The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
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2020 Offers & Reviews: American Express® Credit Cards

Below are our ratings of several popular cards from American Express®. The issuer is well known for its unsurpassed customer service and generous rewards programs.

Average APR
19.24%
Average Annual Fee
$72.50
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No Change
since last month
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The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which CardRates.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers.

20 FAQs About American Express Credit Cards

Anna Baluch
By: Anna Baluch
Updated:
20 FAQs About American Express Credit Cards
CardRates.com Guide: American Express®

In addition to being one of the largest payment processing networks in the world, American Express is also one of the largest charge and credit card issuers, offering more than two dozen consumer and small business card options. 

If you’d like to put one of the best American Express credit cards in your wallet, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with how they work. Below, we’ll dive deep into some of the most frequently asked questions about American Express cards.

1. What is American Express?

American Express, also known as Amex, is a multibillion-dollar corporation headquartered in New York City. People from all walks of life use their credit cards to get rewarded for their spending. The company’s cards offer various perks that include cash back, travel points, 0% APR offers, priority boarding, airport lounge access, and more.

American Express dates back to 1850 when it was founded as a freight forwarding company in Buffalo, New York. It was originally created to ship large parcels and valuable items, and was considered to be more reliable than the U.S. Postal Service at the time.

The reputation of reliability and integrity American Express developed led to decades of near-monopoly status in the financial services industry. In 1882, the company decided to expand into the money order business and soon became the preferred alternative to U.S. Postal Service money orders.

In 1891, it further expanded into financial services by developing the traveler’s check system, formally named the American Express Travelers Cheque.

More than a century after its founding, the company introduced a charge card to provide customers with a convenient payment method. The interest in these cards was so strong that 250,000 were issued even before the official launch date in 1958.

The American Express Gold Card made its debut in 1966 and its Platinum Card came about in the 1990s. Over time, American Express has continued to evolve and bring new credit cards to the market, and is known for its top-tier rewards credit cards.

By the early 21st century, the company had a presence in more than 40 countries. Today, it is known as one of the largest global payments networks. In addition to personal and business credit card options, American Express offers travel-related products, including tour packages and travel planning services.

And, as one of the few financial services businesses to grow organically rather than through mergers and acquisitions, Amex is truly an American success story. Today, it is the fifth-largest issuer of credit cards in the U.S.

2. How Does an American Express Card Work?

If you use an American Express credit card, you can expect it to function like any other credit card. When you get approved for a card, you’ll be assigned a maximum credit limit.

You’ll be able to borrow as much or as little money as you’d like up to your credit limit. Factors such as your income, credit score, and debts will dictate your credit limit.

American Express will process every credit card transaction you make on its cards. This means they’ll ensure the money makes its way to the merchants and you get billed. When your bill comes, you can pay the minimum amount due or pay the entire balance in full. You can also pay any amount in between.

Ideally, however, you’d pay your entire balance no matter which Amex card you have so that you can save on interest costs. The less you pay on your bill, the more you’ll have to dish out on interest charges.

It’s important to always pay your bill on time because American Express will report your payment history to the credit bureaus. Missed or late payments can ding your credit score and leave you with hefty late fees.

If you apply for an American Express charge card, such as the renowned Platinum Card or Amex Gold Card, you will need to pay your bill in full by the due date every month. The benefit to a charge card is that it won’t come with a preset spending limit or interest charges. This type of card can help you avoid debt and still allow you to reap the benefits of credit card rewards, but only applicants with good to excellent credit scores will qualify.

3. What Are the Benefits of Having an American Express Card?

Generally speaking, you’ll enjoy the following perks as an American Express cardholder:

  • Mobile App: The Amex mobile app can allow you to make payments, monitor your account, redeem your rewards, and more. You’ll also be able to receive your monthly statements through the app and set alerts to inform you when they’re available.
  • Airport Lounge Access: If you travel often for work or pleasure, you’ll receive complimentary or discounted access to airport lounges around the world. While each lounge varies, most offer free food, drinks, WiFi, and comfortable chairs.
  • Concierge Service: You can use the concierge service to help you plan a trip, find a restaurant, or book a hotel room. Best of all, you won’t have to pay a dime.
  • Global Assist Hotline: The Global Assist Hotline can support you any time you’re missing luggage, need a medical or legal referral, have a question about your service, or are in search of translation services.
  • Amex Express Checkout: With Amex Express Checkout, you can pay for your purchases without entering your card number. All you have to do is log in with your Amex credentials at qualifying retailers.
  • Entertainment Access: You can receive access to a variety of virtual and in-person events related to music, sports, and theater, among other experiences.

