In the past I’ve analyzed the heck out of cards to come up with the best credit card combinations based on earning rates, annual fees, redemption value, etc. Today, I’ll take a more casual look at my favorite credit card duos. I like cards that have great perks and earn great category bonuses. And I prefer cards that earn transferable points (points that can be transferred to airline and hotel programs). A big plus is when those points can alternatively be used for better than 1 cent per point value to purchase travel. Together, that means that I like Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Rewards (see this post for a comparison of the three programs). Of course, SPG points are awesome too, but that’s a discussion for a different post.
In each of the below cases, I believe that credit cards are better in pairs. With the right cards, you can maximize point earnings and get the best value from your points. So, without further ado, here are my favorite credit card duos…
Membership Rewards: Amex Enhanced Business Platinum + Amex EveryDay Preferred
Great redemption value; Lounge Access, Elite Status, Free In-Flight Wifi; Up to 5X airfare, 4.5X grocery, 3X gas, and 1.5X everywhere else.
Everyday Preferred ($95 annual fee): 3x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 2x points at US gas stations; 1x points on other purchases. Earn 50% more points: Use your Card 30 or more times per billing period to get 50% more points: 4.5X grocery (1.5X after $6K spend), 3X gas, 1.5X everywhere else.
Enhanced Business Platinum ($450 annual fee – $200 annual airline fee credits): 5X flights and hotels booked through Amex Travel (this feature kicks in on March 30th). $100 Global Entry fee reimbursement. Great airport lounge benefits (including Centurion Lounges, Delta SkyClub, Priority Pass). Rental car elite status. SPG and Marriott Gold elite status. Hilton Gold elite status. Free Boingo wifi. 10 complimentary single flight segment passes for Gogo inflight internet each calendar year. 50% Pay with Points rebate for selected airline, and for business or first class with any airline. For complete details regarding Business Platinum card benefits, please see: Your Platinum Card arrived. Here’s what to do next…
Why this is a great combo: This combination delivers fantastic benefits, huge earnings on spend, and terrific value when redeeming points. Membership Rewards points are best redeemed by transferring to an airline program for premium class international awards, or for the Amex Enhanced Business Platinum 50% rebate when you pay for flights with points. In the latter case, you get 2 cents per point value, and may get even more (see: Wow! 2.17 cents per point from Business Platinum pay with points!).
On the other hand: This combo has a very high combined annual fee. The EveryDay Preferred incurs foreign transaction fees. Can be a big hassle to ensure 30 EveryDay Preferred purchases per month. The $200 in airline fee reimbursements are not as easily earned as the the Sapphire Reserve card’s travel reimbursements. And the Enhanced Business Platinum 50% point rebate is limited to your selected airline when buying economy class tickets.
Ultimate Rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve + Freedom Unlimited
Excellent point redemption value; lounge access; 3X travel & dining, 1.5X everywhere else.
Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450 annual fee – $300 in annual travel credits): 3X travel & dining. Points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel. Primary auto rental collision damage waiver. Priority Pass Select lounge access. $100 Global Entry fee credit.
Chase Freedom Unlimited (No annual fee): 1.5X everywhere. Transfer points to your Sapphire Reserve card for better point redemption value.
Why this is a great combo: With points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal, you’ll earn at least 2.25 cents in travel per dollar spent with your Freedom Unlimited card, and 4.5 cents in travel per dollar spent on travel & dining with your Sapphire Reserve card. And while 1.5 cents per point is good value, you can often get much better value by transferring points to high value partners such as Hyatt, United, Korean Airways, etc. For more details, please see: Chase Sapphire Reserve Complete Guide.
On the other hand: The Freedom Unlimited card does charge foreign exchange fees, so you’ll want to use your Sapphire Reserve card when traveling outside of the US. Also, the Sapphire Reserve card’s lounge benefits are limited to Priority Pass lounges alone. That severely limits domestic lounge options when compared to the Amex duo, above.
ThankYou Rewards: Citi ThankYou Premier + AT&T Access More
Very good point redemption value; 3X travel, gas, and online retail; 2X dining and entertainment.
Citi ThankYou Premier ($95 annual fee): 3X travel & gas; 2X dining & entertainment.
Citi AT&T Access More ($95 annual fee – 10K points annually when you spend at least $10K): 3X online retail & travel; 3X AT&T. This card is no longer available for new applicants BUT you may be able to product change from another Citibank card to this one.
Why this is a great combo: Low combined annual fee when you consider the AT&T card’s annual 10K points rebate (which is worth $125 in travel when combined with the Premier card). Free authorized user cards. This is the only combination that offers a great category bonus for most online purchases (3X with the AT&T card).
On the other hand: The AT&T card may be hard to get since it is no longer available to new applicants, plus it charges foreign transaction fees, so use the Premier card when traveling. Citi ThankYou has fewer and mostly less valuable transfer partners than Amex or Chase. No lounge access benefits with this combination (but you could swap in the Citi Prestige card for the Premier in order to get lounge access).
What happens when my dog gets curious about my credit card photo shoot? A photo bomb, of course…