Credit Cards: Savings Starting Point

  • The takeaways:
    • Have a “base” credit card with a solid return for most purchase
    • Consider adding cards that dive deep into categories, like the AmEx Blue Cash Preferred for groceries
    • Don’t ignore the “revolving category” cards Nick Fury ridicules. For a little effort comes great rewards

I’m not going to tell I have deep insights into the credit card universe unavailable elsewhere. I’ll just tell you what I do.

First principle: navigating the entire rewards card universe is just a little too much, if you have a life otherwise. I’ll leave that to The Points Guy (for aviation/hotel enthusiasts) and Nerdwallet (for everyone). These guys can guide you down all kinds of exciting rewards rabbit holes, if you’re inclined.

In addition, to check out the Wirecutter excellent summary of best cards – worth reviewing regularly. Just one of the many things that great site rates.

The central question: cash vs miles? Again, the sites above, and many more, will help you decide which reward fits you best. But I almost always come out on the side of cash (with a Southwest exception). Cash spends anywhere, there aren’t arcane redemption rules, and there’s no debate about its value.

In that spirit, I carry the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature card for almost everything. As a Fidelity customer I get 2% back (as account credit) on everything, with no limits. If I weren’t a customer, I’d likely have the Citi Double Cash card, which rebates 2%, subject to some funky, tho manageable, conditions.

I also carry cards I use exclusively for groceries, dining, and other specific categories. This may be a bridge too far for some, but if you get in the habit, it’s no problem. And again – it’s a game! Who am I to decline to play?

I also have a set of revolving category cards, regardless of Samuel Jackson’s scorn. Subject to credit score impacts, you should too. They require some effort – effort my wife, for one, hates to make – to keep track of, as Sam tells us. But it’s a small price to pay for smaller prices to pay, I say.

That’s about all I can handle. I bow to anyone who goes deeper, squeezing every penny from card use for every flight, room, restaurant, and so on. It’s a noble quest. But you gotta sleep sometime.