweighed by the $300 Marriott hotel credit (which includes room rate) plus the free night certificate for a Marriott/SPG hotel worth up to 50,000 points. This will be an interesting decision come August, and we’ll plan to write about it then.

Amex Business Cards

7.  Amex Business Platinum ($450; going up to $595 later in 2019)

Amex Business Platinum card

Why We Hold This Card – The Amex Business Platinum has been a staple in our wallet for several years. For us, its key ongoing benefits are:

  • 35% points rebate on pay-with-points airfare purchases
  • $200 annual airline credit (which we use for AA gift cards)
  • 10 Gogo Wifi passes per year
  • Centurion Lounge access
  • Access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program

On the surface, it seems a little tough to justify the annual fee. But we typically use our Amex MR points for pay-with-points airfare purchases, so the 35% points rebate adds substantial value for us. We’re hoping for a nice retention bonus to help us keep the card for the coming year, and we’ll write about this when this unfolds. And looking forward beyond that, it may get tougher to justify the annual fee on this card when it increases to $595 and the new benefits (WeWork, Dell, Hotel Collection) hold little to no value for us.

8.  Amex Business Rewards Gold ($175)

Why We Hold This Card – Historically, we got this card for the sign-up bonus, and we’ve held onto a Business Rewards Gold (BRG) card mostly for the possibility of offers to upgrade it to a Business Platinum card. In the past, we’ve twice received offers of 50,000 MR points to upgrade (combined with a spend requirement).

Right now, our annual fee has just posted again, and we’re on the fence about keeping the card. On the one hand, we use it very little for ongoing spend, as its bonus categories are either not best-in-class, or we don’t spend enough in them to matter. That said, if we decided to advertise Middle Age Miles, we could earn 3x MR points in the advertising category (up to $100,000 per year). Alternatively, we could choose 3x on computer hardware, software, and cloud computing services and get some modest benefit from that.

The “keep” argument would be that if we get another 50,000-point offer to re-upgrade to the Biz Platinum, that would be worth far more than the $175 annual fee. It might also be possible that we’d get a MR-point offer to convert our now-legacy BRG card to the “upgraded” Business Gold card (which has a $295 annual fee but increased points earning and some additional benefits). And, maybe we’ll get a retention offer. Stay tuned, and we’ll report back later.

9.  Amex Business Green ($0 first year / $95 thereafter)

Why We Hold This Card – We got the Business Green card in August 2018, striking strategically to pick up a 20,000 MR point referral bonus plus 10,000 MR points in sign-up bonuses. (Technically, the sign-up bonus was 5,000 MR points, but it was a known glitch at the time that the sign-up bonus would likely post twice.)

Looking forward, this card is not top-of-wallet for any spend categories. Its only ongoing value would be the possibility of receiving a MR points-earning offer to upgrade to Biz Gold or Biz Platinum, or perhaps a 10,000-point offer to enroll in the pay-over-time program.

10.  Amex Blue Business Plus ($0)

Why We Hold This Card – This no-annual-fee card earns 2x MR points on all spend (up to $50k each year), so it’s best-in-class for all unbonused spend, unless we’re working on meeting a spend requirement for a sign-up bonus or some other valuable spend bonus. This is an incredibly valuable card for us.

11.  Amex Blue for Business ($0)

Why We Hold This Card – This now-defunct legacy card was the forerunner to the Blue Business Plus card. It earns 1x MR point on all spend, with a 30% bonus at the end of the cardmember year; thus, ultimately 1.3x MR points per dollar on all spend (1.95% points rebate at 1.5 cents per MR point). At this point, it’s not really useful to us going forward, and it’ll be on the chopping block if we ever need to cancel an Amex credit card to make room for a new one (given that we currently hold 7 Amex credit cards, and the limit is typically 5).

12.  Amex SPG Business ($95)

Why We Hold This Card – As with the Amex SPG Luxury personal card discussed at #5 above, the only spend category for which this card is potentially top-of-wallet is at Marriott/SPG hotels, where it earns 6x Marriott Rewards points per dollar (4.5% points rebate, at our 0.75 cent baseline value). But we hold other Marriott/SPG cards and a Chase Sapphire Reserve card that essentially earn the same 4.5%.

