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Review of the American Express® Green Card: Is it worth the $95 annual fee?

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Reviews

Sep 04, 2017 | Updated Nov 05, 2017

Although Smashed media does receive compensation from some card issuers as advertisers, this does not in any way influence our overall judgement of a card. American Express has not endorsed this content in any way.

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This is a review of one of the better low-tier travel cards, the American Express Green Card.

This is a charge card, not a credit card — this means that you’ll need to pay your balance in full every month, so there’s no interest to worry about.

Many travel cards have high annual fees and interest rates, meaning you need to make good use of them or they’ll just cost you money. This one has an annual fee, but it’s waived for the first year and is on the low side for travel cards.

If you can spend $5,000 on travel every year through the Amex Travel website, the value of the points you earn will offset that fee (with a little extra), and you should get even more value from the other perks and benefits.

American Express® Green Card
  • Editors’ Rating
Apply Now

American Express® Green Card

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first year then $95
  • Interest Rate: Not Applicable - Paid in Full Monthly
Quick Card Facts
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent by booking with your card through American Express Travel.
  • Earn 1 point every $1 you spend on all other eligible purchases.
  • Points have no expiration date.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year of card membership, then $95.
  • Terms and restrictions apply.

Our Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

We gave this card 4 out of 5 Stars because it’s a good offer for the fee, compared to other travel cards. You won’t need to pay the annual fee for the first year, and after that it’s relatively low.

You need to be willing to make all of your travel purchases through American Express, where you’ll earn 2 points per dollar. This makes it more restrictive than many other travel cards, which have more flexibility when it comes to earning rewards — they’ll reward you for more kinds of purchases, making it easier to earn points.

The points you earn with the Green Card will be worth different amounts depending on how you choose to redeem them. You can earn the equivalent of 2% cash backbut you may find more value in your points if you transfer them to a frequent traveler program that you like. This will cost a small fee when transferring to US airlines.

Most issuers don’t offer the lineup of extra perks and benefits that American Express does with this card, so that’s a big plus. There are a lot of ways to save money with this card, so be sure to check it out thoroughly and make use of them when it will profitable. These include a rotating selection of travel discounts and offers at airlines and hotels around the world, special cash back offers at select retailers, and a 10% discount on utilities.

Overall, a solid travel card for the price, as long as you can book travel through Amex and maximize your point redemptions. Keep reading to learn how to do just that.

Using this Card as Part of Your Credit Card Strategy

  • You must be able to spend at least $5,000 per year on travel through Amex Travel to offset the annual fee, not counting any other discounts you might end up getting through the card. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar there but you’ll only earn 1 point per dollar on other purchases, so it will be best to save this card for travel purchases via Amex only and use other cards for other expenses.
  • Don’t get this card unless you can justify the annual fee. Will the value of the points you earn be more than the fee? Your points won’t expire as long as you’re a cardholder, so you won’t need to use them right away.
  • Plan out a strategy to redeem your points for the highest possible value. This will probably mean for flights or gift cards, where your points are the equivalent of up to 2% cash back.
  • If you’re enrolled in a frequent flier or traveler program, you can transfer your points to that program to maximize their value (for a fee of $.0006 per point when transferring to US airlines, otherwise free).
  • Read through the extra benefits and perks and take note of any that might be useful now or in the future. Explore the Amex Travel site to find deals you might be able to take advantage of. Most of the time you probably won’t be able to use them, but every once in a while they could save you a nice chunk of cash.
  • Only get this card if you’re prepared to pay the entire balance in full every month. You won’t have to worry about interest fees, but if you don’t pay on time you will incur a late fee and may hurt your credit.
  • You probably only need one travel card with an annual fee, because they tend to offer similar rewards and benefits. Generally speaking, the higher the annual fee, the better the rewards and benefits. Think about how often you travel and how much you spend, and consider whether a travel card with a lower or higher annual fee might be right for you.

The Rewards

The Green Card can regularly provide the equivalent of .5% – 2% cash back, depending on what you buy and how you redeem your points.

Earning

Unfortunately there is no signup point bonus for spending a certain amount, unlike many other travel cards.

You’ll get:

  • 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar on eligible travel expenses through Amex Travel
  • 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases

This card is all about spending money through Amex Travel, where you’ll earn the most points per dollar, and that means the most cash back. They offer a nice selection of travel plans and certain price-match guarantees, but take note that you’ll need to earn at least 10,000 points per year just to offset the annual fee.

The best, and cheapest, way to earn those points is to spend $5,000 on purchases through Amex Travel, earning 2 points dollar for a total of 10,000 points. Assuming you redeem the points at a value of $0.01, which is easy to achieve by cashing in for gift cards, the 10,000 points will have a value of $100. That makes up for the annual fee with $5 left over. This might be hard for some people to accomplish.

When considering this card, take some time to explore the Amex Travel site and ensure that you’ll be able to make good use of it. You can search for a wide variety of flights, hotels, flight+hotel packages, cruises, and car services.

Redeeming

The points you earn can be redeemed in a variety of ways, and the value of those points will depend on how you redeem them. Here, we’ll talk about redemptions in terms of 10,000 points. There are quite a few different ways to redeem, depending on what you want.

But the most profitable way to redeem your points is for flights and certain gift cards, where you can redeem 10,000 points for $100. That’s the equivalent of getting 1% – 2% cash back, depending on how you earned those points. If you earned 1 point per dollar to get those points, you’re getting 1% cash back. If you earned 2 points per dollar, you’re getting 2% cash back. We discuss your redemption options below.

You can also have your points transferred to a loyalty program, like a frequent flyer or traveler program you’re enrolled in. There’s a fee of $0.0006 per point when transferred to US airlines, but this may be one of the best ways to get a lot of value from these points. When transferring to other programs, there is no charge. What you get will depend on the terms of your particular program.

If you want to use your points to directly pay off your balance, this is known as getting a statement credit. For 10,000 points you’ll get a credit for $60, which is not a very good redemption value. That’s the equivalent of only .6% – 1.2% cash back, depending on how you earn those points.

The following are just a few examples of what you can get when you redeem 10,000 points, along with how much your points will be worth for each method. In these examples we give the value your points will be worth, along with the cash back value range for each redemption option — the lower number is the value if you earn 1 point per dollar, while the higher number is the value if you earn 2 points per dollar. Explore the full range of Amex Membership Rewards redemption options to learn more.

Travel

To redeem for travel expenses you’ll have a few options, with the most valuable being for airline flights. The main way is to redeem through American Express Travel, though there are a couple other travel services you can use as well. You’ll be able to redeem 10,000 points in the following ways.

Redemption Method Travel Service Redemption Value Point Value (in cents) Cash Back Equivalent
Find Flights Amex Travel $100 1.0 1.0% – 2.0%
Reserve Prepaid Hotels Amex Travel $70 0.7 0.7% – 1.4%
Plan Vacations Amex Travel $70 0.7 0.7% – 1.4%
Take Cruises Amex Travel $70 0.7 0.7% – 1.4%
Airbnb Bookings Airbnb $70 0.7 0.7% – 1.4%
Flights and Hotels on Expedia Expedia $70 0.7 0.7% – 1.4%

Gift Cards

For 10,000 points, you can get a gift card of up to $100 for a variety of merchants. Here are just a few.

Merchant Gift Card Redemption Value Point Value (in cents) Cash Back Equivalent
Barnes & Noble $100 1.0 1.0% – 2.0%
Chili’s® Grill & Bar $100 1.0 1.0% – 2.0%
Enterprise Rent-A-Car® $100 1.0 1.0% – 2.0%
P.F. Chang’s® $100 1.0 1.0% – 2.0%
Victoria’s Secret $100 1.0 1.0% – 2.0%
iTunes® $85 0.85 0.85% – 1.70%
Macy’s $85 0.85 0.85% – 1.70%
Delta Air Lines $70 0.7 0.7% – 1.4%
Hilton $70 0.7 0.7% – 1.4%
American Express Gift Card $50 0.5 0.5% – 1.0%

Point of Sale and Entertainment

You can use your points at checkout with the following merchants. 10,000 points will get you:

Merchant Gift Card Redemption Value Point Value (in cents) Cash Back Equivalent
New York City Taxis $100 1.0 1.0% – 2.0%
Uber $100 1.0 1.0% – 2.0%
Rite Aid $70 0.7 0.7% – 1.4%
AXS $50 0.5 0.5% – 1.0%
Telecharge $50 0.5 0.5% – 1.0%
Ticketmaster $50 0.5 0.5% – 1.0%

Transferring to Loyalty Programs

You can transfer your points to a wide selection of loyalty programs, covering many popular airlines and hotel chains (as well as the Plenti program). You’ll be charged a fee of $0.0006 per point when transferring to US airlines, but otherwise there is no charge.

The basic transfer rate is 1:1, but you’ll occasionally find deals where you can get a different return on your points. We’ve listed some popular frequent traveler programs here, along with the transfer rate and some examples of the points you can expect to get. Each program will allow you to transfer points at a certain increment. Take note that these offers were available when this review was written, and they may change.

Loyalty Program Type Transfer Rate You Give You Get
Asia Miles Airline 1:1 1,000 1,000
British Airways Airline 1:1.4 1,000 1,400
Delta Air Lines Airline 1:1 1,000 1,000
Emirates Airline 1:1 1,000 1,000
Virgin America Airline  1:.5 1,000 500
Choice Privileges® Hotel 1:1 1,000 1,000
Hilton Honors™ Hotel 1:1.5 1,000 1,500
Starwood Preferred Guest Hotel 1:.33 1,000 333
Plenti Retail  1:1 1,000 1,000

Let’s go through some examples to illustrate the value of your points after you convert them to a frequent traveler program. Keep in mind that there are many factors that influence the price of flights and hotel rooms, including time of year, demand, availability, and special events. Airlines and hotel chains offer special deals and packages pretty frequently, which will also affect prices and point redemption values. While the following are actual real-world examples, the point transfer values you find for your flights and rooms may differ from what we show here.

Good Value — Delta Airlines SkyMiles

Say you and a fellow passenger want to take a nonstop Delta flight from the New York Laguardia Airport to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. On Monday, October 2nd, this would normally cost you $158.40 total, assuming you take the main cabin class. But what if you wanted to pay in Membership Rewards points, which you would transfer to miles?

According to Delta, you’ll need 11,000 miles to pay for this particular trip, along with an extra $11.20 because you can only use miles in increments of 1,000 with Delta, so you need to pay a bit extra to cover the difference. Since Delta has a 1:1 point transfer, you’ll need to earn 11,000 Membership Rewards points. Using your Green Card, the most efficient way to earn those points is to spend $5,500 on travel expenses through American Express Travel, earning 2 points per dollar for a total of 11,000.

Next, you’ll transfer those Membership Rewards points to Delta, and they’ll become 11,000 SkyMiles®. Since there is a fee of $0.0006 per point transferred, you’ll be charged a fee of $6.60 for a transfer of this size. Now you can use your miles to pay for your flight.

To figure out the value of your miles, we subtract $11.20 from $158.40 to get the direct redemption value of 11,000 SkyMiles, which is $147.20. But we must also subtract the $6.60 fee you paid earlier, so we come to a total of $140.60. So for this particular flight 11,000 miles is equivalent to $140.60, meaning each mile is worth 1.28 cents.

So to sum it all up, you spend a total of $5,517.80 to earn those initial points, pay the redemption fee, and pay the remaining cost for the flight. For all that, you’ve earned a 2-passenger ticket valued at $158.40.

Overall, this particular deal provides the equivalent of 2.87% cash back. This is pretty good, especially considering the most you can get through a normal Membership Rewards point redemption is 2% cash back.

Poor Value — Starwood Preferred Guest

One of the best ways to redeem your Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points, known as Starpoints, is for free night stays. You’ll find a variety of these deals, depending on where and when you want to travel.

For this example let’s imagine staying at the Sheraton Cerritos Hotel, in Cerritos, California. One basic night here in a standard room with two double beds will cost $195, for a total of $222 after all charges and taxes. This particular deal will cost 10,000 Starpoints before those charges and taxes, according to SPG. So, how much would you have to spend with your Green Card to pay for this using your Membership Rewards points?

The transfer rate for Membership Rewards points to Starpoints is 1:.33. Since you can only transfer in increments of 1,000 with SPG, you’ll need to trade in 31,000 Membership Rewards points to get 10,323 Starpoints.

The most efficient way to earn all those points is through American Express Travel, where you’ll earn 2 points per dollar. If you spend $15,500 there, you’ll earn your 31,000 points. Remember, there is no fee when transferring to hotels, so this can save you a few bucks compared to airline mile transfers. Once you convert your Membership Rewards into Starpoints, you’ll be able to reserve your hotel room.

To figure out the value of your Starpoints, we can say that 10,000 Starpoints is equal to $195. This means that each Starpoint is worth 1.95 cents.

However, the full cost of the room was $222 with the extra charges and tax — that’s an extra $27 you’ll need to pay when you cash in those Starpoints for this room. So to sum everything up, you spend a total of $15,527 to earn a free room valued at $222.

Overall, this particular deal provides the equivalent of only 1.43% cash back. When it comes down to it you’re not getting a very good cash back value, especially when you compare it to the Delta example above where you’re getting nearly double the cash back. Take note that even though your Starpoints here end up being worth more per point than the Delta SkyMiles above, making it seem like a good deal, the overall cash back equivalent is much less for the Starpoints.

The Benefits

You’ll get some benefits with this card that could be pretty useful when traveling. Just remember that you have them available, and that you’ll need to call customer service to make use of some of them.

American Express Travel Services

Amex provides a variety of benefits for booking travel through their in-house service, American Express Travel. Many of these benefits come and go, and are only available for a limited time before being replaced by something else.

These benefits include discounts at hotels, reduced airfare, and special offers and upgrades from individual merchants, like complimentary extra nights at resorts.

Remember to check for savings opportunities here whenever you travel, and you can also join their email newsletter to receive even more offers.

Amex Offers

You’ll have access to discounts at a wide variety of merchants — currently there are 73 different offers available, and the selection changes now and then.

You just need to head to the Amex Offers program and click ‘Add to Card’ for the deals you want. Then, just use your card as you normally would to make a purchase with that merchant. Your savings will appear as a statement credit later on, reducing your account balance. You may or may not earn additional rewards at the regular rate — this will depend on the particular offer.

Many of the deals can be quite valuable, saving you from $5 up through more than $100 for some of them. For most of them, you’ll need to spend a certain amount to get a certain discount. Some of the current offers include:

Merchant Need to Spend Cash Back Maximum Savings
PuritansPride $30 $10 33.33%
Sling TV $15 $5 33.33%
Glasses.com $200 $50 25%
1-800-CONTACTS $200 $40 20%
MGM Resorts $250 $50 20%
Ray-Ban Sunglasses $175 $35 20%
Wine Enthusiast $250 $50 20%
Raymour & Flanigan $750 $115 15.33%
Dollar Shave Club $70 $5 7.14%

Lowest Hotel Rates Guaranteed

If you book an eligible prepaid hotel room through Amex Travel and then find the same room being advertised online for a lower price, you can be refunded for the difference. You must submit your claim before the check-in date, and be sure to check your card details because some restrictions apply.

Free 2-Day Shipping and Returns

Cardholders will have access to free 2-day shipping and returns through the ShopRunner service. This benefit includes over 140 merchants and brands, which you can easily browse.

You must manually enroll in this benefit to make use of it.

