American Express Membership Rewards is one of the original flexible points programs. AmEx offers some of the most attractive credit cards in the travel world because of its customer service, transfer partners and the value of its flexible points. For travelers who prefer Membership Rewards points, the best way to maximize earning points is through the American Express Trifecta. This three-card strategy allows you to earn the most points on every purchase, while also enjoying numerous benefits included with each card.
What Is the AmEx Trifecta?
The AmEx Trifecta is a spending strategy that takes advantage of credit card bonus categories to earn at least two points on every dollar that you spend. By using three different AmEx credit cards, you’ll maximize your spending based on the bonus categories of each card.
Joe Hegedus, a travel blogger at Your Mileage May Vary, says that the AmEx Trifecta provides “a combination of luxury travel benefits and maximum earning potential across several popular spending categories.”
[Read: Best Rewards Credit Cards.]
What Cards Are Included in the AmEx Trifecta?
American Express has 10 credit cards (six personal and four business) that earn Membership Rewards points. Each card has an ideal customer based on its bonus categories, benefits and annual fees.
Jennifer Yellin, credit card expert at Deals We Like, says that “the three cards that are included in the AmEx Trifecta are the AmEx Platinum, the AmEx Gold and the AmEx Blue Business Plus.” However, you can mix and match Membership Rewards cards based on your spending patterns and budget for credit card annual fees.
The Platinum Card from American Express
Experienced travelers love the Platinum Card from American Express for its airport lounge access, annual credits for airline fees and hotels and complimentary Marriott and Hilton Gold elite status. Although it has a $695 annual fee (and $175 more for the first three additional authorized users), there are more than $1,500 in annual credits that more than make up for it. New cardholders can earn 100,000 points as a welcome bonus after spending $6,000 within six months. Additionally, they’ll receive 10 points per dollar on the first $25,000 spent in the first six months at restaurants worldwide and when they shop at select small businesses in the U.S.
This card earns five points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines and five points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels booked through AmEx Travel. Cardholders also have access to Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection benefits and receive up to $100 reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
American Express Gold Card
A compliment to the Platinum Card is the American Express Gold Card. It earns four points per dollar on dining and four points per dollar on groceries, up to $25,000 spent per year. While it earns three points per dollar on flights, you’re better off making those purchases with the AmEx Platinum Card. After approval, you can earn 75,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $4,000 during the first six months.
The Gold Card includes $120 in Uber Cash and $120 in dining credits at Grubhub, Seamless and select restaurants. Both of these benefits are provided in $10 increments over 12 months. These two annual credits essentially offset the AmEx Gold Card’s $250 annual fee. There is also no charge to add additional users.
American Express Blue Business Plus Credit Card
The American Express Blue Business Plus is the everyday spending card in the AmEx Trifecta because it earns two points per dollar on all purchases up to $50,000 each year. While this is a business credit card and many consumers may think they don’t qualify, that isn’t necessarily the case. If you have a side hustle, own a rental property, sell on Etsy or eBay, or drive for Uber in your spare time, then you can qualify for the Blue Business Plus card.
This card has no annual fee and has more limited benefits. As a new cardholder, you can earn 15,000 points as a welcome bonus when you spend $3,000 within three months. It also includes a 0% annual percentage rate promotion on purchases for 12 months, which is ideal if you have a large purchase that you need extra time to pay off. There is no charge for authorized user cards in case you want to give someone else access to the card to earn additional points on their spending.
|Credit Card||Bonus Categories|
|The Platinum Card from American Express||
— 10 points per dollar on dining worldwide (first six months)
— 10 points per dollar at select small businesses (first six months)
— 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly or through American Express Travel (up to $500,000 per year)
— 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels through American Express Travel
|American Express Gold Card||
— 4 points per dollar on dining
— 4 points per dollar on groceries (up to $25,000 per year)
— 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly or through American Express Travel
|American Express Blue Business Plus Credit Card||
— 2 points per dollar on the first $50,000 spent each year
How to Maximize American Express Membership Rewards Points
To maximize your American Express Membership Rewards points, there are a few simple steps that you should take.
— Use the right card for purchases. The AmEx Trifecta strategy involves using cards that offer bonus categories at different types of retailers, then making all other purchases using your everyday spending card. Remembering which card offers which bonus categories can be a challenge. Placing a small sticker on the back of each card with notes about bonus categories makes it easier to maximize your rewards.
— Earn your welcome bonuses. A welcome bonus for new cardholders typically offers the biggest bunch of points that you will receive. Bonus offers change throughout the year, while the minimum spending requirement to earn the bonus is fairly consistent. If you feel it will be a challenge to meet the requirement, try timing your application with a large purchase, like car repairs or a home improvement project.
— Take advantage of AmEx Offers. American Express provides targeted offers for each card and customer based on the specific profile and spending patterns. Some of these offers include extra points when shopping at participating retailers. However, you must activate the offers before making a purchase.
