2017 Credit Card Inventory: Assistant Editor Nick Ellis

Jun 9, 2017

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One of the many perks of working at TPG is that we reimburse credit card annual fees, enabling full-time employees to build familiarity with a large variety of products and programs. That doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all, though — we encourage employees to choose their cards wisely based on their personal spending habits, just like they otherwise would. They also need to be mindful about minimum-spend requirements — to use restraint and not bite off more than they can chew whenever another fantastic offer pops up.

Now, in response to feedback received following TPG’s own 2017 inventory post, we’re asking our editors to open up their wallets, detailing which cards they currently have and why. Today, it’s Assistant Editor Nick Ellis’ turn to dig in.

I already had my toes in the points and miles game before I started at TPG, but my strategy was more reactive than proactive — I basically relied on the cards that I already had (and that my parents had) to plan family vacations and getaways with as little out-of-pocket cost as possible. That all changed when I began as a TPG intern just over a year ago. Over the past 12 months, I’ve signed up for seven new cards, bringing my total to nine. I’ve opened each with a specific purpose (mainly to take advantage of increased welcome offers) and have tried my best to follow tips from TPG on how to maximize my daily spending.

At this point, I’m not canceling any cards — I’m finding that I can still get good value even out of the cards that I’m not using often. And, my wallet could be getting even heavier soon; there are a few cards on my wish list that I’ll most likely open this year.

In This Post

What’s Currently in My Wallet

Card Annual Fee Issuer
KEEPING
The Platinum Card® from American Express $550 (see rates & fees) American Express
Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express $450 American Express
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express $195 American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express $95 (waived for the first year) American Express
Chase Freedom Unlimited $0 Chase
Chase Sapphire Reserve $450 Chase
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card $450 Chase
Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard $95 (waived for the first year) Citi
Citi Prestige Card $450 Citi
WISH LIST
The Hyatt Credit Card $75 Chase
Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card $95 Chase
TOTAL IN ANNUAL FEES BEFORE CHANGES: $2,735
TOTAL IN ANNUAL FEES AFTER CHANGES: $2,735 ($0 in savings)

Keep reading for a look at why each card earns a place in my wallet.

American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express

Annual fee: $550

My take: They say timing is everything, and that couldn’t be more true with regard to my Amex Platinum card. About three weeks into my internship here at TPG, Amex offered an incredible 100,000-point welcome bonus for the card — and I couldn’t resist. When I signed up, the annual fee was $450 but it lacked one key perk: 5 bonus points per dollar spent on airfare purchases through Amex Travel or directly through the airline. While I use the card for purchasing flights, I don’t use it for daily spend since there’s no bonus category there. Potentially, the card’s best value is in the access it provides at airports. Cardmembers can get into Amex’s fantastic Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when flying with the airline, and can receive a complimentary Priority Pass membership.

Verdict: Keep

Amex Centurion Lounge IAH
Centurion Lounges are a great place to have a meal before a flight.

Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee: $450

My take: I’ve been focusing on racking up as many Delta MQMs as possible this year, with the hope of reaching Platinum or even Diamond status with the carrier. The Delta Reserve Amex allows you to earn 10,000 MQMs after making your first purchase, and then allows you to earn up to 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles if you spend at least $60,000 in a year. That’s a steep spending requirement, but top-tier status can be tremendously rewarding if you’re a frequent traveler (or are just sick of flying in coach!). You also get access to Delta’s network of Sky Clubs when you’re flying the carrier, which makes traveling a whole lot more comfortable and enjoyable. The card also comes with a yearly companion pass, valid for a domestic economy or first-class ticket within the continental US, which could offer great value if you purchase an expensive flight and then split the cost with a friend or family member.

Verdict: Keep

Delta's 767s have staggered front-facing lie-flat seats.
Top-tier elite status with Delta can help you score upgrades to the Delta One cabin.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee: $195

My take: This card is another piece in the Delta elite status puzzle. It allows you to earn a Miles Boost — 10,000 redeemable miles and 10,000 MQMs after $25,000 in spend, and an additional 10k redeemable and 10k MQMs after $50,000. The card also comes with one coach companion pass per year, which I’m planning to use to split the cost of a transcontinental ticket to visit a friend in Los Angeles.

