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Some things just work well in threes and the travel world is no exception, from the ME3 (Middle East 3) airlines to the main three airline alliances.
One other trio loved by many of us is the Chase trifecta — the Chase Sapphire Reserve (or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card), the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Used together, these cards offer a powerful combination of earning rates, welcome bonuses and perks.
Thanks probably in part to Chase's competitive offerings, we've seen Amex step up its game by introducing new cards and adding benefits to existing products. During the pandemic, too, there have myriad limited-time perks.
A couple of years ago, Amex refreshed the personal American Express® Gold Card and its business counterpart. These changes make it possible to construct a similar "Amex trifecta" with three cards that complement each other in nearly every way — providing outsized value with a reasonable price tag.
Each of these cards are great on their own, but when taken together they can unlock serious value for even infrequent travelers. Let's dig a bit deeper.
The Amex Platinum is one of the most valuable cards available thanks to a hefty welcome bonus and a long list of luxury travel perks that can more than offset its $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).
The current welcome offer is 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months, but many TPG readers have been targeted for a 100,000-point offer with the same spending requirement by using the CardMatch tool (offer subject to change at anytime). TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, making the bonus worth either $1,200 or $2,000 depending on which offer you get.
While the annual fee is a whopping $550 (see rates and fees), I consider the real out-of-pocket cost to be only $150 thanks to three generous annual statement credits. I take the first two credits at face value, but not the third as I wouldn't otherwise be shopping at Saks. Platinum cardholders will receive:
- Up to $200 in annual airline incidental credits, valid for baggage fees, seat assignments, lounge access and other incidental charges.
- Up to $200 in Uber credits. Card holders receive $15 in credits each month, with a $20 bonus in December.
- Up to $100 in annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits, $50 for purchases made between January and June and another $50 for purchases made between July and December.
- Terms apply
However, that value proposition has changed during the pandemic. While the airline credit isn't as useful, Amex is now offering several temporary benefits including up to $20 on select U.S. streaming services and up to $20 on select U.S. wireless services for each month through December 2020. Amex is now offering an up to $200 Amex travel credit to Platinum cardholders who renew their card between April 2020 and March 2021.
I like to think of that $150 "out-of-pocket cost" as a discounted lounge membership, and the Amex Platinum has the most comprehensive airport lounge benefits of any credit card. In addition to a Priority Pass Select membership, which is available through several other credit cards, you'll also receive access to Amex's exclusive global collection of Centurion lounges, and access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying on Delta.
The perks don't stop there. The Platinum card also offers 5x points (a 10% return) on flights booked directly with the airline and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, as well as access to a useful premium concierge service for all your travel and dining needs. Hotel stays are rewarding as well, whether you take advantage of the complimentary Hilton and Marriott Gold elite status, or book through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts to earn property credits and room upgrades.
Related: Full review of the Amex Platinum
While many people wrote off the old Premier Rewards Gold Card as not being worth the cost, the addition of up to $120 in new statement credits make its reincarnation, the Amex Gold Card, more compelling, even with the annual fee raised to $250 (see rates and fees) and no longer waived for the first year.
So how does this work? In addition to a $100 annual airline incidental credit (similar to the Amex Platinum, this can only be used for ancillary fees and not for airfare), the Amex Gold offers up to $120 in annual dining credits.
This is broken up into up to $10 in monthly statement credits that can be used at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and participating Shake Shacks. If you max out both of these credits you'll be getting $220 a year, lowering your out-of-pocket cost to $30.
The bonus categories on the Amex Gold Card are:
- 4x points on dining
- 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in spend per calendar year; then 1x)
- 3x points on flights booked directly with the airline or on amextravel.com
- 1x everywhere else
- Terms apply
The welcome offer is currently 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, worth $700 according to TPG's valuations, though many readers have been targeted for a 75,000 bonus (after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months) through CardMatch.
The Amex Blue Business Plus has emerged as one of the most valuable cards for everyday non-bonus spending. This no-annual-fee card (see rates and fees) earns 2x points on the first $50,000 in annual spending with no bonus categories to worry about, and 1x after that.
As with the other cards on this list, you'll also get access to valuable Amex Offers, which can help you save money (or give you bonus points) for purchases you were already planning to make.
The Blue Business Plus currently has a welcome bonus that is a limited time offer: Earn up to $300 in statement credits when you make eligible purchases with Dell Technologies, DocuSign and FedEx within the first three months of Card Membership (up to $100 in statement credits per merchant). This offer will run through Nov. 4, 2020.
Bonus Category Review
The total cost in annual fees of the Amex trifecta comes out to $800 starting in the second year, and while the $720 in annual statement credits can go a long way to offset that, the long-term value of this combo comes from the complementary bonus categories.
|*Amex Platinum*||*Amex Gold Card*||*Blue Business Plus Amex*|
|1x||All non-bonus purchases||All non-bonus purchases|
|2x||First $50,000 in annual spending (then 1x)|
|3x||Flights booked directly with the airline and on amextravel.com|
|4x||Dining and US supermarkets (up to $25,000 in annual spending for US supermarkets; then 1x)|
|5x||Flights booked directly with the airline and airfare and prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel|
One important advantage that this Amex trifecta has over its Chase counterpart is that all three of these cards earn transferable Membership Rewards points.
If you can only get one of these cards, you can pick the perks and bonus categories that work best for you without compromising anything on the redemption side. But if you are able to get the entire trifecta, you'll end up earning anywhere from a ~ 4-10% return (based on TPG valuations) on almost all your purchases.
Additional reporting by Chris Dong
Featured photo by The Points Guy.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please clickhere.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, please clickhere.
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