Episode 21: What’s in my Wallet April 2020


I discuss my current credit card lineup and which cards I use on a day-to-day basis.

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Rough transcript:

You’re listening to the Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast. I’m your host, Justin Vacula, here to help you travel the world at next to no cost through credit card points, miles, benefits, and rewards. Make money, save money, and take advantage of great deals!

Visit my website at HurdyGurdyTravelPodcast.com where you can read episode transcripts, complete a free credit card questionnaire to receive tailored recommendations, follow me on social media, view helpful resources, listen to past episodes, and contact me.

Thanks for joining me for episode 21 – What’s in my Wallet April 2020. I discuss my current credit card lineup and which cards I use on a day-to-day basis.

First, some personal and podcast updates: I’m recording this intro on April 4th of 2020 now day nineteen of shelter in place here in the Philadelphia area. As promised, I’m continuing to release more episodes than usual and am livestreaming daily from YouTube at 8PM Eastern Standard Time with supporter of the show Cakeologi. Join us for laughs, helpful tips, and your questions answered live! Visit his YouTube channel at Cakeologi – C-A-K-E-O-L-O-G-I. More information can be found in the show notes.

Onto today’s episode…

What’s in my wallet? The answer changes day-to-day depending on my expected purchases. During this shelter-in-place time, my spending has gone down significantly because I’m not traveling, going to stores, or engaging in much reselling as I usually do. Since so many stores are closed and perhaps because of safety concerns, there aren’t many deals compared to more usual times. However, there are still some online deals to capitalize on. I recently purchased Lowe’s and Home Depot gift cards, for instance, at a 10% discount using my American Express Blue Business Plus card for 2x points – I’m working on the calendar year goal of $50,000 in spend for 100,000 points. I’ll wait for good deals and place some everyday spend on this card rather than hitting it really hard early in the year just to hit the goal – slow and steady wins this race.

I got the Blue Business Plus card months ago because of a good signup bonus at the time combined with swapping referral links with a friend so we would both get bonus American Express Membership Rewards. Valuing Membership Rewards at a minimum of 1.5 cents per point, I stand to gain $1500 in value just from the 2x points boost on $50,000 of spending – $750 more than if I were to just get 1x points per dollar spent on other American Express cards. For this reason, the Blue Business Plus is worth keeping. It’s well worth canceling Amex cards if high continued value is absent in year two and beyond if you could instead just get a new card which gives big value mainly coming from a signup bonus. Since I can only have five Amex credit cards at one time, I look to cancel cards after one year rather than keeping a card and getting little to no value.

My American Express Bonvoy Business card is on the chopping block. Year one with the card was great because I got the card with an increased signup bonus, but the card gave me very little value after the signup bonus. For me, its categories are really marginal and I’d rather gain other currencies than Bonvoy points. I intend to cancel once its annual fee posts to get a new card. I could pay an annual fee of about $100 and get a free night certificate, but I’m hardly ahead on this proposition. Maybe I get about $150 of value from the free night certificate and am ahead about $50, but it’s not worth waiting two or three months for the certificate to come in – there’s opportunity cost in waiting when instead I could just cancel, not have to bother with using a certificate, and get more value elsewhere. Besides, I have many Hyatt and Hilton points combined with statuses, so why bother with Marriott?

The American Express Delta SkyMiles Business Gold and Business Green are two newer additions to my wallet. I got the Business Green to work on a 25,000 point signup bonus and more points from swapping referral links with a friend. The Delta card had a limited offer of 60,000 miles in year one for $2000 spend in year one with no annual fee. Business Green also recently had its first year annual fee waived, so I opted in while the offer is still around. I’ll use the Business Green card and the Delta card for spend without a bonus category to hit the signup bonuses and then largely stop using the cards – just small transactions every few months to keep the cards active. Business Green, past the signup bonus, will only give 1x point per dollar spent and the Delta card has categories better represented on other cards I have. Both cards will stay around for one year.

The American Express Blue Business Cash is at the top of my wallet as well. This card gives 2% cashback on all spending and, through a referral offer, I also get a $500 signup bonus. This card is great for non-bonus spend, spend without a category bonus I have on other cards. I use this card along with the Blue Business Plus. I don’t intend to keep this longer than one year.

