So I have 14 credit cards, and when some people hear that, they just assume I have a spending problem or that I’m drowning and dead. But the truth is, I actually spend very little, and each one of those 14 cards is part of my plan to not only travel for free with points, but also to build my credit score, manage my money, and really just optimize my everyday spending. So in this blog post, I want to go over my full credit card journey and strategy from age 18 until today, at age 27. I’ll describe some mistakes that I’ve made, what credit cards I have and what order I got them in, and really just my overall story of having so many credit cards.
- Wells Fargo student card
So let’s get right into it with my first ever credit card, which I got way back in July of 2016, and that was a Wells Fargo student card. Now, I was around 20 and a half years old when I got this first card, so I’d say that my first mistake was waiting two and a half years after turning 18 to start building credit.
Since the age of this account for me could be a lot older, which would be better for my score, So around that time before my first card, I was pretty much just using a debit card for everything, and I would think to myself, “Hey, I already have some cash in my bank account, so what’s the point of using credit? I mean, I only ever saw bad things on the news about credit card debt and people paying these high-interest rates on their balances, so I decided I was just going to stay away from it and play it safe by using a debit card instead.
Now, there’s a whole lot of stuff I can get into about why debit cards are actually not the best way to pay for things, but eventually, I realized using debit wasn’t really giving me any protections or benefits. Plus, it wasn’t building my credit either, which is so important for literally saving tens of thousands of dollars on something like a mortgage or a car loan in the future. So the summer before my junior year at Penn State, I signed up for that Wells Fargo student card to get started.
Now, my goal was just to build my credit, so I wasn’t really focused on cashback, sign-up bonuses, travel, or any of that stuff. I was only going to put the essentials like groceries and textbooks on that card, but eventually, I learned that keeping my balance low relative to my credit limit, along with paying my statement balance on time and in full every single month, helped my credit score, which began to increase.
Now, fast forward to today, and that credit card account is still open as my oldest account at just over six years old, and it’s also been upgraded from that student card that didn’t do too much to the Wells Fargo Act of Cash that I have that earns a flat 2% cashback on everything.
I’ll be honest though; I hardly ever use this card because I have some better ones that I’ll discuss throughout this blog post, but I still make sure to use it at least once every six to 12 months just to keep it active so it doesn’t get closed for inactivity, and that’s something everyone should keep in mind with their cards too. So that was my credit card number one, but after those last two years in college, I graduated in May of 2018 with a degree in finance, and that was still my only one.
So after a few months of getting settled in at my first job out of school, working as an underwriter at an insurance company in my home city of Philadelphia, I started traveling for work down to the Washington-DC, Maryland, and Virginia areas for some work trips. So it was around that time in late 2018 that I decided I wanted to look at opening a second credit card to continue building credit but also to start earning some more cashback or points to really optimize my spending.
And of course, I turned to Reddit, YouTube, and some other blogs to learn about what might be the best options for me. I guess at the time, I was still new to the credit card game, and I figured that I wanted to focus more on travel with cards that earned points instead of cashback. And that’s really because I had just gone on a trip to Ireland with my family, and I really wanted to see some more new places after that.
I also wanted to save money at the same time so that I could get ahead financially.
So because travel can be expensive, I felt like leveraging credit card points that I can earn for my normal spending was going to be the best way to travel for less.
- Chase Freedom Card
So I decided that for my following three credit cards, I was going to get something called the Chase Trifecta, which a lot of people online seem to recommend, but for my second credit card, I got the Chase Freedom Card in December of 2018. Now this credit card is actually closed to new applicants since it was replaced by the similar Freedom Flex card that Chase now offers, but the original Freedom Card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points by getting 5x points per dollar in rotating quarterly categories that can vary from things like grocery stores, gas stations, Amazon, and things like that.
So my plan was to save up these points and eventually combine them with the Chase Sapphire Preferred that I wanted to get next. That way, I could take advantage of that card’s point redemption features for booking travel to get more value for my points.
- Chase Sapphire preferred
Now, I wasn’t really in a rush, so I actually waited almost a whole year until November of 2019 to apply for it and then get approved for the Chase Sapphire Preferred as my third credit card. And I would say it was actually this card right here that got me hooked on the credit card game because it was metal. It had a $95 annual fee, and it gave me 60,000 points as a sign of a bonus.
More importantly, as a part of the Chase Trifecta setup, the Sapphire preferred gave me access to 25% more value from my points when redeeming them for travel in the Chase portal. So basically, that meant 60,000 points would be worth $750 towards travel instead of just $600 for cashback. Or I could also use that card to transfer my points at a 1-1 rate to partner programs to book travel that gave me even more value than that.
Now for points earning categories, the Sapphire preferred got 2x points on general travel expenses and 3x points on dining, and now Chase recently added some other categories from last year, like 5x points on travel books through Chase and 3x points on streaming services as well. It also has some useful travel benefits, like primary auto rental coverage and some other good travel insurance protections. Now, after only two more months, I wanted to complete that Chase Trifecta since I really like the idea of optimizing my spending everywhere I go.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited
So in January 2020, I applied for and got approved for the fourth credit card right here, which is Chase Freedom Unlimited. And that was going to act as my catch-all card for miscellaneous expenses since it got 1.5x points per dollar on everything. So that was a great setup for me with Chase Trifecta, and honestly, I still think it’s one of the best setups for the average person because it’s cheap, but it’s also super easy to use when it comes to earning and then redeeming points for travel.
But as I said, it was around January 2020 when I got my Chase Trifecta in place and was ready to start using those Chase points that I earned for some travel. But of course, the world kind of shut down for a while shortly after that, and travel just wasn’t an option.
So at that time, I decided that I was going to give new credit cards a break for a while because I was happy with what I had and I was in a good place to build my credit score up to the high 700s across those four accounts. And by the way, for most people, I think three to five credit cards are plenty, so I don’t ever feel like you need 14 credit cards like me, with the rest I’m going to go over next here.
- Amex Gold Card
Now, eventually, when I felt ready to jump back in for credit card number five in November of 2020, I decided to go with the Amex Gold Card because I realized that I wasn’t really earning that much on my grocery spending with the Chase Trifecta, which is one downside of that setup. And most people spend a lot on groceries every single month, so I think that’s a category everyone should make sure they have a good credit card for.
So the Amex Gold Card gets four X points per dollar on groceries and dining, and I also got a 60,000-point sign-up bonus. Amex points are really known for being valuable when it comes to travel, especially with flights, so I applied and got approved instantly for the Gold Card in late 2020. Now, the crazy unexpected thing is that only around two months later, I saw a targeted offer for the Amex Platinum Card, which at the time had a $550 annual fee, but the request was for 100,000 points and 10 X points per dollar on groceries for the first six months.
And 10 X points on groceries with this offer beats four X points on my Gold Card, so I did some quick math and looked at all the credits on the Platinum Card versus the annual fee and decided that it was worth it for me to get it for at least one year to see how I liked it. Now, the Amex Platinum is also good for earning points on travel spend, with five X points per dollar on flights and five X points on hotels booked through Amex, but if I’m being honest, I think I kind of rushed it with getting this card since I had just opened the Amex Gold.
I thought that I really liked the Chase drive factor, so I wanted to have sort of a dual trifecta set up with the Chase cards earning Chase points, which I would then use for hotels since Hyatt is an amazing transfer partner with them. But then I was going to get the Amex Trifecta with the Gold Card, Platinum, and eventually the Blue Business Plus. That way, I could use my Amex points for flights because that seemed like the best use of those points.
- Amex Platinum
So now the Amex Platinum was a credit card number six for me that I opened in January 2021, and funny enough, eventually, of course, a few months later, Amex raised the annual fee to $695 on the Platinum card and gave it some new credits, which ended up pushing some people away from it.
