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INSIDER SECRET: You’ll double your potential rewards bonus when you and your partner maintain separate credit cards.
If you have someone you think is the one, take them and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all over the world, to places that are hard to reach and hard to get out of. And when you land at JFK and you’re still in love with that person, get married.
— Bill Murray
Long before my husband and I were married, we traveled together a lot. Actually, within two weeks of meeting, we booked a trip to Belize together — we decided to test out our fuzzy feelings toward one another by traveling somewhere that neither of us had been before. Did I have a suspicion that it was meant to be when we both realized we had enough rewards miles on our individual United Explorer Cards to cover a round-trip ticket from Denver to Belize City? Yes, yes I did.
I Love You, But…
As Meatloaf sang so gallantly in the ’90s, I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that. What exactly is “that?” In my case, I will share almost everything with my husband except for my towel, my toothbrush and my credit card. Two of the three involve hygiene and the other one is about understanding how to maximize rewards on a credit card.
When we booked our trip to Belize, Spencer and I had each been using a United Explorer Card for more than a year. We’d both signed up for this card because of the super-generous initial bonus after meeting the minimum spending requirement. Plus, the annual fee on this card is really low and you don’t even have to pay that for the first year.
We’d both done a lot of travel for work so it was really easy to accumulate United Airlines miles. And United is one of the major airlines flying out of Denver, so we didn’t feel limited by our choice to commit to one airline. That might not have been the case if we’d been living in a town with a smaller airport as we did a few years later.
Here’s the Simple Reason We Don’t Share Any Credit Cards
Some people might consider it impolite or TMI to share information about finances, but that’s not me. I don’t mind talking about the decisions we made around purchasing a house together before we got hitched, how we break down our monthly budget, who spends what on what, how we set up our bank account, etc. I think it’s interesting and I love to understand how other couples have come to similar or different decisions with their finances.
Here’s what we realized when it came to our credit cards: It is much more valuable for us to keep individual cards than it is for us to add one another as joint card owners.
It took us a while to realize the benefits of separate cards. As we started to take on house projects, plan our wedding and think about trips we wanted to take, it started to become clear. Every time I open a credit card, I’m looking to see what the initial bonus gift is. Some cards, like the CitiBusiness®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® offer a significant number of miles to start! Plus, with some cards, certain perks are actually shared perks.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is probably our favorite card, and we both agree it is totally worth the hefty annual fee. Yes, it’s under Spencer’s name but two of the best perks of this card (access to lounges that are included on the Priority Pass and TSA PreCheck) are available when the card holder is traveling with a guest. That means we both got to hang out in the airport lounge in Tokyo drinking free Japanese whiskey while waiting for a connecting flight to Thailand. And since we usually travel together, I get to join him in the PreCheck line.
The bottom line is this: If we had each signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I wouldn’t have been able to sign up for another Chase card at the same time and collect the initial bonus miles. For maximum rewards, it just makes sense to keep our cards separate.
Challenges and Strategy Around Carrying Separate Cards
Here are two important lessons we have learned:
- Make sure you’ll be able to meet the initial spending requirement. When you start to spread your spending over multiple cards, you might find that you have somewhat low balances on several different cards. That’s fine in most situations. But when you open a new card, there’s typically a requirement that you spend a certain amount of money in a specific timeframe in order to get the initial sign-on bonus reward. For this reason, it’s important to figure out when you’re opening the new card how to shift your purchases so that they are mostly on that one card. Or if you’ve got a large expense (like a house remodeling project or a big trip) coming up, you can plan to put that on your new card so that you can be sure you’re meeting the initial spending requirement.
- Come up with a strategy to track your spending. Again, spreading purchases over many cards can be a great strategy for maximizing your rewards points. For example, we use our Chase Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card any time we order something from Amazon or go shopping at Whole Foods to get 3% cash back on all of our purchases. We used our Chase Sapphire Reserve card recently to reserve an Airbnb for a group of 10 friends in Breckenridge. Everyone paid us back on the spot and now we have enough miles for a one-way ticket from Denver to San Francisco. But when you work this way, it is really easy to lose track of how much money you’re spending each month. Our solution is to plan how much we’re going to charge to each card so we can, hopefully, stay within our budget. We also are able to see all of our Chase cards within one account, which makes things easy.
The information for the Chase Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Opening multiple cards and tracking spending isn’t for everyone, but it works for us. What type of conversations have you and your partner had about combining credit cards or keeping them separate? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!
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All photos by the author unless noted otherwise.