Over the past few years I started opening more and moore credit cards to take advantage of the various signup offers and perks offered by credit card companies. When I began the process, many of my family members and friends thought that I was on the fast track to a pile of debt and a worthless credit score, but my experience has been quite the opposite. Credit cards are valuable tools that when use correctly can open many doors, both figuratively and literally, to amazing benefits. Today, we will take a quick look at the cards I carry and explain why I carry them.
Citi Prestige Card – $450 Annual Fee
The Citi Prestige Card is the most valuable card that I carry, but it took quite a bit of time to add this card to my wallet. First, I opened the Citi AAdvantage World Elite card in order to gain Admirals Club access and take advantage of the incredibly lucrative 100,000 mile offer in 2014. The AAdvantage Executive card was fantastic, but once I decided to make American Airlines my primary airline, I started to accrue too many AAdvantage miles and needed to diversify. The Citi Prestige card filled that void. The Citi Prestige card offered Admirals Club access when traveling on American Airlines and I would now earn Citi ThankYou points on my purchases instead of more AAdvantage miles. On top of the Admirals Club access, the Citi Prestige card offers a $250 travel rebate (on any airline in the form of statement credits), Complimentary Priority Pass Membership, 3 free rounds of golf, and the incredibly lucrative 4th night free benefit.
I continue to carry the Citi Prestige card because it allows me to access the Admirals Club when traveling on American Airlines, the $250 airline credit helps justify the annual fee, and the 4th night free benefit can prove the be very valuable. The 4th night free is especially valuable when booking reimbursable business travel on a personal credit card! I also find a lot of value in Citi ThankYou points and the Citi Prestige card makes it easy to earn ThankYou points quickly.
Recently, news broke that the Citi Prestige Card would no longer allow for Admirals Club access starting in July 2017. This was the benefit I used most frequently on the card and the one benefit that I personally found to be the most valuable. I will keep the card open until more information is known, but if the Admirals Club access is not replaced with an equivalent airline lounge network, I will most likely downgrade this card to the Citi ThankYou Premier card next year.
American Express Platinum Card – $450 Annual Fee
I opened this card for two very specific reasons. First, I received an offer from American Express to upgrade my Gold Premier Rewards card for 40,000 bonus points. Second, I could not pass up the opportunity to visit Centurion Lounges when transiting Dallas Fort Worth Airport. I was desperate for Membership Rewards points, but had no desire to open a new line of credit with American Express which made the timing of the 40,000 bonus offer nearly perfect. Also, as a frequent American Airlines traveler, I often build in a stopover in DFW in order to add an extra segment to my trip. I had heard incredible things about the Centurion Lounge network and was not disappointed.
Another fantastic benefit that keeps the American Express Platinum Card in my wallet is the complimentary SPG Gold status and Hilton HHoners Gold status. I tend to stick with Marriott hotels, but if I am required to stay at a Hilton or SPG property, it is nice to have a few extra benefits. I will continue to carry the American Express Platinum Card for years to come because of this benefit alone and the $200 airline credit helps me justify the high annual fee.
Personally, I do not recommend the American Express Platinum Card to anyone unless they specifically want to have frequent access to the Centurion Lounges. The card has a very weak point earning structure and the Citi Prestige Card includes better benefits across the board, but if you frequent airports with Centurion Lounges or occasionally find yourself at SPG or Hilton properties the American Express Platinum Card is worth the annual fee in my opinion.
Marriott Rewards – $95 Annual Fee
This card is a must for anyone that frequently stays at Marriott properties. Each year, the card grants the cardholder 15 nights toward elite status AND a complimentary night in a category 1-5 property. Those benefits alone justify the $95 annual fee, not to mention the 80,000 sign-up bonus offered almost every year. I rarely use the card for purchases, but it is a great card to keep open as I continue to try to qualify for Marriott Platinum Status.
Chase Sapphire Preferred – $95 Annual Fee
I really do not like this card. Chase is currently offering a 50,000 sign-up bonus and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to start adding Ultimate Rewards points to my portfolio. Considering I carry the Citi Prestige and Amex Platinum cards, I really do not see any benefit of carrying this card in my wallet. The annual fee was waived for the first year, but when it comes time to pay the annual fee I will most likely downgrade the card to the Chase Freedom card unless I am offered some sort of retention bonus. This card also granted me an extremely generous credit limit which should help my credit utilization ratio and overall improve my credit score. I’ve spoken in depth about my issues with this card in a previous post if you are interested in reading a few of the reasons I was so hesitant to open the account in the first place.
BankAmericard Cash Rewards – $0 Annual Fee
I opened this line of credit 5 years ago when my credit was so bad that I was denied almost every other card on the market. When I first opened this account my credit limit was just $500 and it was the only credit card I had ever opened. After a few months of paying down my balance in full I was able to open the American Express Gold card, but I continue to keep this line of credit open as it is my oldest aged account which helps offset the several new lines of credit I have opened in the past 5 years. I could not tell you the last time I swiped this card, but its a great option for anyone starting out!
I know the two $450 annual fees seem a little outrageous, but if you take advantage of the $250 and $200 airline credits, you can get both cards “for the price of one.” Also, if you open both cards, you can use the TSA PreCheck/Global Entry reimbursement for yourself on one card and a friend on the other. That adds an additional $200 in value. Not to mention the value that I place on lounge access and the reimbursed 4th nights free.
This list is by no means comprehensive to the benefits offered from each card, but represents the value I find in each card. Overall, I think the cards that I carry are the most valuable cards on the market today with some incredible benefits. When trying to decide on a credit card compare several before deciding and make sure to have clearly defined goals when opening a card. Also, when opening a card, try to time it during a period where you will hit signup bonus spending requirement naturally instead of overextending yourself.