couples credit card strategies

Update: April 3, 2020

When a relationship becomes serious — whether that means there’s wedding bells or you’re moving in together — you’ll want to discuss your finances, as combining your finances may nurture a shared sense of trust and transparency. However, some couples think separate is better after seeing their partner has mixed up their streaming recommendations. For instance, should you share your credit card? When it comes to earning rewards, two cards are better than one, right? Keep reading to find out.

How many credit cards should a couple have?

Unlike the logistic ease of a joint checking account, sharing one card limits the unique reward opportunities open to couples and could pose a significant credit risk. Two people’s debt on one partner’s card throttles your credit utilization ratio, and life’s inevitable unexpected purchases (like pro-rated rent and deposits) could further hobble your credit score. In the short term, this could jack up your card’s interest rate but it may inflict growing pains when you apply for housing, employment and necessities like insurance.

Couples with two rewards cards can take advantage of a deeper credit line, greater rewards, versatile redemption options and a higher bonus category spending cap. Plus, you have more comprehensive category coverage for potential rewards. For instance, if one spouse or partner commutes and cooks more, their card could get cash back on gas and groceries. Meanwhile, the other spouse’s card could focus on dining and entertainment, or even travel.

Since your reward earnings would be higher with two cards, it could be easier to swing a premium card for even better rewards. However, two premium cards could hit you with two annual fees. We’d recommend one spouse or partner use a premium card and the other get a card with no annual fee. That way, you could also get a 0% intro purchase and/or balance transfer period (critical for consolidating debt) since premium cards usually don’t offer them.

When you’re looking for your optimum card combination, ask yourselves:

  • Which intro bonuses are your best options?
  • Are there referral bonuses you would receive for your spouse?
  • Can your rewards be pooled between cards?
  • Is it worth absorbing two annual fees for higher reward rates?
  • Are the bonus category spending limits reasonable for two users?
  • Depending on your current balance, debts and expected purchases, what 0% intro APR periods do you need? Do you need them at all?

Best card combinations for couples

Considering each partner’s everyday expenses are now doubled, couples may decide to pay an annual fee (usually around $100) premium rewards cards to earn more rewards on what they buy most. If an annual fee is a dealbreaker, we’ve reviewed alternative cards with no annual fee. We’ve recommended a few amazing card combos for a variety of duos’ dynamic.

For couples that want to travel

Primary card: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Wayfaring couples will fall in love with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for its phenomenal travel rewards — and a second Chase card (detailed below) is a match made in heaven. Cardholders earn 2X points on travel and dining with 1 point per $1 on all other purchases, but the flexible redemption is the real edge over the competition. You can redeem points for cash, entertainment or dining, but your points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel rewards like airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Getting where you want to go isn’t a problem with Sapphire Preferred. There are no travel restrictions or blackout dates, and you have a free 1:1 point transfer to other popular airline and hotel reward programs.

Generally, doubling up on the same card doesn’t expand your coverage, but couples are in a unique position for double the rewards. If one spouse or partner earns the Sapphire Preferred card’s 60,000 point intro bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, the card-holding spouse or partner can then earn a 15,000 referral bonus from the newly-signed spouse or partner — who can then earn the intro bonus too. You’d earn 135,000 points worth approximately $1,688 in travel through Ultimate Rewards for your next getaway!

Secondary card: Chase Freedom®

Realistically, getting two Sapphire Preferred Cards would be hard to recommend to couples since key factors like an intro 0% APR and rewards coverage may be more practical to most couples. The Chase Freedom® card provides 5% cash back on each quarter’s everyday expenses via rotating category (up to the $1,500 quarterly maximum) — rather than rewards only on dining and travel. Choosing the Freedom card over another Sapphire Preferred means you’ll receive a budget-friendly 15-month 0% intro purchase and balance transfer APR (then it’s 16.49% – 25.24% variable) with only one $95 annual fee instead of two. For a potentially lower ongoing APR (16.49% – 25.24% variable), you still get 1% cash back on all other purchases and you can pool your points with your Sapphire Preferred card for travel. Keep in mind that the Freedom does charge a 3% foreign transaction fee (Sapphire Preferred has none), but the Freedom also charges a lower balance transfer fee (3% intro balance transfer fee within your first 60 days, then 5% – with a $5 minimum) than the Sapphire Preferred’s 5% or $5, whichever is greater.

Information regarding the Chase Freedom was prepared by staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the writer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented on this page is accurate as of the date of the post.

For couples split between grocery stores and restaurants

Primary card: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

If you’re willing to pay a premium to earn the most cash back possible on typical everyday expenses, then the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express (a NextAdvisor advertiser) is as good as it gets. For a standard $95 annual fee, cardholders earn up to 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000/year in purchases, then it’s 1%), 6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% at U.S. gas stations and on transit, along with 1% back on all other purchases. If you or your partner have serious commutes, then the 3% category covers taxis/rideshares, parking, tolls, trains, and other transit systems like buses. The $250 statement credit intro offer is also incredibly accessible, available after spending $1,000 within your first 3 months. Perfect for newlyweds (and the newly-moved-in), the Blue Cash Preferred card is also the rare premium card that offers a zero-interest period: a 12-month intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (then 12.99%-23.99% Variable)! The balance transfer fee is also low ($5 or 3%, whichever is greater) compared to the 5% you’ll see with some other cards.

Secondary card: Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

When the kitchen is getting stale, the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card provides a great change of pace with it’s unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% cash back on everything else — all for no annual fee. The $150 intro bonus can be earned after only spending $500 on purchases within the first 3 months too. SavorOne’s redemption options complement the Blue Cash Preferred’s statement credit cash back since your rewards come in the form of either a check, statement credit or gift card. If you find yourself overseas, SavorOne also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. What’s more, you can free up your budget and stagger the Blue Cash Preferred’s 12-month period with SavorOne’s 15-month 0% intro purchase and balance transfer APRs (then  (then 15.49% – 25.49% (Variable)) to stave off interest! We should note that balance transfers come with a 3% balance transfer fee.

Information regarding the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card was prepared by staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the writer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented on this page is accurate as of the date of the post.

Sharing accounts may make sense when it comes to banking or loans, but that’s not always the best option for credit cards, since you may be missing out on serious rewards opportunities. If you want to weigh all of your options, you can read our review of the best credit cards.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.