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Credit Cards

The best credit card combos: Maximize rewards and cash back for every dollar you spend

By using a strategic combination of credit cards you can earn a lot more rewards than normal.

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Most people would love to just use one credit card for all purchases. However, no credit card currently offers all of the perks and rewards needed to make it the one card to rule them all. 

Instead, the best way to maximize the return on your purchases is by curating a credit card portfolio. By using the right combination of cards, you can earn the highest amount of rewards on every type of purchase you make.

And thankfully this doesn't have to be a complicated process. Select breaks downs some of the best two- and three-card combos that can help you really maximize the return on every dollar you spend.

Best credit card combinations

Best Chase credit card combo

The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex℠  is one of the best cash-back credit cards on the market. You'll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in a quarterly rotating bonus category and on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Plus, you'll earn 3% cash back on dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services) and at drugstores.

Those are great earning rates, but your rewards are only worth one cent per point if you only have the Chase Freedom Flex. Thankfully, you can boost the value of these points by turning your cash back into transferrable Ultimate Rewards points worth much more than 1 cent per point. All you need to do is pair the Chase Freedom Flex with a Chase card that earns transferrable Ultimate Rewards points. For many, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the perfect match.

The $95-annual-fee Chase Sapphire Preferred earns a modest 2X points on dining and travel. However, points linked to the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card can be transferred to 13 airline and hotel partners. Or, you can redeem points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or through Pay Yourself Back at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. Plus, eligible new cardholders can currently earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. That bonus is worth $1,250 when redeemed through the Chase Travel Portal or with Pay Yourself Back.

To boost your return further, add the Chase Freedom Unlimited. The Freedom Unlimited is structured similarly to the Freedom Flex. However, instead of a 5% rotating category, the Freedom Unlimited offers a base earning rate of 1.5% cash back on all non-bonus purchases. Combined with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you'll earn (at least) 1.5X transferrable Ultimate Rewards points on all purchases.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%), 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on dining and at drug stores, 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    14.99% to 23.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 2X points on travel and dining worldwide, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 22.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

 

Best Citi credit card combo

If you're looking for a simple no-annual-fee cashback card, it's hard to beat the Citi Double Cash. This card earns 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase plus 1% when you pay your bill. Boost your Citi Double Cash cash-back earnings by pairing it with a Citi card that earns ThankYou points. And what better card to pair it with than one of the best travel cards charging under a $100 annual fee: the Citi Premier Card.

The Citi Premier Card earns 3X ThankYou points per dollar spent at restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, air travel and hotels — and 1X point per dollar spent everywhere else. Plus, once per calendar year, you can save $100 off a hotel stay of $500+. That more than wipes out the card's $95 annual fee.

Citi ThankYou points can be transferred to any one of 16 airline partners. Citi's eclectic mix of airline partners takes a bit of getting used to. But, you'll be rewarded for doing so with 7,500-mile award flights to Hawaii, 45,000-mile business class awards to Europe (via Turkish Airlines) and 44,000-mile business class award flights to Africa (when using Eithad miles for Royal Air Maroc).

Further boost your earnings by adding the new, no-annual-fee Citi Custom Cash to your Citi card lineup. This card is practically a "choose your bonus category" card. You'll automatically earn 5% cash back in the category in which you spend the most each month, and the cash back is earned in the form of ThankYou points, so you'd also be able to transfer those rewards to airlines if you hold a Citi Premier card.

Citi® Double Cash Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    2% cash back: 1% on all eligible purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill

  • Welcome bonus

    No current offer

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases

  • Regular APR

    13.99% - 23.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Good/Excellent

Terms apply.

Citi Premier® Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    3X points per $1 spent at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, and on hotels and air travel, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 23.99% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good/Excellent

Terms apply.

 

Best American Express credit card combo

The American Express Gold Card is the ultimate dining and travel card. Cardholders earn 4X points on dining at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases each year) and you'll earn 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel. Plus, you can enroll to get valuable perks like 12 complimentary months of Uber Eats Pass, $10 per month in dining credits and $10 per month in Uber Cash.

That's about as close as some people can get to a perfect credit card. But, there's also a way to complement this card. The Amex EveryDay Preferred has a base earning rate of 3xX points on U.S supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases) and 2X points at U.S. gas stations. You can boost that base earning rate by 50% by making 30 purchases in a billing period. By doing so, you can earn 4.5X points on groceries, 3X points on gas and 1.5X points on all other purchases.

