Best credit card combinations to maximize rewards

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Having the right credit card makes it easy to earn cash back or travel rewards for each dollar you spend, but the right combination of cards can be even better. That’s because some rewards credit cards have earning structures that work well together. Plus, many cards from the same issuer let you pool all your points in one account. With a few different cards that complement each other, you can typically earn a lot more rewards and cardholder benefits over time.

But which credit card combinations are the best? That really depends on the type of rewards you want to earn and how you plan to redeem them. Some card combos stand out thanks to their stellar earning rates and plethora of redemption options. Here are some of the best credit card combos to consider and how they could work for you.

Best credit card combos

Best card combination for diverse spending

Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Sapphire Reserve

CardRewardsKey featuresAnnual fee

Chase Freedom Flex℠
  • 5% cash back on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1%) and on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel purchases
  • 5% cash back on Lyft rides (through March 2022)
  • 3% cash back on dining (including restaurants, takeout and eligible delivery services) and drugstore purchases
  • At least 1% cash back on other purchases
  • Free ShopRunner membership
  • Free DashPass membership for 3 months (50% off thereafter)
$0
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • 3X points on eligible travel and restaurant purchases (after earning your $300 travel credit)
  • 10X total points on Lyft purchases (through Mar. 31, 2022)
  • 1X points on all other purchases
  • $300 annual travel credit (applies to most travel purchases)
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit every 4 years
  • $60 DoorDash credits in 2021
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges
  • Free Lyft Pink membership for one year
  • Free DashPass membership for one year
$550

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Sapphire Reserve® are a powerful pair. It all starts with the Chase Freedom Flex, which offers 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in rotating bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1 percent). Additionally, you’ll earn 3 percent on dining and drugstore purchases.

There is no annual fee with this card, so you can use it for bonus spending and regular purchases without paying for the privilege. You can also qualify for a bonus of $200 when you sign up and spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve does charge a $550 annual fee, but you’ll earn 3X points on all dining and travel purchases and 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 on your card within three months. You’ll also receive a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, $300 in travel reimbursement credits each year, up to a $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck and a 50 percent boost to your points when you redeem them for travel through the Chase portal.

Even better, though the Freedom Flex is marketed as earning cash back, you’ll actually earn Ultimate Rewards points and be able to transfer them to your Reserve to take advantage of the points boost.

How to use this combo for maximum effect

Use the Chase Freedom Flex for each quarter’s bonus categories, which tend to include gas, grocery stores, dining and more throughout the year. Make sure to “opt in” to earn the 5 percent rate and spend up to $1,500 in combined category spending to max this out if you can.

Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve card for all dining purchases in order to earn 3X points. You can also earn 3X points on travel-related purchases after you earn your $300 annual travel credit. Since both cards earn 1 point/1 percent per $1 on regular spending, you can use either one for regular purchases.

After racking up rewards, pool all your Chase points in your Reserve account to get 50 percent more rewards points on travel through the Chase portal. For an even better deal, redeem your points for 1:1 transfers to airline and hotel loyalty Chase transfer partners, like Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy and United MileagePlus. These will get you much more value for your points than other redemption options, like gift cards or cash back.

What you should consider

Since the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee, make sure you utilize its $300 in annual travel credits each year and the airport lounge access you qualify for. Also, take time to apply for Global Entry or TSA Precheck since you’ll receive up to a $100 credit for the membership fee.

Best card combination for business travelers

The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

CardRewardsKey featuresAnnual fee

The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • 10X points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (on up to $25,000 combined spending) during your first six months of membership
  • 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or via American Express Travel (up to $500,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1X points)
  • 5X points on eligible hotels booked via American Express Travel
  • 1X points on everything else
  • Up to $200 in airline fee credits
  • Up to $200 back on eligible hotel bookings
  • Up to $200 in Uber credits
  • Up to a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck (every 4 years)
  • Up to $179 in CLEAR membership statement credits by paying with your card (annually)
  • Up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credits
  • Airport lounge access
$695
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card
  • 2X points on up to $50,000 in purchases each year, then 1X points
  • Global Assist hotline
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
  • American Express tools for small businesses
  • Purchase protection and extended warranties
$0

The Platinum Card® from American Express starts you off with 100,000 points when you spend $6,000 on your card within six months. You’ll also earn 5X points on airfares booked directly with airlines or airfares and prepaid hotels booked through the American Express Travel Portal. All other purchases made with this card earn 1X points.

Important cardholder benefits include up to $200 in Uber credits each year (doled out monthly), up to a $200 annual airline fee credit, airport lounge membership and a credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. Keep in mind, however, that a $695 annual fee applies.

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card, on the other hand, offers 2X points on up to $50,000 in spending each year, then 1X points, which makes it a solid choice for small business owners.

How to use this combo for maximum effect

Use the Amex Platinum Card for all your airfare and prepaid hotels to earn 5X points, but make sure to use your Blue Business Plus Credit Card for regular business spending. From there, pool all your points and redeem for travel through AmexTravel.com or for transfers to airline and hotel partners like Delta SkyMiles and Air France/Flying Blue.

What you should consider

The Platinum Card from American Express works best for consumers who travel a lot and can take advantage of its benefits. Make sure to select an airline you fly with frequently for the airline credit and connect your credit card to your Uber account so you can maximize that benefit. Also, make sure to take advantage of the airport lounge benefit and apply for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, so you get maximum bang for your buck.

