How Travel Experts Use the Amex Trifecta to Earn Mega Rewards

The Amex trifecta maximizes your rewards while taking advantage of incredible benefits.
Last updated Jul 31, 2021 | By Lee Huffman
Airplane passenger using the Amex Trifecta

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As great as some of the best rewards credit cards are, none of them can meet all of your needs individually. That’s why one of the best tactics to maximize your rewards is to pair your credit cards with others that offer complementary benefits.

That’s the basis for the Amex trifecta: By holding three top American Express cards, you can earn outsized perks compared to those who have just one or two of the same rewards cards. Here's how you can supersize your rewards with a few strategic card tactics.

In this article

What is the Amex trifecta?

The Amex trifecta is a combination of three American Express cards that offer incredible benefits and can help maximize the rewards you earn on every purchase. When you have all three in your wallet, the sum is greater than the parts.

The three American Express cards commonly included in the Amex trifecta are:

What benefits do the Amex trifecta cards offer?

These three American Express cards offer unique benefits that can improve your travel — either by earning more rewards or offering valuable perks that increase the fun.

For example, the Platinum Card from American Express — a luxury travel rewards card — offers TSA PreCheck or Global Entry reimbursement and airport lounge access. Similarly, the American Express Gold Card has annual credits for dining ($120) and Uber ($120). Enrollment is required for select benefits. Check out all the details in the table below.

Platinum Card Gold Card Blue Business Plus Card
Annual Fee $695 (See rates and fees) (Terms apply) $250 (See rates and fees) (Terms apply) $0 (See rates and fees) (Terms apply)
Welcome bonus Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months, plus 10x points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (up to $25,000 in combined purchases during your first 6 months) Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 6 months Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Earnings rate 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases 2X Membership Rewards points on business purchases up to $50,000 each year, and 1X points on purchases after that
Annual credits
  • Up to $200 annual Uber credit
  • Up to $200 annual airline fee credit
  • Up to $200 annual hotel credit
  • Up to $240 annual digital entertainment credit
  • Up to $300 annual Equinox membership credit
  • Up to $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck reimbursement every four or 4.5 years, respectively
  • Up to $179 annual CLEAR® credit
  • Up to $120 annual dining credit
  • Up to $120 annual Uber credit
None
Special perks
  • Access to Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounges
  • Hotel benefits from The Luxury Collection and Fine Hotels & Resorts
  • Hilton Honors Gold status
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status
  • Rental car insurance (secondary coverage)
  • (Select benefits require enrollment.)
  • The Travel Collection by Travel Leaders Group membership
  • Rental car insurance (secondary coverage)
  • Baggage insurance
None

How does the Amex trifecta work together?

As an American Express cardholder, all of your Membership Rewards points are pooled into one bucket, no matter which consumer or small business rewards card you use. So the points you earn on any of the Amex trifecta cards will end up in the same place.

And with the Amex trifecta, you can earn a huge number of Membership Rewards points in a hurry. With these three cards, you could earn maximum rewards in your major spending categories, then have a "catch-all" card to earn 2X on all non-bonus spend.

The Amex Platinum earns 5X on flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel as well as on prepaid hotels, while the Amex Gold gives cardholders 4X on worldwide dining (unlimited) and at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year). The Blue Business Plus can fill in the gaps by receiving 2X points on the remainder of your spending (up to the first $50,000 spent).

To put it all together, you can use the Amex Platinum and Amex Gold for their bonus categories, then the Blue Business Plus for everything else. Once you've maxed out the $25,000 in U.S. supermarket spend on the Amex Gold, switch additional grocery purchases to the Blue Business Plus.

What are the total annual fees and credits of these three cards?

The total annual fees of the Amex trifecta is a whopping $945. And unlike some card offers, none of these annual fees are waived the first year.

However, when you factor in the credits that each card receives, the net cost of the annual fees is much lower.

When you subtract the $1,684 (including $25 because the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit is $100 every four years) in potential savings from annual credits, your net cost is reduced to well below $0. And this doesn't include the Hotel Collection or Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits, airport lounge access, or hotel elite status upgrades.

Platinum Card Gold Card Blue Business Plus Total
TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit
$100 (spread over four years is $25 per year) $0 $0 $25
CLEAR® credit $179 $0 $0 $179
Uber credit $200 $120 $0 $320
Airline fee credit $200 $0 $0 $200
Hotel credit $200 $0 $0 $200
Digital entertainment credit $240 $0 $0 $240
Equinox membership credit $300 $0 $0 $300
Saks Fifth Avenue $100 $0 $0 $100
Dining credit $0 $120 $0 $120
Annual fee $695 $250 $0 $945
Net cost -$749 $10 $0 -$739

If you max out the available credits your first year, these cards wouldn't cost you anything and you'd actually profit $739. For the average spender, it would likely be relatively easy to add more to your profits with everyday earning potential and other card perks. Do remember select benefits require enrollment.

