The Best Friends of your wallet

In the first part of the series, I had tried to put all miles and point currencies on the same footing with direct cashback. In the second part, I had tried to put forth all the cards which are worthy of our attention. In the final part, I have compared the rewards from various cards to determine the best card in every category .

The results are summarized in the table below. Note that I have converted hotel points/airline miles to the values calculated in the first part. As always, please leave your feedback and let me know if I am missing anything.

Comparison

Category

Best Card

Best Airline Card

Best Hotel Card

Best Other Card

TRAVEL

Airfare

Travelocity Amex (10%)

Airline Co-branded card (3-5%)

SPG Amex (2.1%)

Amex PR Gold Card (6%)

Hotel

Travelocity Amex (10%)

Fidelity Aeroplan Amex (3%)

Hotel Co-branded card (5-10%)

Chase Freedom (5%1), Costco Amex (2%)

Car Rental

Travelocity Amex (10%)

Fidelity Aeroplan Amex (3%)

SPG Amex (2.1%)

Chase Freedom (5%1), Costco Amex (2%)

EVERYDAY Purchase

Grocery and Drugstore

Amex Blue Cash (5%2 )

Fidelity Aeroplan Amex (3%)

Hilton HHonors Amex (3%)

Amex PR Gold Card (4%)

Gas

Amex Blue Cash (5%2 )

Fidelity Aeroplan Amex (3%)

Hilton HHonors Amex (3%)

Amex PR Gold Card (4%)

Restaurant

Citi Forward (5%)

Fidelity Aeroplan Amex (3%)

SPG Amex (2.1%)

Travelocity Amex (4%)

Occasional Purchase

Clothing

Store Cards (~5%)

Fidelity Aeroplan Amex (3%)

SPG Amex (2.1%)

Chase Freedom (5%1)

Utilities

Hilton HHonors Amex (3%)

Fidelity Aeroplan Amex (3%)

Hilton HHonors Amex (3%)

Amex PR Gold Card (2%)

Home Improvement

Store Cards (~5%)

Fidelity Aeroplan Amex (3%)

SPG Amex (2.1%)

Amex PR Gold Card (2%)

UNCATEGORIZED

Fidelity Aeroplan Amex (3%)

Fidelity Aeroplan Amex (3%)

SPG Amex (2.1%)

Amex PR Gold Card (2%)

1 Chase Freedom offers 5% cashback upto $1500 in purchases in rotating categories;

2 The high cashback categories of Amex Blue Cash kick in only after exceeding $6500 in yearly spending.

The Nomad’s Analysis

A few cards appear over and over again in the table – 1) The Fidelity American Express: This card earns 2 points per $. Each point can either be converted 1:1 cash deposited to a Fidelity Account or 1:1 transferred to Aeroplan. 2) Travelocity American Express: Gary from ‘View From The Wing’ outlined the advantages of this great card if you can book via Travelocity. 3) American Express Premier Rewards (PR) Gold Card: This is an insanely valuable card if you spend a lot on airfare. See Lucky’s post to know why. 4) Starwood Preferred Guest American Express: Unroadwarriorhas blogged about why this is a great card 5) Hilton American Express (no fee) version is a good card for everyday purchases.

However, as you can see all these high-earning cards are American Express cards which are not accepted by all merchants. Hence, it is good to have a backup VISA/Mastercard. Good options include the Capital One Venture (2% cashback that can be redeemed on travel), Chase Freedom (when it has 5% cashback in relevant categories), Chase British Airways Visa (1.25 BA miles on all purchases), Fidelity Visa (1.5 points per $ upto $15000), instead of 2 points on the Amex version and each point can be transferred 1:1 into Aeroplan miles.

Let me know if I am missing anything in my analysis.

So what do I keep in my wallet?

