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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
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 earn the Southwest Companion Pass by accumulating 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year. You can earn these points by flying the airline, but it’s easier if you earn a large number of points in the form of a welcome bonus on a co-branded Southwest credit card — or two.
Currently with the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card, you can 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. If you get the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, you have a chance to earn a welcome bonus points as well: Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
If you sign up for both these cards and meet the minimum spend for each, you’ll soon be a Companion Pass holder — and that’s without hitting the $25,000 spend for the extra points on the business card.
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.
» Learn more: Southwest Rapid Rewards Program: The complete guide
Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a $0-annual-fee card that earns 1.5% back with no limit. 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 the Chase Ultimate Rewards® 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.
» Learn more: Chase Ultimate Rewards®: How to earn and use them
Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer and Citi Premier® Card
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 – 18 month BT offer 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 Premier® Card and its $95 annual fee, you unlock the ability to transfer to Citi’s airline and hotel transfer partners.
Until April 2021, holders of the Citi Premier® Card can also redeem through the ThankYou travel portal for 1.25 cents per point — a 25% boost that essentially gives holders of both cards 2.5% back toward travel. 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 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.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
This card combination can be good for Delta frequent flyers looking for some extra Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help qualify for elite status with the airline. The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card offers a “Status Boost” of 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 on the card, twice per calendar year. The welcome bonus also includes some MQMs. Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership. Terms Apply.
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card also has a nice welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership. Terms Apply. The Reserve card comes with a $550 annual fee and offers an even more powerful Status Boost: You can earn 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 on the card, four times per calendar year. Terms apply.
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. To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, see this page. To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, 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 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card