My Amex Credit Cards Strategy

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the 100K Amex Platinum and 50K Amex Premier Rewards Gold offers, which I hope you heard about from this post. That means that your annual fees are about to come due, and if you’re like most people then you’ll probably want to avoid those at all costs. A couple of people asked how I suggest dealing with it given that you’ll lose your Amex Membership Rewards points if you close all your Membership Rewards accounts.

Approved!

Remember this offer? Oh, how I miss it…

My suggestion is actually pretty simple: I just alternate years between personal and business accounts, allowing me to earn bonuses on the personal and business cards every alternating year.

For example, let’s say you signed up for both the Amex Platinum and PRG cards on January 7, 2013 and got the 150K Amex points. That means you’re coming due on about $625 in annual fees, which is a lot for most people. So I’ll sign up for a Business account around January 7, 2014 to earn that bonus. Then I can cancel the Personal card(s). Then around January 7, 2015, I’ll cancel the Business card(s) that I signed up for the previous year and sign up for Personal cards again, which I’d be eligible for since it’s been 12 months.

I know that might be a little confusing so here’s a step-by-step of this process with a quick explanation:

 

Step 1

Before Decembre ends, make sure you take advantage of the $200 airline reimbursement credit that your Platinum card comes with. Then as soon as January starts, take advantage of it again (it’s a calendar year benefit so this is allowed). Most people buy airline gift cards. I wrote about how to take advantage of the benefits of the Platinum card in this post.

 

Step 2

Before you cancel your cards, you’ll need to sign up for Business cards in order to keep your Membership Rewards account active. That means you won’t have to transfer all the points out to another loyalty program, and you can maintain the flexibility of those points by keeping them in the Amex account. If you’ve follow the points game for long you’ll know that Amex’s Business Gold Rewards card has relatively frequent 50K-75K bonuses, but they usually only last a few days. Hopefully you can wait for that offer.

If not, then the current offer for the Business Platinum card is 25K points and the Business Green Rewards card is a whopping 5K points. There’s currently no offer for the Gold card, but that will likely change soon.

I DO NOT recommend this card, unless you really just want to lower your annual fees to keep your points active. It's an expensive option!

I DO NOT recommend this card, unless you really just want to lower your annual fees to keep your points active. It’s an expensive option!

 

Update: I got a lot of questions about the Green Card. Note that the T&Cs for the Personal Platinum card says “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have had this product within the last 12 months or any Consumer ZYNC®, Green or Gold Card account within the last 90 days.” That means if you get the Green Card now and cancel in a year, you’ll still have to wait 90 days before being eligible for the bonus on the Platinum card again!

Similar terms apply to the Premier Rewards Gold card.

Step 3

Once you’re approved and have activated your Business card and ensured that it’s linked to your Amex account, you can cancel your personal cards. You’ll have successfully earned a new bonus and kept your account active. Take the year to take advantage of the Business card’s benefits.

 

Step 4

One year after getting approved for your Business card(s), the annual fee will come due. Hopefully you’ve taken advantage of the benefits of the card during the previous year. The next thing you’ll need to do is make sure your personal cards have been cancelled for 12 months, since you won’t be able to earn a new bonus until you’ve waited a full year. You can sign up for new personal cards once again after you’ve confirmed your last cancellation date was more than 12 months ago.

Then simply rinse and repeat.

 

 

Slight Alternative (This is What I Try to Do)

The above works best if there are big sign up bonuses every 12 months. Obviously that may not be the case, so the alternative would be to take the best bonus when you see it and cancel cards at the one year mark. That means that if you saw a 75K Business Gold bonus this past year, you would have signed up for it and then cancelled each card before your annual fee comes due (or prior if you want). But you’ll have to make sure you keep at least one card at all times, and that means you might have to pay the annual fee for a while until a worthy bonus becomes due. I personally think it’s worth it to do this, but your strategy may be different.

You’ll still have to wait at least a year before you can sign up again, but at least you know you got the best bonuses available at the time!

 

We need another one of these pronto!

We need another one of these pronto!

 

So whatever your strategy, let’s all just hope that a new, amazing offer comes around very soon!

Comments

  1. It’s like you read my mind. Had this very same question. Thanks for the info.

    When do you think the next Business Gold offer will be?

    • Travel Summary says:

      It came around last year about 3-4 times (between 50K-75K), and the last one was about a month ago I believe. So if I had to guess, I’d say in the next 2-3 months.

