What One Card Is Missing From the Amex Membership Rewards Lineup?
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Although Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards are two of the most valuable loyalty currencies (TPG values them at 2 and 1.9 cents each, respectively), there are a few reasons why Chase is usually given a slight edge. Some of these have to do with the points themselves, including near-instant Ultimate Rewards transfers and uniquely valuable partners like Hyatt, while some have more to do with the card offerings themselves.
Amex has historically offered lower welcome bonuses and less competitive bonus categories than Chase, which makes it harder to build a cohesive strategy (like the Chase trifecta) out of Amex cards. The recent changes that were made to the American Express® Gold Card — including up to $120 in annual dining credits and 4x points on dining — not only make that card more competitive, but they also make it easier for us to zoom out and look at how the larger Amex portfolio fits together.
Despite some differences, the Platinum Card® from American Express and the Business Platinum Card® from American Express are relatively similar, offering the same great Centurion Lounge access, hotel elite status, $200 annual airline credit and many more benefits.
Similarly, the Amex Gold and Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express aren't perfect matches, but they do have some things in common. Both of these cards offer strong bonus earning categories, including the ability to customize your earnings on the business card with 3x in one of the following categories, and 2x in the others:
- Airfare purchased directly from airlines
- US purchases for advertising in select media
- US gas stations (not including supermarkets or warehouse stores)
- US shipping
- US computer hardware, software and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers.
The business card does't offer any of the travel or dining credits that come with the personal Amex Gold, but it has a lower annual fee of $175 that's waived for the first year. The business card also offers a $200 statement credit toward Google G Suite Basic.
If you move down the list, the next card up is the Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express, which doesn't have a corresponding personal card. The Blue Business Plus is a no annual fee (see rates and fees) business card which earns 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 in annual spending (then 1x), with no bonus categories or other restrictions to worry about. And this is where we find the missing link — the one card that would really complete the Amex Membership Rewards portfolio is a simple, straightforward, personal card that's good for everyday spending.
I say simple and straightforward because Amex currently has 2 personal EveryDay cards, but they don't quite match up to the ease and flexibility of the Blue Business Plus. These are the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express and the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, which earn at the following rates:
|Benefit||Amex EveryDay||Amex EveryDay Preferred|
|Bonus Earning||2x points at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year); then 1x. Terms Apply.||3x points at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year) and 2x points at US gas stations. Terms Apply.|
|Everyday Earning||1 point per dollar||1 point per dollar|
|Transaction Bonuses||20% more points for making 20 or more purchases in a billing period||50% more points for making 30 or more purchases in a billing period|
As you can see, the EveryDay family has the potential to be more rewarding than the Blue Business Plus, but only in narrow circumstances. If you earn the transaction bonus each month, the bonus categories jump to 2.4x at US supermarkets with the EveryDay, and 4.5x at US supermarkets and 3x at US gas stations with the EveryDay Preferred.
Not only do you have to be diligent about meeting the transaction requirement each month, but the supermarket bonus category is also capped at a measly $6,000 in annual spending. Compare that to the Blue Business Plus card, which earns 2x points on all purchases. (Though note that it does have a 2.7% foreign transaction fee.)
Similar to our guesses about what card is missing from the Chase Ultimate Rewards lineup, I should remind you that this piece is pure speculation. Amex has given us absolutely no indication that it plans to launch a personal version of the popular Blue Business Plus, but it's worth thinking about what card is missing from the current lineup.
What The 'Blue EveryDay Plus' Might Look Like
Again, we have no reason to believe that this card is in the works and are simply speculating about what a personal version of the Blue Business Plus might look like. Many of the changes Amex has made to its card offerings in recent years seem like direct responses to Chase's encroachment on the premium card market, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Amex make a newfound effort on the lower end of the spectrum as well.
Earning & Burning
The Blue Business Plus doesn't currently offer a welcome bonus. When it does (and one is often available through the Amex refer-a-friend program), the bonus is usually either 10,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, or 15,000-20,000 after spending $2,000.
