My American Express Credit Card Strategy (2023)

My American Express Credit Card Strategy (2023)

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There are lots of aspects to maximizing your credit card rewards, including taking advantage of the best welcome bonusesspending 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 current American Express card strategy. In separate posts I wrote about my Capital One card strategy, Chase card strategy, and Citi card strategy.

For those in the points world, American Express is known for its cards earning Membership Rewards points, which is one of the major transferable points currencies. On top of that, Amex issues co-branded credit cards for Delta, Hilton, and Marriott.

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know to be approved for an Amex card, a summary of my strategy, and then which Amex cards I’m most interested in applying for.

Restrictions on applying for Amex cards?

All cards issuers have some application restrictions in place to get approved for cards. Let’s take a look at what those restrictions are for American Express, as they can impact your approval odds, 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 five credit card limit

Generally speaking, American Express limits you to having at most five credit cards. This limit also only applies to credit cards, and not hybrid cards. It doesn’t matter how many of those five cards are personal or business, it’s just all about whether they’re credit cards.

Two Amex credit 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.

Amex application pop-up warning

While I wouldn’t consider this to be a “rule,” it’s worth understanding Amex’s pop-up warning. Even if you haven’t had a particular card in the past, it’s possible that you’ll get a message during the application process informing you that you aren’t eligible for the bonus on a card.

Amex has some sort of algorithm that decides people shouldn’t be eligible for bonuses based on certain factors, so that’s part of that. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of consistent rhyme or reason as to what triggers it, but it’s definitely something to be aware of.

Which Amex cards do I have?

At the moment I have nine American Express cards, including credit cards and hybrid cards.

I have the following four Amex hybrid cards:

I also have the following five Amex credit cards:

The information and associated card details on this page for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, American Express Green Card, and Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

How do I use my Amex cards?

As is the case with all card issuers, I have different cards for different reasons. In the case of the Amex cards that I have:

  • Some I have for the ongoing perks that they offer
  • Some I have for the return on spending that they offer
  • Some I have for a combination of the two factors
  • Some cards I’m trying to decide what to do with

Below I’ll break down the reasons I have each of the Amex cards in my wallet.

Amex cards I have for the perks

I have several American Express cards specifically for the perks they offer, even though I don’t spend much money on the cards. Let’s start with hotel credit cards.

I have both the $125 annual fee (Rates & Fees) Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card and the $650 annual fee (Rates & Fees) Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, even though I don’t spend much on them:

  • The Bonvoy Business card offers 15 elite nights toward Marriott Bonvoy status annually, whereas the Brilliant card (in addition to outright granting Bonvoy Platinum status) offers 25 elite nights towards status. Having those two cards gives me 40 elite nights toward status annually; that provides a great head start to Marriott Bonvoy Titanium status, as well as Choice Benefits
  • Each card offers an anniversary free night certificate — the business card certificate is valid at a property costing up to 35,000 points, while the personal card certificate is valid at a property costing up to 85,000 points
  • The personal card offers some credits that go a long way to offset the annual fee

Between all those perks, I have no issues justifying those two credit cards.

Each Marriott card offers an annual free night award

I also have the $550 annual fee Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (Rates & Fees), and find it to be one of the easiest to justify cards out there. The card offers amazing benefits, including Hilton Honors Diamond status for as long as you’re a cardmember, an annual free night award, a $250 annual airline fee credit, and a $250 annual Hilton resort credit.

The information and associated card details on this page for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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

There’s a $695 annual fee (Rates & Fees) on The Platinum Card® from American Express, and I primarily justify having this card based on all the perks it offers. Among other things, the card offers comprehensive airport lounge access, up to $200 in annual airline fee credits, up to $200 in annual Uber credits, up to $200 in annual hotel credits, up to $189 in annual CLEAR Plus credits, and up to $100 in annual Saks credits. (Enrollment is required for select benefits)

I put most of my airfare spending on this card, as it offers 5x points on airfare booked directly with airlines (up to $500K per year, then 1x points). I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so that’s like an 8.5% return on airfare spending, which is great.

The Amex Platinum is great for airport lounge access

Amex cards I have for the spending bonuses

For me, the single most rewarding American Express card for spending is The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express. The card has no annual fee (Rates & Fees), and offers 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent every calendar year (and then 1x points). That makes this one of the best cards for everyday spending.

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express has a $95 annual fee, and it’s a card I’ve had for many years. The card offers the following return on spending:

  • 3x points at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per calendar 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’m still deciding what to do with this card in the long term.

The information and associated card details on this page for the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Amex EveryDay Preferred Card is great for groceries

Amex cards that I’m trying to figure out what to do with

As you can tell, there are a few Amex cards that I don’t have for the perks and don’t have for the spending bonuses, and that frankly I’m trying to figure out what to do with.

