- The takeaways:
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.
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.