Introduction to US Credit Cards (3): Advanced Cards


After getting your first credit card and some decent credit history, you can choose credit card combination according to your own situation. If you feel it troublesome to have too many cards or just want to try few of them, it is unnecessary to read through this post. The first and second parts are enough for you. Large parts of this post will contribute to the annul fee credit card, which takes a lot of time and effort to mange.

It should be noticed that the magic reconsideration line plays a crucial role in further application of credit card. To save the page, I put the reconsideration line into the following post.

1. How to choose your own credit card combination

It is hard to tell which combination suits you best since different people have different needs. Based on the experience of my friends and knowledge shared on the Internet, the combination of credit cards can be roughly divided into three categories. Namely:

  1. If you want to save troubles, you can use no annual fee credit cards.
  2. If you would like to make some change, you may earn points of a certain bank and then transfer them to airline or hotel partners.
  3. If you pursue maximum value, you are supposed to sign up credit cards which offer bonus and then cancel the annual fee credit cards you do not use after redemption.

It is obvious that the first kind of combination contains the fewest credit cards. It would be enough if these cards cover your spending on groceries, gas and restaurant dining. In terms of the second category, you can choose one from Chase, AmEx and Citibank according to your own circumstances. In this context, one annual fee credit card from the three bank systems is usually necessary. And you may add annual fee free credit cards of other banks to increase the rate of return, depending on your spending pattern. For the last one, you can get credit cards as many as possible as long as they offer bonus. It is not a big deal to sign up for 20 credit cards in 2 or 3 years. Yet it needs significant spending power to complete the correspondent tasks.

When I worked on the first draft of this post, I was too confident about myself. It turns out that now I am kind of addicted to applying for new credit cards, i.e. the third kind of people.

2. Grocery credit card, restaurant credit card and gas station credit card

In general, the best grocery credit cards are these 5:

  1. Sallie Mae (SM)
  2. AmEx EveryDay (ED)
  3. AmEx EveryDay Preferred (EDP)
  4. Blue Cash Everyday (BCE)
  5. Blue Cash Preferred (BCP)

If you are interested in grocery credit cards, you may refer to Best Rewards Credit Cards for Grocery/Supermarket.

The choice of restaurant credit card depends on the credit system you are in. In general, if you prefer Chase cards, just use Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP) without second thought. If you are a fan of Citi, Forward tops the list, then comes Citi ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige. For AmEx members, Premier Rewards Gold (PRG) is a good option due to its bonus. If the annual fee is too much for you, then EDP is likely to be your best bet. Apart from that, you can use your Discover It or Chase Freedom without hesitation when the 5% cash back bonus category is restaurants.

For gas station credit card, Sallie Mae together with Discover It and Chase Freedom would be enough for a year. You may try BOA 123 cash reward card when your Sallie Mae reaches upper credit limit. However, 3% bonus points is not much more attractive than paying cash directly.

Fidelity AmEx (FIA) and Citi Double Cash (DC) that give 2% points back are worth consideration as well. FIA is issued by Bank of American with an AmEx logo on it, while the latter is launched by Citi recently. The 2% points of these two cards is a good choice compared with others with 1% points back in addition to bonus category. What’s more, they have no annual fee. Therefore we recommend you have one of these cards (it is better to get Double Cash through transferring from other cards).

3. Four points systems

The major points systems in the United States are:

Click on the link to know more about their rewards systems.

Rewards systems are characterized by their flexibility. There are millions of ways to earn and redeem the points. You may redeem points for cash back, gift cards, award flights and hotel stays. Redemption is such a comprehensive topic that it is beyond our scope here. You may refer to following posts for more information.

4. Airline credit cards

There are three airline alliances: Star Alliance, One World and SkyTeam. And there are three major US-based airlines: United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Airways. Which one to choose? You can make your decision according to the airline in your city. However, big cities usually have more than one airline. If this is the case, you should take a look at its partner carriers in China and the range of its overall network. Or you can just follow your heart. The cards issued by UA AA and Delta are classified into two levels: Low annual fee and high annual fee.

Low annual fee:

  1. Chase United MileagePlus Explorer
  2. AA Advantage Platinum
  3. Amex Gold Delta SkyMiles

When sign up for a card, you will get 30k or 50k miles in addition to the privilege of priority boarding and the first free checked baggage. Furthermore, UA and AA will offer their clients club pass twice a year, which enable their clients to enjoy themselves in the lounge. Both cards have an introductory fee of $0, then $95 each year. Detailed information is available on airline homepage or bank websites. I think the greatest benefit offered by these cards is the 50K miles. Many people choose to cancel the credit card a year later to avoid annual fee.

High annual fee:

  1. Chase United MileagePlus Club
  2. AA Advantage Executive
  3. AmEx Delta Reserve

They have a huge annual fee of $450. The benefits mostly lie in airline club memberships. These are not good options for students like us.

5. Hotel credit cards

What kind of hotel credit cards you want to use mainly depends on which hotel you usually stay, just like that of airline. In addition, when you sign up hotel cards, you will enjoy one free night stay every year, or free stay signup bonus. You may take these into consideration before you make your final decision. Some commonly used hotel credit cards are listed as follows:

1. AmEx SPG:

The annual fee of the credit cards of Starwood Hotels totals $95. When you sign up for the card, you will receive 25k (30k at once-a-year promotion). The points of this credit card are more valuable. You may redeem these points for hotel stays or real miles.

2. Chase Hyatt

The card of Hyatt Hotels Corporation will offer you two-night free stay in world widely if you spend 1k within 3 month after signing up the card. The annual fee costs $75. Besides, you can enjoy one-night free stay in 1-4 star hotel. Therefore you can easily get your annual fee back. Especially the two-night free stay is available around the world.

3. Chase IHG

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) credit card offers 60k points (can be matched to 80k), with the annual fee of $49 and yearly one-night free stay which can be used in any of its hotels. Besides, InterContinental Hotels holds the promotion every year allowing redeeming points for accommodation. You can get one-night free stay with as cheap as 5k points.

4. Chase Marriott

Signing up for the card of Marriott Hotels & Resorts will receive 50k points ( some offer will reach 70k) and one-night stay in 1-4 star hotel. Its annual fee is $85. You will also receive one-night free stay in 1-5 star hotel every year. However, most great hotels in Marriott is no less than 6 star, so it is hard to get the annual fee of $85 back.

5. Amex Hilton HHonors & Citi Hilton HHonors

The Hilton points have long been criticized for their useless. Both cards can be used because the sign-up bonus is attractive. They have no annual fees, so it’s no harm to keep them.

6. Amex Hilton SurpassCiti Hilton Reserve

The annual fees cost $75 and $95 respectively. Compared with annual fee free credit cards, they can accumulate more points in less time. Citi will offer you two-night free stay if you meet spending requirements. However, in my opinion, it is not worth holding the two cards for a long time. For the points are not valuable. If you want to get the annual fee back, you have to use it frequently. Besides it is beneficial only when you use it. In comparison, the one-night free stay offered by Hyatt IHG Marriott is more attractive.

As you can see, the hotel credit card of Chase is really a good option. This is one of the reasons why I am such a big fan of Chase. The free stay bonus offered by Hyatt and IHG are especially useful for people who travel all year round.

P.S.: Here is the list of posts in this series:

  1. Basic Credit Cards Knowledge
  2. How to Choose a Beginner’s Card
  3. Introduction of Common Cards and Combination, including Grocery Credit Cards, Airlines Credit Cards and Hotel Credit Cards
  4. Some Suggestions, such as How to Avoid Card Closed due to Exceeding Bank’s Bottom Line

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