Best rewards cards for newly married couples
Just hitched? Start wedded life with the right plastic for two
Award-winning writer covering consumer and small-business credit cards.
Joining your lives also means marrying your credit card rewards strategy, which starts with picking the right cards.
Now that you’ve said your vows, it might be time to move past the credit card that’s been by your side all through your single years. And even if you keep that card, it pays to consider adding cards that give couples the chance to earn big.
Whether you’re combining your finances or keeping them separate, you can still meld your rewards, says Jason Steele, a credit card and award travel expert at The Points Guy who teams up with his wife on rewards.
“The reasons for keeping money separate might not apply to points and miles, especially if you travel together,” he says.
Here’s a rundown of some of the best rewards cards for newly married couples and tips on how you can use these cards and your married status to get the most from your rewards.
Double up on big travel bonuses
One of the best perks of being a couple is that a sweet sign-up bonus can become double in value.
One popular card for couples, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points, worth $625 when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. To get the bonus, you have to spend $4,000 in the first three months after opening the account. This minimum spend should be fairly easy to reach with two people pulling out the card for all purchases. If both spouses get the card, one after the other, that’s 100,000 points worth $1,250 or possibly much more if transferred into an airline frequent flyer program.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card also offers several other ways for savvy newlyweds to stack bonuses and save:
- You can get an additional 5,000 points for adding your first authorized user to your card and making a purchase on that card within three months after account opening. And it’s free to add an authorized user to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (unlike the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which charges $75). If you both get the card and add each other, that’s 10,000 points.
- Chase offers another bonus through its refer-a-friend program. While it can be fraught to refer a friend to a credit card, it’s much easier to refer your new husband or wife. When one spouse becomes a cardholder and refers the other, you get another 10,000 extra points.
- Any card with Chase Ultimate Rewards, including this one, allows you to transfer points between spouses or domestic partners for free. This makes it easier to book travel and also helps to ensure you don’t get separated during a trip as you could if you were on separate reservations. “It’s a million times easier just to put everything in one account and book all under one reservation,” Steele says.
- When two members of a couple each get a card, they can get hit with double annual fees. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the $95 annual fee is waived the first year. Before the annual fee hits a year down the road, one of you can cancel or downgrade to a no-annual-fee Chase card, such as the Chase Freedom card.
How should you handle the double sign-ups? First, one of you can get the card and add the other as an authorized user to get the authorized user bonus. You can work together to complete the minimum spend on the first card and get the sign-up bonus. The cardholder then refers the other spouse through the refer-a-friend program to snag another 10,000 points. Spouse No. 2 can get the card and add spouse No. 1 as an authorized user for 5,000 more points. Then both work to complete the minimum spend for the second sign-up bonus. This way, a couple can rack up 120,000 points in six months.
There’s a lot of payoff in doubling big sign-up bonuses. “If it's a good deal for one, it's a great deal for two,” Steele says.
Profit from double spending cash back power
Two more cards that work nicely for newly married couples are the American Express EveryDay Preferred card and the Discover it Cash Back card. With these cards, couples can rack up rewards quickly through the spending power of two.
Here’s the lowdown on how newlyweds can gain from getting the AmEx EveryDay Preferred card or the Discover it Cash Back card.
- The AmEx EveryDay Preferred works well for all the daily spending of newly married life. It offers 3 points per dollar spent at supermarkets (on up to $6,000 a year), 2 points at gas stations and 1 point for all other purchases. However, there is a $95 annual fee that is not waived the first year, so it might not make sense for both spouses to get the card.
- The best part for couples? When you make 30 or more transactions in a billing cycle on the AmEx EveryDay Preferred, you get a bonus of 50 percent on the points earned in that cycle. Meeting this target should be easier for two spouses using the card than it would be for one person. This bonus essentially gets you 4.5 points at supermarkets, 3 points at gas stations and one and a half for everything else. “It’s a pretty attractive card when you can reach that bonus,” Steele says.
