Awesome credit card combos

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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’ve taken a look at card combos from Amex, Capital One, 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.

With the latest version of this post, I’ve added Capital One to the mix thanks to the discovery that Capital One cash back can be converted to Capital One Miles.  I’ve also added Citi’s new Custom Cash card to the ideal Citi ThankYou combo.  Both of these programs offer terrific earning on spend with low annual fees.  Unfortunately, neither offers a good way to get much more than 1 cent per point value except by transferring to loyalty partners.

So, without further ado, here are my favorite credit card combos…

Amex Membership Rewards

American Express Gold Card + Blue Business Plus

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

Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)
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. Dining credits and Uber / Uber Eats credits go a long way towards reducing the sting of this card's annual fee.


Annual Fee: $250

Card Type: Amex Pay Over Time 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 $10 in statement credits monthly with participating dining partners (Boxed.com, Shake Shack, Seamless/Grubhub, Cheesecake Factory and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse) ⚬ $10 monthly Uber or Uber Eats credit (use it or lose it each month) ⚬ Complimentary Uber Eats Pass Membership for up to 12 months (must enroll by 12/31/21) ⚬ $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 ⚬ Enrollment required for select benefits.

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

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)

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.

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.  But do note rumors indicating that this feature may soon change for better or worse: The Schwab Platinum Invest with Rewards Rumor: 1.5 cash out?
  • 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.

See also: Complete Guide to Amex Membership Rewards

Capital One “Miles”

Venture + Savor

3x or 4x dining & entertainment; 3x grocery; 2x everywhere else; no foreign transaction fees

Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

FM Mini Review: This card earns 2 "miles" per dollar, which are worth exactly 1 cent each toward travel. This makes the return on spend similar to a 2% cash back card (though in this case you must redeem your miles to offset travel in order to get 1 cent per mile). One big advantage over cash back: Capital One allows transfering their "miles" to airline miles at varying rates depending on partner, with some partners available at 1:1 and others at a 2 to 1.5 ratio or 2:1 ratio.


Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Other

Earning rate: 2X everywhere.

Noteworthy perks: Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® ⚬ Redeem miles for travel at value of 1 cent per mile ⚬ Convert "miles" to airline miles at a (mostly) 2 to 1.5 ratio ⚬ No foreign transaction fees

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Mastercard

Base
1%
Dine
3%
Grocery
3%
Other
3%

Earning rate: 3% on dining, entertainment, select streaming services, and purchases at grocery stores ⚬ 1% everywhere else ⚬ 8% back at Vivid Seats (through January 2023)

Noteworthy perks: No foreign transaction fees

Capital One Savor

FM Mini Review: Excellent cash back card for dining and entertainment spend.


Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Mastercard

Base
1%
Dine
4%
Grocery
3%
Other
4%

Earning rate: 4% cash back on dining, entertainment, and popular streaming services ⚬ 3% at grocery stores ⚬ 1% everywhere else ⚬ 8% back at Vivid Seats (through January 2023)

Noteworthy perks: No foreign transaction fees

Combo details: Choose either the fee-free SavorOne or the $95 Savor card for this combo.  The only difference is whether you’ll earn 3% or 4% for dining and entertainment.  If you spend more than $9,500 in those categories each year, then it’s worth paying the $95 annual fee for the Savor card.  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% to 4% cash back with a Savor card and move that cash back to the Venture Rewards 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 really need more than one Venture Rewards card in the family to make this combo work.

Why this is a great combo: Very good earnings with a low overall annual fee.  This is the only combo that offers the same great earnings internationally with no foreign transaction fees.

On the other hand: The only way to get better than 1 cent per “Mile” value is by transferring to airline and hotel partners.  Unfortunately, with Capital One, not all transfer partners transfer 1 to 1.

Variation: You can cobble together an almost as good 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; 5X phone, internet, cable, office supplies; 5x travel booked through Chase; 3X travel & dining; 3x drug store; 2X gas, 1.5X everywhere else.

Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)
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: 10X hotels & car rentals booked through Chase ⚬ 10X Chase Dining ⚬ 5X flights booked through Chase ⚬ 3X Travel and Dining ⚬ 10X Lyft (through March 2022)

Noteworthy perks: $300 Annual Travel Credit ⚬ Points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel ⚬ Transfer points to airline & hotel partners ⚬ Primary auto rental collision damage waiver ⚬ Priority Pass Select lounge access ⚬ $100 Global Entry fee credit ⚬ $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2020 & 2021 ⚬ Reserved by Sapphire (exclusive dining reservations) ⚬ 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.  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 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.  Additionally, this is the only transferable points 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 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)
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

Earning rate: 3X grocery ⚬ 3X dining ⚬ 3X gas stations ⚬ 3X flights, hotels, travel agencies

Noteworthy perks: Transfer points to airline partners ⚬ $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

Citi Custom Cash Card

FM Mini Review: This is a great card to have and hold for a single category where you spend no more than $500 per month as it represents an excellent return without rotating categories to track.


Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Mastercard

Base
Travel
Dine
Gas
Grocery
Other

Earning rate: 5x on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1x thereafter. Eligible categories: Restaurants, Gas Stations, Grocery Stores, Select Travel, Select Transit, Select Streaming Services, Drugstores, Home Improvement Stores, Fitness Clubs and Live Entertainment. ⚬ 1x on all other 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, 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).  Also note that Citi has the only program that offers 1 to 1 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: Other than the Rewards+ 10% rebate, Citi has discontinued most 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.

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

Note that the Wells Fargo Propel card is no longer available to new applicants.  They recently released a new 2% cash back card and have stated that they will release a new “rewards card line” in 2022.  We’ll report on that new line when details become available.

Propel + Visa Signature

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

Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)
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 or use points to offset statement charges via Pay Yourself Back.

Both the Capital One and Citibank combos are great for those who want to earn lots of transferable points while paying low annual fees.  Both programs offer uncapped 3x rewards at grocery stores worldwide.  Citi has an edge over Capital One with the Rewards+ 10% points rebate.  This effectively makes Citi points 11% more valuable on up to 100K points redeemed each year.  For those who spend significant time and money out of the U.S., though, Capital One has the edge because Capital One cards have no foreign transaction fees.

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).

See also: Transferable Points Programs Compared: Amex vs Chase vs Citi vs Capital One vs Brex

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