Choosing the best American Express charge card for you

Choosing the best American Express charge card for you Choosing the best American Express charge card for you Image:

In a Nutshell

Which American Express® charge card is the best choice for you? The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express differ in more than just color.

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American Express offers two great cards that can help you rack up rewards for certain flight and hotel purchases and more. But before we get into the details, we want to make sure you know what you’re getting into.

The difference between an American Express® charge card and an American Express® credit card

First things first: Charge cards are not exactly the same as credit cards. Many people use the terms interchangeably, but it’s more accurate to say that a charge card is a specific type of credit card.

American Express® credit cards typically let you carry a balance from month to month, though you’ll usually have to pay interest on that balance. For credit cards, interest is typically expressed as a yearly rate known as the APR, or annual percentage rate.

American Express® charge cards don’t have an APR. How is this possible? Because they generally require you to pay off your balance in full each month. You typically cannot carry a balance with a charge card, but keep in mind that late payments may be expensive with these cards. The late fee for the Platinum Card® from American Express, for example, can be up to $38. If you’re applying for a charge card, it’s important to make sure you can pay off anything you put on your card each month.

There are more credit card issuers than charge card issuers, which might be why there’s so much misinformation about the latter. American Express is the most prominent issuer of charge cards in the U.S., and we’ll focus on two of their most popular charge cards in this article: the Platinum Card® from American Express and the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express.


Platinum Card® from American Express

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Platinum Card® from American Express

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Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

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At a glance: Platinum Card® from American Express vs. Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Platinum Card® from American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
Annual fee  $550 $0 intro, $195 after first year
Welcome offer Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after making $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of opening an account
Rewards

5x points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel

5x points on eligible hotels booked through amextravel.com

2x Extra Membership Rewards® points for other eligible travel purchases made through amextravel.com

1x point for other purchases

3x points for flights purchased directly from airlines

2x points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations

2x Extra Membership Rewards® points for eligible travel purchases made through amextravel.com

1x point for other purchases

Point value Usually 1 cent per point or less, depending on how you redeem Usually 1 cent per point or less, depending on how you redeem
Variable APR for purchases No APR because balance is expected to be paid in full each month No APR because balance is expected to be paid in full each month
Foreign transaction fee None None
Airline fee credit Up to $200 per calendar year in baggage and other incidental travel fees at one qualifying airline of your choice Up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for certain incidental fees from a qualifying airline of your choice
Other benefits

Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic card member only.

VIP status, $15 in monthly Uber credits for U.S. rides and a $20 Uber bonus in December

$100 fee credit when you apply for and receive your Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection℠

Starwood Preferred Guest® Gold Status and Hilton Honors™ Gold Status

Complimentary additional Gold Card you can add to your card account for no annual fee

Stay a minimum of 2 consecutive nights at participating properties with The Hotel Collection and receive a room upgrade, if available, and a $75 hotel credit to spend on qualifying dining, spa and resort activities when you book your prepaid stay with American Express Travel

Car rental loss and damage insurance for covered vehicles

Access to Premium Roadside Assistance up to 4 times per calendar year

Stay a minimum of 2 consecutive nights at participating properties with The Hotel Collection and get a room upgrade, if available, and a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, when you book your prepaid stay with American Express Travel

Car rental loss and damage insurance for covered vehicles

Access to Premium Roadside Assistance up to 4 times per calendar year


  1. Best for welcome offer: Tie
  2. Best for rewards points: Tie
  3. Best for card benefits: Platinum Card® from American Express
  4. Best for annual fee: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
  5. Heads up: What to consider when applying for a premium travel credit card
  6. Bottom line: Which card is right for you?

Best for welcome offer: Tie

If you were to say that the Platinum Card® from American Express has the better welcome offer between these two cards, you wouldn’t be wrong.

It’s certainly larger: You’ll earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account.

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, on the other hand, has a welcome offer of 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account.

60,000 points is obviously more than 25,000 points, and if you can comfortably spend $5,000 within those first three months, you’d be better off with the Platinum Card® welcome offer. But not everybody can fit that into their budget. For some people, it’s a lot more financially practical to spend $2,000 within that initial three-month period than $5,000.

Take a closer look and you’ll see that both welcome offers provide close to equal value when you calculate points earned per dollar spent. The Premier Rewards Gold Card welcome offer gets you 12.5 points per dollar spent, while the Platinum Card® welcome offer gets you 12 points per dollar spent.

And, though it’s not technically a welcome offer, it’s nice that the Premier Rewards Gold Card offers a $0 introductory annual fee in the first year (it jumps to $195 after the first year). Weigh that against the $550 annual fee you’ll pay on the Platinum Card® from the get-go, and the initial value on each card starts to look pretty comparable.

Best for rewards points: Tie

With the Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll earn five Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent in popular travel categories such as airfare and hotels booked through amextravel.com.

The Premier Rewards Gold Card, on the other hand, only offers three Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent on travel booked directly through airlines. It does, however, offer two points per dollar spent in other popular spending categories, including U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets.

