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.
This post has been updated in several ways since last publication: I’ve limited the issuers to those with transferable points (i.e. I removed Wells Fargo), I added a “which is best” section, I added the new Capital One Venture X card to the mix, and I updated details within each section to remove information that was out of date and/or to better explain the value of each combo.
In this post I’ve taken a look at card combos from Amex, Capital One, Chase, and Citi. I chose those banks because each offers multiple cards with different earning rates and points transferable to airline and hotel programs. That’s important because transferring points in order to book high value awards is the single best way to get outsized value from your rewards.
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 transferable points credit card combos…
Amex Membership Rewards
American Express Gold Card + Blue Business Plus
4X grocery, 4X dining, 3X airfare, and 2X everywhere else
|Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)|
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 terrific 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 $10 per month Uber / Uber Eats credits, the $250 annual fee is easy to justify.
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, or for those looking for great rewards on spend outside of the United States. Also note that Amex isn’t widely accepted outside of the United States and so you’ll want a back-up Visa or Mastercard when traveling.
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 1.05 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 fee-free Rakuten 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, you can set up your account to 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.
Capital One “Miles”
Venture X + SavorOne
10X hotels and rental cars booked via Capital One Travel; 3x dining & entertainment; 3x grocery; 2x everywhere else; lounge access; cell phone protection; no foreign transaction fees.
|Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)|
Combo details: Even though the Venture X has a $395 annual fee, I consider this combo to free after rebates. Venture X offers $300 in annual travel credits plus 10K points each card anniversary to more than make up for the annual fee. The fee-free SavorOne, then, adds 3x grocery, dining, and entertainment to the already strong 2x everywhere earnings offered by Venture X. Capital One lets you move cash back to a “Miles” card so that the rewards then become transferable to partners. In this example, you can earn 3% cash back with the SavorOne card and move that cash back to the Venture X card to get better value when transferring to partners for high value awards. You can also freely move points to anyone, so you don’t need more than one Venture X card in the family to make this combo work.
Why this is a great combo: Very good earnings with a “free after rebate” annual fee. This is the only combo that offers the same great earnings internationally with no foreign transaction fees. The Venture X adds great features like cell phone protection, airport lounge access, and more.
On the other hand: The only way to get better than 1 cent per “Mile” value is by transferring to airline and hotel partners.
- Swap Venture X for Venture Rewards: Lower the annual fee to $95 per year with the Venture Rewards card instead of Venture X. Both offer 2x everywhere earnings, no foreign transaction fees, and the ability to transfer to airline and hotel partners. The Venture Rewards card, though, does not offer annual rebates that make up for the annual fee.
- Swap Savor for SavorOne: The $95 Savor card is similar to the fee-free SavorOne in that it offers 3x grocery earnings, but it also offers 4x dining and entertainment (vs. SavorOne’s 3x). If you expect to spend around $10K or more on dining & entertainment annually, then it would be worth paying the annual fee for the Savor card.
- Make it fee free: You can cobble together a decent combo with no annual fees (and still have no foreign transaction fees). Use the SavorOne for 3x grocery, dining, and entertainment. Use the fee-free Quicksilver card to get 1.5x everywhere else. And then move cash back to the fee-free VentureOne Rewards card in order to transfer “Miles” to airline and hotel partners.
See also: Capital One “Miles” Complete Guide
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Sapphire Reserve + Ink Business Cash + Freedom Unlimited
Excellent point redemption value; lounge access; 10x hotels & car rentals booked through Chase; 5x airfare booked through Chase; 5X phone, internet, cable, office supplies; 3X travel & dining; 3x drug store; 2X gas, 1.5X everywhere else.
|Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)|
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. The Sapphire Reserve card provides three ways to get great value from your points: 1) transfer to airline and hotel partners for high value awards; 2) Book travel through Chase at a value of 1.5 cents per points; and 3) Erase statement charges at 1.5 cents per point value against current Pay Yourself Back categories (see this post for details).
Why this is a great combo: With points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel or via Pay Yourself Back, you’ll earn at least 2.25 cents in travel per dollar spent with your Freedom Unlimited card’s 1.5x everywhere feature. Better, you’ll also earn 7.5 cents per dollar spent on the Freedom Unlimited card on travel booked through Chase, 4.5 cents in travel per dollar spent at drug stores and for dining; 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 Sapphire Reserve card is expensive. At $550 per year, the $300 annual travel rebate only goes a bit over half way towards rebating the card’s fee.
- 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.
- This is the only program in this round-up that doesn’t offer a standard category bonus at grocery stores. If you spend a lot at grocery stores, you may do better with Amex, Capital One, or Citi.
Add-on: Consider adding the no-fee Chase Freedom Flex card which offers rotating 5X categories.
Variation: You can lower annual fees down to $95 per year total by replacing the Sapphire Reserve with either the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred. Both offer the ability to transfer points to travel hotel and airline partners. With these cards, though, you’ll only get 1.25 cents per point value when paying for travel through Chase or through Pay Yourself Back. Also, while they still have good travel protections, Sapphire Reserve has better.
Special note: Since the Chase Sapphire Preferred card often has a better welcome bonus than the Sapphire Reserve, it can make sense to sign up for the Preferred and upgrade to the Reserve card after a year.
See also: Complete Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards
Citi ThankYou Rewards
ThankYou Premier + Double Cash + Custom Cash + Rewards+
3X grocery, dining, gas stations, flights, hotels, and travel agencies; 5X monthly on $500 spend; 2X everywhere else; 10% rewards rebate
|Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)|
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, especially for a combo with a total $95 annual fee. The Premier card costs $95 per year while the other 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. The Custom Cash card adds a “customizable” 5x category to your wallet (see this post for details).
On the other hand: Other than the Rewards+ 10% rebate, Citi has discontinued options for getting better than 1 cent per point value other than transferring points to partners. Plus, 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.
See also: Complete Guide to Citi ThankYou Rewards
Which is Best?
So, which combo is best? Actually, it’s impossible to answer that question without understanding who’s asking. Any one of these combos may be best for you depending upon your tolerance for annual fees, your spend patterns, and how you’re likely to use your rewards. Still, I promised to pick a favorite, so here goes…
By a hair, I think that the Capital One Venture X + SavorOne combo is best. I love this combo because it only requires holding 2 cards and it offers strong rewards in popular categories (3x grocery, dining, and entertainment); strong rewards on all other spend (2x); no foreign transaction fees; and ultra-premium card features (airport lounge access) all for “free after rebate” (spend $395, but get back $300 in travel credits and 10K points each year).
That said, I could easily and convincingly argue that any one of the other combos is best. It probably just depends on what mood I’m in when I’m choosing. If I’m feeling particularly excited by Hyatt awards, I’ll pick the Chase combo (since they’re the only one in this roundup that offers transfers to Hyatt). If I’m dreaming about all of the great ways to earn and burn Amex Membership Rewards points, I’ll pick the Amex combo. And if I want a single cheap combo ($95 total) that offers great point earning options along with 10% back on awards (thanks to Rewards+), I’ll pick Citi.
It’s also worth pointing out that it’s not necessary to pick a single bank’s combo. Personally, I have a combination of cards that earn Amex, Chase, and Citi points. I’d have Capital One “Miles” too if they hadn’t mysteriously shut down my account. If you go for multiple combos, though, its worth paying close attention to annual fees. Fees can add up quickly if you try to get (and keep) the best cards from each program. If you honestly get enough value from each one to justify the fee, that’s great, but I suspect many people get lazy and just keep paying annual fees regardless.