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17 Best & Worst Ways to Use Your Amex Points in 2022

American Express Membership Rewards points are some of the best rewards you can earn because they're flexible - you can use them for travel, gift cards, or statement credits, among other things.

Amex cards that earn Membership Rewards include:

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
  • The American Express® Gold Card
  • American Express® Business Gold Card
  • American Express® Green Card 
  •  Business Green Rewards Card from American Express
  • The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

Each card offers a unique set of bonuses and benefits depending on how you spend and travel.

While Amex's rewards program has a lot of flexibility, that doesn't mean all redemption options get the same cents per point value.

This post will cover some of the best and worst ways to use your Amex points. The data points here are calculated from the American Express Rewards calculator: 

The Worst Ways to Redeem Your Amex Membership Rewards

Let's start with the worst ways to use your Amex points.

1. Shop With Points

Amex has a shopping portal with many products you can buy with Membership Rewards points. While this is a versatile way to use your points, it doesn't have a high redemption value.

For 10,000 points, you'll only get a value of 0.5 CPP— which is not the best value for Amex points.

If you're set on using points for merchandise, you might be better off buying a gift card or going through a shopping partner like Amazon.

2. Transferring Points to Partners

Amex has a ton of airline transfer partners that you can transfer your points straight to. 

Most partners offer a 1-to-1 transfer rate, so if you transfer 1,000 points to them, they will give you 1,000 points back. Sometimes, American Express runs promotions for transfer partners where you can get a better rate.

One thing to keep in mind here is the Excise Tax Offset Fee.

In most cases, American Express charges an excise fee of 0.06 cents per point (capped at $99 for any single transfer) when you transfer points to U.S. airlines with a card such as The Platinum Card®. 

American Express's U.S. airline partners that charge an excise fee include:

  • Delta
  • JetBlue
  • Hawaiian

On a 100,000-point transfer, that fee equates to $60. In addition to these charges, the airline may also charge taxes and fees.

However, not all partners charge this fee. Some of the airline programs where you can transfer Membership Rewards points without paying any fees include:

  • Are Lingus Aeroclub
  • Aeromexico Club Premier
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France / KLM Flying Blue
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest Miles
  • Iberia Plus Miles
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Singapore KrisFlyer Miles
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Since these are points from airlines outside the United States, American Express won't charge you the Excise Tax Offset fee to transfer points into these programs, although you need to evaluate their value (Note: some of them are hard to redeem points from). Transferring points to their hotel partners will also be free of charge.

Unfortunately, the only way to transfer points to your Delta SkyMiles account is through AMEX, so be prepared to pay the fee to utilize them.

To get the best redemption rates, you need to do a lot of research before you transfer your points.

3. Redeeming for Statement Credit

If you don't want to pay your card bill, you can redeem your points for statement credits, effectively wiping out any purchases you made with the card. While this option is handy, it also isn't recommended.

However, if you're in a pinch, this can help.

It's best used as a last resort if you need some last-minute funds to cover your balance. But each point will only be worth 0.6 CPP. So the low value makes it not a great option.

We'll talk about other setups later in this post if you're after cash.

4. Donate Your Points to Charity

With JustGiving, you can donate your points to over 1.5 million charities. Unless you can redeem your points for travel, you'll likely get no more than 0.7 cents per point from this redemption option.

The points aren't the greatest value for your money, but if you don't need your points, this is a decent option.

Beware of the value change, though. Depending on the organization, the value of your points may vary, so pay attention.

Doing the math can help you make a bigger impact.

5. Booking Travel via

With American Express Travel, you can book all kinds of travel, including hotels, vacation packages, and cruises.

If you book travel through the American Express Travel portal (excluding airfare), you will only earn 0.7 CPP. In addition, considering other companies will give you 1 CPP, booking your travel using the Amex Travel portal may not be the best way to spend your Amex points.

Keep in mind that using the Amex Travel Portal is NOT the same as using a transfer partner.

6. Merchandise

Similar to option 1, you can use your points to spend with certain merchants.

The cents per point come out to 0.7 mostly, except for NYC Taxis and Those have different point-to-cent ratios, so check the redemption rate before redeeming, as redemption rates may vary from retailer to retailer.

You also need to be careful because some platforms like Amazon can automatically fill in that you're using M.R. points when you check out.

If you want to use your points for shopping, there are probably better options in this list.

7. Redeem for Business Checking

This option is new for 2022.

If you have a business checking account with Amex, you can redeem your points for cash. You'll get 0.8 CPP, so 10,000 points would come out to $800. These points are considered rebates instead of income, so you're not taxed on them. 

So if you have a lot of points, cashing out your business checking account through your Business Platinum might be a better option. (More about this below)

8. Gift Cards

Gift cards come in different types, and your redemption value varies. Then again, there are many 1 CPP options with less variance, which is not too bad.

It may not be the best redemption method for your Amex points because it has additional hoops to jump through.

The Best Amex Membership Rewards Redemption Methods

9. Upgrade Your Seat

With Upgrade with Points, you can bid on seat upgrades at over 20 participating airlines using your Membership Rewards points. This is a convenient option if you are worried about cramped seats on long flights. 

It might make more sense to upgrade your seat with the actual card and earn more points because there are higher-value options to redeem your points. However, membership rewards here are worth at least 1 CPP depending on how you use them.

If you value your seat on the plane, you might like this option.

10. Book Flights Via Amex Portal and Hotels Via Amex FHR

This is a great option for the avid traveler.

Compared to other companies, you can get a decent rate on your points. You can expect to redeem 1 CPP with flights and hotels if you book it through the Amex Portal.

But if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you could get 1.5 CPP when you book through their own portal.

With this option, you can get an elevated value for your points, whether it is flights, and pay yourself back.

11. Business Checking Account with Business Platinum

This is a better option than the 7th option mentioned above. 

Instead of $800 per 100,000 points, you can get a better rate of 1 CPP. That comes out to $1,000 per 100,000 points. You must have the Amex Business Platinum card, though.

If you run a large business, that might be enough to offset the annual fee, but you still need to do the math.

12. Morgan Stanley Cash Out

If you own a Morgan Stanley brokerage account, this might be useful.

It's similar to a business checking account using your business platinum but on a more personal card side.

If you own the Platinum Card from American Express Morgan Stanley edition, you can cash out your points to your brokerage account at 1 CPP.

The points can be cashed out anywhere once they reach your brokerage account. 

