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Choosing the best credit card is a tricky proposition. There’s no shortage of alternatives out there, with many companies offering dozens of options from which you can choose. Today I want to focus on one such issuer to answer a simple question: How do you choose the best American Express card for your wallet?

How We Chose the Cards

Before getting into the specific cards, let’s start with the overall approach for this analysis. I started by selecting what I believe to be the best personal American Express credit cards on the market today. Then, I divided those cards up into three different categories:

  1. Those that earn transferable points
  2. Those that earn points or miles in a specific program
  3. Those that earn a fixed return

Then, within each category, I broke down the individual perks of each card using the following criteria:

  • Welcome bonus
  • Earning rate(s)
  • Benefits
  • Annual fee

Finally I tried to provide some context around each card and to whom it might appeal based on a variety of factors, including spending habits, travel patterns and desired rewards. As always, you likely have your own criteria for making these decisions, so feel free to use this analysis as a starting point to come to your own conclusions!

In This Post

The Best American Express Credit Cards of 2019

All of these cards should be eligible for bonuses and discounts through Amex Offers, though the exact merchants and offers you’ll get will vary across cards. However, note that you can only earn a welcome bonus on most of these cards once in your lifetime since American Express has tightened up its welcome bonus policies.

Transferable Points

Every traveler should have a card that earns transferable points to shield yourself from devaluations and give you flexibility when it comes time to redeem, and American Express’ transferable currency is Membership Rewards points. The program partners with 19 different airlines including British Airways, Delta and Singapore.

You also have the option to transfer your points to three hotel chains: Hilton, Marriott and Choice. You do have the ability to use your points to book flights or hotels directly through Amex Travel, but transferring them to a partner and then redeeming them typically results in the best redemption value.

There are a few popular credit and charge cards that allow you to earn Membership Rewards points.

The Platinum Card from American Express

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
The Platinum Card carries a ton of perks to make your travel more rewarding and less stressful. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Bonus: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months of opening your account. However, be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’ve been targeted for a higher bonus of up to 100,000 Membership Rewards points (offer subject to change at any time).

Earning rate(s): 5 points per dollar spent for flights and hotels booked through Amex Travel as well as flights booked directly through the airline; 1 point per dollar everywhere else.

Benefits: You’ll enjoy access to over 1,200 airport lounges through Priority Pass along with Delta Sky Clubs and American Express Centurion Lounges. You can also receive a $200 airline fee credit annually to cover incidentals like checked bag fees, change fees and inflight purchases, plus $200 in Uber credits each year. The card also waives foreign-transaction fees (see rates & fees) and provides Gold status with both Marriott and Hilton. You’ll also have access to secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty protection, return protection and purchase protection.

Annual fee: $550 (see rates & fees)

Analysis: For a long time, the Amex Platinum was the premium travel rewards card, though this segment is now quite competitive. Nevertheless, the card does offer a very solid value proposition that even a semi-frequent traveler should appreciate. The annual credits for incidental fees on airlines and for Uber trips effectively reduce the annual fee to $150, and the earning rates on tickets booked directly with an airline make it an attractive card for airfare purchases, especially given that TPG values Amex points at a solid 2 cents apiece. The lounge access on the card is quite widespread and you’ll also get status with two hotel programs: Hilton and Marriott. These perks are compelling by themselves, so if you’re then targeted for a 100,000-point bonus through the CardMatch tool, I’d say applying is a no-brainer.

Official Application Link: The Platinum Card from American Express (60,000-point bonus offer)

Further Reading:

American Express Gold Card

Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy
The Amex Gold Card earns 4x at restaurants and supermarkets. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Bonus: 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $2,000 in purchases in your first three months. However, 50,000-point offers may be available through the CardMatch Tool (offer subject to change anytime).

Earning rate(s): 4 points per dollar spent on dining worldwide and at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year at supermarkets; then 1x); 3 points per dollar on flights purchased directly with the airline or at amextravel.com; 1 point per dollar everywhere else.

Benefits: You get up to $120 in annual credits toward dining each year, divided into up to $10 credits each month at participating retailers including Grubhub and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, among others. The card also offers up to a $100 annual airline fee credit, and up to a $100 hotel credit for eligible Hotel Collection bookings. No foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees), secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty protection, return protection and purchase protection.

