American Express Green Card Review

The American Express Green Card is one of the oldest credit cards out there, but is it showing its age? Find out how it stacks up in our review.

The Verdict

The American Express Green Card offers modest benefits with steep requirements

There are far better cards out there than the Green Card from American Express.

On the surface, the Green Card from American Express offers decent cash back rewards on travel expenses in exchange for a $95 annual fee.

It also gets you all the usual benefits of a credit card like extended warranties on certain purchases.

However, the Green Card is a charge card, not a credit card.

That means there's no APR like a regular credit card or preset spending limit like a regular credit card.

You can put as much as you want on it, and you don't have to pay interest on it.

The catch is that getting one requires excellent credit, and you have to pay the balance off every month.

Couple these drawbacks with the fact that other cards offer better rewards for a similar annual fee, and the Green Card pales in comparison to its competition.

Why You Should Consider This Card

You should consider the Green Card if you're a frequent traveler with excellent credit

A card with history. American Express launched the Green Card back in the 1950's, and consumers have used it ever since.

Know if it's right for you. You can tell whether the Green Card could save you some green by seeing whether the following criteria sounds like you:

  • You're a frequent traveler, with lots of spending on hotels and flights
  • You have a good credit score of 700 or above
  • You can afford to pay your balance off every month

Why People Love This Card

People love the Green Card for its travel rewards

Decent cash back on travel. The American Express Green Card earns points worth about $0.01 on every dollar you charge. That's about average for a travel card.

However, purchases made through Amextravel.com for hotels, flights, or other travel expenses earn you double points. For a card that's marketed as being great for travelers, that's not much at all compared to the Chase Sapphire Preferred or AMEX Gold cards.

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You can also redeem these points for cash back, travel expenses, gift cards or other rewards offered by AMEX.

A good network of partners. You can transfer the points from your AMEX Green Card to travel rewards programs for Delta, JetBlue, and Hilton.

This gives you a fair amount of flexibility for how you spend your points.

Other perks for travelers. Booking a flight with your Green Card gets you baggage insurance, as well as car rental loss and damage insurance.

You also get access to American Express's roadside assistance program for when you're behind the wheel of your own automobile.

No interest. Since the Green Card requires you to pay your balance in full every month, you're never charged any interest.

It's one less fee for you to worry about.

First year, no fee. The annual fee for the Green Card is waived for the first year, saving you $95.

Biggest Consumer Complaints

The biggest complaint about the Green Card is its lack of benefits

Limited rewards. While double points on travel expenses are nothing to sneeze at, the fact that only purchases made through Amextravel.com are eligible for extra rewards is limiting.

Other cards give you more freedom on how and where you earn points.

Poor cash back rates. Points earned through the Green Card are redeemed at a 1 to 1 rate when redeemed through one of AMEX's travel partners.

So, after spending $1,000 to rack up 1,000 points, you could trade those points in for 1,000 Delta SkyMiles.

but using them for cash back or paying off your balance only lets you redeem them at a 1 to $0.006 ratio.

That means a $75 charge would take 12,500 points to pay off at this rate.

Watch out for foreign transaction fees. The Green Card charges a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, which seems strange for a travel card.

While this card will save you on booking a flight to a different country, making purchases outside the United States will cost you extra.

Can't carry a balance. Since the Green Card is a charge card, AMEX requires you to pay it off in full every month.

You don't pay any interest, but it also means you can't pay off a large purchase over time.

The Competition

The American Express Green Card competes with the Chase Sapphire Preferred

Same price, same credit. Both the Amex Green Card and Chase Sapphire Preferred card cost $95 per year.

Better points structure. The Sapphire Preferred earns you one point on purchases and double points on travel expenses booked directly through an airline, hotel, or other travel provider, while the Green Card requires you to go through the AMEX website.

That makes it a whole lot easier for you to rack up points with the Sapphire Preferred.

Higher redemption rates. You can redeem points from your Sapphire Preferred card for cash back or statement credit at a 1 to $0.01 ratio, higher than the Green Card's 1 to $0.006 rate.

To earn $50 in cash back from everyday expenses, you'd need to spend $5,000 with the Sapphire Preferred card for 5,000 points.

With the Green Card, that $50 would require you to spend $8,334 for 8,334 points due to the lower rate.

More than that, redeeming your points on travel purchases through Chase's Ultimate Rewards travel portal lets you spend that at a 1 to $0.0125 ratio.

You could get a $125 hotel room for a night for 10,000 points.

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Earning that amount of points would take spending $10,000 on everyday expenses, or $5,000 on travel.

Great sign-up bonus. While the Green Card isn't currently running any introductory offers, the Sapphire Preferred will give you 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first three months after you open the card.

