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Credit card annual fees have always been hard to swallow. You sign up for a new card because you want the perks — perks with real cash value like airline miles or hotel points. But if the card charges a fee every year, that takes a bite out of your bottom line.
Now, with the world and the economy reeling from a global pandemic, annual fees are even less appealing. Earning rewards through credit card spending is tough when you’re sheltering in place, and tougher still when your job is gone or in peril. Plus, with global travel nearly at a halt, it feels like that next dream vacation purchased with points is a million years away. Who wants to pay an annual fee to earn rewards that seem so far out of reach?
The American Express® Green Card is a great card in good times, offering a nice welcome bonus: Earn 45,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months. Terms Apply.
Plus, users earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel, dining and transit and 1 point per dollar on all other spending. The card also comes with a $100 credit for Clear, which moves you through airport security faster, and another $100 credit when you purchase access to airport lounges through LoungeBuddy. Terms apply.
» Learn more: Is Clear worth the cost?
There’s a nice array of other perks, too. The American Express® Green Card charges no foreign transaction fees, and users enjoy trip delay insurance, baggage insurance and rental car insurance. A Global Assist Hotline can bail you out of all kinds of emergencies, including medical, legal and passport referrals, plus offers emergency cash wires and missing luggage assistance. All this comes for an annual fee of $150. Terms apply.
Are the perks worth the annual fee?
Normally, $150 already seems a little steep because so many other cards charge fees of $95 a year or less. But in the current climate, this card’s $150 fee could be a deal-breaker if its travel perks are harder to take advantage of. Most folks aren’t buying a lot of plane tickets and hotel stays right now. And the American Express® Green Card’s bonus in the transit category won’t be worth much until we’re back to using trains, taxis and rideshares at normal levels.
But that doesn’t apply to everyone. The card has some advantages that, for a select few, make the fee more than worthwhile.
Folks who are ordering takeout or delivery every night and putting it on a credit card could benefit greatly from the American Express® Green Card. Because the dining category offers 3 points per dollar, lots of takeout purchases from restaurants could add up to a substantial number of points. Terms apply.
Then there are the people who simply can’t curtail their traveling, in many cases because their work requires it. Anyone who has to keep buying plane tickets and hotel stays (pandemic or no pandemic), will find that the rewards they earn easily make up for the fee — especially if they’re also using the Clear and LoungeBuddy credits.
» Learn more: Best uses of the AmEx Green’s $100 LoungeBuddy credit
And then there are the optimists: people who can see past the gloom to a day on the not-too-distant horizon when normal life will resume, and we’ll all be very, very eager to go on vacation. That contingent will see that, over the long term, this card’s fee is likely worth the benefits.
There’s even something for pessimists: The American Express Membership Rewards points you earn with this card are good for a lot more than travel. You can redeem points for merchandise at Amazon, Rite-Aid drugstores, Walmart and many other retailers offering supplies you need to get through these difficult times.
Here’s a calculator that can help you decide whether this card makes sense for you, either now or in the future:
Whatever you decide, make sure you apply for the card at a time when it’s realistic to spend enough that you’ll earn the welcome bonus.
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.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best travel credit card for you Why the AmEx Green could replace your Chase Sapphire Reserve Things you should know before getting the AmEx Green