I normally keep the Starwood American Express for all purchases and United Mileage Plus Visa for all vendors who do not accept American Express. I also carry the HHonors Amex to pay for gas and utilities and Chase Freedom when they have 5% on some relevant category. I am planning to get the Travelocity American Express and the Fidelity Visa card that earns 1.5 Aeroplan miles per dollar.

What cards do you carry in your wallet? Let us know. And if you are not sure about my analysis, go through the details where many more cards have been considered and evaluated.

Details of the analysisUnited Airlines Mileage Plus.jpg

Travel (10 cents per $)

Airfare (10 cents per $)

Highest payout: Travelocity American Express

Best Cash-back Rewards Credit card: Chase Freedom (5% for three months in a year), Discover More (5% for 3 months in a year), American Express True Earnings Card From Costco,Chase BP Visa (2% throughout the year)

Best Airline Credit Card: The best payout is by the co-branded card of the airline you are traveling on, Fidelity Aeroplan American Express (2 miles per $)

Best Hotel Affinity Card: Starwood American Express (1 point per $=2.1 cents per $)

Best Other Rewards Card: American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card (3 points per $=6 cents $), Travelocity American Express (5 points per $=10 cents per $)

Hotel (10 cents per $)

Highest payout: Travelocity American Express

Best Cash-back Rewards Credit card: Chase Freedom (5% for three months in a year), Discover More (5% for 3 months in a year), American Express True Earnings Card From Costco, Chase BP Visa (2% throughout the year)

Best Airline Credit Card: Fidelity Aeroplan American Express (2 miles per $)

Best Hotel Affinity Card: Best Rewards is by the hotel co-branded card for the hotel you are staying in.

Best Other Rewards Card: Travelocity American Express (5 points per $=10 cents per $), Blue Sky Preferred (2 points per $=2.66 cents per $)

Car Rental (10 cents per $)

Highest payout: Travelocity American Express

Best Cash-back Rewards Credit card: Chase Freedom (5% for three months in a year), Discover More (5% for 3 months in a year), American Express True Earnings Card From Costco, Chase BP Visa (2% throughout the year)

Best Airline Credit Card: Fidelity Aeroplan American Express (2 miles per $)

Best Hotel Affinity Card: Starwood American Express (1 point per $=2.1 cents per $)

Best Other Rewards Card: Travelocity American Express (5 points per $=10 cents per $), Blue Sky Preferred (2 points per $=2.66 cents per $)

Everyday Purchases

Grocery and Drugstore (5 cents per $)

Highest payout: American Express Blue Cash

Best Cash-back Rewards Credit card: American Express Blue Cash (5% after your total yearly spending exceeds 6500$), Chase Freedom (5% for three months in a year), Discover More (5% for 3 months in a year)

Best Airline Credit Card: Asiana American Express (3 miles per $ at select stores ); United Mileage Plus Select visa (2 miles per $), Fidelity Aeroplan American Express (2 miles per $)

Best Hotel Affinity Card: Hilton HHonors American Express (3 cents per $)

Best Other Rewards Card: American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card (2 points per $=4 cents $), Travelocity American Express (2 points per $=4 cents per $)

Gas (5 cents per $)

Highest payout: American Express Blue Cash

Best Cash-back Rewards Credit card: American Express Blue Cash (5% after your total yearly spending exceeds 6500$), Chase Freedom (5% for three months in a year), Discover More (5% for 3 months in a year), Chase BP Visa if buying from BP (5%).

Best Airline Credit Card: United Mileage Plus Select visa (2 miles per $), Fidelity Aeroplan American Express (2 miles per $)

Best Hotel Affinity Card: Hilton HHonors American Express (3 cents per $)

Best Other Rewards Card: American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card (2 points per $=4 cents $), Travelocity American Express (2 points per $=4 cents per $)

Restaurant (5 cents per $)

Highest payout: Citi Forward Visa

Best Cash-back Rewards Credit card: Chase Freedom (5% for three months in a year), Discover More (5% for 3 months in a year).

Best Airline Credit Card: United Mileage Plus Select Visa (2 miles per $), Fidelity Aeroplan American Express (2 miles per $)

Best Hotel Affinity Card: Starwood Amex (1 point (2.1 cents) per $), Marriott Rewards Premier Visa (2 points (1.8 cents) per $), Priority Club Visa (2 points (1.2 cents) per $), Choice Visa (2 points=1.6 cents per $), Hyatt Visa (1point=1.3cents per $)

Best Other Rewards Card: Citi Forward Visa (5 Thank You points per $), Travelocity American Express (2 points per $=4 cents per $)

Occasional Purchases

Clothing (~5 cents per $)

Highest payout: Store credit cards like Macy’s card

Best Cash-back Rewards Credit card: Chase Freedom (5% for three months in a year), Discover More (5% for 3 months in a year).

Best Airline Credit Card: Fidelity Aeroplan American Express (2 miles per $)

Best Hotel Affinity Card: Starwood American Express (1 point per $=2.1 cents per $)

Best Other Rewards Card: American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card (1 points per $=2 cents $), Travelocity American Express (1 points per $=2 cents per $)

Utilities (3.6 cents per $)

Highest payout: Hilton HHonors American Express

Best Cash-back Rewards Credit card: Fidelity American Express (2%)

Best Airline Credit Card: Fidelity Aeroplan American Express (2 miles per $)

Best Hotel Affinity Card: Hilton HHonors American Express (3 cents per $)

Best Other Rewards Card: American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card (1 points per $=2 cents $), Travelocity American Express (1 points per $=2 cents per $)

Home Improvement (2.6 cents per $)

Highest payout: Starwood American Express, Store Cards

Best Cash-back Rewards Credit card: Chase Freedom (5% for three months in a year), Discover More (5% for 3 months in a year).

Best Airline Credit Card: United Mileage Plus Select Visa (2 miles per $), Fidelity Aeroplan American Express (2 miles per $)

Best Hotel Affinity Card: Starwood American Express (1 point per $=2.1 cents per $)

Best Other Rewards Card: American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card (1 points per $=2 cents $), Travelocity American Express (1 points per $=2 cents per $), Priceline Visa (2 points$=2 cents per $), Discover Escape (2 cents per $), Capital One Venture Rewards (2 cents per $)

Caveats: Most of these credit cards have annual fees which might offset any benefit. I have not taken into account that aspect. Some also have good signup bonuses and renewal bonuses that offset the annual fees. These would be taken up in a different post.

- The Nomad

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Posted by The Nomad | 20 Comments

20 Responses to “If you had an infinite wallet, what credit cards would you carry? – Part III”

  1. nieder2 says:

    the formatting of your table isn’t working for me. tried in 2 browsers.

  2. happyflyer says:

    Same here. I’m using Firefox. You may want to reduce the size of the font or change to a font that’s a little easier on the eyes.

    This looks like a potentially interesting analysis but it’s a bit difficult to read through it with the format issue. Just a heads-up!

  3. unroadwarrior says:

    @neider2, @happyflyer Thanks for pointing out the issues. We are working on resolving the formatting to something more readable.

  4. unroadwarrior says:

    REpublished with formatting fixed. Let us know if you are still having a challenge reading the post

  5. Carol says:

    I am curious why the Capital One Venture card isn’t rated higher or considered among the best to use for everyday purchases since it earns two miles for every dollar spent.

  6. The Nomad says:

    @Carol I have included Capital One Venture. It is a good VISA ‘cashback’ card (see the 2nd para of my analysis). However I would rate the Amex Premium Rewards (1pt on everything, 2 points on gas,groceries, 3 points on airfare) higher than the Capital One Venture. This is based on the valuation of Membership reward points at 2cents/pt which you can easily get since you can transfer the points instantaneously to many airlines. Moreover they frequently have bonuses for the transfers.

    That being said, it depends on your spending and redemption trends. If you redeem Membership Reward points for gift cards, you wont get more than 1cent/pt and the Venture is a much better card.

