It seems like every credit card these days has special bonus categories that earn extra points or cash back. Sometimes, those bonus categories change every quarter. If you really want to maximize your credit card rewards, you'd have to sign up for a wallet full of credit cards and keep meticulous notes about which credit card to use where and when.

For those who like simplicity, a combination of just two or three cards can help you get the most credit card rewards out of your spending without having to juggle so much plastic.

A closeup of four bank cards spread out on top of each other.

Image source: Getty Images.

For the frequent flier

Someone who does a lot of travel could do well by combining two of Chase's Ultimate Rewards earning credit cards. The key is to combine a premium credit card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, with an everyday credit card, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited. The card combo allows you to maximize your points on everyday spending and maximize their value upon redemption.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5 times points on every purchase, and the Chase Freedom earns five times points in rotating bonus categories. Each comes with 15,000-point sign-up bonuses after meeting low spending thresholds.

The Chase Sapphire cards earn bonus points on travel and dining spending. Each earn a 50,000-point bonus after meeting the spending requirement, which is one of the best sign-up bonuses available on any card. They also have no foreign-transaction fees, so you'll be covered when you travel abroad. Beware, though -- you can only have one Chase Sapphire card at a time, so be sure to choose the best one for you.

Usually, the no-annual-fee cards from Chase don't allow you to redeem points through Chase's travel portal, or by transferring them to Chase's travel partners. Combining one of the Freedom cards with a Sapphire credit card opens the door for those redemptions.

Another card combo to consider would be either the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card or Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card combined with another Membership Rewards earnings credit or charge card with bonus categories that fit your spending habits. An Amex card combo probably doesn't provide the same perks of higher earning potential and higher redemption value as the Chase combo, but if you value Membership Rewards points more than Ultimate Rewards points, it might work out better for you.

For a little extra cash in your pocket

If you're primarily interested in cash back instead of travel rewards, you'll gain a lot of flexibility deciding which credit cards to choose. Cash is cash, so you don't need to worry about staying in the same family of credit card rewards points.

If you spend a lot of money at grocery stores and gas stations, like most Americans, you might consider the Bank of AmericaⓇ Cash Rewards card, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, or the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. Combine it with a standard 2% cash-back credit card like the Citi® Double Cash Card for a great card combo.

Here's a comparison of three great cash-back credit cards with bonus categories in groceries and gas stations.

 

Bank of America® Cash Rewards

Blue Cash Everyday® Card From American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card From American Express

Cash back at grocery stores

2%*

3%

6%

Cash back at gas stations

3%*

2%

3%

Limit on bonus spending

$2,500 per quarter

$6,000 per year at grocery stores

$6,000 per year at grocery stores

Annual fee

$0

$0

$95

Standard sign up bonus

$150

$150

$200

Notes

Grocery category includes wholesale clubs

   

Data source: Card issuers. *On up to $2,500 of combined bonus category spending each quarter.

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards card stands out for its high cash-back rate for grocery-store and gas-station spending, plus it's sign-up bonus of $150 after spending $500 within 90 days of account opening. The bank's Preferred Rewards Program can increase the cash rewards by 25% to 75%, making cash back at grocery stores/wholesale clubs and gas worth up to 3.5% and 5.25%, respectively.

If you don't have $100,000 in cash and investments that you can transfer to Bank of America to qualify for the highest tier of Preferred Rewards, you may be better off with one of American Express' products. Those cards won't earn bonus cash back if you do most of your grocery shopping at wholesale clubs, though. In that case, the Bank of America credit card may be better, or you may be interested in the Costco Credit Card.

If you expect to be travelling abroad quite a bit and need a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase. It would be a satisfactory replacement for the 2% credit card in the combo above, but you'll have to weigh how much you could earn from that extra 0.5% cash back versus how much you'd pay in foreign transaction fees. Or it can function as the third item in your card combo, and you can use it exclusively for travel abroad.

If you spend more money dining out rather than cooking at home, there's still a good cash-back card for you. The Capital One Savor Dining Rewards credit card earns 3% cash back at restaurants, with no annual fee.

You won't have much reason to use it for spending in other categories, though, if you combine it with a flat 2% everywhere card. The Savor Dining card earns 2% at grocery stores and 1% everywhere else. However, it also doesn't have any foreign transaction fees, so you won't need an extra card if you're leaving the U.S.

A simple wallet, lots of rewards

Finding the right credit card combo for your wallet doesn't have to be hard. There are endless possibilities -- the suggestions above are just a start. But if you focus on the rewards you want and how you spend your money, you'll be able to narrow down the options fairly quickly.

Cash-back credit card combos are very straightforward. Just pick the cards that match your spending the best and supplement it with a card that earns a high cash-back percentage everywhere else.

Maximizing travel points with just a couple of credit cards is a bit trickier, but it uses the same principle. It might pay to research the major rewards programs and find points that match how you'd like to redeem them. Then you can find the card that offers bonus categories in areas you spend the most, as well as one that earns a relatively high number of points everywhere else.

Getting rewarded for your spending is one of the biggest perks of using credit cards. It doesn't have to be complicated, though.

Adam Levy has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends American Express and Costco Wholesale. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.