Save 10% on Some Utilities

Occasionally you’ll be given the opportunity to save 10% on your cable, satellite TV, or cell phone bills. Just find the offer and click ‘Add to Card,’ and then use your card to pay for the utility as normal.

American Express Personal Loans

Green Card members have the opportunity to apply for a loan through American Express (but only if they have been pre-approved). Loans are offered from $3,500 to $25,000, with fixed interest rates from as low as 6.90% up to 19.97%.

Other Benefits and Perks

We’ve only described some of the most interesting benefits here but there are quite a few more to explore, including shopping protections and security features. Check out the full range of benefits for the Amex Green Card here.

The Costs & Fees

Annual Fee Regular APR for Purchases Foreign Transaction Fee
$0 for the first year then $95 N/A 2.7%
Late Fee Returned Payment Fee
Up to $37 Up to $37

This is a charge card, so you won’t find any interest rates here. You’ll need to pay off your entire balance in full every month.

The only fees on this card are the annual fee, the foreign transaction fee, and the late/returned payment fees. So, as long as you’re only making purchases in the U.S. while paying off your balance in full and on time each month, the only expense you’ll need to pay for this card is the annual fee.

Unlike many cards designed for travel rewards, this card has a foreign transaction fee. However, the reason to get this card is for spending with Amex Travel, not for other types of purchases. You should use a different card for non-Amex Travel purchases to get more rewards value anyway, and you could find one with no foreign transaction fee.

The Bottom Line

The American Express Green Card is fairly simple, but still a good offer for a charge card designed for travel purchases made through American Express’ website.

Take a look at your spending habits, especially how much you spend on travel. You’ll earn 2x points per dollar when you shop through amextravel.com, so visit the site and explore it a bit to make sure that you’ll be able to book your travel there. Will you be able to spend at least $5,000 there each year, and will you be able to redeem your points for the highest values? If the answers to those questions are ‘yes,’ this might be a good card for you.

Check out the extra benefits and protections that come with the card — there are a lot to explore. Hopefully you won’t ever need to use most of these, but they’re good to have as a backup just in case.

Remember that you’ll be required to pay off your balance in full each month. If you fail to pay off your balance on time you’ll be charged with a late fee, and this may hurt your credit. So even though you don’t need to worry about interest, you’ll still need to be responsible to remain in good standing.

There are a lot of options when it comes to travel cards. Take a look at the Alternatives below for some other good options in the same price range.

How to Apply for the American Express Green Card

Applying for the Green Card is simple. It’s issued by American Express, who will check your credit to determine if they will approve you or not. They usually pull your Experian credit report, though occasionally they’ll pull other reports as well.

This card is meant for people with good to excellent credit, so you may not necessarily get it if you apply.

American Express® Green Card
  • Editors’ Rating
Apply Now

American Express® Green Card

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first year then $95
  • Interest Rate: Not Applicable - Paid in Full Monthly
Quick Card Facts
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent by booking with your card through American Express Travel.
  • Earn 1 point every $1 you spend on all other eligible purchases.
  • Points have no expiration date.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year of card membership, then $95.
  • Terms and restrictions apply.

Alternatives to the American Express Green Card

There are quite a few competing travel cards to stack up against the Green Card. These are all credit cards, meaning you can potentially revolve a balance and be charged interest every month.

There’s also a business version of this card, the Business Green Rewards Card from American Express® OPEN. It’s designed to make it easier to separate your personal and business spending, and comes with a nice signup bonus of 5,000 points along with a few business-specific benefits.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Green Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® (Review) cards have the same exact annual fee structure: $95, waived for the first year. The only difference when it comes to payment is that the Sapphire Preferred is a regular credit card and not a charge card, meaning you can revolve a balance from month to month, gaining interest as you go. However, we recommend that you always pay your balance in full and avoid interest to help your wallet and your credit scores.