Verdict: Keep

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee: $95 (waived for the first year)

My take: I signed up for this card while it was offering an elevated welcome bonus of 35,000 Starpoints after spending a total of $5,000 within the first three months of account opening (the current offer is 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months). While Starpoints are very valuable and can be put to great use by transferring to one of SPG’s many partners, I’m saving a stash of Starpoints for a five-night vacation at a high-end Starwood property, such as the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort.

Verdict: Keep

Chase

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Annual fee: $0

My take: I use this card in tandem with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card to ensure maximum Ultimate Rewards point-earning potential. The card earns 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points on every purchase when paired with a Sapphire-branded card. I even put my rent on this card each month to earn extra points.

Verdict: Keep

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual fee: $450

My take: This is the card I use every single day — whether it’s buying food, a taxi/Uber or reloading my NYC MetroCard. The 3x bonus category on travel and dining expenses alone make this card worth it for me, not to mention the $300 annual travel credit. Combined with my Chase Freedom Unlimited card, I’m able to earn tons of Ultimate Rewards points for purchases I make every day. There are no foreign transaction fees associated with this card, either, so traveling abroad is a breeze.

Verdict: Keep

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: $450

My take: I opened this card when it was offering a sign-up bonus of three free nights at a Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton property after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening. The bonus has since dropped to two complimentary nights at a Tier 1-4 property after spending $4,000. I’ve already used my free nights earlier this year at the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan when my friends and I spent a long weekend in Puerto Rico. That alone made the card worth it to me, but I still find value in keeping the card because it comes with a $300 annual travel credit, which I used last year to upgrade myself to premium economy on a Virgin Atlantic flight from London. I tend to stay at Marriott or Ritz-Carlton properties when I travel, and this card allows me to earn 5x points per dollar spent at those properties plus SPG hotels.

Verdict: Keep

IMG_1581
I enjoyed my free vacation at the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan.

The Hyatt Credit Card

Annual fee: $75

My take: Hyatt’s co-branded card from Chase is a natural fit for me, and I’ll be opening it very soon. It has a low annual fee ($75) and comes with a fantastic sign-up bonus of two complimentary nights at any Hyatt worldwide (I’ve got my eye on the yet-to-open Park Hyatt St. Kitts) after you spend $2,000 within the first three months of account opening. The card also comes with a free anniversary night at any Category 1-4 property worldwide, which more than makes up for the annual fee.

Verdict: Wish list

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The Park Hyatt St. Kitts looks like it’s going to be an incredible property. Rendering courtesy of the hotel.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Annual fee: $95

My take: This card is high on my wish list mainly because of its sign-up bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 within the first three months of account opening. I’m always looking for ways to increase my Ultimate Rewards balance, so snagging this card would be instrumental in that plan — once I dip below the 5/24 rule, that is.

Verdict: Wish list

Citi

Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Annual fee: $95

My take: This is one of the first credit cards I ever signed up for while I was still in college. I was building up my mileage balance so I could visit friends who were studying abroad in Europe over my spring break. While I don’t fly American much anymore, I still keep this card open because when I do fly AA, I get a free checked bag and priority boarding, which I appreciate when I have carry-on luggage because I can get space in the overhead bins before the cabin fills up.

Verdict: Keep

Citi Prestige Card

My take: I use the Prestige overwhelmingly for one purpose — to take advantage of the 4th Night Free benefit. The annual fee is steep, but since opening the card last year I’ve more than gotten my money’s worth in savings on hotel stays. The card is also great for racking up ThankYou points since you earn 3 points per dollar spent on airfare and hotels and 2 per dollar on dining out and entertainment.

Verdict: Keep

Bottom Line

I’ve opened several cards over the last year that have helped me build a sizable stash of points in each major currency. Some of the cards I’ve opened have given me great perks like lounge access in airports, while others have allowed me to stay at high-end hotels for next to nothing. I’ve got a few cards on my wish list that I intend to open soon, and at that point I might consider closing some cards that aren’t giving me all that much value.

 For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, click here.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.