Yesterday, I decided to apply for the American Express Green Card. I made the decision for several reasons. First, I have never had the Green Card, which means that I still qualify for the signup bonus. Second, I have an American Express card through my job. One of the benefits of having a corporate card is that I get a discount on the annual fees for my personal cards. And, finally, I need another card that earns more Membership Rewards points. Let's go through these one by one.
American Express has a rule that you only qualify for a signup bonus once in a lifetime. I have already received the signup bonus for the AmEx Gold card and AmEx Platinum card. For this reason, I do not qualify for signup bonuses with those cards. In future, I can choose to upgrade my Green Card to Gold or Platinum. Or, I could simply apply for one of those cards for new lines of credit.
Annual Fee Discount
My job provides me with an American Express Corporate Green Card. I use this card to make payments to vendors who do work on our building. One of the perks of the corporate account is that I will receive an annual credit to my personal account to partially offset the annual fee.
The Platinum card annual credit is $150.
The Gold card annual credit is $100.
The Green card annual credit is $75.
The Blue Cash Preferred card annual credit is $50.
Prior to applying for the Green card, I only had a Hilton Honors Business card and an American Express Business Gold card. Neither of these qualify for the annual credit.
Membership Rewards Points
The previously mentioned Hilton card earns Hilton points, which are only redeemable for hotel stays. The AmEx Business Gold card does earn Membership Rewards Points, and allows me to redeem them. However, it is not suited for everyday spending. The categories that earn the most rewards are:
- Airfare purchased through AmEx Travel
- Advertising purchases
- Computer hardware, software, or cloud solutions
- Gas stations
All of these potentially earn 4 points per dollar spent. The trick, however, is that only the two top spending categories earn at that rate. All other spending earns at 1 point per dollar spent. Therefore, there is always a significant chunk that will not earn 4. This can be good or bad. It is good in that you can target your top spending categories. It can be bad in that you still have other spending that earns less in rewards.
The reasons why I have the AmEx Business Gold card are that my balance on the card does not report to my personal credit and that I get 25% back in Membership Rewards points when I redeem the points for airfare.
Green Card Rewards
The American Express Green Card is not the top earner in terms of maximum rewards per category. The personal Gold and Platinum cards have higher earning categories, which are narrow in scope. The Green card has broader categories to consistently earn more Membership Rewards points.
For example, here are the rewards categories for the Green card.
- Earn 3X at restaurants, including delivery and takeout.
- Earn 3X on transit, including trains, ferries, buses, subway, and more.
- Earn 3X on travel, including airfare, hotels, cruises, tours, car rentals, and more.
- Earn 1X on everything else.
The second and third bullet points are the strength of the AmEx Green card. The higher premium cards do not reward any transit at all. This makes it so that the ride between the airport and hotel are also rewarded at 3X. Or, even exploring your travel destination will earn 3X rewards. The Gold and Platinum would only rewards these expenses at 1X.
The travel category for the AmEx Green card is also broader than it is for Gold and Platinum. Hotels, for example, are rewarded at 5X on Platinum, or 4X on Gold only if you book through the amextravel.com portal. Otherwise, you only get rewarded 1X. Green, on the other hand, will allow you to book directly with the hotel or through a travel site to earn 3X.
Flights also have to be booked at amextravel.com or directly with the airline to maximize rewards with Gold or Platinum. Green card, on the other hand, permits you to book flights through travel agents or travel websites to earn 3X. More importantly, the travel category is broadened to include cruises, tours, and car rentals.
In short, the American Express Green card has smaller maximum rewards per categories. But, the categories to earn are much broader, giving you more opportunity to earn maximum points.
The only place where the Green card falls flat is in rewards for groceries. The Gold card rewards 4X on groceries. AmEx also has the Blue Cash Preferred card that rewards 6X on groceries. Of course, one can't expect one card to win in every category.
The American Express Green card is not as well-regarded as its bigger brothers, the Gold and Platinum cards. However, those cards are very specialized in how they issue rewards. The Green card is more accepting of your travel choices. Thus, Green can be a Membership Rewards machine for the everyday traveler, whether it is an aspirational trip abroad or a bus ride across town. With an annual fee of $150, the AmEx Green card can be a good value in your points and miles game.