The 5 best credit card combinations to max your rewards | finder.com

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Best credit card combinations

Use two or more credit cards to maximize the value of your rewards.

While just one rewards credit card can offer plenty of returned value, the best way to earn and redeem rewards with credit cards is by pairing them up. Here are some of the most popular and effective combinations on the market, as well as some tips for creating your own pairings.

Best credit card strategy for rewards

The main idea behind a credit card strategy is ensuring that every purchase you make earns the most rewards possible between each of your credit cards.

Start with an everyday, unlimited cashback card. These cards typically earn 1.5% back on all purchases without any sort of caps or other restrictions. No matter what you purchase with this card, you’ll at least earn the stated cashback amount.
Supplement that card with a category reward cards. A category rewards card earns more than 1.5% in select categories. For example, the Amex Gold Card earns 4x points at US restaurants, 4x points at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year then 1x points, 3x points on flights you book directly through airlines or with Amex, and 1x points on everything else.

When you’re shopping, you’ll want to use this card wherever and whenever possible to earn more points than you would with your base unlimited card. But for anything not included as a rewards category on your category rewards card, you’ll want to use your unlimited everyday card. This is because the category rewards card earns just 1% back on purchases that aren’t included among the card’s categories.

It might sound a little complicated, but at the end of the day it’s as simple as using the right credit card at the right time.

Best combination of Chase cards

The Chase Trifecta is one of the most well-known credit card combinations thanks to the individual card strengths as well as the strength of the Chase Ultimate Rewards programs. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Freedom Flex℠ are your point earners. Respectively, they earn unlimited cash back and category rewards. Meanwhile, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is your point spender. All points you spend through this card will be worth 1.5x their standard value.

For more on how this reward system works, check out our Chase Trifecta guide.

Best combination of Amex cards

The Amex Trifecta works similarly to the Chase Trifecta: use a different card for each type of spending. This includes the Amex Platinum Card, Amex Gold Card and the The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express. Unlike the Chase Trifecta, there is no “spender” card, as your points all funnel into the same Amex account.

Take a look at our Amex Trifecta guide to learn more about this strategy.

Best credit card combination for travel cards

You have a bit of flexibility when it comes to creating an effective travel card pairing. If you’re looking to make the most travel points possible for a specific travel brand, you might consider picking up a cobranded travel credit card, such as the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card plus another card that allows you to transfer points to your Delta loyalty program, such as the Amex Gold Card.

As an example, Amex rewards cards allow you to transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to the Delta program at a 1:1 ratio. You could simply choose another Amex rewards card with categories that aren’t covered by the Delta SkyMiles Gold to maximize the points flowing into your SkyMiles program.

If you’re less concerned with points and more concerned with travel perks, a combination of two different types of credit cards often works well. For example, a cobranded airline card can offer perks like free checked bags and airport lounge access, while a cobranded hotel card can offer you annual-free nights and upgraded rooms.

Best credit card combination for cashback cards

As of March 2021, it’s tough to beat the combination of the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Freedom Flex℠. Aside from the way they naturally compliment one another as an unlimited cashback card and category cashback card, they both currently sport additional categories that offer big unlimited cashback, including 5% back on travel booked through the Chase travel portal, 3% back on Lyft purchases, and 3% back on dining and drugstores. No other cashback cards on the market offer this number of categories or earning potential.

If you’re not interested in the Chase ecosystem however, consider the Citi® Double Cash Card and Discover it® Cash Back. The Citi® Double Cash Card effectively earns an unlimited 2% cash back – 1% on your purchase and another 1% when you pay your balance. This is the highest unlimited cash back rate you’ll find on all purchases, beating even the Chase Freedom Unlimited® in that regard. The Discover it® Cash Back on the other hand is a traditional rotating category card: you’ll earn 5% cash back on select categories on up to a spending cap, and these categories rotate out each quarter. What makes the Discover it® Cash Back the go-to pick however is the welcome offer. Discover will match all cash back you earn during your first year of account opening.

Best overall rewards credit card pairing

We don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, Chase Freedom Flex℠ are the best overall credit card pairing you’ll find on the market today. They offer the strongest combination of pure earning strength and reward flexibility. This may not always be the case – it was only recently that the Chase Freedom cards received their upgrades – but for now, you can’t go wrong adding these to your wallet.

Compare cards to combine

While we’ve already listed some of our favorite card combinations, there’s plenty of room to get creative and find a few cards that hit just the right spots for your financial and spending habits. You can select up to four cards from our table to compare them side-by-side and see if they make for an effective pair.

How many credit cards should I have?

There’s no hard rule on how many credit cards you should have. Credit cards are ultimately financial tools, so as long as each card you own fulfills a purpose and you’re paying them off without incurring interest, you’re in good shape.

Bottom line

The wide variety of reward cards out there means you have ample opportunity to pick the cards that best serve your needs while providing you value on the purchases you make most. If you’re looking for a few new cards to add to your wallet, compare all credit cards to get an idea of what makes the most sense for you.

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