Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.
Author: Barry Bridges | email@example.com
Which Amex card is best for you? Here’s how to find it
American Express is one of the best-known names in the credit card industry, offering a large array of options for consumers, business owners and travelers. You can count on Bankrate to help you evaluate your choices and zero in on the Amex card that’s right for you.
Bankrate’s picks for best American Express credit cards
Top American Express cards: A closer look
American Express® Gold Card
Best for restaurant and U.S. supermarket rewards
Unlike many premium travel cards, the Gold card offers above-average rewards rates on everyday spending categories as well as on the high-value travel purchases you would expect. In addition to high rewards earnings at restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and travel, the card’s additional statement credit perks help to make up for the $250 annual fee. Other cards may serve you better if you’re looking for luxury travel benefits like lounge access or concierge service, but depending on your spending habits the Gold card may offer higher earnings potential.
Annual Fee: $250
- 4X points rewards on spending at restaurants worldwide, U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x) and 3X points rewards on flights booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel.com.
- 21 airline transfer partners for flexible redemptions.
- Up to $100 annual statement credits per calendar year for airline fees at one selected qualifying airline and up to $10 monthly statement credits for select delivery and restaurant purchases (enrollment required).
- No foreign transaction fees.
- $250 annual fee.
- No lounge membership, although you can obtain passes.
Read our full American Express® Gold Card review.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Best for large welcome offer
The Platinum Card offers a high-value welcome offer and no shortage of perks for cardholders seeking luxury. Its annual fee ($550) is one of the highest around, but the benefits make it more than worth the cost for the right cardholder.
To kickstart your card ownership, you can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months. The card’s premium rewards include airport lounge access, up to $200 in annual airline fee credits (at one qualifying airline), up to $100 annual credits for Saks Fifth Avenue purchases (enrollment required) and up to $200 in annual credits for Uber rides. The card also offers generous 5X Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on eligible hotels booked through the American Express travel portal and on airfare (booked with the airline or through Amex’s travel portal).
Annual Fee: $550
- Access to Global Lounge Collection, which includes proprietary lounge locations around the world, and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit.
- Great airline and hotel rewards.
- 60,000 Membership Rewards points welcome offer.
- Annual statement credits on travel incidentals, shopping and Uber.
- $550 annual fee, though statement credits and rewards largely make up the cost for big spenders.
- $200 airline fee credit may not be used towards ticket prices.
Read our full review of The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Best cash back for families
The Blue Cash Preferred Card is one of the best cash back cards for everyday spending, especially for people with families. Rewards categories include 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 a year, then 1%, 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit, and 1% on all other purchases. (Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.) These are some of the highest cash back rates on the market, making the $95 annual fee worth it for frequent spenders across these categories.
Annual Fee: $95
- $250 welcome bonus after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.
- Generous rewards rates on everyday spending categories.
- You don’t have wait for your card in the mail. You can start earning cash back before your card even arrives if you’re eligible for Instant Card Number.
- Many specialty grocers and wholesale clubs don’t count toward the 6% cash back category.
- The 6% cash back rate is limited to $6,000 per year in spending, 1% afterward.
Read our full Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Best for hotel rewards and a large welcome offer
Relatively high spenders can rack up a lot of extra benefits from the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card. You can earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $2,000 in eligible purchases in the first 3 months of card membership. Plus, spending $15,000 in a calendar year makes you eligible for a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors. Hilton loyalists will find a lot to love about this card for a relatively low $95 annual fee.
Annual Fee: $95
- Generous welcome bonus.
- Weekend Night Rewards (terms apply) and Hilton Honors Diamond status are great offers if your spending aligns with the required thresholds.
- In addition to spending with Hilton, you can earn rewards on everyday purchases: 6X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations and 3x points for all other purchases.
- Very high late payment fee.
- If you want the flexibility to stay with different hotel chains you should consider a travel rewards card.
Read our full Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card review.
