State Of My Credit Card Union

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I’m taking stock of where things stand here in 2019, and I figure a good a place as any is with what cards I’ve got these days, and why. I’ve been avoiding signing up for new personal cards so that I can acquire some new Chase cards this year, so I’ve been mostly dropping cards. In other words, what’s in my wallet? (Not a Capital One card, I can tell you that.)

Bullet points, as promised:

  • I’m spending more on Amex cards these days than Chase cards, because the Amex Gold and Amex Blue Business Plus now both earn points very nicely.
  • I have been avoiding acquiring personal credit cards, so that I become eligible again for Chase cards sometime this year. Chase won’t give you a new card if you’ve opened five personal cards with anyone in the last 24 months.
  • I’m undecided whether to start acquiring Citi FuckYou Thank You points with my Citi Prestige card now that it earns 5 points per dollar spent on dining and travel.
  • I still have 25 credit cards open. If you want to know about each one and how I use them, read on.

I’m surprised to see I still am carrying 25 open cards, even after the 14 I’ve closed in the last 2+ years. I guess I’ve been opening a bunch of business cards, which don’t appear on my personal credit report, and are therefore off Chase’s radar. One day the APA will officially diagnose Churner’s Disease.

What’s interesting is that Amex has displaced Chase for much of my spending. I still like the Chase points better, but I have a lot of them, and they’re not *quite* as good since they lost Korean as a transfer partner, and I’m trying to beef up my Amex stash so I have more flexibility when it’s time to redeem. And Amex cards now earn more points than my Chase cards do, so what am I going to do? Turn down points?

Personal everyday spending cards:

  • Amex Gold: This bitch gets me 4 Membership Rewards per dollar spent at U.S. Restaurants, and I don’t freaking cook, so, yeah. It’s displaced my Sapphire Reserve, which earns 3 Ultimate Rewards points. Plus, I got the limited edition Rose Gold color, which is only available through Jan 9th. You tell me something isn’t gonna be available in the future, and I’m a sucker every time. Effective cost is $150 after I receive the $100 travel credit.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: I use this for 3 points per dollar on all travel, transportation, and lodging. Effective cost is $150 after I receive the $300 travel credit. (I was using the Amex Platinum for 5 points on airlines, but I just switched it out for the Amex Business Platinum, which only gets you 5x if you book the ticket through Amex Travel.)
  • Amex Blue Business Plus: 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar on everything (for the first $50,000 a year), with no annual fee. I love this card.
  • Synchrony Amazon: 5% back on all Amazon purchases. No annual fee. (What I should really do is buy Amazon gift cards at Staples with my Chase Ink Business Plus, and get 5 Ultimate Rewards points instead, which are worth a minimum of 5% as cash, but potentially much more when used for travel. Maybe that will be my new years’ resolution.)
  • Chase Freedom: 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on occasionally useful quarterly rotating categories. This quarter, drugstores is one of them, so fuck it, I’ll take extra points for my meds. Why wouldn’t I? No annual fee.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: Shared expenses with the mizz (it’s actually her card), which is mostly meals, for which I get 2 points per dollar, for $95/year. (I periodically contemplate bumping to Sapphire Reserve for the extra point it earns, but the extra $130/year it would cost probably isn’t worth it, as we’d have to spend $8700 more than we do now on meals and travel to break even on its minimum value.)
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: This is actually Ms. X’s personal spending card for most purchases since she doesn’t like to dive quite as deep into use-this-card-for-that-thing as I do. No annual fee.

Business everyday spending cards (for my actual business):

  • Chase Ink Business Preferred: 3 points per dollar on business travel, transportation, lodging and some online advertising and communications bills. $95/year.
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: 1.5 points per dollar on everything else, most substantially our virtual assistant service that costs us a few thou a month. No annual fee. (If we wanted to be pure and holy and actually have all business cards for our business, this could now be replaced with the relatively new Chase Ink Business Unlimited. Another 2019 resolution.)
  • Chase Amazon: 5% cash back on all Amazon purchases. See above about how I should be buying Amazon gift cards for 5x instead.

We put red nail polish on the upper right corner of our business cards so we can tell what’s going on.