To see how these cards stack up to card combinations from other card issuers, consider the Amex trifecta vs. Chase trifecta.

What is the best way to redeem American Express Membership Rewards?

After maximizing the Membership Rewards that you earn from your everyday purchases, you'll likely have a lot of points at your disposal. When you’re ready to redeem them, you have several options to choose from.

Transfer Membership Rewards to partner airlines and hotels

Transfers to airline loyalty programs is one of the best ways to get maximum value out of your Membership Rewards. American Express partners with 19 different airlines, which provide options for almost any travel tastes. Airline partner options include Delta, Air France-KLM, Emirates, and Etihad.

With this option, you have a lot of flexibility in how you redeem your rewards. Plus, your reward points could carry more value if you find a particularly good deal on a flight.

In addition to its airline partners, American Express also partners with three hotel loyalty programs: Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy, and Choice Privileges.

With hotel transfers, the value in transferring will depend upon how many points a hotel room requires versus the cash rate.

Book travel with Amex Travel

Booking flights and hotel reservations with Amex Travel often gives cardholders the best value after transferring to an airline or hotel partner. Membership Rewards points are worth one cent each when paying for flights and 0.7 cents for hotel rooms. For those who enjoy scoring travel rewards, using the Pay with Points option for these flight and hotel reservations lets you earn points just as if you were using cash.

Cover card purchases

Cardholders can redeem Membership Rewards points to eliminate eligible charges on their cards. However, the value of these redemptions often isn’t the best deal, since points are only worth 0.6 cents for this option.

Redeem for gift cards

Although redeeming Amex points for gift cards is an option, I generally wouldn't recommend it. Depending upon which gift card you choose, you're redeeming for one cent or less in value.

Make purchases on Amazon

Cardholders can also redeem points when shopping on Amazon, but your points are only worth 0.7 cents with this option.

However, you can occasionally take advantage of promotions that offer more value. Past promotions have included $30 or 20% off your Amazon purchase when you paid for a portion of your purchase using Membership Rewards. In my experience, as long as you use one Amex point, the discount will apply.

FAQs

How many Amex cards can you have?

American Express doesn’t publish a hard limit to the number of cards you can have as long as you are approved for each individual card you apply for. However, reports indicate that most people are allowed a total of five American Express credit cards.

Does Amex have a 5/24 rule?

American Express does not have a 5/24 rule, as Chase does. There is no published limit to the number of cards you can get approved for as long as you can meet qualifying requirements for each card.

That said, it’s generally advisable to space out applications if you plan to apply for multiple cards.

Are Amex cards hard to get?

Some American Express cards are harder to qualify for than others. In general, however, American Express cards are generally restricted to people with good or excellent credit — especially for more popular cards such as the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and the Platinum Card.

American Express also offers The Centurion Card from American Express, sometimes known as the Black Card, which is an ultra-exclusive card open only to high spenders by invitation-only.

What is the best way to use American Express Membership Rewards points?

The value of Membership Rewards points varies based on how you redeem them. However, it’s often beneficial to transfer your Amex points to one of 18 airline partners. Points can be transferred at a one-to-one ratio to most partners, but you can usually get a better value for your points after you transfer them than you could by booking travel directly through American Express.


Is the Amex trifecta right for you?

The Amex trifecta is a solid strategy to maximize the points you earn while receiving plenty of benefits along the way. American Express Membership Rewards are incredibly flexible and a valuable addition to your travel rewards portfolio.

Big Rewards for Dining Out

Intro Offer

60,000 Membership Rewards points

Annual Fee

$250

Rewards Rate

up to 4X points per dollar

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 6 months
  • Rose gold is back! Choose your color.
  • $120 in dining credits
  • $120 in Uber Cash
  • Select benefits require enrollment.
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • $250 annual fee. Terms apply.

Drawbacks

  • No lounge access benefit
  • Has annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 6 months
  • 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply

Author Details

Lee Huffman Lee Huffman is a former financial planner and corporate finance manager who now writes about early retirement, credit cards, travel, insurance, and other personal finance topics. He enjoys showing people how to travel more, spend less, and live better. When Lee is not getting his passport stamped around the world, he's researching methods to earn more miles and points toward his next vacation.