To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the American Express Green Card has received a major overhaul. Now called Green from Amex, it’s a very different type of product than it was just a few weeks before, and one that’s now competitive with the Chase Sapphire cards.
The Green Card was Amex’s signature offering for many years. From the time it was introduced in 1969, it had an aura of exclusiveness. It was sold as a travel and entertainment card for businessmen rather than a shopping card, and it had a strict set of acceptance criteria. It also came with an annual fee of $6 (roughly $40 in today’s money). The core of Amex’s business at the time was traveler’s cheques, and the Green Card enabled them to achieve a dominant position in the worlds of dining and travel. Over time, the Green Card was eclipsed by the glitzier Gold and Platinum offerings, and it was due for some changes.
Here’s what you need to know about the Green Card’s facelift:
It’s now a credit card, not a charge card: The Green Card always came with a requirement for members to settle their statements at the end of each month. This rule increased the card’s cache and narrowed its focus to the realm of business spending. Green from Amex will function as a revolving credit card, with interest rates ranging from 16.99% to 23.99% depending on your creditworthiness.
Even though you’ll have the option of carrying a balance doesn’t mean you should do it, as those interest charges add up in a hurry. The conventional wisdom is that you should only indulge in the points and miles hobby if you pay off your balances at the end of each month.
Annual fee: The fee increases from $95 to $150 annually, but it seems worth it given all the advantages of the new card.
Increased point earning: Green from Amex will now earn three Membership Rewards points in restaurants (both in the U.S. and overseas), travel (including flights, hotels, car rentals, travel agencies and tour operators) and transportation (taxis, buses, subways, tolls and rideshares). This is perhaps the most significant change of all, since it puts the card on a par with Chase Sapphire Reserve, which has an annual fee of $450.
Signup bonus: You receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $2,000 within the first three months of card membership. Since those points are generally valued at a minimum of 1.5 cents each, that translates to a gain of at least $450 (there are some reports of a 45,000-point offer if you use the incognito mode on your browser). Membership Rewards points transfer to 19 airlines and three hotel reward programs.
You receive a credit of $100 per year toward the purchase of a CLEAR membership, which will grant quicker access to airports and stadiums (this compares favorably to the Global Entry and TSA PreCheck credits offered by the premium cards, as those only apply every four years). You also get a credit of $100 annually toward visits with LoungeBuddy. Until January 15, 2020, the card comes with a $100 statement credit toward purchases with AWAY, a company specializing in luggage and other travel accessories.
Additional perks: The card comes with car rental loss and damage insurance (secondary), baggage insurance (up to $500 for checked bag and $1,250 for carry-ons), access to the Global Assist Hotline for emergency travel assistance and the ability to pay for travel with Membership Rewards points. There are no foreign transaction fees.
Implications: Every time a major credit card is introduced or an existing one is significantly redesigned, it changes the overall picture for rewards cards. That’s definitely the case here.
We’ve mentioned the Chase Sapphire Reserve several times, and the comparison with Green from Amex is significant. The CSR is a high-end travel rewards card on a par with the Amex Platinum Card. Green from Amex now offers some of the key benefits of the CSR, such as triple points on dining and travel. It’s true that Green from Amex commands a much lower annual fee ($150 vs. $450), although the CSR also comes with a $300 annual travel credit that levels the playing field in that area. If you don’t need some of the additional benefits of the CSR, such as primary car rental insurance and enhanced lounge access, Green from Amex is going to be a much easier card to get.
The other major comparison is the new similarity between Green from Amex and the American Express Gold Card, which also went through a recent transformation. The annual fee on the Gold card is $250; it earns four points per dollar on global dining and at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year), as well as triple points on airfare. The card offers a $100 airline credit and a $120 dining credit each year. Some of the other benefits are different as well, such as extended warranty, return and purchase protection. On close examination, though, the Gold card is still a step up from Green, although the major difference is the ability to earn points while grocery shopping.
Bottom Line: This is a bold move from American Express, and one which makes the entry-level Green from Amex far more valuable. It’s a great card for someone who travels and dines out frequently, and it has a number of worthwhile perks and benefits.
Source: frugal travel guy