The 3 Most Important Cards For Your Wallet

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Lee asks,

Gary, if you limited yourself to three in-your-wallet cards, what would they be?

The answer varies a lot based on:

  • reward goals (what you want to do with the points you earn)
  • type of spend (because different cards will earn differently based on the kind of spend you do)
  • However in simple terms:

    • American Express® Gold Card earns 4x on dining, 4x on the first $25,000 each calendar year of U.S. supermarket spend; 3x on flights booked directly with airlines (see rates and fees). These are transferable Membership Rewards points.

    • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earn 2x on on every purchase, every day. These are transferable Capital One miles.

    • For the third spot Bilt World Elite Mastercard if I were a renter, but since I’m a homeowner I’ll say the The World Of Hyatt Credit Card or CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® so I can earn credit towards the two statuses I care most about.

    Here I’m assuming ‘in your wallet’ means for regular spend. So I’d want to earn 3x on flights, 4x on dining and groceries, 4x on my Hyatt stays and then 2x on everything else. I wouldn’t earn less than 2x on anything. And outside of Hyatt points (which I use regularly) I’d be earning transferable points.

    If I want a card in my wallet that includes lounge access, I’d do Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card instead of Venture, since that not only gains access to Capital One lounge it also gets Plaza Premium lounge access and a Priority Pass. (The single best card for lounge access is still Amex Platinum, which also comes with Amex and Escape lounges plus Delta lounges when flying Delta, though its Priority Pass is hobbled with no credit at Priority Pass restaurants.)

    I think the biggest takeaways here are:

    • Don’t lose out on earning up to 50,000 points per year on rent (at no extra cost) from the no annual fee Bilt Rewards card

    • The Amex Gold card may be the single most underrated rewards card, and in my view is the best points-earning American Express card

    • Earning transferable currencies whenever you can makes the most sense. That way you can move your points where you need them – based on where you want to go and who has availability – and you get to decide later. (Since I work with a 7 figure balance with both Chase and Amex I like to diversity further.)

    • Cards serve other functions, too. The most leveraged spend is earning an up front bonus. Your spend can earn you credit towards status with some programs. And then there’s benefits from just having the card (and it may not need to be in your wallet for that). A compelling up front bonus may be a reason to get a card. Compelling benefits may be a reason to keep a card. But neither is a reason to spend money on the card on an ongoing basis.

    For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.


    CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® Earn 65,000 AAdvantage miles.

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