How I use my credit cards

I have recently made some pretty major changes to my credit card portfolio, which has obviously changed (nay enhanced) the way in which I utilize my credit cards. So while I have talked a lot about the cards I use and why I use them where, I wanted to take this time to go over the exact strategy I use with my credit cards on a daily basis.

I also carry what many of my peers claim to be way too many credit cards — so I want to try and justify myself a bit as well.

Evaluating the Inventory

First, I’ll quickly go through the cards in my wallet. Every card I have serves some sort of purpose, but that doesn’t mean I am spending on those cards on a day to day basis. So for the purposes of this post I will focus just on the cards that I truly use.

If you follow along with my posts, you’ll notice that I’ve added a new look to my wallet. I recently signed up for the AMEX Everyday Preferred card, for reasons I’ll explain later, then also added the Freedom Unlimited card. I downgraded my Chase Sapphire Preferred to give me a better spending option, as well as no annual fee.

So let’s dive right into it.

Looking at my spend by category

For the most part my spending is split up by category — as most points and miles enthusiasts know, it’s all about the spending bonus categories.

Dining/Restaurants – Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Dining category is maybe one of the most popular bonus categories across all credit cards, but none offer as much benefit as the Chase Sapphire Reserve. With 3x points per dollar spent on dining and restaurants, the true value in this bonus is the value of those bonus points.

I personally find Chase Ultimate Rewards points to be the most valuable flexible rewards currencies on the market. The ability to transfer points to one of their 13 travel partners makes their potential value hard to truly estimate — but it’s good.

Travel – Chase Sapphire Reserve

I will touch on areas for improvement later, but depending on the card, “travel” can be a very broad category. Luckily, in this scenario Chase is very generous in how they categorize travel — which is why I still use my Chase Sapphire Reserve.

At 3x points per dollar spent on travel, I not only get bonus points on airfare and hotel, but also things like parking, Lyft/Uber, tolls, and many many more.

Grocery – AMEX Everyday Preferred

This is one of the newer additions to my portfolio but one that I have been eyeing for a while. As I recently moved into my own place, and try to cut back on eating out whenever I am home, I seriously increased my grocery store spend.

This card gets me 3x AMEX MembershipRewards points per dollar spent at grocery stores, up to $6,000/year. Better yet, that could go as high as 4.5x points if I am able to make 30 purchases points a month.

It’s also worth noting this category does not include super stores like Target and Wal-Mart — a big discrepancy that many people miss.

Gas – AMEX Everyday Preferred*

A lot of people talk about the Everyday Preferred card for its great bonus on grocery, but the gas bonus isn’t too bad either. At 2x points per dollar, and 3x if you are able to make 30 purchases in a month, that makes this card that much more appealing.

The reason I put an asterisk next to this is because I am currently using my Chase Freedom card for gas. This quarter (Jul-Sep) I get 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent at gas stations, Lyft, or Walgreens, up to $1,500. Given the other two categories, and my overall spending habits, I am using the card wherever possible to hit that $1,500 maximum.

But after that, I wont drop down to only receiving 1 point for every dollar spent — which is still a win in my book.

Wild Card – Chase Freedom

I wasn’t quite sure what to call this category, but this card is too important not to give its own category.

The Chase Freedom offers 5 UR points per dollar spent at rotating categories on up to $1,500 in spend. Of course, this means that where I use this card changes every 3 months, but I am always trying to spend that $1,500 and get full benefits out of the card.

Everything Else – Chase Freedom Unlimited

And finally, everything else!

I have recently added the Chase Freedom Unlimited to my arsenal, and it has enhanced my spending greatly. Where I really missed previously was this “other” spending category. Instead of getting only 1 point/dollar on “other” spending, I will now never earn less than 1.5 points per dollar spent.

So for now, I’d say my spending is efficient. Which means that I’m very happy with what I’m earning on a daily basis — but also still always looking for ways to improve.

Areas of Improvement

Of course, I’m not sure I will ever be fully pleased with my credit card portfolio. Which is a good thing, because it means that there are constantly new cards coming out, and issuers are constantly trying more and more to entice customers in such a competitive market.

And there is one area where I think I can still definitely improve (amongst others) my spending.

5 MembershipRewards points per dollar spent on airfare with the Platinum Card from American Express.

A very popular card for all the perks that come with it, I specifically like the incredible bonus on airfare. If you fly with any kind of frequency throughout the year, I think this card should definitely be considered — the bonus on airfare alone should justify the annual fee.

I am obviously beginning my move into the American Express rewards space, so this card is probably a no-brainer — that annual fee is something that may have me carefully analyzing, though.






Tucker is an avid points and miles enthusiast. Being fully involved in the world of credit cards and frequent flying for only a few years now, he brings a very fresh and unique perspective to the world of travel.

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