My husband and I have ## separate travel credit cards between us, here’s why

I woke up early on my first day in New York on a recent trip. I ran to the window, opened the curtains to the morning sunrise, and gazed right next to the iconic Grand Central Station with its remarkable clock and sculptures. Below, orange taxis vied with cars hurtling down the street. Early risers rush to the sidewalks. From the comfort of my hotel room, I stood filled with excitement to begin a memorable time in one of my favorite cities. And I smiled knowing that our five nights at the Grand Hyatt were paid for in points. This trip was just one of the many rewards I enjoyed by accumulating trip points.

When you use credit cards strategically to earn travel points, you set up a system that will take you anywhere. Literally, it’s a legit way to travel more for less money. Not only can you take more trips and fly to more places, but you can also stay in more expensive hotels than your budget usually can afford.

Points and Miles have taken me several times to Europe, from or to Paris, London and Switzerland. I have flown on points to New York, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, DC My next flight booked with miles is to Houston, to visit family. And I added a night at a lakeside hotel in Austin, using points. It will be a fun little getaway with the grandkids in a fancy location at no cost.

Begin

You can make collecting travel points as easy or as complicated as you want. If you just want to dip a toe, start with a credit card that comes with a sign-up bonus of points or miles. Try to use the perks. If it works well for you, ask for another card. And another. ALWAYS make sure to pay your credit card bills in full each month. No exceptions. Ask what you can handle. No debt is involved. It’s just about buying what you were probably going to buy anyway (groceries!) or paying bills, but having a plan for which card to use each time.

Find the best travel rewards credit card for you

With your first credit card, the question will arise whether you want to add your spouse as an authorized user. While you may have many questions about maximizing your travel points in general, let’s focus on this one issue for now.

The Pesky 5/24 Rule Makes Sharing Not So Good

As long as you and your spouse have healthy credit and are able to apply for a new card, my answer to card sharing is coverage Nope. My main reason for this is the Chase 5/24 rule which states that you can only open five credit cards in a 24 month period. Chase offers many credit card options, and you’ll want to be able to add Chase cards to your holdings. So you want to choose these five carefully. And if you’re an authorized user on your spouse’s card, that counts.

Chase offers its own Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® cards, as well as Chase Ink Business® cards. It also handles cards from Southwest, United, Marriott, IHG, and Hyatt. With so many credit card options, Chase can be your friend when it comes to opening credit cards. But you have to know the rules and follow them.

It’s also important to note that Chase reviews all credit cards you open, including those handled by other companies, such as the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card from Bank Of America or the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card. ℠ from Citi. And don’t be tempted by store cards or online merchant cards that will give you an instant discount on your purchase. The reward is usually a small dollar amount, but this new card will count towards your limit of five.

Thus, you will want to keep an eye on your five cards and the dates you open them. And sharing a card with a spouse takes one of those five valuable options.

Double sign-up bonuses can double the fun

While credit cards offer several different travel benefits, such as access to airport lounges, the main draw for me is the large amount of travel points you get when you sign up. This is often called the sign-up bonus or SUB. You can collect airline miles (points), hotel credit points or general points which can be converted into hotel points or airline miles. And simple math shows that if you and your spouse apply, your separate cards will result in double the points.

Sign-up bonuses are awarded after spending a certain amount within a certain time. By requesting each of the cards at different times, you can spread out the necessary expenses. You can time your requests before an important trip, a purchase of furniture or the installation of a new roof on your house, for example. Expensive items will help you achieve the minimum spend. Sometimes the expense amount is small enough that you reach it just by buying groceries and gas. There are plenty of ways to meet the minimum spend, so be encouraged to do this – and do it twice if you both want to apply for the same card.

See how two cards are better than one

Here’s a recent example of how having separate cards worked out. Last year, my husband applied for an IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card. IHG includes Kimpton, Holiday Inn, InterContinental, and Ritz Carlton hotels, among others. After 3 months, we reached the sign-up bonus spend* and got Curt’s points in our account. Then I applied. After another 3 months, I got my points*.

* Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

We used Curt’s for a stay at the Kimpton in Santa Barbara. At no cost other than valet parking, we spent two nights at this elegant downtown hotel. The room was spacious with chic decor. And the rooftop patio and pool offered views of the red-tiled rooftops of Santa Barbara and the harbor. This premier hotel would have cost us over $1000 if we had paid cash.

Then, in October, we flew to Washington, DC, and used my IHG® points to stay at the majestic Intercontinental Willard Hotel, two blocks from the White House. We walked to the mall and museums. We loved the chic yet friendly atmosphere of the Willard. And knowing that this hotel is steeped in history dating back to the Civil War made it even more fun for me. Sitting on the terrace having dinner here, we enjoyed a view of the Washington Monument and the Capitol and felt we could stay in the middle of our country’s history – for free.

Our two IHG® cards have helped elevate our trips to stay where we wouldn’t if we had to pay. Due to a little effort spent planning our credit card strategy, including not map sharing – we now have precious memories of both trips.

Often in marriage it is better to share. But not when it comes to credit cards. The possibilities double when you keep your cards separate. So here’s a question to ponder as you embark on planning with points: where do you want to go on your next adventure? And that’s a really fun question to answer!

Credit cards with travel rewards

Editorial Disclosure: The opinions expressed here are those of the author alone, and not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included in the post.