You've successfully subscribed to Jerry Zhang
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Jerry Zhang
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Billing info update failed.

The Only 3 Credit Cards I Carry In My Wallet

There are too many good credit cards! How do we decide which ones are worthy of taking up wallet space? The only 3 credit cards I carry in my wallet are...

Jerry Zhang
Jerry Zhang
·

5 min read

We live in a golden age of cashback credit cards. Entire blogs are dedicated to squeezing every last bit of juice out of rewards (looking at you, thepointsguy and nerdwallet). With so many choices out there, which ones should you choose?

Now, I know many hardcore churners will disagree with me. I’m not saying that these 3 credit cards are the best and that nothing out there is better. I’m just saying that these credit cards are good enough for me. The amount of effort it takes for me to research all the other credit cards, apply for them, set them up, and use for the right transaction is just not worth my time if the benefit is only small.

Another thing to note: I refuse to have a fat wallet. If power churners must have impressively fat wallets, I’m not about to make that my thing. Physical pocket space is valuable, and I can’t have a huge bump in my pocket holders affect my physical mobility.

My choice of 3 credit cards: The Chase Trifecta.

One of the reasons I chose Chase cards is because Chase has an unofficial 5/24 rule: if you have applied for 5 credit cards within the last 24 months, Chase will automatically deny your application no matter how good your credit score is. So as a rule of thumb, start with Chase, and you’ll always have the option to work outwards.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) gives 3% cashback on restaurants and travel and 1% cashback on all other purchases. Newcomers also get Chase 50,000 Ultimate Reward points if they spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. $450 annual fee.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) is just literally too good to be true, I still cannot believe it actually exists and works. Despite the $450/year fee, I’ve more than reaped a significant amount of the benefits this card has to offer.

$300 travel credit

I wonder why Chase even bothers making the annual fee $450 if they are just going to give us back $300. The travel credit is super easy to use, and credit will be automatically applied to airline tickets, hotels, uber, and many more others. This will reduce the $450/year fee to $150/year fee.

Free Airport Lounges and Food

Just by having this card, my quality of travel experience has dramatically improved. The CSR comes free with a Priority Pass (costs $100/year on its own), which allows you and up to 2 others to enter those airport lounges usually reserved only for first/business class. Now, I no longer have to spend money on food ever again at the airport because these lounges will provide myself and 2 others with free refreshments. So worth! Combined with the travel credit, this reduces the annual fee down to $50/year.

Shorter Airport Security Lines

CSR will reimburse your application fee ($100) when you use CSR to pay for the Global Entry application fee. Global Entry, which includes TSA Pre-Check, will allow you to line up in a separate shorter airport security line. In addition, upon returning to USA, you will also get a shorter line too.

Membership length is 5 years at a time. Combined with all the benefits above, this reduces the originally $450/year fee down to $30/year.

No Foreign Transactions

This is so sweet–when I travel, I only carry 1 credit card because when I’m abroad, this card is the best. And, when I’m back in USA, I don’t need to spend any money until I get home (free airport lounges provide free food). Thin wallets for the win!

Amazing 24/7 Customer Service

CSR’s customer service has been nothing short of amazing. I simply did not even believe this level of customer service was possible. Now that I’m used to CSR’s customer service, whenever I’m on the phone with another product’s customer service, I can’t help but wonder why they are so inferior to CSR’s customer service.

Other Benefits

There are apparently a ton of other benefits that come with this card that I have not yet explored. These include:

  • Travel and Purchase Protection
  • 1:1 Point Transfer to other Airline/Hotel branded credit cards

I will report back if I ever use these services and let everyone know.

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom gives 5% cashback on quarterly rotating categories and 1% cashback on all other purchases. Newcomers also get $150 cashback if they spend $500 in purchases within the first 3 months. No annual fee.

The 5% categories have typically been very practical, ranging from common spending areas like gas, groceries, restaurants, Amazon, and more. Here’s what Chase Freedom categories were in the past:

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited gives 1.5% cashback on all purchases. Newcomers will receive 2x rewards for all cashback earned within the first year, effectively doubling the 1.5% cashback into 3% cashback for the first year. No annual fee.

The typical 1.5% cashback turns into 2.25% cashback when I transfer the Chase Ultimate Rewards points to CSR and redeem it for travel, which beats the well-known Citi’s Double Cash card’s 2% cashback.

This card is usually my default. If I cannot get a better cashback rate from the 2 other cards above, I will use this card.

My Strategy

To conclude, here’s my credit card usage strategy:

  • Use CSR for restaurants, booking flights, booking hotels/airbnb, uber/lyft (3% cashback)
  • Then, use Chase Freedom for the quarterly 5% category (5% cashback)
  • Finally, use Chase Freedom Unlimited for everything else (1.5% cashback)

What cards do you carry? What strategies do you use? Comment below, I’d love to read about them!

Personal Finance

Jerry Zhang

Programmer, YouTuber, and amateur musician. I like to write too!