I also have the American Express personal Green card. I also got this with an increased offer (notice a trend?) and use this for travel for 3x points. 3X isn’t very exciting, though, as it’s not much more than 2x or 2% on other cards I have, but it’s something. Again, as I mention in almost every episode, and hopefully you’re in agreement, return on spend from signup bonuses should be the main focus! The Green card also gave me a $100 statement credit for Clear which helps me speed through airport waiting lines. I used the statement credit with a Black Friday deal which reduced the Clear membership cost to just over $100 and gave a free Amazon gift card – negative cost membership! I hope to upgrade this to a second Gold Card when the annual fee comes up.

Next is the Amex Gold Card. I got this soon after the card released for, as I remember it, a 50k point signup bonus and 20% back on dining spend up to $500 for another $100 credit atop the 4x points on all dining spending. The card is also my go-to grocery card for 4x points on up to $25,000 in spending I aim to max each year. I also get a $100 airline incidental credit I’m now using to pay for award booking taxes – this also works on in-flight food purchases, seat upgrades, and more. This card is an absolute keeper as it doesn’t take up a 5-card slot and gives me value well beyond the annual fee.

My Amex Business Gold card is sparingly used following me getting its signup bonus although I get 4x points on gas and shipping services, so I use this at post offices and gas stations although, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I use grocery points for gas and discounted gift cards at Speedway and Gulf gas stations for savings better than 4x points. There are rare moments where I have to fill gas using a card, so I’ll use the Business Gold in these cases. This card also gave me a big chunk of points through referrals – 20k points per referral or maybe even 25k, so I used this for two referrals in early 2020 and also in 2019.

I also have the American Express Delta Platinum Business card which was really great in its first year, but changes to the card in 2020 reduced its value in my eyes. High spend on the card would give progress towards Delta status and bonus miles, but the bonus mile feature was taken away in 2020. It’s going to be a cancel when the annual fee comes up, but the signup bonus, status, and bonus miles were nice. I may get the Delta Reserve Business card in the future for status and lounge access if there is an increased offer.

Finally, of my Amex cards, I use the Business Platinum for purchases of $5000 or more for 1.5x points. I also use this to access airport Centurion Lounges & Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta, use yearly credits for Dell, and airline incidental credits. I probably won’t keep this card when its annual fee comes up in 2020 unless there is a very good retention offer. See my website at hurdygurdytravelpodcast.com for Amex referral links to help support my efforts.

I currently have two Chase cards in my wallet and would have more if I knew better some time ago. I’m mainly getting business cards at the moment so I can get more Chase cards in coming months – I’m eyeing Chase business cards and the World of Hyatt card which would be wonderful for me. I’ve had the Chase Sapphire Preferred for more than a year now and intend to keep the card mainly to transfer my Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt, use Chase offers, and gain points through referrals. I’ll pay the $95 annual fee for these features at the moment rather than downgrading to Chase Freedom. Sapphire Preferred’s 2x on travel and dining isn’t exciting, but it could get some use for travel rather than Amex Green 3x if I am low on Hyatt points. However, I could also use it for non-category spend as I value Hyatt points at close to 2% especially when staying at hotels costing only 5000 points per night. I got this card when it had no first year annual fee and 50,000 points as a signup bonus.

My second Chase card is the amazing Chase Ink Cash. I got this with a 50,000 point signup bonus. No annual fee combined with 5x points at office supply stores up to $25,000 in spend make this a great card for ongoing and initial value. I transfer points to the Sapphire Preferred for even more value compared to cashing out at 1% or one cent per point. Please, listener, don’t ignore Chase cards being in a waiting period like me. See my website for referral links to Chase Ink Unlimited and Chase Sapphire Preferred.

In early 2020, I was approved for the Barclay’s Jet Blue Business card which came with a massive 60,000 point signup bonus for an annual fee of only $95. In year two, the card gives anniversary miles which mostly offsets the annual fee and the card gives free checked bags with Jet Blue, 50% rebate on in-flight purchases, multipliers on JetBlue spend, and 2x at office supply stores – not bad for combining with Chase Ink Cash or when Chase Ink Cash $25,000 spend is achieved. Spending 50,000 on this card in a year also gives Mosaic status with Jet Blue. I’m hoping to later get the Barclay’s Aviator business card six months after the Jet Blue card.

