How to maximize your rewards strategy with the American Express trifecta

5 min read
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Paying bills and making regular purchases with a credit card instead of cash or debit (and then paying off the balance before it accrues interest), is a great way to earn rewards points and cash back on nearly every dollar you spend.

But when you factor in more than one credit card, allowing further diversity in your rewards, you can maximize even more.

For many consumers, this strategy can make a ton of sense. You can qualify for more travel perks and cardholder benefits and use your credit cards strategically in order to earn more rewards on specific purchases than you would if you stuck with a single rewards credit card.

What is the Amex trifecta?

The American Express trifecta is one strategic combination of cards that is extremely popular with rewards enthusiasts. This card combination earns exceptional travel perks for globetrotting, but also benefits from double rewards on regular purchases as well as more rewards from bonus categories each card offers.

A big benefit of the Amex trifecta is the ability to combine all your rewards points into a single account. Once you figure out the optimal card for each purchase you make, all of your rewards pool together, making American Express Membership Rewards points redemptions simple.

Which cards make up the Amex trifecta?

The combination of cards within the Amex trifecta is especially excellent for frequent travelers who can take advantage of perks like airport lounge access and annual airline credits. Here’s a basic rundown of each card’s earning structure, welcome bonus and important benefits:

American Express® Gold Card

  • Earn 4X points on dining worldwide and up to $25,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year then 1X, 3X points on flights booked with airlines or on AmexTravel.com and 1X points on other purchases
  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases on your card within three months of account opening
  • $250 annual fee
  • Up to $120 in dining credits and a up to $100 airline fee credit with a select airline
  • Terms Apply

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Earn 5X points on flights booked with airlines and flights and hotels booked through AmexTravel.com; earn 1X points on other purchases
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $5,000 on your card within three months of account opening
  • $550 annual fee
  • Up to $200 in Uber credits each year, up to $200 airline fee credit with a select airline, airport lounge access with the Global Lounge Collection, a credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck
  • Terms Apply

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

  • Earn 2X points on the first $50,000 you spend on your card each year, then 1X points
  • No welcome bonus
  • No annual fee
  • Zero percent intro APR on purchases for 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.24 to 19.24 percent
  • Terms Apply

How to maximize the Amex trifecta

These tips can help you maximize the Amex trifecta upon your card approval and continue to get the most benefit from each card long-term.

  • Time your spending to earn each welcome bonus. Two cards in the Amex trifecta offer generous welcome bonuses you can earn after meeting the minimum spending requirement. Make sure you earn the 60,000 Membership Rewards points from both the Amex Platinum (spend $5,000 within the first 3 months) and the 35,000 Membership Rewards points from the Gold Card (spend $4,000 within the first 3 months) by meeting the minimum spending requirements, which will kick-start your earnings with 95,000 Membership Rewards points right away.
  • Use the Platinum Card for prepaid hotels and airfare. The Platinum Card offers 5X points on flights booked with airlines or flights and prepaid hotels booked with AmexTravel.com, which is an incredible rewards rate for your travel purchases.
  • Use the Amex Gold Card for dining and groceries. The Gold Card earns 4X points on dining worldwide and on up to $25,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year then 1X points. If you are a foodie who can max out annual supermarket spending, you could earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points on annual food spending alone.
  • Use the Blue Business Plus for all non-bonus purchases. While the other cards in the Amex trifecta only offer 1X points on non-bonus spending, the Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express earns 2X points on all spending up to $50,000 each year (then 1X). Use it for all your regular, non-bonus purchases and you’ll earn a considerable rewards sum over time.

Application strategies

Make sure you have a strategy in place before you apply for each card in the Amex trifecta. Be deliberate about when and in what order you apply.

For example, since two of the cards earn a welcome bonus with a minimum spending requirement, you’ll probably want to start with one of them. Spend the next three months meeting the minimum spending requirement to earn the welcome bonus, and don’t apply for the second card from the trifecta until at least 90 days have passed. From there, you can work on earning the second welcome bonus, wait another 90 days then apply for the Blue Business Plus card.

Not only will timing your applications ensure you’re not pursuing more than one signup bonus at once, but you’ll also spread out the hard inquiries on your credit report. This is important since the amount of new credit you have makes up 10 percent of your FICO Score, and too many new cards at once can create a negative impact.

Added benefits

To get the most out of the Amex trifecta, you’ll also want to make sure to use all the travel credits from each card, including both airline fee credits, up to $120 dining credit, up to $200 in Uber credits and the credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck.

You’ll need to be intentional about this, especially since some of these credits apply monthly, but you do have an entire year to make it happen. Consider keeping a note or a sticker on each card listing its credits and bonus categories.

Make sure you connect your Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy numbers to your Platinum Card® from American Express, since you get Gold elite status with both programs as a cardholder benefit. Also, use the Priority Pass airport lounge access, and visit Delta Sky Clubs when you fly Delta or American Express Centurion lounges in airports that have them.

The value of Amex Membership Rewards

Because all your Membership Rewards points pool into one account with the Amex trifecta, it’s easy to rack up a ton of rewards then wait to cash them in for the exact redemption you want.

American Express Membership Rewards vary greatly in value depending on what redemptions you choose. Generally, transferring your points to Amex airline and hotel partners is the most lucrative redemption option. These transfer partners come with a 1,000:1,000 ratio unless otherwise noted and include:

  • Aer Lingus
  • AeroMexico 1,000:1,600
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan)
  • Air France / Flying Blue
  • Alitalia
  • ANA
  • Asia Miles
  • Avianca
  • British Airways
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • El Al Israel Airlines 1,000:20
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue Airways 250:200
  • Qantas 500:500
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Choice Privileges Rewards
  • Hilton Honors: 1,000:2,000
  • Marriott Bonvoy

You can also redeem American Express Membership Rewards for travel through the AmexTravel.com portal, but you’ll only get one cent per point in value. Other redemption options include gift cards, statement credits and merchandise. You can also use points to upgrade your flights to business or first class.

Why choose the Amex trifecta?

The Amex trifecta is ideal for consumers who travel often and want to maximize points on every purchase.

However, you should spend some time figuring out whether or not you’ll be able to use all the cardholder benefits, as this trifecta comes with an $800 price tag in annual fees. These fees can be a bargain if you travel often enough to gain value from the perks, but they may make the trifecta a burden if you don’t travel often enough to use airport lounge access or annual airline credits, for example.

Review your regular spending, run the math and decide what’s best for you. And if you’re on the fence about this trifecta, make sure to consider all the other rewards and travel credit cards on the market, which may better suit your needs.