5 Rewards Credit Cards We Are Using the Most Now

Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.

Burning miles and points to take awesome trips is the fun part of this hobby, but to burn them you have to earn them.  Earning them isn’t always as fun, but it isn’t that bad when you just integrate it into daily life as we have.  We aren’t doing anything super fancy or exciting to earn points right now (I’ll leave that excitement to the more kid-free or more organized folks than me), but that’s okay because if an earning style doesn’t fit into your life right now, then it simply doesn’t fit.  Do what works for you without it become too much work.

To burn, you gotta earn

To burn miles, you gotta earn them

With that said, here are the five primary rewards credit cards my family is using right now to earn as many miles and points as we can without over-complicating our life…plus one more card we really need to start using more.

1.  Chase Freedom®: We are huge on using category bonuses to up our mileage earning, so we are making sure to maximize the Freedom first quarter bonus 5x categories of (primarily) grocery stores and (secondarily for us) Starbucks.  Movie theaters are also 5x, but the only movie theater that we (rarely) make it to doesn’t actually code as a movie theater, but instead codes as a restaurant since it also serves food.

2.  The Amex EveryDaySM Preferred Credit Card: This card actually is a very prominent card in my wallet right now as I find myself wanting access to Membership Reward points more and more.  From the current 40% transfer bonus to British Airways Avios, to Delta miles becoming more useful, to favorable award charts like ANA, I just can’t get enough MR points right now.  I like this card because it gives 3x at US grocery stores (up to $6,000 annually) and 2x at US gas stations + a 50% points bonus on everything if you use it 30 times in a billing cycle.  This bumps the totals up to 4.5x at grocery stores and 3x at gas stations, and 1.5x on most everything else, which really works well for us.  This is actually my husband’s “assigned card” to use for most purchases these days, and I frequently use mine as well.

3.  Chase Ink Plus for 5x on cell phone, cable, internet, and at office supply stores.  It isn’t new and exciting, but the 5x Ultimate Rewards powers of the Ink Plus are still important to my family as we have lots of our telecommunication bills are set to auto-pay to our Ink each month so we earn 5x without even thinking about it.  I also have been known to visit the gift card rack of our local office supply store from time to time (as well as Staples.com) to bump up our earning a little more.

4.  Starwood Preferred Guest Personal Credit Card from American Express: Many of our larger purchases (when we aren’t working on a minimum spending requirement) go on our SPG Amex cards as we just can’t ever have enough SPG points since they are so valuable, and not that easy to earn outside of SPG hotel stays and credit card usage.

5.  Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: The final card that is getting regular action in our wallets right now is the Chase Sapphire Preferred as we still grab take-out more than I wish, and it earns 2x transferable Ultimate Reward points on those dining charges.  The card also gives 2x on travel charges, which we certainly benefit from with some regularity as well.

The Card We Need to Use More:

I’m pretty happy with our primary credit card plan as it has served us well, but the reality is there is one card we really need to add into more regular rotation.  With as low as air fares have been recently (thanks @theflightdeal for sharing some real winners), we really need to earn more points using the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® to take advantage of those low fares.  That card earns 2x points on everything and you can use those points to pay for travel charges on the card at a rate of one point = one cent, and also get 10% of points redeemed for travel back to use again.

You aren’t tied to award availability and you will earn elite qualifying miles and dollars when you purchase your tickets using points from that card.  This card isn’t great for tickets that are usually expensive, but it is the perfect way to jump on low fares while still keeping your money in your wallet.

What are the rewards credit cards your family is using the most right now to rack up miles and points?

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Disclaimer: The comments below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. Really would like to get that AMEX Preferred card and make it my primary card for groceries and gas (real purchases, not gift cards). But it’s only really desirable if I can guarantee hitting the 30x per month target — and I don’t see how I can swing that without way too much attention on my part.

    • How about splitting the grocery bill? Also you can stop the gas pump and start over. Would count as 2 transactions. I know there is some nuisance involved, but still you are trying to hit the 30 mark. I would do that if I have that card.

      • Embarrassed to ask what I have been missing, since I have the SPG Amex, but what am I missing? What is the benefit to using it 30x/month?

  2. Larry, that just comes to about an average of one use per day, so it really hasn’t been hard for us at all. Of course, it seems we have endless little errands, so I guess that helps in this regard. You could certainly goose it up a bit easily by doing some stuff like PhatMiles mentions, but we haven’t had to do anything like that.

  3. I’m not quite sure that you’re making a mistake avoiding Arrival Plus. Sure, there are enough great deals that it makes sense to buy tickets in many cases, but that still doesn’t suggest using a fixed value card for the purchase. If you put these charges on your CSP you’re earning 2 points which, even if they’re not worth 4%, are almost certainly worth more than the fixed value on Arrival Plus. IMHO, you’ve got it right as is.

    Personally, I’m putting everything possible on my Amex EveryDay Preferred Card because my highest value redemptions are international business class and United redemption levels for those stink. Avios are better with 40% bonuses. Flying Blue and Delta aew good enough for SkyTeam. I miss American from SPG but they aren’t much good for business to Europe, my favorite destination. We are each different.

