The American Express cash back trifecta is a combination of cards that compliment each other’s point multipliers.
On a side note, I generally recommend getting Chase credit cards first before moving on to Amex due to the Chase 5/24 rule. Once you “fill” all the Chase slots, you won’t qualify for cards like the Chase Freedom or Chase Ink cards.
American Express Trifecta for Cash Back
The Amex trifecta for cash back consists of the Amex Gold Card, the Platinum card for Schwab, and the Blue Business Plus card.
All three cards earn Membership Rewards points, and the Platinum card for Schwab is key to cashing the points out at 1.25 cents per point. Membership Rewards are a “better” currency since there’s the ability to get the extra 25%, as opposed to earning straight cash back.
Cards like the Blue Cash Preferred and Cash Magnet are not included since they earn strictly cash back, and not Membership Rewards.
The main benefit of the Amex cash back trifecta is that there are point multipliers on restaurants worldwide, U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year), and miscellaneous expenses. For all non-category spend, the Blue Business Plus earns 2x points on up to $50,000 each year (1x on after that) .
The drawback of the trifecta is that the charge cards have hefty annual fees. Be sure you get positive expected value each year before applying.
Since American Express charge cards do not have a no-annual fee product change option, I don’t recommend getting them early in your credit journey. Build a strong base of cards that have product change options, then move on to Amex.
Annual fee: $250
Welcome bonus: 35,000 Membership Rewards points, after $2,000 in spend within the first 3 months
Earn 4X points at restaurants worldwide (effective June 6, 2019)
Earn 4X points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year, then 1X
Earn 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
Earn 1X points on all other purchases
The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express
Annual fee: $0
Welcome bonus: $0
Earn 2x MR on everything up to $50,000 in purchases each year
Earn 1x MR on everything thereafter
American Express Platinum Card® for Schwab
Annual fee: $550
Welcome bonus: 60,000 Membership Rewards points, after $5,000 in spend within the first 3 months
Earn 5X points points per $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel
Earn 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com
Earn 1X points on all other purchases
Cash out Membership Rewards via Schwab at 1.25 cents per point
Travel Protections and Auxiliary Benefits
Trip Delay Protection
Although the Amex charge cards earn point multipliers on airfare and hotel booked directly or on amextravel.com, I don’t recommend using the cards for booking travel since they don’t come with trip delay insurance or protections.
Watch the videos below to learn about which cards I use to book travel and how I optimize the Platinum card.
Return protection can refund an eligible purchase charged to the respective Amex card. Coverage is limited to 90 days from purchase, up to $300 per item, and a maximum of $1,000 per cardmember year.
Items must be in new condition, and only qualifies when it can’t be returned to the merchant.
It’s worth noting that the Blue Business Plus does NOT have return protection.
Blue Business Plus x Platinum for Schwab
The Blue Business Plus card earns 2x on up to $50,000 in purchases per year, then 1x after that. When you pair it with the Platinum for Schwab, you get 2.5% cash back (1.25 cash out rate).
2x * 1.25 CPP = 2.5% cash back
2x on up to $50,000 of spend (calendar year)
Gold x Platinum for Schwab
The Gold card earns 4x at restaurants worldwide and 4x on U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year (1x after that). When you cash out the points via Schwab, you effectively get 5% cash back on the 4x categories.
4x * 1.25 CPP = 5% cash back
4x on up to $25,000 of spend (calendar year) for U.S. supermarkets, then 1x after that
Optimal Card Strategy
I generally recommend going for Chase credit cards first due to the Chase 5/24 rule. Each Chase slot can be worth $500-$1,000, depending on how you redeem the points. Learn more about how much Chase points are worth in this post.
After you finish with Chase, mathematically, your first American Express card should be the Platinum card (regular) due to the 100,000 point targeting via CardMatch.
Some data points suggest that you’re less likely to get targeted for higher offers if you are an existing American Express cardholder. Learn more about CardMatch in this post.
Amex Platinum (Targeted)
100,000 Amex MR welcome bonus after $5,000 in spend within the first 3 months of card opening
via CardMatch (usually)
$550 annual fee
Value of the 100,000 point welcome bonus when you cash out via Schwab:
Welcome Bonus: 100,000 * 1.25 CPP = $1,250
Annual fee: $550
Net gain (before credits): $1,250 - $550 = $700
It’s also worth mentioning that the Platinum cards come with credits. If you value the credits at face value, you’re getting $500 in credits. If you value the credits at 50%, the net gain (after credits) is still $950.
Credits: Uber ($200) + incidental ($200) + Saks ($100) = $500
Valued at 50% = Net gain (@50%): $700 + (50%)($500) = $950
By skipping the 100,000 point Platinum card offer, you’re effectively losing out on $500.
100,000 MR - 60,000 MR = 40,000 MR difference
= 40,000 MR * 1.25 CPP (Schwab cash out)
= $500 lost
Go for the targeted offer first, then feel free to add other American Express cards. As a reminder, the charge cards do NOT have a no annual fee option, so you’ll lose the credit history if you cancel the card.
Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, vendors or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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