If Amex were to launch a "Blue EveryDay Plus" card, I would expect it to launch with a welcome bonus in this range, although I wouldn't expect it to stick around for long. The earning structure of the Blue Business Plus card has always made it incredibly generous, and I would expect it to attract a large number of new customers even without a bonus. Amex has recently begun tightening its welcome bonus eligibility in the hopes of attracting more valuable long-term customers, and one of the easiest ways to accomplish that is to simply offer a card that sells itself, without any bonus attached. I currently have a Blue Business Plus and use it quite regularly, but if I didn't, I'd be willing to get a personal "Blue EveryDay Plus" even without any bonus incentive.
This section will be short and sweet, because simplicity and ease of use is one of the main benefits of this card structure. If Amex were to create a personal equivalent of the Blue Business Plus, I would expect it to offer the exact same earning structure of 2x Membership Rewards points (worth 3.8% based on TPG's valuations) on the first $50,000 of annual spending, and 1x on everything else. This earning structure puts the Blue Business Plus squarely atop our list of the most valuable cards for everyday non-bonus spending, and the personal "Blue EveryDay Plus" would join it at the top.
While it's quite easy to earn better rewards on travel, dining, gas or groceries, it's important to have a strong card for non-bonus spending to make sure you don't leave any value on the table. For people who aren't willing or able to apply for business credit cards, this would fill a nice gap in the Amex lineup.
Like the Blue Business Plus, I would expect the "Blue EveryDay Plus" to also be a no-annual-fee offering that earns full-fledged Membership Rewards points. This would give you access to all of Amex's incredible transfer partners, including Aeroplan, Delta and British Airways. If you're able to max out the $50,000 in annual spending on this card, you'd end up with 100,000 Membership Rewards points a year (worth ~$1,900) and the ability to unlock some impressive premium cabin redemptions. Amex transfer bonuses can make these earnings even more valuable, especially for short-haul travel through British Airways' distance-based award chart.
With credit cards, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. The Blue Business Plus and hypothetical "Blue EveryDay Plus" are/would both be no annual fee cards, and in turn don't offer many perks. The Blue Business Plus, for example, comes with a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers (transfers made within the first 60 days of account opening) for the first 12 months (after that a variable rate of 14.74% to 20.74%) (see rates and fees), and the ability to occasionally spend beyond your credit limit. These are more relevant benefits for a business looking to purchase inventory, and I wouldn't mind if they didn't migrate over to our hypothetical personal "Blue EveryDay Plus" card. I'm fine with Amex offering fewer benefits on this card and keeping costs down if it means it can continue to offer this incredible value proposition on the earning side.
Of course, like all Amex cards, this card would gain access to valuable Amex Offers, which give you discounts or bonus points for purchases made at select merchants.
Why Amex Might Want to Launch This Card
Other than introducing the Blue Business Plus, most of the recent changes to Amex's core MR-earning cards (i.e., not co-branded hotel or airline cards) could be considered reactionary. The 5x flight bonus category on the Amex Platinum was added after the Chase Sapphire Reserve took the travel world by storm, and the recent changes to make the Amex Gold Card more competitive felt more reactive than proactive. So if Amex is in catch-up mode, who is it racing against?
It's up against the likes of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, which offer a fixed 2x miles, (largely) without bonus categories to worry about. Amex has made moves to shore up the higher end of the market with the aforementioned changes to the Platinum and Gold cards, and the next logical step would be a push for more entry-level business.
Why Amex Might Not Want to Launch This Card
The Blue Business Plus almost seems too good to be true, as it's one of just a handful of no annual fee cards to earn full-fledged transferable points. Without having full access to Amex's internal numbers, it's impossible to say whether the card is working for it as well as it hoped. It might be that a personal version, including marketing, branding, support, etc., would just be more expensive than it's worth.
Another reason Amex might stay away is that it simply isn't as interested in this type of customer. Amex has historically targeted high-income/high-spending clients, as it makes a good chunk of its profit by charging a higher swipe fee than competitors like Visa and Mastercard.
Whether it's an entirely new credit card offering or another revamp of an existing product, we're likely to see more and more changes as the travel rewards market continues to heat up. While we don't know what Amex's next move will be, it's always fun to try and get in issuers' heads and anticipate their thinking. Card issuers continue to tighten up restrictions for new cards and new welcome bonuses, so thinking like a bank could help you stay one step ahead of the next change.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, click here.