Million Mile Madness, Credit card planning: American Express


Background: Early in January, I introduced the idea of challenging myself (and anyone foolish enough to join me) to earn a million points in one month. So, starting March 1, I’ll do everything I can to earn as many points as I can while keeping within my ethical boundaries. As a reminder, I don’t expect that a million points will have been credited to my account by March 31st: points often take quite a while to get credited. Instead, I’ll track all of the points that I expect, and I’ll declare victory if the expected total is over a million. Oh, and to keep things challenging, I will try to keep my net costs below $1,000.

Previous Million Mile Madness posts include:

Credit Card churn planning

In order to earn a million miles in a month, I plan to sign up for a bunch of credit cards with the best signup offers. These won’t get me all the way to a million points, but they’ll go a long way. First, though, I need to plan carefully.  Last week, I reported my plans regarding Chase credit cards.  In that post I said I would try for one personal card and two business cards.  A number of readers corrected my mistaken assumption that I can only qualify for one personal card at a time, but I still like my plan as reported.  Between sign-up bonuses and category bonuses, that plan could result in over 213,000 points and miles from Chase alone!

In this post, I’ll discuss my thoughts and plans concerning American Express credit cards, and I’ll follow up in future posts with similar discussions about Citi and others.

Current cards

I currently have the following American Express credit and charge cards:

  • Delta Reserve (personal)
  • Delta Platinum (business)
  • Business Platinum
  • Hilton HHonors (personal)
  • Starwood Business
  • Starwood (personal) cancelled September 2012

Of these, only the Business Platinum card is due soon for its annual fee.  With that card, I’ve already made sure to use this calendar year’s worth of the $200 airline fee benefit and, last year, I used both the $200 benefit and the $100 Global Entry fee benefit, so I’m about ready to cancel the card.  One thing to keep in mind is that I have Membership Rewards points that I do not want to lose, so I need to pickup a new Amex card that is part of the Membership Rewards program.

Four credit card limit

Milesabound reported last year (and Dan’s Deals reported recently) that American Express allows you to have as many charge cards as you want, but only up to four credit cards.  Of the four cards remaining after I cancel the Platinum card, all are credit cards.  So, I would need to cancel one or more in order to get new Amex credit cards.

I don’t want to cancel either of the Delta cards since I use those to maintain high level elite status (see “Mileage running, from home“).  I also don’t want to cancel the Hilton card if I can help it since I just got it four months ago and I like having it for access to AXON awards and for its 6X bonus categories.  However, I would consider dumping it if I could replace it with the Hilton Surpass card.  A couple of Flyertalk threads, though, suggest that my best option is to wait about a year and then look for a targeted offer to upgrade to the Surpass card (see this thread and this one).

That leaves the Starwood card which, despite being an excellent card, I rarely use.  So, it is definitely a candidate for canceling.  That means I have room for one new Amex credit card and one or more charge cards.

My Plan

I would like to signup for the following offer:

  • Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz: 50K bonus Membership Rewards points after $1K spend, $475 annual fee (not waived), $200 per calendar year airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, and miscellaneous Mercedes-Benz benefits (that I’m unlikely to ever use).

Even though the Terms & Conditions for this offer do not mention the annual $200 airline fee credit given by other Amex Platinum cards, many have reported that it is a feature of this card.  So, I can easily get $200 back this calendar year, and another $200 back next calendar year before canceling the card.  That reduces the net cost of this card to $75 which isn’t bad in exchange for 50,000 points and continued airport lounge access!

This appears to be a credit card, not a charge card, so I will need to cancel my Starwood card in order to get approved for this one.  I’ll cancel my Starwood card this week in order to free up the possibility of getting automatically approved for the Platinum Mercedes card.

Why not more cards?

The main reason I’m not looking at more Amex cards is simply that I do not see any other great offers that I qualify for.  I would happily sign up for the personal Starwood card for 25K points, but I canceled that card fairly recently, and my understanding is that Amex doesn’t like to give out bonuses a second time unless your prior card has been closed for over a year.  I also think its too soon after applying for the regular Hilton card to go for the Surpass card (correct me if I’m wrong!).  I also considered going for a Blue Cash Preferred welcome bonus (no longer available), but $250 (the bonus at the time) was not enough incentive for me to cancel another Amex card.

