The Best American Express Credit Cards of 2015 - NerdWallet
Advertiser Disclosure

The Best American Express Credit Cards of 2015

You can trust that we maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments; however, we receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners and get approved. Here's how we make money.
best-american-express-amex-cards-2015-story

If you’re interested in racking up rewards, scoring a sizable sign-up bonus or enjoying extra perks, American Express has several credit cards that fit the bill. Whether you’re looking for luxury travel, building your business or getting groceries, the Nerds’ top picks may include the card that fits your spending profile.

In this article

Best card for families
Best card for frequent spenders
Best card for travel
Best card for your small business
Best premium card

Best card for families: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 in purchases per year (then 1%); Unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and U.S. department stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases; Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit. 0% on Purchases for 15 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24%-22.24% Variable; $75 annual fee.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Pros

  • Leading cash back rewards for groceries
  • Sign-up bonus
  • 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • Has annual fee - but if you spend more than $27/week the rewards offset the fees
  • American Express isn’t accepted at as many merchants as Visa or MasterCard

Bonus Offer

Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.

Annual Fee

$75

Intro APR Promotions

0% on Purchases for 15 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months

APR

  • APR: 13.24%-22.24% Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.49%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.
  • Earn Cash Back: 6% U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 3% U.S. gas stations & select U.S. dept stores, 1% other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card, you can start earning cash back. No rotating reward categories. No enrollment required.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Cash back is earned only on eligible purchases.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.24% to 22.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
  • View Rates and Fees


Benefits of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express:

  • You can earn 6% cash back on anything you purchase at the grocery checkout line, including gift cards to your favorite restaurant, coffee shop, movie theater or whatever else is available — just keep in mind the $6,000 annual limit. You’ll earn only 1% after that.
  • The card has a long 0% APR period in case you need some time to pay off a large purchase or transfer a balance. However, balance transfers do come with a fee of 3% of the balance or $5, whichever is greater.
  • Its sign-up bonus has a relatively low spending requirement.

Drawbacks of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express:

  • It has an annual fee. Its sister card, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, has a $0 annual fee and offers 3% cash back on grocery store purchases up to $6,000 spent per year (then 1%) and 2% cash back at gas stations and department stores. However, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a better choice if you spend more than $50 a week on groceries.
  • It’s not very useful if your grocery bill is low and you don’t drive a lot.

Bottom line:

Large families will appreciate the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express’ high rewards rates on grocery stores and gas stations. But if you can’t get past the annual fee or you don’t spend a lot in those categories, it might not be worth it.

Best card for frequent spenders: The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

Earn 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 in purchases per year; Unlimited 1 point per dollar on all other purchases; Make 20 or more purchases with your card in a billing period and get 20% extra points on those purchases; Earn 10,000 Membership Reward® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. 0% on Purchases for 15 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24%-22.24% Variable; The annual fee is $0.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Pros

  • High rewards rate
  • No annual fee
  • 0% on Purchases for 15 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months

Cons

  • Needs excellent credit

Bonus Offer

Earn 10,000 Membership Reward® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

0% on Purchases for 15 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months

APR

  • APR: 13.24%-22.24% Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.49%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 10,000 Membership Reward® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 20% more points: Make 20 or more purchases with your Card in a billing period and get 20% extra points on those purchases less returns and credits. Terms and limitations apply.
  • 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 1x points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • You can use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points to pay for all or part of your flight, hotel booked and paid in advance, vacation or cruise booking.
  • No annual fee. Plus, 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.24% to 22.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
  • View Rates and Fees


Benefits of The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express:

  • The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express is one of the only cards on the market that gives you a bonus based on how often you use it.
  • You’ll earn Membership Rewards points, which you can redeem for travel, gift cards and shopping. You can also transfer your points to one of the program’s eight airline and hotel partners: Aeroplan, British Airways, Alitalia, Asia Miles, Delta Skymiles, Etihad Airways, Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest.
  • It has a lengthy 0% APR period, making it a great option to finance a large purchase.

Drawbacks of The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express:

  • It has a low sign-up bonus when compared with other cards.
  • It charges a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, making it a bad choice for globetrotters.

Bottom line:

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express doesn’t give the Nerds too much to complain about. The Membership Rewards program offers a lot of flexibility and the card rewards you for using it frequently. However, it’s likely not going to compete with some of the heavy-hitting rewards cards in terms of its sign-up bonus.

Best card for travel: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Earn up to 5 Starpoints per dollar on purchases at participating SPG hotels; Earn 1 Starpoint per dollar on all other purchases; Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Transfer your points to more than 30 airline partners; the annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Pros

  • High rewards rate
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Needs excellent credit
  • Rewards only valuable if you stay at Starwood properties frequently

Bonus Offer

Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, then $95

Intro APR Promotions

None

APR

  • APR: 15.49%-19.49% Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.49%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • New: No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
  • New: Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
  • New: Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • Earn free nights at over 1,200 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries with no blackout dates.
  • Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
  • View Rates and Fees


Benefits of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express:

  • Starpoints are worth 2.3 cents each when redeeming for free hotel stays, making it one of the most lucrative rewards programs out there.
  • The Starwood Preferred Guest program offers more flexibility than most co-branded travel cards with its transfer partners.
  • It waives the annual fee the first year, giving you time to rack up rewards before it costs you anything.

