2017 Credit Card Inventory: Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel

Jun 20, 2017

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express, Citi Prestige CardJetBlue Plus CardCiti AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MastercardCiti Double Cash Card

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 Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel’s turn to dig in.

All right, it’s cutdown day! Just like in the NFL when teams are required to get from 90 players down to a 53-man roster, it’s time to make some tough decisions. I’ve got way too many credit cards — a total of 28 right now — and while I’m fortunate that TPG pays the annual fees for me, it’s become a hassle to keep it all organized.

So some cards are going to be given the bad news today that they’ve worked hard but there’s just no place for them on my team anymore and I wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors.

In This Post

What’s Currently in My Wallet

Card Annual Fee Issuer
KEEPING
The Optima Card from American Express $0 American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz Normally $550 but grandfathered at $450 for one more year American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express $95 American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express $0 (first year); then $95 American Express
Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card $0 Bank of America
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard #1 $95 Barclaycard
JetBlue Plus Card $99 Barclaycard
Chase Freedom #1 $0 Chase
Chase Ink Bold Business Card $95 Chase
Disney Rewards Visa $0 Chase
United MileagePlus Explorer Card $95 Chase
Citi AT&T Access More $95 Citibank
Citi Dividend $0 Citibank
Citi Prestige Card #1 $450 Citibank
Citi Premier Card $95 Citibank
City National Crystal Visa Infinite $400 City National Bank
Discover More $0 Discover
Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card $0 Fidelity/Elan
TD Aeroplan Visa Signature Credit Card $95 TD Bank
Club Carlson Rewards Visa Card $0 US Bank
CONVERTING
Chase Freedom #2 –> Chase Freedom Unlimited $0 Chase
CANCELING
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express $450 American Express
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card $75 Bank of America
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard #2 $95 Barclaycard
Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard $0 Barclaycard
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard $99 Citibank
Citi Prestige Card #2 $450 Citibank
Discover it $0 Discover
WISH LIST
The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express $0 American Express
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express $0 American Express
Chase Sapphire Reserve $450 Chase
Hyatt Credit Card $75 Chase
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card $400 US Bank
TOTAL IN ANNUAL FEES BEFORE CHANGES: $3,229
TOTAL IN ANNUAL FEES AFTER CHANGES: $2,064 ($1,165 in savings)

Keep reading for a look at why each card earns a place in my wallet or why I’m thinking about adding a new card.

American Express

The Business Platinum Card from American Express and The Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz

Annual fee: $450 each (grandfathered for one year on the personal card)

My take: We’re starting with one of the harder choices right out of the gate. I definitely want to keep an Amex Platinum card for all the travel benefits such as Centurion Lounge and Priority Pass access, plus elite status at Hilton, Marriott and Starwood and a whole lot more. But since I have both the personal and business versions of this card, the question is: which one do I keep? A month ago the decision would have been easy — the 50% points rebate made the business version a no-brainer. But now that rebate has dropped to 35%, making the perk much less attractive. On the other hand, the personal Platinum has added a $200 Uber ride credit, which is useful to me in New York City even if it’s handed out in an inconvenient monthly fashion. On top of it all, my annual fee happens to land next month, which means I’ll be grandfathered into the old $450 version for one more year (existing Platinum cardmembers with annual fees before September 1 are grandfathered) but I’ll still get the upgraded perks. Add it all together and the personal card ends up being the keeper over the business one.

Verdict: Keep the personal, cancel the business

The Optima Card from American Express

Annual fee: $0

My take: This is a long-discontinued card and the oldest in my inventory. Since it has no annual fee, it doesn’t cost me anything to hang onto it, and it’s good for adding to the length of credit report. However, I’ve currently got three credit cards with American Express (credit, not charge) and I’ve already got two more on my wish list which will put me at the limit of credit cards I’m allowed to have with Amex. For years this was the card I used to keep my Membership Rewards points alive between other American Express applications and cancellations, but now I’d rather get a new Blue Business Plus Card from American Express for that purpose. I’ll hang onto this one for the moment, but it may soon go the way of the dodo.

