American Express® Green Card Review
Higher credit scores can be a reality with a basic card that can help you build some credit history. The American Express® Green Card can help you get the job done because it is slightly easier to qualify for (compared to a traditional credit card).
You can start establishing credit as long as you just focus on paying off the bill every month.
This card is a charge card, which means you won’t pay any interest on purchases. On the flip side, you do have to pay your balance in full each month. There’s also a credit card rewards program. Purchases earn Membership Rewards® points that you can use toward travel, shopping, and dining.
Learn if you should get this card and see if it'll be the right fit for your goal of building credit:
Main Card Highlight: Build a Better Credit Rating
The American Express® Green Card comes with lots of benefits, but this card is designed for spenders who may be newer to using credit. That means you won’t need a perfect 850 credit score to get approved.
If you’ve already got a good credit score, this card can help you build on that foundation without the added hassle of interest charges. Because it’s a charge card, your balance is due in full each month so no interest accrues, which can also help you out when it comes to your credit score.
Your FICO credit score is the score that the majority of lenders use. Your payment history and credit utilization carry a lot of weight. Paying your credit card bills and other debts on time can help your score; paying late can easily tank it.
Your credit utilization has a similar effect. When you’re using up more of your available credit, it sends a signal to lenders that you may not be financially responsible. If your balances are low, it shows that you know how to keep your spending in check.
With the American Express® Green Card, you don’t have to worry about a high balance hurting your credit utilization for months at a time. As long as you pay in full and on time, those things can work in your favor where your score is concerned. With responsible use, you could work your way toward an upper tier American Express card.
Tip: If you’re carrying balances on other credit cards, aim to use 30% or less of your available credit to keep your score on the right track.
Earning Rewards With Your American Express® Green Card
The American Express® Green Card includes a fairly straightforward rewards program. You earn one Membership Rewards® point on eligible purchases, with no limit on the number of points you can earn.
For example, if you spend $500 a month on groceries, $500 a month on gas, and $1,000 on shopping, you could earn a total of 2,000 points. The sky is virtually the limit, so your earning power ultimately depends on how much or how little you spend.
Your earning power ultimately depends on how much or how little you spend.
When you use your card to book travel through American Express Travel, your rewards rate increases to two points per dollar for eligible purchases. That includes airfare, hotels, cruises, and vacation packages.
Is There an Introductory Bonus Offer?
While American Express does offer one-time introductory bonuses with several of its rewards cards, the American Express® Green Card isn’t one of them. In order to earn an introductory bonus, you’d need to consider a different card.
Redeeming Membership Rewards Points
The Membership Rewards® program offers some variety in terms of how you can use your rewards points. For example, you could redeem for:
- Gift cards
- Uber rides
- New York City taxi fare
- In-store purchases at Rite Aid
- Charitable donations
- Statement credit
You can also shop with points at Amazon.com and BestBuy.com or transfer your points to Plenti, American Express’s loyalty card program. The number of points required to redeem--and their value--is based on how you redeem them.
For example, 10,000 points would be worth $60 in statement credit against your charges. In that case, your points would be worth one-sixth of a cent apiece. If you were to use them for travel instead, you could get a little more mileage from your rewards.
When you Pay With Points for flights through American Express Travel, points are worth one cent each. If you want to make a hotel reservation, book a cruise, or purchase a vacation package, points are worth one-seventh of a cent.
That’s a decent rewards rate, but a dedicated travel rewards card may be better if you spend a lot of time jet-setting around. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for instance, offers a redemption rate of 1.25 cents when you use your points to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Comparing different redemption options through the Membership Rewards® portal can give you an idea of how far your points will go.
Shopping, Travel and Entertainment Benefits
Besides rewards, credit card benefits are something to consider when choosing a new card. The American Express® Green Card comes with a few extras. For example, members enjoy:
- Car rental loss and damage insurance
- Roadside assistance hotline
- Global Assist® hotline
- Baggage insurance
- Purchase protection
- Return protection
- Extended warranty program
- Access to deals through Amex Offers
- Free 2-day shipping with ShopRunner
- Exclusive access to selected sporting, family and arts events
Any or all of these benefits could come in handy if you’re traveling, heading out for a night on the town, or just hitting the mall. These benefits are included at no additional cost, although third-party fees may apply for things like tow services or replacing a passport if yours gets lost.
Is the $95 Annual Fee Worth It?
Credit card fees can be a drain on your rewards if you’re not careful. At $95, the annual fee is one of the lowest of any American Express card. The question is, do the rewards and other card features justify the cost?
If you’re a travel enthusiast, you may not be wowed by the rewards program or the travel benefits. The same goes if you’re looking for a card that’s going to offer big rewards for everyday spending.
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for example, has the same $95 annual fee but it has a higher rewards rate. Members earn 6% cash back on the first $6,000 in U.S. supermarket purchases annually, along with 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. To top if off, this card also has an introductory cash back bonus.
If you don’t charge purchases regularly, you likely won’t net enough rewards to earn back the fee. If you’re more focused on building credit than earning rewards, there are other cards that can help you do that without a steep fee.
American Express® Green Card vs. Other Amex Offerings
The American Express® Green Card isn’t going to be right for everyone. Here are two other cards you may want to consider if you don’t mind paying a fee to earn rewards.
American Express® Gold Card
The American Express® Gold Card could be the right choice if travel is a regular feature in your routine. This card offers two Membership Rewards® points per dollar on flights booked directly through the airline and at U.S. restaurants. You can also earn two points per dollar when you book through American Express Travel.
If you’re booking a stay at a participating American Express Hotel Collection property, you can get two points per dollar on those purchases as well. American Express also throws in a $75 hotel credit that’s good toward qualifying dining, spa and resort activities when you stay at least two consecutive nights.
All other purchases earn 1x points per dollar. Travel extras include personalized travel service, roadside assistance, and baggage insurance. There’s no foreign transaction fee, but the annual fee is higher, at $160 after the first year.
Still, this card may be preferable to the American Express® Green Card if you spend a significant amount of money on travel each year. With so many ways to earn travel rewards, it may not take much effort to recoup the fee in points.
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
Like the American Express® Green Card, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express is a charge card but that’s really where the similarities end. This card offers three points per dollar on airfare purchased directly from the airline. Members earn two points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets.
You can also earn 2x points per dollar when you book through American Express travel. For all other purchases, the rewards rate is one point per dollar.
Members can qualify for a $100 airline fee credit annually. The same Hotel Collection benefits apply, and there’s no foreign transaction fee. The one-time introductory bonus is generous, and it could help you earn free travel faster if you meet the minimum spending requirement.
The biggest difference is the annual fee, which is $195 after the first year. This card costs more than double what the American Express® Green Card does but its travel benefits are superior. If you like to travel on the regular and do so in comfort, this card could be right up your alley.
Should You Get This Card?
The American Express® Green Card may be good for someone who prefers a charge card or hopes to grow their credit score. This card obviously wouldn’t work if you need the flexibility of being able to carry a balance from time to time.
This card is better for someone who wants a general American Express rewards card and doesn’t mind paying a higher annual fee. For people with fair credit and want to improve their credit scores, there are cheaper options.