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.
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:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The American Express® Gold Card
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
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 (Terms apply)||$250 (Terms apply)||$0 (Terms apply)|
|Welcome bonus||Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first 6 months||Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months of card membership||Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 on eligible 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, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases||2X Membership Rewards points on everyday eligible business purchases up to $50,000 each year, and 1X points on eligible purchases after that|
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 over $1,600 (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|
|Airline fee 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|
If you max out the available credits your first year, these cards wouldn't cost you anything and you'd actually profit $749. 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.
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
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months of card membership
4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases