The Optimized AmEx 5 CREDIT Card Setup

Note: there is no limit of how many CHARGE cards (Plat, PRG, Green) you can have, the limit is 5 is on CREDIT cards only.

It may be advantageous to stop getting new AmEx cards and spend time taking advantage of the annual perks such as credits, upgrades and free nights for every card in your 5 credit card slot. I propose an end stage churn plan where we hold on to 5 AmEx credit cards on top of your charge cards for the remainder of our active duty careers, then downgrade them when the annual fee hits after we get out.

The time to have a map is before you enter the woods. We need to redefine our game here since we have such very little space and time to optimize our position with AmEx. The rules we know for sure are:

  1. You can only have credit 5 cards in aggregate with AmEx (Personal or Business)
  2. AmEx continues to waive fee for military for cards before, during, and for the remainder of term after leaving AD
  3. You cannot ever get a bonus for any card again if you have the product or if you had it before (7 year limit)
  4. Excessive utilization and inquiries may get you shut down
  5. Product changes are allowed after one year, but only within product families (Personal to Personal, SPG to SPG, etc…)
  6. Closing a card will not affect your overall account age, but you should not close your oldest card

Keeping these rules in mind we can formulate a plan that may take upwards to 3+ years to achieve. Here is the basic strategy:

  1. If you are at 5 AmEx Credit (Not Charge) Cards you need to choose one to close to open a new card. I would pick one that is not able to be upgraded or downgraded to your end goals (eg: Blue Cash, Everyday Preferred)
  2. Apply first for these cards with high annual rewards (Annual fee of $450 waived for military)
    1. Delta Reserve Referral Link
    2. Hilton Aspire Referral Link
    3. SPG Luxury Referral Link (Coming after 01 Aug 2018)
  3. Meet spend for that respective high tier product for initial bonus
  4. Apply for the lower product of the same family (eg: SPG, Hilton, Delta) and get the bonus
    1. Delta Gold Referral Link
    2. Delta Platinum Referral Link
    3. Another Delta Platinum Link
    4. Hilton Ascend Referral Link
    5. Hilton
    6. SPG
  5. Product change that lower product in a year to the highest level
    1. SPG to SPG Luxury
    2. Delta Gold to Delta Reserve
    3. Delta Platinum to Delta Reserve
    4. Hilton to Hilton Aspire
    5. Hilton Ascend to Hilton Aspire
  6. Repeat with next product or with existing lower products

An ideal end game would be holding on to these 5 cards:

  1. Delta Reserve: Annual First Class Companion TIcket
  2. SPG Luxury: $300 in hotel credits, 50k free night
  3. Hilton Aspire: $250 Hilton Resort Credit, $250 Airline Credit
  4. Another Delta, SPG, Hilton card upgraded from lesser card
  5. Another Delta, SPG, Hilton card upgraded from lesser card

I suggest diversifying the 5 cards over 3 different co-brands depending on your travel history. Personally I find the hotel credit for Hilton Resorts to be useful and with three Hilton Aspire cards we are looking at $750 worth of AA gift cards as well as $750 used for room rates at Hilton Resorts. This would also give you three free weekend nights per year.

For SPG we are just guessing how profitable 50k worth of a hotel stay will be. However if we did 3 SPG Luxury cards we are looking at $900 on top of the three free nights. $900 would buy a lot of spa services and dinners when staying at the many Marriott/SPG properties around the world.

If you fly a lot of Delta then 3 First Class companion passes would be worth it for three Delta Reserve cards. Since I am based out of Chicago this would be pretty useless since the Delta flights are limited. I will now go into examples of how to use these annual perks:

Hilton Aspire Annual Perks

According to the terms, the $250 credit covers any direct charges from a Hilton Resort. This includes the room rate as well as any incidentals such as “charges made at restaurants, spas, and other establishments within the hotel property”. The credit resets on your anniversary date and NOT 01 January of the next year. Here is an example bill:

Even though we expect to only get the $10.75 reimbursed for the gift shop incidental, the entire charge including the room rate was reimbursed on the AmEx side. It was even confirmed in an AmEx official tweet:

There could not really be a way to separate the room charges from incidentals. As long as you charged all food and expenses to the room it should all be reimbursed after checking out. This means pre paid room rates may not code correctly and thus not reimbursed form the credit. Make sure you pay at the end of the stay to get the credit. Here the entire stay was credited from the $250 credit:

The $250 has been used by many readers for two $100 and a single $50 American Airlines gift card. You must select an airline like you do for the amex Plat card before doing so. This resets every 01 January unlike the hotel credit.

