11 reasons you might want the Amex Green card over the Amex Gold card

Apr 4, 2020

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Editor’s note: The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips. Health officials note that the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel. We are publishing travel and credit card deals and content because we should all use this time to think about and plan what’s next. TPG doesn’t advise booking travel until the late spring or early summer — and even then, be mindful of cancellation policies.

Facing increased competition from Chase, Capital One’s expanding rewards program and the sheer number of travel rewards credit cards on the market, American Express has overhauled its own rewards cards dramatically in recent years.

Among the products getting significant revamps were the American Express® Gold Card and the American Express® Green Card. Both have new benefits, earning rates and, unfortunately, higher annual fees.

We did a direct comparison of the two cards recently. Today we’re going to look at ways in which the Amex Green Card pulls ahead of the Amex Gold Card, and who might prefer to go Green.

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.

Here’s a brief snapshot of the cards and their respective benefits.

American Express® Gold Card American Express® Green Card
Annual fee $250 (see rates & fees) $150 (see rates & fees)
Welcome offer 35,000 Membership Rewards points after $4,000 in three months 30,000 Membership Rewards points after $2,000 in three months
Earning 4x at U.S. supermarkets up to $25,000 per year

4x at restaurants

1x on all other purchases

Terms apply

3x on travel and transit

3x at restaurants

1x on all other purchases

Terms apply

Travel benefits $100 annual airline fee credit

Car rental loss and damage

The Hotel Collection

Lost baggage and trip delay coverage

$100 annual Clear credit

Car rental loss and damage

$100 annual LoungeBuddy credit

Lost baggage and trip delay coverage

Other benefits $120 annual dining credits at select restaurants and delivery services ($10 per month)

ShopRunner free two-day shipping on eligible items

Secondary car rental coverage

ShopRunner free two-day shipping on eligible items

Secondary car rental coverage

Now, let’s extrapolate some of the reasons why the Amex Green Card might be a better option for some travelers.

In This Post

Half the spending requirement for a similar welcome offer

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

In order to receive the Amex Gold Card’s welcome offer of 35,000 Amex Membership Rewards points, you’ve got to spend $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months of account opening.

To earn the Amex Green Card’s 30,000-point welcome offer, you only have to spend $2,000 within the first three months of membership. The difference in 5,000 Membership Rewards points is around $100, according to TPG’s most recent valuations. So you only get $100 more in value by spending $2,000 more in that short time frame. It equates to a decent 5% return on spending, but if you’re not laying out this amount of money normally on purchases, hitting the Amex Green card’s lower requirement should be easier.

One wild card in this comparison is that the Amex Gold has been known to offer sign-up bonuses as high as 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending the same $4,000 in the first three months. With a difference of 20,000 points on the line, this would shift the math in favor of the Amex Gold over the Amex Green.

The annual fee is $100 less

One of the main questions anyone should ask themselves year after year is whether or not it is worth paying the annual fee to keep a credit card account open.

To that point, the Amex Gold Card charges $250 per year (see rates and fees), while the Amex Green Card is a relative bargain at just $150 (see rates and fees). That’s higher than many other great mid-range products, but still easier to swallow than the hundreds of dollars per year some premium cards levy.

It earns transferable Membership Rewards points too

Like the Amex Gold Card – and other products such as The Platinum Card® from American Express – the Amex Green Card earns full Membership Rewards points that you can maximize by transferring to the program’s 22 airline and hotel partners. You don’t give up any flexibility by choosing this card over the Amex Gold Card.

The bonus earning categories are easier to maximize

(Photo by Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images)

Which rewards credit card is best for you often comes down to which card’s bonus earning categories you can maximize most easily with your typical spending activity. After all, it’s no good getting a credit card with bonuses on gas purchases if you don’t have a car that you drive regularly.

With this particular pair of cards, the choice will depend on whether you spend more on travel or on dining and groceries. Given how much more travel can cost and the broad array of purchases that count, the Amex Green Card’s bonus in the travel category might far outstrip the Amex Gold Card’s dining bonus, not to mention that the Amex Green Card earns just 1x point per dollar less on dining than the Amex Gold Card version.

The Amex Green Card earns 3x points per dollar at restaurants worldwide as well as on travel, including:

  • Airfare
  • Hotels
  • Cruises
  • Car rentals
  • Campgrounds
  • Trains
  • Taxis
  • Ride-hailing services
  • Tours
  • Ferries
  • Tolls
  • Parking
  • Buses
  • Subways
  • Third-party travel websites (i.e. online travel agencies)
  • Travel booked through amextravel.com

That’s a pretty broad range of possibilities. By contrast, the Amex Gold Card earns 3x points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. So while it’s a tie for points-earning on most flights, if you tend to spend a lot on hotels and transit or ride-hailing services, then the Amex Green Card’s bonuses will definitely work in your favor.