Best all-around card combination

Citi Premier® Card and Citi® Double Cash Card

CardRewardsKey featuresAnnual fee

Citi Premier® Card
  • 3X points per dollar on restaurant, supermarket, gas station, hotel and air travel purchases
  • 1X points per dollar on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees Annual hotel savings benefit: Earn $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, through thankyou.com, once per calendar year
$95
Citi® Double Cash Card
  • 1% at the time of purchase
  • Another 1% when you pay for your purchases
  • Lengthy intro APR for balance transfers
  • Ability to convert rewards to ThankYou points at a $1-to-100-point rate
$0

The Citi Premier® Card gives you 80,000 points when you sign up and spend $4,000 within three months of account opening. On top of that, you’ll earn 3X points on air travel and gas and 1X points on other purchases. This card does have a $95 annual fee.

The Citi® Double Cash Card, on the other hand, gives you 2 percent back on everything you buy—1 percent back when you make a purchase and another 1 percent as you pay it off. There’s no annual fee, either.

How to use this combo for maximum effect

Use the Citi Premier Card for all your air travel, restaurant, supermarket and gas purchases. Meanwhile, use the Citi Double Cash for all other purchases since you’ll earn up to 2 percent back (1 percent cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1 percent as you pay for those purchases).

As you rack up rewards, pool them in your Citi Premier account for the most lucrative redemption options. You’ll be able to transfer points to Citi transfer partners like Air France/Flying Blue, JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic.

What you should consider

Make sure you’re using the Citi Premier for all bonus category spending and the Citi Double Cash for everything else you buy. Like all card combinations on this list, these two cards come with high APRs. Make sure you pay your balance in full each month so you’re not paying more interest than you earn in rewards.

Best for maximizing Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Chase trifecta

If you’re ready to take your combo game to the next level, consider gathering a trifecta of cards.

So far, we’ve been discussing credit card duos. However, for those who don’t mind some extra work on their credit card strategy, a card trio may be an even better choice, offering more potential to maximize rewards.

The Chase trifecta is arguably the best well-known card trio. There are variations to which cards it can consist of, but the most common one is the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are one of the most valuable reward currencies in the credit card market. Tripling your efforts on collecting Ultimate Rewards points can allow you to fast-track your way to lucrative redemptions.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited earns at least 1.5 percent cash back on general purchases, helping you ensure you get more than 1 percent back on everything you buy. The card also offers 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3 percent cash back on dining and 3 percent cash back on drugstore purchases. Through March 2022, you can also earn 5 percent back on Lyft purchases.

Further, the Chase Sapphire Reserve will reward you 3X points on dining and travel purchases, and the Ink Business Preferred will earn 3X points on up to $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable and phone services and select online advertising (then 1X points).

If you’re only looking into personal credit cards, you can swap the Ink Business Preferred to the Chase Freedom Flex and earn 5 percent back in quarterly rotating categories to still get the most out of your credit card combo. The Flex is also a zero annual fee card, while the Ink Business Preferred charges $95 per year.

Best for Amex loyalists

The Amex trifecta

It requires an intricate strategy and a certain level of spending to juggle multiple credit card reward currencies, especially if we’re talking about annual-fee cards—and these efforts might simply not make sense for many cardholders. That’s why it may be a better idea to stay loyal to one issuer.

If you have a premium American Express card, earn American Express Membership Rewards points and your goal is to maximize points, sticking with the issuer may be rather rewarding. Look into the Amex trifecta: the Amex Gold, Amex Platinum and the Blue Business Plus Card.

We’ve already covered how the Amex Platinum and Blue Business Plus work together, but with the addition of the American Express® Gold Card, you can significantly boost your rewards earnings.

The card earns 4X points on dining at restaurants and purchases at U.S. supermarkets, 3X points on airfare and flight upgrades purchased through the American Express Travel Portal and 1X points on everything else. Dining and groceries are a highly lucrative category: No matter if you buy your groceries and cook your food, order it in or eat out, the Amex Gold will probably reward you.

The American Express Gold costs $250 per year, but with annual statement credit benefits alone (up to $120 in Uber Cash and up $120 in dining credits), the card almost pays for itself.

Just keep in mind that this combo would cost you $800 in annual fees. While you can more than compensate the cost if you use all of the available statement credit benefits, this may require significant spending on your part.

Pros and cons of having multiple credit cards

Having a few credit cards in your wallet may sound like a good idea, but is it really? There are definitely pros and cons that come with carrying multiple cards, but the benefits can outweigh the negatives if you use your cards the right way.

Pros:

  • You can earn more rewards in bonus category spending with different cards
  • Multiple cards can let you earn more than one sign-up or welcome bonus
  • Cards often come with different perks and benefits

Cons:

  • Having more than one credit card bill means keeping up with multiple payments each month
  • It’s easier to get into debt when you have more open credit
  • Opening too many credit cards at once can cause a temporary negative impact to your credit score

To make the most of the best credit card combinations, you have to be committed to using cards only for purchases you planned to make anyway. Also, be prepared to pay your balances in full every month so you never have to pay interest on your purchases. If you wind up paying 17 percent APR or more on a revolving balance, the 1 percent to 5 percent in rewards you’ll earn won’t be worth it.

Written by
Ana Staples
Credit Cards Reporter and Young Credit Analyst
Ana Staples is a reporter for Bankrate and an expert on all things credit basics and personal finance for the younger generation.
Reviewed by
Senior Director of Content