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 2023. 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.
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:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (review)
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (review)
- American Express® Business Gold Card (review)
- American Express® Green Card (review)
I also have the following five Amex credit cards:
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (review)
- The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express (review)
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (review)
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card (review)
- Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card (review)
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.
I also have the $450 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.
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 credits, and up to $100 in annual Saks credits. Enrollment required.
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.
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.
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, and offers 3x points on dining and travel, an up to $189 annual CLEAR credit, and a $100 annual LoungeBuddy credit.
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.
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 $295 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…
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
- Credits for both dining and Uber
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 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
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:
- 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, which more than justify the annual fee, plus the 5x points on airfare
- 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 toward status
- I’m a bit on the fence about my other Amex cards, including the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card and Amex Green Card, which I think could be replaced by the Amex Gold Card
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® 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), and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (Rates & Fees).