- Courtesy of Ariana Arghandewal
- I’ve been earning points and miles for the last seven years. I use more than a dozen rewards credit cards to maximize the return on all my spending.
- In large part thanks to these cards, I’m able to earn more than 1 million points and miles each year.
- While I have more than a dozen cards, I don’t carry all of those in my wallet every day. Instead, I always bring a smaller stash with me, including the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.
- These are the cards that earn me bonus rewards on my everyday spending.
- Read more personal finance coverage.
Before I got involved in the points and miles hobby, I had just one credit card, issued by Capital One. It earned just 1% cash back on everything – nothing to write home about.
Fast-forward seven years, and I have more than a dozen credit cards, helping me earn more than 1 million points each year to help fund incredible travel experiences. Regardless of how many cards I pick up over the years, there are five that I’ll always keep in my wallet to maximize my rewards.
Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited has a lot going for it. For starters, it earns 1.5% cash back on everything. If you have another Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card (such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card), you can convert your cash-back earnings to Ultimate Rewards points. Effectively, this card earns 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent, which is incredibly valuable. These points can be transferred 1:1 to partners like Hyatt, United Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue, and more.
Since most credit cards only earn 1 point per dollar spent on non-bonus purchases, the Chase Freedom Unlimited‘s elevated earning rate makes it my go-to card for most spending that isn’t eligible for category bonuses. The card also has no annual fee, which makes it a long-term keeper.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card
In my opinion, the Hilton Honors Aspire card from American Express is the best hotel credit card. It offers plenty of benefits like top-tier Hilton Diamond status, up to a $250 airline fee credit each year, up to a $250 Hilton resort credit each year, a $100 Hilton on-property credit on two-night stays, and Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership. Basically, this card gets me upgraded travel and saves me hundreds of dollars every year, making it easily worth the $450 annual fee.
I carry the Hilton Honors Aspire card around mostly for the 7 points per dollar it earns at US restaurants. As someone who dines out quite a bit and has an out-of-control coffee habit, those 7 points really add up to significant rewards.
Occasionally, I get to charge large food purchases to this card at work and get reimbursed. It all adds up significantly and makes those top-tier 95,000-points-per-night Hilton hotel awards much more attainable.
As a bonus, spending $60,000 on this card in a calendar year gets me a free weekend night certificate. Huge win!
Fidelity Rewards Visa
The Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card earns 2% cash back on all spending and carries no annual fee. I treat this card like my travel savings account and use the rewards during times when redeeming miles doesn’t make sense. Sometimes airfare is too cheap to justify an award redemption, so I dip into my Fidelity account for the cash I save for these types of scenarios.
Sometimes I also use the cash-back rewards for Airbnb stays, tour packages, spa passes, or any travel activity that I can’t redeem points and miles for. People really underestimate the value and flexibility of a 2% cash-back card. It’s an important part of my points and miles strategy and I always carry this card with me for a solid return on my everyday spending.
Read more: The best cash-back credit cards
Chase Ink Plus
The Ink Plus Business card from Chase is no longer available to new applicants, but it remains one of my go-to credit cards. The card earns 5x points on the first $50,000 spent at office supply store, which is a big spending category for me. It’s why the Chase Ink Plus will always have a place in my wallet.
If you’re looking for an equivalent card, the Ink Business Cash Credit Card is a great alternative. It earns 5% cash back at office supply stores (5% on combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and, phone services each anniversary year, then 1%) and carries no annual fee.
Korean Air SkyPass Visa Signature Card
You may be scratching your heads at this one, but the Korean Air SkyPass program is an incredibly valuable rewards program. I frequently save up points to travel to Europe, and Korean Air’s 80,000-mile business-class tickets are a bargain. Compare that to the 115,000-plus points most other rewards programs charge for round-trip tickets to the same destinations.
So even though the Korean SkyPass card only earns 1 mile per dollar spent on non-bonus spending, those miles go further than with other rewards programs. The Korean SkyPass Visa Signature is mostly a back-up card, but I always feel good about charging non-bonus category spending to the card.