Then upon opening the Aspire card and on every annual renewal you will get an email for a free weekend night (with these places excluded):

Weekend night certificate is valid for one (1) weekend night standard accommodation, double occupancy, subject to availability, at properties in the Hilton portfolio NOT INCLUDING:

All Inclusive Properties:
DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Central Pacific -Costa Rica
Hilton Bodrum Turkbuku Resort & Spa
Hilton Dalaman Sarigerme Resort & Spa
Hilton Hurghada Long Beach Resort
Hilton Marsa Alam Nubian Resort
Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort
Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa
Hilton Sharks Bay Resort
Jewel Dunn’s River Resort & Spa Ocho Rios, Curio Collection by Hilton
Jewel Paradise Cove Runaway Bay, Curio Collection by Hilton

Distinctive Properties:
Conrad Koh Samui Residences
Embassy Suites by Hilton Waikiki Beach Walk
Kingston Plantation Condos
Hilton Surfers Paradise Residences
Ocean 22 by Hilton Grand Vacations
Royale Palms Condominiums
Elara by Hilton Grand Vacations
Grand Waikikian by Hilton Grand Vacations
The Hilton Club – New York
Hilton Grand Vacation at Craigendarroch Suites
Hilton Grand Vacations at McAlpin-Ocean Plaza
Hilton Grand Vacations on Paradise (Convention Center)
Hilton Grand Vacations Suites at Hilton Hawaiian Village
Hilton Grand Vacations Suites at SeaWorld
Hilton Grand Vacations at Tuscany Village
Hilton Grand Vacations Suites at the Flamingo
Hilton Grand Vacations Suites on the Boulevard
Las Palmeras by Hilton Grand Vacations
Hokulani Waikiki by Hilton Grand Vacations
Kings Land by Hilton Grand Vacations
Kohala Suites by Hilton Grand Vacations
Parc Soleil by Hilton Grand Vacations
Park City Hilton Grand Vacations
Sunrise Lodge by Hilton Grand Vacations
The District by Hilton Club
Valdoro Mountain Lodge
West 57th Street by Hilton Club
Ho’olei at Grand Wailea
Las Casitas, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
Waldorf Astoria Jeddah – Qasr Al Sharq

All Hampton by Hilton™ hotels in the People’s Republic of China

Overall the Hilton Surpass can get you a free one night stay, free airfare and $250 in amenities each year.

Delta Reserve Card

The Delta Companion Fare appears only for renewal of the card and its good for only a single trip. It will appear in your Delta Wallet on the website when you log in with your sky miles number and is only good for one year:

When you book the flight it auto applies the discount to your companion:

You do have to pay the taxes for your companion, This ORD to SLC flight is about the same price as 2 coach tickets ($748.80) which would of been half price if I used the companion pass for coach. You must use an AmEx branded card to pay for the taxes and trip, I chose my AmEx Personal (NOT BIZ) Platinum to get 5x points on top of this.

More to come on the SPG Lux card when it arrives. For now lets concentrate on these two card programs. I currently have the Hilton Aspire, Blue Cash, Delta Reserve, Delta Platinum, and SPG Business. I am planning on dropping the Delta reserve in Aug for the SPG Reserve, then upgrading The Delta Platinum into a new Reserve.

I am hesitant in dropping my blue cash because I have had it for 14 years now and I get pretty good value from the 6% cash-back. Some how in the end I want 2 SPG Lux and 2 Hilton Aspire with a single Delta Reserve upgraded from Delta Platinum as my final set up:

Free Flights Free Nights Hotel Credits Flight Credits
Delta Reserve 1
2x SPG Lux 2 $600
2x Hilton Aspire 2 $500 $500
Total 1 4 $1,100 $500

This should give me one Delta flight companion and American Airline flights worth up to $500 every year for free while on active duty. I should also get 4 hotel nights with $1,100 in spa and food credits. I would then repeat this set up and double it with my AD wife! Not bad for having a plan. Best of luck, and be prepared with a roadmap.


2 thoughts on “The Optimized AmEx 5 CREDIT Card Setup

  1. Marcos says:

    Hello! Excuse my ignorance. After I meet the spend for the initial three cards, should I cancel before I apply for the lower cards? I assume yes since you mentioned AMEX only allows 5 cards per person at one time. Also, how long should I wait after cancelling a card to apply for another? I currently have (excluding charge cards) SPG personal and business, Hilton Honors Card(product change from Citi), Every Day preferred and Gold Delta. Thank you.



  2. uiucderp2011 says:

    Well you would not close your spg or hilton cards because this will become the highest products after the product change. You will close the others as
    Needed to open the top tier cards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *