The Amex Green Card used to be a dud, but it just got a big makeover

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American Express is known for boasting some of the most-powerful travel cards on the market, but not all of them are beloved by travelers.

The American Express® Green Card has been one of those cards for some time. But the new version of the card launched in late October 2019 begs another look.

The revamped American Express® Green Card might as well be a whole new card

The old version of the American Express® Green Card had no clear audience. American Express seemingly wanted to target travelers, but the rewards and welcome bonus didn’t measure up to the competition, especially with an ongoing annual fee of $95.

The American Express® Green Card now looks very different, with what appears to be a new audience — young professionals looking for a taste of luxury.

Take a look at its refreshed rewards and perks.

  • A bigger welcome bonus — The card now features a welcome bonus of 45,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases during the first 3 months of account opening.
  • More points for travel and dining — The American Express® Green Card offers three points for every $1 you spend on a wider variety of travel purchases (including transit), plus an entirely new bonus category of restaurants.
  • Flashy travel credits — You’ll get up to $100 in annual statement credit to help pay for a Clear membership, and up to $100 in annual statement credits to pay for lounge access booked directly with LoungeBuddy.
  • A green look — The American Express® Green Card now lives up to its name — it’s made with reclaimed plastic pulled from the ocean.
  • A heftier annual fee — The card now carries an annual fee of $150, with no waiver for the first year. It’s possible that American Express is trying to find a niche for this card in the space between entry-level travel cards that charge $95 annual fees and premium rewards cards that charge $400-plus annual fees.

The card’s boosted rewards, eye-catching credits and eco-conscious design could put it back on the radar of millennials and travel hackers looking for the next big thing in the rewards world. But is a better version of the American Express® Green Card necessarily better than the competition?

Better doesn’t always mean great

There’s no question that this card now offers more than it did in its previous incarnation. But we think it doesn’t quite measure up when compared to some of the best cards out there.

Statement credits will give you a taste of luxury, but not the full bite

The American Express® Green Card’s two standout statement credits definitely caught my attention — I haven’t seen any of them on offer from another U.S. credit card.

The problem is that these credits might not actually earn you much value relative to their additional costs. Clear is expensive, at $179 per year for a full membership, so your credit will pay for a little more than half the regular cost. LoungeBuddy charges for its lounges on a per-visit basis, but that $100 credit might only comp you somewhere from one to four visits a year.

And neither program is widely available — Clear is only in 56 airports in 30 cities, and LoungeBuddy has partner lounges in just 31 airports (with none at LAX, to name one notable absence).

No matter how you use these perks, you’re likely to have to spend money on top of the credits. But if you have to spend money on something you weren’t already planning to buy to get the discount, is it really a discount?

The rest of the rewards are a mixed bag

The rest of the American Express® Green Card’s rewards program offers a mix of good and bad.

At first glance, the 45,000-point welcome bonus seems low for a travel card with this kind of annual fee, even with a relatively low spending requirement to earn it. Based on our winter 2020 point valuation of 2.18 cents each when you transfer your American Express Membership Rewards® to Delta SkyMiles®, we estimate the bonus could be worth $981, which is fine for a travel rewards card.

On the other hand, you might be able to earn a lot of points with everyday spending if you tend to travel or dine out a lot. Some cardholders might prefer that long-term potential over the instant gratification of a big welcome bonus.

For this annual fee, the American Express® Green Card isn’t necessarily better than the competition

We wanted to be bigger fans of this card, especially because American Express has clearly improved what used to be one of its less-exciting options.

But there’s no getting around the fact that there are plenty of cards with annual fees under $100 that offer better rewards and more-flexible perks than the American Express® Green Card. We think the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card stand out as better options, even if they’re not quite as exciting at first glance.

Still, the relaunched American Express® Green Card could be the best option out there for plenty of travelers, especially if you’re already looking to nab a Clear or LoungeBuddy membership. Just don’t let this card’s flashier features keep you from considering the ongoing value underneath.