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. Which cards do I have, which do I spend money on, etc.?

How many American Express cards can you have?

The first thing to understand about American Express 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

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.

On top of that, 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.

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.

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, but at this point I put those purchases on the Citi Prestige Card, since it offers 5x ThankYou points on airfare, and also offers excellent travel protection.

Which Amex cards do I have for the perks?

Nowadays I have both the Bonvoy Business Amex and Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card exclusively for the free night awards they offer on their account anniversaries every year. These can be redeemed at properties retailing for up to 35,000 points per night, and I find those can fairly easily be redeemed for properties costing $200+ per night. So those cards are keepers.


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, given that the annual fee on the business card is increasing to $595, without adding any benefits that are meaningful to me (the card will offer a complimentary year of access to WeWork, though that’s not something I’d personally use).

I value the Amex Platinum Card for Centurion Lounge access

Which Amex cards do I want?

Of the Amex cards I don’t have, there’s really only one card I’m potentially interested in at this point. That’s the Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Card, which has a $450 annual fee and offers a $300 annual statement credit for eligible purchases at participating Marriott properties, as well as an anniversary free night certificate valid at a property retailing for up to 50,000 points per night.

I value the $300 credit more or less at face value, so to me it’s like paying $150 per year for a night at a property costing up to 50,000 points, which I’d say is worth it, but isn’t a game changer.

I think at some point I’ll cancel one of the other SPG Amex Cards that I have in order to be able to get this.

Bottom line

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)
  • The Hilton Aspire Card is probably my favorite Amex card of all, given all the perks that it offers

How does your Amex card strategy compare to mine?


Non-Affiliate Product Disclaimer: The information for The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, and Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Card has been collected independently by One Mile at a Time. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), 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.

Comments

  1. It appears that you are paying $1,000 a year for two platinum cards you dont use. Why? How are the crowded centurion lounges valuable when youre usually in the airline lounge anyway?

  2. Mine is similar. Though I’m more simple and only have the Platinum, Everyday, Blue and Hilton Aspire card. Which do you value more though, Amex points or Citi Thank You points?

  3. I’ve always wondered if I can get a bonus for one of the SkyMiles cards if I’ve already had one in the past? I used to have the gold one and am considering applying for the reserve card. Will is still receive the bonus? (also feel free to jump in if anyone knows of a better card for earning SkyMiles)

  4. @SJ

    That goes by invitation only. I got an invitation but ignored it as the non-US card does not offer much more than the regular platinum while the annual fee was a LOT higher. ron

  5. @Ben – Re: the WeWork membership, I recently got a free “On Demand” membership, which is normally $45/month and presumably what’s included with the Amex. It was a gift from a client, and I initially thought I’d get no value out of it.

    I also run a company and travel a lot for work and pleasure (like you), and have found myself using the free day every single month. They’re everywhere! I’ve used London, Tel Aviv, Miami, Minneapolis, Mexico City, etc. Super easy to book through the WeWork app, and I always find the days to be really productive. Could be a great option for you to get out of the hotel and go bang out a day in an “office” once a month.

  6. Curious why not Gold card instead of the Everyday preferred? If you maximize the airline and dining credits, it is just $50 a year vs $95 for the Everyday for 4x on groceries vs 3x (or 4.5 with 30 transactions per billing cycle, which to me seems very difficult to meet).

  7. @ Mishas
    Start paying for your grocery purchases per item and 30 transactions would be made in a two weeks 🙂

  8. I just dropped the Biz Plat before the AF hike. I’m still sitting on personal Plat and Gold and EDP, SPG Personal, SPG Biz, Delta Plat and Hilton no-AF. I really want BBP and Aspire and I don’t fly Delta much so that may go out so BBP can come in and then I can just bump no AF Hilton to Aspire. I’ve been holding out for an upgrade bonus but not sure if it’ll ever come around.

  9. I treat all my cards like charge cards. Pay them off at the end of each billing cycle. I think this is why I always recommend the Amex charge cards as a great intro card for miles/points beginners.
    Mishas brought up a good question. I have the Gold card since I think the combinations of maximizing airline credits, dining credits, and amex offers (cashback) I would use anyways pays off the annual fee easily.

  10. Charge:
    Platinum (100k CardMatch signup late 2017)
    Gold (Got 50k signup on PRG, love the refresh!)
    Green (25k bonus, will cancel if rumored refresh doesn’t happen soon)

    Credit:
    Blue Cash Everyday (my oldest account – 12 years – so that’s staying open)
    SPG
    SPG Business (glad I got both these before the new Marriott rules)
    SPG Luxury (grabbed in the three day window before the new rules took effect)
    Blue Business Plus

    That’s my five, don’t see it changing for a few years – unless Marriott ruins the free award nights somehow!

  11. It sounds like you don’t use the Bonvoy (haha sorry I had to, I mean SPG) branded cards for hotel spend? Where are you putting this spend for SPG/Marriott properties?

