Ok, thank you for your response. Here is some more background:
Great, so what are your major spend categories?
Since I've just begun my career in earnest, I'm still really developing my spending habits. So far, it looks kind of like this:
Main (constant spending):
Buy groceries for the week (spend ~100 dollars a week)
Eat out on weekends (spend ~30 dollars a week)
Gas: 40 dollars a week
Doing some basic calculations (with the basis of 52 weeks in a calendar year) that would come out to: ~$5200 on groceries; ~$1560 on dining out; ~$2080 on gas
That really doesn't tell us anything. Cash back is pretty straightforward and you can just multiply your spend by the cash back %. For rewards programs there's a bit more involved. You need to look at each rewards program -- specifically redemptions -- and see if can leverage the redemptions that yield the best amount per point/mile. Quite often that involves transferring to travel partners for a given program and for premium cabin travel.
I would say that I spend ~ $4k-$7k on travel a year.
Everything else comes out to ~$10k spend a year (the rest I try to put away in savings, school loans, housing, etc).
I do like to go on vacations during my time off. My incentive to sign up for something (say the AMEX MR Program) has been to gain access through the transferring of miles for first class tickets. I have never really had the opportunity to travel on anything but Economy or budget hotels and would like to increase my ability to access higher class entities by maximizing my credit card rewards. Again, I'm just really getting into this whole transferring of points game and have accessed these forums to try and get background on this. My biggest question is this: I have no preference on airlines at the moment as I have not really aligned myself with any particular airline nor hotel brand; thus, I would like to select a card lineup most optimal to maximize these travel rewards as I am now spending more that I have in the past (as I now have a career).
I feel that the Arrival+ is most straightforward; however, as I read more and more stories about obtaining first class tickets (round trip tickets) to Europe with miles (say 100k round trip) or hotels at reasonable point values (SPG) and compare them what I would be getting with the Arrival Miles I believe that this has become sub-optimal.
You don't have just one FICO. Creditor use a number of different FICO models which has an impact on the number generated. Generally for any given model you have score with each CRA. Since a score is generated based on a report from a CRA the data in that report has an impact on the number generated. Barclaycard and Discover provide a FICO 8 based on TransUnion. AmEX provides a FICO 8 based on Experian. TU and EX are just 2 of the 3 major CRA's and FICO 8 is just one of the many FICO models. The score that matters is whatever a given creditor uses.
Thanks for the FICO score assessment, I was unfamiliar with the who the credit card companies pulled from and that was very educational. Do these models vary greatly or would it be reasonable to presume that the ones I am viewing give me a fairly clear picture on my current credit status?
Don't rely on whether you've heard great things or not or just bonus or even just the earn rate on rewards. Carefully review each rewards program to see how well they suit you. Run the numbers for your spend.
Whether one is is college or not, young or old, or whatever the overall process is the same.
That's good advice to take, I think actually breaking down my spend and realizing what I'm putting my money into was a great exercise. I'll end with this: it would appear that I spend a large sum of money on categories that a cash back card would make best use of (let's say a Blue Cash Preferred). I don't spend as much on travel, yet, I would like to spend more as I get my affairs in order (school loans, housing, savings, etc). Is it wise to begin "investing" if you will into a specific rewards program now (MR, SPG, etc) or would I be better off just going with a cash back card and when I do have the ability to spend more on travel is when I make the switch? Thanks everyone for your responses, I am doing my level best to try to make the right fiscal decisions as early as possible.