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Our quick take: If the ultra-luxury Platinum Card® from American Express is too rich for your blood, the iconic American Express® Green Card is an alternative. It’s expensive for a mid-tier card, but it racks up plenty of points when used on dining and travel globally, and Amex Membership Rewards are highly valuable, enabling premium flight redemptions that would otherwise be out of reach for many.
- 3 points per dollar on travel (including ride-sharing) and dining worldwide.
- Up to $189 in annual CLEAR® credits.
- Up to $100 in annual LoungeBuddy credits.
- Trip delay, baggage and car rental insurance.
- Terms apply.
- Lounge access isn’t unlimited.
- Earns just 1 point per dollar on everything outside of dining and travel.
- Amex points require homework to maximize.
- No cell phone insurance.
Current welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months. Plus, earn 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases made during your first six months of card membership, up to $200 back in the form of a statement credit.
Best for: Casual travelers and restaurant goers who want to earn valuable Amex points for high-end trips.
Digging into the American Express Green card
The American Express Green card has long been an afterthought in the minds of credit card aficionados. But near the end of 2019, the card underwent a full revamp, turning it into a vastly improved all-around travel card. At $150 a year, it’s more expensive than the average $95 mid-tier credit card, but if you can take advantage of its bonus categories and perks, it’s not too hard to make up the difference in additional value.
The Amex Green’s 60,000-point welcome bonus — available after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership — is one of the best offers we’ve seen for this card. Especially when you add in the opportunity to then earn up to another $200 back (in the form of a statement credit) on eligible travel and transit purchases. The points alone are worth at least $600 when redeemed for airfare via Amex Travel, and potentially even more when transferred to Amex’s airline and hotel partners.
In addition, the Amex Green’s welcome bonus also includes 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases made during your first six months of card membership. This discount is capped at $200 in and it’s awarded in the form of a statement credit. You can maximize this by spending at least $1,000 on eligible transit and travel purchases.
If you’re using a mix of credit cards to maximize how many points or miles (or cash back) you earn in various bonus categories, and you don’t already have a top-of-wallet card for global dining and travel, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more complete card with an annual fee this low. Plus, it’s easy to offset the card’s cost by leveraging a pair of up to $189 credits for CLEAR® and up to $100 credits for LoungeBuddy.
Related: Explore CNN Underscored’s guide to the best travel credit cards.
Put simply, casual travelers and restaurant goers who don’t travel frequently enough to appreciate dedicated airline lounge access may want to seriously consider the Amex Green. Combine the welcome bonus with the annual credits, and it’s as if American Express is compensating you to try out this card, at least for the first year.
Advantages of the American Express Green
The biggest advantage of the Amex Green card is its terrific earning rate of 3 points for every dollar you spend on worldwide dining and travel, which includes not only the usual flights, hotels and car rentals, but also ride-sharing, taxis, subways, buses, tolls and even parking. Those bonus categories match that of the heralded Chase Sapphire Reserve® — a card which carries a $550 annual fee — but for just over one-quarter of the price.
Amex’s Membership Rewards points are very valuable if you know how to research airline and hotel award space, and can have a flexible travel strategy to maximize them. American Express has 20 airline and hotel transfer partners, which open up incredible redemption possibilities for those willing to put in the time and effort. It’s one of the more lucrative point currencies for advanced points and miles experts.
If you’re tired of long security lines at airports, the card’s up to $189 annual CLEAR® credit enables you to cut the line with a biometric alternative at many major airports. CLEAR® will also get you into certain sporting events faster, with 23 venues currently partnering with the company, including arenas such as the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Yankee Stadium in The Bronx.
While there’s no airline lounge membership included with the Amex Green, you do get up to $100 in LoungeBuddy credits each calendar year. LoungeBuddy is a service owned by American Express that lets you buy one-day entry to individual lounges at airports around the world starting at $25 per visit. That means the $100 can net you a few free lounge visits per year.
The card also carries no foreign transaction fees, and includes car rental loss and damage insurance and a baggage insurance plan that covers eligible lost, damaged, or stolen baggage. The recently added trip delay protection coverage should make you rest a little easier, too.
Disadvantages of the American Express Green
If you need a top-of-wallet card for earning on dining and travel, there aren’t too many notable disadvantages here. However, if those aren’t categories you find yourself spending lots of money on, the Amex Green won’t be a good match for you.
