My American Express Credit Card Strategy (2021)

My American Express Credit Card Strategy (2021)

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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 2021. In separate posts I wrote about my Chase card strategy and Citi card strategy.

American Express has lots of great rewards cards — which do I have, why do I have them, and how has coronavirus changed my approach towards Amex cards?

Restrictions On Applying For Amex Cards?

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

Amex Credit Cards Vs. Hybrid Cards

The first thing to understand about Amex cards is the distinction between credit cards and hybrid 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 hybrid card (historically this would have been known as a charge card) doesn’t have a pre-set spending limit, but the big difference is unlike a traditional credit card, this card will allow you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all

Amex Four Credit Card Limit

Generally speaking, American Express limits you to having at most four credit cards. In the past the limit was five cards, but due to the current environment, it seems that limit has been lowered to four cards.

Note that you can still keep five credit cards if you have them already, but you’re unlikely to be approved for a fifth credit card right now. This limit also only applies to credit cards, and not hybrid cards. It doesn’t matter how many of those four cards are personal or business, it’s just all about whether they’re credit 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. Hybrid cards are excluded from this limit.

Once In A Lifetime Rule

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, “lifetime” doesn’t necessarily mean your lifetime or Amex’s lifetime. In some cases people report that limit 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 Amex hybrid cards:

I also have the following five Amex credit cards:

Which Amex Cards Do I Use Most?

For me, the single most rewarding American Express card for spending is the Amex 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 business card for the first $50,000 of non-bonused spending every year.

On top of that I’ve historically quite liked 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

However, with bonus categories on other credit cards having been improved considerably, this card isn’t quite as great as it used to be, in my opinion.

I also use the Amex Platinum Card for airfare purchases, as the card offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or through Amex Travel, on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, 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?

Amex in general has great card perks, so that’s a reason I have a few cards from the issuer. 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 Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex offers each Card renewal year, up to $300 in statement credits for purchases on the Card at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy™. Effective 9/22/22, the $300 Marriott Bonvoy statement credit benefit will no longer be available. It will be replaced with a NEW benefit of up to $300 in statement credits per calendar year (up to $25 per month) for eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide, 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.

On top of that, between the two cards I earn 30 elite nights towards Marriott Bonvoy status annually, which can get you 60% of the way to Platinum status.


Redeem your anniversary free night certificate at the Marriott Kigali

The Amex 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 free 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 annual fee with the perks. The card offers a $200 annual airline fee credit, up to $200 annual Uber cash benefit, $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. 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 Chase 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. In some ways it’s almost frustrating that I’m not able to get more value from such a great card. I guess this really shows you how competitive credit card rewards have become.

Which Amex Cards Do I Want?

Overall I’m quite happy with my Amex card portfolio at the moment, and I’d say I’m doing a good job maximizing the Amex Membership Rewards points I earn, and also taking advantage of Amex card perks.

I recognize that I can’t get any more Amex credit cards right now (since I’m at the limit), though I could potentially get some hybrid cards. The card that most tempts me is the American Express® Gold Card (review), which I consider to be one of the most valuable cards out there. The card has a $250 annual fee (Rates & Fees), and offers the following in addition to a great welcome offer:

  • 4x points at restaurants
  • 4x points at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $25,000 in purchases annually
  • An annual dining credit of up to $120
  • Benefits with Uber (as of February 2021)

I can’t help but feel like this should probably be part of an overall card strategy shift for me, and that I should probably:

I feel like I should shift my strategy and get the Amex Gold Card

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.

To summarize my big picture Amex strategy:

  • I love the 2x points offered with the no annual fee Amex Blue Business Plus Card
  • I’ll continue to hold onto the Amex Platinum Card for the perks it offers (lounge access, a $200 annual airline fee credit, a $100 annual Saks credit, and more), as Amex has done a great job keeping this card relevant during the pandemic
  • The Amex Hilton Aspire Card is probably my favorite Amex card of all, given all the perks that it offers
  • The Bonvoy Business Amex and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex are worth it to me for the perks they offer, including the anniversary free night certificates and elite nights towards status
  • The Amex EveryDay Preferred Card is great for grocery store purchases, but I can’t help but feel like I should probably replace it with the Amex Gold Card
  • 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: American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees), The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees), Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (Rates & Fees), Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card (Rates & Fees), Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (Rates & Fees), and American Express® Green Card (Rates & Fees).

