3 reasons you should double up on credit cards from the same loyalty program — from earning rewards in more categories to unlocking better benefits – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

3 reasons you should double up on credit cards from the same loyalty program — from earning rewards in more categories to unlocking better benefits

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The information for the following product(s) has been collected independently by Business Insider: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp®, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card. The details for these products have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer.

Pairing credit cards strategically is a great way to supercharge your rewards.
Combining cards from the same program, like Chase Ultimate Rewards®, can boost your earnings.
The key is to pick cards in the same family with different perks and bonus earning categories.
Read Insider’s guide to the best rewards credit cards.

One of the best ways to ensure you have an effective points strategy in place is to diversify the types of rewards you earn. You should try to rack up airline miles, hotel points, cash back, and transferable points if possible so that you can use your rewards in a variety of ways when the time comes.

On the other hand, it can pay to concentrate your loyalty with a few key programs to ensure that you accumulate enough points for meaningful rewards. For that reason, it might make sense to carry two or more of the best credit cards that are co-branded with a particular airline, hotel, or credit card issuer rewards program. Doing so can boost your bonus earning opportunities and confer other valuable perks like statement credits and elite status.

Here are some of the reasons you might want to double up on rewards credit cards from the same loyalty program — and a few examples where this makes sense.

We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

Why Get Multiple Credit Cards From the Same Rewards Program?

You might think to yourself, “Why get two cards with the same rewards program when I could play the field?”

That certainly makes sense for a lot of folks who only have one or two rewards credit cards. But if you’re a frequent traveler, or simply someone who puts a lot of (responsible) spending on your credit cards, you can begin reaping a lot more points and lucrative benefits from certain credit card pairings.

One major caveat: Credit card companies have rules that can be strict and confusing about who is eligible for which cards, how many cards a person can apply for or have open, and other hoops to jump through. Before you start applying for cards, read the fine print and make sure you won’t be precluded from any particular offers you’re interested in. 

These are three big factors to consider if you’re looking to open multiple credit cards in the same program.

1. Having more credit cards opens up your options

While you might think of each credit card offered by an issuer as an individual product, the truth is, these cards are often part of more complex ecosystems.

For instance, with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card, you can earn a bonus of $200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® also has a great return rate:

5% back on Chase travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal3% back on drugstore purchases and at restaurants1.5% back on everything else

However, if you also have an annual fee-incurring Chase Ultimate Rewards card, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve® you can transfer the points you earn on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® to your Sapphire card. You’ll then have more valuable options for redeeming your Ultimate Rewards points, including transfers to Chase’s airline and hotel partners. If you redeem your points specifically for travel through the Chase portal, they’re worth 25% (Sapphire Preferred) or 50% (Sapphire Reserve) more.

A similar scenario also plays out with some of the best Citi credit cards that earn ThankYou Rewards points, such as combining the Citi Premier® Card with the Citi® Double Cash Card or the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card. Citi’s newest card, the AT&T Points Plus℠ Card, also earns ThankYou points. 

2. You can earn bonus rewards in more categories

Each individual product has its own specific earning rates, benefits, and drawbacks. Even cards from the same issuer and within the same loyalty program can vary significantly enough from one another to make carrying more than one of them worthwhile. One of the areas where this is especially true is bonus earning categories.

For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express earns:

5 points per dollar for flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 per calendar year)5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases

That’s why you might also want to carry the American Express® Gold Card, which has significantly more useful bonus categories, including 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x) and 4 points per dollar at restaurants, including takeout.

By holding both, you could earn 5 points per dollar on flights and hotels and 4 points per dollar on groceries and dining. That’s a pretty lucrative equation.

3. Carrying more cards means leveraging more benefits

By carrying both a better-earning basic card and a more benefits-rich premium credit card, you can expect a better yield of both points and perks.

For example, the United Gateway℠ Card has an annual fee of United Gateway℠ Card and offers 10,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months of account opening. The card earns:

2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, at gas stations, and on local transit and commuting1 mile per dollar on everything else.

Cardholders also get 25% back on United inflight purchases of food, beverages, and Wi-Fi — but not much else by way of day-of travel perks.

For more perks, you might also want to consider the United Club℠ Infinite Card. Its annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $525, and it comes with a welcome bonus offer of United Club℠ Infinite Card. The card earns:

4 miles per dollar on United purchases2 miles per dollar for all other travel, as well as on dining (including delivery services)1 mile per dollar for everything else

That’s already a good earning combination.

The United Club℠ Infinite Card is also one of the best cards for United Airlines frequent flyers since it includes United Club airport lounge membership, two free checked bags for the cardmember and a companion on United flights, Premier Access including priority boarding and check-in, and Premier upgrades on award tickets. Cardholders can also count on a statement credit of up to $100 every four years toward the Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS application fee.