- The Discover it Cash Back card offers 5 percent cash back in rotating quarterly categories (once enrolled) up to set spending limits, and 1 percent on all other purchases. Couples can “hack” this to rack up big rewards, says Jacob Lumby, who has a Ph.D. in financial planning and is co-founder of CashCowCouple.com. For example, the category for spring 2018 is grocery stores, and the quarterly cap is $1,500. For a dual cardholder household, that cap becomes $3,000. “That’s a really big deal,” Lumby says. He and his wife, Vanessa, buy gift cards to the places they shop to ensure they use the entire allotted amount in rotating categories.
- The Discover it Cash Back card has no annual fee, so it makes financial sense for both spouses to become cardholders to increase the bonus category cap. And Discover will match all the cash back you earn in your first year. “That offer makes the card even more powerful,” Lumby says.
Another big plus for both these cards is they offer 0-percent introductory periods for 14 months on balance transfers and purchases. It’s a fact of life that many couples start married life either in debt from the wedding or at least strapped for cash, says J.R. Duren, a personal finance blogger for the consumer site HighYa.com. On top of that, couples who don’t already live together will likely be joining households and may need a new fridge, bed or some other pricey item.
One caveat, though: don’t let the 0-interest offer tempt you to start married life digging into debt. Instead, figure out how much you will have to pay each month to pay off your purchase without paying a cent in interest. Make sure it’s doable before you buy.
“Getting married costs you money both before and afterward,” Duren says.
“If you can pay off the balance during the promotional period, it's a really good idea to use one of these cards to finance a big purchase.”
Get a travel bonus made for two
One popular perk, the Southwest Companion Pass, seems like it was made for couples in the honeymoon phase. You can open a Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card and earn the sign-up bonus to start racking up enough points for a companion pass. If you earn the pass, it will allow your new Mr. or Mrs. to fly with you for free for almost two years if you get the timing right.
See related: The direct route to a Southwest companion pass
“How do you beat that?” Lumby says. In the past year, he and his wife have combined award flights with the Southwest Companion Pass to soak in the sun in Aruba and Jamaica without having to shell out much cash. When you buy a ticket with miles, your companion still can use the pass.
If this perk sounds good and you plan to apply for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, there are a few caveats to consider.
- It is harder to get the companion pass now, thanks to recent rule changes that limit sign-up bonuses on Southwest consumer cards, but it can still be done. To qualify for the companion pass, you need to accumulate 110,000 points. The current sign-up bonus for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is 40,000 points. The new restrictions don’t apply to business cards, so you could apply for a business version, too, and get a 60,000-point sign-up bonus. That puts you very close to snagging the pass.
- You should apply for this and any other Chase cards you want first so you don’t get turned down due to Chase’s 5/24 rule. The rule could get you rejected for a Chase card if you’ve opened five or more cards with any issuer over the past two years.
- The $69 annual fee for this card is not waived the first year, and neither is the $99 annual fee for the business card. You’ll have to decide if the chance to earn the companion pass makes the fees worthwhile. Think about how often you and your beloved will use the pass, and crunch the numbers.
- When you get a companion pass, you have to designate one person as your travel companion, which is perfect for newlyweds. Timing is important because you get the pass for the following calendar year plus the rest of the calendar year in which you earned the pass. The earlier in the year you can earn it, the better.
With this card, it doesn’t make sense for both members of the couple to become cardholders, Lumby says. Instead, one spouse should sign up and focus on getting the companion pass for the other, but you could add your spouse as an authorized user so you both can build up the spending required to qualify for the bonus.
Married life has its rewards, especially when it comes to credit cards. But it’s important to get your finances in order, create a budget and get on the same page about money before you delve into points and miles together, Duren says.
If money is super tight, you might want to get just one solid cash back card first or even avoid credit cards altogether for a while, he says. “In some cases, it might be best to focus on strengthening your finances now and worry about rewards later,” he says.
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