The Amex Green card earns valuable bonus points on travel and dining, but it faces stiff competition from Chase’s Sapphire cards

  • The American Express® Green Card was recently re-launched with a bunch of new benefits, including 3x bonus points on travel purchases and spending at restaurants worldwide.
  • It’s a much improved card for earning valuable Amex points, but it faces some strong competition from cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
  • If you spend a lot on travel and dining out, the Amex Green could be a good choice for you – and it has a more moderate annual fee than some other top rewards cards.
  • However, make sure to take a close look at its statement credits and travel coverage benefits – in some cases, other cards offer superior coverage and easier-to-use perks.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

American Express just relaunched its Green from Amex card with a whole new set of benefits, taking it from a pretty lacklustre product to a solid option for earning Membership Rewards points. Now that the breathless hot takes have died down, it’s time to take a deep dive.

Is this card for you? The answer is very much “it depends.” If you frequently spend money on travel and dining out, you’ll find value in the card – but may also find more value with other options. Let’s dive in and examine the benefits. We’ll also compare this card to two of its closest competitors: the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

American Express Green Card details

Annual fee: $US150

Welcome bonus: 30,000 points after you spend $US2,000 in the first three months. Plus, if you apply by January 15, 2020, you can get up to $US100 in statement credits toward any eligible purchase made with Away luggage in the first three months.

Points earning: 3x points on all eligible travel, 3x points at restaurants worldwide, 1 point per dollar on everything else

Foreign transaction fee: None

Welcome bonus

The Amex Green card has a public welcome bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $US2,000 within the first three months from opening the account.

As far as credit card welcome bonuses go, this one is a bit on the low side. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a welcome bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $US4,000 in the first three months, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a welcome bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points (with the same minimum spending requirement of $US4,000 in the first three months).

Amex states in the terms and conditions that it reserves the right to withdraw the welcome bonus if you cancel or downgrade the account within the first 12 months – meaning that you effectively need to pay the annual fee in the second year in order to guarantee keeping your bonus.

Points earning on the Amex Green card

Solidly aimed at the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which is loved by many award travellers for offering 3x points on dining and travel, the Amex Green provides 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and at restaurants worldwide, and 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases.

You can transfer Membership Rewards points to a wide array of airline partners – from British Airways to Hawaiian Airlines to Virgin Atlantic – and three hotel partners (Choice Privileges, Hilton, and Marriott) to book travel. You can also use points to book travel directly through American Express.

Annual credits that offset the Amex Green card’s annual fee

The Amex Green card has a $US150 annual fee, compared to a $US450 annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve and a $US95 annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

While paying a large annual fee can sting, the Amex Green card does offer some annual statement credits that can offset the cost. Here are the details on those credits, and a comparison with other cards’ annual credits and how they reduce their annual fees.

Amex Green card

  • Up to $US100 in credit toward eligible purchases at the luggage retailer Away –This is a one-time benefit, so it only applies for the first year of card membership. You have to apply by January 15, 2020, to be eligible for this statement credit.
  • Up to $US100 in credit toward CLEAR membership each year – CLEAR is an expedited security program similar to TSA PreCheck, and you can use it at more than 30 US airports as well as select sports and concert venues. An annual CLEAR membership costs $US179, so you’ll pay $US79 out of pocket with the annual statement credit factored in.
  • Up to $US100 credit towards LoungeBuddy purchased airport lounge access each year – Access to lounges through LoungeBuddy ranges from $US25 to $US50, so you can get at least two visits per year through this credit.

In theory, if you use all of the credits on the Amex Green card, you’ll get back double the annual fee in value. That being said, it’s hard to spend exactly $US100 with Away. CLEAR memberships aren’t available for $US100, so you’ll be out of pocket for anything over $US100. And LoungeBuddy lounge access costs vary, so you may not be able to use the exact amount of the credit here either.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

This card doesn’t offer any statement credits to offset the annual fee.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The card offers up to $US300 in offsetting credit for travel purchases – and any travel purchase counts, even including bus passes, parking, or tolls (along with more conventional travel purchase such as airlines and hotels). In addition, the Chase Sapphire Reserve provides up to a $US100 fee credit once every five years toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership. This makes the effective annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve just $US150.

American Express® Gold Card

The Amex Gold card isn’t necessarily an obvious card to compare to the Amex Green card, because its benefits and bonus categories are squarely focused on dining. The Gold card has a $US250 annual fee, and it earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide (as well as 4x on the first $US25,000 spent at US supermarkets each year; then 1x). However, it’s worth mentioning here due to its annual statement credits.

  • Up to $US100 in credit toward airline incidental fees each year – This applies when you use your card for checked baggage, airline lounge access, ticketing fees, inflight purchases, and other non-airfare, non-airline gift card purchases.
  • Up to $US120 in credit toward qualifying dining purchases each year – This breaks down as up to $US10 in statement credits each month, for purchases at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations

If you take full advantage of the Amex Gold card‘s annual statement credits, you’ll get $US220 in value each year, reducing the effective annual fee to just $US30.

How the Amex Green compares to other cards

Two of the most obvious competitors to the Amex Green are the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred, due to the fact that they all earn bonus points on dining and travel.

While the cards have different annual fees, none of them charge foreign transaction fees. This is a change since the relaunch of the Amex Green card, which previously charged foreign transaction fees.

Points earning and redeeming

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers seemingly identical earning rates to the Amex Green: 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1x Membership Rewards points on all other purchases.

Chase is known for having the broadest, most generous definition of what counts as “travel” for the purposes of earning bonus points and for redeeming the Sapphire Reserve’s annual travel credit. However, the Amex Green offers 3x points on many of the more “niche” travel purchases that the Chase also codes as travel, including parking, bus passes, and highway tolls. So if you make lots of travel purchases, you shouldn’t have trouble racking up rewards quickly with the Amex Green, the Sapphire Reserve, or the Sapphire Preferred.

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can spend Ultimate Rewards points at a rate of 1.5 cents apiece toward essentially anything Expedia sells when you book through Chase Travel. You can also transfer Chase points to airline and hotel partners, although there are fewer airline partners in Chase’s program than in the Amex Membership Rewards program.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a lower Ultimate Rewards earning rate: 2x points on travel and dining and 1x on everything else. These points can be spent at 1.25 cents per point on the Expedia-powered Chase Travel portal and can also be transferred to partners.

Credit vs. charge cards

While nobody should carry a card balance, Chase gives you the option of doing so. The Amex Green card does not; you must pay off the card in full every month.

I have a $US60,000 credit limit across my Chase cards(and have never cracked using even 10% of it). There is no preset spending limit with Amex (though Amex does have internal spending limits).

Travel coverage

Chase provides richer travel-related coverage benefits for both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve than Amex provides for the Green from Amex.

For example, Chase provides primary rental car coverage on both cards, which means its insurance kicks in before your own personal coverage in the case of a rental car getting lost or damaged (and you can decline car rental insurance).

Amex provides only secondary car rental coverage, and it’s more limited than Visa provides. With the Sapphire Reserve, Chase provides roadside assistance with a $US50 credit per incident. Amex provides roadside dispatch, which means it will call a tow truck for you and you will pay for all the services. Other benefits stack up similarly; the recurring theme is that Chase covers more, and pays for more.

Lounge Access

For the frequent traveller, Chase provides a Priority Pass Select membership with the Chase Sapphire Reserve (and, well, nothing for the Sapphire Preferred). This allows unlimited entries to Priority Pass lounges along with unlimited visits to Priority Pass restaurants, with up to two guests allowed per visit.

Amex provides up to a $US100 LoungeBuddy credit each year. This is an interesting innovation because LoungeBuddy has contracts with many lounges that don’t participate in Priority Pass. Given the crowding problem at many Priority Pass lounges, and the fact that some airports lack Priority Pass coverage, some people may prefer the LoungeBuddy option, especially infrequent travellers who can’t justify the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s high annual fee.

Bottom line

Should you pick up the Amex Green card? If you’re a frequent traveller, it’s worth a look thanks to the bonus points you’ll earn and the CLEAR and LoungeBuddy benefits. I’m considering apply for this card because Membership Rewards points are valuable, and I like to diversify my points earnings. I’m not giving up my Chase cards, though, and will continue to use these extensively.

Click here to learn more about the Amex Green card.