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Home » My credit card strategy: What’s in my wallet?

My credit card strategy: What’s in my wallet?

I write about credit cards and travel rewards for a living and many ask me which credit cards I keep in my wallet. I don’t always carry all of my cards with me—that would be quite a few cards—and some cards provide value just by having the card, keeping it in my desk and never actively using it.

Here’s an overview of the cards I use for spending, the cards I use occasionally for specific purposes, the cards I keep for benefits and the cards I no longer use, but still have open.

Earning welcome bonuses

The fastest way to earn miles, points, and cash back rewards is by getting a new credit card with a welcome bonus. If I’m earning a welcome bonus on a new credit card, that is the first credit card that I use for spending, regardless of other category bonuses.

Cards I regularly use for spending

Although I have a bunch of credit cards, there are only a handful of cards that I regularly use for ongoing spending. This is mostly because there’s largely no reason to accept less than 2.62% rewards on anything, thanks to my Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card. That card alone eliminates a lot of complexity from my wallet.

Card loaded to Apple PayRewards I useBenefits I use
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card art
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card
Annual fee: $0
2.62% cash back on all purchases as a Preferred Rewards member with Platinum Honors.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express card art
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Annual fee: $95
6% cash back on groceries on up to $6,000 of spending each year.
6% on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
3% cash back at U.S. gas stations.
$84 The Disney Bundle credit
Extended warranty
Purchase protection
Return protection
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card card art
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
Annual fee: $0
1.5% cash back (as Ultimate Rewards points) on all purchases.
Amazon Prime Visa from Chase card art
Prime Visa
Annual fee: $0
5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods MarketExtended warranty
Cards I regularly use for spending
  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. This is my year-round go-to card for gas, groceries, a Disney+ subscription and purchases of clothing and durable goods (think electronics). Every year, I spend at least $6,000 at grocery stores, so from the grocery rewards alone (6%, capped at $6,000 of spending each year) I earn $360. That’s $180 more than I’d earn from a card with no annual fee. I get the full value out of the $84 The Disney Bundle credit (my household subscribes to Disney+ anyway) and the 3% on gas is enough that I don’t need to worry about maximizing cash back with other cards. I also use the card for most purchases of clothing and durable goods. Amex’s extended warranty doesn’t offer the longest coverage period, but it is the least hassle when I need to use it. And the card’s return protection has come in particularly useful when purchasing clothing. Being tall, it’s hard to find clothing in-store. Having return protection means I incur zero risk by buying a “final sale” piece of clothing online. For me, the card provides vastly more value than I give up by paying its $95 annual fee.
  • Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card. I use my Chase Ink Business Unlimited card for my recurring business expenses. Sure, I’m giving up some amount of rewards—I could be earning 2.62% cash back with my Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card—but I find that the simplicity of keeping my recurring business expenses on one card outweighs the value of the additional rewards on another card.
  • Prime Visa. I get 5% cash back on Amazon purchases with the Prime Visa and the card has an extended warranty benefit, so I’m covered for items like electronics that I purchase on Amazon. I use this for all of my Amazon purchases, including purchases for buyers clubs. I don’t use the card for anything non-Amazon.

5% rotating category cards

5% rotating category cards offer 5% rewards on a limited amount of spending each quarter. Some people love these cards because they earn great rewards in useful categories. Others dislike these cards because rewards are always changing. Personally, I’m in the “love them” camp… but that should be unsurprising since I write about cards for a living. I keep things simple with 5% rotating category cards. When a card has a compelling category bonus, I’ll put it in my wallet until I’ve spent the maximum amount that will earn 5% rewards.

