My Amex Credit Card Conundrum

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At the moment I’m switching some business to Delta, as I’m completing a Platinum challenge and considering my requalification plans for next year. As a result, I’m finding myself in a situation where I’m not sure what to do with the American Express cards I have, given the limits Amex typically imposes on how many cards you can have.

Amex’s five credit card limit

While it’s not a published rule, Amex seems to limit consumers to having five of their credit cards at any given time. It doesn’t matter whether they’re personal or business cards, but rather just that they’re credit cards.

This limit excludes American Express charge cards, which are Amex’s cards without pre-set spending limits, which have to be paid off in full each month. Specifically, Amex has the following popular charge cards:

Given how many great cards Amex has, for me it’s always a delicate balance of which Amex cards to keep vs. which to cancel.

What Amex cards I have right now

Personally I have the following five American Express credit cards at the moment:

On top of that, I have The Platinum Card® from American Express, which is a charge card and not a credit card.

The two Amex credit cards I really want

Given that I’m switching some business to Delta, I’ve outlined how I really want to get the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express, both of which have limited time offers at the moment. That’s because:

  • They’re each offering sign-up bonuses of 70,000 SkyMiles upon completing minimum spend
  • They also offer 10,000 MQMs each upon completing minimum spend, which will help me requalify for status next year
  • They offer companion certificates annually that I’d get value out of
  • Spending $25,000 on a co-branded Delta card would get me a waiver of the revenue requirement for Silver, Gold, or Platinum status
  • These cards can also be used to earn further bonus MQMs — you can earn 10,000 bonus MQMs and redeemable miles after spending $25,000 in a calendar year, a further 10,000 bonus MQMs and redeemable miles after spending a total of $50,000 in a calendar year; you can earn that on both cards, for a total of up to an additional 40,000 MQMs

I feel like I’d get huge value out of these cards, and would keep them long term if I could.

But I can’t get any more Amex cards

I have five American Express credit cards, I’d like to get two more, but that can’t happen. So it has me evaluating what I should do with my existing Amex cards:

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express offers a great return on spend, including up to 4.5x points at supermarkets, up to 3x points at gas stations, and up to 1.5x points on everyday spend, so I don’t want to cancel the card.

I recently signed up for the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express, back when it offered a free anniversary night on the card’s first anniversary (which it doesn’t offer anymore). I don’t want to cancel the card, since I’d be giving up the free night on the account’s first anniversary.

The Blue for Business Credit Card offers a 30% points bonus at the end of every cardmember year, so if I canceled the card now I wouldn’t receive the 30% bonus on the spend I’ve put on the card. I’d also eventually like to replace this card with The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express.

So that basically leaves me with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. Could it make sense to cancel both SPG Amex cards in order to pick up two Delta Amex cards?

I’ve had the SPG Amex for almost a decade. It was one of the first cards I applied for when I turned 18, and I’ve had it ever since. The cards have some fantastic perks, though I’m not sure they’re quite as indispensable to me as they used to be:

  • The SPG Business Amex offers club lounge access at Sheraton properties, though I’m SPG Platinum anyway, so don’t get value out of that
  • Both SPG Amex cards offer premium internet at SPG properties, though I also get that anyway because of my SPG Platinum status
  • The cards offer one Starpoint per dollar spent, which is a generous return on spend, though it’s not as amazing as it used to be, given the other great cards that have emerged
  • The biggest benefit to me is that each card offers two elite qualifying stays and five elite qualifying nights towards status annually, which sure helps with requalifying for status with SPG; I don’t necessarily need those nights right now, but I’m sure they’ll be useful at some point in the future

So that’s where I’m at. Do I give up four elite qualifying stays and 10 elite qualifying nights annually in order to be able to earn MQMs with the Delta Platinum Amex? Or do I hold off on the Delta Platinum Amex for now?

I’m sure I’m not the only one in this situation. What would you do?

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  1. Cancel both SPG now and get both Delta cards. Next year you can cancel the Hilton or Delta cards and get the SPG cards back if you still want them.

