Who should — and who shouldn’t — get the Amex Green card?

Oct 4, 2020

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest information. 

Last year, Amex refreshed its longstanding American Express® Green Card with added perks — and an increased annual fee.

Currently, the Amex Green is offering new applicants a welcome bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points (worth $600, based on TPG’s valuations) after spending $2,000 in the first three months. However, you may be able to do even better with targeted referral offers.

The card’s annual fee (see rates and fees) has been raised to $150, but the card also got some bonus categories and perks.

It now earns 3x points worldwide on travel, restaurants and transit, including flights, hotels, campsites, tours, car rentals, rideshares, buses, subways, third-party travel websites and amextravel.com. It earns 1x on all other purchases. You can go a long way toward offsetting the annual fee by taking advantage of annual statement credits of up to $200: up to $100 to purchase a Clear membership and up to $100 for LoungeBuddy access.

The information for the Amex Green 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.

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Who should get the Amex Green?

With these new changes in mind, who should consider adding an Amex Green to their wallet?

People who use Clear

While travel is a lot slower now, airport security lines will return, especially during peak travel season. Expedited security options can get you through the lines and into the lounges (ones that are reopened anyway) a bit faster. For most of us, that takes the form of TSA PreCheck, though even those lines have started to grow at some airports before the pandemic.

(Courtesy of Delta Air Lines)
(Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines.)

Clear speeds you through the identification check at the beginning of security and ushers you straight to the baggage check.

It operates currently in about 30 U.S. airports. Passengers use biometric data (facial recognition and fingerprints) to clear themselves through security, without having to wait in line for a human to do it. The normal rate for Clear membership is $179 a year, though Amex Green cardholders will only have to pay $79 out of pocket, thanks to the $100 annual statement credit.

Dozens of credit cards now offer fee reimbursements for TSA PreCheck/Global Entry and Priority Pass memberships, but the Amex Green Card’s Clear statement credit is a nice supplement for people who already have TSA PreCheck through a different card.

Related: Best credit cards for TSA PreCheck 

People without a Priority Pass membership

LoungeBuddy is great for people who don’t have Priority Pass membership and still want occasional access to lounges. It’s also a complementary perk for people who have a membership but are traveling through airports without Priority Pass lounges.

The price of a single pass varies from lounge to lounge, but you should be able to squeeze two visits out of your $100 annual statement credit. LoungeBuddy also sometimes partners with airline lounges that aren’t available to Priority Pass members, like the Lufthansa business-class lounge at Washington Dulles (when it reopens again).

People who want flexible bonus categories

One of the biggest criticisms of The Platinum Card® from American Express, besides its high annual fee, is the fact that its big flashy 5x bonus category is fairly restricted. You’ll only earn the 5x bonus points on flights booked directly with an airline or via Amex Travel (up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year as of Jan. 1, 2021) and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel.

This is a direct contrast to cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offer broadly defined bonus categories that don’t make you second-guess yourself every time you swipe your card.

Rental Cars in a lot
(Photo by alexfan32/Shutterstock)

The Amex Green deviated from Amex’s normally restrictive bonus categories to offer an incredibly generous 3x worldwide on travel, restaurants and transit. With no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees) either, this is now one of the most rewarding cards for frequent travelers to use to book their trips and on the road.

People who’ve already earned many other Amex welcome bonuses

Normally a 30,000-point welcome bonus wouldn’t be that exciting, but if you’ve been in the points-and-miles world for a while, you might need it.

Since Amex only lets you earn the bonus on each of its credit cards once per lifetime, at some point you’ll run out of Amex cards you can apply for. If you’ve bought into the Membership Rewards ecosystem and its excellent collection of airline transfer partners, you’ll need to find a way to keep your balance up for future redemptions.

Short of heavy spending in big bonus categories, opening a new card for the welcome bonus is one of the fastest ways to do that. A 30,000-point bonus isn’t enough to get us jumping out of our seat, but plenty of people will happily take what they can get.

Who shouldn’t get the Amex Green?

There are a number of people who can’t get or shouldn’t bother with the Amex Green card.

People who’ve previously had an Amex Green Card

Amex states unequivocally in bold letters at the top of the terms and conditions page for the Green Card that …

“Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card or previous versions of the American Express® Green Card. We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.”

If you currently have or have ever had an Amex Green card, don’t waste your time applying. You won’t be eligible for the bonus. You’ll also need to keep an eye out as you progress through the application for a pop-up warning that you are not eligible for this product. It’s unclear what triggers these ineligibility messages, but Amex has been on the warpath against gaming and abuse among its customers.

Image courtesy of American Express.

People under 5/24

One of the biggest reasons not to get the Green Card has nothing to do with Amex, and everything to do with its biggest competitor in the credit card rewards world: Chase. If you’re unfamiliar with the 5/24 rule, check out this guide (you’ll thank us later).

Related: The ultimate guide to Chase’s 5/24 rule

If you are familiar with the 5/24 rule and you still have slots left with Chase, there’s no good reason to apply for the Amex Green Card. I know five credit cards in two years can seem like a lot when you’re just starting out, but trust me, those spaces fill up faster than you’d imagine and once you’re over 5/24 there’s a massive opportunity cost to get back under.

People who want a premium credit card

The Amex Green straddles the line between entry-level and premium with its low annual fee and some perks.

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

However, many travelers have found that they can come out ahead with premium cards, even if they pay hundreds of dollars a year in annual fees.

If you travel more than once or twice a year, you might want a card with a full Priority Pass membership instead of a limited LoungeBuddy credit, or maybe a card to help you earn elite status with your preferred airline or hotel. The Amex Green is a great option for the relatively low cost, but if you’re looking to upgrade your travel experience, there are better choices out there.

Related: Comparing the Amex Green and American Express® Gold Card

People who don’t use Clear and LoungeBuddy

Between Clear’s limited footprint and the fact that the LoungeBuddy credit is only good for a couple of passes each year, many people might struggle to maximize two of these card’s key benefits. Even with the Clear credit, you’re still paying $79 out of pocket each year, so if you haven’t bothered with Clear membership before, you’re still spending more to get it now.

If you can’t use either credit, your out-of-pocket cost on the Amex Green will be the full $150 annual fee. For that money, I’d rather have the Chase Sapphire Reserve which also costs $150 a year (after subtracting the $300 annual travel credit) and comes with better perks, like a full Priority Pass membership.

Related: Full review of the Amex Green 

Bottom line

The Amex Green is an interesting product, with a medium-sized bonus and some niche perks. There are certainly people out there who will benefit from this card, but it won’t be the right choice for everyone.

For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, click here.

Additional reporting by Chris Dong. 

Featured photo by The Points Guy 

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.

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