5% rewards cardRewards I useBenefits I use

Chase Freedom
Annual fee: $0
5% rotating category rewards.
3% at drugstores
Chase Freedom Flex card art
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Annual fee: $0
5% rotating category rewards.
3% at drugstores
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card card art
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
Annual fee: $0
5% in the eligible category where I spend the most each month.
The Citi Dividend card earns 5% cash back on rotating categories, up to $300/year
Citi Dividend Card
Annual fee: $0
5% rotating category rewards.
Discover it® Cash Back card art
Discover it® Cash Back
Annual fee: $0
5% rotating category rewards.
My 5% rotating category cards
  • Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex℠. I have both a Chase Freedom and a Chase Freedom Flex which I use for their 5% rotating category bonuses. I have the original Freedom card from way back when Chase first launched the card and the Chase Freedom Flex was a product conversion from a Chase Sapphire Reserve® card.
  • Citi Custom Cash℠ Card. The Citi Custom Cash is a bit different. Instead of rotating categories, I earn 5% cash back (as ThankYou® Points) in the eligible category where I spent the most each month. How I use the card changes from month to month and I usually use the card to supplement the categories offered by my other 5% cards. Near the end of the year, the Custom Cash becomes my go-to card for groceries after I’ve maximized the 6% rewards on my Blue Cash Preferred® Card.
  • Citi Dividend Card. The Citi Dividend card offers 5% cash back rewards in rotating categories that change quarterly. Over the course of the year, I use my Citi Dividend card exclusively for 5% rewards on up to $6,000 of category spending. I put no other spending on this card. Unfortunately, this card is no longer available to new cardmembers.
  • Discover it® Cash Back. I use my Discover it Cash Back card similar to the other 5% rotating category cards. When it offers 5% rewards in a useful rotating category, it goes in the wallet. I don’t put any spending on this card that only earn 1%. Recently, I learned that you can get more for your rewards when you redeem your cash back rewards for gift cards, so the Discover it Cash Back card has become more interesting.

Cards that go into my wallet for specific reasons

In some cases, the statement credits or the rewards I can get when I occasionally use cards are compelling enough reasons to keep cards around. These cards generally don’t offer compelling rewards (in categories where I spend a significant amount of money) but I keep them around either to maximize statement credits or use at specific merchants for large purchases.

Card loaded to Apple PayRewards I useBenefits I use
American Express® Business Gold Card card art
American Express® Business Gold Card
Annual fee: $375
I don’t put significant spending on this card.
$240 flexible business credit
($155 Walmart+ Membership credit)
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card card art
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
Annual fee: $0
5% cash back (as Ultimate Rewards points) on up to $25,000 of spending each year at office supply stores.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card card art
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
Annual fee: $350
I don’t put any spending on this card beyond what I need to to maximize the credits.Coach companion certificate
$10 monthly Resy credit
$10 monthly rideshare credit
$150 annual Delta Stays credit
TakeOff 15 award travel discount
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card card art
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
Annual fee: $350
I don’t put any spending on this card beyond what I need to to maximize the credits.Coach companion certificate
$10 monthly Resy credit
$10 monthly rideshare credit
$200 annual Delta Stays credit
TakeOff 15 award travel discount
Cards that occasionally go into my wallet
  • American Express® Business Gold Card. This card goes into my wallet once a month—when I’m making an office supply store trip to use the flexible business credit. It doesn’t get used other than that. I got the Amex Business Gold card when its annual fee was much lower, and of course, I earned a generous welcome bonus on the card. I am able to get the full value out of the $240 flexible business credit. While I subscribe to Walmart+, I charge the monthly membership fee to another card. Unless my spending patterns change and I start charging a ton in the card’s 4x Membership Rewards categories, I’ll likely cancel this card at its renewal date.
  • Ink Business Cash® Credit Card. I don’t buy office supplies that often, but when I do, my Ink Business Cash goes into my wallet for 5% rewards at office supply stores. I’ll also use this card to buy gift cards to places I normally shop, like Target and Starbucks, to expand the card’s 5% category to those other merchants.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. The only charges that go on my Delta Platinum Amex are one Resy restaurant purchase a month and maybe one Lyft or Uber charge a month. I get use out of the companion certificate each year have found the Delta Stays credit easy enough to use. The MQD Headstart benefit is nice for the moment, though it will become irrelevant in a year or two when I hit Million Miler status with Delta and get lifetime Gold Medallion status unless I start traveling weekly for work again. I don’t like jumping through the hoops to get the statement credits, but I will get enough value out of them to justify keeping the card.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card. I use this card very similarly to my personal card. I don’t put any spend on it, but I maximize the credits and use the companion certificate. It provides slightly more value than the personal variant of this card because the Delta Stays credit is $200 ($50 more than what is offered on the personal version of this card.

