I had written the original “What’s in My Wallet?” article in 2019, providing a rundown of exactly which credit cards I had open at the time and why I had them open.
Since then, the Prince of Travel team has grown, and for this update we thought it would be fun to give you a glimpse into all of our wallets. Many of our credit card strategies are quite similar, while some of our cards lend themselves to more unique travel goals or other ways to optimize.
One thing’s for sure, though: as a group, we have a ton of credit cards!
In This Post
What’s in Our Wallets?
Let’s get right into the credit cards that we have open at the moment.
We’ll begin with the cards that we actually use on a daily basis, beyond just making purchases for the signup bonus.
Obviously, points earned through daily purchases are far inferior to the huge welcome bonuses out there, but it’s still good to maximize those moments when you’re not spending towards a welcome bonus.
Business Platinum Card from American Express
I opened the Business Platinum Card last year primarily for the 75,000-point signup bonus at the time, which has since improved significantly. I still get regular use out of the card – the flexibility and value of earning 1.25x transferable MR points on any purchase is tough to beat.
After much deliberation on whether or not to cancel the card, I recently bit the bullet and paid the $499 annual fee to keep it for the second year.
If I can find ways to get ongoing long-term gains for myself while also paying some fees as a long-term cardholder, I’m happy to do that with an issuer with whom I value cultivating a strong relationship.
I’m hopeful that Amex will continue to put marketing efforts into retention bonuses for existing cardholders, and not just signup bonuses for new ones. I’m also expecting to offset the annual fee by earning bonuses for referring friends and family. (Mom, are you reading the blog yet?)
Also held by: Ricky, Amy, Kirin
American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card
I picked up the Amex Aeroplan Reserve for quite a few members of our household when it was first introduced in November 2020, since it had by far the strongest welcome bonus out of all 11 Aeroplan co-branded credit cards at the time.
Since then, the card has delivered plenty of value in the form of a $100 statement credit in the first year, a $150 grocery credit, a referral bonus of 10,000 Aeroplan points, and the ability to rollover my 2020 eUpgrades to 2021 – all on top of the initial bonus of 75,000 Aeroplan points (even with an “extra” 5,000 points in the first statement, as many of you will have experienced too!)
What’s more, the card has recently bumped up its base earning rate to 1.25x Aeroplan points, putting it on par with the Business Platinum as an excellent choice for our everyday spending.
However, that same equivalence with the Business Platinum also calls into question whether or not I’ll be keeping our Aeroplan Reserve cards open in the long run. After all, between the two, the Business Platinum has the lower annual fee and more powerful lounge access benefits.
I think it’ll boil down to American Express’s generosity with further credits and offers throughout the year, as well as whether or not I have a large balance of eUpgrades that need rolling over at year’s end.
American Express Platinum Card
Although many people will cancel the Platinum Card after its first year because of its hefty annual fee, I find a lot of value in keeping it around.
On the earning side, the 2x bonus on travel is great if you are not into the US credit card game, and the 3x bonus on dining is pretty decent after I’ve maximized my Cobalt’s 5x allowance.
On the redemption side, there is the $200 annual travel credit which we have always found a use for, typically with hotel bookings.
The other huge benefit for us is lounge access for the family. I actually hold a supplementary card on my husband’s account; he had signed up for the Platinum Card with a free supplementary card offer (a $175 value) under a Travelzoo deal, so we are essentially getting two Platinum cards for the price of one.
Lounges that are a part of the American Express Global Lounge Collection usually allow complimentary access for a cardholder plus one or two guests. For other lounges, the Priority Pass Select membership allows each of us to bring one complimentary guest, so that covers four of us.
Yes, we do have a third child, who 80% of the time has been able to sweet-talk or smile her way into a lounge for free. 😇
Also held by: Ricky, Kirin
American Express Gold Rewards Card
This has become my go-to daily spend card for gas, pharmacy, and travel over the past four years.
It was one of my first cards and it’s one of the cards I suggest to people starting out in the Miles & Points world due to its modest annual fee for a decent sign-up bonus and earn rates.
I keep it in my wallet for the 2x categories (gas, pharmacy, and travel) and the lower annual fee ($150) compared to other premium cards with similar earn rates.
Sure, it doesn’t have as many perks as other cards, but since my Aeroplan 35K Status comes with lounge access already, I don’t need to spend an extra few hundred dollars per year to justify keeping the premium cards.
Also held by: Amy
American Express Cobalt Card
I have kept this card in my wallet since its release in 2017. It is my go-to card for groceries and dining, as it earns 5 MR Select points per dollar spent in those categories.
I appreciate the modest monthly fee ($10), the occasional decent Amex Offer, and the ability to buy gift cards for use at stores that don’t accept American Express.
I’ve primarily used these points to convert to Marriott Bonvoy for aspirational hotel stays or mattress runs. I have since switched my strategy after reading up on alternative ways to redeem the points and watching one of Ricky’s recent YouTube videos. There are also frequently targeted boosts to refer-a-friend bonuses, which can add up quickly.
Also held by: Ricky, Josh, Amy, Kirin
American Express Business Edge Card
It’s a sad fact, but I feel the only hotel points Canadians can really gather in large quantities are Marriott Bonvoy points, with its handful of credit cards on both sides of the border.
That’s where Membership Rewards Select points come into play. Sure, the Business Edge’s 3x at Staples and Best Buy are niche (I applaud you if you somehow managed to preorder 20 PlayStation 5s), but its welcome bonus and 3x on rideshare, gas, and dining make it a competitive product.
Better yet, MR Select points transfer to Bonvoy points at a rate of 1:1.2, so for my money this card is really a 3.6x earner on its main categories, and that’s why I’m holding one. The lower annual fee at $99 also seems to (oddly) make Amex more willing to hand out retention bonuses, even if it’s typically only 5,000 points.
Also held by: Amy
RBC Avion Visa Infinite + Visa Infinite Privilege
Year over year, I’ve kept at least one Avion card in my wallet as a backup for everyday spending to the powerful Amex and Aeroplan cards, if my upcoming travel goals happen to involve one of those three programs and I could use the extra points.
Recently, I’ve also picked up the Visa Infinite Privilege version to access a higher 1.25x earning rate and the ability to redeem Avion points directly for premium fares at 2 cents per point.
However, the premium card’s $399 annual fee is certainly hefty, and the perks are weaker than other Visa Infinite Privilege cards, so I don’t see myself keeping this one for too long. Thankfully, product-switching on the RBC cards allows me to earn continued welcome bonuses without having to incur a new credit inquiry each time.
Also held by: Josh (Visa Infinite), Amy (Visa Infinite), T.J. (Visa Infinite)
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business
I think the Avion program is great for its flexibility. It has a few good airline transfer partners, they’ve run decent transfer bonus promotions in the past.
Their fixed redemption chart is also useful in the chance I cannot find enough award space for my family with a particular airline.
I keep the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business specifically for its good earn rate and its special redemption feature.
Not only do I earn 1.25x Avion points on everything, but I can also redeem for business flights at a rate of 2 cents per point. It makes for a great deal when redeemed against a low business class fare. I pool my personal Avion points into this account for this reason.
For an annual fee of $175, it is much more reasonable than paying for the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege which has the same earn and redemption rates. If you get to know your RBC customer agents, you may even be able to get that waived.
CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card
I recently upgraded my CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite to the $599 Visa Infinite Privilege card.
Not only was CIBC offering me an upgrade bonus of 45,000 Aeroplan points (20,000 upon upgrading, and 25,000 upon spending $3,000 in the first four months), but I also wanted a Visa product that earns 1.25x Aeroplan points to maximize my return on a period of heavy non-Amex spending needs.
With the Amex Aeroplan Reserve also on hand, however, I don’t think I’ll be able to justify paying for two different Aeroplan credit cards every year. And since the Aeroplan Reserve appears far more willing to hand out ongoing credits that offset against the annual fee, I could see myself downgrading the CIBC premium card back to the core tier eventually.
Until then, however, this card’s 1.25x base earning rate makes it a great choice for everyday uncategorized spend, especially if the place doesn’t take American Express.
CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card
This is a card I regularly apply for to fund my Aeroplan bookings. I recently just signed up again because of the recent ability to convert the Buddy Pass for 30,000 Aeroplan points.
With the first-year annual fee waiver, 20,000 points, and a Buddy Pass after $1,000 in spending, it’s essentially 50,000 Aeroplan points for free.
I’ll use this card for most places that don’t take American Express and where there isn’t a bonus spend category on another card that I can take advantage of. It’s also valuable in covering my Aeroplan bookings for insurance purposes.
