Awesome credit card combos

27

A number of banks have their own points programs, and in some cases it’s possible maximize value by combining the benefits of multiple cards.  For example, you can use one card to earn more points and another card to get the most value from those points.  In this post I’ll take a look at card combos from Amex, Chase, Citi, and Wells Fargo.

In each of the below cases, I believe that credit cards are better together. 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 combos…

Ultimate Rewards

Chase Sapphire Reserve + Ink Business Cash + Freedom Unlimited

Excellent point redemption value; lounge access; 5X phone, internet, cable, office supplies, 3X travel & dining, 2X gas, 1.5X everywhere else.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

FM Mini Review: Excellent all-around card for frequent traveler. Best when paired with no-fee Chase Freedom Flex, no-fee Freedom Unlimited & no-fee Chase Ink Cash


Annual Fee: $550

Card Type: Visa Infinite

Base
Travel
Dine
Other

Earning rate: 3X Travel and Dining ⚬ 10X Lyft (through March 2022)

Noteworthy perks: $300 Annual Travel Credit ⚬ Points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel ⚬ Primary auto rental collision damage waiver ⚬ Priority Pass Select lounge access ⚬ $100 Global Entry fee credit ⚬ $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2020 & 2021 ⚬ Free DashPass for at least 1 year (activate by 12/31/21) ⚬ One year Lyft Pink membership ⚬ Earn 10X on Lyft spend

See also: Chase Ultimate Rewards Complete Guide

Chase Freedom Unlimited

FM Mini Review: Great for 3x categories and 1.5X everywhere else. Excellent companion card to Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Business Preferred.


Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Visa Signature or Platinum

Base
Travel
Dine
Other

Earning rate: 5x travel booked through Chase ⚬ 5X Lyft ⚬ 3x dining ⚬ 3x drugstores ⚬ 1.5X everywhere else

Noteworthy perks: Free DashPass for up to 3 months upon activation

See also: Chase Ultimate Rewards Complete Guide

Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card

FM Mini Review: This one should be in everyone's wallet. Incredible signup bonus for a no-fee card. Great card for 5X categories. Excellent companion card to Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Business Preferred.


Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Visa Signature Business

Base
Dine
Gas
Phone
Office
Other

Earning rate: 5X office supplies ⚬ 5X cellular/landline/cable (on up to $25,000 in total purchases in 5x categories annually) ⚬ 2X gas and restaurants ⚬ 5X Lyft

See also: Chase Ultimate Rewards Complete Guide

Combo details: Many of Chase’s no-fee cards are advertised as cash back cards, but they actually earn Ultimate Rewards points.  Once you have points in one of these accounts, you can move the points to your Sapphire Reserve account in order to make them more valuable.  Chase even lets you move points to another person in the same household, so it makes sense for a couple to earn points across a variety of Ultimate Rewards card and then move all of those points to a single Sapphire Reserve account.

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, 4.5 cents in travel per dollar spent on travel & dining with your Sapphire Reserve card, and 7.5 cents in travel per dollar on phone, internet, cable, and office supplies with your Ink Business Cash card. And while 1.5 cents per point is good value, you can often get even better value by transferring points to high value partners.  See: Chase Transfer Partners.  Also note that the Sapphire Reserve offers best in class automatic travel protections.  See: Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance.

On the other hand: The Freedom Unlimited and Ink Business Cash cards charge foreign exchange fees, so you’ll want to use your Sapphire Reserve card when traveling outside of the US.

Add-on: Consider adding the no-fee Chase Freedom card which offers rotating 5X categories.

See also: Complete Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards

Amex Membership Rewards

American Express Gold Card + Blue Business Plus

Transferable points, 4X grocery, 4X dining, 3X airfare, and 2X everywhere else

American Express® Gold Card

FM Mini Review: This card offers an awesome return on US supermarket and worldwide dining spend, putting it at or near the top-of-class in both categories. The addition of Boxed.com makes it easy to get full value from the card's $10/month dining & entertainment credits.


Annual Fee: $250

Card Type: Amex Charge Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Grocery

Earning rate: 3X points for flights booked with airlines or on amextravel.com ⚬ 4x points at US Supermarkets (up to $25K in purchases, then 1x) ⚬ 4x at restaurants worldwide ⚬ 1X points on other purchases. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Up to $100 a year in statement credits for baggage fees and more with one qualifying airline ⚬ Up to $10 in statement credits monthly with participating dining partners (Boxed.com, Shake Shack, Seamless/Grubhub, Cheesecake Factory and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse) ⚬ $100 hotel credit on qualifying charges on stays of 2 nights or longer, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, if available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card

FM Mini Review: 2X rewards for all spend (up to $50K per year) with no annual fee makes this card a winner.


Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base

Earning rate: 2X Membership Rewards points on all purchases, up to $50K spend per calendar year (then 1X thereafter). Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

See also: The new king of everyday spend

Combo details: Amex automatically pools all of your Membership Rewards points together even if they were earned with different cards.  Unfortunately, you can’t move points from one person to another, but you can transfer points to a friend’s airline or hotel program account if they are an authorized user (or employee) on one of your accounts.

Why this is a great combo: This combination delivers almost unbelievable earning potential (2X to 4X everywhere in the US!), plus the ability to transfer points to a wide variety of transfer partners (see: Amex Transfer Partners).  Plus, Amex frequently offers transfer bonuses so that you can end up with even more miles.  And, for those who can make good use of the Gold card’s $10 per month dining credits and annual $100 airline fee credits, the $250 annual fee is easy to justify.  See: Is 4X worth $250 per year? How much are those Amex Gold 4X categories (grocery & dining) worth?

On the other hand: The Gold card’s 4X grocery bonus is capped at $25K annual spend and is limited to stores within the US; and the Blue Business Plus card charges foreign transaction fees and limits the 2X bonus to $50K per year.  In other words, this is not the best combo for those who spend big, big money, or for those looking for great rewards on spend outside of the United States.

Add-on: There are a number of great cards to consider adding onto this combo:

  • Consider adding the Business Platinum Card in order to get fantastic perks, plus the ability to pay for certain flights with points at a value of approximately 1.5 cents per point.
  • Also consider the Platinum Card for Schwab which has similar great perks to the Business Platinum and lets you cash out points for 1.25 cents each.
  • The Amex Green Card is another interesting add-on option.  The Green card would add 3X for all travel (not just airfare), $100 credit per year for CLEAR, and $100 credit per year for airport lounge access purchased through Lounge Buddy.
  • For online purchases, it’s hard to beat the Rakuten (formerly Ebates) Visa.  All purchases made through the Rakuten online portal earn 3X when paid with this card (that’s in addition to the rewards earned from the portal).  Plus, if you setup your accounts correctly, you’ll earn Membership Rewards points rather than cash back.  See this post for details: Rakuten (formerly Ebates) Visa with Membership Rewards. Everything you need to know.

See also: Complete Guide to Amex Membership Rewards

ThankYou Rewards

Citi ThankYou Premier + Citi Double Cash + Citi Rewards+

Good point redemption value; 3X travel & gas, 2X everywhere else; 10% rewards rebate

Citi Premier Card

FM Mini Review: Very strong earnings for spend. Excellent bonus categories. Points transferable to select airlines. Recommend pairing this card with Citi Double Cash and Citi Rewards+. Sadly, this travel card doesn't provide any travel protections.


Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base
Travel
Dine
Gas
Grocery
Other

Earning rate: 3X grocery ⚬ 3X dining ⚬ 3X gas stations ⚬ 3X flights, hotels, travel agencies ⚬ 3X all-other travel (until 8/23/20) ⚬ 2X entertainment (until 8/23/20)

Noteworthy perks: Transfer points to airline partners ⚬ Redeem points for 1.25 cents each towards travel (until 4/10/21) ⚬ Starting 8/23/20: $100 Annual Hotel Savings Benefit

See also: Citi ThankYou Rewards Complete Guide

Citi Rewards+ Card

FM Mini Review: 10% points rebate (up to 10K rebate per year) make this a great choice to pool with ThankYou Premier, Prestige, and/or Double Cash


Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Mastercard World

Base
Gas
Grocery

Earning rate: 2X at supermarkets and gas stations on up to $6,000 per year ⚬ Round up to nearest 10 TY points on all purchases

Noteworthy perks: Round up to the nearest 10 points on all purchases with no cap. ⚬ get 10% of your points back on the first 100K redeemed each year

See also: Citi ThankYou Rewards Complete Guide

Citi Double Cash Card

FM Mini Review: 2X rewards for all spend with no annual fee makes this card a winner. Earn 2X everywhere and redeem for the equivalent of 2% cash back or 2X ThankYou points. Pair with the Premier or Prestige card to make points transferrable to airlines.


Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base

Earning rate: 2% cash back everywhere (1% cash back for each purchase + 1% when paying your credit card bill for that purchase)

Noteworthy perks: 1X when you make a purchase + 1X when you pay for those purchases

Combo details: Citi lets you pool ThankYou points together so that you can get the best possible value for your points.  You can also transfer points to anyone, but those points must then be used within 90 days or else they’ll expire.

Why this is a great combo: Excellent point earnings.  Low combined annual fee.  The Premier card costs $95 per year while the other two cards are free. Free authorized user cards. 10% rewards rebate (up to 10K rebate per year) makes the $95 fee for this combo a no-brainer.  Great rewards for tiny purchases with the Rewards+ card.  Redeem points for 1.25 cents each towards travel with the Premier card.  Also note that Citi has the only program that offers one to one transfers to Turkish Miles & Smiles.  That’s significant because of Turkish’s incredibly cheap domestic awards for flying United (see: 7.5K each way to Hawaii: The sweetest spot we’ve been missing).

On the other hand: Citi has dropped all significant travel and purchase protections from their cards so you may want to invest in a different travel card if you travel often and rely on your credit card’s protections.

Add-on: Consider adding the Citi Prestige card to get 5X dining and airfare and Priority Pass lounge access.

See also: Complete Guide to Citi ThankYou Rewards

Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards

Propel + Visa Signature

Great point redemption value specifically for airfare. 3X travel, dining, gas and select streaming services.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

FM Mini Review: Combine points with the Wells Fargo Visa Signature to get 1.5 cents per point in value towards travel (or 1.75 cents per point if you spend $50K per year on the Visa Signature and combine your points).


Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Gas
Other

Earning rate: 3X flights, hotels, homestays, car rentals, dining, gas, rideshares, transit, and streaming services

Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card

Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base

Earning rate: 5X gas, grocery, drugstore for 6 months

Big spend bonus: With $50K spend, points become worth 1.75 cents each towards airfare

Noteworthy perks: Points worth 1.5 cents each towards airfare ⚬ Points worth 1 cent each for most other redemption

See also: A card I wrongly ignored

Combo details: Wells Fargo’s Go Far Rewards points can be gifted from one person to another.  When points are moved from a Propel card to a Visa Signature card, the points can then be redeemed for 1.5 cents per point value towards airfare.  If you spend $50K in a year on the Visa Signature card, points will then be worth 1.75 cents each towards airfare.

Why this is a great combo: No annual fee!  Plus, get the equivalent of 4.5% back when points are used for airfare for many popular categories of spend: travel, dining, gas and select streaming services (Apple Music, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, Sirius XM, and Spotify Premium).  If you meet the Visa Signature $50K spend threshold you do even better: 3 X 1.75 = 5.25% back in all of those categories.

On the other hand: Go Far Rewards points cannot be transferred to airline or hotel programs.  If you want to use rewards for anything but airfare, you’ll only get 1 cent per point value.  And neither card is particularly rewarding for “everywhere else” spend.  It’s also a bit difficult to get both of these cards if you want both signup bonuses since Wells Fargo limits you to just one signup bonus per 16 months.  But a couple could work together to each sign up for one of the cards and then redeem points only for airfare via the Visa Signature card.

Wrap Up

I’m a big fan of the Amex and Chase combos shown above.  They offer outstanding point earning capability both within categories of spend and everywhere else.  And both offer a number of great transfer partners.  Chase has a big edge though in offering an easy way to get excellent value for your points: use points to purchase any travel available through the Chase portal to get 1.5 cents per point value.

The Citibank combo is best for those who want to earn lots of transferable points while paying low annual fees.  I have a hard time recommending the Citi combo to frequent travelers, though, since Citi has removed all of their travel protections.

I’m less excited by the Wells Fargo combo.  Even though the Wells Fargo cards can be lucrative when points are used towards paid flights, I don’t like the fact that paid flights are the only option to get good value.  Those attracted to the fact that there are no annual fees on those cards, might be more interested in a no-fee cash back combo such as the Costco Anywhere Visa (4% gas up to $7K per year, 3% restaurant and travel) plus the Citi Double Cash (2% everywhere).

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