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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 many rewards credit cards have earning structures that work well together. Plus, many cards from the same issuer allow you to pool all of your points in one account, which means you may have more redemption options available that will allow you to maximize rewards value.

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. However, some card combinations stand out thanks to their stellar earning rates and number of redemption options. Let’s look at some of the best credit card combos and how they could work for you.

Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best combination for diverse spending

Cards Rewards rate Key features Annual fee
Chase Freedom Flex℠
  • 5% cash back on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1%)
  • 5% on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel purchases
  • 5% cash back on Lyft rides (through March 2025)
  • 3% cash back on drugstore and dining purchases (including restaurants, takeout and eligible delivery services)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Free ShopRunner membership
  • Free DashPass membership for 3 months (then, 50% off for 9 months)
$0
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • 10X points on Lyft purchases (through March 2025)
  • 10X points on hotels and car rentals booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10X points on Chase Dining purchases
  • 5X points on flights booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • 3X points on eligible travel and restaurant purchases
  • 1X point on all other purchases
  • Up to $300 annual travel credit
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Airport lounge access
  • Complimentary Lyft Pink membership for one year (Activate by March 2025)
  • Complimentary DashPass membership for one year (activate by Dec. 31, 2024)
$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 cash back on up to $1,500 spent in rotating bonus categories each quarter (activation required), then 1 percent back. Additionally, you’ll earn 3 percent back 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 card membership. Plus, when you sign up, you can qualify for a bonus of $200 when you spend $500 within three months of account opening.

Although the Chase Sapphire Reserve charges a $550 annual fee, you’ll earn 3X to 10X points on bonus category purchases and 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening. 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, a 50 percent points boost when you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and many more benefits.

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

How to maximize this combination

Use the Chase Freedom Flex for each quarter’s bonus categories, which tend to include gas, grocery stores, dining and more. Make sure to “opt-in” through your account to earn the 5 percent rate, and if you’re able to, aim to spend $1,500 in combined category purchases each quarter to max this out. Also use the Chase Freedom Flex for drugstore purchases to earn 3 percent back.

Use the Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 10X points on hotel stays and car rentals and 5X points on flights booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can also earn 3X points on travel-related purchases after you earn your $300 annual travel reimbursement credit. Also, used this card for 10X back on Lyft rides.

For dining purchases, use either the Chase Freedom Flex (3 percent back) or the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3X points) since they earn the same amount. For more back on dining, use the Chase Sapphire Reserve for 10X back on Chase Dining purchases. And since both cards earn 1X point or 1 percent per dollar on non-bonus categories, you can use either one for regular purchases.

After racking up rewards, pool all of your Chase Ultimate Rewards points in your Chase Sapphire Reserve account to get a 50 percent points boost on travel through the Chase portal. For an even better deal, redeem your points for 1:1 transfers to Chase airline and hotel transfer partners like Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy and United MileagePlus. Although it depends on which partner you redeem with, you’ll typically get more than 1 cent in value for your points than other redemption options like gift cards or cash back.

What to consider before applying

Since the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee, make sure you utilize its benefits to recoup the annual fee, such as the up to $300 in annual travel credits each year, up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and airport lounge access to over 1,300 lounges worldwide.

The Platinum Card from American Express and The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express: Best combination for business travelers

Cards Rewards rate Key features Annual fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or via American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1X point)
  • 5X points on prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel
  • 2X points on prepaid car rentals booked through American Express Travel
  • 1X point on everything else
  • Up to $240 in digital entertainment credits
  • 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 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
  • Up to $189 in CLEAR® membership credits
  • Up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credits
  • Airport lounge access
$695
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card
  • 2X points on eligible business purchases (on up to $50,000 in purchases each year, then 1X point)
  • Global Assist hotline
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
  • American Express tools for small businesses
  • Purchase protection and extended warranty coverage
$0

The Platinum Card® from American Express includes a welcome offer of 100,000 points when you spend $6,000 within six months of account opening. You’ll also earn 5X points on airfares booked directly with airlines and 5X points on airfares and prepaid hotels booked through the American Express Travel portal (on up to $500,000 per year, then 1X point). All other purchases made with this card earn 1X point.

Important Amex Platinum benefits include (but are not limited to) up to $200 in Uber credits each year ($15 per month, plus an extra $20 in December), up to $200 in airline fee credits annually, airport lounge access and up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Although a $695 annual fee applies, cardholders who take advantage of the Amex Platinum’s numerous benefits should be able to easily regain the cost of card membership.

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card, on the other hand, offers 2X points on up to $50,000 in spending each year (then 1X point), which makes it a solid choice for small business owners. It also includes perks for business owners like customized employee cards and account management tools.

How to maximize this combination

To make the most of this combo, use the Amex Platinum for all of your airfare and prepaid hotels to earn 5X points, but make sure to use your Amex Blue Business Plus for regular business spending. From there, pool all of your points in your Amex account and redeem them for travel purchases through AmexTravel.com or for transfers to Amex airline and hotel partners like Delta SkyMiles or Air France/KLM Flying Blue.

