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The Amex Green Card is 61: Is a refresh coming? And would it be worth it?

The venerable charge card’s rewards are modest and its annual fee high, but a soon-to-be announced upgrade might be in the works. Where's what to expect.

Summary

The American Express Green Card has been surpassed over time by other cards with more generous rewards; that might change if the card gets the upgrade treatment other Amex cards have received recently.

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The American Express Green Card remains one of the most recognizable charge cards ever circulated. This isn’t surprising given its long history; American Express first introduced its Green Card in the United States and Canada in 1958.

Because this card has been around for so long, the odds are high that you have had a Green Card in your wallet at some time. And if not, there’s a good chance that someone you know has had a Green Card account.

But is the American Express Green still a charge card worth having? Or have other cards offering greater rewards programs at a lower cost surpassed it?

Credit card experts say the Green Card has lost much of its luster over the years. The card is simply too expensive for the modest rewards program it offers, they say. And unless a rumored boost to the card happens this year, card experts say you should skip the Green Card and instead apply for more valuable American Express cards or plastic offered by the company’s competitors.

See related: Best American Express cards

The problem with the (old) Amex Green Card

The big problem with the American Express Green Card? It’s not free. The card charges no annual fee for its first year. After that, though, you’ll have to pay $95 a year to keep the card.

And what do you get for that fee? Not enough.

Those aren’t bad rewards, but they’re not especially impressive when you’re paying an annual fee of $95.

Another downside? The American Express Green Card is a charge card, not a credit card. This means you must pay off your balance in full each month. If you don’t, you won’t be able to make any additional purchases with the card.

There is an exception here. You can sign up for American Express’ “Pay Over Time” feature. This feature allows you to pay off eligible purchases of $100 or more over several months – just as you’d do with a traditional credit card – with interest.

If you do this, your Green Card will act more like a traditional credit card instead of a charge card. But you’ll still be stuck with that $95 annual fee for a relatively modest rewards program.

Finally, the card isn’t a good one to use in other countries, either. The American Express Green Card charges a foreign transaction fee of 2.7 percent on every purchase you make. This can make using the Green Card in foreign countries an expensive proposition.

On the plus side, the card does come with an attractive welcome bonus. You can earn 25,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $1,000 on purchases with the Green Card during the first three months after you open your new account. However, the offer is only available to select consumers.

See related: American Express Gold Card vs. American Express Green card

Why the Amex Green Card is due for an upgrade

Jacob Dayan, chief executive officer and co-founder of Chicago-based accounting and tax services company FinancePal, said there is little reason to seek out this card in its current state.

“The American Express Green Card is only average in comparison to other cards out there,” Dayan said. “It has a steep $95 annual fee after the first year and subpar or average rewards. Overall, the card is so-so. I would shop around some more.”

Daniel Gillaspia, Houston-based founder of travel rewards blog UponArriving.com, said there is little reason to apply for the Green Card unless American Express is offering an attractive welcome bonus.

He pointed to the 25,000 Membership Rewards points American Express is offering now as an enticing one.

But other than the introductory offer? Gillaspia said the Green Card doesn’t offer much to today’s consumers.

“Some people consider the Green Card to be an entry card to Amex and believe it might be easier to get approved for,” Gillaspia said. “But I’d rather just build up a better credit score and go for a different Amex card.”

Gillaspia did say the Green Card might make sense for existing American Express cardholders who have the company’s Platinum or Gold cards. Those credit cards offer better rewards, but also come with annual fees that are even higher than the $95 charged for a Green Card.

These cardholders, if they no longer want to pay those high fees, can call American Express and ask to be downgraded from a Platinum or Gold to a Green Card.

If you downgrade your American Express to a less-costly Green Card, you won’t have to close your American Express account and, while still stuck with an annual fee, you’ll at least be paying a smaller one each year.

Better alternatives to Amex Green Card

The card does come with extra perks, such as return protection and extended warranty. But it is possible to get these with other American Express cards, too, if you’re willing to pay a higher annual fee.

Alternative: American Express® Gold Card

  • With this card, you’ll earn 4 points for every dollar you charge at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases every year, then 1x).
  • You’ll also earn 3 points for every dollar you charge for flights booked directly with airlines or at amextravel.com.
  • The card does come with a hefty annual fee of $250, but depending on your spending habits, you might be able to earn enough in rewards to quickly pay that fee off.
  • In addition, the card offers up to $100 travel credit and up to $120 restaurant credit every year. If you maximize both credits, keeping the Amex Gold Card in your wallet will effectively cost you only $30 yearly.

Alternative: The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • The card charges a big $550 annual fee, but offers airline fee, Uber, hotel, Global Entry/TSA Precheck and Saks Fifth Avenue credits worth up to $700.
  • In addition, it offers a generous rewards program in which you can earn 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, 5X points on eligible hotels booked with amextravel.com, and 1X point on general purchases.

Alternative: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • It offers 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases every year, then 1 percent), 3 percent cash back at U.S. gas stations and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.
  • It charges a $95 annual fee.

If none of these cards sound attractive to you, you can search other companies’ cards. There are plenty out there that offer generous rewards programs without charging any annual fee.

“American Express offers much better options than the American Express Green Card in terms of rewards and benefits,” said Daniel Wilke, writer for St. Louis-based CreditLiftoff.com. “The primary appeal for this credit card will be for individuals who want the status symbol of having an American Express charge card without paying the higher annual fees of the Gold or Platinum cards. This card will not appeal to savvy credit card users.”

See related: When is a credit card annual fee worth it?

Changes coming to American Express Green Card?

There are rumors, though, that the American Express Green Card might soon be getting an update. The Doctor of Credit site reported earlier this year that in March American Express would boost the Green Card’s rewards program around June or July.

The card would offer, according to Doctor of Credit:

  • 4X rewards points on gas purchases.
  • 3X rewards points on streaming services.

The site also reported that American Express would be in negotiations to include a subscription of Amazon Prime with the card.

It’s not clear if these rumors are true. Heather Norton, director of corporate affairs and communications at American Express, told CreditCards.com American Express does not comment on rumors or speculation.

If the upgrade does happen, though, it would make the Green Card more attractive and might make it worth the annual fee – especially if used in combination with other Amex cards that also offer Membership Rewards points.

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Published: April 22, 2019

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