Special use cards:

  • Amex Business Platinum: 35% rebate on pay-with-points tickets on a yearly chosen domestic airline, or business/first class on any airline, making each Amex point worth 1.54 cents (instead of 1 cent). 10 free Gogo passes, not that stupid United supports them. Supposedly, starting in February, it will also include a one year WeWork membership, which could really rock my fucking world when I’ve got dead time between client appointments. And, of course, I get Centurion lounge access, not that I use that often, because is there one in Newark? No, there is not. Effectively $250 after the travel credit. I may not keep it next year it after the cost goes up by $145, unless the WeWork benefit is ongoing and has proved valuable.
  • Chase United Explorer: Two free club passes a year; and, as a Premier member, ability to be upgraded on an award ticket. (If it weren’t for the latter feature, I’d probably downgrade to the no-fee Chase United MileagePlus card.) $95/year.
  • Amex Blue Business Plus: A second one. It has a 0% APR for the first 15 months. I’m taking advantage of that by making a bunch of 8-12 month Kiva loans on it, and as I get repaid, I pay down the card (or otherwise pay the minimum). Let’s hope everyone’s microbusiness thrives and no one defaults! No annual fee.
  • First Tech Federal Credit Union Platinum: My European travel backup card. It has primary chip+PIN (signature not even supported), no foreign exchange fee, and no annual fee. Also useful for its included savings account, whose ACH transfers to other banks appear as direct deposits when meeting the requirements for a new checking account bonus, which was a pool I dipped my toes in before deciding it wasn’t worth the headache, but nice to know it works. Good people there at First Tech, too.

Cards that I pay for but are of dubious value:

  • Citi Prestige: 4th night free at hotels. Might consider as regular use card for new 5x earnings on restaurants and travel, though I am mostly unimpressed by FuckYou ThankYou points, so I might not bother. But, then again, it’s nice to have options, as Richard Kerr argues. Effectively $100/year after the travel credit, but in July when I am due for renewal, that’s going up by $145, so I’m probably going to drop it or convert it to a no-fee card then, especially since in September it will restrict 4th night free to two uses per year, and increase the pay with points ticket price by 25%.
  • Chase Ink Business Plus: In principle, with this card, I could be going to Staples, buying gift cards for all kinds of things, especially Amazon, and getting 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent. In practice, I don’t do shit with it, in part because part of my soul that I’ll never get back dies every time I walk into a Staples or any other large chain store. Since it’s not possible to get this card again if I get rid of it, I stupidly pay $95/year for the privilege of keeping it. I should really just downgrade it to the free Chase Ink Business Cash, which would do all the same things for me with no annual fee. But I won’t. I’m a sucker.

Paid cards I don’t use and am gonna close when their annual fee is due:

  • Amex Platinum Delta Business
  • Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business
  • CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select

No fee cards I don’t really use but keep open for the health of my credit report. (More credit improves overall debt to credit ratio, and longer average age of accounts is better.)

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited (sorry guys, Amex Blue Business Plus just is a little sweeter)
  • Citi ThankYou Preferred (have had account since ’94)
  • Citi AAdvantage Select (Amex network; have had account since ’12)
  • Citi AAdvantage MileUp (have had account since ’12)
  • Amex Everyday (have had account since ’02)
  • Barclays AAdvantage Aviator (for credit line)
  • BankAmericard Platinum (for credit line)
  • Capital One Platinum (have had account since ’08)

And…I’ve closed 14 cards outright since 2016. Farewell, friends.

2 thoughts on “State Of My Credit Card Union

  1. AJ

    So I have a stash of MR’s and fly domestically more than anything else. Do MR’s have good economy domestic redemption options?

    I’ve been on the UR > Southwest / United train for quite some time and now I’m running out of UR. 😮 Blasted 5/24 / 5/48.

    Reply
    1. Ivan X Post author

      Yeah if I were running out of UR I’d switch back to those cards stat.

      As for domestic options using MR, it’s probably worth its own post, but for now:

      Delta, when the award price is reasonable (usually corresponds to the cash price), or when they’re having an award ticket sale
      JetBlue, particularly when there’s a 1:1 promo transfer
      American, via British Airways (if on BA.com you don’t see saver-level tickets found on AA.com, then call BA)
      United, via AeroPlan (or possibly other Star Alliance airlines like Avianca)
      Alaska, via British Airways (you have to call BA to book those, after finding their availability on AA.com)

      Or, you could get a Schwab branded Platinum card and cash out the MR at 1.25c apiece.

      Or get a Business Platinum card (hurry before the price jumps by $145 in February, and if you’re gonna, use my referral), which will get about 1.54c per point on a single yearly specified domestic airline, after you recieve the 35% rebate 30 days after purchase (so you have to have the 1p:1c up front to get the ticket).

      If none of that works for you, just take the lesser value of 1p:1c on whatever airline you want.

      Reply

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