American Express charge cards: Which ones fit you?

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In a Nutshell

American Express offers three charge cards geared toward personal use. Depending on the card, you can earn rewards on travel purchases, at U.S. supermarkets or when you dine out. Each card comes with an annual fee — and because they’re charge cards, you’ll generally have to pay off the balance in full each month.

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Compare American Express charge cards

Platinum Card® from American Express American Express® Gold Card American Express® Green Card
Welcome bonus 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending at least $5,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending at least $4,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending at least $2,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening
Highest rewards rate 5 points per $1 spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked through an airline or with American Express Travel 4 points per $1 spent at restaurants worldwide; 4 points per $1 spent at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1 point per $1) 3 points per $1 spent on eligible travel purchases and 3 points per $1 spent at restaurants
Annual fee $550 $250 $150

 

American Express offers three charge cards for personal use.

  • American Express® Gold Card
  • Platinum Card® from American Express
  • American Express® Green Card

Each comes with a rewards program, but the benefits range from luxurious to mediocre depending on the card. Each card also comes with an annual fee. And, because they’re charge cards, you’ll generally have to pay off the balance in full each month.


What you need to know about each card

Charge cards look and act like traditional credit cards: They allow you to make purchases and potentially earn rewards. The key differences between charge cards and traditional credit cards is that they usually don’t come with preset credit limits — but they need to be paid off in full each billing period in return.

If you tend to spend a lot but don’t typically carry debt on credit cards, then charge cards can provide convenience and flexibility. They also …

  • Don’t come with an annual percentage rate, or APR, unless they offer a feature to pay expenses over time.
  • May charge late fees if you miss a payment.
  • Can influence your credit scores — so be sure you use these cards responsibly.

American Express® Gold Card

If you consider yourself a foodie or spend a lot at U.S. supermarkets, you stand to earn a load of Membership Rewards points with the American Express® Gold Card. Cardholders earn …

  • Four points per $1 spent at restaurants worldwide
  • Four points per $1 spent at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then one point per $1 after that)
  • Three points per $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or on AmexTravel.com
  • One point per $1 spent on purchases everywhere else

Although the card’s $250 annual fee is a bit pricey, several benefits quickly make up for it. You’ll earn dining credits worth up to $120 total (up to $10 per month) at popular restaurants and food delivery services, and up to $100 per calendar year to cover incidental fees on a qualifying airline of your choice. Plus, card members can earn a 35,000-point welcome bonus after spending at least $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

And while most charge cards must be paid in full each month, the American Express® Gold Card has a “Pay Over Time” feature that automatically places any eligible balances of at least $100 or more in the Pay Over Time bucket. When your payment is due, you can pay the balance in full or choose to use the Pay Over Time feature to pay less than the full amount with interest. But take note that for any Pay Over Time balance that’s not paid off in full each month, a variable APR will apply, and you’ll still need to make a minimum monthly payment. And interest starts accruing on Pay Over Time balances the day that they’re made.

From our partner

American Express® Gold Card

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American Express® Green Card

Although this Amex card comes with fewer bells and whistles than the others on this list, it has a lower annual fee of $150.

The American Express® Green Card earns you just one Membership Rewards point per $1 on everyday purchases. But you’ll earn three points per $1 spent on eligible travel purchases and three points per $1 spent at restaurants.

The card also has some extra benefits, like car rental loss and damage waiver and a baggage-insurance plan. You’ll also get the flexibility of the Pay Over Time feature, which allows you to carry a balance with a 16.99% to 23.99% variable APR on eligible charges.

From our partner

American Express® Green Card

From cardholders in the last year

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Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express is a favorite among travelers, and for good reason. It has a luxurious lineup of benefits and rewards, which makes up for the eye-popping $550 annual fee.

For starters, you’ll earn a welcome bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending at least $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, the rewards rate is pretty good — you’ll earn five points per $1 spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked through an airline or at AmexTravel.com.

You’ll also earn one point per $1 spent on purchases elsewhere. You can redeem points for travel purchases, statement credits, gift cards and more.

Even if you don’t spend a lot on travel, you can still get a lot of value out of the card’s other benefits, such as …

  • A $200 airline-fee credit per calendar year with a qualifying airline
  • Up to $200 annually in Uber cash credits for U.S. Uber rides
  • One $100 statement credit every four years for your Global Entry application fee or one $85 statement credit every 4.5 years for your TSA PreCheck application fee
  • Access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide through the Global Lounge Collection

But the Platinum Card® from American Express isn’t for everyone. Aside from the high annual fee, the card also doesn’t come with the flexibility of the Pay Over Time feature.

From our partner

Platinum Card® from American Express

From cardholders in the last year

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How to pick the right card for you

The best American Express charge card for you will depend on where you typically spend.

The Platinum Card® from American Express is a clear standout for people who frequently travel, don’t mind paying a hefty annual fee and can take advantage of the card’s premium benefits. But the annual fee and travel-focused perks mean it won’t make sense for everyone, especially if your purchases align with other bonus categories. You might be better off with a more moderately priced travel card instead.

The American Express® Gold Card is especially geared toward foodies and is rewarding at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. But the value of this card — and whether it outpaces the annual fee — comes down to how often you dine out and purchase flights directly through airlines or through the American Express Travel Center. Again, you might want to consider a cheaper credit card with no annual fee instead — perhaps something like the Uber Visa credit card or the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

If the annual fees on the other two cards give you pause, the American Express® Green Card offers a cheaper alternative with a $150 annual fee. It’s a good fit for the occasional traveler looking to rack up travel rewards for the first time. But the rewards rate is pretty mediocre, especially compared to some other rewards credit cards with a similar annual fee.

When it comes down to it, pick the card that best aligns with your spending habits. But also consider whether you really want a charge card where juggling balances can be complicated. Because of the high annual fees and limitations in terms of carrying a balance, a lot of consumers may be better served with a regular rewards credit card instead.

Not sure any of these cards are for you? Consider these alternatives.