So you can keep the United Gateway℠ Card with no annual fee year after year and use it for gas and transit purchases, but enjoy airport perks and alternate earning categories from the United Club℠ Infinite Card to make the most of your loyalty to United.

Perfect potential credit card pairings

With the main ideas of boosting your earning and enhancing your perks without taking on too many credit cards or annual fees, here are some examples of great card combinations with several major rewards programs that you might want to consider.

Credit card rewards

Let’s start with the rewards offered directly by credit card issuers like Amex and Chase, which run the gamut from cash back to transferable points.

American Express Membership Rewards: The Platinum Card® from American Express – Product Name Only and The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express – Product Name Only

American Express is unique in the sheer number of cards it fields that participate in its proprietary Amex Membership Rewards program. More options mean more ways to rack up points, though, and more nuances to master so you get the perfect set of cards for the perks you prefer. We won’t get exhaustive — instead, consider this powerful pairing.

The Platinum Card® from American Express is currently offering 75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of account opening. Again, this card earns:

5 points per dollar for flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 per calendar year)5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases

But where this card truly excels is in its value-added benefits, including up to $200 in annual airline incidental fee credits**, up to $200 in annual Uber credits**, up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credits** each year, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursements, automatic Hilton and Marriott Gold elite status**, and access to Amex Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges**, and Delta Sky Clubs, among others. The card’s annual fee is $550.

Those bonuses and benefits are reason enough to apply for the Amex Platinum, but consider combining it with a lower-cost option like The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express. With a $0 annual fee, the card earns a flat 2 points per dollar on purchases (up to $50,000 per year, then 1 point per dollar). So simply use it for everything you don’t put on the Platinum Card, and you’ll be earning a decent return on your spending no matter what you buy.

Chase Ultimate Rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve® – Product Name Only and Chase Freedom Unlimited® – Product Name Only

Chase Ultimate Rewards are some of the most useful loyalty points out there thanks to the fact that you can redeem them for travel, cash back, gift cards, and more. The reason it pays to hold a couple of cards with Chase is that when you hold at least one Ultimate Rewards travel card, you’ll unlock more redemption options like transferring points to Chase’s airline and hotel partners.

If you just have the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, your points are worth 1 cent each toward travel, cash back, or gift cards.

By pairing the Chase Freedom Unlimited® with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and moving all of your points to your Reserve account, your points are worth 1.5 cents apiece (thereby improving your return on spending by 50%) toward travel booked through Chase. You can also transfer them to airline programs like United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards as well as Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt, among other options.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, meanwhile, comes with benefits that can more than make up for the $550 annual fee, including up to $300 in annual travel credits, Priority Pass Select membership, and up to $100 once every four years for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS applications. It offers a bonus of Chase Sapphire Reserve®. 

If you prefer a card that doesn’t cost as much, the same principle applies to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — except your points are worth 1.25 cents apiece instead of 1.5 cents toward the redemptions mentioned above.

By having both cards, you can rake in rewards on tons of purchases and enjoy a plethora of travel benefits to boot.

Citi ThankYou Rewards: Citi Premier® Card – Product Name Only and Citi® Double Cash Card – Product Name Only

This is a terrific high-low combo, as you can carry a no-fee credit card for everyday expenses, then multiply its usefulness thanks to the benefits of its more expensive sibling.

The Citi® Double Cash Card isn’t flashy, but it’s well worth investigating. It also has a Citi® Double Cash Card annual fee.

The card effectively accrues 2x points per dollar on all purchases: You’ll earn 1% back when you make a purchase and another 1% back when you pay off that purchase. The Citi ThankYou points you earn with this card are worth 1 cent apiece toward cash back, gift cards, travel through Citi, and more. You can also convert your rewards to JetBlue TrueBlue points at a 5:4 ratio (1,000 Citi points become 800 JetBlue points), or to points with hotel partners Wyndham (5:4 ratio) and Choice Privileges (2:3 ratio).

Meanwhile, the $95-annual-fee Citi Premier® Card offers Citi Premier® Card. And its earning rate is excellent:

3 points per dollar at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, and for air travel and hotel stays1 point per dollar on everything else

Once per calendar year, cardholders also get $100 off a hotel stay of $500 or more (before taxes and fees) when they book through the Citi ThankYou travel portal.

When you have both cards, you can combine the points you earn with the Citi® Double Cash Card with those from the Citi Premier® Card so that they become ThankYou Rewards that you can transfer to Citi’s full range of airline and hotel partners (including more favorable ratios to JetBlue, Wyndham, and Choice). 

