Nicky's Corner

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In response to the number of questions Lya has received about the credit cards I use, here is a summary of which cards I have and why. Enjoy.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

  • $550 annual fee
  • $300 travel credit
  • 10x pts on hotels, car rentals, and dining booked through Chase
  • 5x pts on flights purchased through Chase
  • 3x pts on all other dining and travel 
  • 50% bonus value on points redeemed for travel through Chase
  • $100 credit for Global Entry or $85 for TSA precheck
  • Priority Pass
  • DashPass membership

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card has quickly become my favorite travel card. You simply can’t beat the value. The $550 annual fee is really $250 once the travel credit is applied. If you don’t have Global Entry or TSA precheck, Chase offers a credit to be used for membership to one or the other, redeemable every 4 years when membership needs to be renewed. Additional perks include Priority Pass lounge access and Dashpass, but the true advantage of this card lies in its points system. Let’s say I want to book a typical weekend getaway: flights, hotel, and maybe a rental car. If I use Chase’s website to book each, and later redeem any points accumulated on Chase travel, I’ve saved 15% of the cost of the hotel and rental car and 7.5% of the cost of the flights! No other card comes close to this level of savings. Moreover, you get 3 points for every dollar spent on dining and other travel related expenses, which can also be redeemed for a 50% bonus if used for travel.

American Express Platinum Card

  • $695 annual fee
  • $200 hotel credit
  • $240 digital entertainment credit ($20/month)
  • $200 uber credit ($15/month + $20 bonus in December) and guaranteed Uber VIP
  • $200 airline fee credit (incidentals like bags and food)
  • $189 Clear credit
  • 5x pts on flights and prepaid hotels through Amex Travel
  • Global Lounge Collection and Priority Pass
  • $100 credit for Global Entry or $85 for TSA precheck
  • Marriot and Hilton Gold Status

I used to love my American Express Platinum Card, but now it’s my contingency travel card used for its niche perks. I have my card setup to maximize value in this regard, with Amex crediting me $200 toward hotel purchases, $200 on Uber rides, $240 on my Disney+ bundle (ESPN+ and ad-free Hulu too), and $189 for Clear membership. There’s also a $200 fee credit for airline incidentals like baggage or food, but you have to select which airline you want it to apply to, and if you fly first-class, you’ll probably never use it. Take out the airline fee credit and that’s still an $829 value for $695, so not bad. Then you have the Global Lounge Collection which, in terms of quality, far surpasses what you get from Priority Pass. You also get a Global Entry or TSA precheck credit, so if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card you get both memberships paid for. Lastly, Amex offers gold status membership for Hilton and Marriot hotels, so I like to pay for bookings with my Chase card while taking advantage of the special privileges associated with gold status. The reason I don’t like Amex for points is because they offer no bonus when points are redeemed for travel. All in all, Amex is a great compliment to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card but should be by no means be your only travel card. If you must pick one, go with Chase.

Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card

  • $0 annual fee
  • 5% back on and Whole Foods purchases
  • 2% back on restaurants, gas stations, and drug stores

One of my favorite cards is the Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card. My daily expenses are almost entirely derived from Amazon or Whole foods, so getting 5% back is an incredible benefit over the long run. Additionally, this card offers 2% back on select categories (see above). Although the card charges no annual fee, you do need to be an Amazon Prime member to be eligible for this card. 

Mastercard Gold Card

  • $995 annual fee
  • $200 airline credit
  • 2x value on pts redeemed for travel or cash back

I use my Mastercard Gold Card for any purchases that don’t qualify for benefits from my other cards. With this card, you get back 2% of every dollar spent if you redeem your points for cash. Unfortunately, the annual fee is hefty. It’s basically a vanity card (it’s the heaviest of all the metal cards at 22 grams, 30% heavier than Amex Platinum and 70% heavier than Chase Sapphire Reserve). With the Gold card, assuming you use the $200 airline credit, you’re still in the hole by $795, requiring you to spend $39,750 before you breakeven. Every year, I call cardmember services and ask them to close my line of credit unless they reimburse me for the annual fee, which they do. The day they deny my request will be the day I close this card and open a Citi Double Cash Card (they offer double cash back for a $0 annual fee).