  2. >The Blue for Business Credit Card offered double points on the first $50,000 spent, though you only get those bonus points on the card’s first anniversary.

    I applied for that card earlier this year when that promo was going on. The bonus point always posted instantly for me. There is a 0.3x point bonus that doesn’t post until the end of the year- were you thinking of that or was there a different promo I wasn’t aware of?

  3. The biggest non-problem problem. When 5 Amex cards isn’t enough! I’m sure you don’t mean to, but it comes across as a 1% kind of problem.

  4. I’m confused about something you said here about the double points only coming on the anniversary of the card. I have never seen anything about that. I seem to be getting 2x points on each transaction already.

    “The Blue for Business Credit Card offered double points on the first $50,000 spent, though you only get those bonus points on the card’s first anniversary. I applied for the card earlier this year and put the spend on the card, though I only get the 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards points next year, so I don’t want to cancel the card. I’d also eventually like to replace this card with The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express.”

  5. The Starwood cards will not likely survive the merger of Starwood with Marriott. Probably sometime next year we’ll be saying goodbye to a card a lot of us have had and loved for years.

  6. I was in a similar predicament: Blue Cash Everyday (AoA anchor, 18 years old), Blue for Business (same reasons as you), SPG Personal and Business (I use these on Marriott stays), Gold Delta Skymiles Business (latter three open less than 12 months). I ended up closing the SPG Business to open the Delta Platinum Business. I don’t value the Sheraton lounge access as anything so it was a toss-up between that and the personal, I chose the Business as it freed up a lot more credit for Amex to extend to me on subsequent cards. Next will be the Gold Delta Business, letting it age off a bit more before ticking off Amex by closing it in under 12 months, to open the Delta Platinum personal before the 70k bonus expires. After that I’m really in a bind with all five cards having positive value for me and I still have lifetime bonuses on the Everyday and Hilton cards to exploit.

  7. @ bluedevil @ Jeremiah — I stand corrected, you’re both right. I was talking about the 30% bonus rather than the double points. My mistake. Post updated.

  8. Take into consideration that the SPG cards will likely be grandfathered into a different product when the Marriott merger is complete.

  9. @Lucky

    I’m still confused why you’re switching to Delta in the first place. It’s funny because it was like, I might try this out. Then the status match. And now you’re all in. I get that 140k pesos are a big deal, but the MQMs aren’t because you’re either going to fly those miles with bonuses, or not, but you won’t be able to qualify for top tier anyway through credit card spend, so why bother? When I told my wife that Delta had a promotion for 70k bonus miles, I said, ‘what should we do with them?’ She said, ‘that’s not even enough for most one-way flights in business to Europe, it’s not worth getting.’ I was so proud. But even at 140k pesos, there’s still very little value. I’m really not sure it’s worth the sacrifice on the other cards in order to get them. Maybe you could get rid of the SPG business, but you’ve got 10 years of credit history. That’s not nothing. Especially since you’re set for the rest of the year and can only get an AMEX bonus once, I’d say wait it out til next year and see where you’re at. This bonus will definitely be back given the focus on card acquisition. And if you’re a Delta Platinum without a card, you may get a better targeted offer, anyway. I agree that Delta is the best of the legacies in terms of product and service, but its loyalty program is the “best among US global carriers” lololol, which is kind of like saying, the best of the worst. Which I would still disagree with, since the only real value in united anymore is its high-level elite status, miles, and partners.

  10. @Ben, you can atleast start with one, cancel SPG personal and get Delta Business.
    you wont be losing any SPG benefits if you cancel the personal card.

  11. I agree with RMF325. The future of the SPG cards is in doubt. I’d cancel those, esp the one(s) you got when you are 18 as you are probably past the 7 year “lifetime” rule so you could prob get the SPG sign up bonus again if the card sticks around (unlikely) in a year or so.

    If you want to hedge I would lose one SPG and the hilton card.

  12. @Lucky
    Consider that your Delta Platinum Medallion will give you SPG crossover rewards at their properties. Look into that. This may amount to something that can help narrow the gap should you drop the SPG cards.

