I’ve written a few posts about the best credit cards to use for manufactured spending, but not everyone earns their points that way. What if you’re not involved in manufactured spending at all? Plenty of people steer clear of manufactured spending, either because they don’t need it or they lack the necessary resources to pull it off. These people just want a good credit card to maximize their spending, maintain some travel benefits, and do it all within a reasonable budget. If this describes you, here are 6 credit cards to get if you’re not into manufactured spending:
1. Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express
We don’t know what will happen to the Starwood credit cards once the Starwood – Marriott merger completes, but in the mean time, this is a great card for non-categorized spending. The 1 SPG point per $1 spent this card earns can be transferred to airline miles at a 1:1.25 ratio (if transferred in 20,000 point increments) or converted to Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio. The Marriott transfer ratio works out great if you’ve got your eye on a top-tier Marriott or Ritz Carlton award redemption or Marriott Hotel + Air awards, which may been out of reach until now.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card has a few added perks the personal version doesn’t. For starters, cardholders get complimentary Sheraton Club Lounge access, SPG Gold status, and access to the Boingo American Express Preferred Plan. Even the $95 annual fee is nothing to sweat over because the year-round Amex Offers statement credits can off-set that completely.
2. Discover It Miles Card
Whether you’re looking for a great card for manufactured spending or just maximizing your daily spend, the Discover It Miles Card is a great choice. It earns 1.5 miles per $1 spent (1.5% cash back), which is doubled the first year. Regardless of what you charge to the card, a flat 3 miles per $1 spent is pretty generous. Cardholders can redeem these miles for travel statement credits or transfer them to a bank account. Considering the card has no annual fee, comes with a $30 annual in-flight wifi credit, keeping it long-term is a no-brainer.
3. Chase Sapphire Reserve
Ok, so I’ve ragged on the Chase Sapphire Reserve quite a bit, but at the end of the day it’s a great card for some people. This includes people who don’t manufacture spend and want a rewarding card with lots of travel benefits. The $450 annual fee is really $150 when you factor in the $300 annual travel credit. With the $100 Global Entry application fee credit, 3 points per $1 on travel and dining, and the ability to get 50% more value out of Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal redemptions, this card might be a keeper. So if you’re not earning points via manufactured spending, this card at least rewards two of the most common categories most of us spend money in: Travel and dining.
4. Club Carlson Credit Card
Before the tomato throwing commences, consider this: The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Credit Card is the best card out there for earning free nights at top-tier hotels via credit card spending. All it takes is $14,000 worth of non-categorized spending for a free night at a top-tier hotel. Even a Category 1 Club Carlson award night is attainable after just $1,800 worth of credit card spending. This works out nicely for people who can’t manufacture spend. Not only does the card offer a generous return on spending, but cardholders get a 40,000 point renewal bonus annually.
5. Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card
The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card is a great way to earn Membership Rewards points at an accelerated rate. The card pays out 3 points per $1 at supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year), 2 points at gas stations, and 1 point everywhere else. The best part? Cardholders who make 30 or more purchases in a billing period earn a 50% bonus. For someone who does not manufacture spend at all but channels all of their household bills and daily spending on this card, 30 transactions shouldn’t be too difficult to crack since it translates to an average of one per day. I think most of us (outside of buying gift cards) can manage one transaction a day with our coffee habit alone.
6. A 2% Cash Back Card
Any time I recommend the Fidelity Rewards Visa, people wonder why I don’t mention the Citi Double Cash Card. After all, they’re both 2% cash back cards and carry no annual fees, making them perfect for people who want a good return on their everyday spending. There are really two reasons: First, Citi has lots of rewards credit cards so you’re essentially giving up a sign-up bonus by opting for the Citi Double Cash Card instead. I’ve also had issues with my Citi credit cards getting hacked. While Citi handled it well, I’m weary of keeping (or recommending) Citi credit cards for long-term use.
That’s my take on the best credit cards for people who are not into manufactured spending. Are there any others you think should be on the list?
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