Instead of describing credit cards as we usually do, we’re going to take a different approach here. We’ll be discussing our personal experiences with the cards we use ourselves: why we use them, for what kinds of purchases, any particular strategies we employ, and any experiences we’ve had with customer service. Here’s how John Ganotis, founder of Credit Card Insider, uses his credit cards.
I originally got this card for the bonus points. I also think it’s kind of cool because it’s metal. I’ve used it to bump locks open and scrape ice very effectively without damage to the card.
This is my go-to card for restaurants and travel because of the 2X points, and a good general card for anywhere else. Since it’s a Visa I can use it pretty much anywhere if I can’t use Discover or American Express. I always redeem the rewards points for travel.
The customer service on this card has been great so far. Whenever I call the number on the back of the card there are no prompts or automated systems. Someone just answers, and it seems to always be someone in the US.
I tend to shape my use of this card around the rotating 5% category, especially when the category is gas. I also used the 0% intro APR to pay some quarterly estimated taxes so I could defer them for a year. I had to pay a 1.87% fee, but got 1% back, for a net fee of 0.87% for a 1 year loan of around $8,000.
This is just a good card to have around for some extra available credit so I can keep my utilization lower and use it for some expenses to get more cash back.
I haven’t really used customer service much with this card, but the few times I did call for clarification on some of the terms they were very helpful and it wasn’t too hard to get someone on the phone. Remember, they tied American Express for number one in customer satisfaction last year.
I don’t usually carry this card with me. Instead, I use it to buy groceries at Wegmans with Apple Pay because then I get 2x points, and it’s really easy to spend a lot of money at Wegmans. I would still get those points if I just paid with the card directly, but paying with my phone is convenient and I’m not worried about losing the card. It’s also easy to use this card for a bunch of small Apple Pay transactions each month at drug stores or other grocery stores to get to the 20% bonus threshold.
I used the introductory period of this to pay some quarterly estimated taxes that I could then pay off later for a 0% loan. I had to pay a small fee to pay the taxes on a credit card, but I earned about $100 worth of Membership Rewards points (10,000 Membership Rewards points) that cancelled out the fee.
At the time of writing this American Express just rolled out some major updates to their site. I think they have one of the best out of any of the credit card issuers I’ve used. It seems to be the most modern design. Their interface is fast and responsive, but doesn’t over-use animation or unnecessary graphics like some of the other issuers’ sites.
Some aspects seem gimmicky, like a full screen pie graph to show me how many of the 20 transactions I’ve completed with my EveryDay card to get the 20% bonus. The American Express app also seems nice, and it’s cool to be able to use this card with Apple Pay.
I use this for big purchases here and there and always pay it off in full. I got it for the bonus points when I signed up, and the annual $89 companion ticket. If used well, the companion ticket alone can more than cover the $89 annual fee.
I haven’t used customer service for this card much, so I don’t have much to comment on with that. Barclaycard’s online portal seems a little dated with some of their graphics, but it’s not bad. Their app is also decent.
I got this one for the JetBlue bonus points since it’s one of the main airlines I fly. I put random big expenses on it to get some extra JetBlue points here and there. I also like this one because it gives you a 50% discount on all in flight purchases (so it’s always happy hour).
JetBlue seems to have one of the better sites as far as I’ve seen with airlines, which makes viewing and managing the TrueBlue points a good experience. Since it’s an American Express card, any card management and payments happen through American Express’ site, which is one of the best credit card company sites, in my opinion.
Update, March 2016: This card is no longer issued by American Express. It is now issued by Barclaycard.
Other Useful Tools
With a few different point-earning cards, I decided to sign up for TripIt Pro for their Point Tracker feature. I’m not a huge fan of TripIt because their software and design don’t seem that great, but this is the best solution I’ve found so far to track multiple points programs. It’s great to see all the points in one place, but there are some inconsistencies between their web and app interface for this feature.
For now I’m going to keep paying the $50/year for Pro because I want to see where the company goes and for now it’s worth it to me so I can see everything in one place. It would be a great if TripIt could up the level of quality in their product, or a new company would come into the space and do a better job by focusing on just this point tracking feature. I’ve been keeping an eye on this Quora thread to try new point trackers as they come out.
I use Mint to keep an eye on all my accounts and credit cards. I’ve used this since around 2006.
I remember seeing this company launch at Tech Crunch Disrupt in 2011. I forgot about them for a while, and then a friend recommended their app to me.
I really like it, because it’s almost like another layer on top of Mint that forces me to look at each final transaction that goes through on every credit card through a uniform interface. I’ve only caught a fraudulent transaction once, but it’s a really nice and easy system to just check BillGuard every few days to approve everything and make sure it all looks ok.