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  • Nick Burgess

What's In My Wallet - Summer 2023 Edition

The following article is for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered advice. Please contact a licensed financial professional for individualized advice. Some links below may be affiliate links that generate a small commission for the site at no extra cost to you.

 

What's In My Wallet?

I realized a few weeks ago that, on this site, I write a fair amount about credit cards and their importance, but I write very little about my personal approach to credit cards. I used to be someone that viewed the credit card industry as a problem, taking advantage of the little guy in order to turn a profit. A lot of that is...still true. However, I've also learned about the power of credit, and the unique ability for credit cards to make my life easier.

someone tapping a credit card on a payment terminal

Over the last few years, I've dived head-first into the world of credit cards to understand how I can use them to make my life easier, and potentially cheaper. So here is what is in my wallet this year, and here's what I'm looking at adding moving forward:


Daily Driver: The American Express Delta Platinum Card

Starting this piece by saying "I've dived head-first into the world of credit cards" and then immediately starting with a co-branded card is a weird move, but let me explain.

a credit card coming out of a wallet
Courtesy of The Points Guy

People like Brian Kelly might spit on me for saying this, but this is the card I put most of my spend on (specific categories excluded which I'll talk about later). Why? Because of the outsized value I get from this card once I hit $25,000 in spend per year.


Hitting the $25,000 spend barrier on this card grants me what's known in the Delta world as an "MQD Waiver." This means that I can move up the Delta Medallion loyalty ranks without having to hit the unique Delta spending thresholds that others have to hit in order to qualify. This grants me the ability to get upgrades, Sky Priority check-in and boarding access, etc, all while collecting redeemable miles for my favorite airline.

This card also grants me some nice multipliers on SkyMiles, like 2x on groceries and restaurants, as well as 3x on hotels and Delta purchases. This is the only card I have with a hotel multiplier when booking with the hotel itself, which comes in handy during business travel when I have to book through the company's portal and I don't have the ability to use Amex's OTA.


The final key perk of this card is that it makes my personal travel cheaper. I can check two bags, up to 70lbs per bag, on any of my trips, and I also get an annual companion certificate upon card renewal. My wife and I travel domestically a fair amount, so being able to use this pass to get her a free ticket has saved us between $400-$800 per year.


The Food Card: The American Express Gold Card

This card is my absolute workhorse at my local restaurants or Publix. The American Express Gold Card offers 4x points on groceries (up to $25,000 in a calendar year) and 4x points on restaurants worldwide. This is the credit card for maximizing your food spend, and all it takes is a little math.

If you spend $10,000 per year on groceries and $5,000 per year on dining out (and that's likely low for most of you!), then you're scoring at least 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points per year on just your food spend. Couple that with a sign-up bonus or a retention bonus and you've got yourself round trip tickets to Europe. To me, this trade-off is well worth the $250 annual fee (which some credit card experts insist is really a $10 annual fee thanks to credits galore).


Other relevant perks on this card include: $10 per month in Uber credits and access to The Hotel Collection, American Express's second-tier curated list of hotels. They're nice hotels! They just aren't as nice as the hotels you might find with...


Luxury Benefits and Travel Multipliers: The American Express Platinum Card

This card wins the award for "coolest looking but least used" in my wallet. However, it's a total no-brainer keeper card for me for a few reasons:

three american express platinum cards of varying designs
Courtesy of Business Insider
  1. The credits loaded into the card fit my lifestyle. This card is essentially built-in with free Walmart+ membership (which also gives you free Paramount+ streaming and deals on Spotify), free Peacock and pretty useful Amex Offers that tend to fit what I'm buying and where I'm buying it. It also has a $100 credit to Saks Fifth Avenue (split into two $50 credits; one per half-year) that basically pays for all of my toiletries for the year.

  2. The airline benefits. I travel for work quite a lot, so having access to not only Delta SkyClubs via this card, but also Amex's network of Centurion Lounges (of which I just got to visit the best one a few months ago) and Priority Pass lounges is a gamechanger for me, both in business and personal travel. I also get my wife into the Delta SkyClub for free 4 times per year thanks to the $200 incidental credit you receive annually.

  3. The Fine Hotels and Resorts booking site is the gift that keeps on giving. I use FHR at least once per year for the various perks and benefits you receive thanks to booking via the portal. For example: I booked myself, my wife and her parents into the newly opened Conrad hotel in Washington D.C last December. Thanks to booking via FHR, we each received a room upgrade, room credits for lunch or dinner at the hotel, free breakfast every day, double points on our Hilton accounts, a $200 statement credit on the booking and access to exclusive activities at the hotel. We ate, drank and had a blast, and our total spend at the end of the trip was...$0. I also used FHR to book our hotel in Rome and received a double-room upgrade to a beautiful suite, when I'd paid less than half the suite cost to stay there.

  4. Booking airfare and hotels grants you 5x points with the Platinum Card. If you're able to book all of your travel via Amex's OTA, you'll come out way ahead on points.

  5. I actually use the concierge service from American Express. They helped me plan my entire trip to Rome, including restaurants, events, excursions, etc, all for free. They're excellent at what they do, and the fact that this is an add-on is wild to me.

There is plenty of consternation around the $695 annual fee, with rumors that this fee could be increasing soon, but to me, the card is well worth it. I get a ton of value out of the card, especially since I took advantage of the secret Resy bonus. As well for me, the Fine Hotels and Resorts perk is the true differentiator of this card. The number of room upgrades, free food, etc, that we've gained from this perk alone I would estimate to be between $3,000-$4,000 in the 18 months I've owned this card, which is outsized value in and of itself.



My First Business Card: The American Express Blue Business Plus Card

When I started this website, I had it in my head that it would be a real business once I made at least $1,000 in one year. Well, that milestone came faster than I thought (thanks to you!), so I hopped on the phone with the accountant and she urged me to get separate business finances.

a person holding a credit card while at a swimming pool
Courtesy of Points Passport

This resulted in me finding the American Express Blue Business Plus card. A card with no annual fee, this card grants you 2x points on all spend, up to $50,000 in a calendar year. This was perfect for someone like me with minimal expenses that is just looking for a good all-rounder, and not something where you need to unnecessarily spend tens of thousands of dollars in order to access the benefits.

My Most Useless Card: The Truist Cash Rewards Card

This card is garbage. I only have it for two reasons:

  1. It was my first credit card and it was at a company I used to work for, so there's sentimental value there, and

  2. My local city government doesn't accept American Express to pay utilities

the truist enjoy cash credit card
Courtesy of Truist

As soon as the city of Smyrna catches up to the 21st century, this card is going away. At least there's no annual fee!


Future Cards I'm Considering

Apple Card

Seems weird, right? It is! The Apple Card is the red-headed stepchild of the credit card industry. It's almost an afterthought to the largest company in the world, which is part of the reason that Goldman Sachs is reportedly looking to cut ties. However, indications are that Apple is in talks with American Express to replace The Bear, and that gets me excited.

the apple card
Courtesy of Apple

The idea of a no annual-fee card in the Amex ecosystem with Apple's incredible user-interface gets me pumped up. I'd like to see how the relationship could work prior to diving in, but this is one on my radar.


American Express Delta Reserve Business

Alright - we already discussed the advantages of the co-branded credit card lifestyle in regards to airline-specific benefits. I get that. But the problem is: so does everyone else. The Delta credit cards, at least the Gold and Platinum in Delta's hub city of Atlanta, have become commonplace. This means that Delta status, even elite status, has become far more common. This has led to overcrowding at SkyClubs, and Gold Elites being shoved down the upgrade priority queue. I flew from Atlanta to Memphis last week where there were two open Comfort+ seats, and I was 18th in line!

The limited edition american express delta reserve business card
Courtesy of Thrifty Traveler

To combat this, I'm looking at taking the road less traveled. The Delta Reserve is the tiebreaker for Delta flyers seeking upgrade priority. Just holding this card grants you a higher upgrade priority than other Delta flyers, which to me could provide thousands of dollars of added benefit. Throw in one more companion certificate (this one applies to first class, too), as well as the $550 annual fee being a tax write-off since it's a business card and you've got yourself a sweet deal. I'm just bummed I missed out on last year's limited card design.

Capital One Venture X

The newest kid on the credit card block, the Capital One Venture X card is actually pretty compelling. It clocks in at a $395 annual fee, but the argument is that the card has a better value statement than the Amex Platinum or the Chase Sapphire Reserve: easier to use and cheaper than the rest. It grants you access to Capital One's proprietary airline lounges (of which there is currently only one), as well as to Cap One's travel portal.

the capital one venture x card displayed over a cliff
Courtesy of Capital One

Within the travel portal lies an exclusive chain of hotels very near and dear to my wife's heart: Walt Disney World. I wrote more about this in my piece on travel-hacking Disney World, but the case for this card in our household could honestly be knocking off hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars off of Disney trips. It's as easy as that!


Conclusion

As I said at the top, credit cards can make your life much easier, and possibly cheaper. Whether it's paying for trips to Rome, knocking thousands of dollars off of a trip to Disney World or just helping you plan your next date night, credit cards can have an outsized effect on the way you live your life.

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