What Is American Express?
American Express is one of the oldest and most widely recognized credit card companies, acting as both a network and a card issuer. It has a long history of serving consumers and businesses alike. Today it offers some of the best credit cards on the market, whether you’re new to credit or a veteran frequent flyer.
Its current selection of personal credit cards encompasses a host of categories, with options ranging from basic everyday spending to luxury travel. Whether you want simple cash back or you love transferring points and looking for the best deals, you’ll find it with American Express.
Best “Former” Charge Cards
You have three Amex consumer former charge card offers to choose from. They’re “former” charge cards because they now have a Pay Over Time feature.
The Platinum Card® from American Express: 5 out of 5 stars
If American Express were a car, The Platinum Card® from American Express would probably be the hood ornament. This is Amex’s premium travel card. It now comes with a pay over time APR, $695 in annual fees. It also comes with a suite of benefits focused on improving your airline and hotel experiences.
Most notable is probably the Global Lounge Collection, which provides the best airport lounge access you can get with a credit card. From Priority Pass to Delta Sky Clubs, you won’t be left eating vending machine peanuts when you’re stuck at the airport.
American Express® Gold Card: 5 out of 5 stars
The Platinum card is all about travel, while the American Express® Gold Card splits the focus between travel and food (an excellent combination).
You’ll get bonus categories covering both eating out and eating in, and airlines, although hotels are conspicuously absent. Still, you’ll get annual credits that nearly offset the annual fee, plus a variety of useful perks.
American Express® Green Card: 5 out of 5 stars
The American Express® Green Card was recently upgraded to feature new bonus categories and benefits, including some potentially lucrative offers for certain travelers.
This card didn’t have much to recommend it before. But now, with the new perks it could be a solid travel card for anyone who doesn’t want to spring for the Gold or Platinum.
Best for Cash Back Rewards
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: 5 out of 5 stars
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express really packs a punch when it comes to groceries. Imagine the savings with its industry-leading 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.
Cash Back shows up as Reward Dollars that customers can redeem as a statement credit. Amex recently made this card even better, expanding the bonus categories to include certain streaming services and transit.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: 5 out of 5 stars
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express earns less cash back than the Preferred version. The offsetting bonus is that it has no annual fee.
So it could be perfect if your grocery bill isn’t very high and you don’t care about the other categories of the Preferred card. Cash Back comes back as Reward Dollars that customers can redeem as a statement credit.
American Express Cash Magnet® Card: 4 out of 5 stars
Let’s say you tend to make a variety of purchases, or need a card to fill in the gaps between the bonus categories of your other credit cards. If that scenario fits, the American Express Cash Magnet® Card could be what you’re looking for.
With the same flat rate for every purchase, you can use the Cash Magnet to earn decent rewards no matter where you shop.
Best for Point Rewards
The following cards offer Membership Rewards points, rather than cash back, making them a bit more travel-oriented. These points aren’t worth much when redeemed for statement credits, but you can find great value by transferring them to airline and hotel frequent traveler programs.
Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card: 5 out of 5 stars
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card is designed for grocery and gas spending, with an interesting feature that boosts your rewards for using the card frequently.
You’ll have to use the card quite a bit each billing period to get it. But if you can you’ll get a hefty 50% bonus to all the points earned in that period.
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card: 5 out of 5 stars
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card is the lesser version of the EveryDay Preferred above. It offers fewer points per dollar and a smaller spending bonus, but in return there’s no annual fee. So you won’t have to worry about making the card pay for itself.
Blue from American Express®: 3 out of 5 stars
The Blue from American Express® isn’t very exciting. It has no annual fee, so it can be a free way to earn Membership Rewards points. But you can get much better cards to earn points. If you’re looking to get a lot out of your rewards card, another option would be a better fit.
Best for Building Credit
American Express Optima® Card: 3 out of 5 stars
You may have never heard of the American Express Optima® Card. This is an invite-only card, but invites are typically extended only to people who have defaulted and settled on balances with other Amex cards.
It’s offered as a way to help you rebuild your credit, giving you a path back into Amex’s good graces (assuming you use it responsibly). That’s why this is sometimes known as a “second chance” card.
There are no rewards and no real benefits to speak of. The main purpose here is rebuilding your credit scores and getting back on track.
Best for Co-Branded Airline Cards
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: 5 out of 5 stars
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is Delta’s premium card, with a high annual fee and several valuable airline perks, chief among them being lounge access and a companion certificate.
You may want to consider the other Delta cards before springing for this one though, as the increased fee may not come with much extra value for many cardholders.
The SkyMiles you earn with the Delta cards will be in addition to any other miles you earn from your Delta member status.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: 4 out of 5 stars
The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card is one of the mid-tier Delta cards, with solid airline perks and a great introductory bonus.
Using this card could be a good way to see if the Delta Reserve would be worth it for you. If you find yourself wanting more, you may want to upgrade.
Or start with the Reserve and figure out if you’re getting your money’s worth. If you’re not, consider downgrading to one of the other Delta cards that has a lower annual fee.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: 4 out of 5 stars
If you’re not ready to go for one of the more expensive Delta cards, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card might serve you well. You won’t get any premium airline benefits, but you can enjoy the convenience of a free checked bag, priority boarding, and savings on in-flight purchases.