So after six credit cards, I began to really think about what the best way was to optimize what cards I could get next in terms of welcome bonuses and my spending habits. And the top thing on my mind that I considered at the time was the infamous Chase 524 rule because that was going to affect what I did.
For anyone not familiar, the Chase 524 rule is sort of an unwritten rule Chase has that says if you’ve opened five or more personal credit cards across all issuers within the past 24 months, you will automatically be denied any new Chase credit cards.
So, for example, I had six cards at this point in January 2021, but my first card was opened in July 2016. So it was past 24 months old and did not count towards this rule. And my second credit card with Chase Freedom from December 2018 was also over 24 months old, so it didn’t count. But my Sapphire Preferred, Freedom Unlimited, Amex Gold, and Amex Platinum were all open in the last 24 months as of January 2021. So that meant I was at 424 and still eligible to be approved for another Chase credit card.
Now I could have applied for some random personal Chase card next, which would have put me at 524 and then locked me out of Chase cards for a while. Or I knew I could do a little trick to get around this Chase 524 rule, and that was by applying for business credit cards next. Since I had a YouTube channel that I started, that is a business because I was planning to earn some revenue from it soon and I also had a few small expenses. So I was able to apply for business credit cards because of that.
But most of you could probably qualify for business credit cards too if you have any sort of side hustle, like reselling things online or really any other sort of small thing that you run like a business. When it comes to the 524 rule, business cards do not add to your 524 account because they do not report to your personal credit report. But you do need to be under the Chase 524 rule to get approved in the first place for Chase cards, at least, and I was at 424, so I was good to go.
- Chase Ink Business Cash
So next, I decided that I would get a no-annual-fee Chase business credit card that had a big sign of bonus, and that was the Chase Ink Business Cash, which I got as my seventh overall credit card. Cash also has a few business-related categories, like 5x points per dollar on office supply stores, internet, phone, and cable, as well as 2x points per dollar at gas stations and restaurants. So overall, this is a great no-annual-fee card if you have any sort of small business or side hustle going on, especially when you know you can meet that minimum spend for the signup bonus.
Then after that, I decided that I could briefly go up to 524 by applying for another Chase personal card since I knew I would drop back down to 424 shortly after that as time passed.
- Chase Freedom Flex
So I decided to apply for the Chase Freedom Flex in late October 2021. This is practically the same card as my original Freedom card that I got before since it earns 5x points per dollar in a rotating quarter of the categories. But Chase also improved this card by adding some other categories, like 5x points on travel both through Chase and 3x points on dining and drugstores, which is a lot for a no-annual fee card, and that’s why I still think it’s one of the best no annual fee credit cards out there.
However, the main reason I applied for it was that there was a special sign-up bonus going on for not only 20,000 Chase points but also 5x points per dollar on groceries for my first year.
And 5x Chase points on groceries are insanely valuable since I spend so much on food that I cook at home. So I had to take advantage of that offer to make this credit card number 8 for me. So that was great, but while I was around 424 and 524 in the fall of 2021, I wanted to keep focusing more on business credit cards while the rest of my credit accounts could continue aging some more and falling away from my 524 status.
So I decided to complete my Amex strike back by getting a card that has no annual fee but also earns 2x points per dollar on everything.
- Amex Blue Business Plus
In November of 2021, I got approved for the Amex Blue Business Plus as my 9th credit card. Now I know that all seems like a lot of new cards that I got pretty quickly, but since this was a business card again, it didn’t count towards my 524 status, and my social media business is made up of miscellaneous expenses anyway, so getting a flat 2 Amex points per dollar on everything seemed like a good fit for my situation.
With nine credit cards in late 2021, I decided it was time to take a little break from new cards for a while because there was a lot going on in my personal life and my career.
- Chase Ink Business Unlimited
So I think I waited until June of 2022 to get a credit card number 10, which was another Chase business card with Unlimited right here, which earns 1.5x points per dollar on everything, so now I had plenty of options with business credit cards.
