Planning my Amex Offers portfolio

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In my post “Awesome Amex Offers and how to get them,” I argued that the way to get the best Amex Offers is to get every type of Amex card (Membership Rewards vs. Other; Personal vs. Business; etc.) and to get lots of those cards by adding lots of authorized users.  I intended to follow my own advice, but I dragged my heels for a while.  Then came the amazing Amazon offer: Spend $50 or more at Amazon, and get 2,000 Membership Rewards points.  Wow.  I had to get in on that one.  But I couldn’t.  None of my cards had this targeted offer.

I dug into reader reports and found that the Amazon offer was only available on cards that earn Membership Rewards (that part was obvious) and only on personal cards.  As far as I know, no one has seen the offer on a business card.  So, I checked through the many Amex cards that my wife and I have to count up our personal Membership Rewards cards…  The grand total came to… zero.  We had just recently closed my wife’s personal Platinum and Green cards and we were left with no personal Membership Rewards cards.  Obviously this has to change.

Pondering the ideal set of cards for my Amex Offers portfolio

With most of their cards, Amex will let you get up to 99 authorized user cards for free.  I don’t want that many, but I do want a handful of each type of card.  And since each card requires setup time, I want to make sure that the account is one that I’ll never cancel.  In other words, I’d ideally like a fee free card of each type so that I can add authorized users, setup Twitter handles for each one, and never have to consider closing those accounts.

Here are my primary targets:

  • Consumer Membership Rewards card: Amex EveryDay or Morgan Stanley Credit Card.  The advantage of the latter is that it offers uncapped 2X rewards for select department stores.  Since Amex Offers are often specific to certain department stores, there should be opportunities to double dip.
  • Consumer Non-Membership-Rewards card: I already have the old Blue Cash card which has no annual fee, so I’ll probably stick with that.  Otherwise I would probably look at the Hilton Honors card.
  • Business Membership Rewards card: No question here.  I’ll go with the new Blue Business Plus card.  2X everywhere and no annual fee?  Yes please!
  • Business Non-Membership-Rewards cards: I’ve had a Business Delta Platinum card for many, many years (sometimes I upgrade it to a Delta Reserve card and later drop it back down to Platinum).  I don’t see myself getting rid of that one, so I may just add some more authorized users to that account.  Additionally, my wife has the SPG Business card, which I believe is worth keeping.  However, given that Marriott and SPG plan to eventually merge programs, we can’t count on that account lasting forever.  If I didn’t have the Delta business card available, I’d probably go for the no fee SimplyCash Plus card.  That one is worth considering anyway for its 5% and 3% cash back categories.

Dealing with the 4 or 5 credit card limit

Amex limits each person to having either 4 or 5 Amex credit cards.  Charge cards and authorized user cards are not limited and are not included in the count.  Unfortunately, all of the candidate cards I identified above are credit cards.

I currently have three Amex credit card accounts: Delta personal, Delta business, and old Blue Cash.  I don’t want to get rid of any of those, but that’s OK — I still have room for 1 or 2 more.  I can probably get away with adding on both the Blue Business Plus card and the Morgan Stanley card.  Unfortunately, I would then be stuck if Amex introduces a new credit card or credit card offer that I would want to take advantage of.

My wife currently has four Amex credit cards: Delta personal, Delta business, SPG personal, and SPG business.  Again, I don’t want to drop any of those cards.  The Delta cards are valuable for manufacturing elite status.  And the SPG cards are valuable for earning SPG points through spend and referrals.  If we don’t drop any of these cards, then she can, at best, add one new credit card to her lineup.

One other consideration: I really want both of us to get the Blue Business Plus card.  That card’s 2X earnings work for just the first $50K of spend per year.  If we each get the card, though, we would have $100K to spend towards 2X rewards each year.

Amex used to strictly enforce a 4 credit card limit, but in the past year that has changed.  Some people get automatically approved for a fifth card.  Others get approved only after calling in for reconsideration.

My overall approach will be to sign up for new credit cards and hope that I can get to 5 credit card accounts for each of us.

The Amex Offers portfolio plan

My tentative plan is as follows:

  • Me: Sign up for both the Blue Business Plus card and the Morgan Stanley Credit Card.  If approved, I will then have 5 Amex credit cards.  If a new and attractive credit card offer surfaces I’ll then consider dropping one of those 5.
  • Wife: Sign up for the Blue Business Plus card.  If approved, she will then have 5 Amex credit cards.  If a new and attractive credit card offer surfaces we’ll consider dropping her SPG personal card.

Note that I can’t sign up for both of my target credit cards at once.  As you can see in our Amex App Tips, Amex will only approve 1 credit card per 5 days and 2 in 90 days.  So, I’ll wait a week between applications.  I’ll apply for the Morgan Stanley card first since that’s the one I most urgently need in order to be eligible for Amex Offers that are available only for personal Membership Rewards cards.

Authorized User Cards

UPDATE: Since writing this post I’ve learned that quickly adding a bunch of authorized user cards may be a trigger for an American Express financial review (which could, in turn, lead to account shutdowns).  As a result, I will change my plans from those written below.  I recommend only adding “real” authorized users and to add them slowly over time rather than all at once.

Assuming the above plan goes well, the next step will be to add a handful of authorized user cards to each account.  One consideration when doing so is that authorized user cards from personal Amex cards can negatively impact the ability to get approved for new Chase credit cards.  Chase has their dreaded 5/24 Rule in which, for most of their cards, they won’t approve you for a new card if you’ve opened 5 or more cards, from any bank, in the past 24 months.  They count these accounts by looking at your credit report.  Since Amex business cards do not show up on these credit reports, those do not hurt your 5/24 status.  Personal Amex cards and authorized user cards, though, are counted.  You can always get those authorized user cards off of your credit report, or call Chase after a denial to argue that they shouldn’t have counted the authorized user cards, but who needs that hassle?

I don’t mind being added as an authorized user to personal cards since I’m already way, way over 5/24.  However, I won’t add my wife as an authorized user to any of our personal cards since she has some chance of eventually falling below 5/24.

Dreading the work

To fully take advantage of Amex Offers, it is necessary to maintain a spreadsheet containing every individual card and authorized user card along with info about which offers are active for each card.  Plus, it’s a good idea to setup a separate Twitter account for every single card in order to easily (and potentially automatically) enroll in Amex Offers.  Full details can be found here: Complete Guide to Amex Offers.

Then there’s the work of actually taking advantage of the best offers.  With the Amazon offer, it would be easy.  I’d simply log into Amazon and reload my credit balance $50 at a time with each enrolled Amex card.  Many of the best offers, though, require visiting stores.  I’ve been known to go to Lowes to buy $500 Amazon gift cards and pay $50 at a time.  Not only do you have to carefully keep track of which cards are enrolled and which have already been used, but you also have to put up with the angry stares from those in line behind you.  While Amex Offers are an amazing way to save significant amounts of money or to earn huge rewards, they can also be a lot of work.

I currently have 22 Amex cards (including AU cards) that I manage.  I don’t really want too many more.  I’ll probably add 6 to the Morgan Stanly card, but fewer to the others.  I’ll try to stick to a total of around 30.  Or, maybe 40… We’ll see.

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