Why is this a toss-up? Because the better option for you depends on where you do the majority of your spending. Frequent travelers may earn more points using Platinum Card®. If you don’t spend much money on travel but use your card on daily purchases, the Premier Rewards Gold Card may earn you more points in the long run.

Best for card benefits: Platinum Card® from American Express

Platinum Card® is the clear winner when it comes to benefits.

Augustin Kennady, media relations director at the fulfillment company ShipMonk, explains, “If you are a world traveler, Platinum Card® has you set. The airline credit is very generous, the Uber credit is generous, and perhaps most useful will be your credit toward Global Entry.”

In addition to the features it shares with the Premier Rewards Gold Card — including no foreign transaction fees, roadside assistance and car rental loss and damage insurance — Platinum Card® offers the following benefits:

  • An airline fee credit of up to $200 per calendar year in baggage and other incidental travel fees at one qualifying airline of your choice (the Premier Rewards Gold Card’s airline fee credit is $100 in statement credits)
  • Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic card member only.
  • A $100 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Access to more than 1,000 airport lounges associated with the American Express Global Lounge Collection℠
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Gold Status
  • Hilton Honors™ Gold Status
  • A complimentary additional Gold Card that you can add to your card account for no annual fee

Best for annual fee: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

The steep $550 annual fee that comes with Platinum Card® may be hard to swallow for the average consumer.

Kennady agrees. “Generally speaking, I think that the annual fee for Platinum Card® is too high for its value unless you are a big spender or you directly benefit from every perk,” he says.

The Premier Rewards Gold Card has a $0 introductory annual fee in the first year and an annual fee of “just” $195 each year thereafter. That’s higher than most cards that don’t have “Platinum” in their name, but it can still be a great deal when you consider all the card’s benefits.

If you don’t travel frequently and don’t often take advantage of Uber and airport lounges, you’re more likely to get a better value out of the Premier Rewards Gold Card. That makes it the winner in this category.

Heads up: What to consider when applying for a premium travel credit card

When you apply for a premium travel rewards card, make sure you pick the best card for your personal travel and lifestyle preferences.

The best way to test if a premium travel rewards card is a good fit? Think about how much that card would have helped you on previous trips. Here are a few questions to help you analyze a premium travel card you’re considering:

  • Does the card offer rewards in the categories you spend the most money in?
  • Do the benefits help offset your travel costs?
  • Can you use points to offset travel costs at the airlines, hotels and other businesses you spend money at on a regular basis?

Membership Rewards® program options

Another important consideration is the points you earn and how they can be redeemed. Flexibility is key. Membership Rewards® points give you more redemption options than simply redeeming your points for a statement credit or a gift card.

You can redeem your Membership Rewards® points at varying redemption values (usually 1 cent per point or less) for the following:

  • Gift cards
  • Vouchers from voucher rewards partners
  • Shopping at merchant partners
  • Travel (including flights, prepaid hotels, cruises and vacation packages)
  • Select entertainment options
  • At the point of sale for Uber, Rite Aid and New York City taxis
  • Charity donations
  • Statement credits

You can also transfer Membership Rewards® points at varying redemption values to the following airline and hotel loyalty programs:

  • AeroMexico Club Premier
  • Aeroplan®
  • Air France KLM Flying Blue
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Asia Miles™
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Delta SkyMiles®
  • El Al Matmid Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • HawaiianMiles® from Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue®
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin America Elevate®
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Choice Privileges®
  • Hilton Honors™
  • Starwood Preferred Guest®

The wide variety of Membership Rewards® redemption options makes planning travel easier, since you aren’t limited to just one redemption option or a small number of transfer partners.


Bottom line: Which card is right for you?

Deciding between the Platinum Card® and the Premier Rewards Gold Card shouldn’t be too difficult.

If you prefer the nicer things in life, such as access to airport lounges, and you’re willing to pay for them, you’ll probably conclude that the Platinum Card® from American Express gives you the most bang for your buck. It offers many high-end benefits and amazing point-earning opportunities.

The high $550 annual fee on the Platinum Card® from American Express can quickly be offset by up to $200 in annual Uber savings, the $200 airline fee credit, the $75 hotel credit and the $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® credit. Of course, you must use the credits in order to realize their true value.

If you’re a more budget-conscious traveler, the Premier Rewards Gold Card may be the better value for you. You’ll still have access to the $75 hotel credit (no room upgrade, though) as well as a $100 airline fee credit per calendar year. The smaller credit is in line with the smaller annual fee.

When it comes down to it, one American Express® charge card isn’t significantly “better” than the other. Our advice? Pick the card that best matches your personal travel preferences.

At a glance: Other premium travel credit cards to consider

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

**This offer is no longer available on our site

3x points on travel and dining worldwide, plus up to $300 in statement credits for travel purchases each account anniversary year and more
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 2x points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, plus 1:1 point transfers to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs, and more
Citi Prestige® Card

**This offer is no longer available on our site

$250 air travel credit each year, plus 3x points on air travel and hotels and more

 


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