  13. I would cancel the EveryDay Preferred and one of the SPG, or EveryDay Preferred and Blue for Business. Sacrificing the grocery/daily spend bonus is just temporary and well worth it, you can reapply and easily get approved for it after you get the Delta Card bonuses and cancel one of them. Cancel one SPG or the Blue for Business, since you wanted to get the new Business Plus Card later, depends on how much you have currently spent and how much of the 30% dividend points you are losing. SPG is kinda redundant for you to have both, and your Platinum status exceeds both, so cancel the newer one?

    As for Delta MQD, it is so easy to eliminate this hugely annoying hassle. Change your address to your house in Germany or use a friends address anywhere overseas (I’m sure you have many), and the MQD category will be greyed out for good. I use my address in Tokyo, and my friend also uses my address even though he doesn’t live there, and just submitted a random student ID and it got changed. Trust me this will be a huge burden relief when you change your United and Delta addresses overseas. I earn Platinum status each year spending less than $4500 a year on Delta.

  14. @Henry- of course it’s a first world problem. We live in the first world. Jets, logistics systems, and mileage programs were developed in the first world by first worlders. What’s your point?

    @niko jas- the 1% have centurian cards and fly private. This blog ain’t for them. Rather, it’s for hard working, well paid professionals who enjoy getting the most out of travel experiences.

  15. Cancel both SPG, and get both Skymiles cards. The bonuses are enough to send you to Europe and back in J. Easily $2000 in value there. No way you’re getting that from a few stay credits

  16. Are you actually getting value out of the EDP? I have that, but only because I’m getting gas / groceries a lot. You’re traveling a TON, so are you even buying groceries? You get 2x on the Biz Plus, so the 1.5x is worthless to you. Then kill the SPG Biz and you’re done.

  17. Hmm I thought you could only have four amex revolvers. I had amex everyday, amex blue (I too will replace this with business plus), spg business and hilton surpass, so pretty close to your situation. I gave up the spg card. I am waiting on my end of the year bonus for the amex blue, I am waiting on my free night with surpass. I will keep the everyday as a No AF card that lets me transfer points to travel partners. I used to use the SPG card for non-bonus spend but my amex business blue is much better for that now with the 2pts per dollar and then annual bonus. I may pick up a second delta card now if I can indeed get five revolvers.

  18. +1 to Sean as to who you’re all in on SkyPesos right now. It really did go from “I might” to “I’m all in.” SPG has been good to you… for YEARS. I would not kill either one of those cards. You may not need the nights right now, but the AAoA to your credit score is significant. So if you have to kill 1, kill biz.
    At the end of the day, I really don’t understand the new love for Delta. Unless you particularly love MSP, ATL, or DTW airports. 😉

  19. I never understand why people “hate” on Ben? We all come to his blog to read about his travel experiences and whatnot, we all know it’s aspirational travel for some/most and his job is planes and credit cards, so a problem with credit cards is technically a job related problems, so he is really complaining about work, which is something we all should understand.

  20. What about the Delta Reserve Card? 15K MQMs and 15K bonus miles for $30K spend, and another 15K MQMs and 15K bonus miles for the next $30K, plus a round-trip companion ticket every year.

  21. How much spend do you do at gas stations and supermarkets? It seems like the everyday preferred card should be on the chopping block along with one of the SPG cards.

  22. CXL THE PERSONAL STARWOOD, now. Then when you get your new Delta card and when you’re about reach your spending threshold needed for bonuses, cancel the business Starwood. I am in agreement that we will see both of these products go bye-bye by next year anyway. You can always re-apply for the card again if needed.

  23. One more thing you need to consider: Amex seems to be in the process of destroying itself.
    I pay — have always paid — for Amex cards because the service I got from human beings was worth the cost.
    That becomes less and less the case each year.
    Their poor voice recognition system or whatever it is, does not function properly 80% of the time — total. That is 80% scattered around through every call.
    Once a human is finally reached that person is not nearly as well-trained as they once were, nor are they as courteous. They certainly do not have authority to do very much. Now I am told to write a letter to El Paso. The only response now — ever — is a form letter, often a form letter for an unrelated problem.
    I have had an Amex card for 29 years.

