5 Sets Of Credit Cards That May Appear To Be Substitutes, But Aren’t

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Many times credit card issuers introduce multiple versions of a card, in hopes of going after as many types of consumers as possible. Sometimes the benefits on the cards overlap, while other times they don’t. For example:

  • The $99 annual fee JetBlue Plus Card comes with all the same benefits (and much more!) as the no annual fee JetBlue Card, so there’s not much benefit to having the no annual fee version if you have the premium version
  • There’s not a ton of value in having the $95 annual fee Citi Premier℠ Card when you have the $450 annual fee Citi Prestige® Card, since the benefits mostly overlap (though not completely)

However, in this post I figured I’d look at five sets of cards that may on the surface appear to be substitutes, but are actually complementary to one another, in my opinion. In no particular order:

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

While the personal and business version of the card have largely overlapping benefits, there’s one key benefit to having both. Specifically, each card offers two elite qualifying stays and five elite qualifying nights towards status annually. That benefit on both cards stacks, meaning that having both cards gets you four elite qualifying stays and 10 elite qualifying nights towards status annually. If you’re looking to earn Starwood status, that’s a huge boost.


If you’re going to have just one of the cards, though, go for the business card. That’s because it offers lounge access when staying at Sheraton properties.

The SPG Business Amex comes with lounge access at Sheraton properties

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

While the Executive Card has a $450 annual fee and is the premium version of the $99 annual fee Platinum Card, there’s a key benefit to having both. The Platinum version of the card offers a 10% refund on redeemed miles, for a total refund of up to 10,000 miles per year. Since I redeem at least 100,000 American miles per year, that card is worth holding onto, since it’s like buying miles for 0.95 cents each.

The Executive Card doesn’t offer that benefit, though does come with Admirals Club access for the primary cardmember and all authorized users, so is a useful card to have as well.

The Citi Executive AAdvantage Card comes with access to Admirals Clubs

The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card and  Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

The $95 annual fee Business Preferred is the premium version of the Business Cash, though the benefits are quite different. The Ink Cash offers 5x points on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year. That’s a huge reward for those categories, especially for a no annual fee card.

Meanwhile the Business Preferred offers 3x on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. The card also comes with several other perks, like an amazing cell phone coverage plan and primary collision damage waiver coverage on rental cars.

So if you can get both cards, it can definitely make sense to have them, especially given that one card has no annual fee.

Car-Rental-AccidentGet primary collision damage waiver coverage on car rentals with the Ink Preferred

The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Both of these cards have a high annual fee ($550 for the Personal Platinum and $450 for the Business Platinum), and the benefits largely overlap, including a $200 annual airline fee credit, as well as access to Centurion Lounges, Delta SkyClubs, Boingo Hotspots, and more.

However, each card has a key benefit that potentially makes both cards worth holding onto, depending on your spend patterns:

  • The Personal Platinum Card offers 5x points on airfare, which is a huge bonus category for many of us
  • The Business Platinum Card offers a 35% rebate when using Pay With Points, which is potentially an opportunity to redeem your points for 1.35 cents each towards the cost of a ticket

Given how much I spend on airline tickets and also how many Amex points I have, this would make both cards worth holding onto for someone like me. Everyone will have to crunch the numbers for themselves, though.

The 35% off Pay With Points redemption can be great for booking discounted business class tickets

The Chase Freedom® Card and Chase Freedom Unlimited®

These are both no annual fee Chase cards that earn cash back on the surface, though in conjunction with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardInk Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, etc., those points can be converted into premium Ultimate Rewards points. Why do I love having both of these cards?

  • The Freedom Card offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, on up to $1,500 of spend per quarter; this is a great way to earn 7,500 points per quarter quite easily
  • The Freedom Unlimited Card offers 1.5x points per dollar spent on everyday purchases, so is a card I use for purchases that aren’t otherwise eligible for bonus categories, along with the The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express

Bottom line

There are many similar cards out there that are indeed substitutes and not complements. However, there are also plenty of other card pairs that appear similar on the surface — whether it’s the personal and business version of a card, basic and premium version of a card, etc. — that are worth holding onto.

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  1. $100 statement credit on JetBlue Vacations with the Plus card. 6x points vs.1x on JetBlue purchases. Free checked bag. All of these are with the Plus version, not the regular. CMIIW.

  2. Disagree a bit on the prestige/premier duplication — I use both, and Premier can definitely pay for itself when you compare the travel 3x points differences — e.g., pay for a $3k cruise with premier, and the extra 6k points you earn essentially cover the fee. Also, I could be wrong, but I think the premier has better rental coverage, but haven’t looked in a while.

  3. @Dan, credit card referrals are part of how Lucky pays for the content on this blog. Nobody is forcing you to read them and this is effectively how you “pay” for what you do read.

  4. denied app after reconsideration for ink preferred. need documentation on tax EIN, won’t accept personal SSN. seem like they are cracking down since the info was the same when i applied for the regular ink a couple years ago and they had no problem (did go through your link though)

  5. Hey Lucky, I’ll keep it short. You are so wrong on JetBlue Cards. You didn’t do your homework…I am shocked!!!

  6. @ Emmanuel Ruiz — Maybe I didn’t phrase what i wrote correctly. What I was trying to say is that if you have JetBlue Plus Card, there’s no reason to have JetBlue Card. It’s absolutely worth having the Plus Card, but if you do, you shouldn’t hold onto JetBlue Card as well, as there’s no benefit to doing so.

  7. The Citi Aadvantage Executive World Elite Master Card comes with an Admirals Club MEMBERSHIP, not just access.

    Membership means you can access an Admiral’s Club at any time, with no regard as to which airline you are flying that day.

    Access means you can enter an Admiral’s Club only if you are flying on an American Airlines itinerary.

  8. Perhaps I’m naïve, but how does one get a business card (be it SPG AMEX Business, or AMEX Platinum Business, etc., etc.) when one does not own a business?

  9. I’d love to see the math behind you justifying a second $250 net fee for a second Amex Plat card, whether business or not business. You’d have to redeem a lot of 50% points redemptions to get your $250 back.

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