Maximizing 2021 Amex Credits and Offers for Travel and Everyday Savings
American Express hit the ground running with their first round of 2021 credits and offers announced early this month. They’ve thrown a lot out there – it took me considerable time to take in all the offers, reflect, and decide which to go after. I bet I’m not alone here! Regardless, having a suitcase full of options is a good problem, but one that takes effort to unpack. In this article, I’m highlighting the 2021 Amex credits and offers I’m pursuing, the ones I’m not, and why. For the ones I’m going after, I’ll share my experiences so far. But first, I’ll share my initial take on this year compared to last.
2020 vs. 2021 Amex Credits
Last year, Amex provided a relatively straightforward set of benefits to cardholders, mostly involving category credits and bonus point opportunities. The credits and bonus point offers didn’t require enrollment by the cardholder prior to obtaining the benefit. Many of us enjoyed wireless, streaming, and shipping credits that automatically showed up in our accounts a few days after the related purchases were made. Some existing credits, such as the Dell credit for Business Platinum holders, were simply increased. The Aspire resort credit automatically allowed restaurant purchases to qualify throughout the summer. Beyond the clawback and slow points-posting funny business some experienced, the benefits were largely straightforward.
This year, Amex has placed more responsibility on cardholders to benefit from the offers, and requirements vary. Most store credits and bonus point opportunities this time require loading the appropriate Amex Offers in advance. The terms of each offer, including what types of purchases qualify, vary widely. Also, some of the participating merchants require tricky signup processes. Finally, many of the offers aren’t great deals, anyway, and involve spending more money than many may care to. My guiding principle in using any of the increased Amex benefits is that I should not spend other than what I would have normally done otherwise. For 2021, let’s first start off with the offers I’m pursuing.
The personal Platinum cards provide a few valuable, easy-to-use offers. Here are my favorites, including my experience using them so far.
PayPal $30 Monthly Credit
Process any transaction via PayPal to obtain a $30 statement credit each month through June 2021. Of course, PayPal is accepted at a variety of retailers and should be easy to use. In practice, though, this credit is sneaky. Since I don’t want to create any unnecessary spend, I would normally attempt to make an exact $30 purchase. For instance, making a $30 payment via PayPal to any utilities or normal bills is a great option for many, but I don’t have that option.
I’ve decided to use our $30 PayPal credits on necessary household items and birthday gifts for others. This month, I used both of our two Platinum credits at Target. Interesting, obscure party fact: Target allows you to combine Target gift cards along with PayPal to pay for a purchase; Walmart does not. Advance enrollment for this Platinum benefit isn’t necessary; simply use PayPal when you check out!
BestBuy.com $50 x 2 Credit
First, ensure to add the BestBuy.com Amex Offer to your Personal Platinum card. Each personal Platinum cardholder is eligible for two $50 credits from BestBuy.com. through June 2021. I found this offer to be the easiest to use so far. Physical gift cards ordered via BestBuy.com aren’t excluded in the terms. I bought a $50 Disney gift card on BestBuy.com and received the card a few days later. Also, I received the statement credit one or two days after my statement closed. While I plan to continue with Disney gift card purchases, BestBuy.com also carries Delta, Southwest, and Hotels.com gift cards (among all the usual restaurant cards, etc). Since my family and I are Disney World fans, this redemption is a no-brainer for us.
Travel Savings: $200
HomeDepot.com $50 x 2 Credit (Ship to Home or Ship to Store)
The HomeDepot.com offer is a bit trickier given that gift card purchases aren’t allowed, per the terms. We’re focusing on consumable items for the home, particularly air filters and light bulbs. Also, my wife particularly enjoys home improvement shopping, so it’s nice that she’ll have the money to defray our costs there. Like the BestBuy.com offer, ensure to activate the Amex Offer prior to shopping online. Also, your purchase must be a Ship to Home or Ship to Store order, per the terms.
Home Chef $50 x 3 Credit
This was a borderline offer for us. Normally, we couldn’t care less about meal kit services, but free money and bonus Membership Rewards points were reason enough for us to reconsider. In my opinion, this offer is only worth pursuing if you stack it with another portal or point bonus. Long story short, we saved a nice chunk of change and got free food thanks to the Home Chef offer on our two personal Platinum cards. I’ll dive deeper into Home Chef in an upcoming article, including our ordering experience (yikes) and the math to maximize savings. Ensure to activate the Amex offer prior to ordering. Like my BestBuy.com offer, the credit triggered about two days after my statement closing.