The Amex credit card you select will determine the specific benefits you enjoy.

4. Which is the Best American Express Card?

There is no hard and fast answer to this question because the best American Express Card depends on your unique situation. While the Platinum Card may be right for your friend, you may be better off with the Blue Cash Preferred Card. Consider the following to find the ideal card for you:

  • Spending Habits: Some cards, like the Amex EveryDay®, reward you for everyday purchases while others like the American Express® Business Gold have a certain bonus category or several that offer more cash back or rewards points. The card you select should reward you most for what you frequently buy.
  • Rewards: Think about your lifestyle and what types of rewards card would be the most meaningful to you. Would you like to earn some extra cash at the end of every month? Or do you prefer points that can be used toward airfare or travel?
  • Annual Fee: Many American Express cards come with annual fees. That’s why it’s important to do the math and make sure a card’s benefits outweigh the fees. Choose a card because you like what it has to offer, not because it comes with the lowest annual fee or no fee at all.
  • Interest Charges: In a perfect world, you’d pay every credit card bill on time and in full. Since you may make partial payments or even miss payments from time to time. Looking at the interest charges that come with a card is essential. If you receive a sky-high interest rate, you may want to look for another card.
  • Current Goals: If you’d like to pay off high-interest credit card debt, a balance transfer card with a 0% intro offer may be a great option. If your goal is to pay for business expenses, however, a business credit card is likely a wiser choice.

Read each card’s terms and conditions to ensure the card is a perfect match for you before submitting an application.

5. Does American Express Offer Credit Cards for Bad Credit?

Most American Express credit cards require good or excellent credit for approval. However, this doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if your credit is less than stellar.

Blue from American Express®The closest credit card available from American Express for someone with bad credit is the Blue from American Express® card, which is a great Amex starter card. However, you likely need a score closer to the fair range, which is a score of between 580 and 669, to qualify for this card.

The Blue card provides Membership Reward points for every dollar you spend. You can earn as many points as you’d like.

American Express also offers a few prepaid cards that will allow you to make purchases everywhere Amex is accepted, but these aren’t technically credit cards, nor do they come with all of the benefits mentioned above.

You may want to focus on improving your credit score if your credit disqualifies you from the American Express credit card you desire. Pay your bills on time, keep your debt-to-income ratio low, and only apply for credit when you absolutely need to. In time, you’ll notice a boost in your credit score, and may be eligible for the American Express card of your choice.

6. Is an Amex Card Worth It?

In most cases, an Amex card is worth it because you can pay for online and in-person purchases conveniently, you won’t have to carry around cash, and you may earn rewards for your everyday spending.

The best American Express credit cards will reward you with generous cash back and a 0% intro APR or rewards points for airfare, hotels, and other travel purchases. In addition to rewards, an Amex card can treat you to a variety of other perks.

You may receive access to airport lounges via the Global Lounge Collection. Or you may earn a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. Other potential rewards include rental car loss and damage insurance and discounts on in-flight purchases.

While an Amex card is usually a great choice, you’ll want to forgo it if the annual fee outweighs the benefits it provides. Also, if you tend to overspend on credit cards and don’t feel confident you’ll be able to make timely payments, an American Express card may steer you into debt.

Essentially, an Amex card makes sense if you find its rewards and benefits to be valuable, consider yourself a responsible borrower, and believe the perks you’ll earn will cover the fee to own one.

7. Is American Express Prestigious?

American Express has been around since 1850 and today is a multi-billion dollar company with offerings in countless countries. So, yes, most people would consider Amex to be prestigious. It’s a credible, innovative credit card issuer with a long-standing history of success in the credit space.

Of course, some American Express credit cards are more prestigious than others. The Centurion or black card, for example, is only available to those who receive an invitation and meet large annual spending requirements. With the Centurion, you’ll enjoy elite status to prominent hotel brands like Hilton Honors Diamond and Marriott Bonvoy Gold.

You’ll also qualify for exclusive retail perks such as the Centurion Shopping Program, InCircle Rewards, and the NET-A-Porter Shopping Service. In addition, you’ll be invited to the exclusive Hertz Platinum status and Avis President’s Club.

We can’t forget the access to a 24/7 concierge service, which can take care of your travel planning and gift-giving tasks. If you’re a big spender and receive an invite for the Centurion, the luxurious benefits may make your life easier and more enjoyable. Just be sure to pay the large initiation and annual fee.