    A side note: if you really want a 2% cashback card, get the Fidelity Amex card. You can get straight 2% back or 2 Aeroplan miles/$. Moreover the Fidelity card is free whereas the Venture card has an annual fee of $59.

  7. […] if it is true, this is a very good promotion because there are very few cards that offer bonus miles/points on dining. At least for dining expenditures, the OnePass card would become the best miles/points card during […]

  8. […] had discussed earlier that the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card is a great card if you spend a lot on airfares (3 […]

  9. Adam says:

    You write “Fidelity Visa (1.5 points per $ up to $15000)”, but you should mention that after $15k, the rewards jump to match Fidelity AmEx’s 2 points per $ (1 pont = 1$ or 1 Aeroplan mile, also a few other redemption options exist).

  10. […] without the signup bonus, this is a good Visa card as I have discussed in an earlier post. In that post I also discussed the best cards in every category of spending. I don’t have many of […]

  11. Carol says:

    Thanks for your response – I am still learning. You said you value Membership Rewards Points at 2-cents each, which can easily be transferred to many airlines. Does that mean you value airline reward miles at 2-cents per mile? As someone who flies 3 or 4 times a year, always coach, I am finding it extremely difficult to find flights for 25,000 miles that don’t have ridiculously early or late flight times or more than one stopover. Sometimes I travel with children or my elderly mother and those times just don’t work. I have quite a few miles on Delta, American and Continental as well as Membership Rewards points and Capital One points. I am getting very discouraged by this and am wondering if you have any suggestions.

  12. The Nomad says:

    @ Adam Thanks for that. I forgot to mention it. I will edit the post to include the info.

    @ Carol: No I value airline miles at 1.5 cents/mile. However I value Mermbership Reward points higher than miles in a particular airline for two reasons:

    1) Miles in a particular airline can be used only on that airline or select partners. However with Membership reward points, you can transfer points to any alliance and almost always get the ticket that you want. The flexibility has some value!

    2) There are frequent transfer bonuses to various airlines that increase the value of Membership Reward points. For example, there was a 40% bonus for transferring to British Airways that ended on March 31. Delta still has a 50% bonus+25K MQM bonus for transferring 50K miles.

    Regarding reward flights, I redeem for a lot of coach flights and almost always find the routing that I want at the ‘low’ award level. But that requires being persistent. I would be covering the trick for Delta rewards in a future blog post. If you need any help feel free to email me at only[dot]the[dot]nomad[at]gmail[dot]com

  13. […] Nomad has an extensive blog that might be helpful http://boardingarea.com/unroad…arry-part-iii/ __________________ PM me for a SPG Amex referral. You get 25K bonus miles, I get […]

  14. […] in rotating categories, it is a decent no annual-fee back up for Starwood/Hilton Amex. As I have discussed earlier, the 5% cashback often offers the best return on your […]

  15. […] ? document.write(''); Mentioned in this link as one gives 3% – seems all around: http://boardingarea.com/unroad…arry-part-iii/ Which card is this? Otherwise, is there a card that gives 3% reward on every […]

  16. […] on TV that it earn two points per dollar charged. My co-blogger, the Nomad rated it as one of the Best ‘other’ rewards Card. Good deal or not? As I started typing my response to Andy’s email, I realized that I was […]

  17. […] If you had an infinite wallet, what credit cards would you carry? – Part III […]

  18. […] Originally Posted by Ducati Where are the details for the points conversion? Hard to find but published in various Flyertalk threads and around the internet. You get 2 BofA Worldpoints for every dollar spent. You can have this automatically converted and transfered to a Fidelity account. OR you can use those Worldpoints just like any other. i.e. transfer them to Aeroplan. http://boardingarea.com/tmtrav…a-card-holder/ A helpful chart: http://boardingarea.com/unroad…arry-part-iii/ […]

  19. […] If you had an Infinite Wallet, what card would you carry – Part III […]

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