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- The easiest way to regularly earn the most points is to maximize your card’s bonus categories.
- It’s helpful to focus on one program and concentrate your efforts – it’s also simpler.
- Amex has three cards that will earn extra points for every dollar you spend, with a 2x baseline.
- Read Insider’s guide to the best rewards credit cards.
What’s the only thing better than earning 1 point per dollar on every purchase? Earning multiple points for every dollar, of course — thanks to bonus categories with points multipliers.
Many travel rewards cards offer extra points for spending in certain categories. The trick is to use the best card for your purchase. It’s deflating to earn 2x points per dollar and later find out you could’ve earned 5x points instead.
Read more: 3 reasons you should double up on credit cards from the same loyalty program — from earning rewards in more categories to unlocking better benefits
But it’s worth remembering, even if you have to add a sticky note to the front of your card. With most transferable points programs, you can pool all your points in one place. So the more you earn, the faster they build, which is a big motivator. You can redeem travel rewards points to book trips through your bank’s rewards portal, or transfer to airline and hotel partners for an award flight or hotel stay, where you can potentially get much bigger value.
American Express Membership Rewards is one of the most popular flexible points programs. If you like Membership Rewards and its list of airline and hotel transfer partners, read on to learn how to turn every purchase into the maximum number of points with three Amex cards — the “Amex trifecta.”
American Express Membership Rewards is a powerful program because it’s easy to earn points on everyday purchases, and there are lots of ways to use rewards — including redemption options that don’t involve travel.
Read more: Amex points are some of the most valuable credit card rewards, and there are several options for both earning and redeeming them
On the earning side, Amex is generous – many cards earn 3x, 4x, or even 5x points in popular bonus categories. On the redemption side, there are several partner airline loyalty programs and a handful of hotel programs (with frequent transfer bonuses).
With the airline options, you can access every major alliance and book award tickets to nearly anywhere. Even better, some participating programs have reward sweet spots that let you book award flights at excellent prices, like ANA Mileage Club, Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club, and Qantas Frequent Flyer. There’s also Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue True Blue, and Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles for those who prefer domestic loyalty programs.
On the hotel side, you’ll have Choice Privileges, Hilton Honors, and Marriott Bonvoy (with frequent transfer bonuses for the last two programs).
Read more: You can transfer Amex points to 22 loyalty programs to book travel, from first class to Japan on ANA to hotel stays with Hilton
You can also use your points in other ways, like for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, or booking travel through Amex. But typically, you’ll get the best value for your points by transferring to airline or hotel partners for award flights or free hotel nights.
Between excellent redemption options, card welcome bonuses, and strong bonus categories, it’s easy to keep the points rolling in. Plus, the variety of transfer partners makes it easy to use your points for award travel. For all these reasons, I’m focused on earning as many Membership Rewards points as I can right now.
There are three cards — the Amex trifecta — that can net you lots of points, particularly if you often spend in each card’s bonus categories. Beyond that, you’ll find several other lucrative benefits, which vary for each card.
See Pay Over Time APR
75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of card membership
The Platinum Card® from American Express earns 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines, and on flights or hotel stays booked through Amex Travel. The annual spending cap for the combined categories is $500,000, which is quite a bit of spending that can earn you bonus points.
Because of the 5x multiplier, I use my Platinum Card to book flights. I prefer to book hotel stays directly with the hotel to ensure I’ll get tier credit toward elite status, which you don’t always get when you book through a third party like Amex Travel.
Read more: 7 reasons to consider the new Amex Platinum 75,000-point offer, even if you’re not traveling right now
For that reason, this is my “flights card” — and that’s how I remember it. The annual fee is $550 (See Rates) which is hefty, but I get outsized value from the card’s long list of benefits, including:
I’ve also saved a lot of money through Amex Offers. (Eligibility for these offers is limited. Enrollment is required in the Amex Offers section of your account before redeeming).
This card has many other travel- and lifestyle-focused benefits that make it well worth the annual fee, and it comes with an excellent welcome bonus. You’ll earn 75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of card membership, plus, new cardholders can earn 10x points at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations in the first six months of cardmembership, on up to $15,000 in spending. Check out our American Express Platinum Card review for full details.
Read more: The best American Express cards in 2021
Other than the 5x categories, you’ll only earn 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent on all other purchases with this card, so I only use it for flights. Luckily, other Amex cards fill in the gaps. Let’s continue with the trifecta.
See Pay Over Time APR
60,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 6 months of account opening
The American Express® Gold Card earns 4x Membership Rewards points on dining, including eat-in restaurants, takeout, and delivery. Plus, you can earn 4x points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases per year (then 1x), which averages out to over $2,000 per month.
You’ll also earn 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel — but in this scenario, you’ll already have the Platinum Card as part of the trifecta, so we’ll ignore that one (as well as the 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases).
Read more: 3 reasons why the Amex Gold card is an easy choice for foodies, travelers, and even beginners
There’s a $250 annual fee (See Rates) for this card, but again, you can recoup it with a solid set of benefits. For starters, each year you’ll get up to $120 in Uber Cash, and up to $120 in dining credits at participating partners including Grubhub, Seamless, and Boxed — both at a rate of up to $10 per month**. Between the two, that’s up to $240 in credits you can potentially use.
You can also take advantage of the card’s excellent welcome offer, which is 60,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 6 months of account opening. The bonus, along with generous 4x bonus categories, is a compelling combination. Here’s our Amex Gold card review for more information.
I think of this card as my “dining and grocery shopping” card (note that you can earn the dining bonus worldwide, but the supermarket bonus is only for U.S. spending). Dining and groceries tend to be big expenses for many households, so this is a popular card to have.
Read more: The best credit cards for groceries can earn you bonus points, miles, or cash back at the supermarket
Between the Amex Gold Card and Platinum Card, you’ll have flights, dining, and supermarket spending covered. What else is left? That brings us to the last card of the trifecta.
13.24% to 19.24% variable APR
Good to Excellent
0% intro APR on purchases for the first 12 months from account opening
To say The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express is one of my all-time favorites would be, well, pretty accurate. That’s because you’ll earn 2x Membership Rewards points on all purchases up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar beyond that.
Read more: Amex Blue Business Plus review: A great small-business credit card for earning flexible points, with no annual fee
There’s no welcome bonus, but there are also no bonus categories to think about or remember — I simply use it for all purchases that aren’t flights, restaurants, and U.S. supermarkets to earn 2x points (up to the $50,000 annual cap), because those other categories are covered between the Amex Gold Card and Platinum Card.
This is a small-business credit card, which means you’ll need to have some kind of business activity that aims to make a profit. That could be something freelance — or even a side gig. With many people now making money in addition to their day jobs, you might qualify for a business card without realizing it. You don’t need a business tax ID or even a business name — you can use your own name and Social Security Number for your business if you work for yourself.
Even better, this card has a $0 annual fee (See Rates) and allows you to transfer the points you earn to American Express airline and hotel partners, like Delta, Hilton, British Airways, Air Canada, and several others.
Read more: The best small-business credit cards of 2021
I always have this card in my wallet. If I’m shopping and unsure of a spending category, I pull this card out, knowing I’ll earn at least 2x points (up to the annual limit). I’ve used it at a surprising number of places, like at home improvement stores, the dentist’s office, and for recurring payments like home and
. I think of this as my “everything else” card for that reason (and more spending than I expect tends to fall into that category).
With this card, the Amex trifecta is complete. Another benefit of this combination is that, no matter what, you’ll always earn 2 valuable Membership Rewards points per dollar spent (up to the spending limit on The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express). When you use them to book award flights or hotel stays via transfer partners, your points stand to gain even more value toward travel.
The three best Amex cards for maximum points earning are The Platinum Card® from American Express for flights, American Express® Gold Card for dining and U.S. supermarkets, and the The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express for everything else. It may sound intimidating at first, but after a while it becomes a habit — and it’s a lucrative one! Among these, you’ll earn between 2 and 5 points for everything you purchase — and 2x as a baseline minimum is a great earning rate.
Read more: 5 credit card pairings that get you even more benefits and rewards — in most cases, with just one annual fee
If you spend a lot in the bonus categories and can use each card’s benefits, this triad can regularly get you award trips to nearly anywhere in the world.
Harlan Vaughn is a freelance writer who has written about credit card rewards, personal finance, points and miles, and travel loyalty programs for nearly a decade.