Well, folks, it’s time. I’ve put together a post on best “keeper” 2-card combinations 1.5 years ago, but so much has changed since then. Sallie Mae Barclaycard is no more, US Bank Club Carlson card has been neutered etc. Let’s see if we can get it updated. As always, your situation may not be covered, so I encourage you to do your own math. See this list for reference
1. You prefer cash back, don’t shop at Sam’s Club and don’t eat out that much.
Look into Amex Blue Cash Preferred and Citi Double Cash cards. The first one earns 6% cash back on groceries (on up to $6,000 per year), 3% on gas and department stores and 1% on everything else. There is an annual fee of $75, but it’s probably worth it if you only get a few sign-up bonuses per year. Amex has a savings program called “Offers for you” that you can access in your profile. Citi Double Cash earns 2% cash back on everything and has no annual fee. So, the idea is to maximize bonus categories, and use Citi card for everything else.
2. You prefer cash back, shop at Sam’s Club (or have one nearby), and spend a lot on dining and gas.
Look into Amex Blue Cash Preferred and Sam’s Club MasterCard. The first one is easy. But why the latter? It earns 5% cash back on gas (on up to $5,000 per year), 3% on travel and dining. You do need to have Sam’s Club membership, and from what I’ve understood, you have to cash out your rewards inside the store. I’m guessing they are hoping people will shop while there?
Still, I think it’s a powerful combination overall. Even if you are not interested in Sam’s Club, it would be worth it to get membership if you have a lot of spending in those categories. If you can find a gas station that will let you buy Visa or MasterCard gift card with a credit card, you can potentially earn 4% on some of your spending (after you deduct 1% gift card fee).
3. You like cash back, and can easily utilize Spirit off-peak redemptions. You have relatives who live near Spirit hub, and absolutely have to visit them a few times per year.
Look into Amex Blue Cash Preferred and Bank of America Spirit Signature Mastercard. I’ve recently written a post on my Spirit redemption. I do think that in spite of potential drawbacks, it can be extremely lucrative for some families. Bank of America will give 5,000 miles bonus when you put $10K on Spirit Mastercard per year. So, the idea is to use it for most of your non-bonus spending.
4. You prefer to collect flexible points, and mostly plan to transfer them to traditional airline miles.
Amex EveryDay Preferred and Citi Double Cash (alternatively you can use Chase Freedom or US Bank Cash Plus). The first one earns 4.5 points on groceries, 3 points on gas, and 1.5 points on everything else. You do have to hit 30 transactions in one billing period in order to hit that payout. Citi Double Cash is mostly there as a backup, in case Amex isn’t accepted. Chase Freedom and US Bank cards can be useful if you want to maximize rewards on rotating 5% categories.
You can also use Amex Everyday Preferred to purchase Visa gift cards inside gas stations, thereby increasing your rewards (also see my post comparing this card to Chase Sapphire Preferred)
5. You prefer to collect flexible points, and mostly plan to transfer them to Hyatt and Southwest Rapid Rewards.
Chase Ink Plus and Chase Freedom. Ink is a business card, so not everyone will be comfortable using it. This is, however, the most lucrative combination if you plan on transferring to one of those programs. Read my post for more on this topic.
Alternatively, you can use Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom if you are not comfortable with using a business card for your everyday spending. In all likelihood, this scenario won’t be as lucrative, but it’s still a decent way to accumulate Ultimate Rewards. It’s the only program that partners with Hyatt (read my post on best Category 1 redemptions) and Southwest.
6. You want to focus on rewards that can be redeemed for flights. You don’t like to be tied to mileage programs, and mostly buy airline tickets few weeks in advance. You also tend to fly during holidays.
US Bank FlexPerks Visa and Amex Blue Cash Preferred. The first one earns 2 points on grocery purchases (uncapped), and redemption starts at 20,000 points for an airline ticket of up to $400 in value. This will mostly benefit those who shop at Walmart. Last time I checked, it was coded as a grocery store by US Bank, but that might have changed. It’s also of use to those who are willing to buy Visa and MasterCard gift cards inside a grocery store, and use them for everyday purchases. You can see a link to a detailed overview of this card in my list of best long-term choices for family.
Changes compared to my previous list
For the most part, the list contains all the usual suspects. However, Citi Double Cash became somewhat of a game-changer because you are no longer tied to Amex Fidelity that isn’t accepted everywhere. Also, Sam’s Club MasterCard is IMO the most underrated product in this hobby (doesn’t pay commission), and I recommend you look into it.
You also probably have noticed that the list doesn’t contain any hotel cards. Honestly, aside from a few possible exceptions, I don’t believe it makes sense for low spenders to focus on hotel points via everyday sending. Of course, I’m not saying that holds true for everyone, but in general, I think it’s a risky proposition. US Bank Club Carlson was a notable exception, but after BOGO demise, I just don’t consider it a very lucrative everyday card (see my post on collecting hotels points via everyday spending).
Readers, what’s in your wallet?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.