Our Points page has been updated to reflect our revised recommendations for the Best Two-Card Combos, which we copy below:
Best Rewards Credit Card Combos
Theoretically you need way too many cards to maximize rewards - one for gas, one for groceries, one for dining, one for airfare, one for hotels, one for general spending, and so on. In real life, most of us can't manager that. That is why here we will recommend the best two-card combos that will hand you much bigger rewards than a single card while still keeping things manageable.
- Fidelity Visa | Citi Double Cash + one category bonus cashback card: This combo is for people who love cash back! As presented before, Fidelity Visa and Citi Double Cash, both with no annual fees and offer a straightforward unlimited 2% cashback, are extremely hard to beat. Of course, you may also consider Barclays Arrival Plus for 2.11% travel rewards and other added benefits come with the $89 annual fee. No doubt you will put most of your spending on one of these three cards. However, adding a 5% category bonus card will certainly get you more cash. You need to do your math to figure out which category you spend the most and how much you can earn by carrying an extra card. Say if you spend $500 each month on a 5% category, every year you will earn $500 x 12 x (5-3)% = $180 beyond your normal 2% cash back by carrying this extra card. Some people may say "$180 is awesome! I am in." but some may say "For the hassle of remembering which card to use, I will pass." So it is totally up to you. Now let's look into the most popular bonus categories to give you some ideas: (a) Groceries: Amex Blue Cash Preferred ($75 annual fee, 6% on groceries for up to $6,000 spent each year) - to maximize cashback, you will spend $6,000 a year on groceries and the extra cashback you earn beyond 2% is $6,000 x 4% - $75 = $165; (b) Gas: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature ($0 annual fee, 5x points on gas) - if you monthly gas expense is $600, the extra cashback beyond 2% is $600 x 12 x 2.25% = $162; (c) Airfare: PenFed Premium Travel Rewards Amex ($0 annual fee, 5x points on airfare) - if your annual airfare expense is $8,000, the extra cashback beyond 2% is $8,000 x 2.25% = $180; (d) Chase Freedom or Discover it ($0 annual fee, 5% on quarterly rotating categories, up to $1,500 spent each quarter) - the annual maximum extra cashback beyond 2% is $1,500 x 4 x 3% = $180; (e) US Bank Cash+ ($0 annual fee, 5% on two categories you select, up to $2,000 spent each quarter) - the annual maximum extra cashback beyond 2% is $2,000 x 4 x 3% = $240.
- Amex SPG + Amex Premier Rewards Gold | Citi ThankYou Premier: This powerful combo is for people who prefer miles/points to cashback. Amex SPG will be the card for most general spending, as it has the highest return rate (=2.25%) among all four programs that allow points transfer to frequent traveler miles/points. Then, you may choose between PR Gold and ThankYou Premier as the second card. Both offer very powerful bonus categories: PR Gold covers airfare (3x) and gas & groceries & dining (2x); ThankYou Premier covers gas & travel (3x) and dining & entertainment (2x). While Amex MR points and Citi ThankYou points are worth pretty much the same in our book, which card to pick eventually depends on your spending patterns and the frequent traveler programs you have in mind for transfer. Finally, you may also consider Sapphire Preferred, Amex EDP, or Citi Prestige as the bonus category card.
- Amex EveryDay Preferred + Citi Prestige: We highly recommend this combo as an alternative to the previous one, for the simple reason that the two cards complement each other in the bonus categories almost too perfectly. With 30 transactions per month, EDP offers highest return for groceries (4.5x, up to $6,000 spent each year) and gas (3x), while Prestige covers airfare & hotels & travel agencies (3x) and dining & entertainment (2x). So with this combo, you can easily cover the five most important bonus categories: grocery, gas, dining, airfare, and non-air travel, with only two cards - that is an incredible deal! As for general spending, EDP returns higher rewards at 1.5x (=2.25%) and will be ideal for most purchases. However, we recommend using Citi Prestige for items that may have price drop within 60 days such as electronics for the Citi Price Rewind benefit, and when traveling abroad for the waived foreign transaction fees and embedded EMV chip.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited + Chase Sapphire Preferred: Even though Chase Freedom Unlimited is branded as a cashback card, it actually earn UR points at 1.5x for all purchases without an annual fee. Normally you won't be able to transfer UR points earned through Freedom Unlimited to frequent traveler miles/points since it is a lower tier UR product, limiting the value of a point at 1 cent. However, the secret here is that if you have a premium UR card such as Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer the UR points earned from Freedom Unlimited to Sapphire Preferred account so all of sudden these points become transferable to miles/points. This hugely increases the value of Freedom Unlimited, making it returning an impressive 2.25% cashback equivalent for general spending based on our current valuation of UR points. Obviously, Sapphire Preferred will be the card to charge to for travel & dining (2x). In addition, we recommend using Sapphire Preferred for foreign travel and items that may have price drop within 90 days. Lastly, if you don't mind having three cards in your wallet, adding Chase Freedom, which returns 5x on quarterly rotating categories, will make amazing Chase UR triplets. UR points earned through Freedom are also transferrable to frequent traveler miles/points when you have Sapphire Preferred, and then Freedom returns an incredible 7.5% on 5x categories. Bear in mind there is a quarterly $1,500 spending cap for the 5x categories on Freedom, so if you do everything exactly right, you will be earning an extra 21,000 UR points a year (1,500 x 4 x (5 - 1.5) = 24,000) by adding this non-fee card to your wallet.