I’m not worried, though, there are plenty of great offers from Citi, US Bank, and Barclay’s!  Stay tuned for my thoughts about those!  And, of course, if a new Amex offer surfaces by March 1, I’ll be ready to change my plans.

Reader Feedback

Please let me know what you think about the above plan.  Do you have other ideas or suggestions?

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[…] American Express Platinum Mercedes card (50K bonus after $1K spend) and Premier Rewards Gold (50K bonus after $1K spend).  For more details, see: Million Mile Madness, Credit card planning: American Express. […]

[…] Million Mile Madness, Credit card planning: American Express […]

[…] Million Mile Madness, Credit card planning: American Express […]

[…] Million Mile Madness, Credit card planning: American Express […]


Depending on how you’re counting your miles, you can take the 50k MR and turn them into 100k HHonors points. If you go from MR -> Hawaiian (1:1) and then Hawaiian -> Hilton (1:2) you’ll get 25% more than just going MR -> Hilton.


PainCorp: Thanks for the suggestion, but I’d prefer to keep my MR points for transfers to Singapore Airlines. I just flew Singapore Suites a few weeks ago and already I can’t wait to do it again!


I am new to credit card churning but I am interested in some of the AmEx bonuses. I have good credit. I have a regular AmEx green card and a regular Delta SkyMiles card. Will having these cards eliminate the bonuses offered on other cards? Should I cancel these cards?


pas: Multiple people have reported that it does not generate a hard pull.
Jim: It depends on which cards you want to sign up for. If you sign up for a Delta Platinum card, for example, it would be considered an upgrade from your regular Delta card. But if you sign up for the Premier Rewards Gold card, it is a new product to you so you will be able to get approved and get the bonus (assuming your credit score is good, etc.)

[…] Million Mile Madness, Credit card planning: American Express […]

[…] Million Mile Madness, Credit card planning: American Express […]


Does anyone know if upgrading to surpass causes a hard credit pull? I am wondering if I should wait for this upgrade until my scheduled churn, or go ahead now.


Thanks for the info… this is what I just got: ”
We’re sorry; your existing Cards are not eligible for this upgrade. Please call the number on the back of your card to apply for an American Express Card”


If we upgrade to Surpass does the fee hit right away?


Kadence: yes, it looks like the fee does hit right away. From the T&C it says that I will be charged a prorated fee based on how much time there is until my anniversary date. So, in my case, since I’ve had the regular Hilton card for about 4 months, I expect to be charged about 3/4 of the fee (about $56).


AMEX Plat M-B is a charge card.

Have you checked whether you need the Hilton card to make AXON awards? The one time I made an AXON booking the rep said I could use any AMEX. I should have done/should do more research.


MileValue: No, I’ve never checked to make sure that you need a Hilton card to make AXON awards. That’s an interesting question! I do like the Hilton cards right now, though for their 6X earnings at grocery stores, drug stores, and gas stations


I got the Hilton Amex in Dec. If I go to my Amex account online and in the search box type upgrade then click the upgrade card link I get a 50k offer. At least it was this was 2 weeks ago.


AdamH: That worked! Thanks! When I logged into my account, I didn’t see the offer, but as you said by searching for “upgrade” I was able to get the offer! Awesome!


Vinh – I am absolutely getting 6x at drugstores. I kept my T&Cs because the rumors started right as I upgraded to Surpass, and so far so good! If the drugstore benefit goes away, I’ll probably use that as an excuse to switch back to the basic, thereby getting 50k pts for a $35 upgrade fee.


I followed Sherman’s advice and saw the 50K to upgrade too, but I’m worried that if I get the Surpass card with the new t&c, I won’t get the 6X drugstores until July. Does anyone who recently got the Surpass card can confirm that they’re still getting 6X from drugstores?