Personal Finance

Which American Express Card Is Right for You?

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American Express offers a smorgasbord of credit cards designed to appeal to a range of personal preferences: If you prefer cash back on grocery purchases, for instance, there is an AmEx card for you. If your tastes veer more toward luxury travel, the issuer has a card for you, too.

American Express cardholders enjoy high rewards and a flexible points system (on the cards that participate in it), as well as perks like a ShopRunner subscription for online shopping (enrollment required). The main downside is that American Express is less universally accepted than other networks such as Visa and Mastercard.

Finding the right AmEx card for you starts with some basic questions:

Do you have good credit?

If the answer is no, then your American Express options are limited. AmEx cards offer high rewards and generally require at least good credit. If you currently have poor or average credit, then you may want to consider looking at a different issuer that offers options for a more diverse range of credit scores.

Do you prefer cash back or points you can apply toward travel?

American Express cards fall into two main categories:

Narrowing down which type of rewards you are interested in can help you find the right one.

Are you willing to pay an annual fee?

While some American Express cards, such as the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, come with no annual fee, many of the higher reward AmEx cards charge an annual fee, and sometimes a high one: The The Platinum Card® from American Express, for example, charges an annual fee of $695.

Where do you spend the most money?

Different AmEx cards offer bonus categories on different types of spending: Some more heavily reward grocery spending while others prioritize travel or restaurant spending. The right card for you will match up with where you tend to spend more of your money.

Finding the right American Express card for you

Our pick for cash back

  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in spending per year.

  • 6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.

  • 3% back on transit, including U.S. gas stations.

  • 1% back on everything else.

Welcome offer: Earn up to $350 in statement credits: Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits. Terms Apply.

Annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95. Terms apply.

Why we like it: The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers a hard-to-beat 6% back on U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in spending per year in addition to its other rewards, and for households that spend a lot on food, that’s valuable. The cash back is flexible and the card also comes with a bonus offer. All of those benefits add up to make the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express a hugely appealing option. Terms apply.

Drawbacks: The card does come with an annual fee after the first year, which is a turn-off for some cardholders. The cap on rewards earned at U.S. supermarket is also limiting for those who spend more than that.

Our pick for simplicity

  • 3% back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 spent per year (then 1%).

  • 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores.

  • 1% back on all other purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn up to $250 in statement credits: Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months of card membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits. Terms Apply.

Annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95. Terms apply.

Why we like it: Like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express rewards grocery spending. Its rewards rate is lower, but it also doesn’t charge an annual fee. With U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores also earning bonus rewards, it’s a card that offers a lot of flexibility for families who appreciate the ease of earning (and spending) cash back. Terms apply.

Drawbacks: The rewards rates are lower than other cards (but it also lacks an annual fee).

Our pick for foodies

  • 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants, including those made through third-party processors like Square and Toast.

  • 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases per year.

  • 3 points per dollar spent for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.

  • 1 point per dollar spent on other eligible purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months. Terms Apply.

Annual fee: $250. Terms apply.

Why we like it: The high rewards rate for spending on restaurants as well as grocery stores means that you earn points at a fast clip whether you’re enjoying fine dining or cooking at home. Membership Rewards points are worth about 0.5 cents to 1 cent each depending on how you redeem them, with travel and gift card redemptions generally offering the highest value. The card also offers annual credits, including up to a $120 annual dining credit, which helps offset the annual fee (Terms Apply). Enrollment is required and the $120 comes from $10 monthly credits. Terms apply.

Drawbacks: The relatively high annual fee may scare some potential cardholders away, but if your spending aligns with the bonus categories, then you can more than earn back the value of that fee.

Our pick for travel

  • Earn 3 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on travel, including airfare, hotels, cruises, car rentals, campgrounds, trains, taxis, ridesharing, tours, ferries, tolls, parking, buses, subways, third-party travel sites and amextravel.com.

  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent at restaurants worldwide.

  • Earn 1 point per $1 everywhere else.

Welcome offer: Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Terms apply.

Annual fee: $150. Terms apply.

Why we like it: The travel rewards on this card are all-encompassing, covering a diverse array of transportation, including subway fare and cruises, as well as the more traditional airfare and hotel expenses. Regardless of how you like to travel, this card will reward you for doing so. Plus, when you’re eating at restaurants, whether locally or on the road, you pick up bonus points. Terms apply.

Our pick for luxury perks

  • 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.

  • 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

  • 2 points per dollar on other eligible travel expenses booked with American Express Travel.

  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

Welcome offer: 

  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

  • For a limited time: 10 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and U.S. small businesses, on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, in your first 6 months. You can find eligible small businesses by searching American Express’ Shop Small Map for retail locations and online merchants. Terms apply.

Annual fee: $695. Terms apply.

Why we like it: If you spend a lot on travel and want premium perks — and are willing to pay for them in the form of a huge annual fee — then the The Platinum Card® from American Express could be for you. You earn big rewards and also enjoy luxury perks such as statement credits, airport lounge access and hotel upgrades. Terms apply.

Drawbacks: That big annual fee isn’t for everyone.

All information about the American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The American Express® Green Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

To view rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, see this page.

To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.

To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, see this page.

To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, see this page.

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