American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
Best for business startups
The American Express Blue Business Cash Card could help resolve a question facing many new business owners: What happens when you need to spend more than your credit limit allows? This card offers expanded spending capacity so that you can go beyond your credit limit without worrying about over-limit fees. (Just remember that spending above your credit limit isn’t indefinite. It will adjust according to factors including your payment history and credit record.) Also, eligible purchases earn 2% cash back on up to $50,000 a year, after which the rate slips to 1%.
Annual Fee: $0
- Expanded Buying Power lets you spend above your credit limit with no over-limit fees The amount you can spend above your credit limit is not unlimited. It adjusts with your use of the card, payment history, credit record, financial resources and other factors.
- 2% cash back on eligible purchases up to $50,000 per calendar year, 1% thereafter
- Several American Express business perks including Expense Management Tools, Global Assist® Hotline and Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance
- No annual fee
- Even a small business could find the $50,000 earnings cap on the 2% earnings rate a bit restrictive.
- The cash back you earn is automatically credited to your statement, meaning that you have no other way to redeem.
- Currently, the card doesn’t have a welcome offer.
Read our full American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card review.
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
Best for business perks with no annual fee
Like some other Amex business cards, the Blue Business Plus offers an intriguing option for new, smaller businesses whose spending needs eclipse their credit limits. Expanding Buying Power gives you the chance to spend beyond your credit limit without having to pay over-limit fees. Just bear in mind that the capacity for over-limit spending isn’t indefinite. The card also offers a competitive intro offer on purchases: 12 months from account opening at an introductory 0.0% APR and then a variable 13.24% – 19.24%, based on your creditworthiness. In the rewards department, the card earns a flat 2X on up to $50,000 in business purchases every year and 1X afterward.
Annual Fee: $0
- The card offers a number of perks including Expense Management Tools, Extended Warranty, Purchase Protection and more. If you take a lot of business trips, the Baggage Insurance Plan and Roadside Assistance Hotline will offer extra peace of mind.
- You earn 2X Membership Rewards Points on up to $50,000 a year and 1X afterward, with no category restrictions.
- With Expanded Buying Power, you can exceed your current credit limit in case you have to make a lot of big purchases. This option provides a lot of flexibility, even though your ability to spend beyond your credit limit isn’t unlimited.
- No annual fee.
- If you’re looking for a quick rewards infusion as an introductory bonus, remember that this card currently has no welcome offer.
- The 2X rewards rate slips to 1X after the first $50,000 spent per calendar year. Depending on your expenditures, that drop in earnings could be significant.
- The 2.7% foreign transaction fee after conversion to U.S. dollars. If you shop overseas or buy online from international vendors, that 2.7% could sting (see rates and fees).
Read our full Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express review.
American Express® Business Gold Card
Best business card for points
This card sets small business owners up for success in their spending. You will earn 4X rewards in the two categories where your business spends the most each month. Between this card’s easy-to-use rewards structure and added perks, the $295 annual fee may be worth it for your small business.
Annual Fee: $295
- 4X points on 2 select categories in which your business spends the most each month (up to $150,000 in combined annual spending, then 1X).
- Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months
- Airline bonus on flights booked with Amex Travel, expense management tool access and more perks to help your business
- Annual fee of $295.
- If you do a lot of business spending, the $150,000 annual cap on your 4X points rewards categories may be limiting (1X points thereafter).
Read our full American Express® Business Gold Card review.
American Express® Green Card
Best for no-hassle travel
In October, American Express made a few intriguing upgrades to the Amex Green sure to appeal to consumers who want a certain level of convenience and style when they travel. Cardholders now can earn statement credits for purchases from CLEAR and LoungeBuddy. The card also expanded its rewards-eligible travel purchases, including buses, rideshares, taxis, tolls and subways. The annual fee has risen from $95 to $150, but frequent travelers who want more luxury and less hassle should have ample opportunity to offset that cost.
Annual Fee: $150
- You earn a generous 3X Membership Rewards points on all eligible travel purchases and at restaurants worldwide.
