The Best Credit Card For Spending On…

Without getting into signup bonuses and the fringe benefits of having each card here’s a refresher of which cards to use for spending on:

…Airline tickets:
In the US: American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card
Why: The Premier Rewards Gold card gives 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar with no limit plus you’ll get a bonus 15K points if you spend $30K on anything in a year (effectively 3.5 points per dollar).
Abroad: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Why: 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and no foreign exchange fees.

…Car Rentals:
In the US: Chase United Explorer or Chase United Club (Click on Club tab)
Why: The United Explorer is one of the only cards to give free primary car rental insurance coverage in your home country. If there is damage to your rental car it will be covered without ever having to file a claim with your personal insurance. Most other cards offer coverage secondary to your own car rental insurance when renting in your home country. The United Explorer earns 1 mile per dollar though if you spend $25K in a year on United Explorer you get a 10K bonus for an effective 1.4 miles per dollar) while the United Club earns 1.5 miles per dollar everywhere.
Note that assuming you didn’t damage your rental vehicle you can switch your method of payment at the end of the rental to Sapphire Preferred to bump your earnings from just 1 mile per dollar to 2.14 points per dollar.
Abroad: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Why: Most cards give primary insurance when abroad but the Sapphire Preferred also gives 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and it has no foreign exchange fees.

…Dining out or catering an event:
Worldwide: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Why: 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar (or 3.21 on the first Friday of the month) and no foreign exchange fees.

In the US: Chase Ink Plus , Chase Ink Bold , Chase Ink Cash , American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card , Blue Cash Preferred Card® from American Express , TrueEarnings® Business Card from Costco and American Express , or TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express
Why: 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the Chase cards plus 1% cash back at select stations with MasterCard Easy Savings or Visa Savings Edge.  2 Membership Rewards points per dollar on the Premier Rewards Gold plus you’ll get a bonus 15K points if you spend $30K on anything in a year (effectively 2.5 points per dollar). 4% cash back on the Costco business card and 3% cash back on the Blue Cash or Costco consumer card.
Abroad: Chase Ink Plus or Chase Ink Bold.
Why: 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and no foreign exchange fees.

…Gift Cards:
See “Office Supply Store Purchases” whether you want store gift cards or Visa/MC gift cards.
You can also read this post on gift cards from office supply stores or this post on Bluebird.

…Grocery shopping:
In the US: Blue Cash Preferred Card® from American Express or American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card
Why: 6% cash back on the Blue Cash though that’s capped at $6,000 of spending per year.  The Premier Rewards Gold card gives 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar with no limit plus you’ll get a bonus 15K points if you spend $30K on anything in a year (effectively 2.5 points per dollar).
Abroad: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® or Chase Sapphire Preferred
Why: Take your pick based on your typical point usage between 2.11% miles back or 1.07 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar with no foreign exchange fees.

…Hotel stays:
Worldwide: Chase Sapphire Preferred , Chase Ink Plus , Chase Ink Bold
Why: Sapphire Preferred offers 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and no foreign exchange fees. The Ink cards earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and you can earn cash back on top of the points at select hotels with MasterCard Easy Savings or Visa Savings Edge.

…Office Supply Store Purchases:
In the US: Chase Ink Plus , Chase Ink Bold , or Chase Ink Cash
Why: 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar
Abroad: Chase Ink Plus or Chase Ink Bold
Why: 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and no foreign exchange fees.

…Purchases that may need to be returned, disputed, warrantied, or protected:
In the US: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Why: Because there’s nothing better than knowing you’re fully protected and Starpoints are the best currency issues by an American Express card. This is definitely a post you should read for more on this topic.
Abroad: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Why: AMEX card with no foreign exchange fees.  Note that the Platinum card also insures against lost items and it also has a higher limit for protections.

…Rotating 5x Discover Categories:
Worldwide: Discover It
Why: 5% cash back and a bonus if you convert cash back into gift cards.  For 2013 Q4 all online spending (even Amazon Payments) counts.
There is no foreign exchange fee.

…Rotating 5x Freedom Categories:
Worldwide: Chase Freedom
Why: 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar without a checking account or 5.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar with a Chase checking account. For 2013 these quarterly rotating categories included Amazon, Amusement Parks, Department Stores, Drugstores, Gas, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Movie Theaters, Restaurants, and Starbucks.
Even if you are abroad the 5 or 5.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar well exceeds the value of the 3% foreign exchange fee.

