Which American Express Card is best for you?

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There’s a ton of Amex cards out there to choose from and it can be a little daunting trying to choose which one of the bunch is the best for you. Here’s a look at which card or cards may be best for your wallet.

Because there are many co-branded Amex cards and other cash back cards, I’m only looking at the following cards because: 1) they tend to be the travel cards that I hear about a lot of people applying for and 2) because some of these are the Amex cards with the best earning potential. After reviewing this article you should have a good idea of what Amex card can serve you the best, but keep in mind that there are other Amex cards out there to choose from.

What to know about Amex

AMEX LOGO

Charge Cards vs Credit Cards

When you’re looking at applying for a certain card be sure to check whether you are applying for a charge card or a credit card.

A charge card must be paid off in full each month or else you face a hefty monthly fee. Sometimes, after you’ve used a charge card for about a year, Amex will then allow you the option of carrying a balance (this usually comes with a MR bonus as well). However, you can not initially carry a balance on a charge card like you can a credit card.

So when reviewing these cards, think about whether you’re the type of consumer who pays your balance off every month or if you like to carry a balance.

AMEX combines hard pulls

Amex, who usually pull from Experian for my applications, combines hard pulls so it’s often in your best interest to apply for more than one card at the same time to minimize the hard pulls on your credit score.

If you don’t like annual fees…

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

If you don’t like paying anything for your credit cards then you can look at the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Amex EveryDay

The EDP breakdown:

  • No Annual Fee
  • Sign-up Bonus: 15,000  (targeted offer of 25,000 sometimes available)
  • Credit Card

Bonus Categories: 

  • 2x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases(then 1x)
  • 1x points on other purchases.
  • If you use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period you get 20% more points on those purchases.

The Amex EveryDay earns 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases and then 1x on all purchases after that. One of the best perks is that when you use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and get 20% more points on those purchases. This can definitely add up to make the ED card a decent option for earning MRs, although it doesn’t compare to the EDP or the PRG (seen below). Still, for no annual fee this is one of the better options out there.

Tip: This card is also a great option for those folks who aren’t sure if they want to pay a high annual fee on another card (PRG, Platinum, etc.) but want to make sure that they have an option for retaining their MR once they cancel their other card with the annual fee.

If you don’t mind paying a small annual fee

American Express® Green Card

Amex Green Card

The Green Card breakdown:

  • Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)
  • Sign-up Bonus: (25,000 MR offered on occasion)
  • Charge Card

Bonus Categories: 

  • No reward categories but you can earn 2X Membership Rewards® points on each dollar of eligible purchases made when you book on the American Express Travel website

Some people are tempted to go with the American Express Green Card, as it offers you a fee waived for the first year and then $95 each year after. This card is honestly one of the last choices I would go with if I wanted to earn MR while paying a marginal fee. The reason is that you don’t earn any bonus category points with this card, except for spending you do through the Amex travel portal, which doesn’t necessarily always have the best deals on travel.

Outside of that, it’s simply 1x earning on all purchases, which is pretty much worthless, considering what the Amex EveryDay and EveryDay Preferred cards can earn you more with a smaller annual fee. Thus, unless you are 1) adamant about needing a charge card; 2) adamant about not paying any more than $100 for an annual fee for said charge card; and 3) not interested in taking advantage of bonus categories and other travel benefits, then this card is probably not for you.

On the other hand, if you are looking for an opportunity to earn a quick 25K MR and you catch the promo (whenever it comes), then that’s not a bad way to build up your MR balance.

Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card

Amex EveryDay Preferred

Now, if you want to go with a card with a low annual fee then go with the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card (EDP). The EDP, in my humble opinion, is one of the most underrated credit cards out there, as many seem to overlook it for the PRG or other cards like the Sapphire Preferred or Citi Thank You Premier.

The EDP breakdown:

  • Annual Fee of $75 (not waived the first year)
  • Sign-up Bonus: 15,000 (targeted offer of 30,000 sometimes available)
  • Credit Card

Bonus Categories: 

  • 3x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x)
  • 2x points at US gas stations
  • 1x points on other purchases.
  • If you use your card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period you get 50% more points on those purchases.

That earning potential on the bonus categories is decent, although it’s limited for supermarkets to $6K per year. However, that additional 50% bonus at the end of each month can absolutely earn you a killing. In fact, over at the Points Guy, they ran an analysis of the earning potential of this card versus the PRG and Platinum and the EDP outperformed them in every scenario in terms of earning MR!

