Best Credit Card Combination: What You Should Be Using in 2021

Best Credit Card Combination: What You Should Be Using in 2021

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Citi is an advertising partner.

Having just one credit card doesn't cut it for most people. The average adult has over 3 credit card accounts. Since odds are you're already committed to carrying that much plastic around, you should make sure the credit card combination you use is an optimal one. We looked through over 300 cards in our database to see which ones make a perfect match. The card pairs that we highlight here play off each other very well, delivering the best rewards for consumers.

Best Credit Card Combinations For…

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer and Discover it® Cash Back: Best Cash Back Combo

On Citibank's Secure Website

For those who are more interested in getting the most out of day-to-day purchases, instead of travel, getting the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer and the Discover it® Cash Back is the way to go. The two cards complement each other nicely, since each excels at areas the other does not.

The Discover it® Cash Back is a card for optimizers, awarding 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum (activation required). For 2021, the categories include grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS (January-March), gas stations, select streaming services and wholesale clubs (April-June), restaurants and PayPal (July-September), Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com (October-December).

Also, Discover offers a bonus for new cardmembers: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300. It's one of the most unique and lucrative sign-up bonuses we've seen.

While a 5% rewards rate is nice, the Discover card is poor when it comes to non-bonus categories. There, it gives users just 1% back. Enter the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. This card lets you Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. That reward structure makes the Citi card the best fixed-rate option out there.

How To Use Them Together: Whenever you are shopping in a category that lines up with the Discover cash back bonus calendar, use the Discover it® Cash Back. When it comes to all other purchases, you should be using the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer instead.

Expert Note: Because of the fixed-rate nature of the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, you can really pair this card with any card. If you have a favorite credit card that provides high rewards in categories where you spend the most, get the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer to get the most out of all other spending.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Freedom Flex℠: Best Travel Credit Card Combo

On Chase's Secure Website
On Chase's Secure Website

To understand what makes the pairing of the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® so good, you must first know why Chase Ultimate Rewards points are so coveted. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are arguably the best credit card rewards program for frequent travelers. If you have the right card, you can transfer your points to a participating airline or hotel partner. These include:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Aer Lingus, AerClub
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Emirates Skywards®
  • Flying Blue Air France KLM
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airline KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
  • United MileagePlus®
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying CLub
  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy™
  • World of Hyatt®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ are the two best cards at earning you Ultimate Rewards points. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® gives you 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases The Chase Freedom Flex℠ lets you Earn 5% cash back on eligible purchases in rotating categories, 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases. Better yet, you pool your points together, and transfer them all if you decide to do so. Even if you don't, you can use them as travel statement credit or to book flights and hotels directly through the UR portal.

While the $550 annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® may seem frightening, know that the card also comes with a $300 annual travel credit that takes a huge bite out of that annual fee. Furthermore, between the gigantic sign-up bonus and lounge benefits, the $550 annual fee is quickly trumped by the benefits you get — provided that you are a frequent traveler.

How To Use Them Together: Use the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to pay for travel and dining purchases and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ for everything else. Once you accumulate points, make sure to transfer them all to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® pool, since this is the only way to transfer them.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card and Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card: Best No Annual Fee Credit Card Combination

Bank of America's two flagship credit cards, the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card and the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, complement each other very well. Both cards also have no annual fee, meaning it won't cost you anything extra to squeeze out a lot of value out of these two products.

The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card awards 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (for the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), 1% cash back on all other purchases. The options for the 3% category are gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, and home improvement/furnishings.

Purchases outside the 3% and 2% categories are where the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card can step up. This card provides a unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire, no matter the category.

How To Use Them Together: Make sure you swipe your Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card whenever shopping at grocery stores, wholesale clubs, and in your select category. Use the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card on all other occasions.

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card and Capital One Spark Cash for Business: Best Business Credit Card Combo

On Chase's Secure Website
On Capital One's Secure Website

The Capital One Spark Cash for Business is a fantastic go-to credit card for most businesses, thanks to its high rewards rate on all purchases. When you combine it with the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card, which can deliver rewards rates of up to 5%, this card combo will maximize the cash back rewards your business earns. While the Capital One Spark Cash for Business has an annual fee ($0 intro for first year; $95 after that), the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card doesn't. That means you won't be overburdened with extra charges, despite getting both cards.

The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card lets you Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year. Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn. If your firm has these types of expenses, we recommend charging them all onto the Chase card. Put everything else on your Capital One Spark Cash for Business, as it will earn you an unlimited 2% Cash Back for your business on every purchase, everywhere.

Note: if you have a small business with less than $5,900 in annual expenses, you shouldn't get the Capital One Spark Cash for Business. Paying the annual fee only makes sense for firms that spend more than that, since at that point the bonus rewards you get from using this card will outweigh your initial investment.

What To Consider Before Signing Up For Multiple Credit Cards At Once

Opening multiple credit card accounts, especially close together, can have tremendous implications on your credit score. While not all are bad, you should still be aware of what you're getting yourself into before committing to opening two new credit cards. This is especially important if you are on the verge of applying for anything where a sub-par credit score may immediately disqualify you.

The Pros

You can maximize your rewards. While the rewards you get from a single credit card today can be fantastic, using the right combo can increase your earnings by 21% or more. While we are filing this as a pro, it's important to understand you need to put in the work to truly get the most out of your cards. If you know you won't take care to use the right card in the right circumstances, using multiple credit cards can end up eating up more than you get out of it.

Credit utilization will decrease. Opening new lines of credit gives your finances more breathing room, so long as you don't start spending more at the same time. Credit utilization, or the percentage of your total available credit that you actually use up, can account for as much as 30% of your total FICO score. When you open up a new line of credit, your utilization goes down, and therefore there's a chance for your credit score to improve.

The Cons

Multiple credit inquiries are bad. Whenever you apply for a new credit card, the issuer will perform what's known as a hard pull into your credit report. This means they request a copy of your credit report from one of the credit bureaus, to evaluate your application. Multiple credit inquiries, especially within a short period of time, can have a negative impact on your credit score. Fortunately, it's not a major one, as inquiries account for just 10% of a FICO 8 score — less than any other factor.

It will reduce your average age of credit. The older your credit accounts are, the better it is for your credit score. This factor accounts for roughly 15% of a FICO 8 score. Instead of calculating the age of each individual account, FICO averages the age of all your accounts together. Therefore, if you have an old 8 year old credit card, and you suddenly open two new cards, your average age of credit will be 2.6 years. Over time, your average age will increase again, but this will temporarily have a negative impact on your score.

The information related to the Discover it® Cash Back, Chase Freedom®, Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card and the Capital One Spark Cash for Business has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

The Capital One Spark Cash for Business card may no longer be available.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).