How to Accumulate Points With an American Express Card

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American Express reward points can be a double-edged sword. Skillful accumulation can provide significant savings on daily needs, like gas and groceries, or luxuries, like travel and designer items. A haphazard approach, however, could leave you paying massive interest rates or expensive annual fees for no more of a payoff than a $50 gift certificate once a year. There are a few tricks you can use to accumulate points from your American Express credit card quickly and wisely.

  • Select and apply for one of American Express' card offerings that yield reward points. Use the comparison chart (see Resources) to evaluate which card best fits your spending and reward habits. American Express reward cards include the Blue product, which accumulates points more slowly but comes with no annual fee, and the Gold, Green and Platinum versions that allow for faster accumulation but come with an annual fee of up to several hundred dollars. If you don't plan to spend much on the credit card, opt for the Blue product. If you spend a lot annually and would find value from the travel benefits and other bonuses, spring for one of the cards with a fee.

  • Consolidate as much of your spending as possible onto your American Express card. Even if you have rewards programs from other credit card issuers, you dilute their effectiveness when you spread your spending across several cards. Look for recurring expenses that you must pay regularly, such as your cellular phone or cable bills, and see if you can set up payments for those through your American Express card.

  • Get American Express cards for your spouse, college-age children or anyone else in your family for whom you pay credit card bills. American Express will allow you to link multiple cards to a single rewards account, so you'll accrue points faster.

  • Monitor American Express' website for reward accumulation specials. One special in 2009, for example, allows users to get double points when buying gas or groceries at certain retailers. Sign up for these bonuses when they fit with your spending patterns, but be vigilant of hidden fees or requirements that will counter the benefit of the extra rewards points.

  • Track your spending and American Express card statements for errors to make sure you're getting every point you've earned. Alert American Express customer service of any discrepancy. Some accounting software brands, such as Quicken, allow you directly to track credit card reward points.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you plan to use your rewards primarily for travel, look for partnerships with frequent flyer or hotel frequent guest programs, and consolidate your travel to those vendors as much as possible to boost the potency of your American Express reward points. American Express points can be converted to points in many of those programs.
  • If you opt for the American Express Blue, pay off your balance in full every month. Reward cards come with heftier interest rates, and paying more in interest each month will offset benefits gained by accumulating reward points. Other American Express rewards cards require you to pay off the balance each month.

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