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One of my favorite ways to learn more about other frequent travelers – and to learn new tricks – is to find out which cards other travelers carry in their wallets. While I have quite a few credit cards, there’s just a small number that I keep in my wallet for regular use.
These are the cards that I think are the most rewarding for the types of purchases I regularly make: mainly consisting of food and travel.
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Travel Purchases – Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is my go-to card for travel purchases since it earns 3 Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar spent on travel. It also includes important travel-related benefits like primary rental car insurance, trip delay, and cancellation protection, and delayed or lost baggage coverage—all of which I’ve used during my last six years of nearly full-time travel.
I’ve always been a fan of booking my travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve due to best-in-class travel insurance coverage and the ability to earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points, but especially when I start traveling again after coronavirus, I’ll want to make sure I’m covered. Even though most credit card travel insurance excludes pandemics as a covered reason, a lot can be accomplished with a doctor’s note.
Chase also recently added some additional perks: complimentary Lyft Pink membership (which includes 15% off all rides), 10X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on Lyft, complimentary DoorDash DashPass membership (which waives most delivery fees), and a $60 annual DoorDash credit.
These perks plus the annual $300 travel credit and access to Priority Pass lounges help this card keep a permanent place in my wallet. While I’m not normally a DoorDash user, the $60 in credits in 2020 and 2021 will get used and since I can’t go to restaurants right now I appreciate waived delivery fees.
And the built-in travel protections mean I’m always paying for my travel with this card.
And as an added bonus, this card is offering 5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on up to $1,500 spent per month at grocery stores for a limited time due to COVID-19.
Restaurants – Citi Prestige
Dining is one of my largest budget categories, so the Citi Prestige Card’s 5x ThankYou Points for every dollar spent is a clear winner. The closest competitor would be the American Express Gold Card, which earns 4x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent, but the Prestige is far more reliable since it’s a Mastercard, which is much more widely accepted than American Express (especially when traveling abroad).
The Citi Prestige used to also be my go-to card for airfare purchases since it earns 5 points per dollar spent on those as well, but since Citi eliminated virtually all of its travel protections in September 2019, I never use this card to book flights – the insurance I get by using the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth far more than a couple of extra points per dollar.
I’m not eating out at restaurants right now, but luckily this bonus category still works when ordering takeout and delivery, and I am trying to support my local businesses through this tough time.
And while the Citi Prestige has decreased the value of its 4th night free benefit, I still generally manage to save around $200 to $400 per year by booking a four-night hotel stay and having the average of the room rate credited back to me.
Rotating Bonus Categories – Chase Freedom and Discover It
Both the Chase Freedom and the Discover It offer 5% cashback on up to $1,500 in purchases at specific categories of merchants every quarter. For example, some sample categories Discover It offers include 5% cashback at grocery stores, Walgreens, and CVS.
With the Chase Freedom, some 5% cashback categories include gas stations, internet, cable, and phone services, and select streaming services – and since I also have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, I’m able to turn that 5% cashback into 5X Ultimate Rewards points that I can transfer to airline partners or redeem through Chase’s travel portal at 1.5 cents each.
Unfortunately, if you make purchases in other categories – or exceed the $1,500 per quarter limit in the bonus categories – you’ll only earn 1% cashback after that. So once I’ve spent the $1,500 in a quarter, both of these cards go in my sock drawer until the next bonus comes around. Since neither of these cards has an annual fee, it’s worth a little bit of hassle to keep track of those bonus categories and reap the rewards.
Everything Else – Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card
When I need to use a credit card for something besides travel or dining that doesn’t fit into a rotating bonus category, I reach for my Fidelity Card.
This card has no annual fee and earns 2% cashback on every purchase, which I can deposit straight into my Fidelity investment account.
The only thing I don’t love about this card is that it has a foreign transaction fee – a common drawback of cards with no annual fee. However, that fee is just 1% – compared with 2.9% on most cards – so it’s not the end of the world if I accidentally use it outside the US (and I have) since I’m still earning enough cashback to offset the cost of the fee.
Cash – Charles Schwab Bank Debit Card
Even though I try to use credit cards for everything I can, there are always situations where you need cash.
When that happens, I use my Charles Schwab debit card to withdraw money from ATMs wherever I’m traveling. The card has no foreign transaction fees, reimburses for an unlimited amount of ATM fees at the end of every month, and has fantastic customer service in case something goes wrong (like duplicate charges or a broken ATM).
It’s so nice to be able to just go to the nearest ATM when I need cash, instead of having to search for a specific bank.’’
While I hold other credit cards for specific benefits (like annual hotel night certificates or waived checked bag fees), these five are the ones that keep a permanent place in my wallet. Which credit cards do you carry and use on a daily basis?