February 26, 2024

Two cards, 5x the income and only one annual fee

Earning points at optimal rates doesn’t require spreadsheets, 19 cards in the wallet, 10 more in the sock drawer, and administrative time that negates the value of earning rewards “for free.” That’s certainly not my time.

One of the best ways to “win” the points game is to find card pairs that complement each other, offer high earning rates on the things you buy most, and ideally just one with an annual fee.

Here are a few combos that can really help unlock the full potential of rewards credit cards, without the unnecessary hassle you might expect. Earning rewards for incredible trips, without the hassle, is the dream – right?

a burger on a plate next to a credit card

Amex Gold + Chase Freedom Flex

For people who spend most of their money on dining, dining and travel, this is a very attractive card duo, offering a lot of flexibility and some great benefits, in addition to earning fares. Amex Gold is a best in class card for restaurant spending, and also one of the best for grocery spending. Where it ends, Freedom Flex continues.

Earn Amex gold

  • 4X on restaurants, delivery and takeout.
  • 4X on groceries at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year).
  • 3X on airline ticket purchases.

Chase Freedom Flex Earnings

  • 5X on all travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards (flights, hotels, cars).
  • 5X for quarterly rotating categories, including specific sellers.
  • 3X on drugstore purchases.

This combo makes mastering points super easy. If you are eating or shopping, you should use the Amex Gold. If you want the best cash back rate you can get on flights, car rentals or hotels, use Freedom Flex. If you don’t care about elite status, this is the easiest combination.

Amex Gold has an annual fee of $250, but offers a $120 annual Uber credit, which can go toward food or rides. There’s also an additional $120 per year dining credit, which can instantly cover $240 of the $250 annual fee if you use it right.

Without a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card, Freedom Flex points can only be used as cash back, but if you have one of these cards, they can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points. Still, even without a cashback, 5% cashback can add up very quickly on flights and hotels.

Checking out:

Amex gold

Chase Freedom Flex

Chase-Sapphire-Preferred Credit CardChase-Sapphire-Preferred Credit Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, a great introductory travel card.

Chase Sapphire is preferred + unlimited freedom

This is an incredible combination with huge welcome bonuses and only one annual fee of $95 per year. And yes, you have the option to earn in 5X categories and maximize daily spend with both cards.

For what it’s worth, this is the GSTP choice, although we also occasionally use Chase Sapphire Reserve. These days, much of the heavy lifting goes to the Sapphire Reserve, due to the improved bonus offers, especially with Chase Travel.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Merit

  • 3X for dine-in and delivery.
  • 3X on streaming services.
  • Shopping 3 times.
  • 5X on all trips booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • 10% annual points bonus on spending.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Earnings

  • 5X on groceries in the first year (up to $12,000).
  • 5X on trips booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • 3X on drugstore purchases.
  • 3X on dine-in and delivery services.
  • 1.5X on everything else.

Yes, there is revenue overlap here, but because there is no annual fee for the Freedom Unlimited, it’s all profit. The 5X for groceries in the first year is really big. But every year after that, you’ll also earn 3x on drugstore purchases and 1.5x on everything else.

Very few other cards, if any, offer 3X on drugstore purchases. 1.5x on everything else also means you’ll do better than most other cards in terms of no-bonus spending.

The magic of this combinationis that Freedom Unlimited points are typically cash back, but if you have the Sapphire Preferred, they can also be converted into airline miles or hotel points, or used at even more effective cash back rates for travel.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer partners are great, and include Hyatt, Emirates, United, British Airways, Virgin, Southwest and more. Earning 3-5x on most of the major spending categories means you’ll be racking up points very quickly, all for $95 per year.

Oh, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a $50 annual hotel credit for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, so it’s pretty much a net $45.

Checking out:

Chase Sapphire is preferred

Chase freedom without limits

a group of palm trees with the sun in the backgrounda group of palm trees with the sun in the background

Citi Premier and Citi double money

It’s safe to say this is Citi’s version of the Chase tie-up. Unfortunately, unlike the Chase combo, there is no 5X, but there is a lot more 3X and a minimum floor of 2X, so no purchase should ever earn only 1X points per dollar spent.

Citi Premier Earnings

  • 3X on gas
  • 3X on airline tickets booked with airlines (not just through Citi Travel)
  • 3X on hotels
  • 3X for dining and shopping

Citi make double money

  • 2X on everything (1% on purchase, 1% on payment of your invoice).

This combination ensures that you earn three times as much on almost everything. With the Citi Premier, virtually all food purchases are covered, and 3x on both airfare and hotels, booked directly with brands (to ensure you earn extra points and status) gives a lot of leeway.

The Double Cash is pretty much the best cashback card with no annual fees, because you earn twice as much money on everything. Capital One Venture offers 2% back on everything, but has a $95 annual fee. However, the card’s new travel booking benefits make it worth it.

Anything that would not benefit from purchasing with the Citi Premier should then be purchased with Citi Double Cash for 2X. Like Chase, you can then transfer points from Double Cash “cash back” to Citi Thank You Points.

Checking out:

Citi Premier

Citi double money

a card on a carda card on a card

Find completion and other combos

Combos allow you to earn some really powerful points without much hassle, especially if you only need to justify one annual fee. If you don’t mind paying two annual fees, there are many other equally lucrative combinations, if you also include airline or hotel credit cards.

Combinations such as the British Airways Visa with the Chase Sapphire Preferred can be ideal, as can a Delta SkyMiles Amex with an American Express Platinum Card. The options are endless depending on your travel habits, but combos almost always work better than just putting all your expenses on one card.

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