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card: 3 out of 5 stars
The Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card doesn’t have much to recommend it. But on the upside, it has no annual fee. It could be a good downgrade option if you have one of the other Delta cards but won’t use it anymore.
You won’t get much in the way of airline benefits – only a 20% statement credit for in-flight purchases. But Amex provides a few other features.
Best for Co-Branded Hotel Cards
Amex issues co-branded credit cards and they retain the issuer’s trademark quality. If you’re fond of the company, they’re certainly worth a look.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: 5 out of 5 stars
Frequent Marriott Bonvoy residents will love the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. With a free night every year, Gold Elite status, airport lounge access, and several credits to offset the annual fee, this is one of the most valuable hotel cards on the market.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: 5 out of 5 stars
Card membership will run you $450 per year, but the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card will provide the most Hilton Honors points out of all the Amex Hilton cards. Not only from the card but from your elite hotel status.
You’ll also get some useful credits and free stays that could completely offset the annual fee – and then some – if you travel enough every year.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: 5 out of 5 stars
As the mid-tier Amex Hilton card, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card won’t weigh down your wallet. Instead, it will help you earn quite a lot of Hilton points. You’ll get an upgraded hotel member status and Priority Pass lounge access, but you’ll have to spend quite a bit each year to earn any free night stays.
Hilton Honors American Express Card: 4 out of 5 stars
The Hilton Honors American Express Card doesn’t offer much, but it could be useful for the occasional Hilton stay.
Card members get automatic Hilton Honors Silver status. The caveat is that you can only get points at Hilton Hotels. So if you travel only occasionally and tend to stay at a variety of hotels, this card will offer only limited rewards. We would recommend going with a general travel rewards card instead, and one that isn’t co-branded with a particular hotel brand.
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What Features Do American Express Cards Provide?
American Express extends a selection of additional features for most of its cards. Check online for details about your specific card. Or refer to the accompanying Guide to Benefits to learn which features you can take advantage of.
- Amex Offers: Most Amex rewards cards come with Amex Offers, a handy shopping portal that can extend the usefulness of your card. You’ll get a selection of discounts and extra reward opportunities at a wide variety of merchants, with new offers about once a month.
- ShopRunner membership: Many Amex cards come with a ShopRunner subscription, which provides free two-day shipping and returns at a growing selection of online retailers.
- Membership Rewards points: Some Amex cards earn Membership Rewards points, which can be transferred to over a dozen airline and hotel frequent traveler programs. Save your points until you can cash them in for a high value, like two cents per point or more, to maximize your rewards cards.
- A bevy of travel perks: Some Amex travel cards come with airline and hotel credits, elite hotel statuses, memberships with car rental agencies, and access to travel planning services to create custom itineraries for your trips. Certain cards also come with The Hotel Collection and the Fine Hotels & Resorts program for additional perks. Eligibility for the Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection offers is limited. Enrollment is required in the Amex Offers section of your account before redeeming.
- Wide-ranging lounge access: The Platinum cards (personal and business) and the Amex Black Card provide the best airport lounge access in the credit card game with Amex’s Global Lounge Collection. Lounges include Priority Pass, Centurion, Delta Sky Club, Airspace, Escape, and more.
- Shopping protections: Depending on the card, you may get purchase protection, return protection, and/or extended warranty.
- Travel protections: These protections may include travel insurances like car rental insurance, a baggage insurance plan, and travel accident insurance, plus roadside assistance and a global assistance hotline.
- Year-End Summary: Download a convenient summary of all your charges for the previous calendar year, available as a PDF, Excel, or CSV file.
Enrollment required for select benefits; terms and limitations apply.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best American Express Card?
If it’s a prestigious travel rewards card you’re after, The Platinum Card® from American Express is sure to please with travel perks like industry-leading airport lounge access. Think you’ll spend more money on groceries or at restaurants than flights or hotel rooms? Go with the American Express® Gold Card.
For those who’d prefer a lower annual fee, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express are great rewards cards, but they provide cash back rather than points. Rewards junkies should probably stick with the Blue Cash cards’ points-earning counterparts, the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card and the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card. For both cards, Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
Amex also issues co-branded credit cards for Marriott and Delta, and they retain the issuer’s trademark quality; if you’re fond of either company, they’re certainly worth a look.
What credit scores do you need to get American Express cards?
Most Amex credit cards are geared toward applicants with good credit. That includes former charge cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card. So, that requires a FICO score of at least 670 or so, and a VantageScore of at least 700.
Just be aware that your credit scores aren’t the only factor in an issuer’s decision to approve or deny your application. If your income is too low, or your debt load is too high, you may still be denied, even if you have great credit. Likewise, you may be approved even if your credit scores are less than great, though the odds of approval will typically be lower.
Where is American Express accepted?
American Express isn’t accepted as widely as Visa or Mastercard.
It’s accepted in a number of countries around the world, and at “99% of places that accept credit cards” in the United States, as of 2020. But it’s probably not the best network for international travel because its acceptance outside the U.S. is comparatively low.
Still, that’s not to say you shouldn’t apply for an Amex card if you’re a frequent international traveler. You just may want to have a Visa or Mastercard on hand if you’re planning to leave the country.