If you have a small business, you can complement this duo with the Blue Business Plus Credit Card. This no-annual-fee business card earns 2X points on up to $50,000 in purchases each year, 1X points thereafter. By strategically using this Amex trio, you'll earn a minimum of 2X points on all purchases — at least until you reach the $50,000 cap on the Blue Business Plus Card. Right now, there's also a welcome bonus: Earn 15,000 Membership Reward Points® after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership.

American Express® Gold Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points on restaurants (including takeout and delivery, plus, Uber Eats purchases) and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $250

  • Intro APR

    Not applicable

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

 

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases up to $50,000 per year, then 1X point per dollar

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 15,000 Membership Reward Points® after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    13.24% to 19.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

See rates and fees, terms apply.

Best Capital One credit card combo

Capital One offers two primary types of cards: miles-earning cards and cash-back cards. And the perfect Capital One card combo pairs the best credit card from each category.

Capital One's best cash-back card is the Capital One Savor Rewards Card — which earns an unlimited 4% cash back on dining, entertainment, and popular streaming services, 3% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. 

For simplicity in mileage earning, it's hard to beat the Capital One Venture Card's unlimited 2X mileage earnings on every purchase. Plus, the Capital One Venture Card has a healthy welcome bonus: New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

By combining the two, you'll get solid cash back earnings in many popular spending categories and 2x miles on all other purchases. Redeem the Capital One Venture miles for travel at 1 cent each or transfer them to any of Capital One's 18 airline and hotel transfer partners. And the cash back earned from the Savor can actually be converted into miles if you have a Venture card, and therefor transferred to travel partners.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Information about the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 4% on eligible streaming services, 3% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 months on purchases; N/A on balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 24.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

 

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Information about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠, 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    N/A for purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    17.24% to 24.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

 

Best cash-back credit card combo

  • Core combo: Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, Chase Freedom Flex and the Citi Double Cash
  • Earning rates: 6% cash back at supermarkets and streaming services; 5% back on eligible travel and in rotating categories; 3% back on dining, drugstores, transit, and gas stations; and 2% cashback on all other purchases
  • Combined annual fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 (see rates and fees)
  • No annual fee card to boost your earnings: Citi Custom Cash Card

Travel credit cards can help travelers slash their travel costs. But, for many, cash is king. If you're looking for the best cash-back return, you'll want to pair credit cards from multiple banks. The best cash-back trio combines a card from American Express, Chase and Citi.

The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express earns 6% cash back on up to $6,000 per year in purchases at U.S. supermarkets (then 1%) and 6% cash back on select streaming subscriptions. Plus you'll earn 3% cash back on eligible transit purchases and at U.S. gas stations. Eligible new cardholders can earn $200 cash back by spending $3,000 in purchases in the first 6 months of card membership, plus 20% back on Amazon.com purchases up to $200 back.

Add the Chase Freedom Flex card to boost your cash back earnings on travel, dining and drugstore purchases. The Freedom Flex card earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter in a rotating category, 5% back on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3% back on dining at restaurants and drugstore purchases.

Then, the Citi Double Cash is your go-to for all other purchases. You'll earn a total of 2% cash back -- 1% when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay your bill.

If you don't mind adding a fourth card to the mix, consider getting the Citi Custom Cash Card to earn 5% cash back in yet another category. The Citi Custom Cash automatically earns 5% cash back in the category which you spent the most in that billing cycle. By strategically planning your purchases, you can get 5% back in one of the following categories each month: restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs or live entertainment.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card within the first six months of membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 months on purchases, N/A for balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    13.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Pros

  • High 6% cash back at U.S. supermarket spending (up to $6,000 a year, then 1%)
  • Unlimited 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • Unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit

Cons

  • 2.7% fee on purchases made abroad
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $679
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,397

Rewards totals incorporate the cash back earned from the welcome bonus

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    5% cash back on purchases in top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent (then 1%); unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn $200 cash back after spending $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. The bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR on balance transfers and purchases for first 15 months

  • Regular APR

    13.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5% of each balance transfer ($5 minimum)

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent, Good

Terms apply.

Bottom line

Everyone would love the simplicity of just one credit card. However, a little complexity can really pay off. You can really boost your earnings by strategically combining credit cards. Most credit card issuers offer ways to earn at least 5X points or at least 5% cash back in select categories. By combining these, you can quickly rack up the points and cash back earnings.

For rates and fees for the Blue Cash Preferred Card, click here.

For rates and fees for the Amex Gold Card, click here

For rates and fees for the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card, click here

For rates and fees for the The Blue Business Plus, click here

Information about the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.