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How couples can earn double the rewards

Allie Johnson

August 4, 2016

Earning, managing and spending rewards as a couple can be trickier than as a singleton, but it also can be twice as rewarding.

That definitely was the case for John Schmoll, who runs the personal finance site Frugal Rules. He recently used rewards to take an anniversary trip with his wife, Nicole, to an all-inclusive resort in Cancún, Mexico.

“Managing your rewards together can help you get more bang for your buck,” says Schmoll.

So, whether you’re just starting to get serious, you’re about to get married or you’ve already tied the knot, consider use these eight steps to plan a rewards strategy for two:

1. Take stock of your situation. First look at where you stand in terms of credit, finances and rewards, says Jacob Lumby, a financial planning expert and founder of the sites Cash Cow Couple and Tightwad Travelers.

“If the plan is to accumulate miles and points as a team, the first step is to get on the same page financially,” he says.

If either or both of you have shaky credit, debt or spending issues, fix these problems before jumping into the rewards game.

“Many credit card strategies require trust in the other person, and no amount of free miles is worth the additional stress and frustration caused by poor money management,” Lumby says.

2. Create a rewards goal together. “If you can agree on how to handle the credit cards together, the next step is developing a travel plan,” Lumby says. “This also requires teamwork and communication.”

“Managing your rewards together can help you get more bang for your buck.”
— John Schmoll,
Frugal Rules

Before you settle on a destination, check to see how much it will cost you in points or miles at the time of year you want to go, Schmoll says. And if you have different ideas about the ideal vacation, take turns picking destinations, he says.

Lumby and his wife, Vanessa, do this by spending a day discussing possible vacation destinations so they can agree upon a place to visit, then look into how to use rewards to help fund it.

3. Shop for the right cards to achieve your goals. Decide together which cards each of you will get, says Ben Mackinnon, founder of Kard, a platform that helps consumers maximize rewards.

Get a card that fits your everyday life but also works for your rewards strategy as a couple, he says. For example, he travels a lot for work, so he got a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which offers two points for each dollar spent on travel and dining out. His girlfriend, who doesn’t travel as much, got a Chase Freedom card that offers extra cash back in rotating quarterly categories.

Both cards offer Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which makes it easy for the two to transfer and redeem points together, Mackinnon says. Some cards allow you to transfer points or miles to certain airline partners, so make sure to get compatible cards.

If your card and your significant other’s cards don’t have any partner airlines in common, you could end up paying out of pocket for one ticket, Schmoll says.

4. Check on rewards transfers. When you’re deciding which cards to get and use, find out if the card issuer allows members of a couple to swap points. Many rewards programs do, but both partners may have to live at the same address, Lumby says.

Other programs don’t allow transfers, which creates hassles for couples, Schmoll says.

For example, the Hyatt rewards program he and his wife used for their anniversary trip to Mexico forbids transfers. So, he and his wife had to call the 800 number together to book a few nights with his points and a few nights with hers.

“It’s a lot easier to manage one pot of points,” he says.

5. Get twice the bonus. If you need points for an upcoming trip, it may make sense for both of you to apply for a card that offers a big sign-up bonus, Lumby says. This strategy can be very effective for hotel stays, where you pay the same number of points regardless of how many people sleep in the room, he says.

However, you’ll have to spend a certain amount on each card in a set time period to get the bonus.

The requirement varies by card, but a typical minimum spend is $3,000 in three months, which means you’d each have to spend about $2,000 a month. However, “once you meet the minimum spending requirement on both cards, you have twice the stash of points to use,” Lumby says.

Before you both apply for a card at the same time, check your budget to make sure you can easily meet the spending requirements on both cards, Schmoll says.

6. Look for deals made for two. Some couples love the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, which allows you to designate one person to fly with you for free for two years when you buy a ticket or get one with rewards.

“For couples, it’s an amazing deal,” Lumby says.

“Our goal is to maximize the rewards on each purchase we make.”
— Jacob Lumby, Cash Cow Couple and Tightwad Travelers

The easiest way to get the companion pass is by signing up for two different Chase credit cards when the sign-up bonus is 50,000 Southwest miles. Spending $10,000 across both cards will earn you 110,000 Southwest miles, which qualifies you to get the companion pass, he says.

The companion pass allowed Schmoll to take his wife to Cancún for free, paying only taxes and fees.

7. Leverage your love for more points. Some cards may offer an extra bonus to new cardholders who add an authorized user. For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers a 50,000-point sign-up bonus, plus an extra 5,000 points for adding an authorized user in the first three months.

If you both get the card and add each other as authorized users, that’s an extra 10,000 points.

However, make sure you can trust your partner with the card, and remember that the primary cardholder is 100 percent responsible for managing the account and paying the bill.

8. Plan your purchases. Milestones such as moving in together or getting married often involve spending a lot of money, Mackinnon says.

In fact, that’s partly why he and his girlfriend decided to meld their rewards strategies when they moved into a New York City loft together. They plan their purchases to take advantage of extra rewards in rotating categories, and they try to make their household and individual purchases through Chase’s online shopping portal to earn extra points, he says.

Lumby and his wife use a Google Docs spreadsheet to keep track of their credit cards, along with the rotating bonus categories for each one. For example, the Discover it, Chase Freedom and Citi Dividend each have 5 percent cash back in rotating quarterly categories, such as gas, groceries or restaurants.

“Our goal is to maximize the rewards on each purchase we make,” he says.

Try these strategies, and you may find that a little teamwork can put you and your significant other on the road to a more rewarding life together — and maybe help you save on your next vacation or romantic getaway.

SEE ALSO: 6 ways to earn airline miles, without an airline card

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