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.
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 Cards 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.
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.
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