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The Ultimate Credit Card Guide – Our Credit Cards and How We Use Them (Updated 2023)

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Overview

Everyone is always talking about which credit cards to get, but they never truly breakdown their wallet and share how to spend each of their cards. We finally spent some time and laid out all of our current cards, plus how we coordinate them across all of the categories.

We’ve broken this down to review the outline in two different ways – 1) by card and 2) by spending categories. We hope you find this guide is helpful!

Summary of Spending Categories by Card

Below is a full guide of every card we have in our wallet and the specific spending categories detailed out by how we use them. Here is a quick high-level summary of the cards and what we spend them on – but definitely read on for why we use them on each of the categories. This guide also includes quite a few helpful tips on ways to get statement credits applied to your account and highlights all of the many benefits these cards bring.

Spending Categories for Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Restaurants
  • Flights
  • Hotels
  • Airbnbs
  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • DoorDash
  • Instacart (only 1x per month)
  • Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection

Spending Categories for Amex Platinum

  • Equinox
  • Walmart+
  • Fine Hotels + Resorts┬«
  • We also use this card for its plentiful statement credits, all of which are outlined in detail here

Spending Categories for Amex Gold

  • Groceries at U.S. Supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year)
    • Including Instacart

Amex Blue Cash Preferred

Spending Categories for Amex Blue Cash Preferred

  • Groceries at U.S. Supermarkets (up to $6,000 per calendar year)
  • Gas Stations
  • Streaming Subscriptions

Spending Categories for Bilt Rewards

  • Rent

Spending Categories for Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • All Other Everyday Purchases (drug stores, online shopping, clothes, pet supplies, etc.)

Spending Categories for Capital One Venture X

  • The Premier Collection Hotels

Spending Categories

Now it’s time for the fun part! This section provides all of the incredible details on how many points you can earn for each spending category and why we use those cards to maximize their benefits. We wish we had a guide like this back when we were first looking to build out our credit card portfolio, so we hope you enjoy and get a lot out of it.

Groceries at U.S. Supermarkets

Which Cards To Use

  • Amex Blue Cash Preferred
    • 6x points up to $6,000 in purchases per calendar year
  • Amex Gold
    • 4x points up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year

Why These Cards?

This is a high points earning card duo for us. We spend quite a lot on groceries during the year, so getting 6x points back until the $6k purchases are up with the Amex Blue Cash Preferred, and then spending the rest on our Amex Gold for 4x points is a great way to play these cards.

You could also consider getting the Chase Freedom Flex in addition or in place of the Amex Blue Cash Preferred, but we don’t need another cash back card right now and the rotating categories just aren’t beneficial enough to our other spending to justify adding another card to our wallet at this time – though we’ll likely consider it in the future.

Restaurants

Which Card To Use

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
    • 3x points on dining at restaurants, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out
    • Worth 4.5x points when spent on travel

Why This Card?

There are a bunch of great credit cards on the market that match the 3x points earning on restaurants, but they don’t have the same redemption rate of 1.5x to get those to be worth a total of 4.5x points when spent on travel. This is absolutely the best card on the market and┬áis our top choice for restaurants anytime we dine out!

If you’re not interested in getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you could also consider using the Amex Gold instead, since that gets 4x on restaurants, but the Reserve card edges it out slightly since those points are worth 4.5x on travel. There are just so many other things that the Chase Sapphire Reserve card brings to the table that make it worthwhile to be in your wallet.

Flights, Hotels and Airbnbs

Which Card To Use

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
    • 3x points on travel purchases like airfare, hotels and Airbnb
      • Worth 4.5x points when spent on travel
    • 5x points on flights purchased through Chase Travel
      • Worth 7.5x points when spent on travel
    • 10x points on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase Travel
      • Worth 15x points when spent on travel

Why This Card?

There are a couple great credit cards, like the Amex Platinum and Capital One Venture X, on the market that match the same earning bonuses, but they don’t have the same points redemption rate of 1.5x to make those points work more when spent on travel. While we also have those other two cards in our wallet for their sign up bonuses and other benefits, we don’t really spend much on them for travel related purchases because the Chase Sapphire Reserve is superior when it comes to spending points.

Pro tip: We almost always purchase flights, hotels and car rentals through the Chase Travel Portal to get the massive points multipliers outlined above. If you book directly with airlines, you only get 3x points, but if you book through the Chase Travel Portal, you can get 5x points. Same with hotels and car rentals – if you book directly, you only get 3x points, but if you book through the Chase Travel Portal, you get 10x points. That’s pretty crazy.

On top of that, we have found that dealing with Chase’s travel center when calling and asking questions about an itinerary is much better than working directly with general airline support call centers.