Annual fee: $250 (see rates & fees)

Analysis: The Amex Gold Card is a terrific option if you frequently eat out or order in, or shop at the supermarket (and pretty much everyone falls into one of these categories). The 4x earning rate on dining equals a stellar 8% return on your spending according to TPG valuations, and factoring in the $100 airline fee credit and up to $120 in annual dining credits, this card effectively costs just $30 per year.

Official Application Link: American Express Gold Card (35,000-point bonus offer)

Further Reading:

The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express

The two Amex EveryDay cards provide solid bonuses when you make a large number of purchases thanks to the bonuses they offer. (Photo by TPG Staff)

Bonus: 15,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first three months.

Earning rate(s): 3 points per dollar spent at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year); 2 points per dollar spent at US gas stations; 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else. If you make 30 or more purchases in a billing period, you’ll earn 50% more points on those purchases.

Benefits: Secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty protection, return protection and purchase protection.

Annual fee: $95

Analysis: This card can get you into the Membership Rewards program without breaking the bank with a high annual fee. It’s also great if you don’t travel that frequently, as you don’t get the significant perks of the Amex Platinum or Amex Gold but still have some solid category bonuses for everyday spending. If you do use it as your primary card, you should definitely make a point of hitting 30 transactions a month to earn the 50% bonus.

The Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express

The Amex EveryDay Credit Card provides access to the Membership Rewards program with no annual fee.

Bonus: 10,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first three months.

Earning rate(s): 2 points per dollar spent at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then 1 point dollar after that); 1 point per dollar everywhere else. If you make 20 or more purchases in a billing period, you’ll earn 20% more points on those purchases.

Benefits: Secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty protection, return protection and purchase protection.

Annual fee: $0

Analysis: If you’re looking for a card without an annual fee that still allows you to participate in the Membership Rewards program, this flavor of Amex EveryDay is a terrific option. I love that it still gives you a category bonus at supermarkets, since many fee-free cards offer a flat earning rate across all merchants. It may take a while to get to a valuable redemption, but it’s a good way to start!

The information for the Amex EveryDay Credit Card and the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Hotel/Airline Points

In addition to cards that earn Membership Rewards points, American Express issues several credit cards that are specific for a particular airline or hotel chain. The big advantage with these cards is that they often carry benefits with the cobranded airline or hotel partner, which is great. However, you’re locked into earning points or miles in that specific program, leaving you at the mercy of the airline or hotel chain when it comes to devaluations that can wipe significant value from your accounts.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)
The Hilton Aspire’s benefits can be worth far more than the annual fee for even infrequent Hilton guests. (Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Bonus: 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership.

Earning rate(s): 14 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties; 7 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airline airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and US restaurants; 3 points per dollar spent everywhere else.

Benefits: The card carries a host of valuable perks, including an annual $250 airline fee credit (which works the same as the Amex Platinum’s credit) and an annual credit of up to $250 valid at select Hilton resorts. The card also grants you automatic Diamond status and includes a weekend night certificate upon account approval and each year when you renew the card. You can also earn another weekend night certificate by spending $60,000 on the card in a calendar year. Finally, you’ll enjoy complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, allowing you and up to two guests to visit over 1,200 lounges around the world when traveling. This card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees), and offers secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty protection, return protection and purchase protection.

Annual fee: $450 (see rates & fees)

Analysis: This card is the only cobranded hotel credit card that grants you automatic top-tier status with a hotel loyalty program. If you can max out the airline fee credit, your effective annual fee drops to $200, and the value of the weekend night certificate should (by itself) nearly cover the rest. They you have the terrific earning rates at Hilton properties, a return of 8.4% based on TPG’s most recent valuations plus Priority Pass membership and the annual resort credit. Even if you’re only a semi-regular guest at Hilton’s various brands, it’s fairly easy to get outsized value from the card.

Official Application Link: Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express (150,000-point bonus offer)

Further Reading:

Hilton Surpass Card from American Express

Hilton DoubleTree in Fiji (Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)
The Hilton Gold status that comes with the Hilton Surpass can snag you upgrades and breakfast. (Photo of the DoubleTree Resort Fiji by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)

Bonus: 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points and a free weekend night reward after you spend $4,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 4 months of card membership. (Offer ends 8/28/19. Terms apply.)

