tl;dr: Charge the groceries, Mildred. Charge the groceries. Charge the gas. Charge the Diet Coke. Then go home, transfer the money from the checking account to the credit card payment and let the points accumulate.

Before I continue in my “Suite Life of Suz” aka “The Doctor is Out” journey, I will shamelessly plug some of my favorite credit cards. These links are direct referral links, and I would appreciate if you would use them if you want these cards. What you get is identical to what you would get if you went to the website and applied. However, I get a few extra points posted to my account for you using my referral link. When you click the link it will show you in more detail what the benefits of each card are, so read through them. For all Chase cards with a modest annual fee, you almost always will also have travel insurance of some sort, maybe baggage delay insurance, a free hotel night that is worth more than the fee, some level of rental car insurance (check the United card one!), bonus spend on gas and groceries, and all sorts of other perks. Most credit cards for hotels also come with hotel status of some level. Status is very useful as it gets you upgrades to suites in some places, and other lovely things that you may not otherwise receive. I have written short summaries of what I love about each card.

Some important notes:

Do not ever carry balances on credit cards. Rewards cards, especially, have outrageous interest rates. Credit cards should be your slaves, and if you can’t discipline yourself to do this, delete this post. It can ruin your life otherwise. I am serious. Never ever get that excited about a hotel room or airline flight. And if you have a medical emergency, see your banker for a reasonable loan, not a loan shark and not CareCredit either. But that’s a lecture for another day!

Chase is an excellent credit card company with whom to do business. The benefits are wonderful, and they are known for paying on things like trip and baggage delay insurance (which thankfully I have not needed). But Chase has an unpublished rule called 5/24. This rule goes like this: If you have opened 5 credit cards in the past 24 months from any card issuer, Chase will not issue you a credit card. Period. You can have a great credit score, no debt in the whole world, nothing. It won’t matter. That’s their rule. So let’s say you look at this list, have opened three credit card in the last two years and want the Hyatt. IHG, and Hilton. Then you should apply for the Hyatt and IHG first because they  are Chase. Once you have been approved for those, then you move on to the Hilton because it is Amex, and Amex does not have that rule.

Finally, it’s a myth that you can’t have a lot of credit cards. Again, as long as you are disciplined to not carry balances, some travelers have 20 of them, not all with annual fees—though if annual fees pay for themselves, who cares? But what is nuts is using debit cards! Credit cards offer protection. They also build credit. The more available credit you have with none of it actually used, the lower your debt to credit ratio, and the higher your credit score. While it is true that a hard credit inquiry temporarily lowers your score a very small amount of points, the amount of points your score goes up when you open the account but don’t sustain a balance actually, effectively, cancels that out.

Hyatt—Luxury for low points and double dipping with American Airlines

Do not be fooled by the sound of the number of Hyatt points available to you on one of my favoirite hotel credit cards. Below you see IHG offering 140,00 points and here Hyatt offers 60,000 Bonus Points with the World of Hyatt Credit Card or the World of Hyatt Business Credit Card. It is worth it! Hyatt hotels are in categories. Cat. 1s are from 4500 points off peak to 6500 peak—mostly around 5000. 60K points will get you five nights at a Category 3, of a very nice Hyatt Regency in a big city, including many of the nicer Chicago hotels, for reference. So 60,000 is a lot for Hyatt. For further reference, I booked three nights in Dublin, Ireland at the Hyatt Centric Liberties (look this one up) for 36,000 points. So that’s what your points get you with Hyatt. Same deal with the annual fee as the others and the free nights. All those pay for themselves unless you never need a hotel room in a year’s time. However, there is one vital aspect of this card that few realize. Obtaining the Hyatt card comes with Disco verist status with Hyatt, important in itself as it’s a step closer to Hyatt’s top-tier and exceptional Globalist status (no status seems to treat its elites better, as far as I can tell—top tier Globalists get free full breakfasts, waived resort fees—massive—free parking on award stays, all sorts of perks). That said, Hyatt and American Airlines are partners, and you can double dip between programs. The details are here: you are elite with AA, then you are now on a faster track to earn elite status with both programs, but even if you are not, you are now earning points with both every time you stay/fly with one. It’s one of the best reasons to use both. I can attest to the fact this works. I regularly find “surprise” posts on both accounts and then realize it’s because of the double dip. It’s very much worth it since it’s passive earning.