Though, you might want to consider these things first before you use this option:

  1. To get the Morgan Stanley Platinum Card, you need to be approved.
  2. You must have a Morgan Stanley brokerage account to apply for this card. Among the easiest ones to go for is Morgan Stanley Access Investing, which only requires $5,000 to open and charges 0.35% per year on investments.
  3. The Morgan Stanley Platinum Card has an annual fee of $695.

I made a blog post about this before and how to waive the annual fee. You can learn more about it here: 

13. Charles Schwab Cash Out

You can transfer M.R. points at 1.1 CPP to your brokerage account with the Platinum Card from American Express Charles Schwab. So if you're looking to redeem for cash, this might be the best option. 

However, as with any other Amex Platinum cards, there are a few things you need to consider:

  • Again, you need to be approved to qualify for the Schwab Platinum Card.
  • A Schwab brokerage account (either your own or a trust you oversee) or an IRA at Schwab (not managed by an independent investment advisor) is required to apply for the card. The eligibility rules can change at any time.
  • Amex reserves the right to cancel your American Express Platinum Card® for Schwab if you do not maintain a Schwab account.
  • Currently, the Schwab Platinum Card annual fee is $695.

14. Using Amex Business Gold Card's Rebate Feature

If you have a Business Gold, you can get a 25% rebate when you book an eligible flight.

So, if you use 100,000 points to cover a $1,000 flight, you'll get 25,000 points back. That means you used only 75,000 points for a $1,000 purchase, which works out to a rate of 1.33 CPP.

The maximum rebate is 250,000 points, so you wouldn't want to redeem more than 1 million.

15. Using Amex Business Platinum Card's Rebate Feature

Platinum Business cardholders can redeem M.R. points for travel and get a 35% rebate when they use their card for either first class or business class travel or flights with the airline of their choice (via the travel incidental credit).

That means if you spend 100,000 points for a $1,000 flight, you'll get 35,000 points back. Considering the 35% points rebate, the effective value is 1.54 CPP.

This is your best bet if you're looking for a simple travel redemption. The maximum rebate here is 1 million points per year, so you wouldn't want to redeem more than 2.85 million.

16. Using Amex Business Centurion Card's Rebate Feature

This is the same for the two previous options, but even better!

You can redeem your points with Business Centurion for a 50% rebate. As you know, spending 100,000 points for a $1,000 flight would get you 50,000 points back. 

With the rebate, you can effectively get 2 CPP, the highest rate we've discussed.

On top of that, there is no maximum rebate. However, the personal Centurion card does not offer flight rebates.

17. Transferring Points to Amex's Airline or Hotel Partners

Finally, you can transfer your points to American Express airline and hotel partners.

The rate here can be up to 10 CPP, but it can generally fluctuate or come out to about 2 or 3 CPP when you get through all the transferring. There are a lot of nuances to this one. 

But for avid travelers, this might be a decent option for you.

Overall Thoughts

American Express points can be redeemed in many ways, so it's important to know which one gives you the most value.

While you can use them for merchandise or shopping with Amazon, they don't provide good value.

Most people will get the best value from their points by transferring them to airline or hotel partners or using your Amex business card.

Ultimately, it all depends on what kind of travel you're looking for and how much work you're willing to put in. Spend some time comparing the cash cost via Amex Travel to the points cost if you transfer to a partner to see which one will save you the most money.

YouTube Video

Watch this video to find out how to get the most out of your Amex points:


How to Use Chase Pay Yourself Back Feature: Step-by-Step Guide

Starting May 31, 2020, Chase added a new temporary benefit for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card  and Chase Sapphire Reserve® members to “Pay Yourself Back.”

Note: The “Pay Yourself Back” feature is not available to the no annual fee Chase Sapphire card.

How Pay Yourself Back Works

The Pay Yourself Back Program lets Chase Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cardholders redeem Ultimate Rewards to offset select category purchases at a favorable rate.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: 1.25 cents per point
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 1.50 cents per point

Pay Yourself Back Categories:

  • Restaurants
  • Grocery stores (including take out and eligible delivery services)
  • Home improvement stores
  • Select charitable organizations
  • The following charitable organizations are currently eligible for Pay Yourself Back: American Red Cross, Equal Justice Initiative, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, International Medical Corporation, Leadership Conference Education Fund, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Urban League, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, United  Negro College Fund, United Way, and World Central Kitchen.

The current promotion is valid through September 30, 2020, but it’s possible that it may be extended due to uncertain times.

[ March 30 Update ] Pay Yourself Back is extended until Sept 30, 2021.

How to Use Pay Yourself Back: Step-by-Step Guide

1. Log in to your online Chase account

Sign into your online Chase account and navigate to the Ultimate Rewards tab located on the bottom of the left column.

2. Select your Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve card

Select the card you’d like to access. If you have multiple Ultimate Reward earning cards, you can choose to pool points to the Sapphire card to redeem.

In our example, we choose the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

3. Select the “Pay Yourself Back” menu option located in the left menu column

Navigate to the left hand column and select the “Pay Yourself Back” menu item. Clicking the main promotional banner also works, as seen in the screenshot below.

4. Pay Yourself Back

The current categories for pay yourself back are: restaurant and grocery stores (including take out and eligible delivery services), home improvement stores, and select charitable organizations.

5. Choose the purchases to Pay Yourself Back

After each purChase posts, you have 90 days to pay yourself back. Check the respective box to select the purChase.

6. Set your amount

Enter the dollar amount you’d like to receive as a statement credit by using some or all of your available Ultimate Rewards points. The Chase Sapphire Preferred redemption rate is 1.25 cents per point, and the Sapphire Reserve is 1.50 cents per point.

After setting the cash value, click “Confirm & Submit” to redeem!


Best Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

One of the main benefits of Chase Ultimate Rewards points is that you can transfer them out to partners if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or the Chase Ink Preferred.

You can view credit card offers by going to the "Credit Card Offers" tab. Find offers for the respective cards in "Travel Rewards Credit Cards" and "Business Credit Cards." You don't have to use our links, but we're grateful when you do. Thank you for supporting AskSebby!

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer at a rate of 1:1. On average, you can get up to two cents per point when you use transfer partners.

If you're looking for the most value possible, then airline partners are the way to go for first class redemption. This also works well for last minute flights.


The way I redeem points for "best value" is hotels because everyone in your travel group can benefit.

