Favorite things, day 2: credit cards


There are many reasons I love credit cards. As a payments nerd, I marvel that I can be on the far side of the world, tap a card and walk away with things I want. As a marketing nerd, I love figuring out how credit card companies structure offers and guessing at CAC.

As a frequent traveler and a consumer, credit cards offer great benefits and conveniences. Rewards cards get me premium travel and beautiful hotels all over the world. They get me into lounges.

IMPORTANT: If you do not pay off your credit card every month, do not get a rewards card to charge on to. You will pay way more in interest every month than the benefits are worth. The reason American Express, Chase and Citi are willing to pay billions to the airlines is that many humans are economically irrational and way overpay for frequent flier miles that they then have to beg to use.

If that doesn’t describe you, or you have the discipline to separate credit card spend, then you can get a lot out of value from premium cards.

American Express green card

A surprise this year: AmEx’s re-introduction of the Green card, the one that started it all. This used to be a status symbol. Getting an AmEx Green card was a sign that you’ve arrived.

AmEx is bringing this card back with a vengeance. The new AmEx Green Card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Just go apply now. (referral link)

For a very reasonable $150 annual fee, there is a lot you get up front:

  • 35,000 Membership Rewards points. I value those at $612.50.
  • $100 per year toward Clear membership. This is the only card I know of that offers credit for Clear.
  • $150 in statement credits toward Away luggage. I’m not a fan of their luggage because I don’t like spinner wheels, but plenty of people do. I’ll probably get some accessories. If you use someone’s referral link, you get another $20. $170 towards some good – but not road warrior grade – luggage.

That’s more than $850 in value for $150, with a small $2,000 minimum spend.

The bonus categories are perfect for travelers: travel and restaurants. This is the vast majority of my spend.

You also get access to Lounge Buddy lounges. These are not the high end Centurion American Express lounges.

You also get most of AmEx’s travel benefits, which are well above average compared with the industry.

This is a card that you should just get.




About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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