…Telecom/Internet/Cable/Cell Phone:
In the US: Chase Ink Plus , Chase Ink Bold , or Chase Ink Cash
Why: 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar
Abroad: Chase Ink Plus or Chase Ink Bold
Why: 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and no foreign exchange fees.

…Transportation including trains, buses, taxis, limos, ferries, bridges, tolls, and parking:
Worldwide: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Why: 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and no foreign exchange fees.

…0% Intro Purchase APR
In the US: Chase Slate Visa (15 months), or Chase Freedom (15 months), or Chase Ink Cash (6 months), or Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard (12 months), or Discover It (6 months).
Abroad: Discover It (6 months) has no foreign exchange fees.

…0% Intro APR for Balance Transfers
Worldwide: Chase Slate Visa or Chase Ink Cash
Why: The Slate Visa offers 15 months of 0% APR and doesn’t have a BT transfer fee.  The Ink Cash card only offers 6 months but having a balance on a business card doesn’t hurt your credit utilization.

…Purchases not in a bonus category:
In the US: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express , or Chase Freedom with checking , or Chase Sapphire Preferred , or Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Mastercard.
Big spenders may also consider or Chase United Explorer , or American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card , or Chase United Club (Click on Club tab)
Why: Well this is complicated.  Take your pick based on your typical point usage between:
-1 Starpoint per dollar (which can be used at hotel or converted with a 25% bonus into miles).
-1.1 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar if you have Freedom with a Chase checking account with Freedom
-1.07 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar with Sapphire Preferred
-2.11% cash back with Barclaycard Arrival Plus
If you can meet spend thresholds then
-Spend $25K per year on United for 1.4 miles per dollar
-Spend $30K per year on Premier Rewards Gold for 1.5 points per dollar
If you spend enough to justify the annual fee (which can be waived for the first year) you may want to look into the United Club card as all purchases earn 1.5 miles per dollar.
Abroad: Chase Sapphire Preferred , or Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Mastercard. Big spenders may also consider Chase United Explorer or Club
Why: Same as before but only including cards without a foreign exchange fee.
Alternatively: See this post for a more cumbersome yet rewarding everyday purchase strategy which was made even better thanks to Plink.

Of course, if you have a signup bonus threshold to meet that will always be the place to spend!

Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Facebook

78 Responses to “The Best Credit Card For Spending On…”

  1. menachem_m Says:

    IMHO, “switch your method of payment at the end of the rental” is a very bad idea to get an extra 50 cents. What happens when some knock off rental place tells you a week later you had damage on the car?

  2. Dan Says:

    It’s more than 50 cents, but typically damage is pointed out and known at the time of return, no?

  3. mw Says:

    I know the program has hideously devalued, but the Surpass card still gets you 6X on grocery with no cap

  4. Dan Says:

    I value Hilton after their most recent massive devaluation at about 0.3 cents each, so even at 6x I wouldn’t use it over other cards that don’t even have groceries as a bonus category.

  5. ari Says:

    How about the capital one quicksilver which gives your 1.5% cash back on every purchase with no limits and no minimum redemption requirements?

  6. ABC Says:

    Gasoline, why not use AMEX until the end of the year?
    Most if not all members get $5 off purchase of more than $25 at a BP pump.
    Alternatively Blue Cash Preferred Card AMEX will give you 3% cash back. Given the recent and future devaluations of UR, 3% cash back is hard to beat.

  7. BB Says:


    I just wanted to comment, that interestingly enough my Freedom (and my wife’s as well) still give me 10 points per purchase. We never got a letter and it hasn’t changed.

  8. Dan Says:

    Barclay Arrival gives 2.22% cash back and a $400 signup bonus and only pulls from Transunion.

    Quicksilver gives less cash back, has a much smaller bonus, and does hard pulls from all 3 credit bureaus.

    Sure, but that’s just for the next 45 days, this chart is in general besides for limited time promotions.

    Even with the devaluations 2 UR points is worth more than 3% cash back.
    Plus the Ink cards also earn 1% cash on top of the 2 points at select stations.

    Lucky you 😀

  9. ar Says:

    i notice you never talk about the city prestige card…

  10. Dan Says:

    What about it?

  11. Devorah Says:

    Which card would you use to pay school tuition?

  12. @Yehuda Says:

    Why is Ink (2x) better than Sapphire (2.14x) on gas?