The American Express® Green Card is one of those cards — it’s a fantastic card, I’m just not sure how exactly it fits into my card portfolio. It has a $150 annual fee (Rates & Fees), and offers 3x points on dining and travel, an up to $189 annual CLEAR Plus credit, and an up to $100 annual LoungeBuddy credit. (Enrollment is required for select benefits)

So, why don’t I use it more for spending? Well, the spending bonuses categories are mighty similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review), so I end up putting most of that spending on my Chase card.

I haven’t yet canceled this card, though, because the Amex Offers program alone tends to more than justify the annual fee on this card for me. Even though this is one of the best cards for earning Amex points, it just doesn’t add too much to my overall portfolio.

The information and associated card details on this page for the American Express Green Card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Amex Green Card offers 3x points on travel

That leaves two more cards — The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, which has a $695 annual fee (Rates & Fees), and the American Express® Business Gold Card, which has a $375 annual fee (Rates & Fees). I picked up both of these cards last year with great welcome offers.

These cards are both potentially extremely lucrative, though I’m not sure they’re a perfect fit for me:

  • The Amex Business Platinum has great perks, but since I also have the personal version of the card, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the benefits
  • The Amex Business Gold has some fantastic 4x points categories, but they’re not categories that I spend a lot in, and aside from that the card doesn’t offer too much value; personally I think the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (review) is more lucrative

I have to decide what to do with them when the annual fees are due…

The Amex Business Gold has great bonus categories

Which Amex cards do I most want?

Overall I’m quite happy with my Amex card portfolio at the moment, especially given my overall card strategy. I have some cards that help me maximize Amex points, while other cards help me maximize 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

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

  • Get rid of the Citi Prestige, which I currently use for dining, and replace it with the lower cost Citi Strata Premier℠ Card (review)
  • Get rid of the Amex EveryDay Preferred, which I currently use for groceries, and open up a new Amex credit card “slot”
  • Pick up the Amex Gold, which I could use for both restaurants and supermarkets

The information and associated card details on this page for the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Amex Gold Card is great for restaurants

Bottom line

There’s not a single right or wrong way to maximize credit card rewards, and this can get even more complicated if you’re splitting cards between different issuers. I’m pretty happy with my current Amex card strategy, though there are some cards I’m on the fence about.

To summarize my big picture Amex strategy:

How does your Amex card strategy compare to mine?

The information and associated card details on this page for the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card, American Express Green Card, and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by OMAAT and has 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: American Express® Business Gold Card (Rates & Fees), American Express® Gold Card (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), 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 (16)
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  1. Mike Guest

    I have the Amex Marriott Business card and Chase Ritz Carlton.

    Can I apply for the Amex Marriott Brilliant card?

    Thanks
    Mike

  2. Average spender Guest

    Ben, would you ever consider showing us how much bonus points you get personally above the 1 percent back threshold. Not to reveal your spending, but more like "with all my cards and different bonus categories, I earned X number of extra points in 2023 compare to just using chase freedom for everything" it's probably a lot of work but it'd be interesting.

  3. henrythefourth Guest

    I've got the Biz Plat, Biz Blue, Biz Green and EDP. I'm on my third year of downgrade EDP to no fee, wait a month then get a 40K offer to upgrade to EDP. The Biz Green was for the offer with no first year fee. It'll go away if not waived. The Biz Plat will probably go bye-bye without a fee waiver, my family travel plans are changing for the next couple years. Will go for personal Green.

  4. Nate nate Guest

    Don't you get similar Amex Offers across your Amex portfolio? There are some differences (e.g., a Hyatt offer won't show up on a Marriott card), but your offers on MR cards should be very similar.

    Seems odd to use Amex offers to justify holding the Green card unless they are offers truely unique to the card

    1. Zzz Guest

      My guess is that he values the combination of travel-related amex offers and the green’s 3x travel multiplier. For someone traveling as much as he does, I suppose the extra point or two per dollar starts to matter.

  5. Weymar Osborne Diamond

    I'm a little surprised you want to get rid of the Citi Prestige. The card is only an extra $150 over the Premier when you factor in the travel credit, and I would figure dining is a significant enough category for you where the extra 1/2 points over the Gold/Premier would be recuperated, especially if you're considering picking up the Gold for another $130 (after uber credits). I know the 4th night free has been...

    I'm a little surprised you want to get rid of the Citi Prestige. The card is only an extra $150 over the Premier when you factor in the travel credit, and I would figure dining is a significant enough category for you where the extra 1/2 points over the Gold/Premier would be recuperated, especially if you're considering picking up the Gold for another $130 (after uber credits). I know the 4th night free has been significantly weakened over the years, but I feel like it's a perk so potentially valuable that even if you used it only once every few years it could go significantly towards earning back annual fee costs.

