Last year, American Express took its classic American Express Green Card, added several perks, restructured its earning potential and increased its annual fee. The final product has become compelling enough to compete with popular travel and dining credit cards available to consumers. Let’s figure out whether Amex Green the right rewards card for you.
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The welcome bonus varies between 30,000 and 45,000 Membership Rewards points, though the former is more common. Generally, the minimum spend will be $2,000 in the first three months since opening the account.
When used for flights and hotels booked via the Amex Travel portal, the points are worth between $210 and $300. However, transferring rewards to travel partners can easily increase their value.
- 3X Membership Rewards points per dollar at restaurants worldwide
- 3X Membership Rewards points per dollar on travel and transit
- 1X Membership Rewards point per dollar in all other categories
Triple points on dining in any part of the world is clutch. The only thing you have to watch out for is the fact that some restaurants outside of the United States, and in the United States for that matter, don’t accept American Express cards.
The transit category includes subway rides, tolls, ferries and ride-booking services, such as Uber and Lyft. Travel includes rental cars, airfare, hotels, vacation rentals, tours and cruises. As long as a purchase codes as travel, you’ll earn bonus points.
By using the Amex Green Card to pay for purchases, you’ll earn Membership Rewards points—rewards specific to the American Express program. It’s possible to use these points to erase the cost of hotel rooms and airfare by booking via the Amex Travel portal or by transferring them to one of the airline or hotel partners.
The points are worth different amounts when redeemed using these two methods.
When you book travel via the Amex Travel portal, Membership Rewards points are worth 0.7 cents to 1 cent apiece, depending on what you’d like to book. The points are worth what they’re worth, and it’s impossible to increase or decrease their value.
|Prepaid Hotels||0.7 cent|
|Upgrade with Points||1 cent|
|Fine Hotels & Resorts||1 cent|
Check out our guide to using Amex Travel.
In this particular situation, the welcome bonus earned with the Amex Green Card is worth $210 when redeemed for prepaid hotels, cruises or vacation packages and $300 when redeemed for flights, upgrades or properties in the Fine Hotels & Resorts program.
American Express partners with a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs. It might feel complicated to learn the ins and outs of these programs, but just a little knowledge will help you increase the value of your points.
Membership Rewards transfer to the following programs at the following rates:
|Aer Lingus AerClub||1,000:1,000|
|Aeroméxico Club Premier||1,000:1,600|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||1,000:1,000|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||1,000:1,000|
|ANA Mileage Club||1,000:1,000|
|British Airways Executive Club||1,000:1,000|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||1,000:1,000|
|El Al Frequent Flyer Club||1,000:20|
|Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles||1,000:1,000|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||500:500|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1,000:1,000|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1,000:1,000|
For those who prefer flying upfront, it’s super easy to get more than 1 cent per point in value, which is what you get by booking flights through the portal. Most of these programs are region-based and set standard mileage pricing for their business- and first-class awards. Learn about airline alliances, figure out which program charges the fewest miles and go from there.
Those who are comfortable in coach can also get quite a bit of value out of their points. By utilizing the right programs and weighing in airport taxes and fuel surcharges, you too can increase your per-point value above 1 cent.
Check out my 5 best-value redemptions in economy class.
Keep in mind that American Express charges an excise tax fee of $0.0006 for every Membership Rewards point transferred to a U.S.-based carrier. For instance, converting 10,000 Amex points to Delta SkyMiles will cost you $6. The fee is capped at $99.
The Amex Green Card offers a couple of travel credits to make your life at an airport easier.
CLEAR is a program located at more than 65 U.S. airports and stadiums. CLEAR helps you skip the security line by verifying your identity biometrically—with a fingerprint or an iris scan. After your identity is confirmed, you proceed directly to TSA screening.
As an Amex Green cardmember, you can receive up to $100 toward CLEAR membership per calendar year. The membership itself costs $179 per year, so the credit doesn’t cover its cost 100%. However, there are ways to reduce the cost of CLEAR membership.
Delta SkyMiles members (free to join) pay $99 per year, and United MileagePlus members pay $119 per year (less if you have elite status). By stacking the discount with the Amex Green Card credit, you can enroll in the program for free.
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card
50,000 SkyMiles after $2,000 spend in the first 3 monthsLearn more
The Green Card comes with a $100 LoungeBuddy credit for airport lounge access. Depending on where you want to relax between flights, single-day lounge passes sold by LoungeBuddy cost $25 to $59 per visit.
