By Ken Yee
So you’ve entered the wonderful world of rewards credit cards and you’re done getting your sign-up bonuses. Now what? Now it’s time to figure out which cards are actually worth using. Each credit card comes with its own earnings potential. Most cards offer you one point/mile/cent per dollar spent and others offer double or even triple points per dollar spent. The bonus points are often tied to spending categories so when selecting which cards you want to use on a daily basis, it will be helpful to diversify.
Your Dining and Travel Card.
You’ve most likely heard about the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card and the chances are high that this card is one of the cards you signed up for. It offers a 40,000 point sign-up bonus, strong earnings potential (including a 7 percent annual dividend) and flexible rewards. With double points on a wide variety of travel expenses, and dining, you can feel comfortable that you’ve earned a pretty good return on your expenses. When you take a trip, you pay for airfare, hotel and food. With the Sapphire Preferred, you get double points on all those purchases.
Another Dining and Travel Card?
With your travel and dining expenses covered, the next credit card in your wallet, if you choose to carry one, should avoid both of those bonuses. Let’s say you also picked up the Chase Hyatt VISA for the sign-up bonus of two free nights. It used to be that there wasn’t much reason to use this card after you got the two free nights, except when staying at Hyatt hotels. However, recent improvements to this card have made it more user-friendly.
Some of the new improvements include earning double points on dining, airline tickets and car rentals. In other words, it offers the same points bonuses as the Sapphire Preferred. So which card do you use? With the annual dividend and more flexible rewards program, that includes transferring points into the Hyatt Gold Passport program, the nod goes to the Sapphire Preferred.
Citi Forward Card
This is Rick’s favorite dining card earning five points per dollar. The Thank You points program seems to be the forgetton sister in comparision to the Ultimate Rewards program. If you also have the Citi Premier card, points redeemed through the Premier card on travel earn at a rate of 1.33 per dollar. You can combine your points in the Thank You points programs making the earnings on your Forward card a whopping 6.25%.
Gas Stations and Grocery Stores
There are a number of other credit cards out there that offer bonus points or cash back on categories not related to travel or dining, like gas stations and grocery stores:
- The Chase Priority Club Select VISA offers double points on purchases made at gas stations and grocery stores.
- The Hilton HHonors American Express offers six points per dollar on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and even your cable/internet and cell phone bills.
- The Bank of America Bank Americard offers three percent cash back at gas stations and two percent cash back at grocery stores.
These spending categories offer a nice complement to the Sapphire Preferred. If you can earn three, five or six points on these categories instead of just one, that will add up over time.
IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
- Annual Fee: $49 fee waived for the first year
- Foreign Fees: No
- Card Type: Hotel
The IHG Rewards Club Visa is often cited as one of the most underrated hotel credit cards, with good reason. The official offer is for 70,000 points after $1,000 spent within three months, with the first year’s fee waived. The card comes with an annual free night certificate that can be used at any IHG property, including Intercontinental hotels - making this certificate worth upwards of 50,000 points. This is far more generous than some other hotel cards, which limit the categories in which free night certificates can be redeemed.
Cardholders earn 5 points per dollar at IHG hotels; 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants; 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Moreover, you’ll get a 10% rebate on award redemptions, up to 100,000 points per year. The card also comes with Platinum status, though that doesn’t get you much with IHG. Still, this is a fantastic card to have in your wallet, with benefits that far outweigh the already low $49 annual fee.
- Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
- Enjoy a free night of card membership at over 4,700 hotels worldwide
- Earn 5 points for each $1 spent at our hotels
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants
- Bonus points redeemable at hotels such as Intercontinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Inn®
- Automatic platinum elite status, as long as you remain a cardmember
- $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $49