I agree with Cre that you should have no problem getting in with Amex, and it sounds like the rewards are your top priority.
anatoxin wrote:1. Should I apply for an AMEX to begin backdating in 2014 even though I will likely not use it much (none of them seem to offer better rewards than what I have)? If so, which one -- a few other threads seem to suggest the EveryDay or Blue Cash Everyday. My SO is a Costco member but I am not, and we don't shop there too often, so I think that card is out.
Backdating is a great perk to have, but it is
only useful several years down the road if you get another Amex card. If you don't think a card will be very useful for you, I wouldn't apply for one just for the benefit of backdating. It was enough to tip me towards going for an Amex when I was looking for a new card, but I don't think it is worth it in itself.
Having said that, if you go for an Amex I would recommend the EveryDay. You don't plan on using the card for a lot of spending, so anything with an AF wouldn't make sense for you. The BCE won't do anything for you since you get 5% for Sallie Mae categories without reaching the cap. All BCE activity would be for 1% cash back, which you can already get with what you have. I say go for the EveryDay (if you decide Amex is the way to go) because it would get you MR points and you have cash back well covered. I know you don't travel much, but you may be able to use MR for travel on the rare occasions you do (for a better return than cash back). If you can't find good redemption options for travel, you can also use MR points for gift cards with no dilution (that is, you can redeem at a return rate of 1%, e.g., 50,000 MR points for a $50 card) as a fallback.
You may also consider the Blue Sky from Amex. It is not heavily marketed, but can be used for travel at a better return than cash back but without the complexity of the MR system. You do earn points, but they are just redeemed for any travel expenses (7,500 points for a $100 statement credit for a redemption rate of 1.33%). I realize it is only marginally better than your cash back option, but I think it's a good route to get in with Amex AND for all your non-categorized spending - and you don't have to worry about the hassle and volatility of the MR system.
anatoxin wrote:2. If not AMEX, the Citi Double Cash caught my eye. However, the consensus around here is that it will likely be nerfed, so I'm a little nervous about that. Thoughts on this card or other cards I might benefit from, or should I stick with what I have?
I am one of the people that's expressed doubt about it around here, but it is a good option, too. I just don't see straight 2% back (as cash, not some points system where redemption options are more easily manipulated and diluted) as being sustainable for Citi in the long term. I would rather gets cards from issuers that I can build relationships with and have confidence in (at least at this point - if I get a mortgage and my credit score up higher I would be a lot more comfortable churning). However, 2% back in cash for all spending can't be beat, and I certainly don't blame anyone for taking advantage of it. It may not last several years, but it would still be a great deal while it does.