By Jason Steele


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Have you ever wondered how people who work and report on the credit card industry use their credit cards? Or better yet, which credit cards they carry?

For the first bi-weekly issue of the Credit Card Industry Roundup, CardCon Conference Founder Jason Steele asks 5 industry experts a question regarding their own personal credit card use.

Jason Steele is a journalist who specializes in covering credit cards, award travel, and other areas of personal finance. As one of the nation’s leading experts in the credit card industry, Jason’s work has been featured at mainstream outlets such as Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money, and Business Insider.

Question: Which Credit Card Do You Do the Bulk of Your Spending on and Why?

Here are the responses:

Robert Harrow, Product Manager in charge of the credit cards vertical at Value Penguin

"Most of my purchases go on my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. The card gets decent rewards on everyday purchases anywhere I shop. At worst, I’m getting a 1.5% return as this card allows me to redeem Ultimate Rewards points for 1.5 cents each towards travel reservations booked through Chase. This is as good as some of the top cash back cards. I also tend to eat out at restaurants and there the card gives me an effective 4.5% return. The Reserve also has a $300 annual travel credit that, for me, effectively takes this card’s net annual fee down from $450 to $150. At that price point, this card is a must-have in my eyes.

Another reason I put all of my purchases on the Reserve is that it allows me to tap into my inner points geek, whenever I feel like bargain hunting. The Ultimate Rewards points awarded by this card can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to a good mix of airline and hotel loyalty programs, including Southwest, United, IHG and Marriott. From there, I can look for good redemptions and see what the best use for my points is.

When I do travel, I appreciate the fact that the card has no foreign transaction fees, which means I can use it anywhere I go without incurring extra charges. It also gives me complimentary access Priority Pass lounges. These tend to be very hit-or-miss in terms of quality and availability, and pale in comparison to Amex’s Centurion lounges. Despite that, I feel they’re good enough given all the above-mentioned rewards and extras.

I know I could be optimizing my rewards better if I used other cards, like the Chase Freedom and the Discover it. However, I’m what some might call a “lazy optimizer”. I care about getting a good value out of my shopping. At the same time, I’m usually pretty busy so I don’t want to spend too long organizing my rewards. I like my points, miles, and cash back to be centralized. The Sapphire Reserve does just that for me."

Eric Rosenberg, Freelance writer and author at Personal Profitability

"For the bulk of my spending, I use my handy EveryDay Preferred from American Express. After the signup bonus, I still find this card to be great for my “everywhere else” spending thanks to a 50% extra points bonus every month I have at least 30 transactions on the card, which is pretty much every month. I get 3x points at supermarkets, 2x points on gas, and 1x everywhere else, but with the 50% bonus that turns into 4.5 points on groceries, 3 points on gas, and 1.5 everywhere else.

American Express has a top rewards program, so I can use those points a few different ways to get a good value. I can book travel directly through Amex Travel for a good result (and thanks to my paired Amex Platinum Business card, I get even more perks when I book). I can also transfer to a handful of airlines and hotels at a 1:1 rate, which gives me a great value when I can book travel that would have been pricey had I paid cash.

I could always use points to pay my bill, get gift cards, or a few other uses, but for me using points for travel is the best value. I love to travel anyway, and with a growing family flights are getting more and more expensive. Thanks to my Amex points from my EveryDay Preferred card, those trips are a lot more affordable."

Ben Luthi, Student Loan Hero

"When I'm not working on earning a sign-up bonus on a travel credit card, I do the bulk of my spending on the Citi Double Cash. I like the card because it has a high rewards rate, a simple rewards system and the flexibility of cash back.

I also like to use this card because of Citi's Price Rewind tool. Price protection is a great way to get refunded the difference when the price of an item you bought with your card drops. But while other price protection programs require you to do all the legwork to keep track of prices, Citi Price Rewind does a lot of the work for you.

You just have to register your purchase with Citi and they'll search for lower prices online so you don't have to. They'll even flag some of your purchases in your online account to show which ones would be a good candidate for price protection.

I don't use the Citi Double Cash for everything, though. In fact, I switch between five credit cards for my everyday spending to try to maximize my rewards. For example, I use the Blue Cash Everyday to get 3% back at supermarkets and the Costco Anywhere Visa to get 4% back on gas, 3% back on travel and restaurants, and 2% back at Costco.

More infrequently, I use the Discover it for whatever the featured 5% bonus categories are for that quarter and the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa for all my Amazon purchases.

It takes a little mental gymnastics to keep track of which card to use and when, but it ensures that I'm getting the most out of my spending."

Louis DeNicola, Freelance writer and credit card expert

"I rotate cards if I'm trying to hit a minimum spend requirement or if a card has a category/seasonal bonus or offer. I also put small purchases on my debit card since I need to make 10 debit card purchases each month to qualify for a higher interest rate and ATM reimbursement. Those cases aside, I tend to use my Hilton Honors card from American Express at grocery stores and gas stations, since it gives bonus points at those retailers. I'll use my Chase Sapphire Reserve for dining and travel to get the bonus points on those purchases. And then I'll use the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card for everything else.

If I make $10,000 worth of purchases in a year on the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card I get a voucher for a free night. I know Hilton isn't everyone's favorite program, but I've had a great time staying with them, especially with the Gold status that comes with the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card. However, American Express bought the Hilton card portfolio, so I'll need review and revise my plan for next year."

Beverly Harzog, Credit Card Expert, Bestselling Author, & Consumer Advocate

"I like flexibility with the rewards I earn, so I put the majority of my spending on my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. My biggest vice is probably eating out too much. With this card, I get two points per dollar spent on dining purchases. For personal travel, I book my itinerary through the Chase Ultimate Rewards website. Doing it this way gives me an extra 25 percent value per point.

I supplement my Chase card with the Discover it Card for some everyday expenses. It has 5 percent rotating categories and I sign up for this every quarter. I make sure I hit the maximum bonus with this card. And since life can get messy, I have a Bank of America credit card that I got about 20 years ago. It has a low, fixed (not a typo!) APR. This is my financial emergency card. If I ever need to carry a balance for a limited time, this card allows me to do so without ruining my financial life.

For business, I use my Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express. My biggest expenses are travel, so I wanted to earn miles to pay for my business trips. I live in Atlanta and I always fly Delta, so the Gold Delta card has worked out for me.

Basically, I like my credit life to be pretty simple. I limit the cards in my wallet to the ones that are a great match for my spending patterns. That’s not to say I couldn’t be dazzled by a card with an awesome sign-up bonus, though. But even then, I do the research to see if it’s card I want a long-term relationship with."

Jason Steele. Freelance writer, credit card expert and founder of the CardCon Conference

"I use a variety of different cards to maximize the earning of travel rewards. For travel and dining, I love earning 3x Ultimate Rewards points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve. I also love the Priority Pass lounge access and the ability to receive 1.5 cents per point towards travel booked through Chase’s site. For spending that doesn’t qualify for those bonuses, I’ll use my Chase Freedom Unlimited, which offers 1.5 points per dollar on everything, which can be transferred to my Sapphire Reserve card account.

Another spending bonus that I love to earn include the 3x bonus on groceries from the Amex Everyday Preferred, which becomes 4.5x with when you earn the 50% bonus by making more than 30 transactions in a statement period. Finally, I love earning 5x on telecommunications and on office supply with my Chase Ink Plus card. Finally, I keep an Amex Platinum card for the access to the American Express Centurion and Delta lounges. Between the $200 annual air travel credit and the $200 Uber credit, the net annual cost is minimal."


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