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Everyday Purchases

Which Card To Use

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
    • 3x points on drug store purchases
    • 1.5x points on all other purchases (online shopping, clothes, corner stores, pet supplies, etc.)

Why This Card?

As a $0 no annual fee card, this is the perfect addition to your wallet for everyday purchases. Most, if not all, other everyday credit cards only have a 1x point offer for all other purchases, so the fact that you get 1.5x on everything as a base is awesome. The only card that comes close to matching it is the Citi Double Cash card, but we like the Chase Rewards platform much more.

The best way to use the Chase Freedom Unlimited is to also have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Because you can transfer points between Chase cards in your wallet for free, we maximize the 1.5x value even more by moving the points from the Freedom Unlimited card to our Sapphire Reserve card. Then when we spend those points on travel, it makes them worth 2.25x points. This is a total game changer and is quite possibly the best card duo in our wallet.

One important note about this card – do not spend this when traveling internationally, as you will get charged fees. Use the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Amex Gold for purchases abroad to avoid any unnecessary charges!

Gas Stations

Which Card To Use

  • Amex Blue Cash Preferred
    • 3x points on U.S. gas stations

Why This Card?

This is one of the best performing cards in the gas station category across the board and it doesn’t have a spending max on this category compared to other cards on the market. We also use this card for groceries, so this doubles up in usage in our wallet, making it a great pick.

Worth noting – we live in NYC and don’t have a car, but sometimes borrow a friend’s car or rent for trips. Because of this, we don’t drive too often and don’t need to look into getting a different card specifically for gas. The Amex Blue Cash Preferred card provides us with a really great cash back option when we do,┬á so it’s perfect for us and has earned a spot in our wallet.

If there is a gas station chain that you visit often, like Shell or Mobil, it might be worth looking into those cards for discounts. Otherwise, Citi Custom Cash Card is another good option here that gives you 5% cash back on your top eligible spend category up to $500 spent each billing cycle. If you only use this card for gas and make it your top spending category, this is the best percentage cash back on the market right now. That said, we just don’t have any other Citi credit cards, so it’s not worth it for us to diversify our card portfolio and add another bank into the mix just for this card.

Rent

Which Card To Use

  • Bilt Rewards
    • 1x points on rent

Why This Card?

A credit card?? To pay rent?? You heard right – this card is the first of it’s kind and is a total game changer. Gone are the days of exorbitant fees on rent when you pay with a credit card. This card allows you to use it like a checking account, where they provide account and routing numbers, and will even cut a paper check if your landlord only accepts checks.

The best part is you can finally earn points on rent without fees – something that’s never been done before – all for a $0 fee credit card. Rent is something we spend money on every month regardless, so we might as well be earning points on it! Our plan is to just rack up points over a couple years and then spend them on flights for a nice vacation somewhere.

The only minor ‘gotcha’ to be aware of with this card is that, in order to earn points every month, you must make 5 transactions that post each statement period. To do this, we typically make small transactions under $10 every month on things like coffee, quick CVS runs or snacks at a gas station to cover those 5 transactions and ensure we receive the points for our rent payment every month, then switch back to the normal spending on cards outlined in this article.

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Streaming Subscriptions

Which Card To Use

  • Amex Blue Cash Preferred
    • 6x points on select U.S. streaming subscriptions

Why This Card?

If you needed another reason to get the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card, this is it. Since you’re likely spending money on these already, this is an excellent way to earn rewards on almost every subscription service on the market.

This list outlines and stays up to date on streaming services that this card covers, including Netflix, HBO Max, Spotify, Apple Music and more. As you can see from this list, it covers all of the major players and is a great way to get rewarded for your spending.

Uber

Which Cards To Use

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
    • 3x points on Uber purchases, which count towards the travel bonus-earnings category
      • Worth 4.5x points when spent on travel
  • Amex Platinum
    • $200 in Uber Cash each year that is distributed as up to $15 each month, plus a $20 bonus in December, to be used on rides or Uber Eats
  • Amex Gold
    • $120 in Uber Cash every year that is distributed as up to $10 each month, to be used on rides or Uber Eats

Why These Cards?

This one is slightly complicated, so bear with us. There are 3 cards involved here, but we only use one card – the Chase Sapphire Reserve – as primary payment to actually ride with Uber or order on Uber Eats.

All you need to do is add the Amex Platinum and Gold cards to your Uber account as cards in your wallet and you’ll automatically get Uber Cash at the beginning of every month – in the form of $25 credits per month and $45 in December – without ever putting a charge on either card for an Uber ride. Just make sure to use those credits within that calendar month or they’ll expire.

