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Today’S Money: Best Credit Cards 2014, Ranked By Creditcardchaser

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Now that we’re into the new year, it means it’s time to really plot out your credit card spending strategy for 2014, because there’s a lot more to maximizing credit card rewards than simply raking in the sign-up bonuses. While an easy boost to your miles and point balances, a more sustainable approach is to select the most lucrative credit cards to use for all of your daily expenses. Whether it is companion tickets, elite qualifying miles or simply point bonuses, there are a ton of cards that offer valuable bonuses for hitting spend thresholds throughout the year.

It’s January – the perfect time to plot out your spending strategy for the year!

Plus, with so many prepaid/reloadable cards out there, as well as checking/debit alternatives like the Amex Bluebird that can help you maximize earning points on your expenses, generating credit card is much easier than doing it the old fashioned way of putting all regular expenses on your credit card.

My Strategy

I actually have several credit cards that offer calendar year spending bonuses that I was able to maximize in 2013, but that I am reconsidering and re-prioritizing according to my earning and elite status strategy for 2014.

Although I’ve been a Delta Diamond or Platinum Medallion for several years now and in 2013 I applied for the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex specifically for the ability it gives me to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles based on spending – thus making it easier for me to requalify for Platinum for 2014, due to recent award devaluations, revenue requirements and elite status perks being hacked away, I think that 2014 will be my last Delta Medallion year for now so I’m not going to use my Delta American Express cards at this time, which saves me having to put $25,000 on them to avoid the Medallion Qualifying Dollar program.

I’m also unrolling my Hyatt elite status – though I really like the chain, its smaller number of properties proved to be a real stumbling block in my travels this past year so I’m going to shift my focus elsewhere.

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With those two major considerations in mind, here are my top five spending priorities for 2014.

1. Amex Premier Rewards Gold: Spend $30,000 in a calendar year and earn 15,000 bonus points. Not only do I love this card for the bonus spending categories like3X points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines and 2X on gas and groceries, but being able to earn an additional 15,000 bonus points on everyday spend almost feels like double dipping and has the potential to bring my everyday points-earning on it to 1.5X points per $1 per dollar towards the first $30,000 per year if you can hit that spend level., so I’ll be focused on hitting that $30,000 mark this year.

2. Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: American has become my main frequent flyer program and I’m a top-tier Executive Platinum with them. One of the ways having this card makes it easier to maintain that status is that cardholders earn 10,000 elite-qualifying miles when they spend $40,000 in a calendar year. Those 10,000 elite miles can make all the difference between requalifying for the top, or just settling for middling Platinum status.

3. British Airways Visa Signature Card: One of the best features of this card is that every calendar year you spend $30,000, you get a “Travel Together” Companion Ticket good for two years. I actually already have two of these, but am planning to use them soon, so it would be nice to stock up again.

4. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve: This card actually has two spending bonuses. Cardholders who spend at least $10,000 on the card in a cardmember year (so not a calendar year) get a free weekend night certificate good at any Hilton property, so you can get huge value out of this if you redeem at top-tier properties like the Conrad Maldives. The calendar year spending bonus on this card is Hilton Diamond status when you spend $40,000. Now, I’m not terribly impressed with Hilton Diamond status, but as I mentioned, I’m unrolling my Hyatt status, so I do want to maintain top-tier status with another chain (I have Starwood 75-Night Platinum status as well), especially in case I want to status match to another hotel program in the future.

5. United MileagePlus Explorer Card: You can earn 10,000 bonus award miles each calendar year you spend at least $25,000 on this card. Despite the upcoming United devaluation, I still value their miles at between 1.5-2 cents each, so that’s a good $150-$200 in value.

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6. Virgin Atlantic American Express: I still have this card, which lets me earn 15,000 bonus miles on every cardmembership anniversary upon spending $25,000 annually. This is low on my priority list, but since Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards, I might use those points to top up my account and redeem an award to try out the airline’s new Upper Class cabin.

So that’s my strategy – good luck in figuring out your own (and feel free to email me or Tweet me

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