Also held by: Kirin
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card
I’ve had this card in my wallet, off and on, since becoming a Miles & Points enthusiast in 2017. At the time, it was an easy moderate signup bonus with no annual fee.
Since then, I’ve occasionally changed my mind about the card and switched to another TD card until I’m enticed to switch back by a new offer, such as today’s 20,000 Aeroplan points and a Buddy Pass that can be converted to a further 30,000 Aeroplan points.
While this isn’t my go-to card for daily spend, I keep it around as a backup for whenever American Express isn’t available. With the rollout of the new Aeroplan program and the perks that come with status and being a cardholder, though, I may soon look at keeping a co-branded Aeroplan card in my wallet at all times.
Also held by: Josh
TD Aeroplan Visa Business Card
This is my newest credit card, recently switched from the TD Business Travel Visa.
Like Amy and T.J., with the announcement of the Buddy Pass conversion into Aeroplan points, I decided that the new welcome bonus was simply too good to pass up.
I won’t keep it forever, as I get many of the same benefits from my other Aeroplan cards, but it’ll be my go-to Visa until I meet the minimum spend requirement for the welcome bonus.
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
I’ve always been skeptical of Scotia – I just don’t like their approval processes and have found their customer service to sometimes be lacklustre.
That disclaimer out of the way, I had applied for this card before the recent all-time-high bonus, but still felt it gave a lot of value because of its multiplier categories.
A second 5x multiplier is something brilliant for people like me who eat a lot of groceries from Sobeys and often reach the annual category cap on the Amex Cobalt Card. Anything you can buy at a grocery store is fair game, so fear not if you prefer to subsist on a diet of gift cards.
I like how easy it is to retroactively apply Scotia Rewards to any and all travel plans you have through their portal (including those you might postpone out of an abundance of caution). You can also call Scotia, who are remarkably understanding, for an annual fee waiver.
MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard
I’ve been a big fan of the MBNA Alaska Airlines Mastercard over the years.
Alaska miles have been among the most valuable points currencies available to Canadians looking to fly in premium cabins thanks to their generous partner award charts.
Not only is MBNA quite generous with their welcome bonuses, but the card’s flat 1x earning rate has still made it a viable Mastercard to keep in my wallet given the strong value of the Alaska miles as a whole.
However, I recently splurged my entire Alaska miles balance on an Emirates First Class extravaganza in late 2020. Since then, I must admit that my appetite for rebuilding my Alaska balance has been somewhat dulled, given the ongoing uncertainty around the program.
I’m looking forward to having more clarity on the new Alaska Mileage Plan award charts now that they’ve joined Oneworld, so that I can better determine whether it’s still worth earning 1x Alaska miles on uncategorized non-Amex spending compared to, say, Avion points or Aeroplan points.
Also held by: Josh, Amy
HSBC World Elite Mastercard
In my case, the early bird didn’t get the worm – I nabbed the offer of 60,000 HSBC Rewards points last summer and missed out on the windfall of 100,000 HSBC Rewards points later in the year.
But the card has still given me great value: 1.5% cash back equivalent on uncategorized purchases (with the flexibility to transfer to airlines if I wish) is awesome for a “fallback” non-Amex card. I also like having a strong Canadian-domiciled card with no foreign transaction fees.
This card has quickly become my go-to Mastercard. With the annual travel enhancement credit bringing the net annual fee down to $49, I could see myself keeping and using this card long-term.
Also held by: Ricky, Amy, Kirin
Canadian Tire Triangle World Elite Mastercard
I’ve written about this card, but to recap: 4% in Canadian Tire Money (CTM) at Canadian Tire-family stores, 3% CTM at grocery stores, 1% on the versatile bill pay feature, 5 cents CTM/litre of fuel at Canadian Tire gas bars.
Not enough for you? How about free roadside assistance, one free conventional oil change at Canadian Tire Automotive, two oil change coupons, no-interest purchase plans at Canadian Tire stores, intermittent 0% interest balance transfer offers, and a free Perkopolis membership?
All at the low, low cost of no annual fee. I’d have two if I could.
Desjardins Cash Back World Elite Mastercard
I never thought I’d apply for a card with no welcome bonus, but here we are.
4% cash back at grocery stores is unparalleled for a Mastercard, and 3% at restaurants is great for anywhere that doesn’t take Amex.
With a low annual fee of $100, I figured it’s worth at least a year to see if this card has a place in my wallet for the long haul.
