Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Only Want One Credit Card, Help!

I get this question frequently.  It usually goes something like this, "There are too many cards to choose from and I don't want to have too many cards in my wallet , so which card should I get?"

People usually only want one card because of one or all of the following reasons: They don't want their credit score affected by opening too many cards, don't want a bulky wallet, others don't want to keep track of so many cards both in terms of bills and when to use what card.

The answer to this question is a little complicated.  Different cards are right for every person depending on their spending habits.

When some ask this question, often they mean that they don't want many cards but if they have 2, or maybe even 3 cards, that's okay.  Someone who falls into this category should continue towards the end.  The first section will be dedicated to someone who wants one card only.  I highly recommend more than one card because of the great rewards available if you are willing to have an American Express card, but here are the best non AE cards that I know of:

I would like to start by saying that only one of these cards has an annual fee (American Express Blue Cash Preferred) but if you spend a lot of money on groceries or gas this fee is worth it.

If anyone has a credit card that they like to use please leave a comment and if it is superior I will update the blog.

One Card Only:

If you are only going to have one card, the best card depends upon how you usually spend your money.  However, I would suggest a visa or mastercard, not an american express so that your card is accepted everywhere (unless you carry plenty of cash with you anyway)

I don't have any specific categories that I spend money in:
There are probably three cards to choose from for this person.

1) Fidelity Visa Card/Capital One Cash Rewards - both give you 1.5% back for every purchase.  The capital one card gives you 1% back and then gives you another .5% at the end of the year but there is a sign up bonus of $100 after you spend $500 in the first 3 months.  The Fidelity card gives you 1.5% back once you reach a certain threshold of rewards (I don't have their Visa - I have the Fidelity American Express which gives you $50 after you spend $2,500).  The annoying thing with the Fidelity card is that you need a Fidelity account, which requires a one time $2,500 deposit, which can be transferred out once the account has been opened.

2) Chase Freedom - 1% back on every purchase but 5% back in rotating categories, which last a few months (currently Gas and travel purchases) - up to $75 back for each category.  For a calender of what gets you 5% back, go to chase.com/freedom.   Plus you can get a $100 sign up bonus when you spend $500 in the first 3 months.

I spend a lot of money on gas and groceries

There is really only one visa or mastercard that I know of that is right for you.

Bank of America Cash Rewards - this card gets you the regular 1% back on every purchase but gives you an additional 3% back on gas and 2% back on groceries.

I spend a whole lot of money on gas

Penfed credit card - 1% back on everything and 5% back on all gas purchases.  Beware of this card.  I tried to get it and you have to go through a whole bunch of hoops to qualify.  I was unable to get it (mostly because of a lack of income) even though I have qualified for every other credit card.

I am willing to have two cards:

If you are willing to have more than one card I would suggest an American Express credit card as your standard card and a visa or mastercard as your second card for when your AE is not accepted.

I don't have any specific categories that I spend money in:

Best overall card is the Fidelity American Express - this card gives you 2% back on everything.  There are drawbacks.  Read this link for more information on advantages and disadvantages of this card.

I spend a lot of money on gas and groceries:

American Express Blue, American Express Blue Preferred and Bank of America Cash Rewards - The regular American Express Blue gives you 1% back on everything, 3% on groceries and 2% on gas.  The Bank of America card gives you 1% back on everything, 2% on groceries and 3% on gas.  You have to see whether you spend more more on groceries or more money on gas to decide between the two.
The American Express Blue Preferred gives you 1% back on everything, 6% back on groceries and 3% back on gas.  Unfortunately, it has an annual fee of $75.  However, if you spend $500 in the first 60 days you get $100 so the first year the annual fee can be a non issue.
If you spend just $2,500 a year on groceries you would get $75 back for the 3% card and $150 for the 6% card.  
For more reading on these cards take a look at this link.