    • Less, yeah that is more or less the dilemma I have and why we haven’t pulled the card out more than we have. Our redemption patterns just have so much value in what we are doing…I just sure do wish we had some extra points from that card to use, too. 😉

  4. Thanks for the info. I need to reevaluate our cards. The chase sapphire is the next one I will get. Right now I am focusing on the SW companion pass since it is valuable to our family.

  5. Both the Arrival and Venture cards are staples in our household.

    While having points and miles associated with loyalty programs are important, it is also important to have flexible point options like the Arrival and Venture. They plainly make travel more affordable and enjoyable. I like to use my Arrival and Venture for award booking fees, low airfares, and hotel incidentals (such as dining, the spa, shopping).

    I find that I always like to have a points balance >/= $500 on each of these cards should I happen to need them, I always end up utilizing them and find myself constantly replenishing the points used.

    For example, I took my family to Disney (stayed on disney property, unfortunately not at the Swan/Dolphin and paid out of pocket for the vacation package — last time doing that, its what actually introduced me to the miles and points game) and was able to use the points I saved from my Arrival to cover everything that I charged back to the room (you can charge essentially everything in Disney back your room). Once the charges posted I erased them with the points!

    • Arrival Plus is certainly a good card, and I would prefer it to Chase Sapphire Preferred for the incidental travel costs that don’t earn the CSP bonus. Personally, I like the Amex EveryDay Preferred even more for such incidental costs, valuing 1.5 Membership Rewards points more than 2.2whatever% on Arrival Plus. But that comparison is reasonably close, and not relevant to people who are not confident about hitting 30 charges a month on AEP.

      The bottom line is that the decision between these three for incidental travel is a choice from excellent alternatives.

      • Less — Your post is kind of confusing to me. What I was trying to convey in my reply was that these flexible point options are often overlooked in the grand scheme of avid points and miles collectors. We often times forget that we can cut our costs even further by leveraging such points. Sure you can use your Amex Everyday for hotel incidentals, your building your MR balance…but is that what you need to be doing? For me, decreasing my out of pocket expenses is the whole point, I can always “create” more miles, I can’t always “replace” $1000 (well, you can but thats beyond the scope of this particular blog).

        • Sorry for the confusion: I could have written a more complete comment. Certainly, I’m only talking about UR and MR points to the extent they are usable for airline transfers (or Hyatt or Amtrak transfers from UR, which are both quite lucrative). Neither of us wants to accumulate points merely for the sake of accumulating points.

          My point (pardon the pun) is that even the weakest of airline, Hyatt, or Amtrak transfers is likely to save you more MONEY than the fixed value of Arrival Plus points. Mommy Points surely hasn’t run out of such redemptions, which is why I don’t believe she is making a mistake with her current approach to spending.

          As I conceded in another comment (admittedly not included in my direct reply to you), someone who only took one two-week vacation a year and had no flexibility in dates might well find Barclay Arrival Plus to be the perfect card for them.

          Yet even in that case, anyone who charges less than $40,000 per year to their Arrival Plus card would be better off with the no-free Citibank Double Cash Card, earning 1% + 1% in direct statement credits for EVERYTHING with no need to even jump through the hoops of finding travel costs to match their charges. At $40,000 of spending, the Barclay user would earn $889 in travel credits less an $89 annual fee, or $800. $800 also happens to be 2% of $40,000. [OK, the Citi user only actually saves $796 because the first 1% statement credit reduces the balance on which the second 1% is computed, so the Barclay cardholder has made a whopping $4 after charging $40,000 to their card and taking the time to match travel costs to their credit, then doing it again to the 10% rebate, then doing it again to the 10% rebate on THAT].

          In short, a successful argument for the use of Barclay Arrival Plus over both Chase Sapphire Preferred and Amex EveryDay Preferred is going to end up being an even better argument for the use of Citi Double Cash over Barclay Arrival Plus for anyone who charges less than $40,000 per year to their Barclay card.

          I hope the more complete response makes clear where I’m coming from. We certainly agree that the goal is saving real out-of-pocket costs and not just earning “points.”

          And it is worth noting that the Citi Double Cash Card was only created a couple of months ago, so the argument for the Barclay card was much stronger when most of us (yes, I have one) obtained it.

  6. If you have the sapphire doesn’t it make sense to downgrade the ink plus to the cash. You get the same bonuses but just lower thresholds but most people are not going to spend over 25,000 per category. Then you can transfer the points to the CSP.

  7. If you travel to Europe much, the Club Carlson card is by far the most lucrative. Five points per dollar translates to one night free in a high quality centrally located London hotel for $10,000 in spend – already a better deal than the other chains offer. (Ditto many other cities in Europe, and a few US cities.) Add in the “last award night free” to get outstanding value. All my un-bonused spend is currently going on this card. (Yes, I’m willing to make the “Club Carlson trudge” every second night to maximize this benefit, but even if you stay in the same hotel the value is excellent.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *