In this post, I’ll cover my credit cards and the benefits/why I use them.
For the longest time I was using my debit card to spend the money I earned. I kept things balanced and only spent what was in my budget. I learned the principles of money management and discipline. It wasn’t until my college years where I started to learn about credit cards and the power they have to earn you money back. When I found that I could earn money for spending money, I had to know how this was possible.
Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card
While in college I had minimal expenses but wanted to start building my credit. I started off with the Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card. This card served its purpose during my college years. Getting me 3% back on all purchases in the first 6 months then 1% on all purchases after 6 months. No annual fee and a low APR compared to other more standard credit cards. While the rewards through Wells Fargo are nothing to write home about, it was nice to have some rewards cash here and there to mess around with.
After graduating and beginning my first full time job, I immediately looked to up my credit card game and start reaping serious rewards. My main goal with rewards was travel points.
I spent a good 3 months after graduating and before starting work meticulously researching cards, their benefits, and downsides. I pulled the trigger on the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Sapphire Preferred. I went with these cards for the synergy effect and the rewards points.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
Starting with the Chase Freedom Unlimited…for a $0 annual fee and a 0% introductory APR for your first 15 months, this card gets you 1.5% cash back on every purchase with no limit or categories. This is easily one of the best offers on the market today. If you spend $500 in the first 3 months, you’ll earn a $150 bonus which is credited to your account. Through Chase Rewards, you can redeem your points for cash back, hotels, flights, gift cards, and direct through Amazon. Your points never expire. This turned into my daily card since I get 1.5% back on everything. You’ll be surprised how fast your points start racking up.
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Chase Sapphire Reserve
More recently, I upgraded from the Chase Sapphire Preferred card to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. I chose to upgrade because my travel began to pick up and wanted higher earning rates and higher redemption rates along with other perks. I now earn 3x on all travel and dining and redeem my points with a 50% bonus instead of the 25% bonus with the Sapphire Preferred card. The card costs $450 a year but is easily negated with the wide array of perks the card offers. Every year you receive a $300 travel credit to be spent on taxi’s, hotel fees, and airline fees such as checked bags or onboard food. You also receive a $100 credit towards TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. This $100 is given every 4 years. You have access to Priority Pass lounges, rental car discounts, lost luggage insurance and many other benefits.
After I had my base cards taken care of, I wanted to expand my coverage to a hotel an airlines card.
In looking through the wide array of hotel cards, there were many options to consider. The two that stood out the most were the SPG Starwood Card and the Marriott Premier Card.
The SPG Starwood Card is the most valuable card according to The Points Guy (TPG). While this stands true, SPG just merged with Marriott and boosted the value of the Marriott Card in my opinion.
Marriott Rewards Premier Plus
The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card is $95 a year and the fee is not waived the first year. Although this is true, you do get a free night every year after your card anniversary. This is good to redeem for one night up to 35,000 points. Another perk which is a limited time offer, is a 100,000 point sign up bonus if you spend $5,000 in your first 3 months. According to TPG, this is worth $900 which easily negates the annual fee. You also earn 6x points on Marriott Rewards and SPG Hotels.
The new perk of the refreshed Marriott Rewards Premier card is 2x back on all other purchases which boosts the value of this card significantly when compared to most competitors who only give you 1% back. You also automatically earn Silver Elite Benefits which include complimentary Wi-FI and 10% bonus points earning per stay. Not only are there great sign up bonuses, I picked the Marriott card because of the wide geographic range of properties and diverse selection of luxury to economy properties. With the new merger, Marriott Rewards now covers over 6,500 hotels in over 110 countries and 29 different brands. The access is unparalleled.
Regarding airlines, I landed with the Alaska Airlines. I have found Alaska to be an all around great airline and have yet to have a negative experience flying with them. Excellent customer service, even more diverse flight selection with their recent acquisition of Virgin America, and an amazing selection of airline partners. I considered United and American but was not impressed with their customer service over the years.
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Alaska Airlines Visa Signature
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card is through Bank of America and for an annual fee of $75 a year, you receive Alaska Airlines companion fare where anyone can fly with you to anywhere no matter the ticket price for $22 and 30,000 miles for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. After your first year, your companion fare jumps to $121. Those 30,000 miles are worth $570. You also get one free checked bag for you and six other travelers, earn 3 miles on all Alaska Purchases and 1 mile on all other purchases, and you have access to transfer miles to their diverse selection of airline partners.
With access to 5-star airlines such as Qantas, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and Cathay Pacific, you have some amazing options to fly outside of just Alaska Airlines. I’ll be writing a more thorough piece on the rewards perks in another post but to give you a taste, I was able to book a nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Dubai in Emirates Business Class for $2,300. Alaska Airlines also has great points sales where you can earn up to 40% bonus points when purchasing points during their sales throughout the year. This can significantly help cut the cost of a big international trip you’re planning on taking.
While I hold 4 different credit cards, I use them as if I would use a debit card. Spend what I budget for and pay off every card at the end of my statement period. As I continue to grow as a frequent traveler, my cards may change and grow. I will keep you up to date on my credit card situation and keep you informed on how best to use them to your advantage. Let me know how you like your cards in the comments section below!
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