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NerdWallet’s Best Charge Cards of 2017

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NerdWallet's Best Charge Cards of 2017

If you’re a big spender looking for a card with no spending limit, a charge card is probably your best option. Charge cards work like credit cards in just about every way, except that they have no set spending limit and require you to pay off the entire balance every month. For business owners and others who spend a lot, charge cards provide flexibility and convenience. Many also provide generous sign-up bonuses and amenities that fit a high-spending lifestyle.

NerdWallet’s best charge cards

Best … Card
Ultrapremium charge card The Platinum Card® from American Express
Premium charge card Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
Business charge card The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

Best ultrapremium charge card

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • Luxury travel perks (Uber credit, airline fee credit, lounge access, etc.)
    • High rewards rate in certain categories
    • No foreign transaction fees

    Cons

    • High annual fee
    • Airline fee credit is limited
    • Low rewards rate on most spending

    Annual Fees

    $550

    APR

    • Purchase: N/A

    Bonus Offers

    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
    • Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
    • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
    • 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
    • As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
    • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
    • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
    • Terms Apply.

Earn 5 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on airfare booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel; 5 points per dollar spent on eligible hotel bookings through AmEx; 2 points per dollar on other travel booked through AmEx; and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere. Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply. Annual fee of $550. 

Benefits of The Platinum Card® from American Express:

  • Airport lounge access: this card offers complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges, including Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs and Airspace Lounges, plus free enrollment in Priority Pass Select.
  • Yearly $200 credit for incidental airline fees (baggage, in-flight meals, flight-change fees, etc.)
  • Up to $200 in credits per year for using Uber.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Application fee credit for Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre-check ($85) once every five years.
  • Automatic Gold status in both the Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest programs, which both offer perks and accelerated point earning.
  • Membership Rewards points transfer to a number of airlines, including Delta, jetBlue, Virgin and British Airways.

Drawbacks of The Platinum Card® from American Express:

  • High annual fee. This card is best suited for heavy travelers who will use the yearly airline incidentals credit and Global Entry/TSA Pre-check credit. Those who spend a lot on Hilton Honors-eligible properties will also likely find The Platinum Card® from American Express worth the fee.
  • American Express cards are less widely accepted than Visa and Mastercard, especially abroad. It’s best to supplement The Platinum Card® from American Express with another non-AmEx card.
  • Low statement-credit redemption value. NerdWallet values Membership Rewards at 0.6 cents each when redeemed as a statement credit. If your plan is to redeem points for cash back, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Bottom line:

If you like to travel in style, need a charge card and already spend on the services that this card provides credits for, The Platinum Card® from American Express is probably worth the annual fee. But, if you’re looking for a simpler travel card with a fee that’s not quite as daunting, there are other options.

Best premium charge card

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • High rewards rate in certain categories
    • $100 airline fee credit; hotel upgrades and credits
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Transfer partners

    Cons

    • Annual fee after first year
    • American Express isn’t accepted as widely as Visa or Mastercard internationally
    • No lounge membership (although you do get passes)

    Annual Fees

    $0 for the first year, then $195

    APR

    • Purchase: N/A

    Bonus Offers

    Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
    • 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
    • $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 a calendar year for baggage fees at one airline.
    • Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, when available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc.
    • $0 Intro Annual Fee for the 1st year, then $195.
    • Expanding merchant acceptance: Over 1 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in the last year.
    • Terms Apply.

Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply. Earn 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare booked directly with airlines, 2 points per dollar at U.S. gas stations, U.S. restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $195.

Benefits of the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express:

  • More modest annual fee than The Platinum Card® from American Express.
  • Yearly $100 airline fee credit good for incidentals.
  • If you stay a minimum of two consecutive nights at a participating hotel booked with your Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, you’ll get a room upgrade (if available) and a $75 hotel credit good for qualifying dining, spa or resort activities.
  • Membership Rewards points transfer to a number of airlines, including Delta, jetBlue, Virgin and British Airways.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Drawbacks of the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express:

  • American Express cards are less widely accepted than Visa and Mastercard, especially abroad. It’s best to supplement your Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express with another non-AmEx card.
  • Low statement-credit redemption value.
  • This card doesn’t come with the airport lounge access offered by its cousin, The Platinum Card® from American Express. You get what you pay for.

Bottom line:

If the annual fee of The Platinum Card® from American Express annual fee is a little too rich for your blood, but you still want to earn Membership Rewards points with yearly airline credits, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express is a worthy contender.

Best business charge card

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

Apply Now on American Express's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • High rewards rate on certain travel purchases
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • Sign-up bonus
    • Airport lounge access

    Cons

    • High annual fee
    • Other cards offer a higher rewards rate on non-travel spending
    • Complicated rewards structure
    • Requires good/excellent credit

    Annual Fees

    $450

    APR

    • Purchase: N/A

    Bonus Offers

    Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
    • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
    • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
    • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
    • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
    • You can also receive 35% points back on all First and Business class flights, with all airlines available through American Express Travel.
    • You can enjoy access to The American Express Global Lounge Collection℠ offering access to the most lounges across the globe, when compared with other U.S. credit card offerings. As of 6/2017
    • Terms Apply

Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. Earn 5 points per dollar spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel; 1.5 points per dollar on purchases of $5,000 or more; and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Annual fee: $450.

Benefits of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN:

  • Annual $200 credit for incidental fees on your chosen airline
  • Complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges
  • Get 35% of your points back (up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year) when you use Membership Rewards Pay with Points to book part or all of a flight on your chosen airline, or a first- or business-class fare on any other airline
  • Credit for Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre-check ($85) application fee once every five years
  • Automatic Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Preferred Membership status: hotel room upgrades, late checkouts and opportunities to earn nights and free flights
  • Membership Rewards points transfer to a number of airlines, including Delta, jetBlue, Virgin and British Airways
  • No foreign transaction fees

Drawbacks of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN:

  • High annual fee and a high spending requirement for the sign-up bonus. If you’re not spending a lot of money on a frequent basis, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN is not for you
  • American Express cards are less widely accepted than Visa and Mastercard, especially abroad. It’s best to supplement The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN with another non-AmEx card
  • Low statement-credit redemption value

Bottom line:

If you travel and spend a lot for business, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN makes life on the road not only comfortable but rewarding, too.

Methodology

NerdWallet’s credit cards team selects the best cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to be chosen in multiple categories.

Last updated Dec. 31, 2016.

Gregory Karp is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: gkarp@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @spendingsmart