Best Credit Card Combinations to Maximize Rewards
This article details how you can use two or three credit cards at a time to fully maximize your rewards-earning potential.
Earning credit card rewards for your purchases can be exciting as you can save hundreds of dollars in cash back or even earn completely free travel. However, as your purchases throughout the year can range across different spending categories, one credit card may not be able to maximize the value of all of your purchases. In this case, getting multiple credit cards from your preferred issuer can help you quickly stack rewards.
In this article, MoneyGeek reviews the best credit card combinations to maximize your rewards-earning potential.
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Credit card combos require organization and strategy.
With the right strategy, you can earn tons of rewards.
Reassess your strategy periodically as your spending habits or financial goals may change.
What You Need to Know About Having Multiple Credit Cards
Having multiple credit cards is not a bad thing. In fact, once you have a handle on some of the basics of having a credit card and assuming you manage credit properly, keeping a few different credit cards in your wallet can help your credit score by increasing your total credit limit. Moreover, having multiple credit cards that reward purchases in different categories can help you maximize every single purchase you make.
MoneyGeek analyzed dozens of credit card combinations and found these to be some of the highest rewards-earning combinations right now.
Best Credit Card Combination for Earning Cash Back
- Chase Freedom Flex
- American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card
- Citi Double Cash Card
These three cards can earn you some of the highest cash back possible based on regular purchasing patterns. While it will take some due diligence to think about each purchase and which card is best, the results could be quite fruitful.
Here’s what each card currently offers:
The Chase Freedom Flex earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 on combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Plus, earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining (including takeout) and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
In addition, the welcome offer is quite valuable. You can earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Plus, earn 5% cash back on gas station purchases on up to $6,000 spent in the first year.
The American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card earns 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in spending per year, 6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% back on transit, including U.S. gas stations, and 1% cash back on everything else.
The welcome bonus is definitely worth jumping at as well. You can earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 within the first six months of card membership.
Lastly, the Citi Double Cash Card fills in the gap of purchases that don’t fit into any category. You will earn 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% cash back when you use your card, plus an additional 1% when you pay your credit card bill. The card doesn’t have a welcome offer.
This credit card strategy nearly covers every spending category possible with at least 2% cash back in returns on every purchase. And with a ballpark spending budget of $25,000 per year across all spending and adding in the welcome offers, that amounts to $1,000 in cash back in the first year, with no annual fees the first year. The Amex Blue Cash Preferred has a waived $95 annual fee for the first year.
Each of the card's notable cash back categories is bolded as the respective card should be assigned to that spending category. For example, if you're grocery shopping, be sure to grab the Amex Blue Cash Preferred.
There are two minor caveats to this strategy:
- The Chase Freedom Flex has rotating categories. So based on what the highlighted spending category is, you may need to pivot.
- After the first year, you may consider eliminating the Amex Blue Cash Preferred if you aren't earning solid value.
This may seem cumbersome, but simply having the three cards in your wallet at all times and taking a moment to think before each purchase could net you significant cash back.
Best Credit Card Combination for Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Ink Business Preferred
Chase Ultimate Rewards are excellent loyalty rewards to earn as they can be transferred to a valuable list of travel partners.
As you earn points, you can transfer them directly to these partners:
Airlines: Aer Lingus, Air Canada, British Airways, Emirates Skywards, Air France/KLM, Iberia, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
Hotels: IHG, Marriott and Hyatt
For this combination, you will need to apply for the Chase Ink Business Preferred, which is restricted to business owners. However, qualifying as a business owner is much easier than you may think. If you babysit, sell things on the internet or even freelance on the side, you’re a business owner. All you need to do is get an employer identification number (EIN), which is free through the IRS website.
And both of these cards have outstanding value — with modest annual fees.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns:
- 5x points on travel purchased via Chase Ultimate Rewards®, excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the $50 Annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit.
- 3x points on dining, which includes dining out as well as takeout and eligible delivery services.