You only get a redemption of 1x points on the Platinum and Gold cards for Uber related purchases though, so Chase Sapphire Reserve should be your primary form of payment to get 3x points when taking Uber rides or ordering Uber Eats, which can be used as 4.5x points when spending on travel.

Pretty sweet hack, right?

Lyft

Which Card To Use

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
    • ┬á10x points on Lyft purchases through March 2025, which count towards the travel bonus-earnings category
      • Worth 15x points when spent on travel

Why This Card?

I think it’s pretty clear why using the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is the best you’ll get anywhere – earning 10x total points on Lyft rides is pretty lucrative. We often defer to Lyft for this exact reason when ordering a car, unless the cost of a ride on Uber is less than an incremental difference.

Another fantastic perk is that Chase Sapphire Reserve cardmembers can get two free years of Lyft Pink All Access, valued at $199/year, with benefits like free priority pickup upgrades and cancellation forgiveness up to 3 times per month. We love just how much the Reserve has to offer across so many travel categories and, as always, the 1.5x bonus on points when spending them on travel is unbeatable.

DoorDash

Which Card To Use

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
    • 3x points on dining at restaurants, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out
      • Worth 4.5x points when spent on travel

Why This Card?

There are a few reasons to love this card for DoorDash. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, cardholders get complimentary access to DashPass – a membership for both DoorDash and Caviar – which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees on eligible orders.

One of the best parts is that you also get $5 in DoorDash credits each month, but you can only have up to $15 in credits in your DoorDash ‘bank’ at one time before you stop getting credits. Due to that, we let those add up for 3 months to get the $15 and then spend them on a meal so we start back at $0 before the next month starts.

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Grubhub

Which Card To Use

  • Amex Gold
    • $120 in Dining Credit every year that is distributed as up to $10 in statement credits each month when you pay with the Amex Gold Card at Grubhub
    • 4x points at restaurants, including delivery

Why This Card?

This is yet another great perk of the Amex Gold card that makes the yearly fee worth paying. We get delivery at least once a month from our favorite restaurant and this allows us to get $10 off that meal. All you need to do is add the Amex Gold to your Grubhub wallet, set a monthly reminder in your phone to order food with that card and then wait for the $10 statement credit to hit on the card a couple days after you pay for your meal. This is an easy one to cash in on, plus you get 4x points on the order.

Instacart

Which Cards To Use

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
    • $180 in Instacart credit every year that is distributed as up to $15 in statement credits each month
  • Amex Gold
    • 4x points up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year

Why These Cards?

We already had the Chase Sapphire Reserve card in our wallet before the Instacart perk was introduced, but this only added another incentive to hold onto it and make the yearly fee worth it. These $15 in statement credits every month is a great way to save on groceries when you don’t feel like running to the store.

We don’t typically purchase groceries online, but it does make things easy if we’re away for a weekend and don’t have the time to go to the store to stock up our fridge for the week. This benefit makes it worthwhile to have this credit, but only use it once a month. Since grocery points earning isn’t great on the Chase Sapphire Reserve (1x points), we only spend on grocery delivery once during the month. If you’re someone who uses Instacart often, you should be spending on the Amex Gold (4x points) or Amex Blue Cash Preferred (6x points) to maximize your points.

Additionally, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can activate a complimentary Instacart+ membership, which reduces service fees and waives the delivery fee on grocery orders of $35 or more, even if you use another card on the account to purchase groceries. Between the credits and the free delivery, this is yet another a great perk to have on a card that has so many other benefits.

Walmart+

Which Cards To Use

  • Amex Platinum
    • $155 in Walmart+ Credit to cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
    • 1.5x points on all other purchases

Why These Cards?

Even though we don’t shop at Walmart that often, we will certainly take the benefits of Walmart+. This comes with free shipping, streaming with Paramount+ and gas savings rewards. This is a set it and forget it type of with the Amex Platinum because as long as you add it to the account, you get the statement credit. Then you should also add the Chase Freedom Unlimited to your account and that should be the primary charging card for any orders to get its 1.5x points earning on groceries.

Don’t use the Amex Gold or Amex Blue Cash Preferred because Walmart isn’t technically classified as a U.S. Supermarket, which means the 4x and 6x points multipliers don’t apply here and only get you 1x instead. That’s why the Chase Freedom Unlimited is the play.

Equinox

Which Card To Use

  • Amex Platinum
    • Up to $300 Equinox credit per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app or eligible Equinox club memberships

Why This Card?

We already go to Equinox, so this afforded us an absolutely massive discount and puts a huge cut into the Amex Platinum’s $695 fee. This effectively makes the card $395 with the Equinox benefit alone, before the many other significant statement credits the card brings. One of the main reasons the Amex Platinum card made sense for us to get, even with a steep fee, was because of this perk – but only because we already had an Equinox membership.