  12. Lucky, upgrade offers are around again for regular SPG to Luxury SPG, may be worthwhile to check again. I got the 50k bonus point offer for $2,500 spend. I know it’s not as good as the current sign up bonus, but I went with the upgrade strategically to avoid a new card sign up right now.

  13. @mudba

    He was an AU on his father’s card. Back then they counted that, they no longer do. Member Since now refers to the year you get your own card.

  14. My strategy is fairly simple with Amex Platinum: Airfare
    Gold: restaurants and groceries
    Biz blue: everything else
    Was using the AEP for a while and Dust downgraded it to the free version. Not sure how much I’ll use it anymore but like the Amex offers.

    Only cards I put any other spend on is CSR for hotels and Int’l travel and the citi Costco for gas.

  15. @Lucky, it would be really interesting if you’d write an article with information, maybe even some inside information, about the American Express Centurion card. Have you ever been invited? Has anyone shared his/her experience with the card with you?

  16. If you take cruises on Silversea, the $300 on board credit and the bottle of Dom Perignon for EACH cruise you book makes the Amex Platinum card the best. We also like the $200 airline credit and some of the other perks it affords us.

  17. Lucky when are we going to see some reviews It has been a month since your last and you have lots of reviews to post this TPG publish reviews just about every day and their actually aren’t too bad maybe more TPG and less OMAAT

  18. Amex Plat – For perks only, very little spend. I book flights with CSR
    Amex Gold – Groceries, gas (2x until my next annual fee), and dining I think will code correctly
    Business Blue – Non-bonus spending

  19. I have:
    Amex business plat – I want to hear more about these benefits since maybe I will need to purchase a new computer monitor from dell this year and wework might be worthwhile if membership includes conference room use, otherwise this card is on the chopping block. I don’t see myself keeping this card unless I get a strong retention offer.

    Amex everyday – I keep this since a no AF card although it gets no use.

    Hilton ascend – I only have this card because I had downgraded it then they gave me an upgrade. I don’t see myself spending 15k on this card for a free weekend night so it will likely go once AF hits. I may downgrade to see if they give me another upgrade offer though.

    hilton aspire – In the first year with the card. Its pretty much paying for itself so as long as they keep the benefits I may very well hold on to this card

    amex gold – this card gets all my grocery and restaurant spend as long as they keep the earning rates the same I will likely keep this card long term

    amex business blue plus- definitely a keeper its no AF and gets all my non-bonus spending.

  20. @Lucky So, you had luck in getting your Hilton resort credit back on your statement very soon. I believe you said in three days. I still have yet to get mine back and it has been a month. Although, I have talked to AMEX twice, they keep insisting it has to be 8-12 weeks before they can do anything. I know that is stated in the terms, but any advice? Do I just continue to wait? Pay the balance first and ask for a credit later?

    I know the resort I stayed at is a qualifying one, but it does not say it is a Hilton Resort in its billing name. It only says it is a Hilton Resort in the billing address. I even emailed them a copy of the bill as proof to no avail. The resort is the Hilton Huizhou Longmen Resort, so it should trigger the $250 dollars resort credit?

  21. @Marsh

    You and me both, right down to the gas and Costco spend on the Costco card.

    I got the Costco card as a downgrade product swap from one of the old AA fee cards, when Citi stopped waiving the fee for me and I already had a Double Cash. “You mean I can get _any_ no fee Citi card?”

  22. I always wondered why some people have both the Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum. Why not get rid of the personal version and keep the business version? Do you make use of the 35% points rebate benefit for airfare?

    After I hit 5/24, I have to decide between the personal and business platinum. This might be a worthwhile post to discuss in more detail.

  23. Strictly speaking from a Hilton earnings perspective, would you find it beneficial to combine spend on the Aspire with either the no-fee Hilton or Ascend to maximize purchases at gas stations and grocery stores?

  24. One thing Ben talks about in various posts is the (travel) “protection value” associated with different cards. I carry Amex Gold and Chase Sapphire Reserve as my primary cards. For car rentals, one difference between these two is that Amex Gold includes *secondary* “collision” coverage while CSR includes *primary* coverage. For those who rent cars with Amex cards, take a look at a benefit that Amex is no longer heavily marketing: Premium Rental Protection. It is still available, but you have to call Amex customer service to have it added to your card(s). Once added to your cards, you’ll see a $20/$25 charge appear on your account two days after a rental car charge posts. The exact amount depends on where you live. PRP is charged per *rental*, not per *day*. There are no “annual” or similar fees associated with PRP. It costs nothing until you charge a rental car to your Amex card. Since CSR includes *primary* rental car coverage by default, I may try it out for my next rental. However, there’s something to be said for the “firepower” of Amex Customer Service. If an “issue” arises, Vendors (rental car companies in this case) tend not to even try to argue with them. So, if you’re renting cars with an Amex card, you should look at PRP.

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