That said, the Amex Gold Card earns 1x point more per dollar on dining worldwide and has a supermarket category bonus of 4x points per dollar with a cap of $25,000 per calendar year. So if you tend to spend a lot more on groceries than travel, the Amex Gold Card might be your top choice.

Easier-to-use annual credits

(Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)
The Amex Gold Card’s $100 airline incidental-fee credit can cover the cost of checking your luggage. (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

Both cards offer annual credits that reset each year. The Amex Gold Card comes with dining credits of up to $120 per year that are parsed out as $10 in monthly statement credits. You can’t spend it all at once, or use it some months and not others. If you don’t hit $10 within a particular month, you don’t get the credit for that month. It also only applies to purchases with Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed and at participating Shake Shack locations.

Its second annual benefit is up to $100 in airline incidental-fee credits per calendar year toward purchases with an airline you designate. This credit can be applied to checked bag charges, inflight purchases and lounge passes, among other things. All together, these two benefits are worth up to $220 per year, but can be complicated for some folks to maximize, given the timing and restrictions on both.

The Amex Green Card’s two annual credits, on the other hand, are straightforward and much more flexible. They include up to $100 per year toward a Clear membership and another $100 to put toward lounge visits through Loungebuddy, which you can use no matter what airline you’re flying, unlike the Amex Gold Card’s credit for fees. We’ll talk more about this perk below.

You can get Clear almost for free each year

CLEAR machines (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

The Amex Green Card is one of the only credit cards that offers an annual $100 credit toward a Clear membership. Many rewards credit cards offer a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application-fee reimbursement perk worth up to $100 every four years. However, participating in Clear can help many travelers speed up the airport security process even more, and this credit is worth up to $100 per year, not just every four years.

What’s more, some Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus cardholders get Clear at a discount of $109-$119 per year (depending on your elite status with each airline), which you can stack with the Amex Green Card’s benefit, so you’re only out of pocket a few bucks. (Delta Diamond Medallions and United Premier 1K members get Clear for free.)

More flexible lounge access

Use your Amex Green Card Loungebuddy credit at the Escape Lounges at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. (Photo courtesy of Escape Lounges)

Unlike the Amex Gold Card, whose $100 airline incidental fee credit can only be used on a single airline per year, the Amex Green Card offers more flexibility if you want to use your credits for nonaffiliated lounge passes by offering up to $100 in Loungebuddy credits.

Many other travel credit cards that include lounge access primarily offer Priority Pass Select membership, but with Loungebuddy you can purchase one-time lounge passes wherever you’re traveling and most clubs start at $27 per visit (though they can be double that). You can get in for free up to four times per year.

You might get a bonus for upgrading later

This past summer, some Amex Green Card members were sent targeted offers of 35,000 bonus Amex Membership Rewards points for upgrading to the Amex Gold Card and spending $2,000 in the first three months of card membership. That’s basically like earning the Amex Gold Card’s typical public welcome offer for half the usual spending, and means you could potentially score bonus Amex points for both the Amex Green Card and the Amex Gold Card down the line.

You get the same travel protections

Passengers will soon be entitled to additional compensation for lost or damaged luggage. (Photo by Federico Gambarini/picture alliance via Getty Images)
(Photo by Federico Gambarini/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Amex began offering certain travel protections on some of its cards in January 2020 and the ones included in the benefits packages for these cards are identical.

Both offer secondary car rental loss and damage insurance. They will cover lost bags up to $1,250 for carry-on and $500 for checked luggage, plus trip-delay insurance starting at 12 hours and worth up to $300 per trip and two claims per 12-month period for round-trip travel purchased with your card.

Just note that their purchase protection does vary. The Amex Gold Card offers up to $10,000 per claim up to $50,000 per account as far as 90 days from the purchase date. The Amex Green Card only covers up to $1,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.

The other benefits are mostly the same

With either card, you receive benefits like Amex Offers discounts, free Shoprunner membership, and access to exclusive entertainment ticket presales and cardmember-only events. So you don’t have to have the more premium Amex Gold Card to take advantage of these value-added experiences.

It’s a little eco-friendlier 

Photo by American Express.
(Photo by American Express.)

Last September, American Express announced that it was partnering with Parley for the Oceans to begin producing its personal and corporate Green Cards primarily from plastic reclaimed from beaches, islands and coastal communities, as well as launching a credit-card recycling program. It’s an incremental step as an environmental commitment, but one you can think about every time you use your card.

Bottom line

It can be hard to get past the Amex Gold Card’s higher welcome offer, but if you do, the Amex Green Card has several strong selling points. Not only does it have a lower annual fee, but it also has some easily leveraged bonus earning categories and other standout benefits like credits toward Clear and lounge passes. The card is a particularly strong choice for young professionals who spend a decent amount of time and money on travel and dining, but who do not want to pay a high annual fee year after year.

For more information, read our Amex Green Card Review and our Amex Gold Card Review.

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, please click
here.

Featured photo by The Points Guy

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