Earning rate(s): 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties; 6 points per dollar spent at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations; 3 points per dollar spent everywhere else

Benefits: You’ll enjoy complimentary Gold status with the card and the ability to upgrade to Diamond status by spending $40,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year. Along with the free weekend night from the welcome bonus, the card also awards an additional weekend night certificate when you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year, and grants you Priority Pass Select membership (though you’ll only get 10 complimentary visits; each additional one is $32). This card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees), and offers secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty protection, return protection and purchase protection.

Annual fee: $95 (see rates and fees)

Analysis: The Surpass card is a great option for those who visit Hilton properties a few (or several) times a year. For an infrequent traveler, the 10 free visits to Priority Pass lounges may be sufficient, and you’re still getting a very solid return of 7.2% on your Hilton stays plus 3.6% back on your dining, grocery and gas purchases in the US. With the increased bonus — that includes a free night reward — you may want to sign-up for the Surpass even if your travel habits could justify the higher annual fee Hilton Amex Aspire.

Official Application Link: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card (130,000-point and a free weekend night reward bonus offer)

Further Reading:

Hilton Honors American Express Card

Photo by Eric Helgas
The Hilton Amex is great for Hilton guests that don’t want to pay an annual fee. (Photo by Eric Helgas / The Points Guy)

Bonus: 90,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of card membership. (Offer ends 8/28/19.)

Earning rate(s): 7 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties; 5 points per dollar spent at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations; 3 points per dollar spent everywhere else

Benefits: You’ll enjoy complimentary Silver status with the card and the ability to upgrade to Gold status by spending $20,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year. This card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees), and offers secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty protection, return protection and purchase protection.

Annual fee: $0 (see rates & fees)

Analysis: Earning a 4.2% return on Hilton stays and 3% return at restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations is impressive for a no annual fee card. Plus, Silver status is enough to get you a fifth night free on award stays, meaning you can spend as little as 20,000 points total for a five night stay. The Hilton Surpass or Hilton Aspire will provide better value for most travelers — but if you’re strictly against paying an annual fee, the Hilton Amex is a solid card.

Official Application Link: Hilton Honors American Express Card (90,000-point bonus offer)

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

(Photo by Eden Batki / The Points Guy)
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card can provide solid value for Marriott guests. (Photo by Eden Batki / The Points Guy)

Bonus: 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

Earning rate(s): 6 points per dollar at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels; 3 points per dollar at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines; 2 points per dollar on everything else.

Benefits: This premium card offers up to a $300 Marriott Bonvoy statement credit each year of card membership, and this applies to room rates as well as on-property purchases like meals and spa treatments. Card holders also get a free night award each year after their card member anniversary, for properties that cost up to 50,000 points per night, plus complimentary Marriott Gold status (and the opportunity to earn Marriott Platinum status after spending $75,000 on the card in a calendar year) and a Priority Pass Select membership. This card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees), and offers secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty protection, return protection and purchase protection.

Annual Fee: $450 (see rates & fees)

Analysis: You don’t need to be a hard-core Marriott loyalist to get some great value from this card. Between the $300 statement credit that can be used toward hotel stays, the annual 50,000-point free night award and complimentary Gold elite status, it can be relatively easy to justify this card’s premium annual fee.

Official Application Link: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card (75,000-point bonus offer)

Further Reading:

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Bonus: Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.

Earning rate(s): 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases; 1 mile per dollar spent everywhere else.

Benefits: Along with the same first checked bag free and priority (Zone 1) boarding on Delta flights as the Gold Delta card below, this card doesn’t change foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees), and provides both an annual coach companion certificate each year you renew the card and the ability to earn Delta elite Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) with high levels of spend on the card.

Annual fee: $195 (see rates & fees)

Analysis: If you fly once a year with a companion or you’re chasing elite status on Delta, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Amex is a solid choice. The annual companion pass can easily save you at least the amount of the annual fee since it’s good on many round-trip Delta coach fares, and the Miles Boost feature allows you to earn 10,000 MQMs with $25,000 of annual spend, and another 10,000 MQMs with a total of $50,000 in annual spend.

Further Reading:

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

(Photo by Eric Helgas / The Points Guy)
The Delta Gold Amex provides priority boarding in addition to a number of other perks when flying on Delta. (Photo by Eric Helgas / The Points Guy)

Bonus: Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.

