payment types

Savings spotlight: how a San Diego couple missed out on $3,104 in credit card rewards last year

We share how the couple can maximize their rewards by 2.5X using a multiple card payment strategy
Beami Team
8 min to read

Some of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is our list of partners and how we make money. Information is accurate as of 2/14/23 and is subject to change. Visit partner websites for full details.


Travel creates memories that last for a lifetime. And what’s better than earning rewards that you can use to redeem for your dream trip? In this article, we’ll share how a San Diego couple could have earned 2.5 times more - or an additional $3,104 - in credit card rewards last year.

Keep reading to find out how we helped this couple optimize their rewards, and how you can too!


The couple in our case study is interested in redeeming their credit card rewards for travel, and they don’t necessarily have a specific trip in mind just yet. Ideally, they’d like to create a separate fund to apply towards a future trip. They’re looking for an everyday credit card, or credit cards, that help them earn the most towards travel.

Both have excellent credit, which gives them access to some of the most rewarding credit card products on the market. The couple is only willing to pay an annual fee if the rewards are worth it to them, and they are not interested in "credit card travel hacking.” According to them, “ain’t nobody got time for that.”

The couple currently uses just one credit card - the United MileagePlus Select Card - for all of their purchases. The card comes with a $95 annual fee and offers the following cardholder benefits:

  • 3X miles per $1 spent on United
  • 2X miles per $1 spent on Star Alliance flights
  • 2X miles per $1 spent on gas, groceries, dining, and home improvement
  • 1X miles per $1 spent on everything else
  • 5,000 bonus points each anniversary

Where they spent their money in 2022

In order to determine how much the couple earned in credit card rewards in 2022, and how much they could potentially earn using credit card optimization in 2023 and beyond, we must first understand the breakdown of their spend by category. In 2022, the couple spent a total of $126,290 across these categories:

  • Automotive: $1,376
  • Bills & Utilities: $1,008
  • Entertainment: $9,526Food & Drink: $25,137
  • Gas: $512
  • Groceries: $8,815
  • Health & Wellness: $22,565
  • Home: $1,284
  • Other: $5,278
  • Personal: $19,134
  • Shopping: $24,931
  • Travel: $5,336

Credit card rewards analysis

Overall, the couple earned $1,976.44 in rewards using their United MileagePlus Select Card, which equates to a 1.5% net rewards rate. This is their baseline, or what they actually earned last year. We arrived at these numbers by looking at the couple’s transactions, line by line, and multiplying the purchase amount by the rewards rate assigned to each category per the card benefits outlined above.

Earning 1.5% back in rewards is not bad, but, by using a different mix of cards, they could have earned much, much more. Below, we outline how much this couple could have saved, by using either a multiple card strategy or a single bank card strategy. Let’s get into it!

Multiple card strategy

By using a multiple card strategy - or paying using a combination of cards that earn the highest rewards rate for the couple’s highest spend categories - the couple could have earned $4,980 in net rewards (a 3.77% net rewards rate) in year 1. This means they left $3,003.56 on the table last year! 

Based on the couple’s spending patterns and their goals, their ideal mix of credit cards based on their high spend categories are:

AMEX Blue Cash Preferred

  • 6% back on groceries (up to $6k) and streaming
  • $250 new account bonus (if you spend $3k or more within the first 6 months)
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95

Savor Rewards from Capital One

  • 4% back on dining and entertainment
  • $300 new account bonus (if you spend $3k or more within the first 3 months)
  • $95 annual fee

SoFi Credit Card

  • 3% back on all purchases for the 1st year (w/ direct deposit), 2% thereafter
  • $50 new account bonus for deposits $1k-$4,999, $250 for deposits $5k+
  • $0 annual fee

Please note that the new account sign up bonuses account for $550 of the incremental rewards earned in year 1 (this excludes the SoFi new account bonus they don’t wish to take advantage of). This is why opening new cards, if managed responsibly, can make you some serious extra cash.

Also, SoFi only offers 3% back on all purchases for the first year if you set up direct deposit through SoFi. The SoFi rewards rate reverts to 2% back on all purchases after the first year. 

In year 2, the AMEX and Capital One new account bonuses will no longer apply, and the couple would earn 2% back on all non grocery, streaming, dining and entertainment purchases using the SoFi card, earning the couple $3,584.16 in net rewards (a 2.71% net rewards rate) in year 2. This is still $1,607.72 more than the couple earned in 2022!

Note: If you don’t wish to set up direct deposit with a new bank, and you’re willing to forgo the extra 1% back in year 1, these 2 cards both also offer an everyday 2% back on all purchases:

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card:

  • 2% cash back on all purchases
  • $200 new account bonus (if you spend $1k or more within the first 3 months)
  • $0 annual fee

Citi Double Cash Card:

  • 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% back when you buy, 1% when you pay
  • 0% Intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers (3% fee applies)
  • $0 annual fee

Single bank strategy

By using a single bank strategy, the couple can stay with one bank, allowing them to plan travel and redeem their rewards more easily. This approach would net them slightly less overall rewards, but they still could have earned $4,417 in net rewards (a 3.34% net rewards rate) in year 1 with these 2 Capital One cards:

  • 4% back on dining and entertainment
  • $300 new account bonus (if you spend $3k or more within the first 3 months)
  • $95 annual fee
  • The equivalent of 5% back on hotels and rental cars, 2% back on everything else
  • $750 (or 75,000 miles) new account bonus
  • $95 annual fee

The result

Ultimately, the couple decided to opt for the multiple card strategy and maximize their rewards, even if it requires them to spend a little bit more effort applying for accounts with different banks, and setting up direct deposit with SoFi to earn the maximum 3% rewards rate. We can’t guarantee that the couple will spend the same amount on the same categories next year, but if they do, they’ll earn $4,980 in net rewards to apply towards their dream vacation. Not bad for simply applying for a few new credit cards!

Note: We recommend that the couple open up 1 card every 3 to 6 months to reduce the temporary impact to their credit score.

The couple also wanted to consolidate their cash back rewards into one place so they could essentially create a travel “sinking fund” with their rewards. To do this, we recommended the following:

  • Open a SoFi High Yield Savings Account (the current rate is 3.75% APY!)
  • Transfer the SoFi Card cash back rewards to the SoFi HYSA account each month
  • Redeem the cash back rewards earned through AMEX Blue Cash Preferred and Capital One Savor Rewards accounts as a statement credit. 
  • Each statement cycle, transfer the AMEX and Capital One statement credit amounts to the SoFi HYSA account
  • Note: This is a proposed workaround. You can only redeem AMEX and Capital One cash back rewards as a statement credit. Thus, we recommend transferring the savings you redeemed as a statement credit to your HYSA account.

By doing this, the couple will have a travel sinking fund, all in one place, that earns interest on the balance while they decide where and when they want to take a trip!

Why not earn travel points?

While travel credit cards offer rich sign up bonuses and great rewards on travel-related purchases, they generally offer lower rewards on everyday purchases and can come with a steep annual fee. Travel credit cards are great if you currently travel a lot, and you’re willing to do the work to “travel hack” to get flights and hotels for reduced points and miles.

Otherwise, cash back options can be more rewarding overall because they can offer richer rewards on everyday spend categories. Their rewards programs are also usually easier to understand.

Find out how much you can earn

It's clear that the San Diego couple left money on the table when it comes to their credit card rewards.

Have you?

If you're interested in maximizing your credit card rewards, we can conduct a free personalized spending assessment and analyze your current spend and current rewards rate. We’ll tell you whether you’re fully maximizing your rewards based on your spend; and if you’re not, the best mix of payment options that align with your goals.

To get started, simply fill out our quick survey and link your accounts, or send us your spending data via a spreadsheet or our credit card spending tracker. Please note that we will never ask for your personal information to run the analysis.

Within 1-2 days, we'll share your results and help you determine the best credit card strategy for your needs.


Maximizing your credit card rewards is a smart way to travel for free and earn extra rewards. With just a little bit of planning, you can get a lot more value on purchases you currently make everyday!

Get updates and
tips in your inbox