Now, I’ll be honest, I mostly got this card for the signup bonus, which was also for 75,000 Chase points after $7,500 in minimum spending on that card. That’s sort of been my strategy lately because I have a lot of credit cards that earn well in most spending categories.
So from time to time, I’ll apply for cards that give me the best bonuses to really maximize the credit card points that I get. Again, $7,500 in 3 months is a lot, so it only made sense for me because I had a few one-time expenses like buying a new Mac Pro, so I knew that I would get that bonus, but for anyone reading this, make sure that you understand if you really want to get that bonus. If you really want to earn a lot of points, cash back, or whatever you prefer, signing bonuses are usually the best way to earn a lot really quickly.
Now, around June and July of this past year, in 2022, my Chase 524 status was at $3.24, and I decided I should just try to get two more Chase cards that I wanted before moving on to some other issuers, so that way I could optimize for this rule.
- Marriott Bonavoy Boundless
So in July 2022, I got the Marriott Bonavoy Boundless for credit card number 11. Now, with this card, it has a $95 annual fee, but it comes with a free night certificate every year worth up to 35,000 Marriott points, and that free night every year is worth way more than the annual fee, which makes this a good keeper card.
But again, I like looking for good sign-up bonuses, and this card over the summer was offering 5 free nights worth up to 50,000 Marriott points per night, and that was a great offer to me because I know I’ll easily use those free nights, even though I probably won’t use this credit card that much for spending because the points categories are just okay.
- Chase World of Hyatt card
Then right after that, in September 2022, for credit card number 12, I got the Chase World of Hyatt card, which also has a $95 annual fee and a free night every year that’s worth way more than $95, so that makes this another good keeper card. And the welcome bonus was pretty average at 30,000 points after $3,000 of spending.
But as I described, this card also got an extra two high points per dollar on everything for six months for a possible extra 30,000 points, so I actually used this card to buy my engagement ring for my fiancee, which allows me to use this card. And for my fiancee, which allowed me to earn a bunch of valuable high points.
Now the strategy there was that I could either finance that ring at 0% and pay it off over a few years, but I don’t really like having debt if I can avoid it, and I had already saved up the cash to buy it anyway. So the credit card acted as a way to get some additional purchase protection plus hundreds of dollars worth of points that we can put towards our honeymoon, and then I just paid off that balance in full, so I still didn’t pay any interest.
- City Custom Cash
Then, for my last two credit cards now that I was at 524 and couldn’t get any more Chase cards at the moment, I got two cards that I’ve wanted for a while, with number 13 being the City Custom Cash and number 14 being the Amazon Prime Business Card, in October of 2022.
So both of these have no annual fee, and the City Custom Cash is going to be an amazing flexible card and possibly the best no-annual-fee card out there right now.
And that’s because it gets 5% back in whatever category you want across things like groceries, dining, gas, and a bunch of others, as long as that’s your highest spent category of that billing cycle. So what I’m doing right now is using this as a grocery card where I’m only using it at grocery stores, so that way it’s my highest category each billing cycle to guarantee 5% back, but then I’ll probably switch it up, and use it mostly on gas next year to get 5% back on gas.
- Amazon Prime Business Card
And then the Amazon Prime Business Card is another great catch-all card for random business expenses that I have on Amazon, or I’ll get 5% back there. So as you can see, these 14 credit cards have all played a major role in earning literally tens of thousands of dollars worth of points and cashback, all because I made the change back in 2016 to use a credit card instead of a debit card for almost every expense I have.
But to use these properly, I stick to a budget to avoid overspending, and then I treat my credit cards like debit cards and just pay them off on time and in full every single month. My credit score has been in the high 700s over the past few years just by doing these things.
So it’s pretty simple, but it does take some time, so don’t rush it if you eventually want to have a bunch of cards like this, and make sure you don’t get denied when you go to apply because no one wants to get rejected for a card they want.