Best Credit Cards

I am reviewing these cards for their regular rewards and not for their current bonus offers.

This list is incomplete and I will be adding to it slowly.
6/18/2012 Made some changes

Amazing Combination of Cards: Chase Freedom (no annual fee), Chase Checking for the Chase Exclusives, Chase Ink Bold (or Plus), Chase Sapphire Preferred (for the 1st year of no fees, then I would give it up). This grouping is just amazing!

Ideal CC's to have in one's wallet/purse: 
  • Chase Freedom:  Purchases in the US under $11 and for the 5x categories per quarter up to $1,500  (earning you 7,500 miles); with Chase Checking one gets Chase Exclusives where one earns  10 bonus points per transaction and 10% of bonus points when using the Freedom card. Use only in the US since this card has foreign transaction fees. 
  • Chase Ink Bold or Plus: to purchase office supplies, prepaid gift cards and vanilla reload cards. Use for tv, cable, internet, phone and mobile phone bills for 5x points.
  • Penfed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card: Purchase airline tickets for 5x rewards. I haven't bought an airline ticket through them yet. I will let you know the results when I do.
  • Penfed Platinum Rewards Visa Card: for supermarkets (5x), and gas (3x), when I am out of the prepaid American Express Card for 5x Chase points.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest From American Express: For those of you that love those pricey hotels, this card is very worthwhile)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card From American Express: Business Card with OPEN Savings for up to 10% off. I would use this card for anything that would earn me 10% Off, like OfficeMax or FedEx Office.
Cards I recommend in these specific spend categories:
  • Chase Freedom Card*- only up to $1,500 on rotating categ. each quarter = 7,500 miles & all non foreign dining/travel under $11 once my Chase Checking account is hooked up to the Freedom card (because you get 10 bonus points per trans.) Use only in the US. 
  • Penfed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card- Travel (5x)  No Foreign Trans. Fees
  • Penfed Platinum Rewards Visa Card- Supermarkets (5x), Gas (3x) No Foreign Trans. Fees
  • Capital One Venture Card- Use this card sparingly. Just pay for the taxes incurred on airline award tickets to get reimbursed for travel. Give Charity with this card through Capital One's No Hassle Giving Site, where the charity won't incur any costs. Otherwise, whatever doesn't fit into the other categories. 
  • US Bank FlexPerks - Charity (3x) If you donate a lot of money to charity every year, this cc might be for you. Review to come. 
  • Any AA Aadvantage Credit Card - Donations to The National Foundation for Cancer Research, Komen, and USO (10x). It is worth it to get this card if you donate every year a lot of money to these causes.

  1. Other Cards I have have reviewed:
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card*- Travel & Dining (2x) and online purchases with the Ultimate Rewards Mall. 
  • United MileagePlus Explorer Card- I ONLY recommend this credit card if you fly on United a few times a year and are not a Gold Elite Member or higher with them or Star Alliance. Otherwise, you only get 1 mile per dollar for your Non-Continental spend, or 1.4 mile per dollar if you spend at least $25,000 per year. Those of you who aren't a silverGold member should use it for purchases of Continental/United travel for the extra baggage allowance and renting cars for the primary insurance coverage.
  • The Ritz Carlton Rewards Credit Card - The Ritz-Carlton (5x) airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, Car Rental Agencies and restaurants (2x) all other(1x) I would use this card for Ritz Carlton stays to earn the 5x rewards. Ritz Carlton stays can be earned for Marriott points, read here for clarification.
* Combine these with a Chase Checking Account for more points with Chase Exclusives. This combination is highly recommended. Read here for The Points Guy take on this or here for Dan's Deals take on this.
Read to find out which Chase Card to use for what.

Capital One Venture Signature Card

This is my go to card for regular spend. What I love about this reward card is that I will earn frequent flyer miles on the airline of my choice when I redeem the miles on this card. I would only use this for economy class tickets when I get a very good deal. I will redeem my miles on United when prices are low.
APR: 11.9%-19.9%
Annual Fee: $59 (after first yr)
Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Expiration on Miles: None
Redeem Miles for ANY travel expense (best value) OR cash, gift cards, gifts etc..

I've been using Capital One Cards for a long time and have always been happy with the customer service I have received. Today, I called to transfer 846 miles from an account that had been closed to my current Venture Signature Card. The customer representative said that she couldn't transfer them since the account is closed, and when I asked her to just give me those miles in my Venture account, she said "no problem". I'm really excited about this card since they give 2 miles for every dollar spent. They also have an awesome shopping mall that gives loads of miles too. The only thing that is not so great about getting this credit card is that Capital One checks your credit on all three credit bureau's as opposed to the one that all the other banks pull. This is important because in order to be able to get approved for as many credit offers as possible one needs to have a great credit score. The more banks check your credit (called a "hard inquiry" or "a pull"), the lower your credit score gets. But, don't worry too much. It doesn't take that long for it to go up again.

