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American Express Green Card vs. American Express Gold Card

Which card is best for you?

Summary

The Amex Gold card carries a larger fee than the American Express Green Card, but its rewards can really add up if you spend a serious amount on food each year. See how the two cards compare.

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Since you’re comparing Amex travel cards, you may have heard that the American Express® Green Card has gotten a sorely-needed refresh. Adorned with a much better 3X rate on travel, transit and restaurant purchases, plus a 30,000-point bonus (after you spend $2,000 on purchases in your first 3 months), the Amex Green card seems better positioned to go head to head with other travel cards. But how does it stack up against the American Express® Gold card?

Between these cards, the American Express Green Card is more affordable than the Amex Gold card, merely costing $150 per year to own. On the other hand, the Amex Gold card charges $250 per year, but its benefits, including 4X points on restaurants and U.S. supermarket purchases (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X) and a bevy of travel credits, easily justify the higher fee.

Read on to learn who is the best fit for each card and how to decide between the two.

Amex Green card vs. Amex Gold card

CardsAmerican Green Card
American Express® Green Card
American Express Premier Rewards Gold
American Express® Gold Card
Rewards rate
  • 3X on travel, transit and restaurants worldwide
  • 1X on other purchases
  • 4X at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1x) 
  • 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com 
  • 1X other purchases 
Introductory bonus
  • 30,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months

 

  • 35,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months 
Annual fee$150$250
Benefits
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Up to $100 one-time Away credit in the first 3 months (offer expires 1/15/20)
  • Up to $100 CLEAR credit
  • Up to $100 LoungeBuddy credit
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Up to $100 airline fee credit
  • Up to $120 dining credit
  • Up to $100 hotel credit
  • Up to $100 activity credit on vacations over $3,000

 

Choose the Amex Green card if you … 

  • Are looking for a good starter travel card 
  • Want to earn points on a wide array of travel purchases 
Choose the Amex Gold card if you … 

  • Spend a lot on groceries and restaurants 
  • Spend a lot on airfare 

Why Choose the American Express Green card?

It’s a good starter travel card

Since the American Express Green Card costs $100 less than the Amex Gold card, it’s the better option for cardholders who are just getting their feet wet in the travel rewards space and are leery of paying the $250 fee for the Gold card. For a lower $150 annual fee, you can rack up a substantial number of points on travel and restaurant purchases.

Once you add in the 30,000 points that you can score for spending $2,000 on the card in the first three months, you should have enough points to fund a free trip in the first year. Plus, you can eke some value from the card’s travel credits along the way: You can use the card’s $100 credit for CLEAR to get through the airport security line much faster and then kick back in an airport lounge courtesy of the card’s $100 LoungeBuddy credit.

More flexible travel rewards

If you’re always on the go (and not too big on cooking at home), you’ll find a lot of value in the American Express Green Card’s 3X bonus on transit, travel and restaurant purchases. While the Gold card only awards points on directly purchased airfare, the American Express Green Card offers bonus points on a wide array of travel and transit purchases, including airfare, hotels, ride-shares and more. Besides the points you earn on traveling, your daily commute – by train, bus, Uber or toll road – could score you a lot of points.

See related: Guide to the refreshed Amex Green Card

Why choose the American Express Gold card?

Best for restaurants and groceries

The main selling point of the Gold card is its 4X bonus on restaurants and U.S. supermarket purchases on up to $25,000 in purchases per year (1 point per dollar thereafter). This is one of the best rates you’ll find on food purchases all around, and it can net you a lot of bonus points – up to 100,000 per year. If you’re struggling to decide between the American Express Green and Gold cards, you should take a close look at the Gold card’s restaurant and U.S. supermarket bonus and consider how far it can take you in travel rewards each year.

See related: Best credit cards for grocery shopping

Best rewards on airfare

While the American Express Green Card offers the best rewards on travel overall, the Gold card comes out ahead in the airfare category. It awards you 4 points per dollar on directly purchased airfare, versus only 3 points per dollar with the American Express Green Card. If you spend heavily on airfare, the Gold card is your go-to card.

More valuable credits

If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ll find that the travel credits on the Gold card offer a much better value. While the American Express Green Card includes $300 worth of travel credits (and the Away luggage credit is only valid for the first three months), the Gold card offers $420 worth of travel and dining credits every year – more than compensating for its higher fee.

Value of travel credits

American Express Green CardAmex Gold card
  • $100 one-time Away credit in the first 3 months (offer expires 1/15/20)
  • $100 CLEAR credit
  • $100 LoungeBuddy credit
  • $100 airline fee credit
  • $120 dining credit
  • $100 hotel credit
  • $100 activity credit on vacations over $3,000
Total = $300Total = $420

How to choose the right card for you

The choice between the American Express Green card and the Amex Gold card mostly comes down to your spending and travel habits. Here are the key questions to ask in deciding between the two cards:

Can you afford the fee?

The first consideration is whether you can afford the $250 fee for the Gold card – if it’s too rich for your blood, you may want to start with the American Express Green card. However, you shouldn’t avoid the Gold card simply because of the price tag. If you do the math, you may discover that it offers the better value, despite the higher fee.

Will you use the travel credits?

The credits on both the American Express Green Card and the Gold card are valid for very specific uses. For the American Express Green Card, you need to be a fan of Away luggage, CLEAR and airport lounges to use its credits.

On the Gold card side, the airline credit only applies to airline incidentals (such as baggage fees and in-flight meals) on one airline that you designate at the beginning of each year, while the dining credit only applies to Grubhub/Seamless and a handful of chain restaurants. And, you’ll need to have a taste for luxury to use the hotel credit, since the $100 hotel credit is only valid for stays at the Hotel Collection – a portfolio of luxury hotels.

Make sure you fully understand the credits and their restrictions before you apply.

Which categories do you spend the most on?

You should have a calculator and your household budget handy, because the greatest deciding factor should be how much you tend to spend in the cards’ bonus categories. As you can see from our sample calculations below, the American Express Green Card is fairly rewarding for someone who spends heavily on travel and transit, while the Gold card is extremely rewarding in the restaurant and supermarket category.

Estimate your point earnings in each category and add it all together – this should quickly spell out which card is the better choice.

Example point earnings

Yearly spendAmerican Express Green CardAmex Gold card
$5,000 on travel and transit (excluding airfare)15,0005,000
$4,000 on airfare (directly purchased)12,00012,000
$5,200 on restaurants + $6,000 on groceries21,60044,800
Total points earned48,60061,800

Bottom line

The American Express Gold card has a clear edge over the American Express Green Card, thanks to its 4X bonus on restaurant and U.S. supermarket purchases and its longer list of travel credits. However, you should do the math to see how much each card can net you and make sure you can use the card benefits before you choose one card over another.

While you’re at it, you should take a close look at the full array of travel credit cards before you make your decision. Though the American Express Green Card is good starting point for travel rewards, you can find other entry level cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, that offer a better value.

What’s up next?

In Rewards Programs

Guide to the refreshed Amex Green Card: A new competitor among starter travel cards

The refreshed American Express Green Card is loaded with an all new rewards rate, travel perks and benefits for travelers. Learn how to make the most of the updated card and how it stacks up against the competition.

Published: October 24, 2019

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