For example, if I transfer my Ultimate Rewards points to United:

  • United Polaris (US to Asia) is 70k one-way, per person
  • 70k Chase points => 70k United points

On the other hand, if I transferred my Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt:

  • Hyatt Category 7 (top tier) is 30k, per night.
  • 30k Chase points => 30k Hyatt points.

For the cost of a round trip United Polaris flight to Asia, I can get four nights at a top tier Hyatt property.


  • Park Hyatt: NYC, Paris-Vendome, Tokyo, Sydney
  • Hyatt Residence: Maui, Big Sur, Lake Tahoe, Aspen

IHG is not an ideal transfer partner because of the cost of the points, and you typically need more points for a redemption.

In my experience, Hyatt has the best redemption value for transfer partners. The Category 1 Hyatt properties start at 5,000 Hyatt points.

Category 1 = 5,000 Hyatt points / 5,000 Chase UR points

  • $100 a night / 5k points = 2 cents per point
  • $200 a night / 5k points = 4 CPP

Check out the video below for more redemption ideas.


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American Express Application Rules 2024
American Express

Before you apply for an American Express card, it’s important to learn about the rules to increase your chances of approval. 

The guidelines presented here include non-negotiable rules explicitly stated in the terms and conditions, as well as practical insights gleaned from experience and shared among industry insiders. 

While certain guidelines may apply to a broad range of individuals, there may also be exceptions to these rules that could impact your personal experience.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select  American Express benefits and offers. Visit to learn more.

Rule 1: 18 years old and a U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident

To be eligible for US credit cards, you typically need to meet certain requirements, such as being a US citizen or legal resident and being at least 18 years of age. However, obtaining a card can be challenging for those without an ITIN or SSN. 

That being said, there are exceptions to these requirements, as residency can be interpreted broadly. For example, Canadian citizens who operate a business in the US for a limited period may be able to obtain US cards by using their US mailing address. 

Additionally, even if you are not perceived as a resident, you may still be considered one for tax purposes, which American Express typically looks for. 

Furthermore, there are programs like Global Transfer that allow you to bring your Amex history from another country to the US, potentially improving your chances of getting approved for US cards.

Across the board, American Express tends to be one of the most stringent, so there’s a list of things they require, such as: 

  • Your American Express account number
  • U.S. Home Address
  • U.S. Phone Number
  • U.S. Bank account details
  • Passport details, U.S.-issued SSN or ITIN
  • Employment details 

A big reason for this is just due to the financial compliance that’s required in the U.S.  

Rule 2: Ideally 700+ Credit Score

Typically, having a credit score of 700 or higher is desirable, although it is not an absolute requirement. In my experience, a score of at least 700 is generally necessary to qualify for most American Express cards, but others may suggest different thresholds, such as 670 or even 650. Personally, I find that aiming for a credit score of 700 helps to minimize the risk of rejection and reduce the hassle of applying for credit.

You might be surprised at how simple it is to improve your credit score if you lower your credit card utilization. However, even if your score is at a satisfactory level, such as 670 or 700, you may still be denied credit due to other factors, such as a high credit utilization rate or being on a blacklist.

Rule 3: Once-In-A-Lifetime Rule

The intro offer may not be available to those who have previously had the same card or versions of it.

Although many of the features may be identical, these are technically different products, not previous versions. Some issuers may still consider it a disqualifying factor if you have had the same card before or if you did not receive the welcome bonus previously.

This is why it is important to be cautious when upgrading or downgrading your card, as it could potentially lock you out of the intro offer. Since the intro offer is a significant incentive for many applicants, a mistake here could cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

The key takeaway is to avoid downgrading your card unless you have had it before or are not interested in the intro offer.

Exceptions to the general rule exist, such as:

  1. Targeted offers that do not contain "No Lifetime Language" or NLL. While these offers may not have the lifetime language, they are typically only available on business cards and may not be suitable for everyone. 
  2. Additionally, some have speculated that the "lifetime" for American Express may be limited to seven years. Despite these exceptions, it is wise to be cautious and not rely solely on them. 

Therefore, it is recommended to apply for cards during elevated offers or use tools like CardMatch to determine if you are targeted for an elevated offer rather than solely relying on exceptions. 

Rule 4: The 4/5/6 Credit Card Limit

In the past, this was referred to as the Five Card Rule, as American Express historically limited customers to five credit cards. This means that if you already have five personal credit cards and attempt to apply for a business credit card, your application will likely be rejected. If you only have four personal credit cards, you can only be approved for one business credit card, which means that you are limited to a total of five credit cards between your personal and business accounts.

There are also several distinctions between credit cards and hybrid cards. Hybrid cards are those that do not have a specific spending limit, including:

  • American Express® Green Card
  • American Express® Gold Card
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express (Charles Schwab, Morgan Stanley)
  • American Express® Green Business Card
  • American Express® Gold Business Card
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
  • American Express® Plum Card

When you log in to view these cards, they typically state that there is no set spending limit. However, there is a limit based on risk assessment, which can change frequently.

All other cards are considered credit cards:

  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire® Credit Card
  • Hilton Honors American Express Business® Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Blue Card from American Express
  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card from American Express
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Card from American Express
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Card from American Express
  • Delta SkyMiles® Blue Business Card from American Express
  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business Card from American Express
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business Card from American Express
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business Card from American Express
  • Amazon Prime card from American Express
  • Amazon Business Prime card from American Express
  • American Express® Blue Cash Everyday® Card
  • American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
  • American Express  Everyday® Cards
  • American Express Everyday Preferred® Card
  • American Express Blue Business® Plus Card
  • American Express Blue Business® Cash Card
  • Lowe's Business cards from American Express 

If you have five credit cards, you can still be approved for the American Express® Gold Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express, and other non-credit-card products. The American Express® Gold Card and Platinum cards do not count towards the five-card limit. However, there is some variability in this rule, as some people may be limited to only four cards, while others may be allowed up to six.

Rule 5: 1 in 5

The rule states that you are only allowed to be approved for one credit card every five days. However, the 1 in 5 rule does not apply to other cards. This means that you can apply for one credit card and any number of other cards on the same day without any issues. However, it is important to keep in mind that you will still be responsible for meeting the minimum spending requirements for each card.

Another thing to note is that applying for multiple American Express cards typically does not have a significant impact on your credit score. Once you have one Amex card, they usually only do soft credit pulls for subsequent applications. Your mileage may vary.

Rule 6: 2 in 90

If you apply for more than two credit cards within 90 days, you will automatically be rejected for the third one. However, it is important to note that this rule only applies to credit cards and not to other cards. Therefore, you can apply for as many other cards as you want without worrying about this rule.

