The Best Two-Card Combos for Your Wallet

Synergize your spending to rack up more rewards

A shopper uses her rewards card for a purchase.
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Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty Images

Credit card rewards can be a great way to get value from a credit card every time you spend. Whether you want cash back, points, or miles, there are several cards that are wallet-worthy. 

But in many cases, it might make sense to use more than one credit card to maximize your rewards. Here’s why it’s worth considering and a few examples of combinations that might help you achieve your rewards goals.

Why Create a Combo?

There’s no one best credit card for everyone. While some cards offer a high flat rewards rate on every purchase you make, others will give you extra rewards in certain spending categories. Depending on how you spend your money, the best way to earn as many rewards as possible may be to use more than one card.

For example, let’s say your top spending categories are grocery shopping and gas. There are a lot of credit cards that offer high rewards rates in one of those categories but not the other. In this instance, getting two cards could allow you to maximize your rewards for groceries and gas.

Also, many tiered-rewards credit cards will give you a high rewards rate on certain purchases, but most of your charges will typically only net you 1% cash back, or 1 point or mile per dollar spent. In this case, it might be best to pair a tiered-rewards card with a card that offers a high flat rate so you can avoid mediocre rewards rates altogether.

Finally, some cards offer excellent travel or purchase benefits (sometimes both) that go beyond their rewards program. Depending on how you plan to use your cards, it could be worth getting one primarily for the perks. 

If you like the idea of synergizing with your spending to earn more rewards, here are some ideas to help you find the right combination.

The Best Combo for Foodies

Whether you’re eating out or stocking up on high-quality ingredients at the grocery store, you’ll have a hard time beating a combination of the American Express Gold Card and Citi Double Cash

The Amex Gold Card offers 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and 4 points per dollar on up to $25,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets. What’s more, you’ll get a $10 monthly credit toward purchases made with select restaurants and food delivery services. The card’s annual fee is $250.  

One of the issues with the card, though, is that many popular retailers that sell groceries aren’t considered supermarkets—think Walmart, Target, and wholesale clubs like Sam’s Club. As a result, it makes sense to pair the Amex Gold with the Citi Double Cash Card, which offers a flat 2% cash back on every purchase—that’s 1% back when you make purchases and another 1% back when you pay them off.

What Makes This Combo Great

The strength of this duo is that both cards give you excellent rates on high-spend categories. Dining and groceries combine for the third-biggest yearly expense for American families, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And when you aren’t buying groceries or eating out, the Double Cash gives you an industry-leading rewards rate on cash-back purchases you pay off. 

The Savor Rewards From Capital One is a lower-cost alternative for this combination. Its annual fee is $95 and it offers the same 4-points-per-dollar rewards rate on dining that the Amex Gold does. However, the card does not offer the boosted rewards rate for delivery services like DoorDash.

The Best Combo for Travelers

A lot of credit card issuers offer multiple travel credit cards, but one of the best combinations for travel enthusiasts is the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Freedom Unlimited

You’ll earn 3 points per dollar on travel and dining, plus 1 point per dollar everywhere else with the Sapphire Reserve. In contrast, the Freedom Unlimited offers 5 points per dollar on travel purchased through Chase; 3 points per dollar at drugstores and on dining, including restaurants, takeout, delivery; and 1.5 points per dollar on everything else. 

In this scenario, you technically don’t need to use your Chase Sapphire Reserve for anything but non-Chase travel purchases. But you’ll be able to enjoy the card’s premium perks, which include complimentary airport lounge access, a $300 annual travel credit, trip insurance, and other top-tier benefits. You’ll also get 50% more value if you use your points to book travel through Chase, as well as the flexibility to transfer points to one of Chase’s 13 travel and hotel partners.

What Makes This Combo Great

Here’s where these two cards are better together. The Chase Freedom Unlimited is technically a cash-back credit card, but your rewards are in the form of Ultimate Rewards points.  You can transfer points earned with the Chase Freedom Unlimited to your Chase Sapphire Reserve account and get all the redemption benefits the Reserve provides.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee. A more affordable option would be the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which has a $95 annual fee and the same number of travel partners but does not include the $300 travel credit, airport lounge access, and several other travel-related benefits.

The Best Combo for Everyday Purchases

Every budget is different, but some cards offer better rewards in certain everyday spending categories than others. A solid combination of cards in this area is the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express and Bank of America Cash Rewards.

The Amex card offers 6% cash back on up to $6,000 spent annually at U.S. supermarkets (then 1%), 6% back on select U.S. streaming services, 3% back on eligible transit and at U.S. gas stations, and 1% back on everything else. 

And while those rewards rates alone are impressive, the card has a weakness: its supermarket bonus doesn’t include wholesale clubs. The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card is a smart pairing because it gives you 2% cash back on wholesale clubs and lets you choose one of six everyday spending categories to earn 3% cash back: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement and furnishings.

Just keep in mind that Bank of America caps the 3% and 2% rewards rates at $2,500 spent in both categories each quarter.

What Makes This Combo Great

The Blue Cash Preferred and Cash Rewards cards work in tandem to ensure you get the most points possible for your grocery purchases, whether you’re shopping at a supermarket or wholesale club. And your online or pharmacy purchases are covered, too, with the Cash Rewards’ 3% rewards rate.

The Best Shared Rewards Combos

One of the best ways to maximize your rewards is to combine credit cards within the same rewards program. The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Freedom Unlimited combo noted above, for instance, helps you get more out of your points earned with the cash-back card than you could by using the Freedom Unlimited alone.

Other excellent shared rewards combinations include:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred (or Reserve) and Chase Freedom Flex: Travel perks and high earnings on rotating categories.
  • The Platinum Card from American Express and American Express Gold Card: Travel perks and strong dining and supermarket points earnings.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve (or Preferred) and Chase Ink Business Preferred: Expansive travel perks along with points earnings on multiple business-related categories.
  • American Express Gold Card and Blue Business Plus from American Express: Good travel and dining rewards with a great baseline rewards rate for all other purchases.
  • Citi Premier Card and Citi Double Cash Card: Solid earnings on everyday spending categories including travel and high earnings on all other purchases.

Note that in some of these cases, you’ll need to own a business to get approved for one of the cards. However, you don’t need to be a full-time business owner to qualify—side hustles count.

Building Your Own Two-Card Combo

Just as there’s no single best credit card out there for everyone, the same goes for credit card combinations. Here are some tips to help you find the best combo to maximize your rewards and benefits:

  • Decide the type of rewards you want, whether it’s cash back, hotel points, airline miles, or general travel rewards.
  • Think about your biggest spending categories and try to find cards that provide the best fit.
  • Consider whether you want to pool your rewards between cards—this would require you to get two cards in the same rewards program.
  • Keep in mind that some banks may have some restrictions. For example, Chase may not let you carry the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred at the same time.
  • Look beyond the rewards programs to perks, insurance protections, annual fees, and other features.
  • Know that while a certain combo might work for you now, that may change in the future. Don’t be afraid to adapt and switch up your credit card strategy.

Finally, make sure you stay organized with your monthly payments and budget tracking. The more credit cards you use regularly, the harder it can be to keep up, and you might accidentally overspend or miss a payment. But if you do it right, you could get a lot more value out of two cards together than just one alone.