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American Express is known for having some of the best travel cards around, and it’s no surprise why. From its ever-popular Membership Rewards travel rewards points program to ultra-luxury travel benefits like airline credits and airport lounge access, there’s something for everyone in the Amex universe.
You may have heard of Amex’s main three “colors” of personal cards: the American Express® Green Card, the American Express® Gold Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express. All three are enticing, but picking the best one for your particular needs is quite important, and it’s sometimes hard to understand the differences between them and to decipher which card — or cards — to have in your wallet.
To help you figure out the pros and cons among American Express’ three main travel cards, we’ve created a detailed comparison of them together to help you determine the best card for not only your particular spending habits but also your travel needs.
Let’s start with a side-by-side-by-side breakdown of the key features of all three of these popular American Express travel cards.
Right away, you’ll notice there are a wide array of differences among these three cards, especially when it comes to the points you earn on everyday purchases and the benefits each card provides. Let’s dive into each feature in detail to see which card offers the best opportunities.
New Amex Platinum card members can earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases on the card in the first six months after opening the account. That’s the highest welcome bonus across all three cards, but it’s also the highest spending requirement.
The Amex Gold card offers the next best welcome bonus offer. You can earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in your first six months after opening the account. That means you’ll have to spend an average of $667 per month to earn the bonus points, which is easier than the $833 monthly average you’d need to meet the minimum spending requirement on the Amex Platinum.
Finally, the Amex Green comes with a welcome bonus for new card members of 45,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first six months after opening the account. That’s a significantly lower spending requirement than either of the other two cards, and the annual fee on the Amex Green is also the lowest of the three.
Frequent flyer website The Points Guy values American Express Membership Rewards points at 2 cents apiece. That would make the welcome bonus on the Amex Green worth $900, the Amex Gold worth $1,200 and $1,500 on the Amex Platinum.
Our pick: Even though you’ll earn the most points from the welcome bonus on the Amex Platinum card, the Amex Gold bonus is only slightly lower and requires spending less money. The Amex Gold card also has an annual fee that’s less than half the one on the Amex Platinum, which makes up for any bonus points you might miss out on.
All three of these American Express cards earn Membership Rewards points, which can be redeemed in many different ways. But by far, the most lucrative redemption option for them is travel, and with many partnership opportunities, Membership Rewards points can help you visit friends and family around the world or even take an outrageously expensive once-in-a-lifetime trip for very little cost.
Surprisingly, even though the Amex Platinum is the most expensive card of the three, it actually earns the fewest points on your everyday purchases. Other than earning 5 points for every dollar you spend on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, as well as flights booked with Amex Travel or directly with an airline, you’ll only earn 1 point per dollar on everything else.
On the other hand, the Amex Green earns 3 points per dollar on all travel purchases, which includes all hotels and flights regardless of how they’re booked, along with rental cars, cruises and many other travel-related purchases. You’ll also earn 3 points per dollar on restaurants — including takeout and delivery — and transit. Then, on all other purchases, you’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent.
For those looking for a card to maximize their food-related purchases while travel is at an ebb due to the pandemic, the mid-tier Amex Gold card is a perfect fit. You’ll earn 4 points per dollar at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and 4 points per dollar at US supermarkets, up to $25,000 per year in purchases (then 1x thereafter).
You’ll also earn 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, and then like the other two cards, you’ll earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Our pick: If you’re spending more on your groceries and restaurant purchases right now, the Amex Gold card will be your best choice. However, if you’re traveling at the moment, the Amex Green will earn you more points on those expenses, as you’ll receive a bonus on all your travel-related purchases.
When it comes to card benefits, all three of these cards truly do shine, although they’re very different from one another. But one unique component of all three are statement credits you can earn each year, which can help offset the cards’ annual fees.
Amex Platinum credits
One of the more widely known benefits of the Amex Platinum is its up to $200 in annual airline fee credits. You select one airline of your choice at the beginning of each year, and most incidental purchases on that airline — such as seat selection fees, checked baggage fees and itinerary change fees — will trigger the credit, meaning your won’t have to pay for the charge on your statement.
You’ll also get up to $200 in Uber Cash each year with the Amex Platinum, which can be used for Uber rides or Uber Eats orders in the US. The Uber Cash is doled out in portions of $15 per month, plus a $20 bonus in December, and it doesn’t roll over from month to month, so you have to either use it or lose it each month.
