My American Express Credit Card Strategy (2019)

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.?

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, 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, 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.

So 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. This is a card I use both for the bonus categories, and also for the return it offers on everyday spending. The card offers:

  • 3x points at U.S. supermarkets, up $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

The Amex Platinum Card was a card I used to use for airfare purchases since it offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines, though with the Citi Prestige offering 5x points on all airfare purchases, I’ve switched much of my airfare spending to that card.

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

Lastly, the Amex Platinum Personal Card and Amex Platinum Business Card are historically cards I’ve had for the perks.

However, this year I’m thinking I’m going to be canceling the business card and just keeping the personal card. Why?

  • The annual fee on the business version of the card increased
  • The $200 annual airline fee credits seem to be more restrictive than in the past in terms of what you can use them for

I do still think it’s worth having the personal card for the $200 annual airline fee credit, $200 annual Uber credit, $100 annual Saks credit, access to Amex Centurion Lounges, access to Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta same day, and more.

I value the Amex Platinum Card for Centurion Lounge access

Which Amex Cards Do I Want?

Overall I’m quite happy with my Amex card portfolio at the moment.

I’d note that Ford has the American Express® Gold Card, which offers 4x points on dining globally. This is a card I could get since it’s a charge card, though I don’t feel like it makes sense for me right now. That’s because I earn 5x points on dining globally with the Citi Prestige.

However, for someone who spends a lot on dining and wants to earn Amex points, it’s an excellent option.

I’m at my current Amex credit card limit, so my only other constant consideration is getting a couple of Delta Amex cards, and then spending money on them in order to earn status on Delta.

This is something I keep going back and forth on, but up until now I haven’t pulled the trigger. If I did decide to do that, I’d probably cancel my Amex EveryDay Preferred and one of my Marriott card to make room for two Delta cards.

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:

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 Business Platinum® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees), and Marriott Bonvoy Business Card From American Express (Rates & Fees).

Regarding Comments: 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. Lucky, two ideas for posts if you have some time:

    1) How to spend the Amex Airline credit. I know that tons of people have been writing about how they removed the ability to buy Airline giftcards, but has anybody on FlyerTalk figured out a smart way to get the value out of these credits? I’m sure you follow those forums more than most of us so if you can give some ideas that’d be great.

    2) Amex Gold 4X dining. You mentioned you’re getting 5X on Citi Prestige (me too), but are you planning on keeping the Prestige after next month’s changes? The Amex Gold would’ve been a no brainer for me except for the removal of flexibility to earn back some value with the Airline Credit. Maybe you can do a post comparing the value of the different dining cards? In fact, doing a post on the math/spend required to justify keeping the Prestige would be great too.


  2. It starts with the AMEX Duo:
    Schwab Platinum + Gold
    5x on air travel, 4x on dining and grocery
    MR transfer bonuses, option to redeem MR points at 1.25 cents per points, Delta Sky Club access, Amex FHR, etc
    Uber, Dining, Saks credits
    FHR (just used this benefit recently
    I don’t even care about the airline credits on these cards as I get much more value out of them

    Delta Platinum + Delta Reserve
    Status boost plus companion passes. Delta Reserve overlaps a bit too much with Amex Platinum – I may downgrade this after year 1

    Marriott Bonvoy + Brilliant
    First year with both of these cards – I will see if I get enough value out of both. Will likely get rid of one eventually

    Great card long term – will likely swap one of the Marriott cards for the Aspire at some point

  3. How do you utilize the $450 Amex airline credits (Plat + Aspire), since they don’t honor gift cards expense anymore?

  4. Michael – I don’t know if you consider this “smart,” but I have historically used the Platinum for AAdmirals Club access…

  5. @Lucky – Thanks for sharing. I have few questions want to ask you:

    1. My impression is that you don’t even do too much grocery shopping. Even for Gas, you only earn 3x given the factor that you have to make 30 purchases and there are better cards for gas on earning transferable points. Needless to say that 1.5x everything is just beaten by Amex Blue Business Plus or tie with Chase Freedom/Ink Unlimited The effective annual fee is also higher than Amex Gold ($ 95 vs $ 30). Why not just switch over to Amex Gold

    2. As a travel blogger, I believe your most business expense would be advertisement. Even though Amex Business Gold has a $200 higher annual fee than Chase Ink Preferred. But if you spend more than $11,765 (200 cents / 1.7 cpp), then 4x Membership Rewards Points is more lucrative than 3x Ultimate Rewards Points. And you get 4x on another category. Since you have Chase Sapphire Reserve, the 3x Travel on Chase Ink Preferred is rather not important.

    3. What is the point of having both personal and business Platinum asside from first year signup bonus given that most of the perks are overlapped. Is there particular perk from Biz making you feel justified for $ 595 Annual Fee? For example, I believe you transfer your points to travel partner mostly, so 35% points rebate is useless to you.

  6. @Lucky – I suddenly just remembered something. Is it perhaps you are paid to keep these cards? (Through referral and commission that you are actually giving money to keep these cards up) For example, you can easily max out your referral for 55,000 MR then it’s more than the annual fee.

    But if that’s so, you need to tell us explicitly, or else it may bias we readers thinking it’s smart to have both personal and business Platinum for example.

  7. @Anthony
    Are you saying that you purchase single-visit passes to the AAdmirals Club and charge them to your Platinum card?

  8. Amex EveryDay Preferred Card earns 3.5X at Grocery and 2.5X at Gas – the 50% on 30+ transactions only applies to purchases, not bonuses

  9. For the long term, I pretty much have what I need:

    Schwab Platinum + Gold charge cards
    Blue Biz Plus
    Hilton Aspire
    Amex Bonvoy neé SPG

    I may also drop the Gold card as it really only offers me an incremental 2X on non-Costco food in the US and it’d save me a hefty annual fee.

    Hilton Aspire I can see me keeping it for when I travel a lot but when I don’t travel much, I may end up “parking” it as a no fee Hilton card.

    I currently hold the Bonvoy Brilliant but I find it to be so-so and the 50K free night is nice but I’d rather not have to pay out $450 a year and then have to go find uses to get the $300 back and use the free night.

  10. Charlie – Yes. My main airline is Delta, but I do find myself on American occasionally for work and leisure trips. When I need AAdmirals club access on those trips, I buy single day access with the Platinum.

  11. The 2x on everyday purchases on a $0 annual fee makes the Blue Business plus really tempting, but is this really limited to actual business owners since the application asks for this info?

    Just comparing it to my JAL USA ‘Business’ which didn’t ask for business info at all and I was able to qualify for it. I’ll be cancelling this now since its earnings are pretty bad, but for the one year I had it, it helped me top off my JMB account to get an award flight before a big chunk expired.

    If it matters, I currently have an Amex Gold since breaking down my monthly spend, dining out and groceries were my biggest expenses, and I don’t travel enough to take advantage of credits/bonuses that other cards like the Platinum or Chase cards give.

  12. Your Amex credit card strategy looks very similar to mine. Except I canceled my Platinum cards last year because I didn’t think the perks justified the annual fee.

    Also, in addition to the Hilton Aspire card, I have the Hilton Business card (picked up the points and avoided adding to my Chase 5/24 number) and I have a Hilton Surpass card (recently I upgraded to this from the regular no annual fee card to earn a huge upgrade bonus!)

    Thanks for sharing your strategy, Lucky!

  13. @Jinxd_k the Amex Blue Business Plus is pretty easy to be approved for. Overall, Amex doesn’t seem to be too strict on who gets approved for business cards. Just put yourself as sole proprietor and put your social security number instead of tax ID number. Be truthful too. You shouldn’t have a hard time being approved.

    My 5 Amex cards are:
    – Amex Blue Business Plus: I use this to pay my taxes
    – Amex Bonvoy Business: I only keep this one for the perks and it was one of my oldest cards (since it used to be an Amex SPG business card back in the day)
    – Hilton Honors Surpass: Upgraded from the regular no annual fee Hilton card and received a ton of bonus points for the upgrade. I also manufacture spend of pay taxes to get an additional weekend free night certificate
    – Hilton Honors Aspire: Perks and credits more than make up for the annual fee
    – Hilton Honors Business: I picked up this card to get even more Hilton points and to stay under 5/24.

    I also have the old Amex Gold Rewards charge card (before it was revamped). I called to cancel it but then they offered me 30,000 bonus points if I spent $10,000 in 3 months. I took that offer, kept the card, and paid my taxes with it. 🙂

  14. @Dr McFrugal
    Thank you for the advice. I will give it a try.
    I guess the worst that can happen is I’ll get denied.

  15. I don’t have any of the AMEX charge cards, because I prefer Chase’s more straightforward system; URs; travel partners & portal; & significantly lower AFs. I might make an exception with the revamped Green rollout later this year, however, if it is as lucrative as reported.

    My AMEX credit cards differ from your’s as I also recently got the HH Biz for the extra 130k points + free night(s) as well as the HH Surpass. Such a great card to flesh out HH spend categories + another free night with $15k spend. I am doing a lot of non-bonus spend on my 2 Bonvoy cards with the great promos offered this year on both the Brilliant & Business. Only my CFU can beat the .027 or .0315 on those, but the .045 was capped at $20k spend.

  16. @Lucky, talking of Delta status, I got the Delta Reserve to boost me maintain my Platinum status even more ( l have a Delta Plat Biz too that I used to get status last year) however after spending 30K so as to receive my first 15K MQD boost I received a message of congrats for the milestone however the message said my 15K mqds are available for me to gift to friends or family…however, if I do not gift them they will be deposited in my Skymiles Acc in 90 days…which is 9/13, now I am almost hitting 60K spend but I have to do it by 9/13 before statement closing for me to have a chance having quota 2 MQMs deposited in my account before 12/31…Otherwise I will have to do 2 serious long hauls before December 31st to maintain status. This is really a disappointing policy that will shit out many who bank on spend to get DL status. For me Reserve card just lost value and I don’t plan to renew it next year.

  17. So $2,200 US of fees for zero bonus points?
    At that level of fee investment I would have expected to accumulated close to enough points in bonuses to get my family of three Australia to Europe return.
    Obviously it must work for you though.

  18. Some great strategies from different readers……..AMEX Platinum cards I always get and then I always look up and say why did I get this? AMEX is sorta the bad prom date……….and then I look over in the corner of the gym and there stands the Chase Hyatt card that makes you glad that you are loyal and the benefits for loyalty is lifelong happiness! The flight is only a few hours! The hotel stay is all day……….it’s not rocket science!

  19. @JustSaying LOL
    That is why I finally changed my strategy two years ago from long term United and BA (best for my frequent overseas trips) miles accumulation to hotel points.

    I place much higher value on copious free hotel stays and frequent upgrades to suites with views of e.g., the Golden Gate Bridge, central London, or the Italian Alps, than I do on an occasional free flight in a premium seat for 6-12 hours (acknowledging that lie-flat seats on overnight flights are pretty awesome). Decades of hoarding miles and I got a few free flights for my family and I, over the last decade.

    In contrast, it has not been hard to accumulate massive points and free nights at Marriott, Hilton and IHG (I wish that Hyatt made sense for me), given a combination of a fair amount of travel, card bonuses and spending. And I have already had, in the last two years, several four and five night stays in incredible hotels in the US and Europe, in some cases with multiple rooms, all with points.
    All day bliss in an oceanview suite at an incredible hotel vs being less uncomfortable for a few hours on a plane? Not a hard choice for me.

  20. @Martin W.

    Not sure what you are trying to do but if you wanted the 15k+15k MQM for yourself, you don’t need to wait 90 days. You can gift yourself straightaway.

    LOL too.
    While free nights are good, did you ever do the math DCS likes to lecture about. At the end of the day, what has higher value free flights or free room, do the ROI analysis and see for yourself. How much can my $100 of loyalty gets back to me.

    Suites with a view is great……..for 30 mins and couple of social media post. Having large room is good, but are you fully utilizing the room? Think of it this way, you utilize the same amount of bed space regardless of a standard room or suite. Now how much space you utilize on a coach seat, 105% maybe, what about business class seat, probably 90%+ until you get a EK F suite or EY apartment as your seat.

    I think at the end of the day, the reason people (should) collect airline miles over hotel points is because.
    The smallest airline seat is too small but the smallest hotel room is not that small.

  21. @Eskimo, Thanks very much. For the update. The email I had received from Delta weirded me out… I never thought of login in to see the options available until you responded to my thread. Yes I just logged in and was able to deposit the 15K MQMs into my acc..Phew!! Glad I will be able to maintain Platinum without a sweating it out. I just have to do one long-haul and I will be set until 2021. Thanks very much

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