Money at 30: My Personal Credit Card Strategy for 2022
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Amazingly, 2021 is already coming to an end. In turn, like many people, I’ve been spending the past few days reflecting on the year that was and looking ahead to what 2022 might bring. Being a financial writer, part of this process includes looking at my wallet and assessing what changes I’ve made/will make to my credit card usage in order to maximize rewards.
This is actually the third year I’ve documented my evolving credit card strategy. And while this year has a lot of repeats, it also has a few shake-ups as well. With that tease, let’s take a look at what will be in my wallet next year:
What Credit Cards I’m Using in 2022 and Why
American Express Platinum Card
What I’ll Be Using it For in 2022: Amex Offers, special credits, travel bookings, and travel perks.
When 2021 began, I wasn’t so sure what type of year it would be for me and my Platinum card. After all, while 2020 saw the travel benefits that initially drew me to the card dry up as there was no travel to speak of, Amex made things right by issuing a ton of temporary credits to cardholders. Well, as it turned out, the year was a bit of a hybrid as I did see some additional temporary perks to help me get my money’s worth, while the end of the year saw me returning to some of the Centurion Lounges and racking up points in some of the 5x categories. Heck, I was even able to use my airline incidental credit this year!
Of course, the biggest story regarding the Platinum card in 2021 was the overhaul it got this summer. The good news is that the card added new perks and credits without removing anything… but the downside was a fee hike from an already-pricey $550 to an even steeper $695. At the time, I stated that the hotel credit alone would make this trade off worth it for me and, sure enough, I was able to redeem said credit last week. So, while travel is once again looking a little dicey after a few decent months, I’m fairly confident that I’ll still be benefitting from the expensive but powerful Platinum card.
American Express Gold Card
What I’ll Be Using it For in 2022: Most dining and grocery store spending, as well as using associated credits.
For a long time, I put off getting the Amex Gold Card because I had other cards that did a decent job in its spending categories and didn’t think I’d make use of its credits. Well, if you’ll recall, a killer welcome bonus offer changed my mind near the end of 2020, making 2021 my first full year with the card. So how did it go? Pretty well in my estimation.
First, as I anticipated, combining the Uber credits from the Platinum and Gold has been good as it allows us to essentially get one free meal a month — and with the Uber Eats pick up option, we make our credit go pretty far instead of wasting a good portion on fees. The same goes for the $10 dining credit, which we typically end up using on Grubhub since we don’t have the other eligible restaurants near us (although we do use it for Shake Shack when we’re out of town).
Meanwhile, in terms of rewards, the 4x on dining and 4x at supermarkets categories have really helped accelerate our Membership Rewards points earnings. As a result, I definitely think the value we’re getting is greater than the $250 annual fee, making this one worth keeping as well.
Capital One SavorOne
What I’ll Be Using it For in 2022: Entertainment, occasional restaurant spend, and foreign spending
It’s true that our SavorOne acts a bit like a backup to our Gold card. While the Gold has 4x points on dining, SavorOne has 3% cashback in that category. Additionally, this card upped its grocery store rewards rate from 2% to 3% back this year, also putting it just shy of the Gold card’s 4x. Despite the delta in both categories, the truth is that it’s sometimes nice to get cashback instead of socking away points that aren’t quite as liquid.
On top of that, the SavorOne has also come through for us in its other 3% category: entertainment. This year, we managed to earn 3% back on such purchases as theme park annual passes, runDisney races, and more. Meanwhile, with the card being a Mastercard that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, it was suddenly elevated to my go-to card on a recent trip to France. For those reasons, the SavorOne retains its prime spot next to my Platinum card in my phone case wallet — a high honor, indeed.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
What I’ll Be Using it For in 2022: General travel purchases
Last year, for the first time, my wife and I applied for a credit card entirely because the welcome bonus was so good. That’s how the Chase Sapphire Preferred entered our lives. To be honest, we didn’t have a ton of ideas for how the card would benefit us at the time… and that hasn’t changed too much. Nevertheless, since the card does earn 2x on general travel purchases (compared to the Platinum card’s 5x on airfare and 5x on prepaid hotel bookings purchased on Amex Travel), it’s come in handy a few times. Most recently, this included my parking debacle, as our $55 a night fee at least yielded 2x Ultimate Rewards points.
