Charge Cards - Many Options From Amex

Charge cards are a type of payment card that require customers to pay their balance in full each month and thus do not have an interest rate or involve finance charges. Charge cards also feature no-preset spending limits that automatically adjust to customers' spending patterns, offering needed flexibility for travel and entertainment expenditures. American Express first introduced the charge card in 1958 and continues to dominate this segment of the payment cards market - here are their best charge card offers.

See the best charge card offers from our partners below.

Apply Now Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 per calendar year for baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, when available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • $0 Intro Annual Fee for the 1st year, then $195.
  • Terms Apply.
Apply Now at American Express's
secure site
Terms Apply
Purchases Intro APR
N/A
Balance Transfers Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $195.
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
See Rates & Fees

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Apply Now Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Apply Now at American Express's
secure site
Terms Apply
Purchases Intro APR
N/A
Balance Transfers Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
See Rates & Fees

Comparing Charge Card Offers

Updated: April 20, 2018

Charge cards aren't for everyone, but if you want superior rewards and you don't mind a higher annual fee, they can be a good choice. They are helpful if you sometimes need to buy big-ticket items or if you want to get organized with your cards. Curious about whether they are right for you? Here, we look at:

Learn more about these financial products below!


CreditCards.com's Best Charge Cards of 2018

What is a charge card and how do they work?

A charge card, typically offered by American Express, allows you to be approved for large sums on the spot. The card issuer bases its decision on your past purchases and payments. While there's no set limit, it's not unlimited. The tradeoff is that you need to pay in full each month, whereas with a credit card, you can pay a minimum.

If you aren't carrying a balance, the average debt per card is $1,154, according to creditcards.com. That means it is charged, but paid off each month. Compare that to $7,527 per card that usually carries a balance. That means that the debt on a card that doesn't carry a balance is typically considerably lower than a card with a balance.

Looking at how many people don't carry a balance – and might do well with a charge card – we've found that about 29% of accounts are paid in full each month, while accounts with a balance are almost 44%:

How many accounts get paid off each month...

  •  43.7%
  • Accounts that carry a balance
  •  29.1%
  • Accounts that pay off balance each month
  •  27.2%
  • Dormant accounts

American Bankers Association survey

According to Bankrate, charge cards were once tied to rich rewards on spending and benefits that credit cards couldn't match. But in recent years, credit cards have aggressively explored the market, and there are now a number of premium credit cards with high-end features that rival those of the highest end charge cards.

While American Express is the primary network that provides charge cards, there are a few gas and retail charge cards still available. However, most of those are co-branded credit cards with a Visa, Mastercard or American Express logo, which means they are available where the network is used.

There is now an Amex feature that makes its charge cards more like credit cards called Pay Over Time. If you qualify, you can use the charge card as a charge/credit hybrid once you enroll, provided that the card is eligible. You select eligible charges of $100 or more and pay off those charges over time, but they will accrue interest as a credit card does.

Difference between credit cards and charge cards

While in some ways credit cards and charge cards are similar, such as both can help you build credit, in other ways they are quite different. Here, we look at how elements such as annual fees and interest work:

  • Spending limit: While a charge card has no preset spending limit, that doesn't mean your spending is unlimited. Rather, your limit is tied to your past spending and payments, or how much the issuer feels you can afford.
  • Interest: Because you pay in full each month on a charge card, no interest is charged.
  • Late fee: Rather than charging interest, with a charge card, you can face a late fee that is usually a percentage of the past due late amount. For example, if you are late on a $10,000 charge card bill, says Bankrate, and the late payment penalty is 2.99%, you'll owe an additional $299.
  • Annual fee: All charge cards have annual fees, although you may find one that waives the fee the first year. Many credit cards don't charge annual fees.

Here are key ways how charge cards and credit cards differ:

Differences between charge cards, credit cards...

Charge cardCredit card
Pay in full each monthCan pay minimum each month
No specified limitHas credit limit
Can be approved for large sumsPenalized for going over limit
Builds creditBuilds credit
Often with high annual feeCan have no annual fee
Typically through AmexMost major banks

Charge cards and credit scores

Like credit cards, charge cards' payment histories are reported to the 3 major credit bureaus, which helps your credit along. However, they differ in some ways.

For example, according to Bankrate, older credit scoring models interpret the charge card's highest balance in its history as if it were a credit limit. "That means a card that once had a high balance, but usually has a lower balance, could improve your credit utilization ratio. A card that hits near its highest balance month after month could have a negative effect."

Newer credit scoring models, says Bankrate, consider a charge card as part of the credit score's payment performance component, but not its utilization component. "That's because a highest-ever balance isn't really the same as a credit limit," the site says.

Advantages of charge cards

Charge cards have a host of advantages, including no preset spending limit and excellent rewards and benefits. Here are some very good reasons for getting a charge card:

  • No preset spending limit. Likely the greatest advantage of a charge card is that there is no preset spending limit, which is perfect for a business owner who may need to make large purchases on the fly.
  • Generous rewards and benefits. For example, in addition to the 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines and the 2X points for U.S. restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets, the Premier Rewards Gold Card offers a $75 hotel credit and an annual $100 airline credit. Then there are also benefits such as premium roadside assistance and a Global Assist Hotline.
  • Encourages discipline. Because charge cards require you to pay in full by the due date, you can use the requirement as a way to discipline yourself not to carry a balance.
  • Don't incur interest charges. Another advantage to paying in full each month is that you don't end up paying interest charges. Here's what you face if you carry a balance and pay the minimum payment with a non-charge card:
CardAPRAmount owedMonths paidInterest costsTotal paid
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card17.24%$3,000127$2,300$5,300
  • Good for building credit. Charge cards are a great way to build credit because the good habit of on-time payments are actually the most important aspect of your FICO credit score.
  • Your account is safer. Just as credit cards are protected by the Credit CARD Act of 2009, so too are charge cards. That means that while you may not be protected if a bad guy accesses your debit card, charge cards – and credit cards – have significant protections in place.

Pitfalls of charge cards

While charge cards have some definite advantages, there are a few reasons why they may not be right for you. You have to weigh the advantages with the downsides to these cards:

  • Must pay in full by due date. If you have a likelihood of carrying a balance on your card, a charge card may not be the best choice. Instead, look for a credit card with a low interest or 0% intro offer on purchases.
  • A missed bill can mean a sizable penalty. For example, with the Business Platinum Card from American Express Open, you can be charged $38 or 2.99%, whichever is greater, should you go past the due date. That means, if you go past the due date with a $10,000 balance, you can owe $299.
  • Annual fee is often high. The annual fee can be high – for example, The Platinum Card from American Express has an annual fee of $550. Some, however, can have a waived fee the first year, such as $175 waived the first year on The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express Open.

Who should use a charge card?

Charge cards are right for people who are organized, might need the convenience of no preset limit and superior benefits. Here are people who might benefit from having a charge card:

  • A business person. The charge card is perfectly suited for a business person who periodically needs to make large purchases and a credit limit won't work. You can be approved in minutes right at the counter.
  • Someone who can pay in full each month. If you can't pay in full each month, this is not the card for you. You'll want to be organized enough to be able to only put on the card what you can afford to pay back by the due date.
  • A person with excellent credit. Charge cards are best for someone who has very good or excellent credit. That's because these cards typically require better credit.
  • Someone who wants rich rewards. Charge cards often come with rich offerings, such as generous rewards for business expenses, say advertising and computer supplies from select vendors with The Business Gold Rewards from American Express Open.
  • A person who doesn't mind a high annual fee. These cards typically have a high annual fee, but at the same time, their rewards can be pretty great, so it's a tradeoff. For example, The Platinum Card from American Express offers up to $200 in Uber rides annually and access to exclusive airport lounges through the Global Lounge Collection.

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, we ask that you do not disclose confidential or personal information such as your bank account number, phone number, or email address. Keep in mind that anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by the card issuers or advertisers. Additionally, the card issuer or advertiser does not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.

See the online credit card applications for details about the terms and conditions of an offer. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However, all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's web site.

* For additional rates, fees and costs see issuer's website for detailed pricing and terms.