This is not a card I carry for its travel rewards. I signed up for this card quite a few years ago, and keeping it helps to maintain my average age of accounts, which is a component of one’s credit score.
Aside from this, it’s a no-fee card and does earn 3% cash back on dining, which comes in handy for those places that do not take my Amex Platinum or Cobalt cards.
Simplii Visa Card
I’ve written about this card at length so won’t bore you. If you sign up for a Simplii chequing account bonus, do yourself a favour and get this card, too.
4% cash back at restaurants for when the dreaded No Amex Maitre’D shows up is always key. That’s what I mainly use it for, but it’s also not a bad backup grocery card for places like T&T in a pinch.
What’s in Our Sock Drawers?
Let’s move on from the wallet to the “sock drawer,” which is a metaphor for where credit cards go when you’re not using them for everyday spending.
These cards might only be good for the welcome bonus, or they might be long-term keeper cards for very specific benefits but with otherwise limited appeal.
Marriott Bonvoy Personal + Business American Express Cards
These two are keepers for the anniversary Free Night Award, if not the most compelling daily drivers. As with my other Amex cards, if I can keep extracting value while remaining a loyal client, everyone’s happy.
I recently opened the Bonvoy Business Card to line up with my annual renewal date for my personal Bonvoy Card.
Once this new account reaches its second year, I’ll receive the annual free night certificate on both cards around the same time, which is handy for booking them together.
Also held by: Ricky, Kirin, T.J. (personal only)
American Express Business Gold Rewards Card
Just opened, I got the Business Gold Card in time for tax season, using it to make payments to the CRA for additional rewards by designating Plastiq as one of my preferred suppliers.
However, now that I’ve met the minimum spend requirement, this one’s off to the sock drawer – I can get better everyday earn rates with my Business Platinum Card instead.
Also held by: Kirin
CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card
A few years back, I had picked up a CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite for Jessy to get her a free NEXUS application and a few Priority Pass restaurant visits.
Now that our NEXUS memberships are covered for the next few years and there isn’t much travel going on, it doesn’t make sense to continue paying the $120 annual fee on that account, so I went ahead and downgraded her to the no-fee CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card.
The card doesn’t really bring her much benefit: since Jessy is already a part of the same Family Sharing group as my (very active) Aeroplan account, she would’ve already been getting preferred pricing on Air Canada flight rewards anyway.
Still, as a no-fee card, it continues to prop up her average age of accounts, and it represents “dry powder” for any upgrade offers to the core or premium CIBC Aeroplan cards that we might find interesting in the future.
Also held by: Josh
CIBC Aventura + Dividend Visa Card
Similarly, I’ve got one of each of these no-fee cards sitting with CIBC as a way to keep a healthy relationship with the issuer and maintain a lengthy average age of accounts on my own credit file.
Even though they’re sitting dormant right now, they’ve both played more useful roles as various Aeroplan or Aventura products in a previous life, and may very well return to their former glories if one of CIBC’s rotating upgrade offers catches my eye.
Also held by: Josh (Aventura)
TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card + CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card
I’ve accumulated quite a stash of TD Rewards and CIBC Aventura points, without much immediate use for them during the pandemic.
I always like to keep one card for each bank’s in-house rewards currency so that my points don’t expire. As the months pass, I may downgrade these cards to their no-fee variants if I haven’t had a chance to redeem my points yet.
Also held by: Amy (TD)
TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum Card
I switched an old cash back card to the TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum, just after TD released their Spring 2021 credit card offers.
The card’s perks and earn rates are much weaker than its higher-tier counterparts, but I wanted to take the opportunity to get a higher-than-usual welcome bonus on a card that I normally wouldn’t prioritize.
This one won’t be in my sock drawer for long, as it definitely isn’t getting any use since earning the welcome bonus.
TD Business Travel Visa Card
I signed up for this card for its first-year annual fee waiver and signup bonus of 100,000 TD Rewards points, which are helpful in offsetting the cost of hotel stays outside of Marriott and Hilton.
For example, I’ve used TD Rewards points in the past to pay for a night at the Four Seasons.
Once the annual fee comes due, I’ll be looking to switch it to the TD Aeroplan Visa Business Card to earn some more Aeroplan points.
BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard
I recently made an Emirates award booking through Alaska Mileage Plan, and I had used this card to pay for the taxes and fees so that I’m covered under the card’s travel insurance.
