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The card_name is probably the most recognizable and well known of Amex’s consumer cards and it’s a card that can divide opinion quite sharply. For some, this is a card that makes travel considerably more comfortable and more rewarding while for others, it’s a card whose annual fee is hard to justify and whose benefits are increasingly hard to exploit to their full.
This is my take on one of the more famous cards in the world.
card_name is Amex’s highest-level consumer card that’s open for applications and it’s aimed squarely at people who enjoy traveling, and who enjoy doing so in comfort and style.
The card offers a very rewarding return on select flight bookings, it offers access to multiple airport lounge networks and Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts program, it provides cardholders with elite status in two hotel loyalty programs, and it gives cardholders the chance to earn a variety of statement credits that can help them offset some or all of their card’s annual fee.
Here’s what you need to know about card_name:
- annual_fees (rates & fees)
Cost of authorized user cards
- $195 per authorized user (rates & fees).
Current welcome bonus
Note: The welcome is offer not available to applicants who currently hold this card or who have held this card in the past.
Standard earnings (terms apply)
- 5 points/dollar on the first $500,000 of flights booked directly with airlines and on flights booked through Amex Travel (1 point/dollar thereafter)
- 1 point/dollar on all other eligible purchases
Key benefits (terms apply & enrollment may be required)
- Access to Amex Centurion Lounges
- Priority Pass Membership (enrollment required)
- Access to the American Express Global Lounge collection
- Access to the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program
- Access to the International Airline program (for discounts on premium cabins on select airlines – more info)
- Hilton Honors Gold status (enrollment required)
- Credit towards the cost of Global Entry or TSA Precheck
- Uber/Uber Eats credits (enrollment required)
- Saks 5th Avenue credits
- Annual airline fee credit (enrollment required)
- Annual prepaid hotel credit
- Monthly Equinox credit (enrollment required)
- Monthly digital entertainment credit (enrollment required)
- Annual CLEAR® membership credit (enrollment required)
- Monthly Walmart+ credit (enrollment required)
- SoulCycle At-Home Bike credit (enrollment required)
- Trip delay protection
- Trip interruption and cancellation insurance
- Transfer points to a wide variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs
- No foreign transaction fees
Why I like this card
It earns valuable Membership Rewards Points (terms apply)
Membership Rewards Points are Amex’s flexible rewards currency and they can be transferred across to a wide variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs at a ratio of 1:1. With the option to transfer the points that card_name earns to programs like Delta Sky Miles, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, the British Airways Executive Club, Flying Blue, and Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles, cardholders can use their earnings to save a significant amount of money on the trips they book and fly in some of the more aspirational First and Business Class cabins around.
I’m a big fan of Membership rewards because cards like this one make points relatively easy to earn for anyone who books flights with any frequency and because the points are relatively easy to use. Add to that the fact that Amex frequently offers bonuses for transfers to its loyalty program partners, and it’s easy to see why the Membership Rewards program is so popular.
The welcome bonus is attractive (terms apply)
This is the current welcome bonus:
That’s not a bad deal to be offered (although it’s also not the best deal that we’ve seen the card offer), and the fact that new cardholders are being given 6 months to earn the bonus (rather than the standard 3 months) is a nice added extra.
As I value Membership Rewards points at 1.5 cents each (based on the value that I know I can get out of them with ease), I value the current welcome bonus at $1,200.
A great return on airfare spending (terms apply)
The 5 points/dollar that card_name earns on airfare spending made directly with an airline or through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 of spending in a calendar year) equates to a rebate of 7.5% (based on my valuation of Membership Rewards Points), and that’s a rebate that no other card can match.
Statement credits to help offset the annual fee
This card may come with a annual_fees annual fee (rates & fees), but it also offers cardholders a number of statement credits that can help reduce that fee significantly.
$200 annual airline fee credit (terms apply and enrollment required)
card_name offers cardholders an airline fee credit that’s worth $200 per calendar year, which can be used on a cardholder’s nominated airline (select US airlines only).
The airline fee credit does not cover airfare spending, but it can be used to have expenses such as baggage fees, seat selection fees, change fees, and pet fees rebated. In-flight purchases of drinks, food, amenities, in-flight entertainment fees (excluding wifi) and airline lounge day passes and annual memberships will also trigger the credit.
Up to $200 In Uber & Uber Eats credits (terms apply and enrollment required)
Holders of card_name receive up to $200 in Uber Cash credits/year which appear as $15 monthly credits in the Uber app (up to $35 in December).
