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The older I get, the more I try to make my family’s lives as simple as possible.
On a personal level, I actively maintain a bare bones wardrobe, keep my home clutter-free, and plan an easy workload with a handful of freelance clients. My family eats the same ten or fifteen meals all year long and my husband and I are extremely choosy with the activities our kids participate in. This allows us to keep shopping simple and avoid having to drive the kids all over town most days.
For the most part, we prefer to live lives that are as free of stress and hassle as possible. That often means we do less, buy less, and get by with less. But, there’s one area of our lives where I am willing to jump through a few hoops and make things more complicated than they need to be. I carry more than fifteen different credit cards at a time, and we’ve had up to forty cards at a time in the past.
Why I carry more than 15 credit cards
You are probably wondering why anyone, and especially a Type A perfectionist who prefers the simple life, would choose to deal with so many credit cards and their details. The answer, for me, is simple: I love the perks, and I’m addicted to the rewards!
Here’s a rundown of why I have so many cards — and how we make them work for us.
We take advantage of category bonuses
One of the reasons to have several different rewards credit cards is the fact that some cards offer more points in special categories. If you are able (and willing) to use different cards that offer more points for certain purchases, you can boost your rewards haul tremendously over time. That’s basically what we have done.
As an example, I typically use my Chase Sapphire Reserve on travel and dining purchases since those categories offer 3x points. But I’ll whip out my Chase Freedom® when I make a purchase in one of their rotating bonus categories, which let you earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 in spending every quarter (then 1 percent). For other everyday purchases, I frequently use my Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® since it offers 2x miles for every dollar you spend.
Sign-up bonuses are the gifts that keep on giving
Over the last few years, I’ve earned numerous sign-up bonuses on various co-branded airline credit cards and flexible travel credit cards. In 2018 alone, I earned sign-up bonuses on two co-branded Delta credit cards and the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. Since many of the top credit cards sign-up bonuses are worth $500 or more, pursuing a merry-go-brand of bonuses can help you earn considerably more points over time.
I do keep in mind, however, that some credit cards limit how often you can earn a sign-up bonus. You can earn a ton of sign-up bonuses over the years through various card issuers, but you do have to follow the rules if you want to play the game.
We love different types of rewards
My family travels around sixteen weeks of the year. As a result, we need different types of rewards points for different aspects of our trips. We need airline miles to cover the cost of airfare, for example, and hotel points or flexible travel points to cover hotels and Airbnbs. We also like having flexible travel credit — like the kind you earn with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard — to cover trains, excursions, day trips and more.
This is yet another reason we like to have multiple credit cards that work with several different rewards programs. With all kinds of points and miles at our disposal, we are able to stretch our travel budget as far as it can go.
I fully utilize important credit card perks
In addition to points and miles, many of the top travel credit cards offer important consumer protections and perks that make travel more comfortable. For example, I frequently utilize the primary auto rental coverage I get for free with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. This coverage allows me to bypass the paid rental coverage at the counter, which helps me save more each time I rent a car.
The same card (Chase Sapphire Reserve) also offers a Priority Pass Select membership that allows my family to visit more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. While we’re not lounge enthusiasts by any means, I love having lounge access when we have a long layover or one of our flights is delayed. Not only do many airport lounges offer free internet access and some peace and quiet, but many have free snacks and drinks. Airport lounges can be an absolute lifesaver when you have kids!
Other credit card perks I’ve used include trip cancellation/interruption insurance (I filed a claim when we were stranded in Jamaica for two days due to bad weather one year), cell phone protection, guaranteed returns, and baggage delay insurance. These are all perks I get from various credit cards for free, so it would be crazy not to take advantage.
We keep personal and business spending separate
Finally, having more than one credit card is a smart move if you have your own business. Not only can a business credit card help you keep your business purchases separate from personal spending, but it can also make your life simpler come tax time. Plus, many business credit cards offer rewards that are uniquely in tune with the way the average business spends.
One of my favorite business credit cards is the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card from Chase. I love this card because it doles out 3x points on up to $150,000 per year in spending in popular business categories like online advertising, travel, and shipping. These categories work well with the way our business spends money, so we take advantage and earn a lot more points over time.
The bottom line
Keeping track of 15+ credit cards can be a lot of work, but it’s made a huge difference in my travel budget over the years. I have redeemed millions of points and miles and saved thousands of dollars in the process. The hassle may not be worth it to everyone, but it definitely has been for my family.
On the flip side, there’s one huge caveat to be aware of before you dive into this hobby. Having more than one credit card is a great way to score a unique set of perks and benefits, but you have to be debt-free to make this strategy work for you. Since the average credit card interest rate is now over 17 percent, it makes no sense to pursue rewards or credit card perks if you’re going to rack up debt.