8. Is American Express Better than Mastercard or Visa?

Many people believe that American Express is a superior option to Mastercard and Visa. To understand why let’s look at the key differences between them.

Mastercard and Visa are payment networks and offer cards that are issued by banks like Wells Fargo and Citi. American Express, however, is a payment network and issuer. This means Amex provides a simpler transaction process and can therefore reduce its fees.

Logos for Four Major Credit Card Networks

The four payment networks are American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa.

If you choose American Express over Mastercard and Visa, you’ll notice that the company has developed strong relationships with a variety of airlines, hotel chains, car rental companies, and other businesses. It’s also earned countless positive reviews from critics and customers alike.

Some of the most noteworthy standout benefits of American Express cards are higher-end airport lounge access, Uber credits, reimbursements for Global Entry and TSA Precheck, and generous rewards for qualifying purchases. You’ll also notice that while American Express does tend to cater to the high-end borrower, it offers a wide range of credit card options to meet various needs.

While an American Express credit card may cost you an annual fee, you’ll likely find that its higher-than-average rewards, long list of perks, and stellar customer service make the fee well worth it.

9. Which FICO Score Does American Express Use?

You can expect American Express to pull your credit history when you apply for an Amex card. They’ll use your credit to determine what kind of borrower you are and whether they should approve you. The higher your credit score and the stronger your credit history, the more likely you’ll get approved.

It is reported that in most cases, American Express will look at your Experian credit report. While the company may also occasionally look at the two other major credit bureaus — Equifax and TransUnion — Experian is their preferred bureau.

If you’re wondering how your credit looks with Experian, visit AnnualCreditReport.com to receive a free copy of your report. If you notice any errors or inaccuracies, be sure to dispute them with Experian right away. Failure to do so can lead Amex to deny your credit application because of faulty information.

How to Check Your Credit Reports

Keep in mind that American Express typically only performs hard credit pulls for new applications.

This means that they may not ask Experian for a copy of your report if you already have an Amex card. As long as you pay your bills on time, keep your debt balances low, and have a debt-to-income ratio of 30% or below, your credit should be in good shape.

10. Which Amex Cards Offer Cash Back?

Cash back is the preferred credit card reward

for most borrowers. Think of it as a rebate for everyday purchases you make on the card. Fortunately, many Amex cards offer cash back.

With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card, you can earn a high cash back rate for spending at grocery stores and on U.S. streaming subscriptions. You’ll also be able to make great money for purchases on transit, including gas, taxi, and ride-share services, as well as parking and tolls.

Another popular cash back credit card is the Cash Magnet® Card, which is a smart choice if you’d like unlimited cash back on every purchase you make. If you spend a lot for work, you may want to consider the Blue Business Cash™ Card from American Express. It offers cash back on all eligible purchases up to a certain amount per calendar year. Once you reach this amount, you’ll still earn cash back at a lower rate.

No matter which cash back card you choose, you can redeem your rewards in a few different ways. You can apply the cash back to your statement balance, request a check, transfer the cash to your bank account, or use your cash as reward points.

11. Which Amex Cards Offer Points?

If you choose a card that offers credit card points, you’ll receive a certain number of rewards points for every dollar you spend. The types of purchases you make may play a role in the value of the points. Oftentimes, a travel credit card will offer more points or miles per dollar spent on travel-related purchases.

A few Amex cards operate on the Amex Membership Rewards® points system, including the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card. You’ll receive points on various eligible purchases and even more points every time you shop at a U.S. grocery store.

The Gold American Express Card also rewards you with extra rewards points for spending at grocery stores, restaurants, and flights booked directly on the American Express or an airline website.

You may want to consider the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card if you like to travel and have a preference for Delta Airlines. You’ll earn miles at restaurants and eligible purchases you make directly with Delta. You can redeem your points to cover the cost of flights and other Delta purchases.

Fortunately, there’s no annual fee and you can save money if you redeem your points via Pay with Miles on Delta.com.

12. What Amex Cards are Available for Business Owners?

If you own a business, you can get rewarded for your business expenses with an Amex card. American Express offers a few cards that are specifically designed for business spending.

The American Express® Business Gold Card is one option. It rewards you the most with points on the two categories where your business spends the most, every billing cycle.

These categories include technology purchases from select providers of hardware, software, and cloud solutions, gas stations, restaurants, and airfare. If you book flights for your business trips via American Express Travel with your rewards points, you’ll receive 25% of your points back.

