Full Review of American Express Green Card
Respectable rewards on travel and restaurants
Relatively high annual fee
Limited travel benefits
- Respectable Rewards on Travel and Restaurants: You earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel and restaurants. That makes the Amex Green card's rewards in those categories comparable to those of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which earns 2 points per dollar spent—with each Chase point worth somewhat more than Amex ones, according to a number of valuations. Like Chase, Amex is fairly liberal in its definition of travel. In addition to the typical expenses such as airfare and hotel and car rental fees, it allows claims for public transit, parking, taxis, and ridesharing services.
- Relatively High Annual Fee: An annual fee is hardly unusual for a travel card, but this card's fee of $150 is higher than those of many other competing cards. Less-pricey cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which costs $95, and the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card, which has no annual fee.
- Limited Travel Benefits: The Amex Green card has fewer perks than most other cards with a substantial fee. You do receive an annual $100 credit to LoungeBuddy, which is typically enough to buy up to four visits to airport lounges throughout the world. Cardholders also get a $100 credit for CLEAR, a service that promises to help you get through airport security more quickly by using your eyes and fingerprints to confirm your identity. However, the credit won’t justify the entire $179 annual cost of the service. (Frequent-flier status with Delta or United, however, can reduce that cost by about $30 to $70.)
This Card is Best For
Seeks to maximize points or miles earnings across spending categories
Flies often for business or leisure
Dines out regularly while traveling or in home city
Travels outside of U.S. on occasion or frequently
The American Express Green is best suited to those who want a simple card with easy-to-earn rewards for a broad range of travel expenses, from airfare, hotels, and cruises through campgrounds and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft. You'd break even on the $150 annual fee if you spent $5,000 per year on a mix of travel and dining purchases and redeem points for travel through American Express.
Because it's a charge card—albeit one with an option to carry a balance over time—the American Express Green may also be a worthwhile choice for those who want the enforced discipline to pay off the card balance in full each month. And while this card's Pay-Over-Time program provides some flexibility to carry a balance (for 25 days), you'll be charged a typical—which is to say, hefty—APR in order to do so.
American Express Green Card Bonus Offer
New cardholders who spend $2,000 or more within the first 3 months of card membership will receive 35,000 membership rewards points. The reward comes in the form of a statement credit eight to 12 weeks after you reach the spending requirement.
The bonus offer is worth varying amounts depending on how you choose to redeem points. Redeeming it for travel through American Express will yield $300—a decent return on spending, if a little less than for the bonus offers of some cards with a similarly high spending requirement. Most other redemption options yield a lower return on every point.
Rewards Earning Details
This card offers unlimited 3 reward points for every $1 spent on travel and restaurant purchases. All other purchases earn 1 point per $1 spent.
American Express defines travel expenses generously, allowing cardholders to earn 3 points per $1 on airfare, hotels, cruises, car rentals, campgrounds, trains, taxicabs, rideshare services, tours, ferries, tolls, parking, buses, subways, on third party travel websites, and on amextravel.com.
However, the restaurant category is a little stricter. You'll only earn 1 point per dollar on purchases at a restaurant located within another establishment if the restaurant does not have its own merchant code.
Rewards points don't expire.
Rewards Redemption Details
The Membership Rewards program from American Express offers a variety of ways to redeem points. You can use points to book travel through American Express, buy gift cards, purchase items on Amazon.com, get a credit to your account, or shop through the Amex portal.
Points can also be redeemed by transferring them to a frequent flyer program in the OneWorld Alliance or StarAlliance networks, which is where you may get the best value. For example, each point is worth as much as 2.16 cents when transferred to OneWorld Alliance, according to our valuations. You'll pay a fee to transfer to some programs (0.06 cents per point, up to $99), but despite that fee, it may still be a worthwhile move.
That's because points may not be as valuable when redeemed in other ways. For example, points have a value of just 1 cent apiece when redeemed for travel through the American Express travel portal. Points are worth less than 1 cent when redeemed for Amazon purchases, statement credits, and hotels.
The American Express Membership rewards program allows you to transfer to frequent flyer programs within its travel partners and airline members of the OneWorld Alliance and StarAlliance.