  24. You had the card for over a decade and 15% of your credit score is “length of credit history”. so I wouldn’t close the SPG card.

  25. I would apply and see what happens, it may be possible to have more than 5 AMEX cards 🙂
    Worst case you call if declined and cancel a card then get a Delta AMEX.

  26. Keep one of each – Delta has the crossover rewards promotion with SPG so it would make sense to utilize both Delta and SPG to maximize points/miles with both. If you are looking for more MQM’s, consider the Delta Reserve Amex, which gives you the same benefits as platinum plus a SkyClub access and you can earn 10k more MQM/miless as the spend levels with this card give you 15k MQM at $30k spend and then an additional 15k MQM/miles at $60k spend – the SkyClub access alone pays for the $495 annual fee.

  27. @Lucky for what it’s worth. Loyal Delta flier here. This is my Amex card mix, and it works very well for me with Delta. I am also a Marriott loyalist, not SPG. Of course, my Marriott Platinum means I’m also SPG Platinum, which means I don’t have to debate which chain I will stay at.

    Platinum Amex
    Platinum Business Amex
    PRG Amex
    Delta Reserve
    Delta Platinum
    Delta Platinum Business
    Blue Business Plus

    I’m probably going to close the Delta Reserve and Delta Platinum Business …. I make Diamond on MQD/MQM anyway. I don’t really need the extra MQMs and the CC waiver isn’t critical for me (although it was a great strategy to hit Diamond earlier in the year).

    My current strategy is to emphasize Amex MRs and transfer to Delta. I combine that with my SkyMiles for international business class tickets for family vacation. Since I’m using the Platinum/Platinum Biz/PRG/Blue Biz Plus I am getting a great return on all of that. My Amex spend is running right at 3x MR per dollar spent this year. I can normally get about 3% value on a skymiles for international travel. This seems like really good value to me.

    If I was in your shoes, I would definitely want both Delta Platinum cards to maximize MQMs and get the CC waiver. Platinum Medallion is pretty darn good for benefits and value. If you can make Diamond, then the Delta cards aren’t such a big deal. I’m only interested in them, now, because of the companion fares.

  28. You can Drop the SPG cards, and get the Marriott Visa, and switch to United, because of the relationship of the two company’s at the elite-plat level status of Marriott.

  29. Lucky –
    I’m gonna agree with everyone here regarding the SPG cards. Since the stay/night credits have already posted for the year, you could absolutely cancel one of them while using the other to to earn starpoints. Plus, I’m not positive about this, but if you have delta medallion status, don’t you qualify for their crossover rewards, that lets you earn more starpoints for each stay? (or perhaps more delta miles?) Surely you’d value that. And, you don’t have to keep both Delta cards, just earn the sign-up bonuses on them, then cancel one and keep one. I don’t think you’re that badly in need of the SPG card’s 1 stay/5 night credits given how much you stay at SPG hotels anyway?

  30. @JimT — There was a loyalty program that purportedly had the desirable attributes that you listed and it went belly up. Some of the listed attributes, in fact, are mutually exclusive:

    — “…has provided consistent returns by not devaluing their point value…”
    — “…has generally informed consumers of upcoming devaluations…”

    Those two cannot both be true.

    Also, a loyalty program that does not devalue its points would have such a high financial “liability” due to all the points that it issues but are never redeemed that it would go bankrupt because it cannot claim as revenue the portion of cash that it received in exchange for the unused points.

    Lastly, the notion that Hilton is in a “precarious position” for “devaluing to the point of being irrelevant” is utter nonsense, considering that at a time when SPG’s days are numbered and Hyatt Gold Passport has transformed into something that’s appropriately referred to as WOH!, Hilton Honors is thriving, with promos galore that make it, BY FAR, the most (or only remaining) highly rewarding program out there. That’s some “devaluation”!

    To cling onto the SPG AMEX cards is — to borrow a phrase — to put oneself in a “precarious position” due to the program’s uncertain future.

