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Is the AmEx Green Card Right For Me?

April 16, 2020
Travel, Travel Credit Cards
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The American Express® Green Card is one of the oldest credit cards in the world. Introduced in 1969 and fully overhauled in 2019, the American Express® Green Card looks much more attractive these days (both appearance- and feature-wise), but does it deserve valuable space in your collection?

» Learn more: Why the AmEx Green Card could replace your Chase Sapphire Reserve

The answer depends on whether or not you embrace the latest industry trend: more bang for more bucks.

After its refresh, the American Express® Green Card annual fee jumped more than 50%, from $95 to $150. Terms apply. That’s hardly a small change even with the increased benefits. And the card doesn’t waive the first-year fee as it used to, so you’ll want to be sure you’re getting your money’s worth. The most important question, though, has little to do with the card itself and more with Membership Rewards points in general:

Am I a cash-back or points kind of person?

The American Express® Green Card earns 3 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on restaurants and travel worldwide including transit. Currently, it comes with the following welcome bonus: Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

That’s a great welcome bonus and earning scheme, but “cashing your points out” at a decent ratio might be a problem. Sure, you can redeem points to pay off your card balance, but this only gives you a value of 0.6 cent per point. You can buy stuff at online stores like Amazon or Walmart.com, but that gives you a value of 0.7 cent per point. Gift cards range in redemption value between 0.5 cent and 1 cent per point. For more information on what Membership Rewards points are worth check out the AmEx Rewards Points Calculator.

» Learn more: AmEx Membership Rewards: How to earn and use them

The American Express® Green Card, just like other AmEx Membership Rewards cards, was designed with travel-lovers in mind. If you like traveling, you may certainly benefit from what the American Express® Green Card has to offer. If not, then a simple, no-annual-fee cash-back card might be a much better companion.

Here are a few other questions you can ask yourself to determine whether this card is right for you:

Do I want to deal with frequent flyer programs?

The highest-value AmEx points redemptions come from transferring them to participating airline frequent flyer programs. If you truly want to maximize your points value, there is no better way than using AmEx’s network of 19 frequent flyer programs. And many of AmEx’s member airlines participate in airline alliances and other networks from all over the world, so AmEx points can eventually get you access to dozens of world airlines.

Sounds good? It should — this is the method that can deliver point values much higher than 1 cent each. However, dealing with widely different airline frequent flyer programs takes some learning and might test the limits of your patience, too.

Will I take advantage of the card’s airport benefits?

The American Express® Green Card offers an annual Clear credit up to $100. Terms apply. This benefit is rare — most travel cards offer credits for Global Entry and TSA Precheck rather than Clear. Yet Clear, which uses biometrics to zoom you through the ID check part of security, works especially well in conjunction with TSA Precheck.

The Precheck ID lanes can get busy and slow, while Clear moves so fast that it rarely has more than a few people waiting. When you use Clear for the ID check and Precheck for the rest of the security screening, it can almost feel like skipping security altogether. See if Clear is currently serving your airport to determine whether you’d make good use of this benefit.

» Learn more: TSA Precheck vs. Global Entry: Which is right for you?

Another useful airport benefit is up to $100 in credits each year for accessing airport lounges via LoungeBuddy. The cost of admission starts at $25, so your credit can work for up to four visits. Airport lounges can be a welcome respite from more crowded terminals, although some lounges can become packed too during busy times. Terms apply.

If you take full advantage of these two benefits every year, they can more than make up for your $150 annual fee. Terms apply.

» Learn more: Best uses of the AmEx Green’s $100 LoungeBuddy credit

Do I value additional protection benefits?

The American Express® Green Card offers a host of protection benefits:

  • Car rental loss and damage insurance.
  • Baggage insurance.
  • Trip delay insurance.
  • Purchase protection.
  • Extended warranty.

» Learn more: Travel protection coverage on the AmEx Green Card

While some of these benefits are reasonably common, others are not so much. For example, the American Express® Green Card is the cheapest in the AmEx lineup that carries trip delay insurance.

The bottom line

If you’ll use these benefits fully and earn enough points to make up for the annual fee, the revamped American Express® Green Card could certainly be a smart choice.

All information about American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. 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 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
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Benefits of the AmEx Green Card
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