Credit Card Madness – What’s in My Wallet

When I first started making money, I remember always paying everything with cash. It was a great way to keep track of my spending because giving away the hard earn dollars I made had me think about my purchases. One of the downfalls of credit cards is that you can forget that the credit ultimately needs to be repaid. But, when you use them effectively, credit cards can provide a wide range of benefits.

Bank of America Cash Back Rewards Card

My credit card journey begins with my Bank of America Cash Back Rewards credit card. I had just turned 18 and was setting up my own bank account with Bank of America (something that I regret to this day). In addition to setting up that account, I decided to also apply for the credit card to build credit and was approved on the day for a $1,200 credit limit. When I applied, the benefits were 3% cash back on gas, 2% groceries and 1% everything else. But, the card now offers 3% in a category of your choosing every month which is quite amazing for a no annual fee card.

Why GET this card?
-You are a Bank of America customer already and can capitalize on their preferred reward program
-Want the flexibility of choosing a 3% category each month
-It’s a cash back card; nice and simple, no points to worry about
-No annual fee

Why AVOID this card?
-You want good customer service (I have personally had bad experiences and you can check out reddit for even more)
-Not a Bank of America customer

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card

After a year of developing credit on that card, I decided to open up my first travel card. I’m a big fan of Southwest Airlines and their no frills approach to flying so I opened up the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card which has an annual fee of $150. For me, the big deal was that there was a 60,000 points bonus and that made it much easier to get the companion pass. At that time, I was doing consulting projects at my university that allowed me to book trips on Southwest. Many of my internships had frequent travel arrangements as well, so the Southwest card really served me well during those times. These days, I don’t really use the card anymore, but I keep it around because the annual fee easily is covered by the 7500 annual points and $75 travel credit. For anyone that flies Southwest, I would definitely recommend the card.

Why GET this card?
-You fly Southwest at least once a year
-You are looking to get the companion pass (The intro bonuses are currently not as good as they were in the past, but you can wait for higher bonuses to come along or apply for different Southwest cards to get multiple bonuses)
-Southwest is your favorite airline

Why AVOID this card?
-Southwest is not your main carrier or you don’t like to fly with them (I personally enjoy their service but not everyone can live with only economy class)
-You are looking for your first card; never make your first card an annual fee card because if you ultimately decide to cancel, you lose your longest credit history account
-The annual fee cannot be justified for yourself

American Express Gold Card

I built my credit using the Bank of America and Southwest cards over 2 years. I had a pretty good credit at around 780 so I started to branch out and that’s when I opened my first American Express Card. The Gold Card is by far one of my favorite cards because of it’s 4x points back on dining out and groceries. Then it offers 3x on travel. The annual fee of $250 may seem steep for some, but once you include the $10 per month dining credit and $100 airline incidental (which can be a pain to use), the fee isn’t all that bad. Additionally, I have to say that American Express has the best customer service of any bank and that is a huge win in my book. When I applied, I had a 50,000 MR point signup bonus which was a huge plus. I recommend waiting for the highest bonus you can get from American Express because they have a strict policy of only one bonus per card for life which means once you get a signup bonus on a card, you can never get that bonus again.

Why Get this card?
-You dine out a lot and spend on groceries (I definitely take advantage of this and they are like necessities even during the pandemic)
-Customer-oriented experience is great; the response times are quick and the support agents work really hard to address any questions or concerns you may have
-Dining and travel credits essentially lower the annual fee to $30

Why AVOID this card?
-Annual fees are not your jam (I get it, not everyone wants to pay for a card – but this one does feel nice and is made out of metal)
-You can’t capitalize on the dining or travel credits; the dining credit is not too hard to use because delivery counts, but the travel credit can be a bit of a pain. There are many restrictions listed on the American Express website and I would recommend looking through that before determining if the credit is usable for yourself

American Express Blue Business Plus Card

I had a great experience with American Express using their gold card and was looking for another card using their Membership Reward Points system. The next card I wanted with them needed to be a no fee card, so I ultimately decided upon the Blue Business Plus Card for its 2x back on everything and great purchase protection. You may be reading that the card has the word “Business” in it, but you can be a sole proprietor to apply for it. Anyone can actually qualify because everyone can be a sole proprietor. This card does not have a bonus unless you are referred, so luckily I have a link at the bottom of the page.

Why GET this card?
-Want to get a no fee Amex points accumulating credit card
-Great customer support
-Have a business and want a card to put purchases on

Why AVOID this card?
-You’re a cash back person; take a look at the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card
-There is no sign up bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Finally, we come to my most recent card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. I added this card because of the 60,000 point signup bonus after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. This made sense for me because I could prepay my utilities and had some large ticket items I needed. The points value I then gained is equivalent to $750 in travel through the Chase portal. I am currently not traveling a lot due to the pandemic so I chose this card instead of the Reserve at this time. This card is not one I would recommend for the long term, because the Sapphire Reserved offers better value. But, with the current signup bonus, this is an easy pickup for anyone that has spend they are going to do anyways. (And of course, I have a referral link below)

Why GET this card?
-Looking for a great intro bonus; this is one of the best bonuses as of this posting
-Want a low fee way to get into the Chase Ultimate Rewards Points system; annual fee is $95
-There is a downgrade path and after the first year you can change the card to a Freedom card

Why AVOID this card?
-You travel a lot; look at the Chase Sapphire Reserve which has amazing perks
-Don’t want to deal with an annual fee

How I use these cards in different scenarios

Eating out – American Express Gold Card
Reason: 4x points back on restaurants

Grocery Shopping – American Express Gold Card
Reason: 4x points back on groceries

Domestic travel (using Southwest) – Southwest Priority Card
Reason: I fly Southwest for most domestic trips and they get 2x Rapid Rewards Points

International Travel – Chase Sapphire Preferred
Reason: Chase offers great travel protection and I also don’t really plan to travel international this year

Hotels: American Express Gold Card
Reason: The hotel collection is a nice perk that Amex offers

Gas – Bank of America Rewards Card
Reason: 3% back on gas is pretty solid

Utilities (Electricity, water, internet, cellphone plan) – Usually American Express Blue Business Plus (But recently charged the Chase Sapphire Preferred to help meet spend)
Reason: Utilities usually don’t count as a category for credit cards so I use the Blue Business Plus to get 2x points back

Large Purchases (greater than $1,000) – Amex Blue Business Plus
Reason: The purchase protection offered is great and there is extended warranty

Smaller Purchases (under $1,000) – Bank of America Rewards Card
Reason: I can change a category to get 3% back on purchases

What’s Next

I started my credit card financial journey with the Bank of America, then opened the Southwest card with Chase, then American Express for both the Gold and Blue and now have another Chase card with the Preferred. If I could change anything in my journey so far, I wish I opened more no annual fee cards earlier on. I don’t mind that I am paying fees on the Southwest card because it pays itself off, but it just would have been easier if the benefits change in the future. In terms of future cards that I am looking at, the Charles Schwab American Express Platinum Card

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