    Just my $0.02 😉


  31. @JimT If Amex is in a precarious position, why would you keep the SPG cards (issued by Amex) to the bitter end?

  32. If you don’t get approved for the 6th card then I would probably drop the Hilton card first – it’s a one night weekend stay which I honestly don’t think is worth bypassing the miles on Delta.

    If you cancel the Hilton and still need to cancel another then I would consider dropping one of the SPG cards since that program may change next year and you would already have a closed account so any new product would probably entice travelers with points/perks which may be an opportunity for you.

  33. @KeninDFW says: “If you don’t get approved for the 6th card then I would probably drop the Hilton card first – it’s a one night weekend stay…”

    I agree with that view. The HH AMEX Surpass is a great card to carry if one stays a lot at Hilton properties because by awarding 12HH/$ it turns every stay into an opportunity to earn 2X+. It turns a 2X promo into a 3X+, and a 3X promo into a 4X+. Simply unbeatable in that department.

    On the other hand, if one is trying to trim the number of cards to take advantage of another opportunity, the free night alone (sans her earning prowess) would not justify sparing the HH AMEX Surpass, especially if one can get the coveted HH Gold status that comes with it through another card, like the AMEX Platinum.

  34. In fact, considering all the “fat” there is to trim, I fail to see the purported “conundrum”…

    I am now to just 3 credit cards in my wallet:
    – The CSR for travel and dining at 3X
    – The CFU for everything else at 1.5X
    – The AMEX Biz Platinum for when I need to make VERY large purchases (e.g., a Matisse at an auction)

    In addition, I have in my wallet my Chase Private Client debit card (visa) with extended travel options like no fee for using a non-chase ATM around the globe or a foreign transaction fee of any kind.

    In my travel organizer I have:
    — a card the WoH, SPG, Marriott, and 2x Hilton co-brand cards;
    — the Chase “legacy” MileagePlus and UA Explorer cards (both now obsolete);
    — the Discover It cashback card, which I seldom use; and
    — last but not least, my oldest CC, a Citi card that I got in 1986 with a $500 CL, and has gone countless name changes and transformations from a Visa to a MC and then back to a Visa, and now has a CL of $10K.

    Very lean and mean!

  35. Eric,

    Please excuse me for not being more explicit with my precarious statement relative to AMEX. I meant the statement relative to the Hilton and Delta cards given their point value and especially relative to the many negative changes in the Delta loyalty program. I am a long time AMEX fan since our most used credit card annual spend is on the AMEX Blue Cash 5% cash back card which provided a 2.7% net return on annual 2016 spending. AMEX customer service for us over the past years has been generally exemplary. Most folks would likely get a higher yield with the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred. I am frustrated that none of the AMEX travel rewards cards other than the SPG are appealing relative to their net return compared to the AMEX Blue Cash 5% card. We keep the SPG card now for both Starwood and Marriott hotel stays since AMEX SPG spend is much more lucrative than using the Chase Marriott Premier. We stayed in Western Europe earlier this year using point transfers from Starwood to Marriott at 3 to 1 and got a great value and a great vacation. We will try to use our remaining points before the programs are combined.


    Much of this to me is a numbers game. We do not travel as frequently as I believe you do. Starwood days and the AMEX SPG card may be numbered but the card has been popular for many years. I compare all credit card spend to a 2% no annual fee cash back card from a lost opportunity perspective. You will note the bonus category similarity between the AMEX Blue Cash 5% card and the AMEX Hilton Surpass card. I recently considered replacing the Blue Cash card with the Surpass since I received a 100k point upgrade offer to my no annual fee AMEX Hilton card (better to re-apply to get the free anniversary night). I have spreadsheets tracking our total annual spending accounting for both the Surpass card point earning rates in each category and for numerous potential point value redemptions at various Hilton Hotels. In most cases, the net return was significantly higher with the Blue Cash card. In many cases, un-bonused spend on the Hilton card at 3 points per dollar barely yielded 1% return and struggled to achieve 1.5% return so that my no annual fee Citibank Double Cash card (for non bounced spend) combined with my AMEX 5% Blue Cash card put more money in my pocket at years end. Many more frequent Hilton stays would have helped the calculation in Hilton’s favor. I wrote an algebraic equation in a spreadsheet for the AMEX Blue Cash 5% which accurately predicts net return as a function of bonus category spend percent of total annual spend and total annual spend. It has been time tested over many years. I agree with you that clinging to the AMEX SPG may be coming to an end but we have had good value on several vacations with the card and still have some points left to use. Most of our annual spend goes to the AMEX 5% Blue Cash and the Citibank Double Cash. Like you, I also have the CSR in my wallet for dining and travel and I have identified an approach to achieve a 2% annual yield after the $150 annual fee assuming use of the $300 annual travel credit. Nice to see you still stirring it up.

