Best Strategies and Credit Cards for Couples Who Travel [2019]

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Couples have a distinct advantage in award travel because they can double up in many ways. In this article, I’ve listed some different strategies that couples can use to leverage credit card benefits for travel. I’ve also put together a list of some of the best credit cards for couples who travel.


Mix up the bonus categories

One great way to maximize the earnings with your points is to get credit cards that have the optimal earning rates in each major bonus category (dining, groceries, gas, travel, etc.). The issue is that this can be difficult to do with rules like the Chase 5/24 rule. But when you are playing this with two people it is much easier to spread the earnings across multiple cards. 

Your wallet as a couple could look like this: 

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve: 2X/3X on dining and travel
  • Amex Gold: 4X on US dining and US supermarkets;
  • Amex Business Blue Plus: 2X on all purchases up to $50,000 each year
  • Chase Ink Cash: 5X on categories like telecom and office supply stores
  • Chase Freedom: 5X on rotating categories 
  • Amex Platinum: 5X on airfare

The Chase Ink Cash and the Chase Freedom are especially great for couples since you can get around their spending limits for the bonus categories. For example, the Freedom limits you to 5X on certain categories up to $1,500 per quarter and the Chase Ink Cash has $25,000 limits. Getting two of those essentially doubles your earning potential.


Increased award inventory 

With a card like the United Explorer Card you can get access to increased award inventory which can make it easier to use your miles for award tickets when trying to book for two. 


Hotel benefits

Since you can use your hotel points to book a room that two people can use, hotel credit cards obviously offer you the chance to cover travel for the two of you. But beyond covering rooms for two, there are some specific benefits couples can use. 

Free nights

So many credit cards offer you a annual free night either on a complementary basis or after a certain amount of spend. As a couple you can simply combine your annual free nights and use them together to cover a full weekend. In some cases, like with IHG free nights, It might be possible to overlap the annual free night so that you could cover a total of four nights between two people. 

Resort credits 

Some premium hotel credit cards offer resort credits worth a couple of hundred bucks. You can combine resort credits to cover luxurious and romantic experiences at top resorts. For example, we recently used two $250 Hilton Aspire resort credits to cover a massage and romantic dinner on the beach at the Hilton Playa del Carmen. 

Hotel elite status 

Both members of a couple can benefit with hotel elite benefits. Upgrades are usually limited to the room booked and breakfast and lounge access is usually available to two occupants in the room, so from a couple’s perspective, hotel elite status is a benefit for two. 

When playing as a couple, you can mix-up your hotel elite programs since so many credit cards offer automatic hotel status. One person might go for Hilton Diamond while another might go for a mid tier status like Marriott Gold. With two people it’s also not that difficult to get status with all the major programs like: IHG, Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott. 

And even if you’re not traveling, you can add your partner to the itinerary and they usually can take advantage of the elite perks. 

Hilton Playa del Carmen, an all-inclusive resort.

Luxury hotel programs 

Cards like the Amex Platinum offer you benefits like the Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts which allows you to receive elite-like perks such as:

  • Noon check-in, when available
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
  • Room upgrade upon arrival, when available
  • Daily breakfast for two people
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Special amenity unique to each property

In some cases, you can make short reservations for each of you and get the special amenity twice. If you’re hoping to hit the spa up every couple of days, that could mean several hundred dollars worth of free spa treatment. Some couples do this Bonnie and Clyde style and check in and out of a hotel every night but that’s taking things to the extreme and could lead to some awkward encounters. 

Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong

Companion Passes 

Southwest 

The Southwest Companion Pass is practically designed for couples. With this pass, you and your partner can fly around for free for up to two calendar years. Southwest is now flying to Hawaii and to many international destinations so this pass is also perfect for couples looking to get away to tropical destinations. 

Visa Infinite 

There is also a companion pass for some Visa Infinite cards like the UBS Visa Infinite credit card where you can get $100 off a roundtrip economy flight (per itinerary) when booking for two to five people. It’s not a huge savings but it could certainly add up for a busy couple. 