What to consider before applying

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

The Amex Blue Business Plus Credit Card is best suited for small business owners who want to earn rewards on purchases but don’t want to keep track of bonus categories. It’s also best suited for lower spenders since the 2X points is capped at $50,000 in purchases per year.

Citi Premier Card and Citi Double Cash Card: Best all-around combination

Cards Rewards rate Key features Annual fee
Citi Premier® Card
  • 3X points per dollar on restaurant, supermarket, gas station, hotel and air travel purchases
  • 1X point per dollar on all other purchases
  • $100 annual hotel discount on a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) booked through ThankYou.com
  • No foreign transaction fees
$95
Citi® Double Cash Card
  • 2% cash back—1% as you buy and 1% when you pay for purchases
  • 0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers (14.74%  to 24.74% variable APR after)
  • Can convert rewards to Citi ThankYou points ($1 equals 100 points)
$0

The Citi Premier® Card offers you the chance to earn 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 restaurant, supermarket, gas station, hotel and air travel purchases and 1X point on all other purchases. This card also has an annual fee of $95.

In comparison, the Citi® Double Cash Card 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 maximize this combination

Use the Citi Premier Card for all of your air travel, restaurant, supermarket, hotel and gas purchases. Meanwhile, use the Citi Double Cash Card for all non-bonus category purchases since you’ll earn up to 2 percent back (1 percent when you buy and 1 percent as you pay for those purchases).

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

What to consider before applying

Although the Citi Premier Card has a $95 annual fee, you should be able to recoup the cost of card membership through the annual hotel credit (worth $100) or else through rewards earned on bonus category purchases. If you’re able to spend at least $267 per month on bonus categories that earn 3X points ($3,204 per year), you’ll be able to make up for the annual fee.

The Chase trifecta: Best for maximizing Chase Ultimate Rewards

So far, we’ve been discussing credit card duos. However, if you’re ready to take your combo game to the next level, you may want to consider a trifecta of cards. This option—which is for those who don’t mind putting extra work into their credit card strategy—could offer even more potential to maximize rewards.

The Chase trifecta is arguably the best-known card trio. The card variations can differ, but the most common trio includes the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are one of the most valuable rewards currencies in the credit card space. 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 to get more than 1 percent back on everything you buy. The card also includes no annual fee and offers 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5 percent cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2025) and 3 percent cash back on dining and drugstore purchases.

However, as a reminder, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 10X points on Lyft purchases (through March 2025), 10X points on Chase Dining purchases, 10X points on hotel stays and car rentals through Ultimate Rewards, 5X points on air travel through Ultimate Rewards and 3X points on general travel and restaurant purchases. That means that the Chase Sapphire Reserve would be a better option than the Chase Freedom Unlimited for Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, general travel purchases, and hotels and car rentals booked through Ultimate Rewards.

As for the Chase Ink Business Preferred, you’ll earn 3X points on up to $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable and phone services and select online advertising purchases (then 1X point). It comes with a $95 annual fee.

If you’re only looking for personal credit cards, you can swap the Chase Ink Business Preferred with the Chase Freedom Flex and earn 5 percent back in quarterly rotating categories to still get the most out of your credit card trio.

The Amex trifecta: Best for Amex loyalists

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

Sticking with Amex may be a rewarding option if you have a premium Amex card that earns American Express Membership Rewards points and if your goal is to maximize points. In that case, consider the Amex trifecta: The Amex Platinum Card, the Blue Business Plus Credit Card and the American Express® Gold Card.

We’ve already covered how the Amex Platinum and Amex Blue Business Plus work together, but with the addition of the American Express Gold Card, you can significantly boost your rewards earnings. No matter if you buy your groceries and cook your food, order in or eat out, the Amex Gold will likely reward you.

The Amex Gold earns 4X points on restaurants (including takeout and delivery in the U.S.), 4X points on Uber Eats purchases, 4X points on U.S. supermarket purchases (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1X point), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or via American Express Travel, 2X points on rental cars through Amex Travel and 1X point on all other purchases.

The American Express Gold Card includes an annual fee of $250 per year, but with annual statement credit benefits for dining alone—such as up to $120 in Uber Cash and up $120 in dining credits annually—the card almost pays for itself. Add in the up to $100 hotel credit for booking an eligible hotel stay through the Amex Travel portal and the Amex Gold’s statement credit perks will more than make up for the annual fee.

However, keep in mind that this Amex trio would cost you $945 in annual fees. While you can more than justify the cost if you use all of the available statement credit benefits and card perks, doing so may require significant spending and effort 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? While there are definitely pros and cons of carrying multiple cards, 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 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 temporarily lower your credit score

The bottom line

Having a few different rewards cards that complement each other can help you to earn a lot more rewards and benefits over time. 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 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.
Edited by
Associate Editor