American Express Trends
Amex is my favorite card issuer, by far. MtM readers are probably sick of me saying that by now. Amex does more to keep my attention than any other card issuer. And, not coincidentally, I earn more lucrative rewards with them than any other bank. I’m consistently reevaluating my Amex strategy to optimize how I earn and redeem. Along the way, my opinions are also changing. Here’s how I feel about current American Express trends.
The Amex Gold is Obsolete…
…for many big spenders. Depending on one’s travel redemption goals, an individual can do just as well or better with cards like the Citi Premier. And my current 10x Banana Republic Rewards targeted offer is far superior at supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants. At best, the Amex Gold isn’t a guaranteed no-brainer for supermarket spend anymore. Lower spenders are rewarded at better rates with the Amex Everyday Preferred or Blue Cash Preferred with their respective $6k annual supermarket caps. And Hilton fans can earn 5x or 6x at supermarkets with the no-fee and Surpass cards (plus a free night cert with the Surpass).
And given Amex’s ten Pay Over Time card limit, there’s a better way to use these slots. Speaking of….
No Lifetime Language Offer Greatness
Many active Amex cardholders have come to love the availability of lucrative welcome offers without Amex’s usual lifetime language. These offers are predominantly on Business Platinum cards currently and have shown up on personal Platinum cards in the past, as well. The hefty year one annual fee is easy to justify with welcome offers routinely starting at 150k Membership Rewards. One can reach these superior heights with lower required spend than the 4x Amex Gold supermarket category. As long as NLL offers continue to appear, I’ll focus my Amex spend most here.
The Sleeper Hit in the Amex Portfolio
In my view, the Amex Hilton Business is the sneakiest-good card in Amex’s portfolio, especially now. By optimizing this card’s spend, one can currently obtain a 130k point welcome offer, Diamond status, and five free night certificates on one $95 annual fee. And Hilton’s solid free night certificates have recently gotten even better. Hilton’s temporary change allowing redemption any night of the week is now permanent. Read more about why the Hilton Amex Business card is worth your attention here.
The Bevy Isn’t Terrible
Many bellyached that the $250 annual fee Marriott Bonvoy Bevy Amex doesn’t come with a free night cert. It seems that some have used this as their primary reasoning for not picking up the card. That’s a shortsighted view, in my opinion. The Bevy is working out great for us. We wiped out a significant portion of the annual fee with my wife’s referral bonus. We’ve earned the 125k welcome offer and a 50k free night cert by spending $15k on the card this year. Oh, and all that spend was in the 4x supermarket category. We’ll do the same again next year. I concede that the Bevy card isn’t for everyone. But I feel it’s not as bad as everyone is saying.
1.1 Cents Per Point Is Still Fine With Me
There’s no ignoring that the Schwab Platinum cashout going from 1.25 to 1.1 cents per point is a devaluation. However, there’s more to the story. Earning large chunks of Membership Rewards points is even easier now (see the No Lifetime Language section above). The simplicity of earning Membership Rewards at a high scale more than makes up for the devaluation in my situation. Consequently, I’m continuing to happily cash out at 1.1 cents per point and not looking back. I don’t think I’m alone here.
I look forward to what Amex does next and how I’ll adjust my strategy. It’s part of the fun in our hobby, and I’m up for the challenge. And I feel like it’s a win-win. While we actively earn and redeem, Amex is commanding more attention from cardholders like me. How has your Amex strategy changed over time? What’s next for you with Amex?
Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
When I started getting credit cards, AMEX had just charge cards and high fees so few merchants would take them. That stuck with me for a long time. I’m in it for the cash, so crazy redemption values based on travel exchanges are not pertinent. The only cards I am willing to pay an annual fee on are from AMEX, with just one exception (Chase Ink Plus). I agree with the Gold (consumer) analysis. I can get 3.5% with the Everyday and I have the Blue Cash at 6% (plus 5% grocery G/C with Amazon). Most of the money I spend at the grocery is gift cards for the gas points. I’m surprised you are willing to tie up a slot with the Schwab card instead of the bank account, is .1% worth it?
A natural question regarding the Schwab. I definitely come out ahead paying for the Schwab annual fee in return for the extra 0.1%. But I’ll pursue a retention offer, regardless!
You have to compare apples to apples when it comes to points earnings. Amex Gold is nowhere near obsolete, because it offers the best dining multiplier available (4x) on a transferrable currency, and strong supermarket earnings too. You mention Hilton No Fee and Surpass offering “5x” and “6x” on supermarket spend. But remember Membership Rewards points transfer to Hilton at a 2x ratio. So Amex Gold earns “8x” Hilton points on restaurant and supermarket spend, both higher than the Hilton cards (this is before considering the ability to earn a free night on Surpass, which I admit is significant). Also, Hilton offers frequent transfer bonuses from Membership Rewards.
Similar comment in terms of “10x” on the Banana Republic. Is that cash back? Banana Republic credit that can only be used to buy Banana Republic goods? I haven’t walked into a Banana Republic in over a decade, not sure if you can really compare those earnings to travel points, Membership Rewards, true cash back, etc.
To borrow your metaphor, different people’s earning and redemption goals aren’t apples to apples comparisons, either. As I mentioned above, it depends. In my situation, the Gold 4x MR or 8x Hilton points on supermarket and dining spend is negated by it taking up a precious Pay Over Time slot, one that I can use for far superior NLL offers. And for my family, outstanding Banana Republic Rewards earn rates and redemptions often win out. Nonetheless, it seems the Gold card works for you – enjoy!
Amex Hilton Business card only comes with gold status unless you spend $40k per year. Thought it should’ve been mentioned in the article because the phrasing seems misleading to me.
It depends on how you redeem points. AmEx has better merchant offers, better perks, but I find it easier to redeem points with Chase. Membership Rewards only seem great for international flights, and even then, they’re only getting great value if you upgrade class.
Indeed, some have goals more easily met with other currencies.
Benjy, I find an interesting parallel between the differing world views of hotel chains and the differing world views of the card issuers. There are some hotels that ask themselves how they can best gain loyalty from their customers. Other hotels ask themselves what is the least they have to do to gain loyalty from their customers. To me, Amex is in the first category and the other card issuers are in the second category. Clearly, Amex has really stepped up to earn your loyalty. I’m in the same situation.
I tend to agree. Let’s hope Amex stays that way! Thanks for reading.
This is a good analysis that I agree with 100. I’m pretty enmeshed in the Amex system…
And I trust Amex will tweak things and challenge us to analyze again. That’s part of the fun for some of us.