Rule 7: Popup Jail

"Popup Jail" is a term used to describe a scenario where you apply for a credit card, and a popup appears, informing you that you can still apply and receive the card but without any intro bonus. The reasons for this can vary greatly, but it is often due to the applicant's behavior being considered unprofitable or not meeting the issuer's criteria. 

Common reasons include low spending on current cards, closing a card too quickly or after taking a retention offer and spending too much on elevated categories. 

To avoid ending up in popup jail, it's recommended that new applicants start with other issuers first, especially if their spending is relatively low. 

Another example is self-referrals, which can result in shutdowns and blacklisting in extreme cases. Ultimately, the issuer is less likely to provide an intro bonus if the applicant is perceived as unprofitable, as it doesn't make economic sense for them to do so.

Rule 8: One Platinum Rule

This rule states that you're eligible for only one introductory bonus across the various versions of The Platinum Card® from American Express (Standard, Charles Schwab, and Morgan Stanley versions).

Example Scenario: If you’ve had The Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Charles Schwab or The Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Morgan Stanley, you’re ineligible for the welcome bonus of the standard Platinum card. This rule necessitates a strategic approach - choose the Platinum card that offers the most value based on your lifestyle and spending habits.

Rule 9: 90-Day Platinum Rule

There’s an unwritten rule suggesting you can only be approved for one Platinum card every 90 days. While this might be flexible, the system often flags multiple Platinum applications as duplicates.

Example Scenario: If you're aiming to collect different Platinum cards for their unique benefits, space out your applications at least 90 days apart to avoid automatic rejection.

Rule 10: "Little Brother Rule"

One of the most impactful new rules is what I like to call the "Little Brother Rule." This rule is about prioritizing certain cards in your application strategy to ensure eligibility for welcome offers.

Specifically, with the Delta SkyMiles card lineup:

  • Delta SkyMiles® Blue Card from American Express
  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card from American Express
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Card from American Express
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Card from American Express

Your eligibility for a welcome offer on a lower-tier card may be affected if you already have or have had a higher-tier card.

Example Scenario: If you apply for the Delta SkyMiles® Blue Card from American Express, you're ineligible for the welcome bonus if you've had any of the higher-tier Delta cards. Conversely, holding a Delta Blue doesn't affect your eligibility for higher-tier cards' bonuses. This cascading effect means it's strategic to start with the Delta Blue and work your way up, potentially unlocking four distinct bonuses.

How to Use the Amex Airline Incidental Fee Credit
American Express

American Express recently stopped counting airline gift card purchases towards airline incidental credit reimbursements.  

As a reminder, the airline credits are intended to be used for incidental fees such as checked bags and in-flight refreshments, and not gift cards.

Since the gift cards stopped coding, there have been scattered data points of select non-gift card transactions triggering the airline incidental fee reimbursement.

Some of the data points below are of legitimate airline incidentals like seat upgrades, pet fees, and early check-in fees. If you believe that your purchase should be considered an incidental and it’s not reimbursed by your statement close, contact American Express and let them know.

Disclaimer: Data points do not mean that the method is guaranteed to work. Methods are subject to change at any time. Use at your own risk.  

Alaska Airlines

American Airlines


Credits are getting reimbursed ~10 days from transaction posting (NOT transaction date).

i.e., you make the purchase on Nov 15 and it posts on Nov 18. It would be ~10 days from 18th so hopefully 28th.


Doesn’t work:

  • Gift cards do NOT get reimbursed (as of June 22, 2019)
  • Delta Sky Club bar no longer works (as of Sep 2023)





  • Extra legroom purchases (needs to be separate transactions)
  • Cancellation fees
  • Tickets exactly between $137.40 and $152.20 (i.e., $142) (see)

Doesn’t work:

  • Gift cards



  • Flight tickets less than $109
  • Additional collections below $109 (i.e., $208 ticket + apply a $100 credit = $108 remainder)

Doesn’t work:

  • Gift cards


The Cash Back Credit Card Tier List
Cash Back

Credit card rewards "transfer wealth" from cash users to credit users. If you select the right credit card and use it responsibly, it can be form of couponing.

By using credit cards (that earn rewards), you get the cash back. For example, let’s say a merchant (Walgreens) pays 2-3% in interchange fees to accept your card. In most states, this amount is the same, so that the merchant will increase the product cost.

Consumers who use credit cards get the rewards back, and cash users foot the bill. Per the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, cash users pay $149/year into this system. Credit card users get $1,133/year from this same system. Keep reading if you want to learn more about how to be on the receiving end of the money.

Side note: If you don’t want to use credit cards but still want to reap the benefits of rewards, I recommend looking into cash back portals. One of the most competitive rates and payouts right now is Rakuten. Here’s a referral link to check them out:

Tier 5: 1% to 1.5% Credit Cards

These are generally the starting point for people who are new to this channel. They know they should have a credit card for all the reasons we just mentioned, including building credit and getting some rewards back but haven’t looked into it too much beyond this.

You can usually derive 2-3X more value with minimal work. For example, some 1.5% cards tie into other card setups, but this is generally due to something (a premium card) making it worth more.

Tier 4: 2% Credit Cards

These cards are my recommendation for people who want to set it and forget it and use one card for everything.

The Citi Double Cash Card® (1% when you buy and 1% when you pay), Fidelity 2%, and the PayPal 2% Mastercard all fit the bill along with some regional credit union cards. Of these, I recommend the Citi Double Cash because it gives you more optionality.

One of the benefits about Citi is that you can product change between any of their cards when it comes to using it for travel or cash back. For example, the Double Cash can be changed to the Costco credit card.

Regarding travel, the 2% is the baseline value that we use when comparing cards; we want it to pass the 2% hurdle rate.

The Citi Double Cash card is a great example of making a travel card work for you with up to 4% cash back for advanced redemptions like business or first class.

Tier 3: Specialty Credit Cards

These types of cards are for people who spend a lot of money at specific places. Cash back is cash back here, so generally, there are no additional reward options. The goal here is to find cards that offer at least 3% back. You want your cards to work for you.

There are three sub-types of cards in this category:

1. Payment Method

An example of a payment method type of card is Apple Pay. Apple gives you 3% cash back when using Apple Pay at places like Apple, Walgreens, Duane Reade, Nike, Uber and Uber Eats, and Exxon, to name a few.