Conversations (10)
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  1. Dan Guest

    I don't think Green + Gold + CSR makes great sense if you are keeping the Platinum, unless you highly value CSR travel protections for non-airline spending (such as rental cars for personal use), and/or get a discount on CLEAR from elite airline status (in which case adding in the credit makes the Green effectively $50 a year payment for CLEAR).

  2. PH Guest

    The Prestige no longer really offers any real value with its primary benefit: the 4th night free. I got rid of mine last year, and direct all my restaurant and grocery spend to the Amex Gold. I also have a Platinum which gets me lounge access. I can't think of any reason to get the Amex Green card, as I don't find CLEAR to be a valuable benefit given that I already have TSA Pre and never wait in line more than 5 minutes.

  3. Jan Guest

    Not specifically an AmEX MR strategy, but I am spending my way to an MQD Waiver for Platinum Medallion status with a Delta AmEX Platinum this year. Already $5k/$25k there, looks like I won't get a whole lot of MQMs and real MQDs by flying this year, just like last year, but the MQM rollover should get me by.

  4. Jason Guest

    Ben,

    Resy.com has a great offer for the Gold card, with 20% dining rebate up to $250.00, offsetting 100% of first year fee.

    Also 60k MR bonus after $4k spend in six months.

  5. Evan Guest

    Why get rid of the Prestige for the Amex gold (instead of having booth)? If you value the points equally, 5 Citi points beats 4 Amex points and I imagine dining makes up a high % of your total spend. Clearly the 4th night free has devalued quite a bit but I imagine theres at least once a year you'd get a benefit from non-points earning hotels you'd get use out of it.

  6. Anthony Guest

    Longer term, I don't see how Amex keeps both the Green and the Gold card; the cards cannibalize each other, and Gold is much better for most people; that said, Amex never gives Gold any of the promotions, so I'm not sure if Amex likes the financial performance of the Gold. I could see it getting devalued

  7. CG Guest

    The Amex Gold is a great family card and the larger the family the better to max out all the bonus category without doing some "artificial spend/gift card/gold coin grift two step." With a family of three, five, six, etc... you max out grocery (4X) and restaurant delivery (4X) very easily for lots of points. Amex Platinum is not a good card for families, especially when you don't travel for work.

  8. O Guest

    I have been blocked by the Amex pop-up for some time. Only have two current cards--one personal (BCE) open more than six years one business (BBP) open for 3.5 years. I spend on Blue plus but not on personal. I haven't opened a new Amex card in nearly 3 years, although I opened and 4 business and 1 personal Amex cards from 2016-2018; all were closed when second annual fee hit. Any advice for how to become eligible for signup bonuses again?

  9. Mike W Guest

    The Aspire should be downgraded to Surpass for at least 1 year as Hilton will still keep you at Diamond until mid 2022 due to pandemic status extension. You can always upgrade once the free extensions end. You will save $355.00

  10. Andre Guest

    The Green card seems like a waste. Dump it, get the Gold Card and move on.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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.

Dan Guest

I don't think Green + Gold + CSR makes great sense if you are keeping the Platinum, unless you highly value CSR travel protections for non-airline spending (such as rental cars for personal use), and/or get a discount on CLEAR from elite airline status (in which case adding in the credit makes the Green effectively $50 a year payment for CLEAR).

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PH Guest

The Prestige no longer really offers any real value with its primary benefit: the 4th night free. I got rid of mine last year, and direct all my restaurant and grocery spend to the Amex Gold. I also have a Platinum which gets me lounge access. I can't think of any reason to get the Amex Green card, as I don't find CLEAR to be a valuable benefit given that I already have TSA Pre and never wait in line more than 5 minutes.

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Jan Guest

Not specifically an AmEX MR strategy, but I am spending my way to an MQD Waiver for Platinum Medallion status with a Delta AmEX Platinum this year. Already $5k/$25k there, looks like I won't get a whole lot of MQMs and real MQDs by flying this year, just like last year, but the MQM rollover should get me by.

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