Making the Most of the American Express Green Card

Understand the card's rewards categories and what qualifies, make sure you can use its valuable credits and aim to redeem your points for travel.

Melissa LambarenaAugust 3, 2020

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The American Express® Green Card can be a valuable companion for foodies and globe-trotters.

The charge card offers rich rewards on restaurant spending worldwide and on eligible travel and transit expenses, not to mention lucrative annual credits that alone can offset the card's $150 annual fee. And you can rake in even more value if you get fully acquainted with the card’s terms and benefits. Terms apply.

Here’s how to use the American Express® Green Card to its full potential.

Earn the welcome offer upfront

The American Express® Green Card features the following welcome offer for new cardholders: Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

At a conservative value of a penny per point, that welcome bonus covers two years of the card's annual fee right off the bat. Make sure you can rake in that offer without overspending, though.

Get to know rewards categories and what qualifies

The card's ongoing rewards are as follows:

  • 3 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible travel and transit purchases.

  • 3 points per $1 on restaurants worldwide.

  • 1 point per $1 on other purchases.

  • Terms apply.

To optimize your spending, make sure you're familiar with the specific transactions that are eligible to earn 3X back on travel, restaurants and transit. Terms apply. Here's what qualifies:

  • Travel: Eligible purchases include airfare, hotels, home shares, cruises, tours, car rentals, campgrounds, transactions on third-party travel websites and travel purchases on amextravel.com. Timeshare properties earn 1 point per dollar spent. Terms apply.

  • Transit: This category is a bit more straightforward. Purchases made for transportation on trains, taxis, rideshare services, ferries, tolls, parking, buses and subways earn 3 points per dollar spent. Terms apply.

  • Restaurants: You’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, as long as the restaurant isn’t located within another establishment, such as a casino or event venue. (If so, you’ll earn 1 point per $1 spent.) Restaurants within a hotel don't count for elevated rewards under the dining category, but you’ll still earn the travel rewards rate. Other establishments that don’t qualify for the elevated rewards include bars, nightclubs, cafeterias and convenience stores. Terms apply.

Make use of your travel credits

The American Express® Green Card offers an annual $100 credit for LoungeBuddy passes, as well as an annual $100 credit toward Clear membership. Terms apply.

Of these two features, the LoungeBuddy benefit will likely be easier to use for most. The service lets you buy single-use day passes to airport lounges. Passes start at $25, so in theory, this credit could cover four visits per year. If you don't already have a credit card that offers you airport lounge access, this could be quite valuable and useful.

Clear may be a little trickier. It's a prescreening program — available at dozens of airports, stadiums and other venues nationwide — that uses biometrics to verify your ID. But it's not the same thing as TSA Precheck or Global Entry. (You don't get to skip the normal X-ray line.) Clear is more specialized and limited in availability, and membership in the program costs $179 per year. So you'd still be on the hook for $79. But if it's a service you already use or if time is money to you, it could help you out.

To qualify for these credits, you must pay for these services with your American Express® Green Card card.

For the most bang for your rewards, redeem for travel

The value of Membership Rewards points can vary greatly, but it typically ranges between 0.5 cent and 1 cent each depending on redemption options. In some cases, it's possible to snag much higher values by transferring points to one of AmEx's multiple travel partners. Here's a list:

Airlines:

  • Aer Lingus.

  • AeroMexico.

  • Air Canada.

  • Air France/ KLM.

  • Alitalia.

  • ANA.

  • Avianca.

  • British Airways.

  • Cathay Pacific.

  • Delta Air Lines.

  • El Al Israel Airlines.

  • Emirates.

  • Etihad Airways.

  • Hawaiian Airlines.

  • Iberia Plus.

  • JetBlue Airways.

  • Qantas.

  • Singapore Airlines.

  • Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Hotels:

  • Choice Hotels.

  • Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

  • Marriott Hotels & Resorts.

For transfer ratios, see AmEx's website.

The transfer rate varies by partner, but ideally, you only want to transfer points to loyalty rewards programs if you can do so at a 1:1 ratio or better. If you can exchange, say, 1,000 Membership Rewards points for 1,000 Delta SkyMiles, it may be worth it, especially if you've found a good deal on a Delta award flight.

Before moving your points, it's also important to weigh AmEx’s fee for transferring Membership Rewards points to U.S. airlines. The issuer charges a fee of $0.0006 cent per point (up to a maximum of $99).

Other redemption options for your Membership Rewards points include gift cards, covering your charges with points, checking out with points at select merchants and shopping with points.

Avoid using the Pay Over Time feature

The American Express® Green Card offers a "Pay Over Time" feature, which essentially turns your charge card into a credit card when you don’t pay your balance off in full that month. Terms apply. The feature is automatically set on your account when you first open it, causing all eligible transactions to get placed in your Pay Over Time balance. You can change this setting by logging into your online account or calling the number on the back of your card.

Though the Pay Over Time feature may be convenient, the card's high ongoing interest can chip away at your rewards.

Lean on your side benefits

Understanding the benefits of the American Express® Green Card can save you money when you’re shopping or traveling, especially if you have a change of plans. With features like purchase protection and trip delay insurance, you can get reimbursed for qualifying purchases made with the card. Terms apply.

All information about the American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The American Express® Green Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

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