  13. Dan Says:

    That would go under general spending.
    Or better yet open some cards with big signup thresholds to meet.

    Sapphire earns 1.07 on gas.

  14. @Yehuda Says:

    O right, whoops!

  15. Dani Says:

    wow dan very extensive and well put together!

    is it better to spend a little on all my cards or most on one or two cards ignoring the rest?

  16. Joel Says:

    Dan, thank you so much, that’s such a useful post

  17. jacob Says:

    Dan, you are awesome ! Thanx for this info.

  18. bob Says:

    the TrueEarnings® business Card from Costco and American Express gives 4% back

  19. Dan Says:

    I optimize all my spending but go as crazy as you’re comfortable with.


    Thanks, updated.

  20. Dani Says:

    what do you mean by “go as crazy as you’re comfortable with?”

  21. Dan Says:

    I have dozens and dozens of active cards and can maximize every purchase.

    Most people don’t have the patience for that and should stick to a few top-notch cards like Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus/Bold, Freedom, or Starwood.

    Or Barclay Arrivals if they don’t want to deal with real miles that can more more lucrative than cash back.

  22. Ejb Says:

    I actually use Amex w their premium insurance for rentals. It costs like $24 a rental but if you’re renting for more than a few days it’s worth the primary no deductible physical damage with excellent customer service. I dealt with them once and they were IMO top notch.

  23. Dan Says:

    Don’t see why it’s worth paying an extra $24/rental if you have a United card.

    Anyway AMEX has a $19.99/rental option as well that you should look into.

  24. Dani Says:

    thanks for replying Dan. I’m honored to have The Dan himself respond. been a follower for years now…

  25. Yosef B Chicago Says:

    DAn, so with the United card I should decline all insurance options on the rental? (CDW, Personal accident insurance etc)

  26. Dan Says:

    @Yosef B Chicago:
    It covers CDW.
    No card covers liability insurance.

  27. Yosef B Chicago Says:

    Don’t many cards cover CDW?
    What exactly does primary mean when it comes to car rentals?

  28. a european Says:

    @Yosef B Chicago:
    If you have a different insurance (you have your own car ) so you will still be covered by the united card, MASHEIN KEN with the sapphire preferred.

  29. Igor Ivanovich Says:

    Thanks for a very clear and thorough post!

  30. sam Says:

    Dan,use my Hilton card at grocerys and I get 6 points per dollar so I can use it for studying at Hilton hotel’s.

  31. JB Says:

    re: any Ames for plane tickets. I have heard that the Amex does not cover you in case of travel delays, delayed baggage, or as well for lost baggage is Chase cards – I’m thinking sapphire. would that cancel out the extra point earned?

  32. Davidd Says:

    Dan the United Club card gives the same benefits as the United explorer for primary coverage on car rentals in the US plus it also gives you more miles back (1.5 back?) So the United Club card is the better choice for us car rentals?

  33. Steve Says:

    The penfed cash rewards card , if you can get it, gives 5% back on gas all year and the credit gets deposited into your cc statement at the end of every month. No need to redeem anything.

  34. What about entertainment Says:

    What’s the best card for entertainment spending? Like concert and sporting event tickets.

  35. What about entertainment Says:

    As a follow-up to my entertainment question, are Citi Thank you points worth anything? cause they offer 3X ThankYou Points on Dining out and Entertainment.

  36. yitz Says:

    Hi i realy want to get the Blue Cash Preferred however I already have the blue cash every day and the Starwood and when i try to apply this message pops up “You have been identified as a current American Express Cardmember. You may have seen an offer advertised for this product previously, but the offer is not available to current American Express Cardmembers”. Is there any way around this?

  37. Bob Says:

    Click on the link using incognito. To browse incognito in Chrome just hold down Ctrl, Shift, and N and the same time. In IE and Firefox you can access this mode by holding down Ctrl, Shift, and P buttons on your keyboard.

  38. Gary Says:

    Bear in mind the Platinum card from AMEX does not offer purchase protection on items bought out of the US!
    I learned this last week after trying to get a refund on a swarovski purchase in Toronto duty free shop.

  39. cubicles Says:

    if you don’t have your own car always use your sapphire card for car rental (or if you have a business and rent a lot by hertz you could save up to 10% )

  40. Sue Says:

    Dan I thought all Chase Cards give primary CDW not just the Explorer Card. If that is the case which card would you then use?