I recently got the US Bank Flexperks Visa card and won’t use this much past the signup bonus. It does, though, give 3x on cell phone service provider charges, so I put my cell phone bill on autopay with this card. I can also use my points for certain travel purchases with the real-time mobile rewards feature. I mainly got this card, though, to qualify for the Altitude Reserve card since I can’t get a checking account or CD with US Bank since I don’t have a local branch.

My other 2020 card was the Mlife Rewards Mastercard with the First National Bank of Omaha – only a $100 signup bonus, but 3x points on all MGM purchases and 2x on grocery which will make a big difference for me as these are large spending categories for me and the points also give credit towards casino status which has given me free rooms, match play, and much more. Since I’m often in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, at least prior to shelter-in-place, I get great value.

Older cards including the Capital One Spark Business card I got with a $500 cash signup bonus. This also gives 2% back on all spending – it gets some action, but nothing special at this moment. Capital One recently waived my second year annual fee, so it remains for now. I also have the Capital One Savor card I got with a $500 signup bonus. Since then, the signup bonus has tanked and I wouldn’t suggest this card unless people are very late in the game. Its 2% grocery isn’t exciting and 4% cashback on dining isn’t great as I have 4x on Amex Personal Gold. Capital One also waived my annual fee for year two, so it stays for now. Capital One Quicksilver is a very old card I got – at only 1.5% cashback on spend, I keep it as it has no annual fee and helps my average age of accounts.

I got the AAA Member Rewards card with Bank of America years ago, along with the Quicksilver, before I knew about better cards and this credit card space. It currently, and before, has or had a low signup bonus and category gain is marginal. However, it gives 2x at drugstores and grocery which is worth 2.8% if you convert the points to vouchers you can use for AAA purchases including auto insurance payments. The card also gives a higher multiplier on AAA purchases, but nothing really exciting here especially when using vouchers to pay for annual charges.

Discover IT was one of my first credit cards. It still gets action for its 5% cashback on rotating categories I aim to max each quarter. Last quarter was a big win with grocery store spend. I mentioned this in a previous episode as a decent card to start with if you can’t get in early with Chase and Amex. I also have the Bank of America Business Advantage Cash card which came with a big cash signup bonus. I don’t often use this card, but sometimes get 3% cashback at office supply stores.

Finally, my Amazon Prime store card gets little to no use. In previous episodes, I explained how to save more than 5% on Amazon, so do that instead of wasting your time and inquiries with Amazon credit cards unless you’re a huge huge spender on Amazon.

As you see, many of my cards aren’t actively used. Signup bonuses, even for high spenders, with the exception of some high spend categories, give the biggest returns. In many cases, gift cards are in my wallet as I can combine deals to save or get a return better than most categories. I’ll rotate between cards prioritizing categories depending on the purchase to give good returns and it’s not difficult to know what to use. I started small, added cards over time, and refer to notes when I need to. I also keep track of my spend so I don’t greatly overshoot high spend goals or signup bonuses. It’s well worth the small effort and I have lots of fun during the process – especially when able to travel!

Thanks for listening and stay tuned for more content!

Visit my website at HurdyGurdyTravelPodcast.com where you can read episode transcripts, complete a free credit card questionnaire to receive tailored recommendations, view helpful resources, listen to past episodes, and contact me.

Support my work through Patreon, PayPal, the Cash App, and referral links by visiting the donate tab on my website. Subscribe on YouTube at Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast; like my Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast Facebook page; follow HGtravelpodcast on Twitter; and follow Justin Vacula on Instagram.

Schedule a free 15-minute consultation with full-time business coach and YouTuber Cakeologi who can help you formally establish your business, build business credit, and get premium business credit cards. When you select from various paid services after the free consultation, I will receive credit for referring you. Listen to Cakeologi on episode twelve of my podcast.

Visit my other podcast at stoicsolutionspodcast.com where you can find practical wisdom for everyday life inspired by the ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome.

Thanks to generous patrons and fans of this podcast who help support my work. Have a great day.

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