Those points could be worth $625 if you redeem them through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

No foreign transaction fees. Unlike the Green Card, the Sapphire Preferred doesn't charge any foreign transaction fees.

Other AmEx cards are better. The Green Card is AmEx's bottom-tier charge card. Both the Gold and Platinum card offer much higher rewards for travel and other expenses.

You also earn double or triple points in more spending categories like gas stations, restaurants, and supermarkets.

The trade-off is that both of these cards charge a higher annual fee than the Green Card.

How the American Express Green Card compares to its top competitor

Amex Green Card Chase Sapphire Preferred
How high of credit score do you need? >700 >700
Average APR? N/A 16.99% to 23.99%
Annual fee? $95, waived the first year $95, waived the first year
How big of sign-up bonus do you get? N/A 50,000 points
How much do you need to spend to get the bonus? N/A $4,000 within the first three months
How many points do you get for every dollar? Two points on purchases through Amex's travel portal, one on everything else Two points for travel purchases, one point for everything else
Any restrictions? Double points only for purchases made through Amex 's travel portal None
If you spent $100 on the card, then how much would the points be worth in dollars? $0.60 for cash back or statement credit, $1 in travel credit through Amex travel.com or American Express's travel partners $1 for cash back, $1.25 for travel purchases made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal
How much would you need to spend on the card to make up for the fees (excluding APR/rates)? $9,500 on everyday purchases, $4,750 in travel purchases on Amex travel.com $9,500 on everyday purchases, $7,600 if points are redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal

Three other competitive credit cards to consider

For the non-traveler: The Citi Double Cash Card. The Citi Double Cash Card earns you one point when you for every dollar you spend and an additional point when you pay your bill.

That's the equivalent of earning two cents back on every dollar instead of getting double points only on purchases made through Amextravel.com with the Green Card.

For the charge card diehard: The American Express Gold Card. If you want a charge card, the Gold Card from American Express is way ahead of the Green Card.

This card earns you triple points on travel expenses booked directly through the airline or hotel, double points on dining, gas station, and supermarket expenses, and one point on everything else.

Fair warning though – this card costs $195 annually after the first year.

However, the increased opportunities for earning points should help you cover this fee.

For the high-end traveler: The Chase Sapphire Reserve. Chase's Sapphire Reserve card is like an upgraded version of its Sapphire Preferred card.

Though it costs $450 per year, you get a $300 annual travel credit and three times the points on travel and dining purchases.

Those points are worth 50% more when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

A $750 flight would only take 50,000 points.

The Question Everyone is Asking Now

"Is the American Express Green Card an entry level credit card?"

This isn't a credit card. So, the answer is no. It's a charge card, which means you have to have stellar credit to apply.

That said, getting a Green Card will be easier for most people than getting a Gold or Platinum card from American Express,especially considering the $195-$550 annual fee both of these cards charge.

However, that doesn't mean the Green Card is a good starter card for most people.

High credit requirements. Charge cards typically require a higher credit score than normal credit cards, as the credit card company will want to be as sure as possible that you'll be able to pay off your balance every month.

Many people will need to build up their credit score to around 700 or higher in order to qualify.

Build up your score. If your credit score has seen better days, you can take some steps to repair your credit and get the score needed for a Green Card or other American Express charge card.

An easy way of doing this is to open a store credit card like the Target REDcard or Best Buy Visa card and paying off your balance on time every month.

You can get a store card with a lower credit score than you would need for a traditional credit card, and paying it off every month will help you build credit.

How the Card Works

No APR and double travel points in exchange for an annual fee

No sign-up bonus. Unlike most cards, the Green Card doesn't offer any introductory bonus for signing up.

While other cards like the Chase Freedom offer $150 for spending $500 or more within the first three months of receiving the card, you don't receive any extra points or cash back for getting the Green Card.

Not many opportunities for earning rewards. Some cards let you earn a little money on every purchase, like how the Capital One Quicksilver card provides 1.5% cash back every time you swipe your card.

Others target specific niches, like travel with the Sapphire Preferred card and its 2% back on all travel-related expenses.

The Green Card sits in an unhappy medium between these two approaches to points.

Its 2% back on travel-related expenses on Amex travel.com limits your ability to earn double point rewards.

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Plus, its 1% return on all other purchases is beat by other cash back cards out there.

No APR means no out-of-the-blue interest bills. One good thing about the Green Card is that you don't need to worry about APR.

Unlike other cards like the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard with its 13.99-23.99% monthly rates, the Green Card doesn't add interest to your balance.

Undefined credit limit. Credit cards usually come with a set credit limit, which is the max balance you can carry on the card at any one time.

