Managing credit and rewards with a less-interested spouse

I have my eye on a new card, but my wife is not so thrilled about carrying more plastic


Just like most couples have a spender and a saver, I suspect many relationships include one person who plays the rewards game and another who isn’t nearly as interested.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Just like most couples have a spender and a saver, I suspect a lot of you are in a relationship in which one person (probably you, since you’re reading this) plays the credit card rewards game and the other person isn’t nearly as interested. I know that’s the case in my marriage.

Even though my wife Chelsea thinks it’s a hassle to juggle multiple credit cards, she tries to play along. We came up with a system: I write notes like “5% gas,” “3% groceries” and “3% restaurants” on little slips of paper. I place these over the relevant cards and take a photo that she saves on her phone. We have four different cash back cards, and this system works quite well, although Chelsea draws the line at new cards (“Don’t we have enough credit cards already?”).

She’s fine with me getting a new card in my name only, she just doesn’t want to have to carry a fifth joint card. My reluctance to go it alone is because the new card I’m most interested in is the Citi Double Cash Card, which would replace the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card as our “everything else” card. We’d get 2 percent back on everything (1 percent when we buy plus 1 percent as we pay) instead of 1.5 percent. This would have earned us an extra $257 last year. We’d use it for everything but travel, dining, groceries and the rotating 5 percent categories on our Chase Freedom card.

The problem is that Chelsea does most of this “everything else” spending – 64 percent of transactions and 62 percent of spending, I determined after sorting through our last three monthly card statements. I was surprised to note that I do most of the spending on our other cards.

See related: How many credit cards should you have? 

Travel ‘propels’ our card use

In the past three months, I’ve made 100 percent of the transactions on our Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (3 percent back on U.S. supermarket purchases, on up to $6,000 per year in spending, then it’s 1 percent), 100 percent of the transactions on our Chase Freedom (currently 5 percent back on gas, tolls and drugstores) and 91 percent on our Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card (3x points on travel and dining).

I always talk about how I hardly buy anything, so this shocked me. I knew I did the grocery shopping and filled the car with gas, but those are necessities that don’t really count as spending, right? After all, I have a reputation to uphold as a cheapskate.

I didn’t expect to be such a power user of the Propel card, although it makes sense the more I think about it. Travel and dining are typically family activities, and when we’re together, I generally handle the payments. This card got a workout recently because we went to Disney World and planned an upcoming trip to visit Chelsea’s parents.

See related: How I’ll use card-linked offers to multiply my savings this year

Snap up a new card for ‘everything else,’ or wait for something better?

The only card Chelsea uses frequently is the “everything else” card I’m considering replacing. Most of that spending is for our daughter: clothes, extracurricular activities and birthday presents for her friends.

Chelsea does a great job running that part of our household. I told her about my recent research and suggested a new card would actually be very easy for her. Since she’s only using one card on a regular basis anyway, the Citi Double Cash would replace it and she wouldn’t need to carry the others every day.

We’re still mulling it over. For her, the main hurdle is logistics. For me, it’s being respectful of her wishes, but also pondering whether something better will come along, like the 30,000 point sign-up bonus (after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months) we enjoyed on the Propel card last year (this offer is no longer available).

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

Credit Card Rate Report
Cash Back

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more