Airline frequent flyer programs

While it’s probably a good idea to diversify your mileage earnings across several airlines so that you can take advantage of their various route networks and partners, doubling down with individual programs also has its upsides.

Namely, to carry one card that earns bonus miles on a lot of different categories but still charges a low or no annual fee, and to get a higher-end counterpart that confers benefits like lounge access, priority treatment at the airport, and even a better shot at elite status and upgrades.

American Airlines AAdvantage: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® – Product Name Only and American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp® – Product Name Only

This one-two punch opens up excellent earning opportunities as well as Admirals Club membership for frequent flyers. The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card is currently offering American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card.

For an American Airlines credit card with no annual fee, it’s a strong earner:

2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and at grocery stores1 mile per dollar on everything else

One downside: Its sole day-of-travel perk is 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights.

That’s why you might also want to open the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®. It carries a $450 annual fee, but for that, you get full Admirals Club membership, which normally starts at $650 per year. The card is packed with other perks, too, such as a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application reimbursement once every five years, priority check-in, airport screening, and boarding, as well as a first checked bag free for the cardholder and up to eight companions on the same reservation on domestic AA itineraries.

The card isn’t great for regular spending. Its only bonus category is 2 miles per dollar for American Airlines purchases. Everything else earns an unremarkable 1 mile per dollar. This is why you might want the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card to, well, up your miles. New cardholders can earn Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®.

In addition to earning redeemable miles, both of these cards earn 1 Loyalty Point per dollar spent. Earning Loyalty Points is the method for reaching elite status with American Airlines, and there’s an extra perk for Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® cardholders: If you spend $40,000 on purchases with the card in a qualifying status year, you receive 10,000 additional Loyalty Points, which is a nice step-up for status.

Delta SkyMiles: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

If you’re a SkyMiles member, you might consider a Delta credit card combination that includes a strong earner with one that offers excellent day-of-travel benefits.

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card earns the following:

2 miles per dollar on dining and at restaurants worldwide2 miles per dollar for takeout and delivery within the U.S.2 miles per dollar on groceries at U.S. supermarkets2 miles per dollar for Delta purchases made directly with Delta1 mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases

That makes it a good one to carry if you want to stash some SkyMiles for your next trip. On top of that, you enjoy travel benefits like a first checked bag free for the cardholder and up to eight companions as well as priority boarding, 15% off Delta award flights with the TakeOff 15 benefit, plus 20% back on inflight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.

When you spend $10,000 on the card in a calendar year, you receive a $100 Delta flight credit, too. The card is offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months from account opening, and it has an annual fee of $99, waived for the first year.

Pair that with the premium Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, which has a $550 annual fee — but for that, cardholders get access to Delta Sky Clubs and Amex Centurion Lounges when flying Delta (Effective 2/1/25, Reserve card members will receive 10 visits per year to the Delta Sky Club; to earn an unlimited number of visits each year starting on 2/1/25, the total eligible purchases on the card must equal $75,000 or more between 1/1/24 and 12/31/24, and each calendar year thereafter). Carrying this card also bumps you to the head of the pack with upgrade priority over other Medallion elite members in your same fare class without the card. And for those without Medallion status, you still have a shot at complimentary upgrades.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card members and up to eight companions on the same reservation can check a bag for free and count on priority check-in and boarding. Cardholders receive a complimentary annual companion certificate good toward one round-trip itinerary in the continental US (with some exceptions) in first class, Comfort+, or Main Cabin, which can be worth hundreds of dollars in value, and they are also eligible for a statement credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck after they apply through any authorized Enrollment Provider once every four or 4.5 years, respectively. Here’s what you’ll get for spending:

3 miles per dollar on Delta purchases made directly with Delta1 mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases

In short, you should use it for Delta purchases and the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card for everything else.

Big-spending Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card holders receive 15,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) toward elite status after spending $30,000 in purchases in a calendar year, up to 60,000 MQMs and $120,000 spend total (effective 1/1/24, this benefit will no longer be available, and there will be a new way to earn toward Medallion Status with the card). When you hit $25,000 in spending the Medallion® Qualification Dollar requirement for Silver, Gold, or Platinum Medallion status is waived. Right now, the card is offering a welcome bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 

Southwest Rapid Rewards: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card – Product Name Only and Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card – Product Name Only

Carrying both a business and personal airline credit card can be a winning combination, as is the case with the Chase Southwest credit cards.

Each charges a sizeable annual fee — $199 for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card and $149 for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card – but they also have benefits to help offset that. First things first, though: the bonuses: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card is currently offering Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card.