The Sapphire Preferred has more options for earning points, and you’ll probably be able to get more value out of them. You’ll gain 2 points per dollar spent on all eligible travel and dining purchases, instead of being limited to Amex Travel Services (Amex will match low hotel prices, however, so that helps even it out a bit).

The Sapphire Preferred also provides a pretty massive spending bonus of 50,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first three months, which is equal to $625 when redeemed for the best value. If you redeem your points for their maximum value, on flights or hotels, your points will be worth 2.5 cents each, the equivalent of 2.5% cash back. This is 25% higher than the maximum value you can get with the Green Card.

You’ll also find many travel discounts and benefits through Chase Ultimate Rewards, the shopping and travel portal. You can transfer your points to frequent traveler programs at a 1:1 rate, which is as good as it gets. There’s no fee for making foreign transactions with this card, so you can bring it with you wherever you go. Overall, the Sapphire Preferred seems to offer a wider, more valuable set of rewards and benefits.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite® (Review) card is slightly cheaper than the Green Card, coming in at $89 per year, waived the first year. It’s a regular credit card, so you’ll be able to revolve a balance while making a minimum payment, and accruing interest.

This is a very rewarding card, offering 2 miles per dollar for every purchase you make whether it’s travel-related or not, no matter where it’s from. This gives you a lot of earning potential compared to the Green Card. You’ll be able to earn 50,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, which is pretty easy if you’re planning a vacation. You’ll also get 5% of your miles back every time you redeem them, which can eventually add up to a lot.

If you trade in your miles with the most valuable redemption option (for travel expenses) your miles will be worth 2 cents each, the equivalent of 2% cash back. The maximum point value for the Green Card is 2 cents as well, but the Arrival Plus World Elite provides more flexibility for earning points and redeeming them. And this doesn’t even count the 5% mile redemption bonus you’ll get every time you redeem, which makes your miles even more valuable.

The Arrival Plus World Elite is a very rewarding card, outstripping the Green Card when it comes to reward potential and when it comes to the extra perks too. These include a personal concierge service, luxury travel benefits, and the ability to earn miles in different ways, such as by sharing travel stories. It has no foreign transaction fee, so you can bring it with you to pay for all your travel expenses, either inside or outside the US.

This is also the only card on our list of alternatives with Chip-and-PIN functionality, which makes it more compatible with a wider variety of vendors outside the US. The other cards in this list all use Chip-and-Signature, which may limit their use in some cases.

Discover it Miles

The big difference here is that the Discover it® Miles (Review) has no annual fee, making it completely free to use — as long as you avoid interest, because this is a regular credit card that can revolve a balance. A lack of an annual fee is a great thing to have, because it means you’ll never feel pressured to use the card just to make it pay for itself. You can keep it in reserve and just use it whenever necessary.

This card also has a long 0% intro APR of 14 months, meaning you can use it without worrying about interest accruing (at least for a little while). Be sure to pay your minimum payments on time, and when your 0% rate runs out do your best to avoid interest payments.

The Discover it Miles is quite rewarding, despite its lack of fees, offering 1.5 miles per dollar for every purchase you make — travel or otherwise. A great feature from Discover is that they’ll double the miles you earn after your first year, effectively giving you 3 miles per dollar spent.

That’s a whole lot, especially considering that you can redeem those miles for 1 cent each. This is the equivalent of 1.5% cash back normally, but when Discover doubles your miles after the first year you’ll be getting 3% cash back — and this is one of the best redemption deals available in credit cards today. It’s a full 50% more than the Green Card can offer, and after that first year the value is still relatively good.

Discover offers no special travel portal to help you plan your trips and find special offers, however. When it comes to travel planning you won’t find much help there. However, there are a nice set of extra benefits with the card, which include some travel-related discounts and protections. Overall, this is a great travel card because it’s totally free to use (when you avoid interest) but it’s still quite rewarding — especially that first year.

Do you use the Amex Green Card? How do you like it? Leave your own review to let us know!

Looking for other travel credit cards? Check out our picks for the Best Travel Credit Cards.
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