Verdict: Keep

Use the Starpoints you earn from these cards' sign-up bonuses to stay at properties across the globe, like the W Paris Opera. Image courtesy of Starwood.
The highly rated W Paris Opera is one property I’d like to try booking with Starpoints. Image courtesy of Starwood.

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

My take: I got this card last year when it was available with a 35,000-point bonus, (now 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months) and with the launch of the World of Hyatt, I’ve started to shift my hotel stays from Hyatt to Starwood.

Verdict: Keep

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

My take: I added this business version of the SPG card just last month when it was also available at 35,000 points (now 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months), so since I’m in my first year, I don’t have to pay any annual fee for it right now.

Verdict: Keep

Bank of America

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card

Annual fee: $75

My take: I’m definitely a major fan of Alaska Airlines and its Mileage Plan program, but I don’t use this card very much and Alaska isn’t a major player in New York… yet. I’m going to drop this card for now, but down the road when Alaska and Virgin America are fully combined and Alaska has the Virgin network in place with a unified loyalty program, I’ll consider picking it up again.

Verdict: Cancel

Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card

Annual fee: $0

My take: This is a lesser-known Bank of America card that offers 1.5 points per dollar spent on everything. That’s not as good as the 2% and 2x options out there, but it’s a Visa with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, so it’s not a bad card to keep around if I need a decent card in a pinch.

Verdict: Keep

Barclaycard

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard #1 and AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard #2

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

My take: These two cards used to be US Airways Dividend Mastercards and are left over from a time when you could be approved for several of them. Those days are long gone, but now these are American Aviator cards, and it’s worth keeping at least one of them for the benefits it offers, though I don’t really need both. As it happens, when I originally applied for one of these cards, it came with 10,000 bonus miles on each and every cardmember anniversary, which have continued to arrive like clockwork long after the merger. So it’s pretty clear which one of these two I’ll cancel.

Verdict: Keep the one with 10,000 anniversary miles, cancel the other

Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard

Annual fee: $0

My take: This is the “non-plus” version of the Arrival card, and it actually ended up in my inventory thanks to a conversion I did from a Lufthansa Miles & More card some years back. It’s been sitting idle for quite a while now and I’ve long ago used up all my Arrival miles, so while it wouldn’t cost anything to keep, since I’m trying to simplify things, I’ll go ahead and get rid of it.

Verdict: Cancel

Mint
Mint is one of the best transcontinental premium-cabin products. Image courtesy of JetBlue.

JetBlue Plus Card

Annual fee: $99

My take: This might be one of the most obvious keepers in my entire inventory. JetBlue is a favorite airline of mine, especially for transcontinental flights, thanks not only to its terrific Mint cabin but also to its economy seats with comfortably above-average pitch and free gate-to-gate Wi-Fi as well. This card comes with a 10% points rebate on all redemptions without any cap (which is an awesome benefit), 6x points on JetBlue purchases and even 5,000 bonus points at each anniversary. For my needs, this is a no-brainer.

Verdict: Keep

Chase

Chase Freedom #1 and Chase Freedom #2

Annual fee: $0

My take: Why do I have two Chase Freedoms? I honestly don’t even remember. But they’re both very old cards that almost certainly started out coming from separate banks many years ago, and as those banks’ card portfolios got acquired and merged over time, they ended up as Chase Freedoms. Fortunately, this is a great situation to be in, because while I love the rotating 5x quarterly categories on this card, I don’t usually have enough specific spend to use up my $1,500 cap on two cards. On the other hand, I’d love to get a Chase Freedom Unlimited, but I’m well over 5/24 so I wouldn’t be able to get approved for one if I applied from scratch. The solution is obvious — I can convert one of these to an Unlimited and still keep the other one to take advantage of the rotating categories. It’s a perfect case of having your cake and eating it too.

Verdict: Keep one, convert the other to a Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Ink Bold Business Card

Annual fee: $95

My take: This card was discontinued last year in favor of the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, and while I’d eventually like to get one of those as well, I don’t want to give up my Ink Bold anytime soon. I can definitely take advantage of this card’s 5x bonus categories, particularly office supplies for purchases at Staples and OfficeMax/Office Depot, and will easily earn enough Ultimate Rewards points that way to offset the annual fee. Yep, this card ain’t going anywhere.