Amex charges a fee, however, per point transferred (0.06 cents per point, up to a maximum of $99). Points otherwise transfer at a 1-to-1 ratio.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
To get the most out of this card, use it for all of your travel and dining expenses. Since American Express defines "travel" broadly, it's possible to earn 3 points per dollar on expenditures other than flights and hotels. You can also charge taxis, Uber or Lyft, parking, and public-transit expenses to this card.
If you frequently fly, take full advantage of the annual credit for LoungeBuddy, which should cover a few visits a year to airport lounges. The $100 credit to CLEAR might be valuable to you if you're prepared to pay more in addition to the credit to be able to skip ID checks at the airport.
It also boosts your return, of course, to ensure you spend the $2,000 required within the first three months of card membership to earn the 30,000-point one-time offer.
Finally, be strategic about how you redeem your points. Skip low-return options such as redeeming for cash or gift cards and use them to book travel through American Express or, for potentially greater value, transfer them to a partner frequent-flyer program.
Let's say you spend $300 a month at restaurants and $200 on travel (transit, airfare, and hotels). Those add up to annual spending of $3,600 at restaurants and $2,400 at restaurants. Those charges would yield 18,000 points with the card, without considering purchases outside of those categories that would earn 1 point per dollar. That’s a value of $180 when used to book travel through American Express, although you could earn up to double that much by transferring the points to a frequent flyer program in the OneWorld Alliance (although you’d have to pay about $11 in charges to make such a transfer).
If you value visiting airport lounges, the $100 LoungeBuddy credit plus the $100 CLEAR credit drives the total value to $200, provided you’re willing to pay up to $79 more to cover the annual cost of the biometrics ID program.
Since there's no charge for additional cards, families can maximize rewards earnings by adding each person in the family as an additional card member and then charging all travel and restaurant expenses to their personal cards. (The CLEAR and LoungeBuddy credits, though, are each capped at $100 per account.)
For example, let's say you're a family of four and spend a combined $4,000 per year at restaurants and $3,000 on transit (rideshare services, trains, buses, subways, and parking). If you also take one family vacation per year that costs $3,000, you'd earn 30,000 points annually with this card, without considering miscellaneous purchases that earn 1 point.
Overall, that's a value of $300, when redeemed for travel through American Express. You might increase that figure to as much as $500 or so by transferring points to an airline program via the OneWorld Alliance network. The LoungeBuddy and CLEAR credits, assuming they have appeal for you, increase the value by another $200.
American Express Green Card's Outstanding Benefits
- $100 annual Clear credit
- $100 annual LoungeBuddy credit
- Baggage insurance for lost luggage
- Global assistance hotline
- Purchase and return protection
- Rental car loss and damage insurance (secondary to your own policy)
- Access to exclusive events
- ShopRunner—free two-day shipping on eligible items
American Express earned a score of 838 in J.D. Power's 2019 customer satisfaction survey, just below top-rated Discover, which received a score of 842.
Cardholders can reach customer service 24/7 by phone at 800-528-4800. Alternatively, you can chat live with a representative. Questions and comments can also be tweeted to @AskAmex.
Credit cards from American Express come with industry standard security precautions, including fraud and online account protection. It will replace your card for free through the American Express Go portal if it's lost or stolen.
The American Express Green card offers a decent one-time offer and respectable ongoing rewards. And since it can be used as a charge card, it can also be a solid option for those interested in a card to help them to control spending or build good credit habits.
But those rewards, considering the $150 annual fee, make the Amex Green card a riskier proposition to justify compared to competing cards that offer as much or more for less. For a lower-cost card that offers some nice perks, consider the Capital One Venture rewards. It has a lower annual fee of $95 (waived the first year), pays 2 points per dollar on every purchase, and offers perks like a $100 application fee credit every five years to Global Entry or TSAPrecheck, which are more useful programs for most fliers than the CLEAR one.
Alternatively, if you're willing to pay more to potentially get more, consider the American Express Gold card. While it has a higher annual fee of $250, it offers superior annual credits compared with its Green sibling and earns 4 points per dollar spent in restaurants and on up to $25,000 in annual spending at U.S. supermarkets and 3 points per dollar spent on flights.