For people who have expensive medicine, 3% cash back at Walgreens can be huge. By the same token, if you spend a lot of money on Apple products, this is a great option.

2. Vendor or Store

The Amazon Prime card is a great example of an extremely competitive 5% cash back for high Amazon spenders or frequent Whole Foods shoppers.

If you’re someone who buys a lot of electronics or cameras, B&H is worth considering because it can cover the tax amount at 8.5%. That’s a lot of savings on a $1000 camera lens!

Be careful with this; avoid getting cards for places you don’t spend a lot of money or don’t see yourself using in the future.

Specific Categories Examples:

  • Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi earns 4% cash back on gas up to $7,000 and 3% cash back on restaurants and travel.
  • Capital One Savor earns 3% cash back on dining and entertainment.
  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express earns 3% cash back on U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000, then 1% after that. Terms apply.

The benefit here is that you are not locked into a specific store. You can go to Trader Joe's, Safeway, and Whole Foods, and any restaurants or gas stations, etc.

For a lot of these cards, there are annual fee versions as well. The American Express Everyday Preferred and the Blue Cash Preferred are good examples of cards with various annual fees.

To see which card is the best for you, do a simple break-even calculation. Ignoring all other multipliers, for example, if your supermarket spending is $3,167, you are impartial to either card. If you spend more than that, the Blue Cash Preferred has the better value.

Lastly, make sure these cards cover the bases that you need covered. If you only cook at home and your restaurant spending is low, or if you don’t have a car, these might not be the best cards for you.

Tier 2: 5% Rotating Credit Cards

This is the setup I recommend for lower spenders using the U.S. Bank Cash Plus and  Chase Freedom Flex℠ cards. The U.S. Bank Cash Plus lets you pick two categories where you can earn 5% cash back on up to $2,000 spend per quarter.

There are lots of categories to choose from, and I’ve seen this played in two ways.

First, pick a category that you consistently spend a lot of money on. (The same idea as Tier 3 but covers two categories.) Electronics are an easy example here.

Secondly, use this card for items you don’t usually purChase but could have a spike in spending throughout the year.

For example, buying new furniture, a new cell phone, sports equipment, or back to school shopping.

The  Chase Freedom Flex is the other major pick in this category, and this is for the potential upside of earning 5x cash back on up to $1,500 in combined category purchases each quarter you activate.

Similar to the Citi Double Cash, this can be worth twice as much (10% cash back) if you decide to switch to a travel set up. The fact that you have a good 5% baseline and huge optionality with this card is a great benefit.

If this is confusing, or you have a Player 2 that always uses the wrong card, I would invest in a label maker. It takes 30 seconds of work every 3 months to help clarify which card to use and when.

Tier 2 is also the best spot for most cash back people who are low to normal spenders who want to maximize their card's value.

Tier 1: Specialty Setups

The card systems in Tier 1 have the most upside, but almost always have something that makes it hard to justify.

We'll quickly go through these, but I could make a dedicated post for each.

1. American Express Trifecta for Cash Back

Here you’ll earn Membership Rewards (MR) points from the American Express® Green Card, American Express® Gold Card, and the The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express. Then, cash them out using the Schwab Platinum card for 1.25 cents per point (CPP).

The main disadvantage here is that you generally need a pretty sizeable spend to justify this setup long-term. There are also a lot of annual fees involved; generally $800-$950 per year. But there are also many credits that help subsidize these fees, like the $200 annual travel credit. Terms apply.

This is generally the setup I recommend to people who have a lot of work spending, or for someone who only takes one short vacation per year and they can’t use all of the points anyway.

In this instance you might as well cash out the points into your brokerage account.

2. Bank of America Platinum Honors Setup

The main disadvantage here is that you need $100,000 in your Bank of America account or Merrill Lynch brokerage account. With this setup you get a 75% rewards bonus on Bank of America cards.

That means the 3% Cash Rewards is 5.25% cash back on a pretty wide range of things like gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, and home improvement.

There are spending caps, but people who run this setup get multiple cards or product change to different cards.

3.  Chase Trifecta

This is new for 2021, mostly because  Chase added the Pay Yourself Back program. With this program, you can redeem your points for additional value; 25% or 50% boost for everyday purchases. This sounds good on the surface, but there are some disadvantages.

The main disadvantage is that  Chase picks the categories, so we don’t know if it will stay as groceries or switch to gas, for example.

You’ll also likely need a decent spend or multiple Freedom or Freedom Flex cards for it to work well. To take advantage of the additional credits, it’s a good idea to commit to a little bit of travel for this setup to be beneficial as well.

Best Downgrade Options for the Citi Prestige

On July 23, 2017, Citi removed their card benefits like trip protection and insurances.

A lot of cardholders are wondering what their options are — should they cancel or product change the Citi Prestige?

Annual fee

A significant factor in determining which route to take is the annual fee. The annual fee is $450, but it comes with a $250 travel credit, making the effective annual fee $200.

In some cases, you can apply in-branch to receive a lower annual fee of $350, making the effective annual fee $100 after the travel credit.

The main question is if the lower $350 annual fee will be honored the second year, or if the fee will increase to $450.

We’re hesitant to keep the card with an effective $200 annual fee because there are alternative luxury cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum that provide the same, if not better, value.

Before considering downgrade/product change options, we need to consider if this card is worth keeping.

4th night free

The best perk the Citi Prestige is known for is book 3 consecutive nights, get the 4th night free. In order to redeem this perk, you have to book through the Citi Prestige Concierge.

Effective July 23, 2017, Citi will rebate the average room rate across your stay of 4 or more nights, not including taxes.

Citi ThankYou Points

My main concern is that if I cancel or product change the card, I won’t be able to receive an intro bonus for a Citi card (that earns ThankYou points) in the next 2 years.

Citi has a rule that you can qualify for an intro bonus every 2 years across the same product family. For example, if you were approved for the Citi ThankYou Preferred card in 2015, you would not receive an intro bonus for the Citi Prestige if you applied the same year. You would have to wait until 2017 to qualify for another Citi intro bonus.

Since I signed up for the Citi Prestige in September 2016, that means I won’t be eligible for another ThankYou bonus until September 2018. If I cancel the card now, it resets the clock meaning I won’t be eligible for another bonus until September 2019.