Verdict: Keep

Disney Rewards Visa

Annual fee: $0

My take: Sometimes there’s a card in your inventory that doesn’t seem to make much sense in the grand scheme of things, but which occupies its own niche use. In this case, I’ve got a girlfriend who’s a Disney fanatic, and so we make frequent trips to Disney theme parks — in fact, we’ve been to all 12 Disney parks on the planet. (Yes, twelve.) The Disney Rewards Visa isn’t terribly valuable from a points perspective, and in most cases other cards would serve you better for travel rewards. But when I’m in a Disney theme park, I can get 10% off on merchandise and at select dining locations, plus attend special character meet and greets and access other exclusive Disney events. It’s a card I only need for very specific circumstances, but I need it when I need it.

Verdict: Keep

United MileagePlus Explorer Card

United 777-300ER 77W Polaris HKG Review
My United card is just going to barely make the cut this year.

Annual fee: $95

My take: Under normal circumstances, this card would probably be a goner. Co-branded airline cards don’t do much for me anymore, and a card like this doesn’t earn anywhere near enough miles to be worth using on a regular basis. However, this card has one unique and very cool perk that will keep it in my wallet, and that’s the expanded United award availability it provides, which really does open up extra seats on United flights. Also, I’ve pretty much had it with American Airlines myself as an Executive Platinum and I’m considering moving my focus to another airline, though I don’t think it’s going to be United thanks to its horrendous basic economy policies. More likely than not I’ll go with Delta or become a free agent. But if I do make United my airline, I’ll need this card to waive the Premier Qualification Dollars requirement for elite status by putting $25,000 in spend on it. So this card stays… for now.

Verdict: Keep

Citibank

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Annual fee: $99

My take: Since I’m already keeping an AAdvantage Aviator card that gives me 10,000 bonus miles on each anniversary, I can’t really justify keeping this AA card as well. The benefits vary slightly between the two different versions, but the key perks to me — a free checked bag, 10% rebate on redeemed miles up to 10,000 miles per calendar year and access to Reduced Mileage Awards — are identical. Plus American, after devaluing its program, has been especially stingy with award space in the last year, a fact that I will make clear to the phone agent when I call to cancel this card.

Verdict: Cancel

Citi AT&T Access More

Annual fee: $95

My take: This is another discontinued card that, like the Chase Ink Bold, will probably remain in my inventory for a good long while. It gives me 3x points for online retail purchases, which is extremely valuable since I do a lot of internet transactions. ThankYou points are going to be less valuable to me starting in July when the Citi Prestige benefits change, but there will still be enough uses to warrant earning a decent quantity of them.

Verdict: Keep

Citi Dividend

Annual fee: $0

My take: You can’t apply for a Citi Dividend card anymore, and lately Citibank has been imploring me to convert mine to a Citi Double Cash Card. While I do like the Double Cash card, I already have a “2% everywhere” cash-back card with my Fidelity card, and I’d rather have the 5% rotating quarterly bonus categories that the Citi Dividend offers. The quarter we’re in right now features drugstores as a bonus category, and the bonus category “cap” on this card is $6,000 for the entire year, versus $1,500 per quarter on the Chase Freedom and Discover cards. So when there’s a category that works for me, I can really maximize it.

Verdict: Keep

Citi Prestige Card #1 and Citi Prestige Card #2

Annual fee: $450

My take: Two Prestige cards? That’s expensive. I’ve had at least one Prestige for a number of years now, even back when Flight Points was an awesome benefit of the card. Flight Points are long gone but the Citi Prestige has still been a super useful card for me thanks to its Admirals Club access and 1.6 cents per dollar redemption rate on American flights booked through the ThankYou travel portal. Unfortunately both of those benefits went away on July 23, 2017, but the card will still offer the ultra-valuable 4th Night Free perk, which can easily save me at least $450 a year (and that doesn’t include the $250 annual airline credit which is also remaining). Clearly I don’t need two of these cards, but I’ll definitely hang onto one of them.