Thus, going forward, the question on this card is essentially whether we’ll pay the $95 annual fee for the annual free night certificate valid at a Marriott/SPG hotel up to 35,000 points? Today, the answer is probably yes. I think we can easily get more than $200 in value from the certificate, plus it will give us a night toward Marriott elite status. But it’s a close call, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for falling on the “cancel” side of this line.

Chase Personal Cards

13.  Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450)

Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa card

Why We Hold This Card – The sign-up bonus of 100k Chase UR points was incredibly valuable when we got this card in November 2016. But going forward, the decision matrix is whether some or all of the following benefits justify the $450 annual fee:

  • $300 annual travel credit (very useful; it’s auto-credited toward the first $300 in travel charges each year, so it’s worth close to face value)
  • Ability to redeem UR points at 1.5 cents per point through the Chase Travel Portal – including for family members who can transfer UR points to my account
  • 3x Chase UR points on dining and travel (broadly defined and not limited to the US) – effectively a 4.5% points rebate in these categories using a baseline value of 1.5 cents per UR point
  • Primary insurance on US rental cars
  • Potential for referral bonuses

(The Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) card has other benefits, of course, but we find that they overlap with other cards or are not particularly valuable to us.)

Just 2 years ago, the CSR was a ground-breaking game-changer. Yet now, it’s a close call on whether to keep it:

  • How valuable is the 1.5-cent redemption benefit, when you could:
    • use the points at 1.25 cents with a different Chase card; or
    • simply transfer the points to Hyatt, United, or one of Chase’s other transfer partners; or
    • accumulate and use Amex MR points and/or Citi ThankYou Points (TYPs) instead?
  • How valuable is 3x earning on dining and travel, when I can earn:
    • 4x MR at US restaurants with the Amex Gold;
    • an amount equal to or better than 4.5% on most airfare and hotel expenses by using various other cards we hold; and
    • 3x US Bank points (also 4.5%) on most international dining and travel by using mobile payments with the US Bank Altitude Reserve?

For now, we’re holding the CSR card. But this bears watching closely as things continue to develop in the credit card, points and miles world.

14.  Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa ($395 for us; $450 if not grandfathered)

Why We Hold This Card – The Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa (RC Visa) is one of the most valuable cards in my wallet. We recently wrote an article about this card, Keep or Cancel – Chase Ritz Carlton Visa Card – Plus Retention Call Results, which will fill you in on all the details.

In short, the following benefits give us far more value than the $395 annual fee (we are grandfathered at $395; more recent applicants are at $450) costs us:

  • We use the full $300 annual credit for airline incidentals each year.
  • We have used the $100 Visa Infinite airfare discount multiple times per year.
  • We use the Priority Pass that comes with the RC Visa as our primary Priority Pass card, given that its benefits are the most extensive with unlimited guesting.
  • Philly and each of the 5 Middle Age Miles kids are AUs; they each get their own Priority Pass card and each can use the $100 Visa Infinite airfare discount.
  • We use some or all of our 3 Ritz-Carlton Club Level Upgrade certificates each year.
  • We’re looking forward to using the new benefit of an annual Free Night Certificate at a Marriott/SPG hotel up to 50,000 points.

15.  Chase Marriott Rewards ($99)

Why We Hold This Card – Just like the Amex SPG Business card discussed above at #11, this card isn’t top-of-wallet for any spend categories, so our going-forward decision is pretty straightforward – will we pay $99 for the annual Free Night Certificate at a Marriott/SPG hotel up to 35,000 points? And just like with the Amex SPG Business card, the answer is probably yes, as I believe we can get comfortably more value out of the certificate than the $99 annual fee.

16.  Chase World of Hyatt ($95)

Why We Hold This Card – We just got the Chase World of Hyatt card in October 2018, with a two-tiered sign-up bonus totaling 60,000 Hyatt points. We’ve hit the first spend threshold and received 40,000 points, and we’ll meet the second after the first of 2019.

In terms of bonus categories, the card is mostly valuable for 4x Hyatt points at Hyatt hotels (6% points rebate at 1.5 cents per Hyatt point). The other bonus category that’s tied for best-in-class would be fitness club and gym memberships at 2x, but that’s not a category we use.

