- American Express Premier Rewards Gold card
- Starwood Preferred Guest American Express
- American Express Platinum Card®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred card
The American Express Premier Rewards Gold card has upped its signup bonus from 15,000 Membership Rewards points to 25,000 (after $2000 in spend within 3 months), no fee the first year. That’ll be enough to get several folks off the fence and apply. If each point were worth 2 cents, that’s a $500 signup bonus for a no fee card. Truth is, American Express points are both hugely flexible for their ability to transfer to tons of different frequent flyer programs (to anyone’s account, in many cases instantly) although potentially annoying to some since many of their partners add fuel surcharges onto awards.
Amex offers frequent transfer bonuses, last year you could earn a rebate equivalent to a 67% bonus on transfers to Delta and a 50% bonus on transfers to British Airways for instance.
And the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card is the strongest-earning Membership Rewards card there is, double points on gas and groceries and triple points on airfare.
There’s no fee the first year, $175 thereafter, so whether the card is worth keeping after the first year depends on how much spending you do in their bonusable categories. Mine is significant enough, especially on airfare, that it makes sense. But at least grabbing it for the first year will be a boon to frequent travelers who buy their own airline tickets, and for folks with gas and grocery spend that’s more than de minimus.
I applied for the card back when there was only a 15,000 point signup bonus on offer, although perhaps I lucked out because when I hit my qualifying spend they actually gave me 25,000 points.
I use the Premier Rewards Gold for bonus-able spend only, there are two other American Express cards I carry.
- I have an American Express Platinum card not to put spending on but for the benefits, it’s a great way to get lounge access with American, Delta, US Airways, and via Priority Pass Select Alaska Airlines and a sleuth of international lounges. I reviewed the card extensively in January.
- I use the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express for spending that isn’t bonusable on other cards. It’s my generic go-to for most spend (non-travel, restaurant, gas, groceries). And it has been for better than a decade. Because the points are great for hotel stays and transfer to a huge variety of airlines, with a 5000 mile bonus for every 20,000 miles transferred. I reviewed the card extensively in December.
There are cards you get for the signup bonus (and put only the minimum spend required for that bonus). There are cards you get for the benefits like the Amex Platinum, you hang onto the card whether or not you put any spend on that card. And there are cards you get for your spending — in my case general spending on the Starwood American Express, airfare, gas and groceries on the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card, and finally the Chase Sapphire Preferred card which I use for:
- All merchants who don’t take American Express, since it’s a Visa
- All purchases outside the U.S. since there’s no foreign currency transaction fees
- All travel spend that isn’t bonused by the Amex Premier Rewards Gold and Starwood Amex, so hotel stays at other chains and outside the U.S. (even Starwood stays outside the U.S.) and cabs and trains, etc. Since the Sapphire Preferred earns double points on all travel spend.(Note: I do keep my Diners Club card for primary collision coverage on rental cars, so that doesn’t go on the Sapphire Preferred, it’s a benefit that few cards offer but oddly enough something that the United Explorer card< gets you.)
- All restaurant spend, since the Sapphire Preferred earns double points on all restaurant spend.
Points earned through the card transfer to United, the best use of those points in my opinion. They also transfer to British Airways, which offer cheap short-haul flights on partners like American Airlines, Alaska, and Qantas intra-Australia. They transfer to Korean Airlines (which as Lucky observes offers great first class award availability on the Airbus A380 to Seoul). They also transfer to Southwest, Hyatt (in my opinion, second best use of the points), Marriott, Priority Club, and Amtrak.
The card gets 40,000 points as a signup bonus after $3000 in spend within 3 months, and points transfer to whomever you wish. The card also earns a 7% annual bonus on all points earned, and gives access to the Ultimate Rewards mall which is often the most lucrative points-earning online shopping portal.
The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express, American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, and Chase Sapphire Preferred card combine to form the core of my credit card strategy for where I put my spending.
I carry a Platinum Amex, and for strategic purposes I currently have other cards as well like the Amex Hilton Surpass card ($40,000 in spend annually nets Diamond status), the Diners Club card (for rental cars), the Hyatt Visa (a bit superfluous given my Sapphire Preferred card but I keep it so I can trade the next time I want another Chase card), the American Airlines Visa (need to cancel that one and I’ll get it again eventually for the signup bonus), a Citi Thank You Points-earning card (which I got for the bonus and need to cancel), and the US Airways Mastercard (which I got for the signup bonus, am putting some more minimum spend on to earn a targeted bonus, and will keep through the annual Grand Slam bonus offer to earn one partner transaction before I cancel).
(Do know that links to credit card applications in this post will provide me with a referral credit if you are approved. There’s no obligation to use my links for these cards, but I appreciate it if you do.)