      Note that if you cancel a few months after the annual fee hits, you’ll get a prorated refund.

  2. I have a BGR that I just upgraded to platinum any thoughts on how to downgrade after the new year? It is my only Amex MR earning credit card, I don’t want to lose my points and don’t want to transfer them to any airline program yet.

  3. Would a personal card like the Mercedes-Benz Credit Card work? It says it earns Membership Rewards points, but it’s not clear if they’re the transferrable ones or the other type. Know anything about this or maybe if the Blue from American Express card would similarly work? https://www304.americanexpress.com/credit-card/mercedes-benz/25330 & https://www304.americanexpress.com/credit-card/blue/25330 .

    • Travel Summary says:

      The Mercedes Platinum card will definitely work (it’s listed on my Credit Cards page as well). The Blue card from Amex WILL NOT work as they use a cash back system, separate from Membership Rewards.

    • Travel Summary says:

      I should add that some people have reported not being eligible for the Amex Mercedes Platinum bonus recently as Amex changed T&Cs. Others HAVE reported success. You can read about this here: http://thepointsguy.com/2013/09/amex-changes-mercedes-benz-platinum-card-bonus-terms-prior-platinum-cardholders-excluded/

      Sign up at your own risk! It will keep your account active, but it may not be worth it without the bonus.

      • Good to know that the Blue card doesn’t work, but I meant the Mercedes Benz credit card, not the Platinum card. It’s the one that earns 5x on Mercedes purchases, 3x on gas station purchases less than $400, 2x on restaurants and 1x on everything else.

        The terms say:

        Membership Rewards® Program – Transfer Points
        Enrollment in a participating Frequent Flyer program is required. Airline tickets are subject to availability. For each conversion of points into the Frequent Flyer program of a U.S. airline, a fee of $0.0006 per point, with a maximum fee of $99, will be charged to your Card account. We charge this fee to offset the federal excise tax we must pay on such conversions. The fee may be more or less than the actual amount of the excise tax we pay on any individual conversion. We may offer you the option to redeem points to pay this fee.

        So I’m not sure if these are the same points as what the other MR cards earn, but there seems to be a transfer fee with this one.

  4. The personal Bue may not work, but the Blue for Business does earn MR Express points. I have one that I keep open. If I ever happen to have a period with no MR cards, my points convert (temporarily) to MR Express. They change back if I open a new MR-earning account.

  5. So, assuming you don’t have a business entity already, is green card (or mercedes possibly) the way to go? Perhaps a post on how to open up a business purely to benefit from biz credit card rewards is in order?

    • Travel Summary says:

      When people ask the question on how to get business cards, I refer them to this post from Million Mile Secrets: http://millionmilesecrets.com/2011/06/09/3-ways-you-may-qualify-for-a-business-credit-card/

      I opened up a Chase Ink card by saying I buy and sell stuff on eBay and Criagslist. You can come up with tons of other suitable explanations for your sole proprietorship!

      If that doesn’t sound like something you’re interested in, the fee-free green card or Mercedes cards are not a bad idea. Since a lot of people would be interested in this option, I updated the post to say this:

      Update: I got a lot of questions about the Green Card. Note that the T&Cs for the Personal Platinum card says “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have had this product within the last 12 months or any Consumer ZYNC®, Green or Gold Card account within the last 90 days.” That means if you get the Green Card now and cancel in a year, you’ll still have to wait 90 days before being eligible for the bonus on the Platinum card again!
      Similar terms apply to the Premier Rewards Gold card.

  6. There is another way to extend your points that you might want to mention: if you have an SO, that SO can get a business card and add you as an employee. Your personal points can then be merged onto the business account of the SO.

  7. Woop Woop! Good strategy sir. Well written!

  8. Another option when your AF comes due is to call Amex to cancel and see if you are offered a retention bonus. Reports on FT seem to indicate that annual spend is not the only factor in getting a retention offer. If you need a discussion point for the call, you can always start w/ your reluctance to pay the fee after the recent “devaluation” of the perks with the recent loss of club access for cardholders on United and American.

  9. @Sharona,

    Yeah, but you’re ignoring what many of us consider the primary reason to get these cards–the bonus. If you don’t close the card then you won’t be eligible for the next bonus on the PRG. So sure, get a retention offer. Perhaps if its good enough do the minimum spend over a few months. Then cancel. But you’ll throw the whole schedule off somewhat so the opportunity cost is high. The retention offer better be a significant fraction of the annual PRG bonus…

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