The Amex Platinum also features up to $100 in annual statement credits to use toward purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue. These credits are available in two halves — up to $50 between January and June, and up to another $50 between July and December — so a $100 purchase all at once won’t utilize all the credits.
Lastly, this card also comes with up to $100 in statement credits toward the application fee for membership in Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Since Global Entry costs $100 and TSA PreCheck is a slightly lower $85, this credit ultimately covers your application cost in full.
Both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are valid for five years, so this statement credit is only available once every four years if you apply for Global Entry, and once every four and a half years if you apply for TSA PreCheck.
Amex Gold credits
The Amex Gold card also comes with several annual statement credits. First, you’ll get up to $10 in statement credits each month when you use your card to pay for purchases at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations. That’s a total of up to $120 in dining credits annually, though the credits don’t roll over from month to month, and you must enroll for the benefit before you use it the very first time to reap the savings.
Also starting in early 2021, the Amex Gold will also come with an Uber Cash perk that’s similar to the one on the Amex Platinum. The difference is you’ll receive $10 per month in Uber Cash, giving you up to $120 annually that can be used for Uber rides or Uber Eats orders.
Finally, the Amex Gold has an airline credit feature that’s being phased out, but it’ll still be available until the end of 2021. For next year only, you can get up to $100 in airline fee credits, which work identically to the ones available on the Amex Platinum.
Amex Green credits
As the Amex Green card has the lowest annual fee of the three cards, it doesn’t come with as many statement credit opportunities. But it does a decent job for people looking to enhance their airport experience, as it features up to $100 annually in LoungeBuddy credits and up to $100 annually on Clear credits.
LoungeBuddy is an app that provides entry into various airport lounges around the world on a per-visit basis. Each lounge has a different entry fee, so you can use your up to $100 in credits any way you’d like — on one lounge visit for yourself, on a visit with family or over multiple trips. Clear is a program that helps you get through TSA security faster by using biometrics instead of your driver’s license or ID.
Our pick: The credits on the Amex Platinum far outweigh the annual fee on the card, but those numbers only work if you can take advantage of all the credits on purchases you would normally pay for out of your pocket. And if you don’t find yourself traveling much these days, the Amex Gold statement credits might provide you more value right now.
The one area where you’ll see a huge difference across these three Amex cards is when it comes to travel benefits. The Amex Green and Amex Gold cards have fairly limited VIP travel perks, but they’re overflowing on the Amex Platinum card.
With the Amex Platinum, you’ll receive complimentary Gold elite status with both the Hilton and Marriott hotel chains. Having Gold status at both chains will help you with upgraded rooms, getting a late checkout, earning bonus points on your stay and more. At Hilton properties specifically, Gold status will even sometimes earn you lounge access or complimentary breakfast.
The Amex Platinum also comes with a ton of lounge access opportunities to make your airport experience more enjoyable. This is the only personal card that gives you access to American Express Centurion Lounges, the Global Lounge Collection, Delta Sky Clubs (when flying Delta) and a Priority Pass Select membership. In total, that’s over 1,200 lounges around the world.
You’ll also have access to trip cancellation and interruption insurance with the Amex Platinum card — up to $10,000 per covered trip — but not with the Amex Green or Amex Gold card. However, all three cards have trip delay insurance, which covers out-of-pocket expenses incurred when a flight is delayed. The Amex Green and Amex Gold cards will cover you up to $300 per trip if your trip is delayed more than 12 hours, while the Amex Platinum covers up to $500 for a trip that’s only delayed six hours.
Our pick: If you’re looking for the ultimate travel experience, the Amex Platinum card is hands down the card to have in your wallet. It also covers more of your expenses if you need to cancel a trip or incur a delay.
With so many factors to consider, this decision is truly a personal one. Since all three cards offer much more than just travel points on what you buy each day, you’ll have to take all the benefits into account to determine which ones you’ll use and if the annual fee on each card is worth it.
If your main goal is to earn Amex Membership Rewards points and get some basic benefits and statement credits while paying the lowest annual fee possible, the Amex Green card will get you what you need. However, if you want to reap VIP travel benefits, then the Amex Platinum card provides the best airport and hotel experiences, and the included statement credits can help offset many of your travel purchases.
But if you aren’t traveling much right now and want a card that earns bonus points at restaurants and on groceries while you’re stuck at home, the Amex Gold card is your best bet. If you can take advantage of all the statement credits available on the card in 2021, you can actually more than offset the annual fee on the card, making it a solid choice for at least the next 12 months even if you can’t get on a plane.
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