- The welcome bonus is 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.
- You can receive up to $100 per year in statement credits for using the card to make purchases from travel/lifestyle brands including CLEAR and LoungeBuddy.
- No foreign transaction fee.
- The $150 annual fee is higher than that of similar competitors, most of which charge annual fees in the $95 range.
- The required booking through AmexTravel.com might make you ineligible for some benefits from your hotel loyalty reward program.
Read our full American Express® Green Card review.
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Best business card for travel
Like the personal version of the Platinum Card, this card is the top of the line for frequent business travelers. It offers premium travel benefits like access to American Express’ Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass Select membership, and up to $200 per calendar year in airline incidentals credit. Airport lounge access alone could be worth the steep $595 annual fee. The card’s rewards are also suited for frequent travel, including 5X Membership Rewards points on flights and prepaid hotels through the Amex travel portal.
Annual Fee: $595
- Welcome offer — earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
- 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year when you book on amextravel.com.
- One Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check statement credit every 4 years.
- No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).
- Complimentary concierge service access.
- 50% rewards bonus on eligible purchases over $5,000 (up to 1 million extra points per calendar year).
- All purchases on this card have to be business-related.
- Not optimal for those who don’t travel enough to fully maximize all of the card’s travel benefits.
- High annual fee of $595.
Read our full The Business Platinum Card® from American Express review.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
Best for airline-specific perks
American Express offers a few cards in partnership with Delta, but the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business is the best value for frequent Delta business travelers who can save with the card’s airline-specific perks. Priority boarding, 20% savings on eligible in-flight purchases (in the form of statement credit), and a free first checked bag on round-trip Delta flights all add convenience and ease for those who spend much of their time in the air.
Annual Free: $250
- Earn 3X miles per dollar on purchases directly with Delta and directly with hotels and 1X miles on everything else.
- Airline perks like priority boarding, 20% off eligible in-flight purchases and a free first checked bag on round-trip Delta flights.
- $250 annual fee.
- Other travel cards offer better rewards rates, especially if you don’t fly Delta regularly.
What is American Express?
American Express began as a freight-forwarding business in 1850 and has since grown to be one of the largest credit card issuers in the world.
Statistics from the Nilson Report, a news publication devoted to the card and mobile payment industry, offer insight into the company’s presence worldwide:
American Express in 2019 (global)
Source: The Nilson Report
The J.D. Power 2019 Credit Card Satisfaction Study ranked American Express second in customer satisfaction among credit card issuers. It scored 838 on a scale of 1,000, finishing just 4 points behind Discover (842).
The company, sometimes called Amex, offers cards for consumers, travelers, small businesses and corporations. American Express also offers other financial products and services including savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs).
The American Express network
American Express is both a payment processing network and a credit card issuer. That means Amex issues credit cards to consumers and facilitates transactions with merchants through their network. Networks, which include Visa, Mastercard and Discover as well as American Express, make money by taking a cut of each transaction they process.
Many, but not all, American Express credit cards are both issued by American Express and part of the American Express payment network.
Credit cards and charge cards
American Express is one of the few credit card issuers that offer charge cards, or cards that require balances to be paid in full each month.
They don’t have a set limit like other credit cards, but charge cards are not unlimited lines of credit. How much you can spend is based largely on your purchase and payment history.
Currently, the Amex cards operating as charge cards include:
- The Plum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- Business Green Rewards Card from American Express
How to contact American Express
- Personal cards: 1-800-528-4800
- Small business cards: 1-800-492-3344
- Corporate cards: 1-800-528-2122
What benefits and features does American Express offer?
Premium benefits help make American Express credit cards some of the most sought-after cards in the industry. Notable American Express benefits include:
Purchases and products
- Purchase Protection
- Extended Warranty
- Return Protection
- Global Assistance Hotline
- Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance
- Baggage Insurance
- Roadside Assistance
- Travel Accident Insurance
- Trip Delay
- Trip Cancellation
The Pay Over Time feature gives cardholders the option to pay their statement balances in full or carry a balance with interest on eligible charges, up to their Pay Over Time Limit. Pay Over Time is available with cards including:
- American Express Gold Card
- American Express Green Card
- The Platinum Card from American Express
- American Express Business Gold Card
Availability of benefits varies by card. However, the most widely available benefits include Purchase Protection, Extended Warranty, Global Assistance Hotline and Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance.
American Express Membership Rewards
Holders of certain credit cards and charge cards are eligible for the Membership Rewards loyalty program. You can earn points through purchases and qualifying Amex Offers. Membership Rewards points can be redeemed for travel, shopping, statement credits, gift cards, charitable donations and more.
Some cardholders have the option of transferring rewards points to American Express hotel and airline partners (often at a 1:1 value) or use points to book through AmexTravel.com.
American Express cardholders can access exclusive deals and additional rewards through Amex Offers. Benefits of Amex Offers include discounts, cash back and additional Membership Rewards points.
Amex Offers vary by card, and cardholders must activate to qualify. Limits and expiration dates may apply.
American Express welcome offers provide opportunities for new cardholders to earn statement credits or Membership Rewards points. Some Amex welcome offers are among the most generous in the industry.
To qualify, cardholders usually have to spend a certain amount on purchases within a specified period of time. Although the standard timeframe is the first three months of card ownership, Amex recently extended the window for eligible cardholders to six months.
What is the best American Express card?
Any of the American Express cards listed above can add value to your wallet, but deciding on the very best American Express card for you requires some investigation into your spending habits and the benefits that you’re looking to get out of your card. Here are some things that are important to consider:
Personal vs. business
This should be the easiest factor in your decision. If you’re looking for rewards that you can earn on your own everyday spending or any personal traveling you do throughout the year, then a personal card is the way to go. Small business owners, however, will benefit more from a small business card that offers rewards tailored to the categories in which their business spends the most.
You can check out Bankrate’s guide to the Best Business Credit Cards for more information on when to make the switch to a business card and how to decide on the best rewards for your business.
Membership Rewards points vs. miles vs. cash back
Next, you should evaluate your spending habits to determine which card offers the highest rewards in the categories in which you already frequent. For instance, a suburban family of four will likely benefit more from the Blue Cash Preferred® Card’s U.S. supermarket, select U.S. streaming services and U.S. gas station rewards than a jet-setting world traveler, who may see more value in the premium travel rewards offered by The Platinum Card®.
Similarly, you should determine which types of rewards will bring you the most value. Some people may prefer the simplicity of cash back, while others will benefit most from miles they can put towards travel purchases. Perhaps the most flexible option (and most protected from devaluations) is a card that earns Membership Rewards points, which can be redeemed for travel and statement credits or transferred to partners, among other options.
Fees, earnings rate, spending
In addition to determining what you spend your money on, you should narrow down how much money you spend annually and whether that makes up for the cost of card ownership.
American Express offers great cards that range from no annual fee to more than $500, and you don’t want to find yourself paying for a card that you’re not at least getting an equal amount of value from. Look at your spending over the past year to determine what fee you’re willing to pay and calculate your estimated rewards earnings so you can make an educated guess on whether the card is worth it. Don’t forget to factor in any ancillary fees, like balance transfer fees or foreign transaction fees, if you may be affected by those as well.
Big spenders should also make sure the rewards cap on their card doesn’t hinder their rewards. Many Amex cards have annual caps on their top-earning rewards, and if you surpass that cap every year, compare and see if another rewards card on the market may offer more value. This may be especially important for small business owners who have high operational costs.
Who are American Express cards good for?
Once you’ve considered the above options to find which rewards and card details matter most to you, it’ll be easier to narrow down which American Express card will bring you most value. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to finding the best credit card, which is why it’s important to have an idea of exactly what you’re looking for.
