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It’s no secret that I love the points and miles game. Earning bonus points and strategizing how to earn nearly “free” travel gives me a thrill almost as great as the trip itself. The main reason I started this blog two years ago was to encourage others to travel more even with a full time job and redeeming points is a huge reason why we’re able to travel so much. When I first started out, I only held one card and one card only. I was holding onto the welcome bonus and other points I had accrued for dear life waiting for some magical trip to redeem them for. Ohhhhh man, if I could just go back a couple years–everything would be different! I can only imagine how many more points I could’ve had if I would have diversified my credit card strategy. But that’s why I’m so glad you’re here today! I’m sharing my secret with you so you don’t have to make the same mistake I did. In this article, you’ll learn why you should have more than one credit card and what are the best credit cards to earn points and miles.
In case you’re new here, head over to this post first to learn about why credit cards are so valuable for travel lovers. Then jump back over to this post to find out what credit cards you need in your wallet!
Table of Contents
Why you should diversify your credit cards
If you only have one or two credit cards in your wallet, you are significantly limiting the number of points you can earn! Welcome bonuses aside, being able to earn more than 1 point on the dollar is a great earning strategy. If you only have one card, you are most likely only receiving bonuses in 1-2 categories. If you have two cards, you could be expanding the number of categories you’re getting bonus points in but still not reaching your full potential! With these four cards, you’re ensuring you are always earning more than 1 point on the dollar.
Is that clear as mud? Let me give you an example…
If you only hold one card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred (which I think every beginner should have!), you’re only getting 2-3x points in travel and dining! So for most of your daily spend, you’ll only receive 1x points for things like gas and groceries.
Now, let’s say you have 2 cards. You hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the American Express Gold. This is an excellent combination, no doubt. Now with these two cards, if you use the CSP for travel you’re getting 2x points. If you use the Gold for groceries and dining out, you’re getting 4x points! That has already skyrocketed your points-earning potential.
But what about gas? What about those miscellaneous bills and spending for your pet or shopping or oil changes? If you hold all four of these cards, you are getting bonuses in every single category. Even if you are spending in a “miscellaneous” category, at the very least a card like the Capital One Venture card will earn you 2x miles on everything. Yep, everything! Double the points in a year than you would’ve gotten with just one card? Don’t mind if I do!
Why not use a “Double Rewards” card for everything?
I know what you’re thinking… why don’t I just use a double earning card like the Capital One Venture for everything? That’s a really great strategy if you don’t feel comfortable with alternating multiple cards. However, if you want to maximize award redemptions, it’s important to have multiple transfer partners available to you.
Most big credit card companies have a relationship with other businesses that allow you to transfer your hard earned points and miles to the airline or hotel of your choice. This is super important because more often than not, transferring directly to the airline or hotel requires much less points than booking through the credit card portal! Each major credit card has different “transfer partners.” Some overlap and some do not.
You can see a full list of various transfer partners on Miles to Memories.
When you hold a card with a variety of larger banks, you are opening yourself up to virtually any airline and most major hotel chains. Even better if a partner you have your eye on overlaps because you can transfer some points from one bank and points from another bank. This is especially valuable for really large redemptions!
With my list of must have credit cards, you’ll hold a card within most major banks in the credit card space. This opens you up to an endless number of partners and redemption options! For the most part, these are 4 cards I have open and plan to keep open for a long, long time.
The best credit cards to maximize your points and miles
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
There’s a reason the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP from here on out) is the #1 recommended card for beginning points and miles lovers. The CSP has a great welcome offer and its number of travel partners makes it a stand out.
- Spend $4,000 in 3 months and receive 60,000 bonus points
- $50 annual credit to be used on certain hotels through the Ultimate Rewards portal
- 5x points earned on travel purchases through the Chase portal and 2x on all other travel purchases
- 3x on dining (in the US only) and 3x at online grocery stores
$95 annual fee
Learn more here.
American Express® Gold Card
If you eat, you need this card. And last time I checked, every human with a pulse eats sooo you need this card–no excuses! The annual fee may be a little higher than other “starter” cards but the perks of the American Express Gold are more than worth it!
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after $4,000 of spend on eligible purchases within the first 6 months
- 4x at restaurants (worldwide!!) and 4x at US supermarkets
- 3x for flights booked through amex.com
- Up to $120 Uber Cash ($10 per month when connected to your Uber account)
- Up to $120 dining credit ($10 per month at select locations)
$250 annual fee. Terms Apply | Rates & Fees
Learn more here.
Citi Premier® Card
An often overlooked card for some of the other big players out there, this card deserves a spot in your wallet! The Citi Premier is actually very similar to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, so for the same annual fee this is a no brainer choice while the welcome offer is increased. We are both Citi Premier holders and love the bonus points for the gas and restaurant categories. This elevated offer has been around for awhile, so it might not be around too much longer! Grab it while it’s still increased!
- 80,000 Thank You points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of card opening
- 3x at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations (US only)
- 3x on air travel and hotels
$95 annual fee
Learn more here.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
My new favorite, the Capital One Venture X is on the newer side but has quickly become a must-have in the points and miles community! I love this card for its 2x mile earnings on everything and most importantly… lounge access! I keep this card in my wallet as a good go-to for miscellaneous spending with excellent luxury travel benefits.
- 75,000 bonus miles after $4,000 in spend within the first 3 months of card opening
- 10x on cars and hotels booked through the Capital One portal
- 5x on flights booked through the portal
- 2x on everything else
- Access to the Capital One lounge plus over 1,300 lounges around the world
- $300 annual travel credit
- $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA precheck
Annual fee $395
Learn more here.
I understand this annual fee is much higher than the others, but the perks are more than worth it. Still not convinced? Add the Capital One Venture to your stack so you still get 2x on everything.
While being in the points and miles world can be overwhelming at times, it really is key to hold more than just one or two credit cards. Opening multiple cards with the big players in the points and miles game allows you to earn exponentially more points and provides you with more transfer partners. When you know how to strategically use your credit cards, that dream vacation is closer than you think! With these four cards mentioned in this article, you will have the opportunity to earn more than 1x points on every single purchase and rack up more points than you even know what to do with!
How many cards do you currently have open? Are you hoping to open more to diversify your points and miles strategy? Let me know in the comments below.