This means that the $100 credit won’t go far, especially if you don’t travel alone. You’ll get a few visits per year out of it. The perk can be great if you don’t have another way to enter a lounge, but it’s simply not going to cut it for a more frequent traveler.
Here are some other ways you can access airport lounges.
American Express partners up with merchants—in dining, travel, retail and services—and offers discounts or extra rewards for shopping with them. Enroll your card in the offer before making a purchase and get a reward in the form of a statement credit or bonus points. Dozens of merchants participate, so why not save money on purchases you already make.
Amex Offers aren’t exclusive to the Green Card, but if it’s your only American Express card, it’s the only way to get discounts/bonus points.
If a covered trip is delayed by 12 hours or more, you can apply for a reimbursement of essential expenses, such as lodging, meals, toiletries and medication, made within 48 hours of the delay. Coverage is limited to $300 per trip and to two claims per 12 consecutive months.
If a common carrier loses or damages your bags, you’re covered for up to $500 per covered person for checked luggage and up to $1,250 per covered person for carry-on luggage. The card member, his or her spouse and dependent children younger than 23 are eligible for a reimbursement.
Rental cars are eligible for insurance for up to 30 consecutive days. Theft and damage are eligible for coverage of up to $50,000 per rental agreement. The coverage is secondary, which means that American Express benefit kicks in after a claim with your personal insurance is made.
In the event that you need to find customs information for a country you plan to visit, vaccination information or money exchange rates, the Global Assist Hotline is available 24/7. The service is also available if you lose your passport, need emergency cash or medical assistance in case of an injury. The service itself is free, but you’re still expected to cover all related charges.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been a crowd-favorite for years, and the revamped Green Card from American Express is strong enough to rival it.
|American Express Green Card||Chase Sapphire Preferred|
|Welcome bonus: 30,000 points||Welcome bonus: 60,000 points|
|3X per dollar spent on restaurants, transit and travel||2X per dollar spent on travel and dining|
|Points are worth 1 cent for airfare and 0.7 cents for hotels booked through Amex Travel||Points are worth 1.25 cents for all travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal|
|$100 CLEAR credit||Free DoorDash DashPass membership for one year (normally $9.99 per month)|
|$100 LoungeBuddy credit|
|22 transfer partners||13 transfer partners|
|Trip delay insurance kicks in after 12 hours, $300 per trip||Trip delay insurance kicks in after 12 hours, $500 per ticket|
|Secondary rental car insurance||Primary rental car insurance|
|Annual fee: $150||Annual fee: $95|
It’s true that the annual fee on the Amex Green Card is higher, but you can easily offset it by using the credits that come with card membership. The Sapphire Preferred doesn’t offer any statement credits to offset the fee.
The welcome bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is not only twice the size, but the points themselves also hold higher value when redeemed through its respective travel portal. However, with the Green Card, you earn 50% more points on the same transactions made in the travel and dining category. It’s worth evaluating your spending patterns to determine which card will earn more rewards long term.
When it comes to travel protections, the coverage that comes with the Sapphire Preferred card blows that of the Amex Green Card out of the water. You get primary collision damage waiver on rental cars, higher trip delay payouts, and additional coverage for baggage delay and trip cancelation/interruption insurance.
Depending on what you value the most from your travel experience will determine which card is better for you.
And let’s not forget the acceptance rates for Visa cards and American Express cards. Anecdotally speaking, Visa acceptance rates by merchants are much higher, especially overseas. You might find the Chase Sapphire Preferred card easier to use abroad.
If you’re new to points and miles, make sure you understand the Chase 5/24 rule before applying for new cards.
In the past, the annual fee on the Green Card was $95, and it was waived for the first year. Unfortunately, the new and increased fee of $150 is charged on the first statement, so you have to decide upfront whether this card would be beneficial to you.
By using the statement credits toward CLEAR and LoungeBuddy, you’ll wipe out the annual fee completely. However, you have to ask yourself whether you’d use these services without the credits. Is it really considered savings if you have to spend money to get something? Does CLEAR even operate in your home airport? On the other hand, if you already find CLEAR membership worthwhile, it’s a nice way to get it for less.
The new and improved American Express Green Card makes for a good option for a mid-range card. The earning rate is quite good for a travel card, and the rewards are flexible, which gives you the option to increase their value.
The card could have more—and better—travel protections, such as primary rental car insurance or trip interruption insurance, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
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Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.