My American Express Credit Card Strategy (2020)

Filed Under: American Express, Credit Cards
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There are lots of aspects to maximizing your credit card strategy, including taking advantage of the best welcome bonuses, spending categories, and card perks.

Sometimes I think it’s interesting to break down credit card strategies by card issuer, so in this post I wanted to share my American Express card strategy for the year, given that they have lots of great rewards cards. Which cards do I have, which do I spend money on, etc.?

This follows me sharing my Chase credit card strategy in a previous post.

Restrictions On Applying For Amex Cards?

American Express has some rules in place when it comes to being approved for their cards. Let’s take a look at what those are, as they impact your approval odds, and also can help you decide on the best strategy for applying for their cards.

Credit Cards Vs. Charge Cards

The first thing to understand about Amex cards is the distinction between credit cards and charge cards:

  • A credit card has a credit limit, and you can finance charges over time if you want to (though you should avoid doing so unless there’s a special offer, given the high interest rates charged)
  • A charge card doesn’t have a pre-set spending limit, but you can’t finance charges over time

Five Credit Card Limit

Generally speaking, American Express limits you to having at most five of their credit cards (update: it appears that this limit may have been lowered to four), though this limit doesn’t include charge cards. It doesn’t matter how many of those are personal or business cards, but rather just whether they’re credit cards or charge cards.

Two Amex Cards Every 90 Days

You typically can’t be approved for more than two Amex credit cards in any 90 day period. Again, that doesn’t include charge cards.

Once In A Lifetime Rule

Lastly, it’s worth understanding that American Express welcome bonuses are all “once in a lifetime,” meaning that you can’t earn the bonus on a given card more than once.

However, do note that “lifetime” doesn’t necessarily mean your lifetime or Amex’s lifetime. In some cases people report that resetting after you haven’t had a card in seven years, though that’s not a published policy.

Which American Express Cards Do I Have?

At the moment I have seven American Express cards.

I have the following two charge cards:

I also have the following five credit cards:

Which Amex Cards Do I Use Most?

For me, the single most rewarding American Express card for spending is the Blue Business Plus Card. This no annual fee card offers 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent every calendar year, and it has no annual fee.

I consider this to be the single best card for the first $50,000 of non-bonused spending every year.

On top of that I also quite like the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card, which has some great bonus categories, as it offers:

  • 3x points at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year
  • 2x points at U.S. gas stations
  • A 50% points bonus when you make at least 30 purchases per billing cycle

That means if you make 30 transactions per billing cycle you earn:

  • 4.5x points at U.S. supermarkets
  • 3x points at U.S. gas stations
  • 1.5x points on everyday purchases

I also use the Amex Platinum Card for airfare purchases, as the card offers 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare purchases, and also offers great travel protection on those purchases. I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so that’s like an 8.5% return on airfare spending.

I earn 5x points on airfare with the Amex Platinum

Which Amex Cards Do I Have For The Perks?

I have the Bonvoy Business Amex because it offers an anniversary free night certificate valid at a property costing up to 35,000 points per night, which to me more than justifies the annual fee.

Then the Bonvoy Brilliant Amex offers a $300 annual statement credit for purchases at Marriott properties, as well as a free night award valid at properties costing up to 50,000 points per night, which combined more than justify the $450 annual fee.

Redeem your anniversary free night certificate at the Marriott Kigali

The Hilton Aspire Card is also one that I have for the perks, and at this point is the Amex card that I find to have the richest benefits. The card offers Diamond status for as long as you have the card, a $250 airline fee credit every calendar year, a $250 Hilton resort credit every cardmember year, and a weekend night reward every cardmember year as well.

I’ve used my Hilton resort credit at the Conrad Bora Bora

While I use the Amex Platinum Card for airfare purchases, I largely justify the $550 annual fee with the perks. The card offers a $200 annual airline fee credit, $200 annual credit, $100 annual Saks credit, access to Centurion Lounges and Delta SkyClubs, and more.

I value the Amex Platinum Card for Centurion Lounge access

Where Does The Amex Green Card Fit Into This?

The Amex Green Card was relaunched in 2019, and is a card I picked up late in the year. This is such a fantastic card, though I haven’t figured out how exactly it fits into my strategy. The card has a $150 annual fee, but offers:

Use your LoungeBuddy credit for the Plaza Premium First Lounge

For someone looking for a simple credit card strategy that minimizes annual fees, I think this is a brilliant alternative to the Sapphire Reserve.

However, in my case this isn’t a card I’m putting much spending on yet. As of now this is a card I’m roughly breaking even on, as I value the $100 CLEAR credit at face value, and the LoungeBuddy credit at maybe 50% of face value.

I’ll hold onto the card to see if there are any good Amex Offers deals, and then will decide how this card fits into my overall strategy in the future.

Which Amex Cards Do I Want?

Overall I’m quite happy with my Amex card portfolio at the moment. I’d say I’m doing a good job maximizing my Amex Membership Rewards points, so there’s not a whole lot I can do there.

I’d love to pick up a Delta Amex card or two, especially as the cards currently have increased bonuses, though I’m also at the five card limit. That means I’d have to cancel an existing card, which I’m not really prepared to do.

Delta has some great card bonuses at the moment

Amex Card Strategy Summary

At this point I think I have a pretty good mix of Amex cards in terms of some cards helping me maximize my spending, and other cards helping me maximize my perks.

Big picture:

  • I love the 2x points offered with the no annual fee Blue Business Plus Card
  • I’ll continue to hold onto the Amex Platinum Personal Card for the perks it offers (lounge access, a $200 annual airline fee credit, a $100 annual Saks credit, and more), though not the business version
  • The Hilton Aspire Card is probably my favorite Amex card of all, given all the perks that it offers
  • The Bonvoy Business Amex and Bonvoy Brilliant Amex are worth it to me for the perks they offer, including the anniversary free night certificate
  • The Amex Green Card is objectively awesome and underrated, I just need to figure out how it fits into my strategy

How does your Amex card strategy compare to mine?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees), Marriott Bonvoy Business Card From American Express (Rates & Fees), Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (Rates & Fees), and American Express® Green Card (Rates & Fees).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
  1. I put the vast majority of my spend on Amex… First a few comments on your strategy:

    1) You don’t appear to spend money on the Bonvoy cards, and the only perks you get are free nights – not enough to really keep the cards in my opinion (you don’t save that much money). I would drop one or both.
    2) Replace the Bonvoy cards with the Delta cards
    3) The reason that you aren’t using Amex Green a lot is because you continue to spend on other cards for those bonus categories. Amex Green only really works as an intro card for those that aren’t using CSR, Citi Premier/Prestige or some other card. This is why Amex Gold is a better card in my opinion – it is a top points earner for dining and grocery.

    My Amex cards are:
    Amex Schwab Platinum (benefits, airfare, random stuff)
    Amex Gold (dining/grocery)
    Delta Platinum and Reserve (Status Boosts)
    Bonvoy Brilliant (hotel spend)
    Getting the Hilton Aspire soon

    The keepers for me are the charge cards, I am adjusting the credit card strategy. I like to have at least one Marriott, Hilton and Delta card, the trick is to figure out which ones make the most sense

  2. Hello. I read both of your Chase and Amex posts. How do you decide where to put your spending? Using the green card as an example, from a bonus point perspective, they are the same. To me it would seem arbitrary and confusing to know what to use in that circumstance. I often don’t know where my travels will take me to make a strategy far in advance

  3. Currently have:

    Green – Got it before the refresh and just waiting for a platinum upgrade offer. If I don’t see one in a year will cancel.
    Gold – had since it was the PRG and use for groceries. Now use it for dining as well sometimes – based on my MR/UR balances dining goes back and forth with Reserve.
    Platinum – airfare, lounges
    Platinum Ameriprise – picked up for the 60k bonus and will cancel before the forced migration to regain some of the annual fee
    Business Platinum – picked up for 100k bonus and WeWork – will cancel after a year.
    Marriott – Never use, keep for the FNA
    Marriott Brilliant – Used for cash stays & on-site food, FNA
    Marriott Business – Have had a recurring FedEx offer that keeps popping back up, plus FNA. With the higher annual fee and the Marriott devalue this might get dropped.
    Blue Cash Everyday – Oldest card I have
    Blue Business Plus – All non-bonus spend.

  4. Perhaps odd; but this is the first year in a decade I have not booked flights or cruises (and even cancelled 2 due to trade show cancellations related to the coronavirus). However, I had upgraded to the Amex Delta Reserve card; and oddly this assures me of some Elite status even if I don’t get on a single flight this year (which won’t be the case). So strange coincidence, but this is the first year that both business necessity and personal precautions worked-out with a normally overly priced Card, since I am Lifetime Executive SkyClub anyway. So I haven’t seen Reserve mentioned as a ‘status insurance policy’ during the possible pandemic hunkering-down; but isn’t it just that?

  5. Ben. I think you should make people aware of the AmEx policy of denying people bonus points when they apply for new cards. Any not just applying for the same card. I was approved for the Aspire card and then denied the bonus Hilton Honors points. AmEx refuses to provide a specific reason, saying it was based on my past history with AmEx. For the record I only have 3 cards and cancelled 1 about 4 years ago. So buyer beware.

  6. @Anthony. Thanks for this comment: “You don’t appear to spend money on the Bonvoy cards, and the only perks you get are free nights – not enough to really keep the cards in my opinion (you don’t save that much money). I would drop one or both.”

    I have both AMEX Bonvoy and AMEX Business Bonvoy; I have been keeping the cards for the 35K free night certs but haven’t considered it from your perspective. Will drop the Business one. The Bonvoy (old SPG) is my oldest credit card (25+ years) so will keep that one.

    Another approach is to upgrade SPG/Bonvoy to Brilliant; Brilliant has $300 credit for Marriott stays and with the 50K free night cert, I could make it a 2-night at a nicer property than two 35K certs. Some thing for me to consider.

  7. Over the years, I’ve gone back-and-forth between the gold card and the platinum card, but ultimately decided on the Gold card. You can accrue more points with everyday spend then you can with the platinum card, which racks it up with travel spent. I Don’t think the platinum card to giveS you the same bang for the buck given the annual fee. I also carry the Hilton aspire card, which is, yes, awesome, the Delta card which I really don’t use much and I am considering terminating as I’m a United devotee, the Marriott Bonvoy platinum card which I’m uncertain about also because it gives you only Gold status which I already have lifetime due to previous earnings, and otherwise I don’t think it gives you much to make it worthwhile. I’m moving more towards hyatt and Hilton as the main brands of hotels that I search for first, as well as IHG properties especially Kimpton and IntercoNtinental because I am an ambassador and have Spire Elite status. I carry the Chase IHG and World of Hyatt cards as well as United Explorer Visa cards.

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