Looking ahead, the card is valuable for a free night at a Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort each year after your cardmember anniversary. In addition, you can earn an additional free Category 1-4 night after $15,000 spend during your cardmember year. And finally, the card awards 5 qualifying nights toward Hyatt elite status, plus an additional 2 qualifying night credits each time you spend $5,000 on the card. These benefits may be useful someday if we decide to go for Hyatt Globalist top-tier status. In sum, I expect this card to be a keeper for us.

Chase Business Cards

17.  Chase Ink (legacy card) ($0)

Why We Hold This Card – This is an old legacy card that can actually have some useful applications. It’s a long-time keeper card, since it has no annual fee. And it earns 3x Chase UR points at gas stations, restaurants, hardware stores, home improvement stores, and office supply stores. At least with respect to hardware stores and home improvement stores, 3x UR points constitute best-in-class earnings. We don’t know of any other cards that have hardware stores or home improvement stores as bonus categories.

18.  Chase Ink Cash ($0)

Why We Hold This Card – The no-annual-fee Chase Ink Cash card is most useful for its bonus category of 5x Chase UR points at office supply stores (subject to a cap of $25,000/year). We’ve earned a lot of UR points purchasing Amazon and other gift cards at Office Depot/Max at 5x over the past few years. This card is definitely a valuable long-term keeper.

Citi Personal Cards

19.  Citi Prestige ($450; increasing to $495 in Sept 2019)

Citi Prestige Mastercard

Why We Hold This Card – With a $450 annual fee, the Citi Prestige is a premium card that needs to deliver a lot of benefits to justify its fee. When we first got the Prestige in February 2016, it allowed Citi TYPs to be redeemed for 1.6 cents per point on American, it included Admirals Club access, and it had unlimited 4th night free hotel bookings. Since then, the card eliminated the Admirals Club benefit and the 1.6-cents-on-AA benefit, diminishing its value.

Now, the card is undergoing further changes in 2019. It has increased points earning, beginning January 4, 2019. But, starting in September 2019 the 4th night free benefit will be limited to 2 times per year (and probably further devalued as a result of having to book through the ThankYou portal), and it will only allow for air travel bookings at 1 cent per TYP rather than 1.25 (currently, the Citi ThankYou Premier will continue to allow bookings at 1.25 cents per TYP).

20.  Citi ThankYou Premier ($0 first year / $95 thereafter)

Why We Hold This Card – I obtained the Citi ThankYou Premier card in June 2018, mostly for the sign-up bonus. At that time, the bonus was 50,000 TYPs, and Citi later gave me another 10,000 points to match me to an increased 60,000-point offer that came out shortly after I was approved.

The Premier is certainly an interesting card for ongoing use, earning 3x TYPs for travel (including airfare, hotels, car rentals, public transportation, tolls, parking, and even gas stations) and 2x TYPs on dining out and entertainment. We can achieve at least as much return value in all of these categories with other cards in our wallet, but someone with fewer card choices (or someone starting out) could certainly benefit from these categories.

With the changes coming to the Prestige card in September 2019, however, this card is an absolute keeper. For now, at least, holding the Premier card will continue to allow us to get 1.25 cents per TYP for air travel bookings through the ThankYou portal. This is a huge benefit that allows us to get maximum value for our TYPs, and this benefit alone makes the Premier card a keeper for the foreseeable future.

21.  Citi AT&T Access More ($95)

Why We Hold This Card – The Citi AT&T Access More is one of my very favorite cards. It has one unique benefit – 3x TYPs on online retail and travel purchases. I’ve been able to use this benefit creatively to generate many TYPs that we can then use toward flights. We’re planning an article to provide our data points and experiments from one year of holding the AT&T Access More card, which we hope you’ll find quite interesting.

The AT&T Access More card also gives a bonus of 10,000 TYPs each cardholder year if you spend $10,000 or more. In late 2017, I received a spectacular retention bonus on this card. For now, I’ll keep you in suspense about my recent retention call in late 2018, but we’ll have an article soon.