Product change options

In terms of product changes, there are 3 cards I’m considering:

  1. Citi Custom Cash® Card
  2. Citi Double Cash Card®
  3. Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Citi Custom Cash® Card


  • Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter
  • 5% eligible categories: Restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, live entertainment.
  • Earns Citi ThankYou points
  • No activation required


  • Only ideal if you have heavy spend in one of the qualifying 5% categories mentioned above

Citi Double Cash Card®


  • 2% on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay the bill
  • Citi Price Rewind, but this benefit is included with every card


  • If you have the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can earn 1.5x with the Unlimited and redeem for 3x when you transfer points to the Reserve.
  • I usually have a new card I’m trying to meet minimum spend on…the 2% might not make sense for me vs. meeting minimum spend

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi


  • I already have Costco membership so “no annual fee”
  • Earn 4% on gas, 3% at restaurants+travel, 2% at Costco
  • Extends Costco warranty on purchases by 2 years


  • “Locked in” to Costco
  • Gas isn’t relevant to me (no car) and there are better alternatives for restaurant+travel (CSR)
  • Earn 2% at Costco vs. 1.5% with the Freedom Unlimited (effectively 3% if you transfer points to the Chase Sapphire Reserve)
  • Costco already has an amazing warranty policy

How to request a product change

To request a product change, call the number on the back of your Citi Prestige credit card. Let the agent know which product you'd like to switch the card to.

Rules to Know for American Express Credit Card Applications 2023
American Express

There are three major rules to know before applying for an American Express credit card:

  1. Once in a lifetime bonus
  2. 1 in 5
  3. 2 in 90

One thing to be aware of, if you are not currently an American Express customer, don't apply until you get targeted for a great offer. A lot of Amex card members are frustrated because they aren't targeted for great offers like new customers, but it's a user acquisition strategy for Amex.

The highest offer I've seen is 100,000 bonus points for The Platinum Card® from American Express. Terms apply. CardMatch is a common way to find increased offers. Again, it depends on your timing if you want to hold out for the offer or not. The higher offers are usually targeted and not publicly available.

Before we dive into the core rules, there are a few prerequisites to be aware of to see if you’re eligible for welcome offers.

Welcome Offer Clawbacks

American Express updated their terms of service in 2018 by adding “anti-churning” language. Amex reserves the right to “clawback” a welcome offer if they detect any “gaming” activity like peer-to-peer payments, cash equivalent gift cards, and closing accounts early.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) payments is when you send money to a friend via a service like PayPal. However, if you make a purchase from a retail merchant with PayPal, this is a normal transaction. Amex has access to third-level data so they can distinguish between P2P and merchant payments.

Cash equivalents are another type of purchase that can raise a red flag. These can be in the form of Visa or American Express gift cards purchased from a drug store or any other retailer that sells them. Again, Amex has access to third-level data so they know when you’re purchasing cash equivalent gift cards.

Closing a new account before the 12-month mark is another red flag. When you try to close an account that’s less than a year old, it seems like you’re only opening the account for the welcome offer. Closing the account early means that Amex reserves the right to claw back the welcome bonus. Keep the card for at least 12 months and you can cancel or downgrade afterward if you don’t want it.

Welcome Offer Eligibility

If you sign up for a card and you get a pop up saying that you're not eligible for a welcome bonus, you will not receive one.

There are 2 theories:

  1. You’re blacklisted from Amex from doing one of the activities in the previous section about “Welcome Offer Clawbacks.”
  2. You’re not putting enough spend on your cards in recent months; Amex doesn’t see you as a person that needs another charge or credit card if your cards current cards with them are idle.

Once in a lifetime signup bonus

If you've ever had a certain Amex product past or present, regardless of if you received a signup bonus, you will not be eligible for the signup bonus again. The sole act of having X card means you will not be eligible for the signup bonus.

For example, if you had the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card in the past and canceled it (or product change), you would not be eligible to receive another Amex EveryDay® Credit Card intro offer if you applied for it again in the future.

Another example would be if you opened the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and downgraded it to the no annual fee Hilton Honors American Express Card. By downgrading it, you lose out on the 80k to 130k Hilton Honors bonus that's pretty normal for the Hilton -- easily 1 night in most of their expensive properties like Bora Bora, Maldives, or Koh Samui

Technically, we have seen some offers that don't have this once in a lifetime language, but it's not common. I would argue that this is the biggest core strategy to work around -- especially for new people thinking about upgrades/downgrades.

However, cards like the Amex Platinum card have different variations, which are all considered different products. You could receive the signup bonus for each variation of the Amex Platinum card.

5 Credit Card Limit

Some data points suggest that you can only have 5 American Express credit cards at one time, regardless if it’s a personal or business card. Your mileage may vary.

If you’re currently at the 5 Amex credit card limit and you want to open a new Amex credit card, you’ll have to call in and close an account in order to open a new one.

Again, this is rule only applies to credit cards — 4 personal and 1 business, or  5 business credit cards—  whatever other combination you want.

The 5 credit card rule is key depending on your card play style and strategy. if you're optimizing for cash back, then there's less to worry about. If you're hunting for bonuses, then you don't want to "lock up" one of your slots for no reason.

1 in 5 Rule

You can only get approved for one credit card every five days.

The 1 in 5 rule doesn’t affect charge cards, so you could apply for one credit card and X charge cards on the same day and be fine. Keep in mind that you’ll have to manage the minimum spend requirements.

Applying for multiple American Express cards doesn’t have a big impact on your credit score because once you have one Amex card, they typically only do soft pulls after that. Your mileage may vary.

2 in 90 Rule

You can only get approved for two credit cards every 90 days. This means that if you apply for a third card within the 90-day window, you'll automatically be rejected.

These rules apply to credit cards only and not charge cards, so you can apply for as many charge cards as you like.

Welcome Offer Matches

American Express typically doesn’t match welcome offers. For example, if you apply for the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card with a 30,000 welcome offer, and the next week it increases to 60,000 points, Amex is unlikely to match it.

Optimal Strategy

Given the rules and restrictions, the optimal strategy would apply for a charge card and a credit card on the same day to combine hard pulls. This means you will only have one credit inquiry, as opposed to two.

If you don’t currently hold any American Express cards, I recommend checking CardMatch to see if you can get targeted for an elevated Platinum card offer.

Be aware that if you have more than a $35,000 cumulative credit limit with Amex, it will trigger a financial review. Your accounts will be frozen during the financial review.

Amex will not match any increased offers. For example, if you applied for a card with a 50,000 point offer, and the next week a 60,000 point offer pops up, they will not match the offer.