Alaska 

The Alaska Card also comes with a companion fare. The Alaska Airlines companion fare entitles the cardholder to purchase one round-trip coach companion fare on Alaska Airlines from $121 (USD) ($99 base fare plus applicable taxes and fees from $22 depending on your flight itinerary) when traveling with another guest on a paid published coach airfare on the same itinerary, booked at the same time. 

Aviator Red

The Aviator Red (American Airlines) will allow you to earn a companion certificate when you spend $20,000 on the card in a given year. The certificate will cover a companion ticket in economy but you’ll need to pay $99 plus taxes/fees, which is very similar to the Alaska option. 

There’s also a British Airways companion ticket I talk more about below and Delta has some companion offers attached to some of their cards as well. 

Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard

Get a complimentary Companion Coupon upon account opening and each year when you renew your card membership


Transferring points 

Being able to transfer points freely to each other is going to make your life much easier in many cases. Programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards are great for this and as long as you live at the same residence, you can transfer your points freely to each other.

In other cases (such as with American Express) you might have to add your partner as an authorized user to your card to transfer points to them but it could definitely be worth it if you were trying to make a redemption. 

Transferring points between partners can also be done with a lot of hotel programs like Hilton, Marriott, etc. 


Protections 

If your card has certain protections such as travel protections for purchase protections, you can use your card for your spouse or partner as well. For example, for trip cancellation for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase states the following members are covered: 

You, the Primary Insured Person, and your Immediate Family Members are automatically covered. Immediate Family Member means your Spouse or Domestic Partner and their children, including adopted children or step-children; legal guardians or wards; siblings or siblings-in-law; parents or parents-in-law; grandparents or grandchildren; aunts or uncles; nieces or nephews.


Lounge access

Many credit cards offer lounge access for your self and up to two guests. So in a lot of cases your partner won’t even have to apply for a credit card that offers lounge access and they can still take advantage of it when they are with you.


Referrals 

Once you get approved for certain cards, you can use the referral system to rack up more points. You can refer each other and since there are two of you, you will get more referral slots to earn more points. Plus, you may have in-laws to refer, too. 

(Just watch out for those taxes!) 


Staying below 5/24

If you are bold enough to try to stay below 5/24 it is much easier to do as a couple. If you can plan out your applications so that you are only applying for a card every few months and mix in business credit card applications then getting below 5/24 is actually more obtainable than you might think.


The 10 Best Credit Cards for Couples who Travel

1. The Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months 
  • 2X on dining and travel
  • Redeem points at 1.25 cents per point through Chase Travel Portal
  • Primary rental car insurance
  • Annual fee: $95

The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a great new sign-up bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months. This is one of the best sign-up bonuses ever offered by the Sapphire Preferred.  

At 2 cents per point valuation, its sign-up bonus and authorized user bonus can bring in $1,200 worth of value. If you want to stay at an all-inclusive resort like the Hyatt Ziva on a romantic get-a-way, you can transfer your points out to Hyatt and cover a couple of nights. And as mentioned above, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards to each other very easily. 

It’s also great for couples because it has a low annual fee of $95. A lot of couples don’t like to pay more than one high annual fee for their credit cards so the Sapphire Preferred is perfect for those couples and still earns great rewards at 2X on dining and travel.

If you are okay with the higher annual fee then the Chase Sapphire Reserve might be a great option too. You’ll earn better bonus with 3X on dining and travel but the annual fee is higher at $450. 


2. Southwest Premier Card

  • 60,000 points after spending $2,,000 within the first 3 months
  • $99 Annual fee
  • 6,000 anniversary points
  • Perfect for getting the Southwest Companion Pass

Although the travel benefit to couples is usually in the form of hotel points, the best credit card for couples is actually a combination of two Southwest cards: the Southwest Premier (or other personal) and the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card. That’s because with those two cards, you can earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, which allows someone to fly for free with you for up to two calendar years. 