The Business Platinum Card® will reward you generously with points every time you book flights and hotels through American Express Travel or make eligible purchases of $5,000 or more. In addition, The Business Platinum Card® offers statement credits each calendar year. You can use these credits toward baggage fees and other incidentals with the airline of your choice.

You’ll also receive access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection™ so you can relax on business trips at any of the thousands of airport lounges across the world. For a cash back business card, you can’t go wrong with the Blue Business Cash™ Card from American Express.

The Blue Business Cash™ Card from American Express rewards you with cash back on all eligible purchases. There is no annual fee and you may earn statement credits on certain purchases with participating merchants.

13. How do American Express Membership Rewards Points® Work?

American Express Membership Rewards Points® allow you to earn rewards when you make purchases with some of Amex’s most popular cards. The Platinum Card® and Gold American Express® Card are two examples. Your Membership Rewards Points® can be used toward a number of different rewards:

  • Cash or Gift Cards: While you can exchange your Membership Rewards Points® for cash or gift cards, the value of this type of redemption is fairly low. You may want to consider other redemption options before you go this route.
  • Check Out Online: If you shop online at major retailers, including Amazon or Best Buy, you can use your points at checkout with these retailers. You may pay with all or a portion of your points. Special promotions may sometimes make this option worthwhile.
  • Book Travel: You can use American Express Travel to book airfare, hotels, cruises, rental cars, or vacation packages with your points. Your membership reward points will hold the highest value if you use them toward airfare.

To get the most for your hard-earned American Express Membership Rewards Points®, it’s best to save them for travel-related expenses. If you aren’t traveling any time soon, you may want to keep collecting rewards points so you can eventually splurge on a nice, expensive trip.

14. Do All Amex Cards Offer a Welcome Bonus?

Most Amex cards offer a welcome bonus (or signup bonus), which means you can earn bonus rewards that include cash back, miles, or points when you use your card after you receive it. To earn the welcome bonus, you’ll have to reach a minimum spending requirement within the first few months of opening your account.

It’s important to note that American Express has a special rule when it comes to welcome bonuses. You can only claim one signup bonus per card per lifetime.

In other words, you can apply for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card and take advantage of the welcome bonus only once. You cannot close the account and sign back up for the same card in the future in hopes of receiving the welcome bonus again.

15. What is the Amex Global Lounge Collection?

At its core, the American Express Global Lounge Collection is a network of more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130 countries. While its flagship lounges include the Centurion Lounge and the International American Express, you may also receive access to one of its partner lounge networks.

A few examples of Amex cards that offer access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection include The Platinum Card®,  The Business Platinum Card®, and the Centurion® Card. At every lounge, you’ll enjoy complimentary food and drinks, free high-speed WiFi, phone charging stations, and comfortable seating. Depending on where you are, you may also benefit from additional features like showers and dedicated work areas.

Regardless of whether you’re a frequent or occasional traveler, the American Express Global Lounge Collection is sure to make your time at airports more comfortable and enjoyable. While visitor restrictions vary by lounge, almost all lounges allow one guest or immediate family member to enter for free.

You’ll need to present your boarding pass, a photo ID, and eligible credit card to gain entry to an airport lounge. These lounges are solely for American Express card members. You cannot purchase a day pass or membership to them.

16. Is it Hard to Get an Amex Platinum Card?

The Platinum Card® is one of the most desirable travel cards in the American Express lineup. While it does come with a high annual fee, its generous benefits and valuable American Express Membership Rewards Points® often make it well worth it. You will need excellent credit to get approved for The Platinum Card and take advantage of the membership reward program.

The Platinum Card®The average Platinum card member has a minimum credit score of 700. However, you may still get approved if your credit score is in the high 600s.

You’ll have the highest chances of approval if you have good or excellent credit, a low debt-to-income ratio, and only open new accounts when you absolutely need them. You should also be at least 21 years of age and be able to afford the high annual fee.

If you’re worried you won’t get approved for The Platinum Card®, you may want to apply for another Amex card first. This way you can establish a relationship with American Express and improve your credit through timely payments. The American Express® Gold Card is one option and known as one of the best American Express credit cards.

While the American Express® Gold Card doesn’t come with all the extra travel benefits, it can still give you the opportunity to cash in on Membership Rewards® points and statement credits for a much lower fee.

17. Which American Express Card is the Easiest to Get?

Fortunately, several of the best American Express credit cards are fairly easy to get. If you don’t have the best credit, Amex prepaid cards may be the way to go.