Verdict: Keep one, cancel the other

Citi Premier Card

Annual fee: $95

My take: Oddly enough, the Citi Premier card comes with a better travel category bonus than its more expensive brother. Not only do you get 3x on travel with this card — as you do with the Prestige — but travel is defined much more broadly on the Premier. It even includes gas stations! It’s a relatively cheap card and is useful enough to me that I’ll stick with it for the moment.

Verdict: Keep

City National Bank

City National Crystal Visa Infinite

Annual fee: $400

My take: I just recently paid the annual fee on this card so I’m hanging onto it for now, though I’ll have to see how this year unfolds. The card is a Visa Infinite so it does offer extra benefits, including a $100 discount on round-trip flights for two or more. It also has a fairly wide range of bonus categories, including 3 points per dollar spent on gasoline, grocery, airline, hotel, taxi, limousine, rental car, train, bus, restaurant, fast food, takeout food and dining purchases, but you can only get about 1.1 cents apiece for those points when redeeming for travel. Given how many other cards I have which offer bonus categories and more valuable points, this card might only last one more year, but for now it stays off the chopping block.

Verdict: Keep

Discover

Discover it

Annual fee: $0

My take: I got this card for the double cash back it offered in the first year, but that year ended a while ago and I don’t really need two Discover cards, even though they both come with no annual fee. My older Discover More card is no longer offered as a new product and it has a much longer credit history on it, so I’ll cancel this Discover it card and possibly convert my Discover More to a Discover it down the road.

Verdict: Cancel

Discover More

Annual fee: $0

My take: This is another discontinued card that I’ve kept in my inventory for a very long time, and since it has no annual fee I have no real reason to cancel it. It also offers the same 5% cash back rotating bonus categories each quarter as the Discover it, some of which can be extremely valuable (such as restaurants which will be in effect for the third quarter this year). Discover isn’t always accepted at the same merchants as Visa or Mastercard, but it certainly works widely enough that it’s worth keeping in my wallet when it’s in the middle of a solid bonus category.

Verdict: Keep

Fidelity/Elan

Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card

Annual fee: $0

My take: This is one of the “2% on everything” no annual fee cash-back cards on the market, and while it’s a little inconvenient to have to deposit the cash back into a Fidelity account, it’s not difficult once you’ve got everything set up. The card switched from Amex to Visa last year, which makes it a little easier to use, and definitely makes it a solid backup card when I’m not making a purchase that’s eligible for a bonus category or working on a minimum spend.

Verdict: Keep

TD Bank

new-livery-1
Air Canada has a new livery… and eventually a new frequent flyer program too.

TD Aeroplan Visa Signature Credit Card

Annual fee: $95

My take: I just renewed this card last month, right before Air Canada announced that it was going to part ways with Aeroplan. Fortunately, that won’t happen until 2020 so it doesn’t have much effect on this card at the moment. But for a card that was already on the edge of getting cut, it’s unlikely this card makes it beyond one more year. The spend on the card counts toward Distinction status, which is a nice perk, but I can earn Amex Membership Rewards much more easily and transfer those points to Aeroplan miles rather than putting spend on this card.

Verdict: Keep

US Bank

Club Carlson Rewards Visa Card

Annual fee: $0

My take: For a few years the Club Carlson cards were great because the Bonus Award Night benefit effectively doubled the value of the program’s points. Unfortunately Club Carlson did away with that benefit in 2015, and then earlier this year the European 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 perks were discontinued as well. Club Carlson points are worth very little so even for no annual fee, there’s absolutely no reason for me to continue holding on to this card.

Verdict: Cancel

Bottom Line

I cut seven cards from my inventory, leaving me with 21 total cards. That’s a 25% reduction which isn’t bad and definitely a bit more manageable from a organizational point of view. In a lot of ways, that’s my biggest issue — keeping track of everything, making sure each bill gets paid on time via an auto debit function or manually if needed, paying attention when annual fees hit and so on.

The upside of all this work is absolutely worthwhile to me — I love having a substantial number of points and miles at my beck and call, not only because I can travel for little to no cost, but because of the flexibility it gives me. I can book the outbound leg of a trip to Europe and not be in a huge panic to set the return leg because I know with so many points and miles options, there’s almost always a way for me to snag a flight home at the last minute. That lets me enjoy my travel more, and that’s what makes all the work worth it.

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.