Drawbacks of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express:

  • Starwood offers a limited selection of hotels compared with other hotel chains. Starwood has more than 1,200 hotel properties worldwide, while Marriott lists more than 3,700 properties and Hilton has more than 4,300.

Bottom line:

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is a must-have for any domestic traveler. Its point value puts other rewards programs to shame and it offers big redemption flexibility for travelers who need it.

Best card for your small business: SimplyCash® Business Card from American Express

5% cash back at U.S. office supply stores and on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers; 3% cash back on the category of your choice from a list of select categories and 1% cash back on other purchases; Limited Time Offer: You can get a $250 statement credit after you spend $5,000 on qualifying purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership; 0% on Purchases for 9 months, and then the ongoing APR of 12.49% - 19.49% Variable; The annual fee is $0.

SimplyCash® Business Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Pros

  • Bonus cash back categories
  • No annual fee

Bonus Offer

Limited Time Offer: You can get a $250 statement credit after you spend $5,000 on qualifying purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

0% on Purchases for 9 months

APR

  • APR: 12.49% - 19.49% Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.49%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • LIMITED TIME OFFER: Earn a one-time $250 statement credit after you spend $5,000 or more in qualifying purchases on your Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership
  • To be eligible for this offer, your application must be received by April 27, 2016
  • No annual fee
  • 5% cash back at U.S. office supply stores and on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers
  • 3% cash back on the category of your choice from a list of select categories and 1% cash back on other purchases
  • 5% and 3% apply to purchases up to $25,000 per rebate year then 1% thereafter. Cash back earned is automatically credited to your statement
  • Terms and limitations apply
  • View Rates and Fees


Benefits of the SimplyCash® Business Card from American Express:

  • The card offers big-time cash back on regular business expenses, including the flexibility to choose your own 3% category. Categories you can choose from include airfare purchased directly from airlines, hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels, car rentals from select companies, U.S. gas stations, U.S. restaurants, U.S. purchases for advertising in select media and U.S. purchases for shipping. Keep in mind that the 5% and 3% apply to purchases up to $25,000 per rebate year then 1% thereafter.
  • It’s one of the few business credit cards that comes with a respectable sign-up bonus and the $0.
  • You’ll have access to American Express OPEN, a valuable community for business owners that offers tools and a forum to help you grow your business.

Drawbacks of the SimplyCash® Business Card from American Express:

  • The card has a low cap on its bonus categories, which some businesses may reach fairly quickly.
  • Its introductory 0% APR period is relatively short. Other business cards offer longer terms.

Bottom line:

The SimplyCash® Business Card from American Express offers small-business owners a chance to rack up serious rewards and get help building their business without adding unnecessary expenses. But if your business spends more than $25,000 on its bonus categories every year, there are annual-fee business credit cards that offer better ongoing rewards.

Best premium card: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent; Earn 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Receive up to $200 per calendar year in statement credits for airline incidental fees; $100 credit toward Global Entry application; Complimentary access to more than 600 airport lounges worldwide; Concierge service; $450 annual fee.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Needs excellent credit

Bonus Offer

Earn 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.

Annual Fee

$450

Intro APR Promotions

None

APR

  • Purchase: N/A
  • Penalty APR: Up to 2.99%, Variable

Card Details

  • Get 40,000 points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $200 a year in baggage fees and more at one airline.
  • There are no foreign transaction fees with your Platinum Card.
  • New! Enroll to enjoy the benefits of complimentary Hilton HHonors™ Gold Status.
  • Get reservations with Platinum Card® Concierge to enjoy an exquisite dining experience with the #AmexPlatinum Dining Program. Learn more.
  • No interest charges because you pay your balance in full each month.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
  • View Rates and Fees


Benefits of The Platinum Card® from American Express:

  • The card offers elite travel perks that are worth far more than the annual fee, including access to posh airport lounges, statement credits for airline incidental fees, a credit toward a Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™ application fee, Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status, concierge service and more.
  • It has a killer sign-up bonus and generates Membership Rewards points, which you can redeem for travel, gift cards and shopping, or transfer to one of the program’s eight airline and hotel partners: Aeroplan, British Airways, Alitalia, Asia Miles, Delta Skymiles, Etihad Airways, Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest.
  • It charges no foreign transaction fees, a big plus for when you travel abroad.

Drawbacks of The Platinum Card® from American Express:

  • The annual fee is steep, making the card useful only if you plan to take advantage of all its luxury features.
  • It doesn’t offer a bonus rewards rate like most travel cards, and its ongoing rewards rate is unexceptional.
  • American Express isn’t widely accepted internationally.

Bottom line:

If you can afford the annual fee and you travel often, The Platinum Card® from American Express is one of the best ways to ensure you’ll travel in luxury. But if you’re more interested in earning rewards, check out some of the Nerds’ top travel card picks.

Ben Luthi is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: bluthi@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @benluthi.

Image via iStock.