How to Create a Portfolio of Rewards Cards

5 Steps for Creating Your Rewards Card Portfolio

Cover your top spending categories

One of the best ways to get started with credit card rewards is to find a card that features enhanced earning on spending categories you’ll use the most. Some popular examples include dining, groceries, gas, travel, etc. For cards without annual fees, 3x categories are common while cards with annual fees might offer 4x, 5x, or higher on select spending categories.

Start with 2% Back

Sure it’s easy to be wooed by enhanced rewards in specific categories but a card that offers a flat return across all spending can be another powerful tool in your wallet — even if it’s not quite as “sexy.” In most cases, cards that offer category multipliers reward all other purchases at a rate of 1 cent/point/mile per dollar spent. However, there’s now a growing number of cards that can help you raise your base reward to 2x. In other words, when no other card in your portfolio offers anything better, a 2% back card can be your go-to in your quest to maximize every purchase.

Add some rotation to the card mix

In addition to flat-rate cards and category multiplier cards, there is a third main type of rewards credit card: one with rotating categories. With these cards, every quarter or so, you may be able to take advantage of extra enhanced rewards on special categories. Since these bonus categories often top what any of your other cards are likely to offer, having a rotating category card or two in the mix can be beneficial.

Look at additional perks

Stepping outside of rewards in the strictest sense, let’s talk about some of the other benefits that credit cards can bring. From purchase protection to credits to lounge access and beyond, there may be more to your card than just points, miles, or cash back. In turn, you may decide to add a card to your wallet for reasons beyond what it earns on purchases.

Bonus hunting

Once you have your rewards strategy in place and all of the additional perks you could possibly want, you might consider looking for cards not for their long term appeal, per se, but instead focusing on the bonuses they offer. As I’m sure you’re aware, in order to entice new cardholders, issuers regularly offer sizable bonuses. More often than not, this will take the form of “Earn X points/miles when you spend $X within your first three months.”

Other Considerations to Make When Building Your Rewards Card Portfolio

Cash, points, or miles?

One of the biggest debates among credit card customers is whether cashback cards are better than ones that earn points and miles instead. For Team Cashback, the appeals are the transparent exchange rate, ease of use, and practicality. On the other hand, Team Points and Miles enjoy finding ways to turn their single point into up to 10¢ in value (as opposed to the standard 1¢) and further take advantage of specials offered by travel transfer partners. And we won’t even mention the wave of crypto cards hitting the market!

Ecosystem

For as much as I like my hybrid setup, diversification can actually be a downside when it comes to credit card rewards. That’s because some cards may have minimum redemption amounts that can be hard to reach if you’re using so many cards. Similarly, while point currencies such as those from Amex and Chase do have some overlapping transfer partners, what happens if you want to book a flight that’s only featured on one and you don’t have enough points in that account to cover it? To avoid these situations, it may be better to pick one card “ecosystem” or currency and stick with it — or at least have a solid plan for each.

Final Thoughts On Building Your Ideal Credit Card Mix

When used responsibly — including paying off your full balance each month — rewards credit cards can provide value to you. Whether it’s cashback that can directly be used to offset your purchases or points/miles that can be redeemed for free travel, rewards can definitely be beneficial. Furthermore, by building a card portfolio that covers all of your bases, you’ll be able to maximize these perks for an even bigger return. That said, there are plenty of considerations to make along the way. But, by taking it slow, and doing your research, you can build a rewards card portfolio that fits your needs and keeps you rolling in cashback (or points).

--

--

Kyle is author of “The E-Ticket Life” and “Write, Print, Publish, Promote” as well as a regular contributor to Dyer News, Moneyat30, and The Laughing Place.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Kyle Burbank

Kyle Burbank

Kyle is author of “The E-Ticket Life” and “Write, Print, Publish, Promote” as well as a regular contributor to Dyer News, Moneyat30, and The Laughing Place.