Chase Sapphire Preffered Card

Chase came out with a great card for the frequent flyer and restaurant goer this year; it's called the Chase Sapphire Preffered Credit Card (don't confuse this with the Chase Sapphire Card which always has no annual fee). This card gives you a whopping 50,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months. This card comes with a $95 annual fee which is waved the first year. Pay no foreign transaction fees when you use your card on purchases made outside of the United States. You get one point for every dollar spent and two points for travel and dining. When you use their online booking tool you get 3 points for every dollar spent on travel and hotels anduse 20% fewer points. For 50,000 points you get $625 towards airline tickets. You also get 7% back towards points earned, even those you have already used, including the bonus points. So, in actuality you are getting 50,000 + 3,000 (spend requirement) + 3500 + 210= Total $57,710 points.

This is a great card because of its flexibility in redeeming miles. However, using the 50,000 bonus points on travel rewards through Ultimate Rewards may be fine if you just want to fly within the US in Economy class. But if you want to fly internationally or use these points for hotels, you will get a better value by transfering the points to select partners (1:1 ratio).
You could transfer 50,000 miles to:
  • British Airways
  • United Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Ritz-Carlton
  • Hyatt
  • Mariott
  • Priority Club
  • Amtrak
Redemption Option                  Redeption Value
Cash/Gift Certificates                       $500
Ultimate Rewards                            $625 (always get 25% more for your points)
Transfer to Select Partners               $800-$2,000

Penfed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card

You first need to be part of Penfed's credit union in order to be able to open a Credit Card with them. This is not a big deal and very easy to do. You just need to add $5 to this account. When viewing your Penfed Credit Card Accounts this account will also show up.

Some experts don’t think that Penfed cards are good cards, since you need to purchase the airline/travel purchases through their booking tool. But I think it’s a great deal, if you are willing to buy tickets through them when it’s not high season and only are interested in economy seats. When it’s high season the miles you need are astronomical! But if you purchase during low season, tickets cost much less. I charge this card for all my airline tickets since I get 5 miles per dollar spent on airlines.

Key Features
  • Earn 5 points per dollar spent on airline purchases
  • Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Earn 20,000 points when you spend $650 in the first 3 months of opening the Card.
  • Points expire 5 years after earning them.
  • Complimentary 24-hour concierge service
  • Free LOUNGE CLUB membership which gives access to airport lounges throughout the world (upon spending $15,000 on the card annually)
  • Exceptional travel offers and discounts through the American Express Travel Privileges program
  • Comprehensive world-class travel insurance
  • Roadside assistance and car rental insurance
Ticket cost
$350 : 21,875pts
$500 : 31,250pts
$750 : 46,875pts
$1,000 : 62,500pts

To travel round trip from the US to the Middle East for example it would cost 80-90k miles, but as you see above, with this card it is only 62,500 miles. This is only during low season.

Penfed Platinum Rewards Visa Card

This is a new card, came out 3/2012
You first need to be part of Penfed's credit union in order to be able to open a Credit Card with them. This is not a big deal and very easy to do. You just need to add $5 to this account. When viewing your Penfed Credit Card Accounts this account will also show up. 

Key Features
  • Earn 5 points per dollar spent on gas purchases
  • Earn 3 points per dollar spent on supermarket purchases
  • Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn 5,000 points upon first purchase with the card within 3 months of opening the card.
  • Earn an additional 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of opening the card.
  • Points expire 5 years after earning them.
  • Automatic enrollment into the PenFed Platinum Rewards program
  • Ability to redeem points for merchandise, travel, gift cards or even Visa® prepaid cards at
I already have the Penfed Premium Travel Rewards card which I get 5 points per dollar on Airline Tickets. I will keep on charging my airline tickets on that card and when I get this one, charge my gas and supermarket purchases on this one. I have calculated that I can get a free International ticket just by charging my groceries on this card! The only bad thing is that one can't transfer points over to Airlines and one must use their booking tool. Also, you should only redeem your tickets with this card in low season since the number of points you need during high season is astronomical. Also, if you are only interested in Business or First Class tickets, then this card isn't for you. This card works well for people that are flexible in their travel dates and are interested in Economy tickets, since for example, one can redeem a $1,000 Economy ticket in low season for only 62,500 points. See chart below for details.

Ticket cost
$350 : 21,875pts
$500 : 31,250pts
$750 : 46,875pts
$1,000 : 62,500pts

To travel round trip from the US to the Middle East for example it would cost 80-90k miles, but as you see above, with this card it is only 62,500 miles. This is only during low season.