This card commonly comes with a first-year annual fee waiver, so I typically won’t hold it past the first year (as long as I don’t have any upcoming trips that are still covered by its insurance) and instead come back to it at a future date as needed.
BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard
I originally got this card for the $200 signup bonus and a flat 1.5% cash back earner for a generic “other” card. I figured I’d keep it a year, maybe push for an annual fee waiver, and move on.
Those features were decent, but like most of my colleagues, I’m more of a points person than a cash person.
The reason I’ve kept this is the same as Amy: a certificate of insurance for travel protections when you charge even a penny to the card is just too good to beat.
If you’re using secondary airlines like WestJet or don’t have an Aeroplan co-branded card at the current moment, I find this invaluable.
WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard
In the past, I was an avid fan of earning WestJet Dollars using this card, as I’d then be able to redeem those WestJet Dollars for excellent value through the now-devalued Member Exclusive fares.
The card’s annual companion voucher (including a special $0 companion voucher until May 31) can be very appealing to the right type of traveller, but it isn’t something that I’ve personally made use of before.
Instead, my strategy is simply to build up my WestJet Dollars balance over time, keeping in mind that switching from an RBC Visa to an RBC Mastercard tends to reliably result in a welcome bonus.
I’ll then be redeeming my WestJet Dollars for slightly-discounted journeys on WestJet 787 business class on transcontinental routes, in the absence of any other more valuable ways to redeem for WestJet’s excellent business class product.
Also held by: Amy
MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard
As a collector of Alaska miles, I apply for the MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard whenever I can.
MBNA can be stingy with approval for new credit, but they’re often willing to push an application forward by splitting credit from another card. I find it useful to keep a modest limit on a no-fee card with them for this purpose, in case I get rejected on my first pass.
I’ve also got a smattering of MBNA Rewards points, which I’d rather keep alive on this card than on one of MBNA’s higher-fee rewards cards.
MBNA Best Western Rewards Mastercard
Hey, we don’t all need to stay at the Ritz-Carlton. 20,000 Best Western points, plus a little cash back rebate, for $0.01 minimum spend? That’s enough for up to two free nights! Sign me up!
The other reason I keep this credit card is to preserve an MBNA trade line and consolidate credit limits.
I keep an account with MBNA because of their well-known 5-in-6 rule, and this can also be appealing for tendie chasers who want to use a balance transfer offer for a 0% interest loan for 10 months.
Rogers World Elite Mastercard + Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
These are among my oldest credit cards, second only to the account that has become my TD First Class Travel card.
Although I’ve moved on to cards with bigger rewards and better perks, there’s no reason to cancel these two, as they both have no annual fee.
I’ll keep them forever to increase my average age of accounts, and I make a small purchase every year to keep them active.
Capital One Aspire Travel Platinum Mastercard
This is a card that has lived in my sock drawer for the last five years or so. I was originally attracted to being able to use the points against any travel expense, but that got old quickly after my first “real” award redemption. I’ve had the card for around 10 years now, but I haven’t used it since discovering other better cards out there.
Crypto.com Jade Green Visa
Truth be told, I’m not making a ton of purchases with this card lately. Most of my spending has been on other cards, as I have a few new minimum spend requirements to focus on (as I often do). Whenever I do hit a lull with my other cards, I’ll take advantage of 3% rewards in the form of CRO. However, for tax reasons, I’m hesitant to earn (and sell) rewards as a token that I’m not actively accumulating.
For now, instead of earning CRO on everyday spending, I’ve mostly been using the platform for Crypto Earn. I’ve also been adding to my cryptocurrency portfolio by buying other assets with fiat.
What’s in Our US Wallets?
Hopping south of the border, it’s all about playing the long game. We’ve each got varying numbers of US credit cards open, depending on how deep we’ve gone into the US game so far.
American Express US Platinum Card
It’s probably overkill to hold all four Platinum cards between the US and Canada – but that’s exactly the situation I find myself in at the moment.
I had first applied for the Amex US Platinum Card two years ago, earning a bonus of 75,000 US MR points (which admittedly pales in comparison to the 100,000 points we’ve seen recently).
Over the course of the first year, I found plenty of value in the 5x points earnings on airfare purchases, the ongoing Amex Offers, and the refer-a-friend bonuses that I decided to keep the card for a second year for another US$550.