Unfortuantely, the AT&T Access More card is not available for new sign-ups. I got my card in Fall 2017 through a product change from a Citi AA Platinum card. I’m not sure whether this same product change is still available, but if we learn more, we’ll certainly report back. I’d love for everyone to have this card and be able to use its benefits!

22/23/24.  Citi American Airlines Platinum ($0 first year / $95 thereafter)

Why We Hold These Cards – It’s all about the sign-up bonuses. We were approved for 3 Citi AA Platinum cards during 2018. Citi’s standard restrictions prevent you from getting a sign-up bonus on this card if you’ve opened or closed one within 24 months. But … enter the magic of targeted mailers. Targeted mailers for this card generally don’t contain the restrictive 24-month language, and mailers with 9-digit codes can be used by applicants other than the recipient of the mailer. Using codes from mailers, I picked up more than 200,000 AAdvantage miles during 2018.

I won’t hold on to the Citi AA Platinum cards going forward, as there are no best-in-class category bonuses for me, and I already have the flight benefits as a result of elite status. When the cards come up for renewal, we’ll hope to be able to product change to other Citi cards such as the AT&T Access More card, a Citi Double Cash, or a Citi Dividend.

Barclays Personal Cards

25.  Barclays American Airlines Aviator Silver ($195)

Barclays AA Aviator Silver Mastercard

Why We Hold This Card – This card gives us chance to earn Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) and Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) toward status on AA. I’ve used all 10,000 EQMs earned from this card and $3,000 EQDs to bump myself over the thresholds for AA Executive Platinum status, in each of the past 2 years. But the spend threshold is significant – it takes $40k in spend to get all 10,000 EQMs, and as of 2019, it will take $50k in spend to receive the $3,000 EQDs. (Previously, it was $3,000 EQDs at $25k spend and another $3,000 EQDs at $50k spend.) We also got good value last year out of the Companion Certificate that we received for spending $30k during our prior cardmember year – although this is a little tough to duplicate from year to year.

The problem with this card is that it earns only 1x AA miles per dollar on most purchases. That creates a huge opportunity cost compared to other places where we can put our spend (or create “strategic spend”). In the last 2 years, it’s been very much worth it. Going forward, particularly with only being able to earn a maximum of $3,000 EQDs (and it requiring $50k spend to earn these), I’m not so sure. It will be an interesting keep-or-cancel decision when the annual fee comes due.

26.  Barclays Wyndham Rewards (with annual fee) ($75)

Why We Hold This Card – We originally got this card for the sign-up bonus in Spring 2017, as we had a very specific upcoming stay where the Wyndham Rewards points from the bonus were a perfect fit for us. We (barely) kept it upon renewal last year, solely for the Wyndham Rewards points we’d receive. The card’s 5x points earning at Wyndham hotels would be best-in-class, but we haven’t stayed at a Wyndham property in a year and a half. It’ll be another close call when the 2019 annual fee hits.

Barclays Business Card

27.  Barclays AA Aviator Business ($95)

Why We Hold This Card – We got this card strictly for the sign-up bonus – currently 50,000 AA miles after the first purchase. That was a pretty sweet haul for a $95 fee. Going forward, we’re not sure whether we keep this card. There are no best-in-class bonus categories for us, and the AA flight benefits aren’t helpful to us. However, we could earn $3,000 EQDs toward AA elite status with only $25k in spend (compared to $50k in spend on the personal Barclays AA Aviator Silver card). It might be worth $95 to me, to keep that option open, especially since AA has raised the EQD requirement to re-qualify for Executive Platinum status during 2019, from $12,000 EQDs to $15,000 EQDs.

Bank of America Personal Card

28.  B of A Alaska Air ($75)

Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa card

Why We Hold This Card – One, the card is churnable, as we proved by canceling one card this year and re-applying a few months later. Two, the sign-up bonus is nice – ours this year was for 40,000 AS miles (worth about $600 at our baseline value of 1.5 cents per AS mile). Three, hopefully someone in the family can use the free Companion Ticket certificate that comes with the card first-year. Four, we got free checked bags on our one Alaska flight during 2018. And five, maybe we can get a few dollars cash back using this card for BankAmeriDeals.

Bank of America Business Card

29.  B of A Alaska Air Business ($75)

Why We Hold This Card – This one is all about the sign-up bonus of AS miles and getting a Companion Ticket certificate. We’re not seeing any reason to hold it long-term, especially if we have a B of A Alaska Air personal card.

US Bank Personal Card

30.  US Bank Altitude Reserve ($400)

US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite card

Why We Hold This Card – Similar to the Citi AT&T Access More card, the US Bank Altitude Reserve is one of my favorite cards because of one bonus category – 3x US Bank points for payments made using a mobile wallet. This, coupled with US Bank’s introduction of real-time mobile rewards that allows redemptions (at 1.5 cents per point) on a broad range of travel expenses, results in effectively a 4.5% rebate on all spend that can be made using a mobile wallet. (Unfortunately, we only have Apple Pay; we would love to have a Samsung device with Samsung Pay’s enhanced ability to be used at many more locations than Apple Pay.) The huge win on this card is on our trips to Europe, where virtually every merchant accepts mobile wallet payments and we can easily turn otherwise unbonused spend into 3x US Bank points.

The $400 annual fee on this card is largely offset by a $325 travel credit that is automatically applied and therefore very easy to use. And the card’s benefits also include 12 complimentary Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi passes every year, which are useful to us.

Card-by-Card Analysis – Philly’s Cards

Chase Personal Cards

1.  Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450)

Why We Hold This Card – Our full analysis of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is at #13 of Craig’s cards above. The question here is, why do we hold two Sapphire Reserve cards? The truth of the matter is, we might not need two. We could transfer all points earned on Philly’s Chase UR-earning cards to my CSR account, or vice versa, and still get the same benefits. Generally, I wouldn’t recommend that a couple keep two CSR cards.

In our specific situation, though, I think we’ve made the right call to keep two for now. First, the $300 annual travel credit offsets a lot of the annual fee. Second, Philly may have the ability to put some work travel and dining on a personal card this year, and the CSR is a perfect card for that. Third, if she has even one referral bonus on her card, it will more than make up for the annual fee, net of the travel credit. And fourth, there’s the intangible benefit of keeping her in Chase’s good graces by paying the fee. Like I say, it’s not for everyone, but in our case, I think it makes sense.

2.  Chase Freedom Unlimited ($0)

Why We Hold This Card – Philly doesn’t want to have to worry about what card to use for everyday purchases. She’ll carry and use 2 cards, or at most 3 if there’s a special reason. The Freedom Unlimited, with 1.5x UR point-earning on all purchases (2.25% points rebate at 1.5 cents per UR point), gives her a perfect card for her to use and get a solid return without having to think much. And unlike the other possibility (an Amex Blue Business Plus card with 2x MR points earning), the Freedom Unlimited is a Visa card that’s accepted everywhere in the US. For us, this card in combination with the CSR works perfectly.

3.  Chase Freedom ($0)

Why We Hold This Card – Philly has held her Freedom card forever, so this card is great for her Average Age of Accounts. In addition, we can take advantage of the 5x bonus categories each quarter to earn some extra UR points along the way. This quarter’s 5x categories, gas stations, tolls and drugstores, are particularly easy for us to maximize. I’m also an AU on this card, which helps in terms of making sure we use the 5x categories when they’re available.

Chase Business Card

4.  Chase Ink Preferred Business ($95)

Chase Ink Preferred Business Visa card

Why We Hold This Card – We got the Chase Ink Preferred (CIP) Business card recently, with a great sign-up bonus of 80,000 UR points (worth $1,200 toward travel at 1.5 cents per UR point). (We’ve gotten Philly back under 5/24 so she can be eligible to get Chase business cards.)

Going forward, this card is probably a keeper for us, despite limited incremental benefits over other cards we hold. The CIP earns 3x UR points on travel, shipping, internet/cable/phone, and advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines (up to a cap of $150,000/year). None of these bonus categories are best-in-class in a category that we currently use much. But that said, they could be valuable. I continually debate whether to pay our cell phone bills with my Chase Ink Cash (5x UR points) or Philly’s CIP (3x UR points, but with some cell phone insurance coverage).