Chase Freedom Card Link

You must spend $500 in the first three months in order to receive the $300 Cash Back Bonus, there is no annual fee and you can use the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall for more cashback. Or, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred on Ink Card you can transfer your points to either one and receive 30,000 points instead of the cashback, which is a much better value. I just got this card and am looking forward to using it. But I must be honest, I was a bit disappointed that they don't have Charity listed in one of their bonus categories like they had in 2011. I was really banking on doing well with that, oh well! This card offers 5 points per dollar spent on rotating categories every 3 months up until $1,500 (which is a 7,500 miles each quarter, for a total of 30,000 points/miles per year) and one point per dollar on everything else. I would recommend only using this card on the rotating categories up until the $1,500 and transactions below $11 (if you have Chase Checking), including dining even if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. The great thing about this card is that points can be transferred to the Chase Sapphire Card or Chase Ink for miles or points (if you have it, which I highly recommend you get) and then to United, British Airways, Korean Air, Hyatt, Marriot, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club & Amtrak at a 1:1 ratio. Also, if you open a Bank Account with Chase you get 10 extra bonus points per transaction. Dan's Deals did a test to see if there was a minimum. He made many 1 cent transactions and received 10 bonus points per transaction! I opened a Chase Checking Account for both my husband and I and received a $150 for each of us. You must keep $1,500 in the account in order to not incur the $12 monthly fees, or a monthly direct deposit.

For 2012 the categories are as follows:
January - March   Gas Stations &
April - June   Grocery Stores & Movie Theatres
July - September   Gas Stations & Restaurants (Yay, I'll be in the US using gas in the summer)
October - December    Hotels, Airlines, Best Buy & Kohls (I'll be purchasing an international airline ticket during this time).
There is no annual fee and rewards never expire. BUT, the problem that I have with this card is that it has foreign transaction fees, majorly bringing it down in value IMHO.

Note: I do not get any money for you using my links.

United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card

$95 yearly fee, waived the first year.You can get 30,000-40,000 miles with this card. Earn 25,000 miles after first use, 5,000 after adding an authorized user who uses the card and 10,000 after $25,000 spend. The latest buzz is that United has a targeted offer of up to 60,000 miles. The Points Guy writes about how you can trick the system and get this special offer, here. I applied for both these cards at the same time and got approved for the Continental Card, but not for the United Card, the same goes for my dear husband . So, I just called up and got approved over the phone for myself. I am still awaiting the bonus on the Continental Card, since I forgot to input my current frequent flyer number they issued me a new one and I don't have access to that account yet. This card offers priority boarding and a free checked bag each time you fly Continental or United and charge it to your card. This is useful if you are not at least a Star Elite Silver Member. This card is also good for when you rent a car since it has primary rental insurance. But when you are renting internationally check that your country is covered. This card has a foreign transaction fee.

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card

The Ritz Carlton Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points with your first purchase.
  • 5 points for every $1 spent at The Ritz-Carlton
  • 2 points for every $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, and at car rental agencies and restaurants
  • 1 point for every $1 spent on all your other purchases
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Annual Percentage Rate: 15.24%
  • Annual Membership Fee: $395
Special hotel privileges when you stay:
  • $100 credit for dining, spa and hotel recreational activities with each two-night stay or longer
  • Upgrade to the Ritz-Carlton Club® Level three times annually
  • Automatic Gold Elite status your first year
  • Complimentary 3-Year Membership in A&K's Marco Polo Club for Gold and Platinum Rewards Members
  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards Members can now redeem Points for Elite Merchandise on our Rewards Retail Site.
  • Redeem Points for Exclusive Personal Shopping Experience with Neima Marcus or Bergdorf Goodman.
  • National Geographic's Photography Workshops Exclusively for Rewards Members. 
Travel privileges:
  • Airport lounge access
  • $200 airline incidentals credit
  • 24-hour J.P. Morgan Premier Concierge Service
  • Personalized cardmember service 24/7 from dedicated credit card advisors
Points Redemption:


Tier 1
Tier 2
Tier 3
Tier 4
Tier 5

*  8/15/2012 I plan on getting the Chase Ink Plus Credit Card once my year is up with The Chase Ink Bold Charge Card, in order to avoid the yearly fee. Then, after a year, I plan on getting the Chase Ink Bold in MY name, as opposed to my husbands, then the Ink Plus in my name after a years time. This will essentially give me 4 years of free fees for essentially the same card. Then I will churn the cards for another 4 years!

Note: I do not receive any referral fees for the credit cards I suggest.

1 comment:

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