(The fact that Amex US strictly enforces a once-in-a-lifetime signup bonus rule means that there’s little chance of capturing a card’s excellent first-year value on a repeated basis. It’s all about whether the ongoing benefit outweighs the fee, and I was just about sufficiently swayed to continue into the second year.)
Combine that with the standard credits and perks on the Platinum Card, and I’ll still be coming out ahead this year, so I might very well decide to play yet another round.
American Express US Business Platinum Card
It’s a similar story with the Amex US Business Platinum Card. I had opened it two years ago for 100,000 US MR points, and then gotten tremendous value out of the complimentary WeWork Global Access membership that came with the card.
The WeWork access ended in 2020, but I’m still getting a 25% discount on my monthly WeWork membership through an Amex Offer. Throw in a very welcome US$200 appreciation credit in 2020 and the US$200 in Dell credits every year (for which I tend to purchase Xbox Store gift cards before reselling them at a discount), and I’m still coming out ahead well into Year 2.
Having said that, the card’s US$595 annual fee is extremely steep, no matter how you slice it. I probably would’ve dropped the card last year if it weren’t for the US$200 appreciation credit, so unless I get another one of those (or an equivalent retention offer) this year, I’ll most likely say goodbye to this card and stick with the personal variant.
American Express US Gold Rewards Card
This card has been my new favourite toy since I opened it last summer. I’m earning 4 US MR per US dollar spent at restaurants, equivalent to approximately 3 US MR per Canadian dollar. I intend to use these points for airline transfers at a higher value than the 5 MR Select points I’d earn with my Cobalt Card.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to benefit from a few well-timed elevated referral offers. All things considered, I’ve managed to haul over 200,000 points in my first six months with the card, on a single card, all without excessive spending.
And I’m not gonna lie, I’m not usually about this, but I absolutely love the look and feel. It’s my favourite card to use in public – no mobile wallet for this metal beauty. I’m actually hesitant to switch over to Rose Gold!
Also held by: Ricky, Amy
American Express US Green Card
Looks like lounge is back on the menu, folks! With the recent depressing news about Plaza Premium pulling out of Priority Pass, the American Express Green Card’s LoungeBuddy credits just became viable alternatives. That’s how I’ll be using it.
Aside from that, I enjoyed the welcome bonus on signup, and feel that the 3x US MR points per USD spent on travel has great potential in the future. When I want to avoid the dreaded pop-up, I’ll also switch my Uber to this card for a month, and the expenses will help wipe it clean (plus 3x on delivery and rides is a nice touch).
For US$150 per year, I feel it’s a great card to hold, and the Amex Offers in the US are usually much better than those we get up north. It’s also a cost-effective way to keep my US MR points alive.
Also held by: Amy
American Express US Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant + Business Cards
Keeping these two cards is a no-brainer since we tend to stay at a lot of Marriott properties when we travel. Having status with Marriott has given us great perks like suite upgrades (space is greatly appreciated when travelling with kids) and free breakfast for the family.
Holding both the US Bonvoy Brilliant and US Bonvoy Business cards effectively gives me 30 elite nights every year, which more than halves the annual requirement to achieve Platinum Elite status to maintain these benefits. With both cards, I’m also well on my way to achieving lifetime Platinum status.
Let’s also not forget the Free Night Awards that come with both cards. The 50,000-point certificate with the Brilliant, plus its US$300 Marriott credit, will more than make up for the annual fee.
On top of that, there are usually plenty of Amex Offers on the card for additional statement credits, and the Brilliant also comes with no foreign exchange fees, so it’s great for paying for my hotel stays when I’m abroad.
Also held by: Ricky, Kirin, Josh (Business only)
American Express US Hilton Honors Aspire + Business + no-fee cards
Over the years, I’ve picked up three Amex US Hilton cards: the no-fee Hilton Honors Card, the Hilton Business Card, and the Hilton Aspire Card.
I earned welcome bonuses of 80,000, 130,000, and 150,000 Hilton Honors points, respectively, although we’ve seen higher limited-time offers as recently as earlier this year.
I tend to keep all three Hilton cards in my sock drawer as long-term keeper cards, all for different reasons:
- The no-fee Hilton Honors Card is my oldest active US card, so keeping it open forever allows me to keep my US credit history in tip-top shape in the long run.
