American Express offers a large array of cards that let you earn Membership Rewards points. We give an overview of each of them.
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American Express offers a large array of cards – including everyday spending cards, travel credit cards, business credit cards and co-branded cards – that let you earn Membership Rewards points. It can be confusing to try to sift through all the offerings and figure out where all the bonuses lie, so we’ve sorted it out for you.
Here’s a breakdown of the cards:
American Express Membership Rewards consumer credit cards
|Rewards rate||Introductory bonus||Annual fee|
15,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply)
|30,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply)||$150|
|60,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 6 months (Terms apply)||$250|
|100,000 points if you spend $6,000 in first 6 months (Terms apply)||$695|
American Express Membership Rewards business credit cards
|Rewards rate||Introductory bonus||Annual fee|
|15,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of card membership (Terms apply)||$0|
|15,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months (Terms apply)||$0 intro first year, then $95|
|70,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Gold Card within the first 3 months. (Terms apply)|
|120,000 points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months (Terms apply)||$595 ($695 if application is received on or after 01/13/2022)|
The Blue from American Express card is an entry-level card for newbies with less-than-stellar credit scores. The card offers a paltry rate of 1 point per dollar of spending and 2 points per dollar on American Express Travel purchases and no introductory bonus. Plus, unlike other Membership Rewards cards, it doesn’t allow you to transfer points to an outside loyalty program. But you can qualify for the card with a merely average credit score, so it may be a good starting point if you can’t qualify for any other American Express card.
Everyday spending cards
Everyday spending is not a strong point in the Membership Rewards program, but Amex does offer a card that lets you earn bonus points on everyday purchases.
The American Express Everyday Preferred card gives you 3% back on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $6,000 in purchases per year), 2% back on U.S. gas station purchases and 1% back on other purchases. You’ll also get a 50% point bonus whenever you use your card at least 30 times in a month for a $95 annual fee (waived the first year). That’s a generous grocery bonus – amounting to 4.5% back if you trigger the bonus every month – but it’s unfortunately capped at $6,000 in purchases, and the requirement to use the card 30 times each month is onerous.
In fact, the requirements to earn the full bonus are stringent. Unless you use the card for most of your spending, you probably will have a difficult time mustering 30 separate purchases on a single card each month. In other words – if you’re not all about earning Membership Rewards points, this is probably not the card for you.
American Express is the pioneer of travel rewards cards, and its offerings are the strongest in this category. You have three levels of cards to choose from – all of which offer extensive travel perks, bonuses focused on travel purchases and high annual fees.
The American Express Green card – the lowest tier card – is a good introduction to American Express travel benefits. The card offers a good earning rate on travel, transit and dining purchases: You earn 3X points on a wide array of travel and transit purchases, including airfare, hotel stays, subways, tolls and more. You also earn 3X points on purchases at restaurants worldwide. The remainder of your purchases earns 1 point per dollar. The card also offers a couple of fairly valuable credits, including up to $100 toward Clear membership and up to $100 for LoungeBuddy lounge access each year.
The card comes with a lower $150 annual fee. Altogether, it’s not a bad deal, though you can find other starter travel cards with lower fees and better rewards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Also, if you’re able to foot a $150 fee, you should ask yourself whether it’s worth doling out a little extra to get much better rewards and benefits with Amex’s higher-tier travel cards.
The American Express Gold Card is a good value for middle-of-the-road cardholders and comes with a $250 annual fee that’s relatively affordable, though on the high side for the level of rewards that it offers. You earn bonus points on both travel and everyday purchases – 4X at restaurants and on U.S. Uber Eats purchases and on the first $25,000 in U.S. supermarket purchases each calendar year (then 1X), 3X on flights booked directly with the airlines or with amextravel.com, and 1X on other purchases. You also earn a decent 60,000-point introductory bonus for spending $4,000 in the first six months.
And then comes the king of travel cards – The Platinum Card from American Express – offering a stellar 100,000-point introductory bonus (after spending $6,000 in the first six months), a litany of travel benefits and an outsized $695 annual fee. The Platinum card is squarely aimed at heavy travelers – you earn a massive 5% bonus on flights and hotels, and you get some generous travel credits, including an up to $200 airline fee credit, $100 credit every four years for Global Entry, up to $179 Clear credit, up to a $200 hotel credit (on prepaid bookings with Amex Travel at Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection properties – two night minimum stay required), up to $240 in statement credits for digital entertainment (on subscriptions or eligible purchases with Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM and The New York Times; enrollment required), up to $300 Equinox credit in the form of up to $25 back each month on eligible Equinox memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card (enrollment required), and up to $200 worth of Uber Cash credits.
Also, the card grants you free lounge access – probably the most extensive lounge access package that any credit card has to offer – including Priority Pass lounges and ultra-posh Centurion lounges. The Platinum card is not for the casual traveler; however, if you travel frequently, you can get more than $695 of value out of the Platinum card.
American Express also has several business cards that offer American Express benefits for business owners and bonus points on business purchases. These cards allow you to earn additional introductory bonuses for cardholders who have exhausted the introductory bonuses on Amex’s consumer line of cards.
Note, too, that you don’t have to be the owner of a brick-and-mortar business to qualify for a business card; independent contractors of all sorts may qualify.
The Blue Business Plus card is an excellent option for earning bonus points on everyday purchases – you get a 2X points bonus on your purchases, up to $50,000 each year (1X thereafter). Moreover, the card doesn’t charge an annual fee.
Like the consumer version of the card, the Business Green Rewards Card offers an insipid rewards rate of 2X points on eligible American Express Travel purchases and 1 point on the rest of your purchases for a $95 fee. On the plus side, the annual fee is waived for the first year, and it currently comes with an offer of 15,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months.
The Business Gold Card rewards your highest spend in two 4X bonus categories – which can include dining, gas, travel and common business purchases.
The American Express Business Platinum card offers many of the same benefits as the regular Platinum card, such as lounge access, up to a $100 credit on Global Entry, a $200 airline fee credit and a $179 Clear statement credit. Beyond those benefits, users will also get a discount on select Wheels Up private jet services and global VIP dining perks.
The card also offers several generous credits targeted to business professionals: You can get up to $400 in statement credits per year for Dell purchases ($200 semi-annually); up to $360 in statement credits per year on Indeed products and services related to recruitment; $150 in statement credits per year on select Adobe services; and up to $120 in statement credits per year (up to $10 per month) on U.S. wireless telephone provider purchases.
Another feature to note: You can earn 35% of your points back when you use them for flights on a qualifying airline that you designate at the beginning of each year (up to 500,000 points per calendar year for flights booked on amextravel.com). Essentially, you can boost the value of your points to 1.35 per point if you use them the right way – that’s a much better value than the consumer version of the card. Also, enjoy the Pay Over Time option on purchases of $100 or more. Altogether, the value of the above perks can help to outweigh the card’s $595 ($695 on or after Jan. 13, 2022) annual fee.
Co-branded Membership Rewards cards
If the above list of Membership Rewards cards hasn’t already boggled your mind, American Express offers many co-branded cards that will give you additional options for category bonuses and – most notably – additional options for earning introductory offers. Two cards worth mentioning here are the Morgan Stanley® Credit Card from American Express and the American Express Platinum Card® for Schwab. With both cards, you’ll see many of the same fees, travel perks and entertainment benefits as the consumer cards.
However, the Morgan Stanley card is a better fit for less-experienced investors – you can use Membership Rewards points for deposits to a qualifying Morgan Stanley account. Some other perks include 2X points on purchases from U.S. restaurants, airfare directly from airlines, select department stores and select car rental businesses. You’ll earn 1X points on all other purchases.
On the other hand, the Schwab Platinum card is for more seasoned investors. Along with the standard American Express Platinum fees and travel and entertainment benefits, you’ll also get $15 in Uber Cash ($200 annually); a $100 statement credit for qualifying Schwab holdings of $250,000 or more ($200 credit for holdings of $1,000,000 or more); and 100,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months.
Which American Express card should you apply for?
Membership Rewards cards aren’t for everyone. The rewards are focused on travel purchases, and the best asset of the American Express travel rewards program is its travel perks – including lounge access – rather than travel rewards. In other words, you need to be a frequent traveler to really reap the benefits of the Membership Rewards program. That said, if you fit the bill and want to maximize your points, you should consider signing up for the following:
An everyday spending card – Membership Rewards cards are not the strongest candidates for maximizing rewards on everyday spending, but if you are trying to rack up Membership Rewards points, you’ll probably want to sign up for the Amex Preferred Everyday card. If you don’t mind the $95 annual fee and you are able to use the card 30-plus times each month, the Amex Everyday Preferred card may be your best bet – with its 50% bonus, you can earn up to 4.5% back on your first $6,000 in grocery purchases and 3% back on gas purchases.
A travel card – If you travel frequently enough to use all of its credits and travel perks, the Platinum card is an exceptional value, even with its $695 annual fee. Or, if you qualify as a business owner, you might want to go with the Business Platinum card, since it’s possible to get a 35% bonus on all your redemptions for airfare with your selected, qualifying airline – you’ll need to do some math to decide which card offers the better value for you.
Note that if you don’t want to dole out the high annual fee for either of the Platinum cards, you might go with the American Express Gold Card instead – it can serve as both a travel and everyday card since it offers bonuses on flights, restaurants and U.S. supermarket purchases.
A flat-rate spending card – You should also consider adding the Blue Business Plus card to your wallet. You can rotate it with your other cards to earn a 2X point bonus on purchases that don’t fit under any other bonus category.
One other important consideration is timing. American Express has a strict policy on earning introductory offers, only allowing you to earn the bonus on a particular card once in your lifetime. This means if you want to earn the most bonus points possible, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the value of the introductory bonus for each card and apply when the bonus is higher than average.
See related: Best ways to spend American Express points
*All information about the Blue from American Express card, the Amex Everyday Preferred Credit Card, the American Express Green Card and the Business Green Rewards Card from American Express has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.
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