AmEx Bank: An In-Depth Review

We looked into everything you'd want to know before becoming an American Express customer. Is their a better banking option out there for you? Read this in-depth review to see.

The Verdict

If you're looking to grow your capital and are comfortable with a digital-only bank, American Express Bank is for you

It's safe to say that you've heard of American Express, because its lucrative rewards credit cards pull in millions of customers a year.

But since the early 2000s, when the company created an FDIC-insured personal banking arm, American Express bank has become a go-to option for those looking for high-yield savings options.

While Amex's low-fee, high-rewards cards and accounts offer great bang for your buck, the company operates completely online (no ATM withdrawals, no physical branches) and has no checking services.

So, if you'd rather receive similar services in physical form, then you'd best look elsewhere.

Who Should Use the Card

You should use American Express if you value name recognition and don't mind only having online service

Active in more than 130 countries, you'll know American Express mostly for its range of credit cards offered as it's the world's largest issuer of credit cards in terms of transactions, averaging 6 billion per year.

American Express Credit Card Market Share

But the company wasn't always in the card business; the company was formed in 1850 as an express mail business.

Over the years, it's dipped its toes into various other industries, from traveler's checks to investment banking.

It even developed some small-screen mainstays such as MTV, Nickelodeon, and The Movie Channel through a joint venture with Warner Communications (formed in 1979), assets that were eventually sold to Viacom.

Now offering services including credit cards, personal savings, and certificates of deposit, American Express may be the right fit for you if you answer yes to the following:

  • Does a big name make you feel more confident in your banking services provider?
  • Are you comfortable with online access to accounts instead of physical branches?
  • Do you travel often?

If you answered no, then you should check other personal banking options.

The Strengths

If you value variety and the potential to earn more with your money, you'll love American Express

There's a reason 58 million Americans choose to do business with American Express: If you have solid credit, there's a card--and service--for you.

Choose from a wide variety of credit cards. Whether you're in the market for a high-yield cash back card, a solid travel rewards card, or a simple, everyday charge card, Amex has a top-of-the-line option to choose.

Travel a lot? Opt for the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, one of the most lucrative cards on the market, offering:

  • 5 Starpoints per dollar on purchases at participating SPG hotels
  • 2 Starpoints per dollar at Marriott Rewards properties, and
  • 1 Starpoint per dollar on all other purchases.

Those points are worth more than 2 cents a piece, well above the average travel rewards points.

For an everyday use card with high cash back earnings potential, look no further than the Blue Cash Everyday card by Amex, which comes with 3% on groceries, 2% on gas, and 1% at certain department stores.

This is better than most other cash back cards on the market, which generally top out at about 2%.

Not to mention the new card holders receive a sign-up bonus of $200 back in the form of a statement credit when you spend $1,000 in your first three months.

Earn more on your savings. Amex's Personal Savings offering is one of the best high-yield savings options on the market.

The account--which is fee-free and has no minimum balance requirement--has an appealing 1.25% APY.

That APY is more than 20 times more than the national average, which hovers at a modest .20%.

So, for example, if you put $1,000 in an Amex personal savings account (which has no minimum deposit), you'd earn $25 in the first two years.

Compare that to just $4 you'd earn on an average account at .20%.

Enjoy great membership rewards. Amex customers can access events in music, theater, sports, and more.

Members gain access to presale tickets and special events, experiences, and offers when they purchase tickets with their card through Amex's Membership Experiences website.

Other membership perks include redeeming points at checkout with merchants like GrubHub and Amazon or using Amex's membership portal to shop with stores such as Apple and Best Buy.

The Biggest Consumer Complaints

No checking account service or any physical branch to get cash frustrates Amex customers

If you decide to bank with Amex, you'll be giving up any chance to bank person-to-person.

There are no physical branches to visit for face-to-face help, nor can you run to the ATM to withdraw funds.

No physical branches or ATMs. Amex Personal Savings banking is done solely online.

If you have specific problems you want dealt with in person--or want to withdraw money from an ATM--you're out of luck.

Instead, Amex personal savings accounts are linked to another of your already existing accounts with other banks.

So, if you want to put money into your Amex account, you have to transfer it from your linked accounts, and vice versa for withdrawals.

No checking account. Savings account, yes. But Amex does not offer a checking account service, which is a powerful weakness for many.

Fluctuating interest rates. "So far the interest rate has fluctuated quite a bit since opening the account and it is now significantly lower than the amount I originally signed up with," writes one reviewer on depositaccounts.com.

No mobile check deposits. For an online bank, you'd expect the ability to deposit checks through a mobile or online app.

Financial Activities Done Online Or Using An App (2017)

But Amex offers no such option for personal savings customers, meaning you have to mail physical checks to their Utah-based headquarters to deposit checks directly into your savings account.

Amex not accepted everywhere. Customers also complained about the limited amount of places where the card is actually accepted.

American Express, in general, is not accepted as widely as its competitors like Visa and Mastercard because it charges merchants a higher interest rate on your transactions, pushing many merchants to simply opt out of accepting the card type altogether.

The Competition

American Express competes with other online banks, like Discover

On the surface, American Express and Discover are almost identical: large, brand-name financial institutions offering credit cards and online banking features.

But when you drill down, some differences emerge:

Similar personal savings offers. Discover offers a similar high-yield online savings account as Amex, offering a 1.20% APY.

Actual checking options. While Amex has no checking account offerings (a huge drawback in the personal banking space), Discover offers a lucrative, cash-back checking account; every qualifying debit card purchase earns 1% cash back, giving you the potential to earn up to $30 in rewards each month.

More physicality. One of the drawbacks of Amex is the inability to use ATMs.

Discover, on the other hand, sweetens its offerings with fee-free ATM transactions at more than 60,000 ATMs.

If you like American Express, then here are three other competitive banks to consider

Lower name recognition, higher rates with Synchrony Bank. Synchrony is a popular online banking option that offers higher earning potential on your savings: 1.30% AP.

Big-bank alternative in Barclays. Another big-name bank, Barclays, offers similarly competitive high-yield savings options with 1.30% APY.

More option with Ally Bank. While Amex's 12-month, 1.70% CD is a bit more enticing, Ally offers similar rates with its CDs, topping out at 1.65% for its high-yield 12-month option.

The caveat:

Amex has no minimum deposit, while Ally requires at least a $5,000 deposit to earn similar rates.

But, Ally also offers savings and checking options for customers.

The Question Everyone Is Asking Now

"Why do people use American Express?"

This is the most frequently asked question about American Express, according to web search.

Customers choose Amex for two main reasons:

Enticing rewards. From their high-yield savings account that will earn you 1.25% APY to travel and cash back rewards credit cards, Amex offers consumers lots of ways to benefit from their spending habits.

Also, Amex reward credit cards almost always come with enticing sign-up bonuses for new customers.

Helpful customer service. Customers often rate Amex's customer service fairly well due to its 24/7 availability and customer-friendly employees.

How the Card Works

American Express offers customers more bang for their buck

Many of Amex's services come with no to little fees, and carry great bonuses and earning potential.

Do more with less with Amex's savings and CD options. Amex's personal savings account is one of the most appealing banking options on the market because of its 1.25% APY.

There is no minimum to start an account, and there are no fees associated with the account.

That means you can start earning 20 times more the market average APY for as little as a dollar.

The CDs offered by Amex are just as lucrative.

Again, for as little as a dollar deposit, you can begin earning a respectable 1.70% on a 12-month CD.

Let's look at that in the real world.

If you put $3,000 into an Amex savings account, you'll earn $75 on that initial deposit in just two years.

And while that may not be staggering, you're earning $75 for doing literally nothing with that money.

Not a bad deal!

Earn everyday rewards and travel points. Amex has some of the most appealing rewards credit cards on the market.

The Blue Cash Everyday card gives cardholders:

  • 3% cash back on grocery store items (up to $6,000; 1% thereafter)
  • 2% cash back at gas stations, and
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases.

While other cards have higher cash back categories, those often only cover items like dining out and travel.

The Blue Cash card offers high-earning potential for all categories.

Another card to look at is the Platinum Delta Skymiles Credit Card.

While it has a steep $195 annual fee, it'll give you 2 SkyMiles for every $1 spent through Delta Airlines, and 1 SkyMile per $1 everywhere else.

Best yet, you can transfer those points to 24 other airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, Air France, and Aeromexico—something many other cards do not allow.

Enjoy headache-free customer service. Most reviewers compliment Amex's helpful customer service, which is available 24/7.

"Anytime a problem arises, American Express customer service is there to provide unparalleled quality help, to make sure the problem is dealt with as quickly as possible," wrote evandickson on depositaccounts.com.

Key Digital Services

American Express' website and app is helpful because you can easily redeem rewards and pay effortlessly

Travel concierge at your digital fingertips. Online, you can access destination guides to help you plan your trip if you have an Amex rewards card.

Digital wallet. You can use your Amex cards through a digital wallet tool, including Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay.

This allows you to make payments even when you forget your card.

Do Consumers Use Digital Wallets? (2017)

While these robust digital services are appealing, Amex does lack in a few areas:

Web-only banking. Although Amex's personal banking is solely online, customers can only access accounts via the company's website.

While their site is mobile-optimized, there is no app to use to help track account activity.

Amex offers no digital tools to deposit checks. While most bank offer mobile deposit features, the only way to deposit checks directly into your Amex bank account is to mail the check to its Utah headquarters.

How to Find a Branch Near You

AmEx Bank is operated from one location. You can find their contact information here.

Although they don't have branches available near you, you can use their product locator to find locations that you are able to purchase their products at.

You can also download their app on Google Play and iTunes.

AmEx Bank Routing Number

Routing number: 124085066

Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the American Express

How do I set up an account with American Express? To set up a personal savings account, you'll need to follow these steps:

1. Gather Your Information

  • Social Security number
  • Home address
  • E-mail address
  • Phone number
  • Date of birth
  • Your existing bank account and routing numbers

2. Fill Out Application

Here you'll choose the type of account you want to open: either a high-yield savings account or a certificate of deposit. You can apply online or by phone at 1-800-446-6307.

3. Get Confirmation

You will receive an online and/or email confirmation when your application is approved.

4. Put Money in Your Account

There's two options here: link your current bank account or mail a check.

How do I close an account?

To close your account, enter the dollar amount you wish to transfer to another account that will get your account to a zero balance.

This takes place in the "Transfers" tab of your account.

On the next screen, you will be given the option to close the account.

Select the red "Close Account" button and, after the transfer occurs, your account will be closed.

How can I speak to a customer service rep?

Simply calling the customer service line, 1-800-446-6307, will get you to a human representative who can help you with any problems.

Do I get an ATM/debit card?

Amex Personal Savings accounts aren't everyday spending accounts, therefore ATM cards, debit cards, or checks are never issued.

To transfer money into or out of your account, you'll have to link already in-use bank accounts.

How long does it take to transfer funds?

When transferring funds into your savings account, you'll begin earning interest that same day.

But, those funds won't appear in your available balance until the fifth business day after the deposit is initiated.

When transferring from your Amex account, the funds will generally be reflected at your bank in one to three business days.

American Express is a great banking option for those that value returns over physical service

We looked into everything you'd want to know before becoming a customer.

Since 1998, we've been offering the most valuable, detailed content online for financial consumers along with the tools they need to build a better financial life.

Amex's services are some of the most enticing on the market.

The company's cards continuously top experts' best-of lists for their low-fee, high-earnings potential.

And their fee-free, high-yield savings offering helps you grow a comfortable nest egg.

But some people may find the lack of face-to-face banking too uncomfortable to outweigh all those positives.

Do you use American Express for banking?

How have their services worked out for you?

Let us know in the comments below!


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