Charge cards like the American Express Green Card don't have a preset spending limit, as you pay off the balance every month.

That doesn't mean there's no limit on how much you can put on your card, though. Your spending limit on a charge card is about three times your highest paid-in-full balance over the past six months.

That means your limit would be $15,000 if your highest balance during that time period was $5,000.

Key Digital Services

American Express's travel portal is easy to use because of its user-friendly design

Search, book, travel. The travel portal American Express offers allows you to search for flights and hotels, book your stay or seat, and pay for your purchase using your rewards points.

It's easy to use and feels just like using a website for an airline or hotel chain.

A pretty good app. The AMEX mobile app for Android and iPhone lets you view your balance, make payments, redeem your points for rewards, and verify charges to prevent fraud.

It currently holds a four-star rating on the iTunes Store and Google Play.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • How can I sign up?

    You can sign up by visiting American Express's website at www.americanexpress.com.

  • How can I cancel my card?

    Cancel by calling 1-800-529-4800.

  • What's the easiest way to speak to a human if I have a problem with my card?

    Make sure you dial the right number. If you are having general issues call customer service at 1-800-528-4800, but for issues with your rewards call 1-800-297-3276.

  • What can I use my credit card for?

    Anything, as long as the store or merchant accepts American Express cards.

  • Where and at what stores can I use my credit card?

    Most stores accept American Express cards.

  • How long does it take American Express to refund my credit card?

    The average time to refund a credit card purchase is about 16 days, but this may vary depending on circumstances.

  • How and where can I redeem the membership rewards?

    You can redeem your points through American Express's app or website for travel, merchandise, entertainment, and other options.

  • What are the shopping benefits attached to the use of this card?

    You earn one point on everyday purchases and two points for travel purchases throughAmextravel.com.

  • What are the participating airlines?

    These include Delta, JetBlue, and others. For a full list, see American Express's website.

  • What are some of the travel benefits attached to this card?

    Benefits include rental car insurance, baggage insurance, and the lowest price guarantee for hotels booked.

  • How can I check my credit card balance?

    Check your balance using the American Express app or website.

  • Can I pay for the credit card with a gift, a different credit card, or PayPal?

    You can pay your balance through a check, money order, or direct deposit.

  • Can I use my American Express credit card without the card?

    Yes, but typically only through online retailers like Amazon.com.

  • How can I add an authorized user to American Express credit card?

    Use the AMEX website or contact customer support to add an authorized user.

  • Are there any upgrades on an American Express credit card?

    No, but you can opt for a higher-tier card like the American Express Gold or Platinum card.

  • How soon can I use my credit card once I receive it?

    Immediately.

  • How to report stolen American Express credit card?

    Call 1-800-529-4800.

  • What credit score do I need to get approval for the card?

    Typically above 700.

  • What credit score do I have to maintain so my account is not closed?

    Your account will remain open as long as you pay your annual membership fee and monthly balance.

  • Will my credit score drop if my account gets closed?

    If you close your account willingly after making your payments on time, this should not significantly harm your credit score.

    If American Express closes your account following missed or delinquent payments, this will cause your score to drop.

  • Which credit bureaus does American Express credit card report to?

    These can include Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

  • Can I build my credit with the American Express credit card?

    Typically no, due to the high credit score required.

  • Is there an expiry date on the card?

    If your card features an expiration date, American Express will ship you a new card by the middle of the month when your card expires.

  • Is there a credit insurance program and how will it cover me if I lose my job?

    No.

  • Can I have two credit cards from American Express at the same time?

    Yes.

  • Can I transfer money from my American Express credit card to another?

    No, not with the Green Card.

  • Is it hard to get an American Express credit card?

    Yes, due to the high credit score required.

  • How long does it take to receive the card once I have been approved for it?

    Your card will typically arrive within one to two weeks.

  • How do I get more rewards points?

    You can receive more points by shopping on Amextravel.com for hotels, flights, and other travel expenses.

  • What can you use American Express points for?

    You can receive statement credit or use your points for travel, entertainment, or other purchases through American Express's membership rewards program.

  • Does American Express card cover rental car insurance?

    Yes.

  • How to report a stolen credit card?

    Call 1-800-529-4800.

There are better cards out there than the Green Card

Sure, the decent two points back on travel purchases through amextravel.com and a point back for other expenses may seem enticing for some people.

And the forced monthly payments may keep a few people from overspending.

But there are too many drawbacks. The benefits are weak compared to the $95 annual fee.

Most people shouldn't choose the Green Card from American Express when there are far better options out there, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Do you use the Green Card from American Express?

How has the card worked out for you?

Any great tips (or nightmares) to share with the rest of us?

Let us know in the comments below.

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