Earning rate(s): 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases; 1 mile per dollar spent everywhere else.

Benefits: Enjoy your first checked bag free and priority (Zone 1) boarding on all Delta flights — both benefits are also applicable for up to eight other passengers travelling with you in the same reservation. This card doesn’t change foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees), and offers secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty protection, return protection and purchase protection.

Annual fee: $95 (waived for the first year) (see rates & fees)

Analysis: This card is a terrific option if you occasionally fly Delta. The free checked bag benefit will save you up to $60 on a round-trip flight, and priority boarding can help ensure that you snag space in the overhead bin. Even though Delta has significantly devalued its program over the last few years, there are still some solid redemptions using SkyMiles.

Further Reading:

Fixed Value

The third (and final) category is fixed-value cards. These products offer either cash back or a currency that can only be redeemed for a set amount. Even though they don’t offer opportunities to maximize your rewards, they do offer a consistent return and simple earning and redemption structures. Here’s an overview of some American Express cards that fit into this category.

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Preferred is a solid cash-back card for groceries and streaming services. (Photo by TPG Staff)

Bonus: Earn $250 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months. You will receive the $250 back in the form of a statement credit.

Earning rate(s): 6% cash back at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then 1% thereafter); 6% cash back on select US streaming services; 3% cash back at US gas stations; 3% cash back on transit; 1% back everywhere else.

Benefits: Secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty protection, return protection and purchase protection.

Annual fee: $95 (see rates & fees)

Analysis: This card may be a good option for those of you who are looking to just put cash back into your wallet. A 6% bonus category is among the highest you’ll find with cash-back cards, though I wish the bonus extended to merchants other than US supermarkets and select US streaming services. Nevertheless, if you’re a big grocery shopper, getting a 6% return is solid.

Official Application Link: Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express ($250 cash back bonus offer)

Of course, there’s another (less expensive) cash-back option as well…

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

(Photo by d3sign / Getty Images)
The Blue Cash Everyday earns 3% cash back on up to $6,000 in spending each year at US supermarkets. (Photo by d3sign / Getty Images)

Bonus: Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months. You will receive the $150 back in the form of a statement credit.

Earning rate(s): 3% cash back at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then 1% thereafter); 2% cash back at US gas stations and select US department stores; 1% back everywhere else.

Benefits: Secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty protection, return protection and purchase protection.

Annual fee: None

Analysis: This card carries no annual fee but offers a lower bonus ($150) and lower bonus categories (3% and 2% instead of 6% and 3%) than the Blue Cash Preferred. If you’re debating between the Blue Cash Everyday and the Blue Cash Preferred, ignoring the welcome bonus you’d need to spend $3,166.67 each year at US supermarkets or $9,500 at US gas stations/department stores to justify the Preferred’s annual fee.

The information for the Blue Cash Everyday card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Comparison of the Top Amex Cards

Card Bonus Annual Fee
The Platinum Card from American Express 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in first three months. Terms apply. $550
American Express Gold Card 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 in first three months. Terms apply. $250
The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express 15,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $1,000 in first three months. Terms apply. $95
The Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express 10,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $1,000 in first three months. Terms apply. $0
Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express 150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 in first three months. Terms apply. $450
Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express 130,000 Hilton Honors points and a free weekend night reward after you spend $4,000 in first four months. Terms apply. $95
Hilton Honors American Express Card 90,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months. Terms apply. None
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms apply. $450
Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Terms apply. $195
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.  Terms apply. $95 (waived first year)
Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card from American Express $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in first three months. Terms apply. $95
Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in first three months. Terms apply. None

As you can see, American Express has a plethora of available credit cards that offer numerous benefits along with varied earning and redemption options. My personal recommendation is The Platinum Card from American Express thanks to the lucrative welcome bonus and incredible collection of perks — but the limited time offers on the Hilton Surpass and Gold Delta SkyMiles cards are also very appealing.

If you aren’t sure what card is best, you should start the decision-making process by figuring out what type of rewards you want to earn and benefits you want to enjoy. Then, you can consider each individual product to see which one carries the perks and points that’ll work best with your individual situation. Hopefully this post has given you some food for thought to help your choice!

Featured image by TPG Staff.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Gold Delta SkyMiles card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred card, please click here.

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The Platinum Card® from American Express

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply.

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the 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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.