The following profiles are just a few examples of the types of consumers who may benefit from specific American Express cards, but may help you in determining your perfect match.
Many families will be hard-pressed to find any card on the market that can bring them more value on everyday spending than the Blue Cash Preferred® Card. Its rewards categories align with the everyday purchases that are important to parents and kids on-the-go, whether they’re in a bustling city, rural America or anywhere in between. Its reasonable $95 annual fee also doesn’t put it out of reach for families on a budget.
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (no annual fee) is another family-friendly option. It also has a 0% intro APR offer on purchases for 15 months (then 13.99% – 23.99% variable after).
Anyone looking to travel in style and with convenience (and who can afford the $550 annual fee) can find their ideal card in The Platinum Card®. As one of the most high-end cards on the market, it offers benefits and perks with some of the top airlines and finest hotels around the world. If you’re willing to pay, and can maximize its benefits, this card can set luxury travelers’ experiences apart and even make it easier to travel more with rewards.
Not everyone can justify The Platinum Card® or even needs its premium rewards. Those looking to redeem rewards less regularly but still earn on their everyday spending will find much more value in the Gold Card. You’ll still earn rewards on travel purchases, but the card’s highest-earning categories are restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, meaning you don’t have to be a world traveler to maximize your value (but you’ll still get plenty of premium perks).
Like its personal card counterpart, The Business Platinum Card® is ideal for business travelers looking for luxury (and willing to pay for it). Anyone who spends much of their time in airports for business will likely find the experience much more enjoyable after gaining access to the benefits and services the Platinum Card offers. The business version also includes business-specific perks, which can improve productivity as well as comfort.
Frequently asked questions about American Express credit cards
Why do some merchants not accept American Express?
Historically, the company’s network has lagged behind those of Visa and Mastercard in the number of domestic and international merchants accepting payments. In recent years, however, Amex has continued to gain ground.
According to the company’s 2019 Annual Report, by year’s end American Express had:
- Achieved approximately 99 percent acceptance among U.S. merchants that accept credit cards
- Added more than 2 million merchants in international markets
- Received approval of its network application to the People’s Bank of China
Can you get an American Express card with bad credit?
Amex generally requires potential cardholders to have a good or excellent credit score to qualify.
However, one possible option is to open an Amex card without premium rewards that can simply help you build credit, like the Blue from American Express® Credit Card. You’ll earn only 1X Membership Rewards point for each dollar spent, but it has no annual fee and a lower credit requirement than other cards.
If you’re worried about being denied a line of credit with American Express, check to see which offers you pre-qualify for on the issuer’s website before submitting an application and agreeing to a hard inquiry on your credit report.
The information about the Blue from American Express Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.
Who is CF Frost?
The familiar name that appears on American Express credit cards in countless ads and commercials actually belongs to a real person. Charles F. Frost was an employee of Ogilvy and Mather when the advertising firm worked with American Express in the 1960s.
Credit card issuers commonly use placeholder names on sample cards in advertising materials, but in some cases they get more creative than “John Doe.”
How we chose our top American Express credit cards
Bankrate’s personal finance experts have evaluated the top American Express cards according to our 5-point rating system. The list of criteria for rating credit cards includes:
Whether the card offers cash back, travel points/miles or multi-purpose rewards for eligible purchases and the potential returns based on rewards rate (1 percent cash back per $1 spent, 1 mile per $1 spent, and so on).
Perks and benefits
Whether the card offers extras such as retail discounts, extended warranties on purchases, travel insurance and financial management tools.
Whether the card charges an annual fee and if so, how much the card’s overall value and benefits might offset the fee.
Whether the card has a welcome offer or similar sign-up incentive and how much it adds to the card’s overall value.
How the card’s annual percentage rate (APR) compares with current averages as an indicator of cost and value.
Foreign transaction fee
Whether the card charges a foreign transaction fee for purchases that require a currency conversion and how the fee affects the card’s overall value.
Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and other personal finance products since 2017. Before joining Bankrate, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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