Misc Travel Work

What’s in my wallet?

Week 5 of the Day in the Life: Katie Shelters At Home series is as fun as money talk can get. When guest author Katie first pitched the idea, I originally wasn’t interested but 2 things changed my mind: 1) This’ll be my olive branch to her call for bribes (see ‘Southwest Priority by Chase’ below), and 2) When she becomes The Points Girl (the Brian Kelly of The Points Guy), I’ll add some referral links here.

[WARNING] Longer post with only one picture

dog holding phone and wallet
Hello? It’s me. Riley, The Points Dog.

The lack of travel (and general decreased spending) during Shelter-in-Place has got me thinking about why I have the credit cards I have. The internet is not short of opinions about the Best Credit Cards to keep in your wallet. While I am by no means an expert in collecting credit cards and participating in the various rewards programs, I’m going to share some of the cards I’ve signed up for during the last few years. With the advice of some friends and some nifty websites (in particular, the Doctor of Credit), here are the cards in my wallet and a few highlights why:

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • My go-to everyday card (as evidenced by a chunk of the plastic side of the metal card falling off – see the above pic), so it has a special place in the sticker pocket on the back of my phone
  • Seemingly the card every millennial has despite the relatively high annual fee (previously $450, gone up to $550)
  • Up until March, I traveled extensively for work, so this card got me 3X points on airfare, hotels, and restaurants, which can really add up in Ultimate Rewards points
  • I book most cross-country or international flights through the Chase Travel Portal, where Ultimate Rewards points are worth 50% more

Chase Freedom

  • My first “adulting” credit card (previously only had a Capital One card in college, then lived in Australia for over 5 years where I only had a debit card because I didn’t know better)
  • Rotating 5% cashback categories every quarter. For example, the current quarter’s categories are grocery stores (good for sheltering-in-place with all the home cooking happening these days), streaming services (not that useful because I spend like $12 a month on Netflix), and gym memberships (not at all useful)
  • Helpful when the category includes gas stations, but since I keep this card in my actual wallet (which I don’t take most places), I usually end up forgetting to use it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (<–I actually hate /shruggie but didn’t know how else to convey this perpetual mishap)

American Express Platinum

  • My most “premium” credit card, with an annual fee of $550
  • Also great for traveling, with 5X points on airfare and hotels
  • Love it most for the traveling perks, like access to multiple lounges (Delta Club is nifty for flying back to my hometown of Detroit, the fancy Amex Centurion lounges in SFO, Miami, and Seattle, in addition to the Priority Pass lounges I already get from the CSR)
  • Automatic Gold Elite status for Hilton and Marriott. Benefited from upgrades and free snacks at check-in (woot) with all my work travel
  • Random “Offers” you can add to your card for all sorts of random things, like $50 credit when you spend $200 at a given hotel chain. Mary herself just took advantage of my Amex by getting $25 off a $300 purchase at Adorama (a new camera for her mom!). Also, there are frequent offers for Amazon, like 20% off certain items when you use a minimum of 1 rewards point
  • $50 twice a year in Saks credit. Most things at Saks are ridiculously expensive, but I’ve used the credit to buy makeup and eye cream, which is basically the same price as anywhere else
  • Monthly Uber credit, which I really only used for business travel, but am now using for Uber Eats. Hey, I’m not complaining about getting to eat actually good Chinese food during SIP
  • Wasn’t sure if I would keep this card if I don’t have a lot of business trips in the future. However, as of May 2020, Amex has also added $20 monthly credit for streaming services AND mobile providers, so that helps to offset not using the other travel benefits
  • For now, this card also has a coveted spot on the back of my phone

Southwest Priority by Chase

  • My most recently acquired card
  • Used to fly at least once a week on Southwest, so got 2 points per $1 on all purchased flights
  • The number one reason I got this card earlier this year was to earn enough points to qualify for Companion Pass. I’m happy to report that as of yesterday, I reached the 125,000 points required for Companion Pass!  Yippee. This would probably not have been possible if Southwest didn’t offer the bonus 25,000 tier qualifying points to all Rapids Rewards members as a consolation for this weird time. I am now accepting bribes from friends to get to travel with me for FREE until the end of 2021.

Delta Gold by Amex

  • One of my 3 airline cards, but the one I use the least
  • Not that useful because I don’t fly Delta that much anymore
  • The main perks are priority boarding and a free checked bag
  • Might call Amex to see what the retention offer is

United MileagePlus Explorer by Chase

  • Somewhat more useful than Delta because SFO is a United hub
  • Seems like everyone and their mother has this card so the Boarding Group 2 line is so long, but I still get on early enough to have guaranteed overhead luggage space
  • Two free United Club passes. Good for long layovers and when I’m not traveling for work and can’t expense anything
  • Like some of the other cards, receive a $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ fee credit (which I have given to friends/family).

Hyatt by Chase

  • One of my two hotel cards, but don’t use that much apart from staying at one Hyatt Regency in Socal
  • Automatic World of Hyatt Discoverist status, which has been nice for free room upgrades
  • One free night certificate on your cardmember anniversary. I used this at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne last year, which felt super bougie considering I’ve never actually stayed at a hotel in Melbourne until then. This alone makes the $75 annual fee worth it.

IHG Premier by Chase

  • Stayed at a lot of Holiday Inns in Socal so this helped rack up the IHG points and get room upgrades with the complementary Platinum Elite status 
  • Also get one free night certificate on your cardmember anniversary. Have not yet used but will try to stay at a nicer hotel like a Crown Plaza or even an InterContinental (to make the $89 annual fee go further)
  • SADLY, this is the only card where I mistakenly thought I hit the minimum spend for the 100k signup bonus, which basically defeated the whole purpose of getting it in the first place. Major bummer. 
  • Been meaning to cancel, wait two years, and then sign up again for the signup bonus (which, by the way, is now at an all-time high of 140,000 points)

This was a fun little exercise to recall what all the perks and rewards are for the credit cards I hold so I’m not missing out on any major benefit. I didn’t mention additional perks for many of the cards (like baggage delay and loss insurance and trip delay/interruption coverage, annual travel credits, special concierge services, etc.), but it’s clear that overall the value of the benefits make up for the annual fees, even for the more luxury cards. I’m not quite sure what my next credit card will be. Looks like I will have to dig around the internet to see what people are talking about. Open to any recommendations!

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