— Add authorized users. Certain AmEx cards (including the Platinum Card) offer bonuses for adding authorized users who make purchases on the account. Typically, there is a spending target to meet within a three- or six-month deadline.
— Refer friends and family. When you refer your friends, family or co-workers to American Express, you can earn a bonus for each approved referral. Bonuses vary by card, and there may be annual limits on how much you can earn. American Express may send you a Form 1099 for the value of the points that you must include when you file your taxes.
— Points are automatically combined into a single bucket. When each of your American Express cards is linked to one online login, all of the rewards earned from each card are automatically combined into one pool of points. This makes it easier to accumulate enough points for an award redemption.
— Book travel with AmEx Travel. Points can be redeemed with AmEx Travel to pay for some or all of a flight, hotel, rental car or cruise.
— Upgrade flights. Eligible flights paid with cash can be upgraded using your Membership Rewards points.
— Transfer to airline and hotel partners. American Express partners with 20 airline and hotel loyalty programs. Some transfer partners offer limited-time bonuses to encourage point transfers.
— Pay with points at checkout. When checking out at some of your favorite retailers, you can use your AmEx points to pay for your transaction. Retailers include Amazon, Best Buy, Dell and more. Periodic promotions offer discounts on your total transaction amount when using points for your purchase.
— Online shopping. American Express has an exclusive shopping portal where you can redeem points for many popular electronics, home appliances and more.
— Gift cards and statement credits. Points may also be redeemed for gift cards and statement credits on your bill.
[Read: Best Airline Credit Cards.]
Yellin says that “transferring those points to a partner airline will ensure that you are getting the highest value out of the Membership Reward points earned.” Redeeming your points for online shopping, gift cards, statement credits and Pay with Points purchases offer the lowest value. Generally, those low-end redemptions are worth 1 cent or less per point, whereas high-end travel bookings can be worth many multiples of that.
How to Get the AmEx Trifecta
To get the AmEx Trifecta, you’ll apply for the first of the three American Express credit cards. There isn’t a specific order, but many people time their applications based on coming purchases.
If you have a big purchase that makes it easier to hit a larger minimum spending requirement or that falls into one of the bonus categories, then you should pick that card first. Otherwise, starting off with the American Express Blue Business Plus is a good idea. It earns two points per dollar on every purchase, which can give your points balance a big boost.
Then, you can apply for the other two Membership Rewards cards in whichever order you like. You can apply for the Platinum Card next to take advantage of its annual credits and airport lounge access. The Gold Card is a good choice if you want to earn bonus points on dining and groceries. These are some of the most common spending categories for most households.
American Express Application Rules to Follow
American Express has several application rules that you should keep in mind when applying for the AmEx Trifecta:
— The four card rule. Customers are allowed to have up to four revolving credit card accounts at one time. However, business credit cards are not included in this limit.
— Maximum of two card approvals in 90 days. You cannot be approved for more than one card every five days and a maximum of two within 90 days. While you can apply for multiple credit cards fairly quickly, it is best to spread out your applications to give yourself adequate time to meet the minimum spending requirements. Additionally, this minimizes the impact of the inquiries on your credit report.
— Once per lifetime rule. American Express wants to limit welcome bonuses earned by customers, so you cannot earn a bonus on the same card more than once per lifetime. If you’ve received a welcome bonus previously, you may want to consider applying for a different card with similar benefits.
Who Should Get the AmEx Trifecta?
Getting the AmEx Trifecta is an excellent strategy for people who prefer Membership Rewards points and AmEx’s airline and hotel transfer partners. Pros
— Receive three different welcome bonuses.
— Match your spending habits to the right card and maximize Membership Rewards points on every purchase.
— Enjoy additional benefits, like airport lounge access and hotel elite status.
— Choose from 20 airline and hotel transfer partners.
— Pay multiple annual fees.
— The minimum spending requirements to earn the welcome bonus may be too high.
— Three different credit card statements to pay each month.
— Must keep track of which card to use when making purchases.
— Once-per-lifetime bonus rules could limit card options.
Hegedus says that “if someone does not want to pay the annual fee for the Platinum Card, it’s possible to switch out the AmEx Green Card to get the earning benefits but not the luxury travel perks.” One of the reasons why the AmEx Trifecta is so popular is that there are 10 cards that earn Membership Rewards points. You can easily mix and match benefits, earning power and annual fees to fit your preferences.
The Bottom Line
The AmEx Trifecta is a popular strategy for people who want to earn the most Membership Rewards points on their spending. With three credit cards, you can take advantage of bonus categories to earn extra points. Plus, you’ll receive additional benefits from each card that can justify its annual fee. These benefits include airport lounge access, annual credits, hotel elite status and more.
Carrying three credit cards, two with hefty annual fees, does require you to be a mindful credit card user, however. You’ll want to make sure you’re getting the full benefits of each card without going outside of your spending comfort zone.
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