How to maximize your rewards strategy with the American Express trifecta
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- At $945 in annual fees, the American Express Gold Card, The Platinum Card from American Express and The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express make up the Amex trifecta
- Owning all three cards can help you maximize your spending and enjoy thousands of dollars in credits and other card benefits
- Be sure to time your applications correctly, though, as too many hard inquiries on your credit report can ding your score
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 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 if you use your credit cards strategically, earning 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 and benefits from double rewards on regular purchases — as well as more rewards from the 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 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 beneficial 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 offer and important benefits:
American Express Gold Card
The American Express® Gold Card focuses on earning its cardholders rewards on dining and travel-related purchases. For a $250 annual fee, you receive 4X Membership Rewards points at restaurants (including takeout and delivery in the U.S.); 4X points on Uber Eats purchases; 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1X points); 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or via American Express Travel; and 1X points on all other purchases.
The Amex Gold’s rewards rates make it solidly one of the best credit cards for restaurants on the market — not to mention benefits like up to $120 in annual dining credits (enrollment required) and up to $120 in annual Uber Cash (which can be used toward Uber Eats purchases).
And if you’re interested in amping up your next vacation, there’s an annual $100 hotel credit for use toward property expenses (like spa visits or resort activities) when you book a stay of at least two consecutive nights through The Hotel Collection via the Amex travel portal. Doing so also makes you eligible for a potential room upgrade.
The Platinum Card from American Express
As one of the most premium travel credit cards available, The Platinum Card® from American Express features high rewards rates on airfare and hotels and just under $800 in annual travel credits (not including the $1,295 in additional entertainment credits available).
You earn 5X points on up to $500,000 spent on directly-booked airfare and flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel (per calendar year); 2X points on prepaid car rentals through American Express Travel; and 1X points on all other purchases.
Other card benefits include access to the Global Lounge Collection — including Priority Pass and Centurion Lounges — and complimentary elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors. A $695 annual fee applies.
The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express
Rounding out the trifecta, The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express offers 2X points on up to $50,000 in purchases per year, then 1X points, and an unlimited 2X points on prepaid rental cars booked through AmexTravel.com.
This business credit card doesn’t charge an annual fee and even offers an introductory 0 percent APR on new purchases for 12 months (18.24 percent to 26.24 percent variable APR thereafter), giving small-business owners time to pay off large purchases sans interest.
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 offer. The American Express Gold and Platinum, in particular, have generous welcome offers you can earn after meeting the minimum spending requirements — and by doing so for either card, you can kick-start your earnings. The Amex Platinum features a hefty 150,000-point bonus after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first six months, and the Gold offers 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months.
- Use the Platinum Card for prepaid hotels and airfare. The Platinum Card offers 5X points on flights booked with airlines or flights (up to $500,000 per calendar year, then 1X) and prepaid hotels booked with AmexTravel.com, which is an incredible rewards rate for your travel purchases. Amex Platinum also offers up to $200 in annual credits for prepaid hotel bookings at Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection properties via AmexTravel.com.
- Use the Amex Gold Card for dining and groceries. The Gold Card earns 4X points on dining at restaurants (including Uber Eats) and 4X points on up to $25,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year, then 1X points. If you’re 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.
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 the Amex Platinum and Gold feature more impressive sign-up bonuses currently, you’ll probably want to start with one of them (before the bonuses change or expire). Spend the next six months meeting the minimum spending requirement to earn the welcome offer, and don’t apply for a second card in the trifecta until at least 90 days have passed. From there, you can work on earning the second welcome offer, wait another 90 days and then apply for the Blue Business Plus.
Not only will timing your applications ensure you’re not pursuing more than one welcome offer 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.
To get the most out of the Amex trifecta, you’ll want to try and use a majority of the credits offered by each card, including airline fee credits, dining credits, Uber credits and more.
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.
Further, 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 points
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. According to Bankrate valuations, Membership Rewards points can be worth up to 2.1 cents apiece toward high-value transfer partner travel.
You can also redeem American Express Membership Rewards for travel through the Amex travel portal, but you’ll only get 1 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 a $945 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 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.