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Earning points at optimal rates doesn’t need to involve spreadsheets, 19 cards in the wallet, 10 more in the sock drawer and admin time that negates the value of earning rewards “for free”. My time certainly isn’t.

One of the best ways to “win” the points game is to find card pairs which complement each other, offering high earning rates across the things you purchase the most, and ideally, only one carrying an annual fee.

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

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Amex Gold + Chase Freedom Flex

For people who spend most of their money on dining, eating and travel, this is a highly compelling card duo, which offers lots of flexibility and some great perks, in addition to earning rates. Amex Gold is a “best in class” card for dining spending, and one of the very best for grocery spending too. Where it leaves off, Freedom Flex picks up.

Amex Gold Earning

  • 4X on restaurants, delivery and takeout.
  • 4X on groceries at U.S. Supermarkets (up to $25K annually).
  • 3X on airfare purchases.

Chase Freedom Flex Earning

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

This combo makes points mastery super easy. If you’re eating, or buying groceries, you should be using the Amex Gold. If you want the best cash back rate you can get on any flights, car rentals or hotels, then use Freedom Flex. If you don’t care about elite status, this is the easiest combo.

Amex Gold carries a $250 annual fee, but offers a $120 Uber credit annually, which can go to food or rides. There’s also another $120 annual credit on dining, which can help to cover $240 of the $250 annual fee right off the bat, if you used well.

Without a Chase Sapphire Preferred, or Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, points from the Freedom Flex can only be used as cash back, but if you have either of those cards, it can be converted into Ultimate Rewards Points. Still, even without one, 5% cash back can add up very fast on flights and hotels.

Check Out:

Amex Gold

Chase Freedom Flex

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred + Freedom Unlimited

This is an incredible combo bringing huge welcome bonuses, and just one $95 annual fee, each year. And yes, you have the opportunity to earn in 5X categories with both cards, and maximize everyday spending too.

For what it’s worth, this is the GSTP pick, though we occasionally use Chase Sapphire Reserve too. These days, a lot of the heavy lifting goes on the Sapphire Reserve, due to its enhanced bonus propositions particularly with Chase Travel.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Earning

  • 3X on dining and delivery.
  • 3X on streaming services.
  • 3X on grocery shopping.
  • 5X on all travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • 10% annual points bonus from spending.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Earning

  • 5X on grocery purchases for first year (up to $12K).
  • 5X on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • 3X on drugstore purchases.
  • 3X on dining and delivery services.
  • 1.5X on everything else.

Yep, there’s overlap on the earning here, but with no annual fee on the Freedom Unlimited, it’s all to gain. The 5X on grocery purchases for the first year is truly big. But every year thereafter, earning 3X on drugstore purchases and 1.5X on everything else is too.

Very few other cards, if any, offer 3X on drugstore purchases. 1.5X on everything else also means you’re doing better than most other cards on non-bonused spending.

The magic of this combo, is that points from Freedom Unlimited are typically “cash back” but if you have the Sapphire Preferred, they can be transferred into airline miles or hotel points too, or used at even more effective “cash back” rates towards travel.

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

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

Check out:

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Freedom Unlimited

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Citi Premier & Citi Double Cash

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

Citi Premier Earning

  • 3X on gas
  • 3X on airfare booked with airlines (not just through Citi Travel)
  • 3X on hotels
  • 3X on dining & groceries

Citi Double Cash Earning

  • 2X on everything (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay your bill).

This combo ensures you’re earning 3X 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 additional points and status) gives great leeway.

The Double Cash is pretty much the best cash back card with no annual fee, since it’s 2X earning on everything. Capital One Venture offers 2% back on everything, but has a $95 annual fee. The card’s new travel booking benefits make it worthwhile though.

Anything that wouldn’t benefit from being purchased 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” into Citi Thank You Points.

Check Out:

Citi Premier

Citi Double Cash

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Wrap Up & Finding Other Combos

Combos really allow for potent points earning, without a lot of hassle, particularly when you only need to justify one annual fee. If you don’t mind two annual fees, there are many more equally lucrative combos, if you bring airline or hotel credit cards into the mix too.

Combos like 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 out better than just putting all spend onto one card.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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1 Comment

  1. You omitted the Citi Custom Cash card. 5x on which ever category you choose. No annual fee. We have two cards, we use one for groceries and one for restaurants. That beats AMEX gold!

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