- The Hilton Business Card provides an annual Free Weekend Night Reward upon spending US$15,000 in a calendar year. With rising volumes of business spending over the years, I plan to keep this card for meeting this threshold and earning a free weekend night every year, which I can then redeem for a high-value aspirational stay at a Hilton property.
- If I were to get the Hilton Surpass Card at some point, I’d probably also set it aside for this specific purpose as a long-term keeper.
- The Hilton Aspire Card gives me top-tier Hilton Diamond status as long as I’m a cardholder, which is invaluable for unlocking the best elite experience at a Hilton hotel. There’s also an annual Free Weekend Night Reward every year, which can be redeemed at the vast majority of Hilton’s properties. Plus, if I can maximize the US$250 credits for airline incidental fees and Hilton resorts, I’ll even be coming out ahead against the card’s US$450 annual fee, so I have no doubt that I’ll be keeping the Hilton Aspire Card open indefinitely as long as it retains its current structure.
I rarely use the Hilton cards in terms of everyday spend, besides for earning the free night certificate on the business card, paying for Hilton hotels and earning 14x points on the Hilton Aspire, and loading up my Starbucks account to unlock the 2021 dining credits.
Also held by: Josh (no-fee only), Kirin (no-fee only), Amy (Aspire only)
Chase Sapphire Preferred
So somehow I got approved for the legendary Chase Sapphire Preferred. Apparently my bank account statement counted as acceptable proof of address. I’m a happy camper.
I’ll be happier when I get the 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending US$4,000 during the first three months, but as this card is a Visa with no FX fees and also just looks super boss, I don’t think that’ll be a problem.
The biggest hurdle was approval; the card’s earn rates of 2x on dining, grocery, and gas is very strong for the US$95 annual fee.
Also held by: Ricky
Chase IHG Mastercard
I applied for the Chase IHG Mastercard just over a year ago. Truth be told, I’ve barely gotten any value out of it, even though the card makes sense as a long-term keeper card on paper.
Yes, I had earned a signup bonus of 125,000 IHG Rewards points. I redeemed some of these points for two free nights in Auckland in late 2019, but as I soon found out, the experience of staying with IHG’s hotels tends to be several notches below what you can expect from Marriott, Hilton, or Hyatt.
Yes, the card comes with instant IHG Rewards Platinum status. That gets you a modest room upgrade if you’re lucky – don’t hold out any hope for free breakfast, which isn’t even accessible to IHG’s top-tier Spire Elite members!
Yes, the card comes with an anniversary free night award worth 40,000 IHG Rewards points, which on paper should outweigh the US$89 annual fee every year. But since my hotel priorities are largely concentrated with Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt (where I can enjoy actually meaningful elite benefits), I would almost certainly need to go out of my way to use up this “free” stay with IHG every year.
I’ll be reassessing whether or not to keep this card when the next year’s annual fee comes due, depending on my success with redeeming the free night award at a hotel that actually suits my needs.
One thing’s for sure: I hugely regret having picked the Chase IHG over the Chase Hyatt Visa back in the day – a card for which I’ll be applying very shortly now that I’ve dipped back under 5/24.
Citi Premier Card
The Citi Premier Card is my sole product with Citi, and I had applied in late 2019 for 60,000 Citi ThankYou points. I’ve since found this card to be a very good deal for its US$95 annual fee.
In particular, the card’s 3x earning rate on supermarkets extends outside of the US as well, so I’ve found it to be a great fit for grocery shopping at home in Canada. While the Amex Cobalt can be a powerful way to earn points at grocery stores that accept it, we tend to shop at No Frills a fair bit too, where Mastercard is the preferred tender.
I’ve been very satisfied with earning 3x ThankYou points per US dollar spent, allowing us to use our grocery spend to get closer to the next “niche” redemption via the Citi ThankYou program, such as ANA First Class on Virgin Atlantic miles or Turkish Miles&Smiles for cheap North American awards.
The guiding philosophy for maximizing credit cards has always been to focus on welcome bonuses over earning points on everyday spending.
Having said that, it’s still worth developing an over-arching strategy and figuring out which cards provide the best returns for the majority of your spending, and then simply keeping those cards in your wallet and using them when the time is right.
In this post, we’ve shared our approach for both claiming the signup bonuses on new credit cards and maximizing your returns on your regular spending, and I hope you find it helpful in guiding your own strategies: which cards to get, which cards to spend on, and which cards to keep long-term on both sides of the border.