All three Southwest personal credit cards, including the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, are now offering Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card earns:

4 points per dollar on Southwest purchases3 points per dollar on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners2 points per dollar on rideshare purchases and on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services1 point per dollar on everything else

Cardholders also receive 9,000 bonus points after renewing each year, four upgraded boardings per year, up to 365 inflight Wi-Fi credits per year, and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck statement credit once every four years.

For its part, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers 7,500 anniversary bonus points, four upgraded boardings per year, 25% off inflight drinks and Wi-Fi, and a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, which can save you money consistently and make paying the annual fee well worth it.

United MileagePlus: United Club℠ Infinite Card – Product Name Only and United℠ Business Card – Product Name Only

As an alternative to the pairing of the United Club℠ Infinite Card with the United Gateway℠ Card mentioned above, consider adding the United℠ Business Card into the mix instead.

You get access to United Club airport lounges and flight benefits like priority boarding and free checked bags with the United Club℠ Infinite Card, plus a welcome bonus offer of United Club℠ Infinite Card.

And with the United℠ Business Card, you can earn a welcome bonus offer of 60,000 bonus miles after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Then, you can use the card’s earning power to your benefit as you rack up miles at the following rates:

2 miles per dollar on United purchases2 miles per dollar on dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and local transit and commuting1 mile per dollar on everything else

Hotel loyalty programs

Like airlines, hotel chains have multiplied the number of credit cards they offer exponentially in recent years. While price point (i.e. annual fee) is probably the deciding factor for most folks, look beyond the dollar signs to the value of each card’s welcome bonus offer and travel benefits as you determine whether it’s worth opening an additional account.

Hilton Honors: The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Carrying these two Hilton credit cards will cost you, but it could still well be worth it.

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is one of the best hotel credit cards out there. It is currently offering 150,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 3 months of account opening and comes with automatic top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status.

This card earns:

14 points per dollar at Hilton hotels7 points per dollar on select travel, including flights booked directly with airlines or via Amex Travel and rental cars booked directly7 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide, and for takeout and delivery in the U.S.3 points per dollar for all other eligible purchases

Cardholders also get a free reward night each year plus up to $250 in annual statement credits at Hilton Resorts. That’s in addition to up to $250 per year in airline incidental fee credits**, up to $100 in on-property credits during eligible stays of two nights or more at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties, plus a Priority Pass Select membership. The annual fee is $450 per year.

Meanwhile, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is offering 130,000 points after you spend at least $2,000 on eligible purchases in your first 3 months of account opening. You won’t care about the Gold status it extends if you have the Hilton Honors Aspire Card, too. But this card earns more points in categories that the Aspire does not:

12 points per dollar at Hilton hotels6 points per dollar for groceries at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations6 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide, and for takeout and delivery in the U.S.3 points per dollar for all other eligible purchases

It’s not automatic on renewal, but if you spend $15,000 or more on the card in a calendar year, you can earn a free reward night – which makes this a notable compliment to the Hilton Honors Aspire Card. This card charges a Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card annual fee.

Marriott Bonvoy: The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card – Product Name Only and the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card – Product Name Only

Though Chase also offers Marriott Bonvoy credit cards, you might be better off sticking with the Amex entrants. This particular pairing is quite powerful.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, with a $450 annual fee, currently comes with a welcome bonus of: Earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 1/13/2021..

This card earns:

6 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar for Marriott purchases3 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines2 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases

The card also comes with up to $300 in dining statement credits per calendar year (up to $25 per month) for eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide, an annual free night award worth up to 85,000 points, and 25 elite night credits per calendar year. There’s also Priority Pass Select lounge access** and statement credits toward either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® to look forward to.

For its part, the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card also has a compelling welcome bonus offer: Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card. It has a Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card annual fee.

This card earns:

6 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar for Marriott purchases4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping2 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases

Cardholders also get a free night award worth up to 35,000 points each year, and 15 elite night credits.

Why might you want both of these cards? Well, first for the bonus points and the diversity of earning categories. Secondly, for the free-night awards — one worth 85,000 points and the other worth 35,000 points. Finally, you’ll be guaranteed complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum elite status with both of these cards — and you’ll need just 35 nights to reach Titanium.

What to know about credit card combinations

While there’s a lot to be said for diversifying your points portfolio and spreading your loyalty across a few programs, it can also make sense to focus your strategy on one or two types of rewards in the short term to rack up points, miles, and perks even faster. This is an even better strategy if you are truly loyal to one particular airline or hotel and can leverage its co-branded cards’ benefits to your advantage.

As with any rewards credit card, just make sure that if you do open multiple ones with a particular program you get enough value from each to justify meeting any minimum spending requirements or paying its annual fee. If that’s not an issue, though, you can reap double the rewards by doubling down on a single program.

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