You can load cash onto these cards and use them to pay bills, buy groceries, withdraw cash, or shop online. The most popular prepaid card is known as American Express Serve®. It comes with free early direct deposit, free online bill pay, and free withdrawals at over 30,000 ATMs.

If you think you’ll reload cash often, the American Express Serve® Free Reloads may be a solid pick. You’ll receive all the benefits of the traditional Serve® card plus free cash reloads at over 45,000 locations.

The last prepaid option is called the American Express Serve® Cash Back. In addition to the benefits of Serve®, you’ll enjoy unlimited cash back when you spend online or in-person.

Keep in mind that if you opt for a prepaid Amex card, you may be on the hook for a monthly fee, unless you opt for the Bluebird by American Express®.

If you’re not interested in a prepaid option, consider the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card. You may get approved with good credit and it offers a welcome bonus plus rewards points on eligible purchases. There’s no annual fee and a 0% intro APR offer.

The Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card is another card that may approve you if you don’t have top-notch credit. It may be right for you if you like to fly on Delta Airlines and wish to earn miles that can be used toward travel instead of cash back rewards.

18. Will an American Express Card Improve My Credit Score?

An American Express card can improve your credit score. However, you’ll have to do the heavy lifting.

FICO Credit Score FactorsYour credit score won’t magically get higher if you simply get approved for and use an Amex card. You’ll need to make your credit card bill payments on time, every time. Unfortunately, even one late or missed payment can take a toll on your credit.

If you’re concerned that you won’t be able to make timely payments, you may want to enroll in autopay or set up calendar reminders on your phone.

While you can make the minimum payments, it is in your best interest to pay your balance in full every billing cycle. This way you’ll be able to avoid hefty interest charges and credit card debt.

An Amex card may also lower your credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of credit you’re currently using divided by the total amount of credit you have available. Ideally, your credit utilization ratio should be no more than 30%.

If you have poor credit or no credit, an Amex card can help you position yourself as a responsible borrower. You’ll be more likely to get approved for credit cards and loans with lower interest rates and more favorable terms with an improved credit score.

19. Can I Transfer My Membership Rewards Points to Other Loyalty Programs?

You may be able to transfer your Membership Rewards® points to other loyalty programs. This strategy can help you receive an upgrade or cash in on a reward flight or hotel room. If you decide to transfer your Amex points, it’s essential that you link your Membership Rewards® account to a participating frequent flyer or guest program account.

If you wish to transfer your rewards points to book a flight or hotel, be sure to check availability as well as how many points you need before you complete the transfer. Once you initiate the transfer, check your loyalty program to make sure every membership rewards point has transferred correctly. Then, you can redeem directly with the airline or hotel of your choice.

Keep in mind that all transfers are final. So once you transfer your Membership Rewards® points, there’s no going back. You won’t be able to transfer them back to your Membership Rewards® account.

Several examples of the loyalty programs you may transfer your Amex points to include Delta SkyMiles, the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and Choice Privileges.

20. Which Delta Amex Card is Best?

If you like to fly with Delta airlines, you may have your eye on Amex’s Delta co-branded cards. Delta SkyMiles® Blue is likely the ideal option.

You’ll earn bonus points or miles after you meet a certain spending threshold within your first three months of opening the card. Delta SkyMiles® Blue can also hook you up with miles for restaurant purchases (takeout and delivery) and purchases made directly with Delta.

Additionally, you’ll receive a 20% statement credit once you use your card on in-flight Delta purchases that include food, beverages, and headsets. If you book your flight via Pay with Miles, you’ll get a discount for every 5,000 miles you redeem. Best of all, there’s no annual fee.

You’ll find Delta SkyMiles® Blue to be quite flexible because it allows you to pay in full or carry a balance (with interest). This is great news if you use it to cover everyday purchases as well as occasional large expenses. You’ll be able to continue to earn rewards, regardless of how you pay your bill, as long as it’s paid on time and your account is in good standing.

Other noteworthy benefits of Delta SkyMiles® Blue are that your miles will never expire, there are no blackout dates, and you can earn as many miles as you wish. The card also allows you to redeem your miles for one-way flights and book at one of Delta’s airline partners, including AeroMexico, AirEuropa, and KLM, among others.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The information on this page was reviewed for accuracy on .

About the Author

Anna Baluch Anna Baluch

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which CardRates.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. See the credit card issuer's website for specific terms and conditions of each card.