Simple Three Card Spread Explained

Three Card Spreads can be your savior, especially when you’re first starting with card readings. There are more complex spreads, but baby steps are the most welcoming when you are getting started. I use the three-card spread as a quick way to gain insight into a particular issue, or even just to get some clarity for the day and the tasks ahead of me. 

Many people, myself included when they start out learning Tarot think they need to become experts at the Celtic Cross, but this is not the case. Don’t be afraid to start with the basics. Tarot is not about how complex you make it, and how ‘good’ you are at reading things. It’s more about understanding and connecting to innate intuition. 

While the Celtic Cross is one of the most popular spreads, it can be overwhelming when you first start with your Tarot journey. I’m here to tell you to take it slow, enjoy the ride, and let the Three Card Spread be your friend. 

There are many different layouts for the three-card spread and just as many ways to use it. 

Here’s how you can use the three-card Tarot spread for quick and uncomplicated answers to those burning questions. 

With just three tarot cards, you can get straight to the heart of your question. 

Here’s how to do just that. 

First off, you need a clear idea of what issue you want to address. I ask myself to not only feel the feelings but go a bit deeper and ask what is causing me to feel these feelings. Of course, you can ask the tarot deck about that too- but it will always show you what you already know, even if it’s hidden deep down in your subconscious. 

You can apply the three-card spread for a daily dose of general guidance for the day, or apply it to a particular problem you have in mind. It can be relevant to love, career, finances, family, or a choice you need to make but feel you don’t have access to all the information. 

Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?

Three Card Spread Layouts

Three spread tarot card readings can be done with almost any question in mind. But these are the layouts we can separate them into:

Three Card Spread for Past, Present Future

Three Card Spread for Past, Present Future
Photo credit: Jessica Rosslee

Typically regarding a situation or decision and can also be used for the rest of the layouts too.

Let’s take a look at the past, present, future layout and apply it to a general question. 

After shuffling and cutting your deck, pick the top three cards. Of course, you can pick any three cards out of the deck that you feel inclined to. 

Lay the cards with the first one to your left, the second in the middle, and the third to your right. 

The first card represents the immediate past in regards to the situation or question in your mind. 

The middle card (the second one you picked) relates to the current status of the situation you asked about. It also gives you insight into the lessons you could learn with regard to the question. 

The third card speaks of the near future relative to your question, but most importantly if you continue on the path laid out by the middle path after implementing the lessons. 

Remember that the future card is not necessarily a definitive future- and the future can always be adjusted with a positive attitude but most importantly, following that inner gut feeling that whispers (well let’s be honest sometimes it shouts), here, this way or, mmm, that doesn’t quite sit right. 

Three Card Spread for Love and Relationships

There are various layouts you could use for a three-card spread for love and relationships. 

Three Card Spread for Love and Relationships
Photo credit: Jessica Rosslee

Love Layout One

This first layout provides a generalized idea and insight into the relationship

Card One: You

Card Two: The other person

Card Three: The relationship

Love Layout Two

The second layout explores more along the lines of motives within the relationship. I like this reading as it often forces me to confront gut feelings I have but am not ready to fully face yet.

Card One: what you are looking for from the relationship

Card Two: what your partner (or interest you are thinking of) is looking for from the relationship

Card Three: where the relationship could be heading

Love Layout Three

The third layout also provides some deeper insight into the relationship, but instead of what motivates it deals with nurturing the relationship. This is a great way to spread the love if you want to take care of the relationship and nurture it so that it brings out the best in both of you.

Card One: The things that pull you together

Card Two: the thing(s) that push you apart

Card Three: the thing(s) that you should focus your attention on

Love Layout Four

This fourth layout is a little controversial. Well, not really, but who likes to admit we’re stringing a couple of love interests along, right? Or is that the norm these days? Either way, I don’t like to feel like I am toying with feelings. Remember, with love, karma likes to come around knocking. That’s why I try to figure out my love triads as soon as possible. And what better way than to do that with cards, right?

For this three-card layout, you should keep one love interest in mind with the first card, pull the second card with the second love interest in mind, and the final card pull it with a sense of peace in your heart. If that sounds too hippy-dippy to you, well I must be honest I agree. But, we have all felt that sense of peace- even a high powered logic-minded businesswoman. So go on, you know what I mean. 

Card One: love interest option one

Card Two: love interest option two

Card Three: this card will provide you with information and insight that might help you understand both interests better, and possibly help you make a choice

Three card spreads for love and relationships are certainly very popular, in fact, could there be a subject that people want to know more about? Love has always been the core of many questions for people coming to tarot, but it’s important to remember that tarot does not predict the future, it merely brings to the surface things in your subconscious and shows you what is likely to happen if you follow certain paths and decisions. 

Three Card Spread for Decisions

Three Card Spread for Decisions
Photo credit: Jessica Rosslee

My tarot deck is my trusty sidekick. Need to make a decision? Grab the cards. Need to make a challenging choice? Consult the cards. I have traveled all over the globe, and then some. And you know what I always pack in my suitcase? A deck of cards. Whether it’s a single card to help guide my decisions throughout the day or a three-card spread to get my choices underway, my tarot cards are on all, always. 

These are my favorite three-card layouts for decisions. 

Decision Layout One

This first layout helps me when I need a clearer idea of the decision I need to make. It won’t necessarily tell me what decision I should make, but it helps me to understand myself better concerning the choice at hand. 

Card one: Strengths 

Card two: Weaknesses

Card three: Advice

Decision Layout Two

This second layout is great when I have two conflicting options, and I need guidance on how to choose one of them over and over. 

Card One: one option

Card Two: an alternative option

Card three: how to choose

Remember, it can also be handy to use the general past/present/future layout when consulting the cards on a difficult decision. I do this layout to give me insight into the issue, and then I feel more empowered and able to choose the right path.  

Three Card Spread for Finances

Before I go any further, I need to get something off my chest. Your tarot card deck is not your financial advisor. You can’t give up all sense of financial accountability and when your debit orders bounce at the end of the month throw your hands up exclaiming that your tarot cards made you do it. 

So what can tarot cards do for your finances? Not much in terms of physical things- that’s all you. But, you can consult these layouts to give you guidance, insight, and cautions that will help you make clear decisions.

Three Card Spread for Finances
Photo credit: Jessica Rosslee

Finance Layout One

This first layout is great when you are in a bit of a sticky financial situation and you are looking for some guidance. 

Card One: what you can do about the situation (what you have control over)

Card Two: what you can’t do about the situation (what you don’t have control over)

Card Three: this card could highlight elements about the situation you aren’t sure of, or may not be aware of. Sometimes this can even be a simple timely reminder to have the patience or to exercise caution over an investment

Finance Layout Two

This second layout is a simple one and can offer a clear indication of what you should stop doing, what you should do, and what you should keep doing. 

Card One: Could highlight something lacking, some type of decision you need to make, or what you need to do to gain a little more traction over your finances

Card Two: Perhaps you’re doing something that is preventing you from succeeding in your financial goals. This card highlights where you are getting in your own way.

Card Three: This card illustrates the action or attitude you are already embodying that is helping your financial situation. The third card is saying, yes! Keep this up and you’ll be kept up!

Finance Layout Three

The third layout is another simple layout that helps you form a clearer plan for how to get where you want to be in terms of career and finance. But before you make moves for the future, you need to be grounded in the present. And that’s exactly where the first card in this layout comes in:

Card One: this card reveals where you are with your goals right now or what your present goal is. 

Card Two: this card is showing you the obstacles currently in your path, or highlights what you might encounter along the way. 

Card Three: the third card helps you understand what you need to do to get where you want to be. The third card can also provide you with practical advice on how to overcome the challenge presented with the second card.

Three Card Spread for Family

Card spreads for the family can be used similarly to card spreads for relationships and love interests. For this reason, I am only including one spread for the family. Actually, you could apply this spread to your love interest readings as well. Hold on, this spread is actually great to do for any query you have in mind because it explores a concept we’re all familiar with but also tends to shy away from karma.

Family karma is a tough topic. Sometimes family matters work themselves out, and sometimes it takes a little more digging to find the root cause. Where are these roots found? All too often, they’re rooted (yes, I just said that) in karmic ties. 

Use this three-card spread to understand what karmic issues you need to face, whether in a family matter or a different situation.

Three Card Spread for Family
Photo credit: Jessica Rosslee

Karma Layout

Card one: Karma causing the issue- how the karma is playing out

Card two: sometimes karma is generational or comes from a past life. This second card will draw your attention to a past life connection or generational karmic connection that is relevant for the current situation

Card three: this card offers insight into the purpose of the karmic connection, i.e what can you learn from it. It can also bring to light why you are connected in the present, and what you need to do to close the karmic cycle. 


Question: Is a Three Card Spread only for Beginners? 

Answer: No, the three-card spread can be used by seasoned professionals as well as beginners looking for a stepping stone along their journey. 
It doesn’t matter whether you are a Tarot beginner doing a reading for the first time or a seasoned professional with decades of experience – a three-card Tarot reading will give you the crystal clear insight you need. Seriously, you can get super deep with just three cards.  

Question: What should I use the Larger Spreads for?

Answer: The larger, possibly more daunting, questions, might help if you bust out the bigger spreads like the 12 card, 20 cards,s or even the Celtic cross. 

Question: What Should I Use the Three Card Spread for?

Answer: The three-card spread can be helpful when we need a little reassurance, guidance, or suggestion for a present decision or problem we are facing. I find that the three-card spread is excellent when I want to clear the fog and understand something. For this, I use the past, present, and future styles of reading. This type of reading helps me to understand the reason behind the situation (decisions and choices that led me here), clarifies the present situation with a broader (or higher) perspective, and allows me insight into the possible outcome if I follow the same path or learn using the present card. 

Question: Can the Cards Predict the Future?

Answer: Tarot cards cannot predict the future, and they also won’t give you an obvious answer either. Basically, the cards aren’t there to bear the weight of responsibility- you still have to make the ultimate decision. However, they can help you see things in a new light and clear the waters a bit so you can make a more informed decision.

Question: How to Do a Three Card Tarot Spread?

Answer: There are many ways to read your cards. There are a couple of things to hold your practice together, even if you want to experiment with the way you select your cards. 

First of all, you should remember to clear your cards. This is important when you have been reading your cards for someone else or haven’t used them in a while, or they are new. 

To do this, you can hold the cards in your hand. Take a breath, and clear your mind. It helps if you set up a relaxing space. Sometimes all I do is light a candle by my bedside table, sit cross-legged on my bed, and do the reading from there. This is because my bed is my safe space, the place where I feel most at peace and safe. Choose an area that you are comfortable with. It helps if you touch every card, this can be as simple as running your finger along the side of the stacked cards, or flaying them out and touching every corner. 

As you do this, you can even tap the cards with your first as you think of your intention or question. 

Shuffle the cards. 

If one card jumps out, keep it to the side. When I am shuffling my deck and a card jumps out, I pay attention to the thought that was passing through my mind when it did. Sometimes I see it as overall guidance for the reading, and sometimes I take it as card number one. 

Once you have shuffled the cards, it’s time to cut the deck. There is no rule about when you cut, you just need to feel it. If the cards begin separating into sections then it’s time. But remember, there is no right or wrong. 

You can either spread the cards out and select from there, or you can simply take the top three. 


Three card spreads are one of my favorite ways to get clear and concise guidance on a situation. These spreads are easily adaptable to suit most queries and are great when you have a specific question in mind. But the best part about a three-card spread is its accessibility. I don’t know about you, but when I first started reading cards the long and detailed reading was tricky to do on my own.

If someone was doing the reading for me- great! But on my own? I would get lost in the many cards, what they all symbolized and how to bring it all together in a practical application. With the three-card spread, you can easily remember all the information you’ve received and apply it to the burning question in your mind. 

Okay, one final thing I love about the three-card spread? It can be both general daily guidance as well as a guide for a specific issue. 

Which three-card spread are you using today?

Continue reading:

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