Which four Amex cards we’re keeping in our wallets — and why

Sep 24, 2020

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In May 2020, American Express began limiting the number of credit cards you can have to four at a time. This restriction excluded charge cards and business cards, but it does put some people in the difficult position of choosing which four Amex cards to apply for. Being a creature of habit, I knew what my four picks would be in a heartbeat, but what about my TPG colleagues? 

I asked some TPG staffers for their four-card Amex picks and the results were pretty consistent with my own. There was consensus on one popular hotel card and airline card. Based on these votes, I’ve put together the ideal four-card Amex line-up.

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In This Post

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Few hotel credit cards can compete with the Hilton Aspire Card when it comes to travel perks and overall value. Perhaps that’s why TPG Editorial Director Scott Mayerowitz and Loyalty and Engagement Editor Richard Kerr both chose this card in their four-card line-up. I’ve had mine for almost two years and I gladly shell out $450 (see rates and fees) for this card every year. That’s because it’s chock full of valuable benefits that save me thousands of dollars a year. Also, I’ve earned $292.17 in cash savings through Amex Offers this year alone.

It’s not uncommon to have an up to $250 annual airline fee credit on a premium credit card. But the Hilton Aspire kicks it up a notch with an additional resort statement credit of up to $250 per year. Plus, you can get an extra up to $100 on-property credit when booking two-night stays at participating Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels and resorts. Between these perks, Priority Pass Select membership and generous category bonuses, this is an excellent Amex card to keep in your wallet long-term.

If you’re looking to add the Aspire Card to your four Amex card line-up, it currently offers 150,000 points after $4,000 spent on purchases within the first three months of account opening. That’s enough for between one and 30 award nights at Hilton hotels worldwide, depending on the category you’re booking.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire credit card review

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve card is another popular Amex card worth considering for your four-card Amex line-up. TPG staffers love it for its status boost feature, allowing them to earn Delta elite status without stepping on a plane. Cardholders can earn 15,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $30,000 per calendar year, up to four times per year. In addition, $25,000 in annual spending gets you a Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) waiver toward Platinum Gold and Silver status, while $250,000 gets you a waiver for Diamond.

As an Atlanta-based traveler, TPG’s Kerr gets his money’s worth for the card’s $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). Between the free checked bag on Delta flights, SkyClub and Amex Centurion lounge access on same-day flights and a bump in upgrade priority, the card makes flying Delta more comfortable regardless of which cabin he’s traveling in. 

Meanwhile, Mayerowitz and Senior Reporter Andrew Kunesh both get tons of value out of the companion certificate. This annual perk lets you book a round-trip ticket for a companion for just the cost of taxes. The companion certificate is even valid on first-class tickets, potentially saving you thousands of dollars on airfare.

Related: Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card review

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

If you’re not a Hilton fan, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card can be an excellent alternative. Marriott is the largest hotel chain in the world, allowing you to redeem your points at more than 7,000 properties worldwide. Like the Aspire Card, the Bonvoy Brilliant offers tons of practical benefits for even the most disloyal Marriott members. In fact, Kunesh keeps this card in rotation because it practically pays for itself with benefits.

Cardholders receive up to $300 in Marriott statement credits every year along with a free night award valid at any hotel under 50,000 points per night. It also comes with automatic Bonvoy Gold elite status, with the ability to spend your way to Platinum after $75,000. Cardholders enjoy a similar benefit to the one Aspire Card, with an up to $100 property credit on two-night stays at the Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis.

The Bonvoy Brilliant card also includes 15 elite night credits annually to help you reach elite status faster. Once you’re flying again, you can get an up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit every 4.5 years, plus access to some incredible lounges worldwide thanks to Priority Pass membership. The card has a $450 annual fee (see rates & fees). 

Related: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card review

Blue Cash Preferred® Card From American Express

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card is a favorite around here, thanks to its generous category bonuses. Cardholders earn 6% cash back on up to $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each calendar year (1x after) and 6% back on select U.S. streaming services. Additionally, you’ll earn 3% back on transit and gas and 1% on everything else. The card does carry a $95 annual fee, which is waived the first year (see rates and fees), but you can offset that by maxing out the supermarket category bonus and taking advantage of Amex Offers.

Keeping a cash-back credit card in your wallet is a good idea for those times when redeeming miles when award availability is limited. You’ll be able to redeem cash back rewards for virtually any flight, hotel or cruise or anything in between. This level of flexibility offered by cash back cards like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card can be incredibly useful. Even if you end up redeeming milles for most of your travel, you can use cash back rewards to cover airline taxes and fees.

Related: American Express Blue Cash Preferred Review

Bottom line

When choosing your own perfect four-card Amex line-up, think about which cards offer you the most perks and long-term value. The best strategy is to make sure that you have at least one card that offers generous category bonuses, another that earns more than one point on non-bonus spending, and at least one card that offers a suite of perks that will improve your travel experience and offset the (likely) high annual fee. And if you’re worried about annual fees stacking up, just remember to check your Amex Offers frequently for savings on everyday household spending. 

Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy

For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred, please click here.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
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Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.