Cards I have for primarily for the benefits

There are a handful of cards that I keep around primarily for the benefits or because they improve the value of the rewards I get on other cards. In most cases, it is the one or two headline benefits that make these cards worth having.

Credit cardRewards I useBenefits I use
The Platinum Card® from American Express card art
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Annual fee: $695
I don’t put much spending on this card.Airport lounge access
Uber cash
Digital entertainment credit
$200 hotel credit
$200 airline fee credit
$155 Walmart+ credit
$100 Shop Saks credit
Citi Rewards+® Card card art
Citi Rewards+® Card
Annual fee: $0
I don’t put any spending on this card.$240 flexible business credit
($155 Walmart+ Membership credit)
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® card art
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®
Annual fee: $99, waived for the first 12 months.
I don’t put any spending on this card.First checked bag free on American Airlines domestic itineraries.
IHG One Rewards Premier Business Credit Card card art
IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card
Annual fee: $99
10x points on IHG staysAnniversary free night certificate
IHG Platinum Elite Status
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card card art
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
Annual fee: $95
6x points on Marriott staysAnnual free night award
The World of Hyatt Credit Card card art
The World of Hyatt Credit Card
Annual fee: $95
4x on Hyatt staysAnnual category 1-4 free night.
Hyatt Discoverist status.
Cards I keep for the benefits
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express. The Platinum card is the biggest card I have for the card’s benefits. Mostly, the card gets me airport lounge access to The Centurion Lounge, Priority Pass, and the Delta Sky Club when flying on Delta. I do get value out of a bunch of the statement credits—enough such that the total value proposition of the card is a net positive. However, when the unlimited Delta Sky Club visits go away in February 2025, I’ll reevaluate this card.
  • Citi Rewards+® Card. I keep the Rewards+ card for its 10% point rebate on the first 100,000 of ThankYou Points® I redeem each year from my combined ThankYou Rewards® account. I do not put any spending on this card.
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®. I somewhat frequently fly on American Airlines without status. Since I’m on team checked bag, I keep this card around because it gives me a first checked bag free on U.S. domestic AA flights.
  • IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card. I keep this card mostly for its annual free night certificate, which more than pays for the card’s $99 annual fee. When I stay at an IHG hotel, I get some extra points and a welcome amenity from Platinum Elite Status (a benefit of the card). This card offers 10 points per dollar on my IHG stays, which I consider to be about a 6% rebate on my spending. Not stellar, but decent enough.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card. Like the IHG card, I keep this card around for its annual free night certificate. I have lifetime status with Marriott thanks to my years of traveling every week for Accenture, so the status benefit is not meaningful. I get more value out of the certificate each year than the card’s annual fee.
  • The World of Hyatt Credit Card. Another card I keep mostly for the free night certificate. The Hyatt Discoverist status I get with the card doesn’t get me much, but I get more than $95 of value out of my annual category 1-4 certificate each year. When I pay cash for Hyatt stays, I get 4 points per dollar. Given my redemption history, that ends up being about a 10% rebate on my Hyatt stays.

Cards that I keep, but don’t actively use

There are a few cards that I keep, but don’t actively use. Even if you don’t use them, keeping a card with no annual fee open can help improve your credit by showing no utilization, and continuing to report a current payment history. Mostly these cards are open to help me keep my credit score high. Here are some of these open, but generally unused cards:

  • Barclaycard Arrival. This card is no longer available to new cardmembers. It doesn’t offer compelling rewards, but it has no annual fee and I keep it open to help improve the average age of my accounts and my credit utilization.
  • Citi® Double Cash Card. This card used to be my default card for purchases “everywhere else.” But now that I can get 2.62% rewards everywhere on my Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card, the Double cash doesn’t get much use.
  • Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card. With 1.5% cash back rewards, no annual fee, and no foreign transaction fee, this used to be my go-to card for expenses abroad. Nowadays, I use my Venture X card which gets me 2 points per dollar with no annual fee.