Now, Im pretty sure those calculations (from 2014) did not factor in the new bonus category of 2x on dining on the PRG and I don’t think they factored in the potential for 4x on airfare, so it’s quite possible that the PRG could outdo the EDP or at least make the comparison a lot closer. But still, the EDP is absolutely one of the best all-around daily spending credit cards out there right now and is likely the best for earning MRs for your average consumer.

Gold Card from American Express

Do not confuse this card with the much superior Premier Rewards Gold Card!!! They are completely different cards and to be honest, I think this card is just better to be avoided.

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The Gold Card breakdown:

  • Annual Fee of $160 (waived the first year)
  • Sign-up Bonus: (25,000 MR offered on occasion)
  • Charge Card

Bonus Categories: 

  • 2X points for flights booked directly with airlines.
  • 2X points at US restaurants.

This card can earn you a little on dining and airfare but why not just pay around $30 more a year to get more earning potential on flights, supermarkets, and gas with the PRG. Also, the PRG offers an annual airline credit of $100 offsetting its annual fee to $95 per year and making this card seem all the more useless.

Like the Green card above, this card can be a decent way to get an extra 25K MRs when you can catch the promotion.

If your primary goal is earning a lot of points and having some travel benefits…

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card is a great option for earning points with its bonus categories on supermarkets and gas and the exceptional 50% bonus. However, there’s another card from Amex that can earn you a lot of MRs but also grant you more in terms of travel benefits and protection.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express (PRG)

This card is definitely one of the best travel reward cards out there on the market right now, in my opinion.

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The PRG breakdown:

  • Annual Fee: $195 (waived the first year)
  • Sign-up Bonus:
    • 25,000: Standard public offer
    • 50,000: Targeted offer you often get (try Incognito mode)
    • 75,000: Highest offer (not sure how often offered)
  • Charge Card

Bonus Categories: 

Benefits

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual airline credit of $100

If you regularly purchase airline tickets, especially if you get reimbursed for air travel via your place of employment, this can be an exceptional point earner. Do you dine out all the time? Well, 2x on all meals can add up pretty quickly as well. Also, there’s no $6,000 annual cap on the supermarket spending so that 2x can add up over a year’s time.

Still, in the end, the EDP likely edges out the PRG in terms of straight earning potential based on most consumers’ spending habits (that 50% bonus is killer).

However, if you value no foreign transaction fees, and plan on spending a lot on airfare, supermarkets, gas stations, and on dining, then the PRG may be your best bet.

Another thing that can definitely set the PRG apart from the EveryDay® Preferred is the sign-up bonus. There’s often a targeted sign-up bonus for the PRG where you earn 50,000 MRs for only $1,000 worth of spending in three months! That’s a tremendous bonus, although sometimes there’s even a 75,000 MR bonus that comes around (not sure how often)!

The standard offer for the EDP is 15,000 and the best offer for the EDP is 30,000 (both $1K spending requirements), so you’re clearly going to get a lot more from PRG from sign-up bonuses.

If you travel often and/or value comfort and convenience…

Platinum Card® from American Express

Amex Platinum Card

This card is all about the benefits versus the earning potential on purchases (but see below on sign-up bonuses).

The Platinum breakdown

  • Annual Fee of $450 (NOT waived the first year)
  • Sign-up Bonus: 40,000 to 100,000
  • Charge Card

Bonus Categories

  • None – it’s all about the benefits (See below)

The annual fee is $450 on the Platinum but to many, including myself, it’s absolutely worth every cent.

Benefits

Here’s a breakdown of my favorite benefits of the Platinum, but in a nutshell this card confers a host of benefits to you making it worth it including:

  • Priority Pass airport lounge access (worth $400 per year)
  • Centurion Lounge Access
  • $200 annual airline credit (essentially reducing the annual fee to $250)
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check (a Godsend good for 5 years!)
  • Gold status with Hilton and Starwood
  • Free Boingo Wifi subscription (worth $120 per year)
  • Rental car benefits like express check-in,  free upgrades, and discounts.

There’s several other benefits as well but these are just my favorite.

What I think really makes the Amex Platinum worth it, in addition to the above benefits, is the targeted sign-up bonus of 100,000 MR! Some get this offer in the mail and a few months ago there was an Incognito method for obtaining the offer but it’s not clear when/if that will return. Still, 100,000 points is a lot and can land you some sweet tickets like a first class Singapore Suites experience or something similar.  The standard 40,000 offer is so-so but still worth it if you value the travel benefits in my opinion.