Update: Originally published a couple of years ago and updated today, these credit card duos remain great 1-2 punches with a few updates.
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).
In each of the below cases, I believe that credit cards are better in pairs. With the right cards (and credit card duos), 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 Credit Card Duo: Amex Enhanced Business Platinum + Amex EveryDay Preferred
Great redemption value; Lounge Access, Elite Status, 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.
Business Platinum ($595 annual fee): 5X flights and hotels booked through Amex Travel. $100 Global Entry fee reimbursement. Great airport lounge benefits (including Centurion Lounges, Delta SkyClub, Priority Pass). Rental car elite status. Marriott Gold elite status. Hilton Gold elite status. 35% 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 credit card duo: 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 Business Platinum 35% rebate when you pay for flights 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, though note that the Business Platinum card also carries up to $200 in statement credits for Dell purchases each year (and during 2020 there are a number of enhanced benefits / credits). And the Business Platinum 35% point rebate is limited to your selected airline when buying economy class tickets.
Update 8/4/20: Should we re-think this two card combo? Another great Amex wallet could be the Amex Gold Card and Blue Business Plus. That would give 4x grocery (on up to $25K spend per year, then 1x) and 4x restaurants on the Amex Gold and 2x everywhere else (on up to $50K per year in purchases on the Blue Business Plus, then 1x) for a combined annual fee of $250. Add in the Gold card’s other perks and $100 airline incidental credit and that may be the better Amex combo for those who don’t need the perks of a Platinum card.
Ultimate Rewards Credit Card Duo: Chase Sapphire Reserve + Freedom Unlimited
Excellent point redemption value; lounge access; 3X travel & dining, 1.5X everywhere else.
Chase Sapphire Reserve ($550 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 credit card duo: 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, 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 and restaurants. That severely limits domestic lounge options when compared to the Amex duo, above.
ThankYou Rewards Credit Card Duo: Citi ThankYou Premier + Double Cash
Very good point redemption value; 3X gas, grocery, restaurants, flights, hotels, & travel agencies; 2X everywhere else
Citi ThankYou Premier ($95 annual fee): 3X gas, grocery, restaurants, flights, hotels, & travel agencies
Citi Double Cash (no annual fee): 2X everywhere (Note that this card actually earns 2% cash back – 1% when you purchase and 1% when you pay the bill – but you can convert the cash back rewards to ThankYou points if you send the rewards to a ThankYou Premier or Prestige card.
Why this is a great credit card duo: Low combined annual fee of just $95. Free authorized user cards.
On the other hand: The Double Cash card 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 – though there are a few great Citi sweet spots, most notably using Turkish Miles & Smiles miles ot book United flights. 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…