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Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred Was the Missing Piece to My Credit Card Collection

After writing about hundreds of credit cards, these are the three that I've stuck with.

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There are things in the world that were meant to go together -- popcorn and movies, peanut butter and jelly, cheese and wine -- you get the idea. The other things you might not immediately think of are credit cards. Some reward cards are just better together.

My ideal pairing? The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card and the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. And a month ago, I added one more card to my collection -- the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Among these three cards, I can cover my essential purchases like gas and groceries with one of the best cash-back rates on the market, while still earning competitive rewards on other purchases like dining and travel.

Why I originally paired the Blue Cash Preferred and Wells Fargo Active Cash

Both cards provide two of the best rewards programs in their respective categories -- the Blue Cash Preferred is a tiered rewards card focused on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and purchases at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, while the Active Cash is a flat-rate card with no bonus categories. 

The Blue Cash Preferred has one of the highest cash-back rates on the market. It does charge a $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year, see rate and fees), but its rewards quickly eclipse it -- something I can personally attest to. 

I use it every time I need to restock my kitchen or fill up my gas tank and I’ve never once noticed its annual fee. It’s also earning rewards in the background for my streaming subscriptions. I receive cash back in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

Americans spent $5,703 per household on groceries in 2022, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Blue Cash Preferred earns 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). If you spend like the average American, you could earn $247.18 (($5,703 x 0.06) – $95) per year with the Blue Cash Preferred from grocery spending alone. And that’s after subtracting the card’s annual fee.

The no-annual-fee Wells Fargo Active Cash complements nearly every tiered rewards credit card with its flat 2% cash rewards for your purchases, regardless of spending category. It’s a good option to consider if there are any purchases you’re making that you aren’t earning a high return on. 

Both cards also feature introductory APR offers that can help you finance a large purchase and pay it down over time without interest. 

I originally chose the Active Cash to help pay off my taxes without having to worry about interest for a period of time. The Active Cash features an introductory 0% APR for purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 15 months from account opening (then 20.24%, 25.24% or 29.99% variable APR).  I didn’t use the card for purchases until my balance from the tax bill was fully paid off. 

The Blue Cash Preferred’s introductory APR offer on purchases and balance transfers is shorter -- only lasting 12 months from account opening (then 19.24% to 29.99% variable) -- but it’ll still help you avoid interest charges during that time (see rates and fees). 

Each card also features a welcome offer with reasonable spending thresholds. If you can earn the bonuses, your first year with both cards will be even more rewarding. But don’t overspend just for the sake of a welcome bonus.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
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Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

8.1/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
See Rates & Fees Terms apply
Intro Offer
Earn $250 Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual fee
$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
19.24% – 29.99% Variable
Intro Purchase APR
0% on purchases for 12 months
Rewards rate
1% – 6% 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more; 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations; 1% Cash Back on other purchases
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
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Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

8.8/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
$200 cash rewards Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months. Select “Apply Now” to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
Annual fee
20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening
Rewards rate
2% Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
Apply Now
On Wells Fargo’s secure website

Using the cards together

Maximizing the rewards you get from both credit cards is simple:

  1. Use the Blue Cash Preferred to earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit.
  2. Use the Active Cash for other purchases to earn a flat 2% cash rewards.

I use the Blue Cash Preferred for my essential purchases and my Active Cash for everything not covered by the Blue Cash Preferred. Essentially, if I’m not at the grocery store or gas station, the Blue Cash Preferred sits snugly in my wallet while the Active Cash does all the work. 

At the end of the month, I look at how many rewards have accumulated on both accounts. Together, both cards usually average about $70 to $100 or so in monthly rewards. But yours may look different depending on your budget.

How to redeem your rewards

Redemption with both cards is straightforward. The best way to do so is to redeem your cash back or cash rewards for statement credits.

The Blue Cash Preferred has no minimum redemption amount, while the Active Cash lets you redeem your statement credits against purchases of as little as $1. Statement credits lower the overall balance of your account, but they don’t go toward your minimum payment.

The Wells Fargo Active Cash also lets you redeem your rewards for gift cards in increments of $25, from an ATM with a $20 minimum, or into an eligible Wells Fargo checking or savings account. You could also use them for purchases through PayPal. Redeeming your rewards as statement credits or into an eligible bank account will be your best bet.

And now, the Chase Sapphire Preferred

I added a third card to my wallet within the last few months, one that covers two categories that were previously lacking: travel and dining.

The Sapphire Preferred earns 5x points for travel booked through Chase Travel℠, 3x points on dining and 2x points for all other travel. By using it whenever I eat out or travel, I earn enough rewards to cover some of the expense. It also provides an annual $50 hotel credit for hotels booked through Chase (which helps to essentially lower its $95 annual fee to $45 yearly).

This card was especially rewarding on my recent trip to Europe, where I was able to use it for all of my purchases thanks to its lack of foreign transaction fees. I was also able to very nearly earn its welcome bonus with spending for this trip alone.

It’s a great card to be sure, and I’m glad to have it, but it doesn’t quite check all the boxes. I might end up upgrading to the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, a more advanced Sapphire travel card, depending on how much use I get out of the less expensive version.

Other credit card pairings worth considering

The Goldilocks combo of the Blue Cash Preferred and Wells Fargo Active Cash isn’t exactly a rare occurrence. Both cards pair well with other cards, too. Keep in mind, the Active Cash works well with pretty much any tiered rewards card.

  • Blue Cash Preferred and the Chase Freedom Unlimited®: The Freedom Unlimited earns 3% cash back for drugstore and dining purchases -- two categories the Blue Cash Preferred only earns 1% back on -- plus a 1.5% base rate for everything else. Employ a similar strategy as you would with the Active Cash: Use each card in its respective bonus categories, and the Freedom Unlimited as the catch-all card for its higher base rate.
  • Blue Cash Preferred and the Citi Double Cash® Card: The Double Cash is very similar to the Active Cash with its 2% flat cash-back rate (1% when you buy, plus an additional 1% when you pay for those purchases), although it offers fewer perks and doesn’t have an intro 0% APR for new purchases. But if you already have a relationship with Citi or want to get into the Citi ThankYou Points ecosystem, it’s still a good option.
  • Blue Cash Preferred and the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card*: If you’re looking to earn travel rewards with no annual fee, the VentureOne Rewards Card provides 1.25x miles for every purchase. That flat rate is less than the Active Cash, Double Cash or Freedom Unlimited, but the VentureOne’s main benefit is that you can transfer your miles to 18 airline and hotel partners without needing a premium (read: annual fee-charging) credit card. 

The strategy for these card pairings will be the same as it is for using the Active Cash with the Blue Cash Preferred. Use either card where it earns the most.

The bottom line

The Blue Cash Preferred, Wells Fargo Active Cash and Sapphire Preferred are three of the best credit cards you could choose. They all offer a great return on common purchases, have reasonable spending thresholds for their welcome offers and provide several useful perks.


The only downside is that they typically require good to excellent credit to qualify for. If your credit score isn’t in great shape, you might want to improve your credit with a credit-builder or secured card before applying for any of them.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, click here.

*All information about the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Evan Zimmer has been writing about finance for years. After graduating with a journalism degree from SUNY Oswego, he wrote credit card content for Credit Card Insider (now Money Tips) before moving to ZDNET Finance to cover credit card, banking and blockchain news. He currently works with CNET Money to bring readers the most accurate and up-to-date financial information. Otherwise, you can find him reading, rock climbing, snowboarding and enjoying the outdoors.
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