What is CardMatch? Everything You Need to Know
Credit Cards 101

Have you ever applied for a credit card only to be told you don’t qualify? It can be frustrating, especially if you’re not sure why. That’s where CardMatch comes in. 

CardMatch is a tool offered by that helps you to match yourself with credit card offers from multiple issuers based on your credit profile. It’s quick, easy, and, best of all, free!

How Does CardMatch Work? 

CardMatch is a tool that allows you to compare credit card offers from multiple issuers in one place. All you need to do is provide some basic information about yourself, including:

  • Your full name
  • Your home address
  • The last four digits of your Social Security Number
  • Your email address
  • Employment status
  • Income
  • Monthly rent payments

From there, CardMatch will generate a list of pre-approved and special offers tailored specifically for you in less than 60 seconds.

One of the best things about CardMarch is that it’s completely free to use. There’s no obligation to apply for any of the cards you’re presented with, so you can shop around without worrying about damaging your credit score. 

Note that since these are targeted offers, not everyone will have the same results. CardMatch may also not have all cards currently available on the market.

Try CardMatch:

How to Use the CardMatch Tool to Find Better Sign-Up Offers
American Express

What if you could save time and find multiple credit card offers that you're prequalified for without impacting your credit score? Sometimes, you may even get targeted for special offers (not publicly available) based on your credit profile when you use the CardMatch Tool.  

What is CardMatch?

CardMatch is a tool that shows you pre-approved and special targeted offers (sometimes) from select credit issuers. The tool conducts a soft pull so that it won't affect your credit score. See your matched offers in less than 60 seconds.

Why use CardMatch?

Every so often, the CardMatch tool has great offers for select cards. For example, not everyone will be targeted, but sometimes you can find The Platinum Card® from American Express with 125,000-150,000 point welcome offers after you spend $6,000 within the first 6 months. Terms apply. A couple of AskSebby subscribers have reported they were able to apply for and get the offer. YMMV.

Users may not be matched with all offers or banks, and matches are based on your credit profile.

How to use the CardMatch Tool

To take advantage of targeted offers available, simply go to the CardMatch Tool. Enter your information, agree to the terms of service, and the system will search for offers.

Be sure to view "All Matches" to see everything you're targeted for.

Want to see if you're pre-qualified for any great offers? Try it out yourself!

CardMatch Tool

How to Get the Amex Platinum 150K Offer
American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express is a premium travel credit card that offers a wide range of exclusive benefits and rewards. Some of the benefits offered by the card include travel perks, such as airport lounge access and elite hotel status.

Amex Platinum 150k Welcome Bonus Offer

The Platinum Card has a public offer available to everyone, but there's also an elusive elevated Amex Platinum 150,000 point bonus.

American Express has a once-in-a-lifetime welcome bonus rule, so if you earned an intro offer for the Amex Platinum in the past, you likely do not qualify for the elevated offer.

Here’s how to find the 150,000 Amex Platinum offer for first-time Amex cardholders. 

How to Get the Amex Platinum 150K Offer

There are several ways to check whether you’re eligible for the Amex Platinum 150K offer by either:

  1. Visiting the American Express website. 
  2. Checking CardMatch, a free tool that can potentially match you with the best offers when you enter your information.
  3. Reviewing targeted email offers.

Here’s how each method works to see if you qualify for the offer. 

Method 1: Visit the American Express website

One of the easiest ways to determine whether you qualify for the Amex Platinum 150k offer is by simply visiting their website. Sometimes American Express will show elevated offers to new customers.

Amex Plat 150k Offer

There may also be the American Express pre-qualification tool that shows an elevated offer. This will allow you to enter your information securely (no hard credit pull) and match you with available offers.

Through the pre-qualification tool, rather than applying for The Platinum Card from American Express through the ‘Apply Now’ page, you can use a special “Check for Offers” link, which will ask for your information and tell you whether you’re pre-qualified for the 150k Platinum offer. 

Method 2: Check CardMatch for the Amex Platinum 150k Offer

If you're not targeted for elevated offers on American Express's website, one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you qualify for an elevated offer is through a free tool called CardMatch.

Best Gas Cards 2022: Earn Up to 5% Cash Back on Gas Purchases
Cash Back

The average national gas price now exceeds $5 a gallon, and experts predict prices will rise to above $6 during the summer. 

A good gas credit card will provide you with cashback and/or reward points for fuel purchases to optimize your spending. 

In this article, we will focus specifically on cards that offer consistent cash back or points on gas. While several other cards offer quarterly rotating gas rewards, we’re looking at consistent gas rewards cards to maximize your total gas savings.

Gas Card #1: Abound Credit Union Visa Platinum Card

While you may not have heard of this card, it has one of the best value for gas rewards at 5% cash back on gas purchases. It also has 1% cashback on all other purchases and a rotating 5% cashback on other categories throughout the year, including streaming services, Amazon purchases, travel, and health fitness. 

Although you can apply for the Abound card without becoming a member, the risk is that credit unions tend to remove card benefits when there are too many applicants. 

It's usually the way credit union cards work, so this card may not be suitable for everyone. 

Gas Card # 2: Citi Custom Cash® Card

The Citi Custom Cash card is good choice for a no annual fee keeper card. In addition to 5% back on gas, it also offers 5% cashback on a handful of other categories, including restaurants, home improvement, grocery stores, and select travel. The benefit of the Citi Custom Cash Card is that even if your spending habits change and you spend less on gas, this card can still provide valuable rewards to you in other categories.

It is also flexible in how you choose to spend your rewards. The Citi Custom Cash card rewards are in the form of Thank You points™. This means that if you chose to redeem your points for travel, you could potentially receive more than 5% cash back that month.


The drawback is that there is a $500 per month earning limit on rewards. This means that if you spend more than $500 on eligible purchases during the month, only the first $500 will receive the 5% cashback benefit. 

Gas Card # 3: Cardless Card - New Orleans Pelicans

Cardless is a white-label card-issuing service that partners with brands. The Cardless family of credit cards is a series of cards that allow various brands, focusing on American basketball and European football (soccer) teams, to have their own branded, customized credit card. 

We’ll look specifically at the New Orleans Pelicans credit card. It offers some great rewards on gas – 4x rewards points with no annual fee and no monthly cap. The 4x rewards work out to 4% cash back since Cardless calculates its rewards points at 1 CPP.

The drawback to Cardless is that you are only allowed to have one Cardless card at a time. So if you already have a Cardless card for your favorite team, you can’t get the Pelicans card to cash in on the gas points. If you are interested in a Cardless card for special deals on your favorite team’s tickets and merchandise, you would be losing out on those things to have a Pelicans card just for gas, so choose wisely. 

