These are the credit, debit and loyalty cards I’ll be using this year.
Though I’ve dozens of debit, credit and loyalty cards, I don’t actually use that many on a regular basis. So rather than carry them all with me I’ve slimmed them down to just a handful in my physical wallet, and put the rest in a digital one (aka my phone).
I thought it could be useful for you to see which ones I’ve picked and how I’ve managed to carry far less than I used to.
In my physical wallet
I’d love to just have everything on my phone, but not only are there a few things that I can’t add digitally and I also worry about what would happen if the battery died. So I still have an actual wallet with actual cards in it.
Ideally I’d carry just two banking cards on me at any time. A debit card for cash withdrawals and a credit card for when I want additional consumer protection.
Sadly I’ve also got to factor in that I do sometimes need to use alternative cards, whether that’s for specific offers, spending for work, places that don’t take Amex and a handful of non-payment cards I need to have. However, I’ve managed to limit it to just a handful.
American Express Vitality credit card
Last year I started receiving Vitality health insurance as a work perk, and medical cover isn’t the only feature. There’s also an exclusive American Express credit card! I appreciate many of you won’t qualify for this, but for those that do, here’s why it’s my main card.
For a start, there’s a £100 bonus on the first £2,000 spend in the first three months that isn’t restricted to first time Amex holders as the normal rules do. So that was a nice win.
Beyond that, the fee-free card is effectively the American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday card paying 0.5% cashback on the first £10,000 spent a year, and then 1% above that. So-so and easily beaten elsewhere.
But the good news you can boost this rate. The more exercise you do, the more Vitality points you earn. These provide things like free cinema tickets, Nero drinks and movie rentals. And they also increase the cashback rate.
If you can earn the maximum available 40 points in a calendar month (basically 12,500 steps five days a week) you’ll get an extra 1% on top, giving a rate between 1.5% and 2% – better than all other options.
If you earn fewer points the the boost is smaller, so you want to boost to at least 1%, if not 1.25% in order to match alternative cards. Most months I’ve been able to get the full 1% boost, though when I was ill it did drop down to a 0.75% boost.
Also, the boost is capped and applies only on the first £1,000 each month, so in an ideal world I’d not go above this.
If you can’t get this, the best paying Amex is the Amex Nectar, at two Nectar points per £1 (so 1%), though keep an eye out for boosted welcome deals.
Ditching the Curve debit card
For years the other main card in my wallet has been from Curve. This allowed me to have more than one Visa or Mastercard credit or debit card linked to its own debit card, giving me access to quite a few different accounts at any time without needing to carry those cards, as well as some cool features such as “go back in time”.
But that changed last summer and I ditched Curve. The brand effectively made it a pretty useless product, even for people like me on a legacy tier which meant I had extra features with no cost. Plus with improvements to digital wallets like Apple and Google Pay, you don’t really need it. Here’s my full Curve review taking you through the pros and cons.
Starling Bank debit card
Right now Starling is my main bank account, so I’ve got that in my wallet for the very rare occasions that I need to take out cash (previously I’d used my Curve card connected to Starling).
Barclaycard Rewards credit card
This card is my backup to the Amex and Chase card. It earns 0.25% cashback, so I really only use it when I need a credit card and Amex isn’t accepted, or if I need a credit card abroad (as it’s fee-free).
Right now I’ve got £30 in notes and £2.30 in coins. These have been there for a long, long time. I think perhaps from some cash I was given for my birthday!
It’s not something I make a choice to have as I use it so rarely, though there’s no harm having a little available just in case.
I’ve got a handful of gift cards, bought during the Amex Shop Small promotion. These are for local stores
There are also some paper John Lewis ones which won’t scan (I’ll come back to this later) and are a pain to use at the self service tills at Waitrose, so I need to get rid of these at a proper till at some point.
There are a handful of receipts, I normally clear these out but right now there are some business expenses I need to claim.
The main card I can’t add to my phone is my driving licence. Though I don’t need to use it very often (especially as I rarely drive), I live to have it on me.
I’ve also got my NUS / Totum Pro alumni card for student discounts. I don’t use this much anymore either, but it’s handy to have when a retailer offers money off (find out here if you’re eligible for one).
A reusable discount voucher gives me 25% off greeting cards at WH Smiths.
That’s mainly it. The other items haven’t changed since my update last year. I’ve still got a paper loyalty card from the Indian restaurant chain Dishoom (I still need one more stamp to get a free breakfast), a plaster and a photo of my wife.
Everything else I used to carry, like Clubcard, Nectar and other loyalty and banking cards, are instead on my phone.
On my digital wallet
I’ve got an iPhone, and I actually tend to use it for the bulk of my spending via the Apple Pay feature. The higher contactless limit is also pretty handy.
I add bank and credit cards to Apple Wallet, and use it both to pay in shops and also online where the Apple Pay feature is available. There used to be an eight-card limit, but I added 16 and stopped trying as that’s going to be more than enough for most people.
Really I only use three or four cards on a regular basis, but I’d probably have a couple more on there just in case. All are listed below.
I’ve then got the bulk of the other non-bank cards I would have had in my physical wallet in another app called Stocard.
Yep, the same card that’s in my physical wallet is also in my digital wallet, and that’s because I do most of my spending with it each month. It’s set both as my default way to pay but also my “Express Travel” card on the iPhone which means I don’t need to use Face ID when using London public transport.
My alternative to Amex for spending account is Chase, mainly when Amex isn’t accepted or if I’ve gone over the £1,000 monthly spend cap for that boosted cashback.
At the moment the 1% cashback via Chase is only until the end of May. Hopefully it’ll be extended.
Other debit cards
I’ve recently added one of my Halifax debit cards to the Apple Wallet as it makes it easier to use my Monzo account’s “Monzo.me” function to add £500 via the debit card to my Monzo account to qualify for the monthly Halifax Reward £5 (read more about this hack here).
I’ve also put the cards for Monzo, Barclays, Natwest, Lloyds, Virgin Money and Santander in my Apple Wallet in the very rare chance that there’s a cashback offer running with those banks which requires me to use that debit card (usually this is just LNER train tickets!).
If I used virtual cards, offered for free by Starling and Revolut, these could be added here too for easy payment.
In the very unlikely situation where I need to get cash out of an ATM and don’t have my Starling debit card, I can use the Natwest or Barclays apps to withdraw some money.
Other credit cards
In addition to my main Amex, I’ve got my an Amex Rewards card, Barclaycard Rewards card also a John Lewis Partnership card. I used to use the latter for all my Waitrose shopping thanks to a 1.25% reward rate, but that’s been eclipsed by the Amex Vitality rate.
Other than the one or two that are paper-based, all my loyalty cards are now on my phone. Though you can access most via the retailers’ own apps, I tend to add them to one called Stocard.
You simply scan the barcode or enter in your membership number and it’s there to display when paying. This has really removed a lot of cards from my wallet.
You can also use your Apple or Google Pay wallets for most cards, though I like to keep them all together in this app.
Finally there are a couple of other cards. I’ve put my library card on Stocard, while my gym membership actually works with Apple Wallet. On a recent holiday I added a free Priority Pass I’d received to get airport lounge access too.
Until recently I had a Two Together rail card at a massive discount, which was digital only, though I’d use that via it’s own app not Apple Wallet.