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On average, I carry about five to seven credit cards with me wherever I go. I carry these specific cards to make sure that I’m maximizing my points on purchases and they sometimes change depending on my goals. For example, right now, I’m focused on earning Chase Ultimate Rewards over any other currency, so my wallet is definitely a bit Chase-heavy. But here’s a look what these cards are that I use and why I use them.
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1) Chase Sapphire Reserve
- 3X on Travel
- 3X on Dining
- Great purchase protection
- Contender for flight purchases due to great travel protections
- Primary Rental car insurance
The 3X on dining and travel rack up a ton of points for me and Brad each month. We put a lot on this card at restaurants, parking, hotels, tolls, and other random expenses that code as travel. Thus, this is probably my most valuable card in terms of bonus earning potential.
But this card also has other perks that make it useful for spend.
The Sapphire Reserve has great trip interruption and trip delay protections. For example, If you are delayed more than 6 hours you are covered for expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket. The purchase protections is superb, too since it covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.
Also, anytime I rent a car I’m putting it on the Chase Sapphire Reserve because of the great primary rental car insurance that it offers (covering up to $75,000).
Interestingly, the Reserve in my wallet is actually Brad’s but we utilized the poor man’s authorized user so that we have two cards for the price of one.
2) Chase Freedom Unlimited
- 1.5X on all purchases
This is a simple no-annual fee credit card that earns me 1.5X on all purchases. Simply put, if the purchase is not going to earn me bonus points in a certain category and won’t register as a foreign transaction, it goes on this card.
The biggest competition for this card would probably be the Amex EveryDay Preferred but since I don’t have that card (yet) it’s not an option. Also, some people will put their non-bonused spend on a cash back card like the Citi Double Cash to ensure a 2% return but as I’ve discussed before, I get more value from Chase Ultimate Rewards, so even though I’m only netting 1.5X on each purchase, I’m still getting 3% or higher back in value.
3) Chase Freedom (Classic)
- 5X on rotating categories
This Chase Freedom card is another no annual fee card but this one earns 5X on rotating categories so I keep this one one hand to maximize my earnings each quarter. Last quarter I used it for gas and Uber Eats but this quarter grocery stores and pharmacies are the categories so this card will be used for grocery store runs. I can earn 5X up to $1,500 spent on these categories, which will definitely be maxed out by the time the quarter ends.
4) Chase Ink Plus (no longer available)
- 5X on Office supply stores, Internet and cable TV services, and Cellular phone and landline services
- 2X on hotels and gas
You actually can’t apply for this small business credit card anymore and instead would have to go with the Chase Ink Preferred, which is still actually one of the most valuable credit cards out there right now.
I use this card mostly to pay our cell phone bill and internet/cable bills each month to earn 5X. I also will use this card for gas when I’m not using the Freedom card. (Given that a hotel purchase would get me 3X on the Reserve, I don’t use the Ink for them.)
The Ink is also a great card for buying gift cards for different merchants. For example, if I want to go to an AMC movie theater, I can go into an office supplies store like Staples and buy a gift card for AMC and earn 5X on that purchase. They also sell gift cards for Hyatt, Southwest, Whole Foods, Safeway, and many department stores and restaurants.
It’s not always practical to run into a Staples to buy a gift card before going out to eat or shopping but when I know I intend on spending at a certain store, it’s an easy way to pick up 5X. Plus, sometimes you can catch promo deals where you actually can get an even better deal.
And finally, you can squeeze out an extra 5X on a lot of subscription services like Spotify, Netflix, etc. and also by utilizing PayPal on certain purchases.
5) Platinum Card from American Express
- 5X on airfare
- 5X on hotels booked through Amex travel portal
- 1.5X on purchases over $5,000
- Centurion Lounge access/Delta SkyClub access (when you fly with them)
I mostly only use the Platinum card for two purposes: buying airfare and getting into Centurion lounges. If I’m making a tax payment over $5,000, I’ll also consider putting it on my Platinum Card.
I’m always a bit reluctant to use the Platinum Card to purchase airfare because the Sapphire Reserve has the better trip protections. The thing is, when I book complex international itineraries (and would thus likely be in need of such travel protections), I usually book flights with points and the fees are usually pretty small. In those situations, I use the Sapphire Reserve for the protections and am okay with missing out on the 5X from the Platinum Card since I’d only be getting 5X on such a small amount.
However, if I were purchasing a roundtrip ticket for a simple itinerary on Southwest for like $700, I might just use my Platinum Card to earn the 5X, although this determination also depends on what reward currency I’m in need of. Right now since I need Ultimate Rewards, it just make more sense to use the Reserve for airfare.
6) Amex EveryDay
- 2X at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases
- Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% extra points
When I’m not using my Freedom for groceries, my go-to is the no-annual fee Amex EverDay so that I can earn 2.4X on groceries assuming I meet the 20 transaction a month minimum. Hitting that minimum can be a pain but reloading Amazon gift cards can make that less of a task.
7) Miscellaneous slot
At any given time, I’m probably working on the sign-up bonus for at least one credit card. I try to always keep that card on me when doing so, so that I don’t miss any chances to help meet the spend on that card. Depending on what purchases we have lined up, sometimes I have to sacrifice bonus points to hit that bonus but if it means earning something like 50,000 miles for the sign-up bonus, I’m totally fine with losing out on a few hundred bonus points.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.