  36. @JimT — All things, even very good things, must come to an end. The SPG AMEX card stopped being the wonderful card that it once was touted to be by self-anointed “travel gurus” after the introduction, a good while back, of rewards cards (the CSR being the most recent) with brisker earning rates of transferable points currencies or even of miles of a single airline FF program (like the UA Club card awarding 2x UA miles on plane tickets and 1.5x on everything else).

    Even without SPG’s uncertain future, the SPG AMEX is simply no longer a card to keep, especially if the goal is to earn points that can be redeemed for airline tickets. The CSR does that much more effectively at 3X. Even a card that earns a transferable currency at 1.5x is much better than the SPG AMEX. It sounds like you like spreadsheets. Do the trivial math and you’ll see it clearly.

    Un-bonused spend on the Hilton AMEX Surpass may well barely yield 1% return, but it is a mistake to use a such card for anything other than paying for revenue stays for which it is unbeatable and worth keeping. For general spend or spend for other specific categories, there are now much better cards…


  37. Amex EP is the obvious one. I can’t imagine you spend much on gas and groceries plus hit the 30 charges a month for that card.

    After that drop one of the SPG cards if it’s a must. But I would want to keep a card with such long history.

    I have the Amex EP. Once the blue business card came out I haven’t used the Amex EP card. So that one is really a nonbrainer for you to drop.

  38. DCS,

    I agree with most of the points you make in your response but let me add some observations. My wife and I use the AMEX SPG points for Starwood or Marriott hotel stays and not airline flights. We do not fly first or business class international flights. We recently completed a downtown London visit for five nights at a Marriott hotel using an award stay with the fifth night free which was easily one of the most enjoyable vacations we have experienced and which provided value well exceeding a 2% cash back credit card. We do not put much spend on the AMEX SPG now but the Starwood loyalty program rewarded credit card spend more than stays unlike most other hotel programs like Hilton. I still have my no annual fee AMEX Hilton card for actually Hilton stays but since we are not traveling much at the moment, it is not seeing much use. Thus, I am in complete agreement with your last paragraph.

    Yes, the math is trivial, but you will not find blogs that share the insights from such analyses since affiliate links distort reporting. The AMEX SPG card increased its yield with higher annual spend so that lower point value redemptions available at more hotels would more likely exceed a 2% return after the annual fee. Since we do not fly premium international flights, other credit card options than the Chase Freedom Unlimited combined with the Chase Sapphire Reserve provide a higher return. Thus, Chase Sapphire Reserve expenditures are 80% to 90% directed to travel and dining which reduces the benefit of having the Freedom Unlimited card. I find it frustrating to have all of the benefits of the Sapphire Reserve but end up putting most of my spend on a Freedom Unlimited card with few benefits to maximize Ultimate Reward points. Thus, I focus on putting the most money in my pocket at year end looking at yield. If Chase folded the 1.5% un-bonused spend into the Sapphire Reserve card, it is very likely we would only carry only the AMEX 5% Blue Cash card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card at this time.

    Have a nice day. Insights into how others use these products is very useful.

  39. @JimT — From what you just wrote above, I believe that you manage your expectations very well and, as a results, you are likely to set your goals and keep your eyes on the ball, and may be getting a lot more out of the miles/points game than other participants who view it as an “entitlement” game.

    G’day and cheers, mate!

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