Gas Card # 4: The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

With the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card, you earn unlimited 5 points per dollar spent at the gas pump, including EV charging stations. This is among the best rewards rates you will find on gas. Along with free fuel rewards, the card also pays unlimited 3 points per dollar on groceries and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

However, there are a few things to be aware of. For starters, you must join PenFed's credit union to apply. Getting a PenFed membership requires an application and a $5 deposit into a savings account.

The redemption options are also limited, as you can’t use your points to redeem for cash back. A PenFed spokesperson confirmed that points earned with a Platinum Rewards card are usually worth about 0.85 cents each. Considering this card has no annual fee, its redemption value isn’t that great when compared to other no-annual-fee rewards cards.

On the other hand, travel points are potentially worth 1.7 cents each on average, depending on dates and options. There may also be travel booking fees when redeeming for travel.

Another thing to note is that since the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card is a credit union card, you'll have to keep a close eye to ensure that the points or deals on the card don’t change or decrease.

Credit unions typically make a larger percentage of their income from credit cards and other loan interest than larger banks, so they are more likely to change the terms of their credit offers to ensure that it remains profitable to them.  

Gas Card #5 & 6: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi or Sam’s Club Cards

These cards are designed for buying gas at the respective wholesale clubs. Not only can you take advantage of the discount gas at your club store, but you can also earn cash back with your credit card. 

These are both similar cards in terms of rewards level. The Sam’s Club card gives you 5% cash back on gas purchases for up to $6,000 a year, which works out to about $500 per month in gas, and then 1% cashback above $6,000. Depending on your membership level, there may be additional reward caps on earning and redemptions.

The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi gives you 4% cashback on your first $7,000 in gas purchases in a year and then 1% rewards after. One major drawback is that you can only redeem cash back once per year.

If you aren't already a member of Costco or Sam's Club, these card options might not be for you.

However, if you are already a member, this could be a valuable way to save on your gas budget. The ideal strategy is to get the card for whichever store is most convenient to you.

Gas Card #7: Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Card isn't as competitive as some of the cards on this list, but it still offers decent gas rewards.

With only 3% cashback on gas (or your other chosen rewards category) for most users, it doesn’t look as good as 4% or 5% like some of the other offers we’ve looked at. However, if you are already a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch customer, this might be a good option for you. 

Bank of America and Merrill Lynch offer tiered rewards levels for their current customers, so if you have more than $35,500 saved or invested in a portfolio, you will be eligible for higher rewards percentages.

YouTube Video

With a bit of research and planning, you may be able to earn up to 5% back (or even more) on gas purchases and other expenditures. To learn more about these top gas cards for 2022 in more detail, check out the video below.

How to Book the Waldorf Astoria Maldives on Points

One of the best redemptions for the Hilton Weekend Night Reward certificate from the American Express Aspire and Surpass cards is the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi.

Important Notes & Costs

A few important notes to consider before jumping to book the property:

  • The $700/person (round trip) yacht transfer to get to the resort, which is subject to 23.2% tax and service charge per adult, is NOT included. You can choose to charter a third party boat, but the cost will still be hefty.  There’s not a way to avoid a transfer fee.
  • The cost of food is 2-4x what you would expect to pay in the U.S. since everything is imported onto the island. As a point of reference, a personal pizza costs $40+, not including the 23% tax and service charge.
  • If you plan to dine at any of the fine dining restaurants, be prepared to spend $200+ per person.

Even if your room rate is covered, a stay at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives is expensive. Now that the sticker shock warning is out of the way, let’s dive into how we booked the room.

Using Weekend Night Rewards and Points

The retail rate for an overwater villa is ~$3,000/night. We booked our four-night stay using three free weekend night certificates, and 120,000 Hilton Honors points for the fourth night.

For each Weekend Night Reward, you’ll need to create a separate reservation. The hotel can combine them afterward. We created four consecutive day bookings.

We didn’t end up booking a fifth night since the booking doesn’t qualify for the 5th night free promotion. To qualify for 5th night free, you must book your entire stay using points. Weekend Night Rewards do not qualify.

Beach Villa vs. Overwater Villa

If you want to increase your chances of getting an overwater villa, I recommend visiting during off-season or shoulder season.

We booked the standard base beach room villa and received a complimentary upgrade due to having Diamond status. Upgrades are NOT guaranteed.

If you want to guarantee an overwater villa, I suggest booking one directly or inquiring to pay out of pocket for the upgrade.

It’s worth mentioning that the beach villas are also huge (2,500 square feet) with the same standard room layouts.

Hilton Honors Gold or Diamond Status

Before your stay at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, I highly recommend having Hilton Honors Gold or Diamond status to get complimentary access to the breakfast buffet. Without Gold or Diamond status, you’ll end up paying a hefty price tag for the a la carte menu. To put things in perspective, a basic plate of eggs costs $30 + tax and tip.  

The easiest way to earn automatic Hilton Honors elite status is via credit cards.

Hilton Gold

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

  • Earn 12x on Hilton purchases
  • 6x at U.S. restaurants
  • 6x at U.S. supermarkets
  • 6x at  U.S. gas stations
  • 3x on everything else
  • Earn a free weekend night after spending $15,000 in a calendar year
  • Complimentary Hilton Gold status
  • Priority Pass: 10 free visits
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Rates and fees

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Point Multipliers:
  • Earn 5X points points per $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • Earn 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on
  • Earn 1X points on all other purchases
  • Complimentary Hilton Gold and Marriott Bonvoy Gold status
  • Credits:
  • $200 annual airline fee credit per calendar year to use for incidental fees like baggage fees
  • Up to $200 Uber credit, distributed $15/month and $35 in December
  • Up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit, issued in $50 increments every 6 months per calendar year
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® credit once every 4 years
  • Annual fee: $695
  • Rates and fees
  • Terms apply and enrollment required for select American Express benefits and offers.

Hilton Diamond

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

  • Annual fee: $450
  • Point Multipliers:
  • Earn 14x on Hilton purchases
  • 7x on flights booked directly with airlines or
  • 7x on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies
  • 7x at U.S. restaurants
  • 3x on all other purchases
  • One weekend night reward and every year after renewal
  • Complimentary Hilton Diamond  status
  • up to $250 Hilton resort statement credit
  • Priority Pass Select membership

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through

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