The same is true if you aren’t interested in taking advantage of Amex’s transfer partners when it comes to redeeming your points. While you can still get 1 cent per point in value by redeeming Amex points directly for airfare at amextravel.com, there are other cards with better redemption rates on that score.
For instance, Ultimate Rewards points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can be redeemed for 1.25 cents per point on all travel (not just airfare) via the Chase travel portal, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve gets an even better 1.5 cents per point when redeemed that way.
Related: CNN Underscored’s review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.
Also, if you need a card that’ll provide ongoing airport lounge access, this card won’t deliver. Yes, there are up to $100 in LoungeBuddy credits, but if you use lounges on a regular basis, you’ll burn through that $100 in just a handful of visits. You’d need to turn to a card with a higher annual fee — like the Amex Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card — if regular airline lounge access is a priority.
CLEAR® is a terrific program for regular travelers who may already have Global Entry or TSA PreCheck but are looking for ways to further speed through airport security. However, it’s not a must-have for casual travelers who might only find themselves at a TSA checkpoint a few times a year.
Finally, it could be argued that the Amex Green should include cell phone insurance. It’s a perk included on several Chase and Wells Fargo credit cards, many of which have lower annual fees than the Amex Green.
Stacking up the American Express Green against our benchmark
CNN Underscored has chosen the Citi® Double Cash Card as our “benchmark” credit card. That doesn’t mean it’s the best credit card on the market — rather, it means we use it as a basic standard to compare other credit cards and see where they score better, and where they’re worse.
Here’s how the Amex Green scores against our benchmark. The features of each card in the below chart are colored in green, red or white. Green indicates a card feature that is better than our benchmark. Red indicates the feature is worse than our benchmark, and white indicates the feature is either equivalent or cannot be directly compared to our benchmark.
When reviewing other credit cards, we use this format and these criteria to compare them with our benchmark. You can read our credit card methodology for more details on what we take into account when it comes to perks, protections and redemption value.
Other credit cards similar to the American Express Green
In terms of all-around travel cards, the primary competitor to the Amex Green is the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which also earns 3x points on all travel and dining globally (although you can earn even more if you purchase through Ultimate Rewards), but carries a much higher $550 annual fee. However, you’ll get a $300 annual travel credit on the Sapphire Reserve, which is much easier to use than the LoungeBuddy and CLEAR® credits on the Amex Green, plus a Priority Pass Select membership with regular access to over 1,200 airport lounges around the world and up to $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2023.
But even with the $300 travel credit and $60 DoorDash credit, you’re still paying a net annual fee of $190 on the Chase Sapphire Reserve. That’s $40 more than the Amex Green, and that’s before counting the credits, which can theoretically knock the net cost of the card down to zero if you can utilize both credits.
Related: Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth the increased annual fee?
Another Amex Green competitor is the Citi Premier℠ Card, a mid-tier travel and entertainment credit card which earns 3 points per dollar on travel (including gas stations), 2 points per dollar on restaurants and entertainment, and carries an alluring 60,000-point sign-up bonus — also worth at least $600 in free travel. Plus, for a limited time with the Citi Premier, new cardmembers will earn a total of 10 ThankYou points per dollar spent on hotel, car rentals and attractions (excluding air travel) booked through the Citi Travel portal through June 30, 2024.
With a $95 annual fee, the Citi Premier is a compelling alternative to the Amex Green, and may make more sense if you’re a road warrior who spends more at the pump than on airfare. But the Citi Premier has no annual credits at all, so you’ll pay the full $95 fee each year with no offsets aside from the card’s rewards and benefits. Citi ThankYou points also aren’t as useful as Amex Membership Rewards, even for expert points and miles collectors.
Should you get the American Express Green Card?
Avid travelers can probably justify the higher cost of the Amex Platinum or Chase Sapphire Reserve, since they can take advantage of all the perks those cards offer. But for casual travelers or those just starting to ramp up their business travel, the American Express Green could make sense.
The Amex Green’s comparatively low $150 annual fee is much easier to swallow than $550, and it’s offset by up to $289 in annual credits between CLEAR® and LoungeBuddy. There’s also something to be said about its simplicity. A flat 3x earning rate across all restaurants and all travel worldwide is easy to remember.
If you can’t take advantage of the credits, then a cheaper competing card such as the Citi Premier may be a better option. But if you know how to effectively transfer versatile Amex points to a variety of airline and hotel partners for drool-worthy trips, you might consider putting an Amex Green card in your purse or wallet.
Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best credit cards currently available.