The Pros and Cons of Amex’s Auto Purchasing Program
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Paying for large purchases with a credit or charge card can be an excellent way to generate a substantial amount of points. When Richard Kerr charged an entire new car to the Platinum Card® from American Express, he earned almost 40,000 American Express Membership Rewards points, which are worth about $800 based on TPG’s current valuations. He did have to negotiate with five dealers before he found a dealership that would allow him to charge the entire amount to his card.
If you want to use an American Express card to purchase a car, Amex’s Auto Purchasing Program may be the way to go. All of the dealers affiliated with this program allow you to charge at least $2,000 on an Amex card, and some dealers will allow you to charge the entire purchase price. Here’s what you need to know about Amex’s Auto Purchasing Program.
What is the Amex Auto Purchasing Program?
The Amex Auto Purchasing Program is an Amex-specific version of the TrueCar digital automotive marketplace. TrueCar provides data on what other consumers have paid for specific vehicles and “upfront pricing information” from the 16,000 TrueCar Certified Dealers where you can search for new or used cars.
The Amex version of TrueCar lets Amex card holders connect with over 10,000 dealers that accept American Express. All participating dealers accept American Express cards for at least $2,000 and up to the full purchase price. Plus, you can use the site to request a Guaranteed Savings Certificate. Amex says these certificates saved cardholders an average of $3,272 off the MSRP in 2016.
Why to Use the Amex Auto Purchasing Program
There are three main reasons you might want to use the Amex Auto Purchasing Program when purchasing a car:
- Gather data on what others have paid for the car you want
- Obtain a Guaranteed Savings Certificate that could save you thousands off the MSRP
- Find dealers that will accept an Amex card for the purchase
Obviously, there are many different resources you can use to compare car prices and ensure you pay a fair price, but TrueCar claims that about one in three people use TrueCar at some point while purchasing a car. The Guaranteed Savings Certificate gives you a dealer-provided price on the car and options you selected as well as your guaranteed savings. If you don’t like haggling, this may be a good way to ensure you pay a reasonable price. Plus, if you’re looking for a dealer that will accept an Amex card for part or all of a car purchase, the Amex Auto Purchasing Program will help you find such a dealer.
How to Use the Amex Auto Purchasing Program
Once you know what type of car you want to buy, you can check your options through the Amex Auto Purchasing Program by visiting amexnetwork.truecar.com. Enter the make of the car you want to purchase, as well as the ZIP code for the area in which you want to make the purchase. Then, select the desired model type and continue to the next page to select the style, color and options.
Once you click “See Member Pricing on Local Inventory,” you’ll be taken through a series of pages where you’ll need to provide your name, email, phone number and address. The phone calls and emails will start about a minute after you enter this information, so I recommend not using your primary phone number and email — or setting up filtering options so you can shop and communicate on your own schedule.
On the next page, you’ll be given a few options. For my search in Tampa I was given three dealers — none of which would accept an Amex card for full payment. And, although I’d input the car style, color and options that I wanted on a previous page, the results shown to me at this point seemingly ignored these selections and instead simply showed me all the options for the model type.
There wasn’t an option to consider dealers that were farther away on the same search, so I had to start back at the beginning and simply enter another ZIP code. I searched Honda dealers in seven different ZIP codes across five different states and never saw a dealer that accepted any American Express card for up to the full purchase price. All of the dealers should accept at least $2,000 on an Amex card, but you’ll need to negotiate with each dealer regarding the exact amount they’ll allow you to charge.
When Not to Use the Amex Auto Purchasing Program
The two main benefits of going through the Amex Auto Purchasing Program are:
- Getting a Guaranteed Savings Certificate that should provide you with a fair price, especially if you aren’t good at negotiating
- Finding a dealer that will allow you to charge most or all of a purchase to your credit or charge card
After looking into the program though, I believe most customers can do better on their own.
Disappointingly, I was unable to find any dealers that were marked as willing to accept an Amex card for the full price, though this feature will reportedly be available again in the future. If you have the cash saved up to pay for your purchase, being able to put the full amount on your Amex card is likely the most appealing aspect of using the Amex Auto Purchasing Program. But, unless there happens to be a dealer marked as willing to accept an Amex card for up to the full purchase price in your area, it will likely be better to work with dealers directly. After all, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a dealer that is willing to accept a $2,000 to $5,000 down payment on a card. And, if you’re a good negotiator, you may be able to work a better deal.
What Card Should You Use?
So you’ve found a dealer — either through the Amex Auto Purchasing Program or directly with a dealership — that will let you charge part or all of your vehicle purchase to a credit or charge card. Now you need to decide which card to use. You should consider the following:
- Do you have any minimum spending requirements to reach? Do you want to sign up for a new card for this purchase?
- Are you planning on using a credit card or a charge card? Do you have any credit cards with high credit limits? Can you increase your credit limit on any cards?
- What is the earning rate you would get?
Here are some Amex cards you might consider for the purchase:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent; charge card; $550 annual fee (see rates & fees)
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent on purchases under $5,000 and 1.5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on purchases of $5,000 or more; charge card; $595 annual fee (see rates & fees)
- The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express: 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on the first $50,000 in purchases each calendar year (then 1x); 0% introductory APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening; then a variable rate of 13.24% to 19.24%; (see rates & fees); no annual fee (see rates & fees)
- Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express: 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent, but if you use your card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period you’ll earn 50% extra points on purchases in that billing period; 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months (then a variable APR of 12.99% to 22.99% applies); $95 annual fee
- Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express: 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent, but if you use your card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period you’ll earn 20% extra points on purchases in that billing period; 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then a variable APR of 12.99% to 23.99% applies); no annual fee
You should only charge as much to your card as you can pay off when your bill comes due. Some of these cards do have 0% introductory APR offers. If you use a 0% intro APR to finance your car purchase, be sure to pay off your balance completely before the end of the introductory period to avoid interest and fees.
I had high expectations that the Amex Auto Purchasing Program would simplify the process of finding a dealer that would accept a credit or charge card for most or all of a car purchase. But, the website interface is frustrating to use and I was unable to find a dealer marked as willing to accept an Amex card for the entire purchase. Finding such a dealer through the Amex Auto Purchasing Program would require further negotiation, which negates one of the main benefits of using the program.
If you want to use a credit or charge card to pay for some or all of an upcoming vehicle purchase, you may just need to do what Richard Kerr did: visit a dealership, negotiate a firm price offer and then say you plan to pay for the entire purchase using your credit or charge card. If the dealer won’t allow you to charge as much as you want, then move on to the next dealer. You’ll eventually find a dealer that’s willing to make the sale — although it may cost you some time and energy to do so. But, getting points on the purchase as well as a good deal will be worth it.
Featured photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy.
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