However, a single referral bonus would more than make up for the annual fee. And the CIP card has the unique benefit of earning 3x points on Venmo payments (at least for now). We have used that feature (which basically allows us to “purchase” UR points for 1 cent each), but we certainly haven’t pushed the limits on it. These 2 factors make the CIP worth it for us, in our specific circumstances.

Amex Business Cards

5.  Amex Business Platinum ($450; going up to $595 later in 2019)

Why We Hold This Card – Our full analysis of the Amex Business Platinum card is at #7 of Craig’s cards above. But as with the CSR card, the question is, why do we hold two Amex Business Platinum cards?

The answer here is about the benefits, as the Business Platinum is not top-of-wallet for any category of spend. Because Amex MR points cannot be combined, even between spouses, the Business Platinum allows us to redeem Philly’s MR points for flights, with the 35% rebate. She gets the $200 annual airfare credits on this card, and she also gets 10 Gogo inflight Wi-Fi passes each year. In addition, having her own card means that Philly can access a Centurion club even if I’m not with her – plus, having 2 cards allows us to get 4-6 people in, total, if she and I are traveling with other family members or friends. Finally, for some reason, Philly’s Amex Business Platinum is the only card we hold that reliably receives MR-earning Amex Offers, which we find valuable.

All that said, this card is an expensive luxury. I sure hope we get a nice retention offer on it this year!

6.  Amex Blue Business Plus ($0)

Why We Hold This Card – See #10 of Craig’s cards above. Holding a second one of these great no-fee cards allows to double the $50k annual spend cap for 2x MR earning, plus we use the different Blue Business Plus cards to segregate expenses. Two of the Middle Age Miles college-age kids are AUs on Philly’s card, which allows us to get 2x MR points on the charges that we’re helping them with while they’re in school.

7.  Amex SPG Business ($0 first year / $95 thereafter)

Why We Hold This Card – See #12 of Craig’s cards above. We just wrote a full “Keep or Cancel” article on this card, but the gist of it is that we believe we can get at least $200 in value and probably more out of the Free Night Award certificate that comes as an annual benefit, good at a Marriott/SPG property up to 35,000 Marriott Rewards points. That’s worth it for a $95 annual fee.

Citi Personal Card

8.  Citi American Airlines Executive ($450)

Citi AAdvantage Executive Mastercard

Why We Hold This Card – Beyond the sign-up bonus (Philly got 75,000 AA miles back in Summer 2017), this card is valuable for two things that more than justify the hefty annual fee for us – Admirals Club membership for Philly with Admirals Club access for AUs (we have 6 AUs – the 5 Middle Age Miles kids and me); and the ability for Philly to get 10,000 AA EQMs if she spends $40k on the card in a calendar year. We’ve met the spend to get the EQMs each of the last 2 years, and both years they have been necessary to get Philly to Executive Platinum status, which in turn has been very useful to us.

Barclays Personal Card

9.  Barclays American Airlines Aviator Silver ($195)

Why We Hold This Card – See #25 of Craig’s cards above. The exact same rationale applies to Philly. It has justified each of us having our own Barclays AA Aviator Silver card in the past, but it remains to be seen if this is a keeper going forward.

Bank of America Personal Card

10.  B of A Cash Rewards (Notre Dame edition) ($0)

Why We Hold This Card – This card has a picture of the Golden Dome on it. What more do you need? Go Irish.

[And at one point, Philly got a $150 sign-up bonus for this card. Plus, it’s a reasonable card to use for gas at 3% cash back. And finally, it occasionally makes sense to use this card to redeem a BankAmeriDeal.]
The actual Golden Dome (NOT the Bank of America Cash Rewards Visa card!)

We hope you’ve enjoyed Parts 1 & 2 of “What’s in Our Wallet?” We’ll be back soon with Part 3, showing our “spend matrix” of how we use each card to maximize points earning by spending in bonus categories. 

Do you have comments, criticisms, or applause for our reasons for acquiring and/or holding the cards in our credit card portfolio? Let us know in the Comments!


At Middle Age Miles, we love to bring you travel, credit card and points-and-miles information that you can use to help make your travel dreams come true. To see all of our tips and insights, please Like and follow us on social media at:

Please share and re-tweet our posts and tell all of your friends about Middle Age Miles! Thank you!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

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

%d bloggers like this: