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:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (review), which has a $550 annual fee (Rates & Fees)
- American Express® Green Card (review), which has a $150 annual fee (Rates & Fees)
I also have the following five credit cards:
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (review), which has no annual fee (Rates & Fees)
- The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express (review), which has a $95 annual fee
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (review), which has a $450 annual fee (Rates & Fees)
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (review), which has a $450 annual fee
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (review), which has a $125 annual fee (Rates & Fees)
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?
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:
- 3x points on dining and travel, much like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review)
- A $100 annual CLEAR credit
- A $100 annual LoungeBuddy credit
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.
- 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).