This is a blog about travel. This is definitely a blog about credit cards. So, finally here is finally a post about what I carry in my wallet when travelling or even just every day use.
But I want this post to be more than just “hey these are the cards I use at the moment” so I’ve included some tips and suggestions along the way.
Say No to All American Express Cards
Filling up my wallet with American Express cards only is a huge no-no. Even within US, some locations don’t accept American Express cards. There are various countries where American Express is barely even accepted, if at all.
Bank and Network Variety
Not only filling up wallet with all cards that run on Amex network is a bad play but filling up your wallet with Chase only or Citi only just as bad. Fraud alerts, security freeze, shutdown, etc happen and when they do you want to have an alternative option in your wallet.
Likewise, it might be a decent idea to at least have one Mastercard and one Visa in your wallet.
Debit cards with ATM Rebate
The only debit cards that I carry are the one that give some form of ATM fee rebate. My huge preference is towards Schwab and Fidelity debit card. Schwab refunds all ATM fees at the end of the month while Fidelity does so few days after a transaction is made. Schwab almost always has $100 signup bonus while Fidelity rarely has 1-2 day lasting signup bonus.
As a “founder member” (aka I joined them early on) of Denizen, I have another option for ATM rebate debit card.
My fourth choice is debit card from Alliant Credit Union which provides up to $20 rebate per month. Unfortunately this debit card has 1% foreign transaction fee.
I’m still waiting for a decent mastercard debit card with generous ATM rebate and no FTF.
Store Card Numbers Online
Instead of bringing a bag of credit cards with you it might be a better idea to store card numbers online using various apps like 1Password or Lastpass. If you want extra security, put a passcode in your phone/computer and locally save card numbers behind a secure app.
This way when you eventually need make an online spend with AT&T Access Card (3x on many online stores), or needed to reenter your card number on amazon before you’re allowed to make a purchase, or something else….you can easily do just that.
The Ever Changing Wallet
Until few months ago I could have told you that I always carry Prestige with me but that is no longer true. Never had I thought that I would be carrying American Express Gold (currently gives 4x on restaurant and 5x on groceries) with me during every single trip. My point is that this game is every changing so what I say in this section may no longer be valid about me in the future. Nevertheless here is a quick rundown:
- Altitude Reserve (4.5% everywhere a card can be swiped)
- Amex Gold (4x on restaurant)
- Occasionally hotel/airline branded credit card if I’m looking to spend money on said hotel/airline.
- Card I might be meeting spend on as a backup
BUT Wait I’m Shifting to Mobile Payments
I use Altitude Reserve card with Samsung Pay. You can read the linked post but long story short I can earn 4.5% on every location I could swipe a card. This means I don’t have to carry too many cards. In fact whole bunch of my physical cards got replaced by one single card that was added to mobile payment.
Until I was writing this article, I didn’t think too much about using mobile payment for anything else. For a while now, I have had only one card in my mobile wallet. However, I just added American Express Gold to my mobile wallet as well. I enjoy the thought of not having to carry this metal card in my wallet. I will definitely add a few more cards to my wallet. I think some hotel cards will be a good contender for this.
Cards I Try to Always Bring with Me
- I always carry an ID on me
- I seem to always carry insurance card as well
Cards I Intentionally Leave at Home
- Global Entry and TSA Precheck is amazing but you don’t need Global Entry card.
- Cards hotel sent because you reached or maintained a status are cool but leave them at home as well.
- If I’m not going to the centurion lounge then there is no point in bringing a physical platinum card with me. Soon you can enter centurion lounge without a physical card so it will be nice not having to carry this card whatsoever.
- Likewise, if I’m not going to take advantage of priority pass club then I don’t bother taking it with me.
As I wrote this article, I realized that I have significantly cut the number of cards I carry. Plus, with belated move to mobile wallet, I’m heading towards zeroing the number of credit cards I carry for daily use.