Advertiser Disclosure

The Best American Express Credit Cards of 2016

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

American Express offers a card for every lifestyle. While AmEx has a reputation for great customer service and perks across the board, each of its cards offers a suite of benefits and perks tailored to the needs of different types of customers. For example, if you need to carry a balance, AmEx has credit cards in addition to its signature charge cards. If you want to travel in luxury, there’s a card for that. Let the Nerds help you choose the best American Express card for you.

In this article

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; Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive the $150 back in the form of statement credits. 0% on Purchases for 12 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24%-23.24% Variable; $95 ($75 if your application is received by 8/3/16) 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 12 months on purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • Has annual fee - but if you spend more than $31/week the rewards offset the fees
  • American Express isn’t accepted at as many merchants as Visa or MasterCard

Bonus Offer

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

Annual Fee

$95 ($75 if your application is received by 8/3/16)

Intro APR Promotions

0% on Purchases for 12 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months

APR

  • APR: 13.24%-23.24% Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.49%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive the $150 back in the form of statement credits.
  • Earn Cash Back: 6% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, 3% at U.S. gas stations & select U.S. dept stores, 1% on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card, you can get 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 12 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.24% to 23.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms and Conditions 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 $61 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’s 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 12 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24%-23.24% 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 12 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months

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 12 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months

APR

  • APR: 13.24%-23.24% Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.49%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% more 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 12 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.24% to 23.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms and Conditions 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; Get 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

Get 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

N/A

APR

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

Card Details

  • Get 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
  • Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • Get 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 Conditions 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® Plus Business Credit 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: 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; 0% on Purchases for 9 months, and then the ongoing APR of 12.49% - 19.49% Variable; The annual fee is $0.

SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Pros

  • No annual fee

Bonus Offer

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

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 August 3, 2016
  • No Annual Fee. Plus, more buying power and more cash back
  • 5% cash back on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. office supply stores
  • 3% on the category of your choice from a list of eight and 1% cash back on other purchases
  • 5% and 3% apply to the first $50,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1% thereafter. Cash back received is automatically credited to your statement
  • Terms and limitations apply
  • View Rates and Fees


Benefits of the SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit 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 $50,000 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 annual fee.
  • 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® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express:

  • The card has a 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® Plus Business Credit 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 $50,000 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

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

N/A

APR

  • Purchase: N/A

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.
  • 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.