Winning Combos: Card Pairings to Maximize Your Rewards

These credit cards complement each other to help you get the most out of your spending.
Dan Miller
By Dan Miller 
Updated
Edited by Jeanette Margle
Winning Combinations: Credit Card Pairings to Maximize Your Travel Rewards

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Typically, the top three reasons people get a rewards credit card are that it has a great sign-up bonus, it offers great rewards for ongoing spend or it brings other perks simply for being a cardholder. But there’s one more, lesser-known reason you might decide to sign up for a rewards card: When paired with another card, it can boost your rewards.

Pairing cards for maximum value can be tricky. Here’s a look at several possible card combos, focusing on the rewards and costs to help you decide whether any of these card combinations work for you.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
New! Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

Both issued by Chase, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is a personal card and the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card is aimed at small-business owners.

The best reason to combine these cards has to do with the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to bring a companion on your flight for nearly free, paying only taxes and fees. You usually earn the Southwest Companion Pass by accumulating 135,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year. Having access to two separate welcome offers stacks the odds in your favor, and sometimes, a card's welcome offer might even include a Companion Pass.

The current Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card welcome offer is as follows: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Currently with the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card, you can also earn a lot of points as a welcome bonus: Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

If you sign up for both these cards and meet the minimum spend for each, you'll not only earn a pass, you'll end up quite close to having enough points for a second Companion Pass.

As always, make sure you can pay off your balances in full every month so you don’t get hit with interest charges, which can defeat the purpose of earning travel rewards. And always factor annual fees into your calculations. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has a $69 annual fee. The pricier Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card charges an annual fee of $199.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card
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Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
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The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a $0-annual-fee card that earns 1.5% back with no limit (unless an elevated rate is being offered as part of a limited time bonus). If you have only the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and no other Chase cards, these Chase Ultimate Rewards® are worth 1 cent per point. You start to unlock the full potential of Chase Ultimate Rewards® when you pair the Chase Freedom Unlimited® with one of Chase’s premium cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Chase lets you transfer points from the Chase Freedom Unlimited® to the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards® for 1.5 cents per point when booking travel through Chase's travel portal.

If you have both of these cards, you can move points to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to get a 50% boost when redeeming them for travel. So every dollar you spend on Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns you 1.5 cents' worth of travel, and if you move those points to a Chase Sapphire Reserve® account you can then redeem for travel with a 50% boost, getting you 2.25 cents toward travel for every dollar you charge on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card.

Plus, with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you unlock the ability to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards® to Chase’s travel partners for possibly even more value. You can add another Chase card for maximum rewards using the Chase trifecta. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has an annual fee of $550, but you can get back $300 of that as a statement credit reimbursing you for travel purchases, which can bring the effective cost of the card to $250 per year.

Citi Double Cash® Card and Citi Strata Premier℠ Card

Citi® Double Cash Card
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Citibank Strata Premier Card
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Citi has a similar possible card combination of a $0-annual-fee card teaming up with a premium card for even bigger rewards. The Citi Double Cash® Card earns 1% cash back on all purchases, then another 1% back when you pay them off, and you can also transfer your cash back to Citi ThankYou points. With the Citi Strata Premier℠ Card and its $95 annual fee, you unlock the ability to transfer to Citi’s airline and hotel transfer partners.

Plus, through the end of 2024, Citi Double Cash® Card cardholders can get 5% cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked through the Citi Travel portal. Add in the Citi Rewards+® Card, which gives 10% back on all point redemptions up to 100,000 points per year, for an even bigger boost.

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
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The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
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The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express earns 2 Membership Rewards points on all purchases up to the first $50,000 spent each year. If you also have The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, you get a 35% rebate on air travel redemptions on your selected airline. Terms apply.

As an example, let’s say you want a $500 plane ticket. With The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, you would pay 50,000 Membership Rewards but get 17,500 Membership Rewards rebated back. That makes your net cost 32,500 Membership Rewards. So for spending $16,250 on the card (which is worth the 32,500 points needed in this example), you would get $500 in travel — which is a return of more than 3% on spending. Terms apply.

Also consider adding another card to maximize your rewards with the AmEx trifecta.

The bottom line

As you can see, pairing up complementary credit cards can really supercharge the rewards you earn. Consider whether any of the cards you carry can team up with another to increase your rewards, and whether adding two new cards makes sense for you.

The information related to the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service. To view rates and fees of The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, see this page. To view rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

75,000

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-5%

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

Up to $300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
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