Savings: $88.98 and 36 free meals
Business Platinum +4x Grab Bag
Cardholders of the Business Platinum have been targeted for an additional 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar in the following categories: gas stations, office supply stores, wireless service, and shipping (up to an additional 80k points in each category). Gas stations are the big winner for us here – 6.25% cash back where we already do plenty of spending. We also paid the annual option on our Republic Wireless service, stacking the two months free there with 5x Membership Rewards points.
Office Supply stores is nice, but it’s not a category we plan to spend highly in, primarily because we have plenty of capacity with our Chase Ink Business Cash card accounts at a superior 7.5% cash back rate. Shipping is a category we may use only minimally; thanks to Amex’s 2020 shipping credits, we are set on all things postage for the long term. The bonus points from the gas offer posted to my account two days after statement closing.
Savings: $18.30 from Wireless Plan Service and TBD Gas Station earning
Blue Business Plus Credits for $500 Purchases
I may have saved the best offer for last. We had two Blue Business Plus accounts targeted for the $25 back with a minimum $500 purchase, up to 10 times through June 2021. For an exact $500 purchase incorporating the normal 2x earning, that’s $25 back and 1k Membership Rewards points. For Schwab cashout fans like me, that’s 7.5% cash back. We have two BBP accounts and enjoy the fact that most any minimum purchase of $500 qualifies. My first $25 credit posted five days after my $500 purchase.
Total Savings: $1,367.28 and 36 Free Meals
The Bad and the Ugly
The offers go on and on, but the rest aren’t worth it for us. In my opinion, don’t get too enamored with any of the other offers, unless you would have normally made the purchase(s) even without the offers. Why am I not a fan? Let’s go one by one (bold is my take):
- Avis Car Rental – Spend $250+ on eligible purchases, Get $75 back, up to two times – Spend $175 of your own money up to two times at one of the more expensive rental car companies.
- Goldbelly – Spend $100+ on eligible purchases, Get $50 back, up to three times – Tempting, but no. Spend $50 of your own money up to three times on stuff you could probably make or find an acceptable version of locally? We’ll pass.
- Instacart – Spend $250+ on eligible purchases, Get $50 back, up to two times – Instead of your doing your own bargain grocery shopping, outsource it and pay a premium while spending $200 of your own money each time.
- Samsung – Spend $1,000+ on eligible purchases, Get $200 back, one time – Find a much better deal on your own rather than spending $800 of your own money directly with Samsung to trigger this deal.
We Aren’t Done Yet…
- Scribd – Spend $9.99+ on eligible purchases, Get $9.99 back, up to five times – I don’t even know what this is. Since I don’t know what it is, I probably don’t need it.
- The Container Store – Spend $150+ on eligible purchases, Get $50 back, up to two times – I admit this one is tempting, particularly for my wife. We shall abstain.
- Virtual Personal Training by Equinox – Spend $780+ on eligible purchases, Get $130 back, up to five times – Customize your own workout in your garage or neighborhood. Use free online or library resources to develop your own workout rather than spending $650 of your own money so that someone can tell you what to do.
- Wine Insiders – Spend $30+ on eligible purchases, Get $30 back, up to two times – We may end up chasing this one if we have time, but only if we avoid cash outlay on our end.
2021 Amex Credits and Offers – Conclusion
All in all, pursuing this first iteration of 2021 Amex offers and credits is a lucrative endeavor. Without much effort, we will be able to easily achieve $1,367.28 in savings simply from these limited-time offers. Incorporating in the usual Saks, Dell, Uber/Uber Eats, and Airline Credits from the Personal and Business Platinum cards, this brings in another $2,000 value for a grand total of $3,367.28. After taking into account annual fees ($2,290), we come out ahead by $1,077.28 (presuming I can use up those increasingly-tricky airline fee credits). Hopefully, we’ll get annual fees waived and/or we close the Business Platinum accounts later in 2021. And this isn’t taking into account the additional referral capacity (read: free Membership Rewards points) with these four Platinum accounts. Regardless, we are easily coming out ahead.
And Amex isn’t done! I look forward to seeing what they offer for their co-branded cards. How will the other major issuers respond? I’m excited to see what they offer, particularly Chase and Citi. What’s your take on the new 2021 Amex Offers and credits?