Simplifying my wallet and what’s in it

In my efforts to simplify things, I recently canceled a bunch of credit cards that I’ve accumulated over the years.  Multiple credit cards adds a lot of complexity that we just don’t need: which card to use for which purchase, checking each for accurate monthly charges, and paying each on time to avoid interest charges.

I began canceling three Southwest Visa cards I got in successive years, one for business and two personal, each one taken out to get the bonus points to retain my A+ list status and companion pass.  Southwest’s increased requirements now have made those more difficult to get, and since losing my A status, I’ve started using Alaska Airlines that often has lower fares with assigned seating.

Then there was my Business Amex Platinum card that I’ve had for 20 years that was no longer as attractive with their 33% increase to $595 this year, and what I found to be deteriorating customer service (obnoxious phone trees to make it difficult to speak to an agent) and fewer benefits. Next, I stopped using my United and American airline credit cards where I have various levels of points, but usually never enough for a big trip on either.  Lastly, I cancelled my Marriott card that had some good perks but kept devaluing their points.

To replace all these cards, I chose two Chase cards, one for business and the other for personal use. No mental calculation is needed to decide which card to use. They each allow me to pool all my points to use on many more airlines, including United and Southwest, as well as hotels, including Marriott. I chose the Sapphire Reserve ($495) for personal and the Ink card ($95) for business.

(Remember the problems I had using my $200 single-airline travel credits on Amex for WiFi? Sapphire applies $300 per year to all travel expenses, including airline tickets, Uber rides, and even parking meters. Got that back before my first month’s bill arrived.)

Each offers lots of sign up bonus points, but more importantly, they allow huge flexibility in using those points with their many alliances of airlines and hotels. And they each offer double and triple points for many purchases. The Ink card even offers free phone damage insurance. I’ve also had good experience with Chase who issued many of the cards I dropped- an excellent online portal and good customer support.

Now that I’ve gone from eight cards to a couple, I looked for a simple wallet that could hold a large stack of all my cards:  credit, membership, insurance, license, health, and business – something that would minimize bulk and allow me to retrieve any one of them quickly.

The usual wallet designs from Tumi, Coach and other brands all look alike – and have barely changed in decades: a folding wallet with a few slits for credit cards, two deep pockets, and an oversized compartment for currency. Yet as we have moved to carrying more cards than currency, the designs have stayed pretty much the same- one that’s inefficient with layers of leather and fabric between the cards, creating a big bulge.

Ultimately my search led me back to one of my favorite sources of leather goods, WaterField. This small family owned business that makes all their products in San Francisco offers a wider selection of practical wallet designs than anywhere else I have found.  WaterField offers what I consider to be the best designs anywhere, a series of beautifully made leather zip wallets that is sized to hold a stack of cards, folded cash and a pocket for other needs such as a key, toothpicks, or pills.  Surprisingly, they’re just $39 to $79. Most often you usually need to choose between price, materials, workmanship and function. It’s very unusual to find it all in a single product.

I suppose ultimately our wallet will be built into our phone, but until then I found a solution that’s nearly as convenient.



by Phil Baker