Marriott—There’s one everywhere you’re probably going

The Chase Marriott Card is a good card with exceptional benefits. There is a Chase Amex card, also, and I have had that, but I closed it, waited for the waiting period to be eligible for the new bonus, and then opened this one. So far, I like it lots more.  With this version you can earn “3 Free Night Awards with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card or 1 Free Night Award with the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card.” As you can see, there is a no fee and a low annual fee card. The one with the annual fee is very much worth it because you won’t find a Marriott for $95 total a night, which is what you get every year. I have found a Westin in Chicago on the Riverfront on New Year’s Eve in the past with my free night, so these are not junk rooms. The benefits of the card are among Chase’s best.

IHG—If there’s not a Marriott, there’s an IHG where you’re headed

IHG will give you 140,000 points, which is massive, for signing up for this card. They are revamping their rewards system to IHG ONE Rewards: The revamped reward system will give you some great rewards like lounge access, upgrades, free breakfasts, and lots and lots of points—plus all of Chase’s wonderful credit card benefits. With IHG, if you book three nights on points, the fourth night is free. They have probably the lowest points redemptions of any hotel system—overall. They are probably the best value—especially overseas. They have some nice ones all over the U.S. as well, but since they are everywhere, you just have to read up on what is what, Still, 140,000 points will get you quite far—like through a family vacation. The annual fee comes with a free night each year, so it always pays for itself.

My other favorite hotel card—Hilton

The Hilton American Express Card with this link.You earn 130,000 points! That’s a lot. There are still a few Hilton properties you can find for 10K points a night, though most run 20K-30K. The nicer ones are 40K-50K in peak times. Obviously luxury ones are more, but they really add up with Hilton. This has been one of my favorites to use over the years. The Hilton bonuses are how I spent days at the Waldorf Astoria free this past New Year’s Eve. This basic entry-level card also comes with Priority Pass lounge access. This is one way I end up in airport lounges—also free. From their pitch:“Hilton Honors Bonus Points after they spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, they can earn up to $130 in Statement Credits on eligible purchases made on the Card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 07/06/2022. Your friend will be able to apply for any available Hilton American Express Personal and Business Card offers.”

And one of the best airline credit cards out there—United

Choose any United MileagePlus credit card that is right for you. This link shows you the differences. I never actually FLY United (HA!) but I adore the credit card because 1) I have all these miles for when I need a quick free flight with the largest flight alliance (i.e. this coming trip in Europe, I may need to use these miles—which never expire) and 2) this card is a card that comes with primary rental car insurance. Many Chase cards come with secondary, but this and the Sapphires come with primary. This means if you charge your rental car to it, if you have an accident, someone rear ends you, etc., you have primary coverage with your credit card, and you did not have to run it through your own car insurance. This is major. This starts at the Explorer card. I do not think it is available for the no annual fee card, but you should look this up to be certain.

An easy, simple, entry-level card for everyone (but be careful before you use a 5/24 slot for this

Earn $200 cash back with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® or Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit card. This basic level card has no annual fee, and earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points or cash back. It’s better paired with a Chase Sapphire, but it is easier to be approved for this card.

Do take note of the minimum spend requirements for each card you want. These are usually fairly simple to meet. Do you have a car insurance premium coming? How about a plane ticket you were about to buy anyway? Can you pay rent or mortgage on a card? There are services like Plastiq, which are nuts for sustained periods of time, but for a purpose like this are worth a one-time service fee because of what you get in return. Most utilities allow a credit card payment. Sometimes you have a $1-3 fee, but again, for what you are getting in return, doing this once or twice is not a major issue for most. There are several articles on other travel sites that give wonderful ideas on meeting minimum spends for credit card bonuses; the key is not to go buy things you were not already going to buy. The caveat: Be careful of returns. People have lost bonuses for barely meeting the spend on the last day and then sending back a return to Amazon. Don’t cut things that close. Note that all Chase cards have a spending tracker on the app and show you the exact spend and date of the deadline. I have never had a problem with it showing or any funny business.