I never have been, and likely never will be the enthusiast who has 75 (OK, I’m making that number up, but I’ve heard of having 75 active accounts) different credit cards rolling at one time. Just not my thing. In fact, I probably have fewer credit cards open than the majority of BoardingArea readers. Right now, I’m taking a little break from spending strategies to obtain miles. In fact, I was on a break when the vaunted 100K Citi AAdvantage Executive offer came out. After a bit of pontificating, that one proved to be too much for me to ignore. However, after hitting my goals there, I returned to my respite from credit cards.

Believe me, I haven’t sworn off capitalizing on mileage bonuses from credit cards forever. It’s just that I have some financial goals in mind over the next year that I really need to focus on….and they have very little to do with credit cards. While I’m capable of doing more than one thing at a time, I know myself. I needed to take a little respite from some of the things I had been doing. I wasn’t trekking to Wally World to save money. I had the points balances I needed, so the time was right. And just a word to the wise – while I’m no financial advisor – if you’re carrying card debt, don’t even think about playing for any miles and points opportunities until card debt is in your past.

With all this said, it never hurts to take a look at where you are with what’s in your wallet. A little house cleaning every now and then is a good thing. Inventory time it is. Let’s take a look at what’s staying, and what’s going. Note: cards with a* are those that I keep in my “walking around” wallet and see most of my spending. The rest are in my travel wallet or in my sock drawer.

Bank of America Travel Rewards Visa – Keep

I carry this card for one reason, it serves as overdraft protection for my Bank of America checking account. I use it rarely, the occasional charge to let them know I still have it. On the other hand, it’s free of an annual fee or foreign transaction fees. Since it’s free overdraft protection for me, it stays. I should probably replace it with an Alaska Visa. :)

Fidelity Investment Rewards Amex – Keep

2 percent cash back….on all purchases. The sun may rise on a day when this becomes my primary credit card, but for now, there are too many other opportunities out there that I value more highly. It’s not costing me an annual fee, so it stays…..for the day I give up on all this card drama. :)

Chase Sapphire Preferred – Keep*

I love Ultimate Rewards. That is all. The $95 annual fee on this one makes it a candidate for cancellation, but for now, it’s a keeper. The recent change in rental car coverage from secondary to primary make this one more likely to be a keeper for the long term.

Citi Executive AAdvantage – Keep for now

I haven’t had this card for very long. Unless something changes in my flying patterns, it’s not likely I renew it. I don’t foresee a scenario where I move a lot of flying to AA while I live in Atlanta….but hey…who knows what the new year will bring? If I were a regular AA flyer, I’d probably renew it.

Marriott Rewards Premier – Keep

This card rarely leaves my wallet, but the annual benefits it provides (Cat 5 certificate and 15 nights elite credit) more than pay for the reasonable annual fee in my book.

Chase Ink Bold – Keep*

This is my primary card for business expenses. Bonus Ultimate Rewards points for things I buy plenty of – cell phone service and cable/internet are great. Not to mention, since I only have the Bold, I’ve got opportunities to capitalize on the other Ink products when the time comes.

United MileagePlus Explorer – Cancel

What can I say? The last 50K mile offer sucked me in. The 2 club passes get used next weekend on my first United mainline flights in at least 4 years. Then I’m saying goodbye to this card when the annual fee is due. The only reason I could think of for keeping it was the primary insurance coverage for rental cars. With Sapphire Preferred now offering that, I am parting ways with this card.

Amex Platinum – Keep

Sky Club access for MrsMJ and me are reason enough on their own to keep this card. The $200 fee credit, Priority Pass Select, Global Entry fee waiver, car rental status, SPG Gold status, and cruise privileges are just gravy and add up to why I call this card still “the one in the one-two punch for travel.” This card pays for itself. Not to mention, it’s the card I’ve carried the longest.

SkyMiles Platinum Amex – Keep*

MQD waiver, 10,000 bonus MQMs and redeemable miles for $25K in spending. Enough said. The annual companion certificate saved me $600 this year. Changes in travel patterns could see me part ways with this card, but as long as I’m flying Delta as much as I am, it stays.

SPG Amex – Keep

I’d parted ways with this card, but applied again before the May 1 changes on bonus points. It’s modest annual fee is a downer, but SPG points are so flexible. It’s not seeing a lot of spend at the moment, but it could in the future. For now, it stays…and likely for the long term.

Delta Reserve Business – Cancel

While the bonus MQMs are a thought, along with the first class companion certificate, I just can’t justify keeping two cards with annual fees of $450. I have Sky Club access by other means. This just wasn’t worth it anymore. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® – Keep*

This card shares a space in my wallet with the Sapphire Preferred card. If I’m not getting 2x Ultimate Rewards or 5X with my Ink Bold, I usually reach for this card. It’s a great all around card…better than great…. IF you redeem the miles for travel.

Conclusion

While I think there’s potential here for further consolidation, right now, I’m only dropping two cards, and then a third when the Citi Exec comes up for renewal. I’m still paying more in annual fees than I would like, but I’m comfortable that the card which I’m planning to keep with the biggest fee, the Amex Platinum, pays for itself in my case….and then some. Looking at my current inventory, it’s most notable to me that I’m missing out on Membership Rewards opportunities. That might be my next move, or it might be the US Airways card before it closes to new applications. In closing, it’s a good idea to take the occasional inventory. It can serve as a good reminder of where you are and perhaps show you a way forward for future spending and points earning opportunities.

-MJ, August 10, 2014

 

I recently received a reader email asking which credit card was best for airline miles. Here’s the text.

Reader writes:

Hi MJ,
What is the best credit card to get airline miles?  We were looking at getting one with Alaska since we may need to fly to Vancouver from our home in Portland and back a few times.  We probably won’t be flying to Scotland for another year or two.

MJ Responds:

Well, that depends….but I would likely recommend Alaska, which you were already thinking, for a few reasons.

  • You live in Portland which is well served by Alaska Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines partners with a huge number of different airlines offering you the opportunity to earn (and burn) miles on other airlines, most notably, American and Delta for domestic flying where Alaska does not serve.
  • They partner with British Airways which might be a good option to get to Scotland.
  • The Alaska Air Visa comes with an annual $99 dollar companion ticket. In other words, you buy a ticket, and get the second one for $99 dollars (plus up to $22 in taxes).

There are other reasons this is a good card for you, but these are pretty solid ones for you to consider the Alaska Air Visa card. There are other, non-airline options like Chase Sapphire Preferred and Barclay Arrival that you might at least want to check out. I happen to carry both. They have their own proprietary rewards that can be used to procure airline travel. Chase has Ultimate Rewards that you can use to purchase tickets or transfer them to several airline programs that you can then use to buy award tickets. With the Barclay Arrival Plus, you earn 2 miles for every dollar spent. If you redeem them for travel, you earn a 10 percent rebate on miles.

Basically, it works like this – if you buy a $200 airline ticket, you redeem 20,000 miles to pay for it, and you get a 2,000 mile rebate, making the final cost 18,000 miles. That’s a very high level look, and I’m happy to go into a deeper “math exercise” to assess what might be most beneficial, so feel free to write back if you have any questions. The amount of actual flying you plan on might impact my advice. Any of these cards can be good options, but I think the Alaska Air Visa could be a very good one given your circumstances.

What am I forgetting here? Anything you would add to the conversation? Other card options I’m not thinking about in this circumstance?

-MJ, July 31, 2014

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