    1. Zzz Guest

      Agree, plus the gold’s 4x multiplier is of limited use in many foreign destinations

  6. Chbartel Guest

    Here has been my strategy last few years. Two player mode. Open Amex platinum business with every pop up, mailed, or email offer. We get these all the time. Run 15k spend and get my 150k or 160k points. We run a lot of spend through Amex. Right now have 8 business platinums in mine and wife's name. Of course use credits for dell, etc. When annual fee hits, close account. We do keep personal...

    Here has been my strategy last few years. Two player mode. Open Amex platinum business with every pop up, mailed, or email offer. We get these all the time. Run 15k spend and get my 150k or 160k points. We run a lot of spend through Amex. Right now have 8 business platinums in mine and wife's name. Of course use credits for dell, etc. When annual fee hits, close account. We do keep personal schwab platinums as I like the fine hotel and reports credit and transfer my points to our schwab accounts. I don't like the idea of millions of points sitting there at Amex,. Fortunately put enough spend on this and chase to still end up with millions of chase points that we use for travel.
    We also keep blue cash plus business and Amex gold personal. Trying to decide which Amex Marriott cards to get.

  7. DT Diamond

    My strategy:
    Amex Biz Plat for 35% points rebate (plus various other perks/credits)
    Amex Plat for 5x airfare, plus perks/credits
    Amex Gold for 4x grocery and dining
    Amex Biz Blue for 2x everyday spend

  8. Steve Guest

    Ben, there's at least one very compelling reason to keep the Citi Prestige. It extends the warranty for most everything you buy for two years. That alone justifies keeping it when used to purchase cell phone, computers etc. Even better stack with AppleCare and your warranty is extended to 5 years by which time the device will almost certainly need its rechargeable battery replaced which Citi will happily pay for.

    Add to this all the...

    Ben, there's at least one very compelling reason to keep the Citi Prestige. It extends the warranty for most everything you buy for two years. That alone justifies keeping it when used to purchase cell phone, computers etc. Even better stack with AppleCare and your warranty is extended to 5 years by which time the device will almost certainly need its rechargeable battery replaced which Citi will happily pay for.

    Add to this all the other things you might buy that die up to two years after the manufacturer's warranty has elapsed and I'd suggest the annual fee is a bargain. Where else can you buy an extended warranty for virtually everything you purchase for that much money?

    1. Richard Guest

      I believe the Premier has the same benefit.

  9. Andrew Guest

    Ben, as you said you have loads of cards. Many have overlapping benefits of the same spending category bonuses, priority pass, etc. I would love to see a chart of your cards and which cards you put the different spending on. It would be helpful to others who also have many cards. It is easy to justify each card individually but when you look at all cards in total the results could be different.

  10. Boise Ding Guest

    I find that you don't have to spend that much on dining out to make the 5 points per dollar on the citi prestige really compelling. I also get great value on the 4th night free twice a year with current 10 points per dollar on spend through the citi travel portal. I have found some great deals on some top properties even after factoring in giving up elite benefits. I'm very glad I didn't give it up particularly since they discontinued the card.

    1. Andrew Diamond

      I'm so jelly. I would take the Prestige over the Amex plat in a heartbeat.

      That said, now that Amex has set the stage for expensive coupon-based-value (Citi is doing the same thing with the AA Exec card), it won't be too many years until Citi releases a version of a ThankYou upscale card that looks more like an Amex offering.

    2. James Guest

      I canceled my prestige after Citi refused to give me back my fourth night free credit even I had already canceled the reservation. Their explanation is, once hotel is booked with the fourth night free benefit, it’s considered used, period.

  11. KV Guest

    I have a large airfare spend coming in the next couple months, so I’d love to get the Amex Plat…but I am stuck in pop up jail.

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

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Steve Guest

Ben, there's at least one very compelling reason to keep the Citi Prestige. It extends the warranty for most everything you buy for two years. That alone justifies keeping it when used to purchase cell phone, computers etc. Even better stack with AppleCare and your warranty is extended to 5 years by which time the device will almost certainly need its rechargeable battery replaced which Citi will happily pay for. Add to this all the other things you might buy that die up to two years after the manufacturer's warranty has elapsed and I'd suggest the annual fee is a bargain. Where else can you buy an extended warranty for virtually everything you purchase for that much money?

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Boise Ding Guest

I find that you don't have to spend that much on dining out to make the 5 points per dollar on the citi prestige really compelling. I also get great value on the 4th night free twice a year with current 10 points per dollar on spend through the citi travel portal. I have found some great deals on some top properties even after factoring in giving up elite benefits. I'm very glad I didn't give it up particularly since they discontinued the card.

1
Mike Guest

I have the Amex Marriott Business card and Chase Ritz Carlton. Can I apply for the Amex Marriott Brilliant card? Thanks Mike

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