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card can also be a great option for couples because  you can get reimbursed for up to four upgrades to Business Select each year. This would allow you and your partner to get a better seat with more legroom or to lock down a row in a 737 that only has two seats so you’re not rubbing elbows with other folks. 


3. Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

  • 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on all other eligible purchases
  • 10 free priority pass lounge passes
  • One Weekend Night Reward at a hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio after spending $15,000 in purchases in a calendar year
  • Automatic Hilton Honors Gold status
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee

This card will be perfect option for couples who want to stay at Hilton properties. If you think that you can put $30,000 a year on two of these cards as a couple, then you can receive two free night certificates that can be used on any level Hilton property.

So you could redeem for two free nights at the Hilton Conrad in the Maldives where prices each night could be near $1,000. Even if you don’t redeem them at such an aspirational location, you still can easily get $400+ worth of value from these certificates. 

You’ll also get Hilton Honors Gold status that can save you money by offering you free breakfasts and internet. When it comes to co-branded hotel cards for couples, the Ascend is a great option. Click here to read more about this card and compare it to others. 

Credit Cards for Couples
Hilton Americas-Houston pool.

4. The Chase Freedom Unlimited

 

  • 3% back on every purchase up to $20,000 in spend the first year; 1.5% back after that 
  • No annual fee

For the couple who doesn’t want to trouble with keeping up with special bonus categories on different credit cards, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a solid option. You’ll get 3% back on every purchase up to $20,000 in spend the first year and this card is great to pair with the Sapphire Preferred so that you’ll be able to transfer your points out to travel partners if that’s what you’d like to do.

There’s also another Chase Freedom that earns 5% back on rotating categories like groceries, gas, department stores, home improvement stores, and many other categories. The 5% back is capped at $1,500 worth of spend but it’s still a great way for couples to earn a lot of rewards.


5. Amex EveryDay Preferred

Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card earns points on bonus categories that many couples can cash in on if they are doing a lot of driving and spending money at supermarkets.

The Amex EveryDay Preferred earns the following bonus rates:

  • 3x points at US supermarkets (On up to $6,000 in purchases per year)
  • 2x points at US gas stations
  • 1x points on other purchases

But in addition to these rates, it earns when you use your card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period you get 50% more points on those purchases! That’s like earning 4.5X Membership Rewards per dollar at grocery stores. If you value Membership Rewards at 1.8 cents per point that’s like getting over 8% back on grocery store spend which is pretty phenomenal.


6. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire

  • 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on other purchases
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status
  • One weekend night at any hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio (upon opening account and on account anniversary)
  • Weekend night after spending $60,000 on the card within a calendar year
  • Unlimited Priority Pass membership
  • $250 airline incidental fee statement credit
  • $250 Hilton resort statement credit
  • $100 on property credit at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts when booking the exclusive Aspire Card package
  • $450 Annual Fee 

This Hilton card will also be great for couples looking to stay at Hilton properties. Because this is a premium card with such a high annual fee, it might be best that only one person get this card. Since Hilton points can be easily transferred to a spouse, the person holding this card should receive all of the Hilton points and make the bookings. That’s because they will have Hilton Honors Diamond elite status which will provide free premium internet, executive lounge access, free breakfast, and better odds at getting nice upgrade to suites.

The Hilton Aspire also offers a free night certificate each year and upon account opening. So it’s like getting 195,000 Hilton points as a sign-up bonus which is tremendous. If you combine that with 100,000 points from the Ascend, you’d have enough rewards to cover a few nights at some of the top hotels in the world!

This card also offers Priority Pass which will get you into over 1,000 airport lounges free of charge. And finally, if the annual fee is a turn off, be sure to consider the travel credits this card offers which could easily offset the cost of the annual fee. With all the free nights and potential upgrades this card offers, it has to be in the discussion for the best travel credit card for couples.

And if you’re struggling to decide between the Hilton Ascend and Aspire, read my comparison of the two cards here.

Credit Cards for Couples
Hilton Chicago Magnificent Mile Suites.

7. Chase World of Hyatt Visa

 

  • 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn an additional 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend a total of $6,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening
  • Plus, 1 free night every year after your cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 property
  • Automatic Hyatt Discoverist status
  • $95 annual fee

The Chase World of Hyatt Card is really perfect for couples when it offers two free nights for its sign-up bonus. Right now, it doesn’t offer that but you still can get up to 50,000 points and that can be worth over $1,000 at several top-tier properties. 

For example, I just booked two nights at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme and nights were going for €638 or $778. For 30,000 Hyatt points per night, I received 2.6 cents per point, which means that 40,000 points gave me $1,040 of value. 

If you combined forces with your partner then you could net over $2,000 worth value from this card. Plus, each of you will get a free night certificate each year which can be used on properties in categories 1 through 4. These free nights can be great for quick weekend get-a-ways, though Hyatt’s limited foot print can cause some issues with finding properties some times.

 
Credit Cards for Couples
Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, Jamaica, an all-inclusive Hyatt property. 

8. The Amex Platinum

Top 10 Travel Credit Cards

  • 60,000 miles after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months (75K offer in Google Incognito and there are even methods to get 100K offers)
  • 5X on airfare and 5X on hotels booked through the Amex Travel portal
  • Priority Pass access for you and two guests
  • Centurion lounges access for you and two guests
  • Delta SkyClub access when flying with Delta
  • TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry $100 credit
  • Annual fee: $550 (NOT waived first year)

The Amex Platinum Card is a great card for couples for a number of reasons.

It grants Centurion lounges access to you and up to two guests so you and your partner can get access to nice airport lounges when you’re traveling through airports. You’ll also get Priority Pass access for you and two guests and Delta SkyClub access when flying with Delta.

Another great perk is the elite status with Hilton. Hilton Honors Gold elite status will get you upgrades, free breakfast, late check-out and even lounge access sometimes. Click here to find out more about this card and compare it to others. 


9. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

CAPITAL ONE VENTURE benefits

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • 10X on Hotels.com purchases
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 after that
  • No foreign transaction fees

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is an all-purpose travel rewards credit card. This type of card can cover your random travel expenses like taxi rides, trains, award tickets fees, and many others. As a couple, you could each get this card and be able to “erase” $1,000 worth of travel expenses. For all of those couples who like to travel for as close to free as much as possible, this card is an excellent option. Click here to find out more about this card and compare it to others. 


10. United Explorer Card

  • 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Plus earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $8,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.
  • 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United
  • Free Checked Bag
  • Priority Boarding
  • Anniversary United Club Passes
  • Miles Don’t Expire
  • MileagePlus Premier members and traveling on an award ticket can receive Premier Upgrades
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee (waived the first year)

The United Explorer Card is great for couples who live near United hubs since you’ll be able to capitalize on the United miles. But what really makes it a compelling option for couples is that you can utilize the two Club Lounge passes each year to enjoy a nice airport lounge visit.

You’ll be able to get a free checked bag for the primary cardmember and one companion (valued at $100 for a roundtrip). So each time you fly United you and your partner won’t have to worry about paying baggage fees if you each only have one checked bag.

And finally this card offers increased award seats so you’ll get access to more award seats than the public, which can be very handy when trying to find award seats opened up as a couple.

Another great perk about every Chase United credit card is that they allow you to earn an additional 25% on MPX App purchases. Learn more about maximizing earnings on the MPX App HERE


11. British Airways Visa 

The British Airways Visa Signature Card allows you to earn a companion ticket that can work out great for couples. When you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years. The Travel Together Ticket gives you a second seat for a companion, on the same flight and in the same cabin when you book a reward flight on a British Airways mainline flight originating in and returning to the United States. This can save you a lot of Avios but you’ll still have to pay the fees which can be a bit pricey. 


Final word

Many of these credit cards are hotel cards because those are the best to maximize for couples since both members of the couple can utilize the perks. But many of the airline credit cards are designed for couples and can offer real value for them with perks like free checked baggage and lounge passes.

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