  41. cubicles Says:

    @Devorah: if you have the ink card and live next to a staples or office max you could buy the $200 gift cards and get 1,035 chase points for $6.95 add. fee

  42. Dan Says:

    @Yosef B Chicago:
    Primary means you don’t need to file a claim with your own car insurance.
    United does this in the US, most others don’t.

    @Igor Ivanovich:

    Not sure what kind of studying you do, but a middle of the road Hilton needs some 40K points and a top of the line needs 95K points.
    Even at 6x it’s not a great option.

    Very possibly, but this post was strictly about the points.


    Only if you qualify for PenFed and only if you have the Plus version which has other requirements besides just having a credit card.

    @What about entertainment:
    I’d put that in general.

    @What about entertainment:
    TY points are not nearly as valuable as other point currencies. I’d take 2.14 Chase points over 3 Citi points every day.

    It does offer purchase protection but return protection is only in the US.

    That’s only true outside of your home country.

  43. Karga Yid Says:


    Does PGGM delta still work. i was about to do it and saw that EC charges are non-refundable. if so what is the best option for Amex $200 credit?
    Thanks in advance

  44. yoni Says:

    can a Blue Cash Everyday be changed into a Blue Cash Preferred?

  45. Josh Says:

    Hi Dan. I will be staying at hotels 4 nights a week for the next 6 months or so. I have the option of Marriott, Sheraton and Hilton. I think I should choose 1 and also get the credit card for that chain. I have Hyatt Diamond so I should be able to status match/challenge to any of those. Which would you recommend I stay/get the card for? Thanks so much!

  46. Devorah Says:

    I was thinking of doing that with my ink but the tuition is 11,000 and I would need 55 cards and would be paying 382.25 in fees. Would that still be worthwhile?

  47. Josh Says:

    And in case you say SPG is the best…is the current 25K bonus for the credit card, the best it typically gets? Thanks!

  48. Menucha Says:

    Wow! Thanks!

  49. Dan Says:

    @Karga Yid:
    Still works for refunds within 24 hours, see DDF.

    Call and ask.

    Ask for the Platinum challenge.

    Spending $11,000 on 2 new Ink cards would earn you 111,000 points, worth many times that fee.

    It goes up to 30K every August.


  50. moshe shimon Says:

    nice job dan!!

  51. Moshe Says:

    This is probaly the most informative post this year.

    Thanks so much for all your help!!

    Your awesome and responsible for saving people millions of dollars, and creating new jobs (mileage brokers).

  52. steve Says:

    not sure an=bout that, I opened a share account with penfed and once i did that i was eligible for all their credit card offers, I didn’t have to qualify for anything else. They do make sure you have good credit but thats all. The evn have the penfed platinum cash rewards cards which gives 5% on gas 2% on groceries and 1% on everything else, those points are redeemable for a visa gift card.

  53. Dan Says:

    @moshe shimon:
    Thanks for the feedback!

    My guess is that you are grandfathered then.

  54. mark Says:

    when will the last survivours lose there chase 10×10 benifits to the new rules?

  55. Josh Says:

    Thanks Dan! Very appreciated. Have a good day 🙂

  56. Gingi Says:


    I logged into my AMEX account today to see an offer to upgrade my Business Gold Rewards card to Platinum and get 30,000 MR points for spending $10k in 5 months.

    If I don’t care for the other benefits (United Club, Ink and Business Gold Rewards give me most of them) is it still worthwhile?. That would equate to paying 1.5 cents per MR point! (Unless I can downgrade and get a pro-rated refund, which I would do once I get all the points, but is that doable?)

  57. Gingi Says:

    I guess I should add that my main goal right now is to get enough ANA points for 2 Business class tickets to Israel on US Air while they are still available as a partner. I have about 95k MR points and 55k SPG points.

    Unless you can suggest a better way to get 2 Business Class tickets to Israel (I currently have about 95k SkyPesos in my DL account).

  58. Mark Says:

    I didn’t see a post about drug stores. What card should I use to optimize my purchases of vanillas and paypal cards?

  59. Stu Says:

    Dan, that’s impressive.
    I use Capital One Venture Rewards for almost everything: 2 points per dollar spend on EVERYTHING. It also charges no foreign fees. Is there a better card than this for overall expenses? I also have an Amex Delta Platinum for Costco, for charges where I want an extended warrantee, and for those charges that do not take Visa. I use my United Explorer for car rentals and business travel (mostly on United).

