I’m often asked how many active credit cards I have at any given time, so I figured I’d make a post with the breakdown. I’ll also indicate whether each card is part of a churn or a card I plan on keeping long term. Therefore I’ll put each card in either the “Keep” or “Cancel” category, based on what I plan on doing when the annual fee is due.
Typically if the value proposition of keeping a card is “break even” I’ll leave it open for a couple of reasons:
- Roughly half of your credit score is made up of your overall credit utilization and the history of your accounts. Both of these metrics are positively impacted by keeping cards open, even if you don’t use them. Keeping cards open helps your credit utilization ratio because you have available credit you’re not utilizing, which makes you less risky for the banks. Furthermore, keeping several cards open year after year helps the average age of your accounts. While I keep most of my cards open for just under a year (before the annual fee is due), keeping a few cards for a long time will greatly help your average account age, and therefore give you a solid credit history.
- You have more leverage with banks if you have existing credit with them. When you apply for a new card and aren’t instantly approved, having a card with the bank will help your chances. For example, I never just cancel a Chase card. Instead I apply for the next Chase card I want and if I don’t get instantly approved I’ll call the reconsideration line and offer to close an existing card in favor of the new one, which always does the trick for me.
So with that in mind, here’s what’s in my wallet right now, in no particular order:
Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa (personal) – Keep
Annual fee: $95, waived first year
I don’t think I really need to explain this one. It’s the best all around credit card, in my opinion, and all of my dining and non-flight hotel spend goes onto this card, since those categories earn two points per dollar spent, in addition to a 7% annual points dividend. The annual fee is only $95, and for the number of points the card allows me to rack up and the lack of foreign transaction fees, I’d say that’s a bargain.
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (personal) – Keep
Annual fee: $65, waived first year
I haven’t been spending as much on this card as in the past, mostly because a majority of my spend has been in categories that accrue bonus points with other cards (gas, groceries, dining, hotels, airfare, travel, etc.). However, I do still think an SPG point is worth more than a point earned with any other program, so it’s a great card for many.
What really makes the card worthwhile and more than justifies the $65 annual fee for me are the two elite qualifying stays and five elite qualifying nights you receive annually just for having the card, which is a great start towards status every year. I’d otherwise spend money mattress running to earn those nights, and at the end of the day the annual fee is less than the cost of a hotel night, even at a cheap mattress run hotel.
American Express Platinum (personal) – Keep
Annual fee: $450
The American Express Platinum card offers lounge access with American, Delta, US Airways, and Priority Pass, which is the main reason I keep it. As a frequent flyer with American I’d otherwise be stuck buying an Admirals Club membership for about the same price, though instead I’m getting access to a lot more lounges than I’d get with American.
I also think a lot of people underestimate the value of being able to add three additional card members for $175. If you split the combined $625 annual fee four ways, you’re looking at ~$156 per person for the most comprehensive airline lounge membership available.
There are two other HUGE benefits of the card that more than justify the $450 annual fee, in my opinion. First you get a $200 airline fee credit annually. While it’s supposed to only count towards “fees,” in practice you can buy airline gift cards in small increments, and that will be reimbursed. I value American gift cards more or less at face value, so it essentially lowers the annual fee I pay to $250.
The other great benefit is access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, which I discussed in great detail here. It’s one of the best offerings for luxury hotels, and can literally add hundreds of dollars in value to each hotel stay.
American Express Premier Rewards Gold (personal) – Keep
Annual fee: $175, waived first year
I spend a ton on flights annually (mostly reimbursable), and this card accrues three Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare. It also offers two points per dollar spent on gas and groceries, so it’s the card I put all that spend on as well. Lastly, this card offers 15,000 bonus Membership Rewards points for any year in which you spend $30,000 on the card.
So while the annual fee isn’t cheap at $175, it’s worth it in my situation.
American AAdvantage Citi Visa (personal) – Keep
Annual fee: $85, waived first year
This one’s a no brainer. Recently Citi added new benefits to this card, including a 10% rebate on award redemptions, up to 10,000 miles per year. I easily max that out every year (since I make at least 100,000 AAdvantage miles worth of award redemptions per year), so by keeping this card I’m basically buying 10,000 miles at $95 annually, which is 0.95 cents per mile. Deal.
Chase British Airways Visa (personal) – Keep or Cancel?
Annual fee: $95
I’m not quite sure why I keep paying the annual fee year after year. I applied for the card a couple of years back under their original 100,000-mile sign-up bonus, and at the time British Airways Executive Club miles were very valuable. Roundtrip business class to Asia on Cathay Pacific only cost 100,000 miles, and you could even have a free stopover.