Recently, the Sapphire Preferred also saw some changes that I’d say were positive overall. Still, this one’s a bit of a wild card (no pun intended) and could end up being swapped for either the Freedom Flex or Sapphire Reserve by 2023. But, in the meantime, I’ll keep looking for ways to make use of this card in order to cover that $95 annual fee.
What I’ll Be Using it For in 2022: Non-category Apple Pay purchases and T-Mobile bills
While the Apple Card might not have a ton of use cases for me, when it’s needed it comes through. Basically, this is our “when there’s nothing else” option thanks to the 2% it offers on all Apple Pay spend. So, when we took our car in for servicing and we learned they took Apple Pay, we suddenly doubled our reward from the 1% we’d earn with any other card.
In 2021, I actually learned something new about the Apple Card as well: it earns 3% back on T-Mobile purchases. After learning this, I was able to change my recurring billing and now earn about $5 back every month. Also, once again, this one also came in handy overseas as I was using Apple Pay for nearly every transaction anyway.
Overall Thoughts on My 2022 Credit Card Strategy
Bidding (near) farewell to two cards
If you compare my 2022 strategy to past posts, you may notice a couple of absences. First up, the once-great Uber credit card was near dead to me after it was revamped in 2019 but Barclays officially killed it off this year. In its place, they issued me the View card, which seems to only be available to those whose co-branded cards are discontinued. The bottom line is that this card has nothing to add to my current line-up and so I’ll just keep it active enough to not get canceled.
Also dropping out of any real usage is our PNC Everday Rewards. Last year, I explained how we were keeping the card alive since it’s my wife’s oldest account and still had some benefit for us. Well, over the past year, we noticed that our reward balance kept falling — which was an issue since you need to hit $100 in rewards before PNC would send you a check. Well, it turns out that rewards earned expired after a certain amount of time, and so our rewards earned kept slipping away. Thus, even though the card has 4% back on gas among other perks, it’s useless since we’d never be able to cash out. So, sadly, the card isn’t even worth considering as a part of our strategy anymore.
Exploring other point currencies
A recurring trend in these yearly updates has been a shift from a cashback set up to one that includes points (which has variable values). Until this year, those points were exclusively American Express Membership Rewards. However, 2021 saw my wife and me entering the world of Chase Ultimate Rewards Points as well.
Incidentally, between the two, I think I prefer Chase’s currency overall. That’s almost entirely thanks to the fact that the points can be cashed out for a fair 1¢ value compared to Amex’s paltry 0.6¢. Moreover, with Chase’s Pay Yourself Back program, we were able to use a handful of points for select purchases at a rate of 1.25¢ per point — which is also what we’d get if we wanted to redeem for travel on Chase’s portal.
With that said, I do still see a lot of value in Membership Rewards points and look forward to redeeming the more than 200k points I’ve now accrued. Funny enough, my first MR redemption was a bit of a bust since I had to cancel my trip, but rest assured that my next big buy-in will be awesome. Meanwhile, I’m finding that juggling two point currencies along with cashback really isn’t that difficult and makes me more interested in future expansion
Topping $1,000 in annual fees
Before applying for my Platinum card in 2019, I didn’t have any annual fee cards and never thought I would. Well, cut to two years later, and we’re not paying more than $1,000 in annual fees. That’s pretty mind-blowing!
To be fair, this figure does include the new $695 Platinum fee, despite the fact that I recently renewed at the previous $550 rate. More importantly, though, we were able to more than cover these fees with the benefits we received from each card. Heck, the Sapphire Preferred alone netted us $900 in value thanks to its killer sign-up bonus.
If I had to guess, I’d expect this figure to only climb over time. While, as I mentioned, there’s a chance we’ll end up swapping out the Sapphire Preferred in time, one option on the table is to upgrade that to the $550 Sapphire Reserve. Elsewhere, I’ve also expressed interest in the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve, which fetches a $400 annual fee. In any case, even if our total annual fees paid per year do end up rising, I’m sure we’ll be strategic and make sure we still come out on top.
Once again, 2021 turned out to be a pretty eventful year when it came to our wallets. For as much as I’ve continued to say that I’m done adding credit cards, that’s clearly not the case! In fact, I’m already eyeing some new options even as 2022 has yet to get underway. With that, we’ll see what else changes with my credit card strategy throughout the next year — and I’ll update you all again before 2023.
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