  60. Toby S. Says:

    I purchased a ticket on Priceline, Turkish Air from NY to Tel Aviv and used AMEX Gold Premier rewards card. I only got 1 point/$ spent. Called and was told that you get triple points only if you buy directly from airline and not from discount site.
    Is that correct? Thank you.

  61. Dan Says:

    No idea.

    You too!

    It’s an OK offer I guess. There have been better.

    Cards to meet spend thresholds? SPG?

    If you want cash back then Barclay Arrival earns more.
    If you want real miles than lots of other cards are more lucrative.

    And Delta miles are the worst. Get a Starwood card. Why do you even have a Delta Platinum level card?

    @Toby S.:
    Most charges from Priceline and Orbitz and passed through to the airline to charge so you do get triple points.

    Note that Sapphire gives 2.14 points per dollar even when it’s not charged directly by the airline.

  62. JB Says:

    Dan, I did 2 BM, and chase wrote back that the application was a duplicate (applied for 2 diff cards on 2 BM) and they would respond about one application.


  63. Igor Ivanovich Says:

    @JB: *”lost baggage AS Chase cards”

    Amex Plat covers lost or damaged luggage but not delayed luggage. However, if you register with Amex Plat for Premium Luggage coverage, if it delayed you will get coverage, meaning if it comes 3 hours late, you can spend up to $500 to replace your stuff. They charge you per trip ordered, around $10.

    You must check with them to confirm exact details. It seems like they may not be enrolling new plans.

    Chase has coverage which is IIRC a bit less generous.

    If you have plans to get tickets with a short stop-over, it is likely that you will receive luggage late, depending on airports. Spend a few minutes before you buy so you ensure that you are covered.

    See here on the forums for starters, with other links there…

  64. Miriam Says:

    Dan, what if you don’t have a car so no car insurance. Then you would primary car insurance on most cards, no? Like the Chase Sapphire.

  65. Shmuelik Says:

    @Mark I believe Club Carlson gets 5x

  66. Stu Says:

    Dan, I use the Delta Platinum b/c of the free companion ticket and their 10K bonus in points for every 25K in spend – no limit. I use the companion ticket every year and it provides more than $150 in value.

  67. Phil Says:

    Dan – thanks for this post. On car rental, doesn’t the Ink Bold offer similar insurance coverage to the Chase United Explorer? thanks

  68. weiss yoely Says:

    Dan thanks for all!

    sub total? if I’m selling the points/miles/evios, which card gets paid the most for it?

  69. Avi S. Says:

    How does one deal with all the annual fees on “dozens of cards”? I am new at this and not quite understanding the strategy. Credit pulls? Annual fees? Do you shutdown cards after a year? Help!

  70. EB Says:

    How come there are no CAPITAL ONE cards, like the VENTURE?

  71. Dan Says:

    Because there are much better options than that.

  72. Josh Says:


    “American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card
    …earn 15K points when you spend $30,000 within one calendar year. Points are earned only on eligible purchases”

    That means from when I opened my card I have a full year to reach 30k, Correct?

  73. Josh Says:

    @Avi S.: No you don’t close it! You can almost always downgrade any card after a year to a lower card from that same bank and there is no fee.

  74. avi Says:

    Dan, I’d love to hear your opinion on paying income taxes by credit card. The rate is 1.87%. You say that at minimum you value Chase UR points or SPG points at 1.8 cents to the point making this a break even proposition at worst. Thoughts?

  75. avi Says:

    another way to look at this – an easy way for those of us independent contractors to hit the mega bonuses and get the companion ticket from United etc.

  76. Shai Says:

    I am trying to book 3 rooms in a hotel in Santa Barbara, CA using credit card points later this year. I have Spg points and Ultimate rewards points which i can use. SPG has no close properties and the Hyatt will only allow one room with points for their Santa Barbara property. Hilton and Marriot want a ridiculous amount of points for their motels (1-3 value).

    Does anyone know of a way to transfer point to an airline through SPG and then use those points for a hotel? or any suggestions?

  77. Rajiv Says:

    Dan, any thoughts on Capital Venture Rewards card. They are saying that one gets 2x miles on every purchase.

  78. Rajiv Says:

    Also, my main goal is upgrades — upgrading from economy to Business Class.


Leave a Reply

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

Switch to our mobile site