- 3x points on online grocery purchases, excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs.
- 3x points on select streaming services.
- 2x on all other travel purchases.
- 1x point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
When you’re approved for the card, you can earn 80,000 bonus points by spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months after you open your account.
The Chase Ink Business Preferred earns:
- 3x points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases in the following categories: Travel, shipping purchases, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines, and internet, cable and phone services.
- 1x point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
When you’re approved for the card, you can earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening.
If you can meet both spending requirements, you will have at least approximately 200,000 points for a modest $190 in combined annual fees. And if you have a $25,000 annual credit card spend and average two points per dollar across all of your purchases, that’s another 50,000 points in your pocket.
However, before you apply for either card, it’s best to plan your purchases ahead to make sure you earn the welcome bonus without overspending. Additionally, be sure to avoid putting personal expenses on a business credit card as that can complicate things come tax season.
If you aren’t able to get a business credit card, you may consider the Chase trifecta as your strategy to earn the most Ultimate Rewards possible. But if you want the best card to pair with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, it’s the Ink Business Preferred.
Best Credit Card Combination for Earning Amex Membership Rewards
- Amex Platinum
- Amex Gold
- Amex Blue Business Plus
American Express Membership Rewards are another valuable rewards currency to have as you can transfer them to many different airline and hotel partners. The partners are:
Airlines: AeroMexico, Air Canada, Alitalia, Aer Lingus, ANA, Avianca, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Air France/KLM, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia, Jetblue, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic
Hotels: Choice Hotels, Hilton and Marriott
The three cards mentioned have widely varying annual fees from substantial to $0, so this trifecta of cards will take a bit of a financial investment.
The American Express Platinum Card is a luxury credit card filled with benefits from airport lounge access to spending credits to complimentary hotel loyalty status. And as you use the card, you will earn:
- 5x points on flights booked directly with the airline or via Amex Travel.
- 5x points on hotels booked via Amex Travel.
- 1x points on all other purchases.
When you’re approved for the card, you can earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after spending $6,000 on purchases on your card in your first six months of card membership.
The American Express Gold Card is a foodie-centered rewards credit card aimed at consumers who enjoy traveling. When you use the card, you will earn:
- 4x points on dining at restaurants worldwide as well as takeout and delivery in the U.S.
- 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year).
- 3x points on flights booked directly with the airline or via Amex Travel.
- 1x points on all other eligible purchases.
If you’re approved for the card, you can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after spending $4,000 on purchases on your card within the first six months of card membership.
Lastly, if you’re a business owner, you may consider applying for the Amex Blue Business Plus Card. The card comes with valuable features, including a 0% intro APR offer, simple spending categories and helpful features for business owners paying bills.
When you use the card, you will earn:
- 2x points on all purchases for the first $50,000 per year.
- 1x points on all purchases beyond that.
And currently, the card is offering a modest but valuable welcome bonus: Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points after using the card to spend $3,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
This strategy is a bit more robust as the cards come with a long list of benefits, and the annual fees are hefty. You will pay $945 per year for this strategy, so it's quite important to analyze this each year to see if it's worth it for you.
Unless you are spending a significant amount on travel, it may be best to cut the Platinum card and go with the Gold and Blue Business Plus. By doing this, you are guaranteed at least 2x points per dollar on every single purchase.
If you want to carry multiple credit cards in your wallet to maximize your rewards-earning ability, consider physically labeling each credit card. You can head over to your local office supply store and purchase labels for each card. Once you have the labels, you can easily identify the best card for each purchase. It can seem cumbersome, but it can amount to big rewards over the long haul.
Other Questions You May Have About Rewards Cards
This was quite a bit of information to digest, but the next step is to evaluate which credit card combo best fits your budget and spending habits. And from there, you can design a credit card strategy to earn the most amount of rewards possible.
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About the Author
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses and recommendations are the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity.
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