Fine Hotels + Resorts® and The Hotel Collection

Which Card To Use

  • Amex Platinum
    • $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel
    • $100 experience credit that can be applied toward luxury experiences and activities, which is different at each property

Why This Card?

This is a perk on the Amex Platinum we didn’t think we’d end up using, but we have actually benefited from it twice already to upgrade vacation stays and are so happy we did. Not only do you get $200 off a high quality hotel booking once a year, you can also get room upgrades when available at check-in, daily breakfast for two people, guaranteed 4pm late checkout, 12pm check-in when available and complimentary Wi-Fi. That is quite the list!

One of the best things that is also offered is a $100 experience credit that can be applied to things on property like restaurants, bars, spas and more. It depends on the property for what type of experience the credit applies to – we call ahead of time to ask – but it certainly enhances your stay. For example, we were in Las Vegas recently at the MGM Grand and we saved $100 on our dinner bill at a fancy restaurant when we used the Amex Platinum card to pay. This is a wonderful benefit to the card and we’re glad we’ve been able to use it!

Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection

Which Card To Use

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
    • 3x points on travel purchases like hotels
      • Worth 4.5x points when spent on travel
    • 10x points on hotels when purchased through Chase Travel
      • Worth 15x points when spent on travel

Why This Card?

Similar to Amex’s hotel collection above, Chase has its own version. The only difference is that you don’t get any statement credits back for booking one of these hotels with the Chase Sapphire Reserve – one of the big perks the Amex Platinum does offer is that $200 statement credit on a hotel booking. Reserving a Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection isn’t considered a cheap option, but depending on the hotel, it’s possible that the perks you receive during your stay may offset the price difference from going with a standard hotel property.

This hotel collection offers similar benefits as Amex, in that you can get room upgrades when available at check-in, daily breakfast for two people, complimentary Wi-Fi and up to $100 on a unique property experience (such as lunch, dinner or spa). We’ve had this card for a few years and only booked a hotel from this collection once, so we don’t typically get a lot of use out of it. That said, if we wanted to splurge for a special vacation, we always look into what hotels are available and compare it with other lodging options in the area to see if it’s worth it.

The Premier Collection Hotels

Which Card To Use

  • Capital One Venture X
    • 10x miles on hotels booked through Capital One Travel

Why This Card?

Last but not least, this is yet another premium hotel collection in the form of Capital One. This hotel collection offers all of the same benefits as Chase, in that you can get room upgrades when available at check-in, early check-in and late checkout when available, daily breakfast for two people, complimentary Wi-Fi and up to $100 credit on an experience at the property.

We only just received this card, but one of the perks for us is being able to see all of the luxury property options that Amex, Chase and Capital One offer before making a selection on an extravagant trip.

The main reason we have the Capital One Venture X card at all is that it basically pays for itself. The card had a 75,000 miles sign up bonus (worth up to $1,388) that we received and then of the $395 yearly card fee – you get $300 in annual travel credit, plus 10,000 bonus miles every anniversary year (worth $100), which takes care of the card fee. Now that the card pays for itself, we get to gain from all of the benefit features the card offers, like lounge access, premium dining options, event access and more.

Our Cards

Offers may vary

$550 Annual Fee

60,000 Point Sign Up Bonus
after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

$695 Annual Fee

80,000 Point Sign Up Bonus
after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 6 months from account opening.

$250 Annual Fee

60,000 Point Sign Up Bonus
after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 6 months from account opening.

$0 First Year Intro Offer, then $95 Annual Fee

Earn $250 Back
after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 6 months from account opening.

$395 Annual Fee

75,000 Miles Sign Up Bonus
after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

$99 Annual Fee

140,000 Point Sign Up Bonus
after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Bottom Line

We hope you found this guide to be helpful! This comprehensive breakdown should provide you with a plan for maximizing points redemptions and how to balance your wallet.

As you can see from the cards we hold, they help us support a lifestyle that prioritizes traveling, eating out at restaurants and grocery shopping. These credit cards enhance our experiences and line our wallet with points that help upgrade our travel. We have all of these cards because they already play into our normal spending habits – which is important because we’re not reaching to get these cards to spend on certain categories just because they offer it. At that point, you’re spending money just to get the benefit, which isn’t a smart financial decision.

As a reminder – always pay off your credit cards on time every month and only get credit cards to enhance your current lifestyle and everyday activities, not the lifestyle you want to have or think these credit cards will give you. Always make sure you can afford the yearly fees and figure out what’s best for you.

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