The first year I earned a companion certificate, which is earned by spending $30,000 on the card in a calendar year. It entitles you to take a second passenger with you on an award ticket, and they don’t have to pay any mileage for the ticket. The catch is that British Airways imposes huge fuel surcharges on award redemptions, and the surcharges are constantly on the rise. New York to London, for example, is 120,000 miles in first class plus about $1,100 in taxes and fuel surcharges.
With a companion certificate you’re basically spending 60,000 miles per person, plus $1,100 per person in taxes and fuel surcharges. Is it cheap? No, but for British Airways first class it is still a great deal, in my opinion. And while I’d rather not spend that kind of cash, at the end of the day your miles are valuable, so you have to apply some sort of a cash value to the 65,000-75,000 miles you’re saving per person compared to booking through a different program.
So I guess I’m keeping the card with the thought that I may want to earn another companion certificate. I have one I need to use before the end of the year, and after that experience I’ll probably reevaluate my situation.
The other valuable benefit of the card is that you get 10% off the cost of a British Airways ticket. British Airways is constantly having business class fare sales lately, so knocking an extra couple hundred dollars off the fare sounds kind of nice, if I choose to take advantage of one. Still, it’s not worth paying $95 per year for the possibility of saving a couple hundred bucks in the future, in my opinion. I may end up closing this card with my next Chase application, if they request I close an existing card in order to be approved for a new one.
US Airways MasterCard (personal) – Keep
Annual fee: $89, waived first year
This card is a no brainer. They offer 10,000 bonus miles upon account anniversary each year, so with an $89 annual fee that’s 0.89 cents per mile. Furthermore, they offer a 5,000 mile discount for award tickets booked by card members for travel on US Airways. This lowers the cost of US Airways’ amazing off peak awards to Europe to only 55,000 miles roundtrip in Envoy class!
Chase Ink Bold Old Version (business) – Cancel
Annual fee: $95, waived first year
I signed up for this card last year for 50,000 bonus points, and have no reason to keep it beyond that, especially since they came out with a new version of the card which I find offers better benefits.
Chase Ink Bold New Version (business) – Keep or Cancel?
Annual fee: $95, waived first year
The card offers 5x points on office supply stores and double points on hotels and gas. The latter two don’t really justify the annual fee for me. I already earn double points on hotels with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and I earn double points on gas with the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card. But the 5x points on office supply stores is very interesting, given that you can buy vanilla gift cards there which can be used to essentially earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on just about anything. If that option remains available I’d say this card is among the most valuable out there.
American Express Business Gold (business) – Cancel
Annual fee: $175, waived first year
I applied for the card earlier this year solely for the 50,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus they were offering at the time (right now they’re not offering a sign-up bonus). The annual fee is $175 and while they have some nice category bonuses (triple points on airfare and double points on advertising, gas, and shipping), I really don’t have any use for keeping the card when the Premier Rewards Gold card gets me bonuses in most of the same categories.
American AAdvantage CitiBusiness Visa (business) – Cancel
Annual fee: $75, waived first year
I applied for this earlier in the year for the 50,000-mile sign-up bonus, but don’t see much value in the card otherwise. If they let me earn a 10% rebate on award redemptions on both my personal and business card you can bet I’d keep it, but without any annual benefit I have no incentive to pay the annual fee and keep the card.
Cards I’m planning on getting in the next year
11 active cards isn’t all that much, and after I cancel 3-4 of them I’ll have plenty of room for new cards. In my next couple of churn cycles I’m eying:
- Chase Hyatt Visa. It has a very nice sign-up bonus of two nights at any Hyatt in the world, and as a Diamond member they would be in a suite. Furthermore the card is a keeper, since you get a voucher for a free night at any category 1-4 Hyatt hotel annually, which more than justifies the $75 annual fee.
- Chase Freedom® Visa Card. I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t have the card, but Chase has had too many other lucrative sign-up bonuses lately that I haven’t bothered applying for it yet. The Freedom card has no annual fee and offers 5x points in rotating categories, so is a great way to rack up Ultimate Rewards points.
- Starwood Preferred Guest Business American Express. While I have the personal card I haven’t acquired the business card yet, and it seems worth getting for the sign-up bonus, though I doubt I’d keep it beyond that since it offers no benefits that the personal card doesn’t.
- All the cards that earn me Hilton points. I had a detailed post about this a few days ago. I’m intrigued by Hilton, so am seriously considering applying for all the cards that can earn me Hilton points, which I covered in detail here.
Are there any cards that I should be considering that I’m missing above?
Full disclosure: I earn a referral bonus for anyone that signs up through some of the above links. They’re all the best publicly available offers to the best of my knowledge, and of course I’m very appreciative of your support, regardless of whether or not you use my links.