If you decide to sign up for any of the credit cards listed here, please show some love and use my referral links!
Chase Sapphire Reserve - Earn 50,000 bonus points with Chase Sapphire Reserve. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for the card. Learn more.
Chase Sapphire Preferred - Earn 50,000 bonus points with Chase Sapphire Preferred. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for the card. Learn more.
Chase Freedom Unlimited - Earn a $150 bonus with Chase Freedom Unlimited. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for the card. Learn more.
Chase Freedom - Earn a $150 bonus with Chase Freedom. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for the card. Learn more.
American Express Platinum - Earn 60,000 bonus points with American Express Platinum. This is a killer card.
I wrote a post on my Basic Strategy and promised to write up my complete personal strategy. This one is not for the feint of heart! I pretty much go full-nerd on this one and I’m only a little ashamed.
This is for people who a heavy amount of eating out, drinking out, entertaining out and traveling. This is especially great if you travel for work. HUGE bonus if you get to book your own travel plans!
I’m going to break this up into chunks so that you can reference it easier:
1. Main Credit Cards - Where to use and what to watch out for
2. Strategy Multiplier Cards - additional cards to my main arsenal
3. Maximizing with shopping portals
4. Maximizing office supply store spend - and sometimes gas stations
If you’re doing this for the first time, you’ll need to pay attention to what the sign up bonuses are at the time you are starting up. Maximize! Help a friend out and get a referral code from them too. You both win. Message me here or on social media and I’ll thank you profusely for getting one from me! You can modify this with anything from the Credit Card and Points Strategy Modifier post if you want more. Just watch out for the 5/24 rule. Keep in mind that depending on how you manage your household finances if you are married, you can maximize even further by getting cards under both names.
With any credit card strategy, the first card you use is always the one you are trying to earn the sign-up bonus on. After you have hit the spending requirement for a newly opened card, simply revert back to your strategy.
Keep reading below for tips, strategy, thoughts, etc. I recommend them in this order:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve - 50,000 bonus points after $5,000 spent in first 3 months
- American Express Platinum - 100,000 bonus points after $5,000 spent in first 3 months
- Chase Freedom Unlimited - 15,000 bonus points after $500 spent in first 3 months
- Chase Freedom - 15,000 bonus points after $500 spent in first three months
5. Chase Business Cash - 50,000 bonus points after $3,000 spent in first three months
- Chase Business Ink - 80,000 bonus points after $4,000 spent in first 3 months (don’t have a “business”? Click here.)
I recommend signing up for the Reserve card first since it's an "Ultimate Rewards" earning card rather than a "Cash Back" card. Then, you can transfer the points from your “cash cards” (Freedoms, Ink Cash) to your Reserve as Ultimate Rewards points. Reserve points are worth a MINIMUM of 1.5 cents per point on travel compared to the typical $.01. I also value the Ultimate Rewards higher than the Member Rewards from Amex. Amex is great for international travel, but Chase wins for domestic and in general for me. Points are worth far more when you use them for travel rather than simply cashing out. That's what this whole thing is about after all.
This is where I use each. This is NOT a list of all of their benefits. You can find that at https://milestomemories.boardingarea.com/. Use them where they get you the absolute most value whenever possible:
Chase Sapphire Reserve:
-3x Restaurants, Dining, Bars
-3x Travel including: taxis, Uber, Lyft, Tolls, Buses, Subways, Hotels, Parking, Rental Cars, etc
-Use for rental cars exclusively. They provide primary rental insurance and it’s better than Amex’s!
-TSA Precheck or Global Entry fee for free every 4 years
-Priority Pass Select: More flexible than Amex Priority Pass rules
-Points automatically worth 1.5 cents per point on travel booked through Ultimate Rewards portal
American Express Platinum:
-5x Flights booked directly with airlines
-5x Hotels booked through Fine Hotels and Resorts program (and still earn the hotel’s points!)
-High value purchases such as jewelry, watches, etc. Their loss protection is superior to Chase’s.
-Centurion Lounge access
-Priority Pass Select
-Note: Some lounges found on the Amex app aren’t on the priority pass list, so check here too!
-5x on quarterly bonus categories (Find this quarter’s category here)
-Max this out to the $1,500 spend during the quarter which nets you 7,500 UR points, then move to Unlimited
-See section on maximizing supply store and gas station spend to max out your categories
Chase Freedom Unlimited:
-1.5x on anything you purchase, anytime. All bills that don’t have a credit card fee -Everything
-Use this when the first 3 do not apply
Chase Business Ink Cash:
-5x at office supply stores (Staples, Office Depot, etc) up to first $25,000 in category each year
-5x on cellphone, landline, internet and cable tv services
-2x at restaurants and gas stations up to first $25,000 in category each year
-Primary car rental insurance (so rental car accidents dont hit your auto insurance)
Chase Business Ink Preferred:
-Note: I got this first because of the 80k bonus. If I could only get one due to 5/24, I’d get the Ink Cash card
-3x on phone, cable and internet charges
-3x on travel expenses (same categories as Reserve)
-Purchase of new phones has loss or damage coverage up to $600
This explains my everyday cards. Then I have the “multipliers,” which are cards that add benefits for me on top of their bonus offers. I’ll explain why on each of these down below. These are only the ones I have SO FAR since I only get them as needed and with consideration of the 5/24 rule.
- Chase Southwest Premier - 60,000 Rapid Rewards points after $4,000 spent in first 3 months*
- Chase Southwest Premier - 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after $3,000 spent in first 3 months*
- Chase Hyatt - 40,000 points after $2,000 spent in first 3 months
- Founders Card - Caesar’s Diamond Status with Wyndham Diamond match
The Southwest Companion pass is considered the most valuable travel perk out there and since I live in Houston which has a very large SW hub, this one is especially important. You have to accrue 110,000 Rapid Reward points and then you get the status for the remainder of that year and the entirety of the following calendar year! This status affords you the ability to select a companion. This companion will be able to fly for just the cost of fees and taxes ($11.40 domestic) on any flight that you book that has an available seat. That’s HUGE for me since I’m big on weekend trips. I shoot for at least one per month.
You can easily reach *Update: You can no longer achieve this with two of the personal cards. You now have to get one business and one personal* the 110,000 RR points by opening these two cards and meeting their spending requirements plus an additional $3,000 in spend. Try to time these as early in a calendar year as possible to maximize the status!
When I signed up for the Chase Hyatt card it had a two free night bonus for any Hyatt property in the world. This translated in to huge value for me. After reading all these points and miles blogs for weeks and seeing the extravagant hotels and flights I was especially excited to be able to do something similar that I’d never be able to, or allow myself to do, on cash. I used these nights at the Park Hyatt in New York City. At the time that I stayed, these rooms were selling for $1,495 per night! That would have cost me 60,000 Hyatt points compared to the 40,000 bonus offer now, but you would still get excellent value out of that sign up. You’d also get elevated Hyatt status which you could then match over to all of the M-Life properties in Vegas which is nice. Not as nice as Total Rewards (Caesar’s Properties) Diamond Status from the Founders’ Card though!
That brings us to the Founder’s Card. This card costs $495 for annual membership, but if you travel frequently - especially to Vegas - you can get tremendous value out of this card. You automatically get some redundant status perks that you get from the Amex Platinum like Hilton Gold status, various elevated status with car rental companies, etc.
The most valuable is the Diamond Status upgrade with Total Rewards, which is all of the Caesar’s properties. This gets you ahead of the lines, your own check-in desk, free show tickets, an annual “celebration dinner” voucher of $100, waived resort fees, and a comped trip to Atlantis in the Bahamas! You do still have to pay resort fees on that one, but hey, it’s free otherwise and a cool story for your friends. I save over $100 in resort fees every time I’m in Vegas.
Caesars properties status match with Wyndham Rewards as well, so that’s straight to Diamond again. That gets you 10x per dollar at Wyndham properties who has a hotel option in virtually every town you’d visit. A flat 15,000 points gets you a room at any of their properties - Wyndham AND Caesars - which can range up into some really nice properties. Earning 10x per dollar makes this an especially valuable perk if you travel for work regularly. That’s huge since Vegas can get pricey sometimes. I highly recommend having your Total Rewards account setup to earn Wyndham points rather than Total Rewards points as well. Much more value that way and not as quick to expire. Casino points are half useless to me. Finally, Wyndham is very valuable if you travel for work often since they have hotels pretty much everywhere and you’ll be earning points very quickly. To make that even better, you can earn points when you book for someone else as well!
Maximizing With Portals:
Shopping portals offer you the opportunity to gain even more points on top of what you are already earning. You basically login to whichever portal gets you the most return, click through their site to the website you were purchasing at, complete your transaction in the window it opens for you and thats it! The window it opens is the exact same one you normally see on whatever website. Nothing new to learn. Simply clicking from the portal gets you the points.
Start out at www.cashbackmonitor.com and search for the store you want to buy at. See where you have the best return. For me, it’s usually Chase or Southwest. If your primary airline isn’t Southwest, then replace Southwest with yours. Also pay attention to the cashback portals in the left column as well. I use these quite a bit if the return is higher than the other portals. I use ibotta, TopCashback, ebates, and BeFrugal. I can tell you that they are all legitimate and they all pay as advertised.
For example, if I look up www.inkcartridges.com I see that the multiplier at the Chase portal is 12x points per dollar. I have a small business that I buy supplies for. I bought $600 in ink to re-supply. I used my Chase Freedom Unlimited for 1.5x per dollar. That’s 900pts. Because I clicked through the portal, I got an additional 12x per dollar. That’s 7,200 more points. In this example, that’s like saying, “Hey, Kade, if you’ll buy your ink at a discount from me, I’ll get you enough points for a free round trip flight on Southwest.” Yeah. I’m all about that.
These are the steps:
1. Sign in to your Chase account
2. Scroll down to your Ultimate Rewards and click there
3. Select “Earn Rewards” from the top or from the menu at the top left.
4. Click “Shop with Chase.”
5. Find your store and click the link. That’s IT.
NOTE: this places a cookie on the page that basically tells the vendor that you came from whatever portal. That’s the only way they know and the only way you get points. SO: make sure you complete the purchase from the window that opens when you clicked through from the portal. You can navigate around the site, but don’t open a new tab.
Maximizing Category Bonuses:
We never want to spend more than we normally would in order to get points. It doesn’t make sense. the whole point is to get as much travel/free money as you can from the money you are ALREADY spending. With that in mind, you may not spend enough money to hit these category maximums. I’ll give you a couple pointers on how to do this. There are a million posts on Miles to Memories, The Points Guy, etc to dig deeper into this.
Everyone buys on Amazon. Amazon doesn’t usually offer anything extra through the portals, so that makes you max out at 1.5x by using your Unlimited. Well, you can grab Amazon gift cards at any office supply store at 5x from your Ink Cash. Put that on your Amazon account and you’ve earned that rate on the money spent there! Same goes for other cards that you know you will use as well. I am reimbursed for flights, hotels and fuel for work so I buy those cards if I need to max out a category. That way I’m getting the 5x points on things I know I’ll be reimbursed for. You may not work a job that works that way, so it would make sense for you to buy fuel or restaurant gift cards if that’s something you use often.
As above, gas stations work the same way and almost all have a selection of various gift cards. That will get you 5x when its the Freedom category and 2x on your Ink Cash for gas stations.
There is something called Manufactured Spending that some people use which basically has them watching for gift card sales, buying them, then selling them on websites like Raise.com, Cardpool.com, etc. If they are buying Visa or Master Card gift cards with PIN numbers, they can use them to buy a money order then use that money order to pay back their credit card spend. This essentially gains them the points at zero cost to them beyond time. In my case, I stay away from this due to limited time and reported issues with credit card companies if you do too much. YMMV. I linked a starting place for you above if you want to check into it further.
That about sums up the way that I have my cards tailored at the moment. I’ll update this as we go, but this gives you a solid idea on what I recommend. So far this is the absolute maximum points earning capability for me without getting into Manufactured Spend and/or Reselling.
Enjoy and live a little. Have some badass experiences that you otherwise wouldn’t pay for! Reach out if I can help save you some time and thanks for using my referral codes!