Just like the credit that’s offered with the card_name (review), these monthly credits can be used on Uber rides and Uber Eats orders within the United States so they’re relatively straightforward to use.
Unfortunately, just like the credits on the Gold Card, these are credits that do not roll over from month to month, so if you fail to use your credit in any given month, it’s gone forever.
For anyone who uses Uber or Uber Eats at least once or twice per month, this is a very useful benefit and a genuine cash saver. On its own, it can drop the card’s annual fee to $495.
Note: Although you have to have card_name linked to your Uber wallet to ensure that you get the monthly credits, you don’t have to pay with it to ensure that the credits are triggered. I get monthly credits courtesy of card_name but I pay for all my personal Uber trips using my card_name and all of my business Uber trips using my card_name.
$100 annual Hotel Collection credit (terms apply)
The Hotel Collection is a hotel booking portal run by Amex Travel and holders of card_name who book a stay of 2 nights or longer through the portal, are given a $100 on-site credit. This credit can be spent on dining, spa bookings, and activities charged to the room during a stay.
If you’re likely to need to book a stay of 2 nights or longer during your cardmember year, this could be a nice benefit to have – $100 will go a long way towards buying 2 people a nice meal at a good hotel – but some caution is required.
Firstly, if you wouldn’t have made the hotel booking if this card wasn’t offering you an on-site credit, this isn’t a genuine saving. Secondly, be aware that bookings made through the hotel collection are considered 3rd party bookings by most hotel chains, so any elite benefits you may have with that hotel’s loyalty program are unlikely to be honored.
Essentially, the $100 credit is best used at properties where the cardholder doesn’t have elite status and where the $100 would have been spent whether or not the credit was being offered (this works particularly well at boutique hotels which, mostly, don’t have loyalty programs).
$200 annual prepaid hotel credit (terms apply)
Holders of card_name who book a prepaid stay of 2 nights or longer through the Hotel Collection, or a prepaid stay of any length through the Fine Hotels & Resorts program (FHR), will receive a statement credit of up to $200 towards the cost of that booking every calendar year.
On the face of things, this looks like a great benefit to have (and it can be), but as I mentioned a little earlier, prepaid bookings are usually treated as 3rd party bookings by the bigger hotel chains and that makes them ineligible for elite status benefits, elite status credits, or hotel points accrual.
If you’re not booking a chain hotel or don’t have elite status with a chain that you’re booking, this won’t matter. If you care about elite status benefits, however, this could be a turn-off.
Up to $100/year in Saks 5th Avenue credits (terms apply)
Holders of card_name receive up to $100 in Saks 5th Avenue credits every year – a $50 credit in the first half of the year and a further $50 credit in the second half of the year – and for anyone who shops at Saks, this is a genuine $100/year saving.
For anyone who doesn’t shop at Saks with any great frequency, this may be a slightly harder benefit to use (you don’t get much for $50 at Saks), but with Saks bricks and mortar stores happy to sell customers $50 gift cards, it’s possible to use these credits to save up for a future purchase.
Up To $100 to cover Global Entry/TSA Precheck membership (terms apply and enrollment required)
Every 4/4.5 years, holders of the card_name who use their card to pay for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership, will have their membership fee refunded as a statement credit up to a value of $100.
As someone who travels internationally, I love having Global Entry membership (it makes returning to the US easy and mostly line-free) and as Global Entry membership also includes membership of the TSA Precheck program, this is an Amex credit is a benefit that I value highly and that I never fail to use.
Up To $189 to cover CLEAR Plus membership (terms apply and enrollment required)
CLEAR is a program that uses a person’s biometrics (their fingerprints, eyes, and face) to confirm their identity and gives members access to fast-track lanes at select airports and sporting stadia around the United States (click here to see the locations that CLEAR currently serves).
card_name now gives cardholders up to $189/year in statement credits when they use their card to pay for their annual CLEAR Plus membership and if you have a CLEAR fast-track option at one or more locations near you (most major airports now have CLEAR lanes), this can be a great benefit to have.
It should be noted, however, that this benefit isn’t actually worth the full $189 as it’s easy to get CLEAR Plus membership that costs less. In fact, some people can get a CLEAR Plus membership for free without the help of this card.
- Delta SkyMiles Silver, Gold, and Platinum members can enjoy Clear Plus membership for $149/year as can holders of select Delta SkyMiles Amex cards.
- Delta SkyMiles Diamond and 360º elites get CLEAR Plus membership for free.
- United MileagePlus Silver, Gold, and Platinum members can enjoy CLEAR Plus membership for $149/year as can holders of select United Airlines co-branded credit cards.
- United MileagePlus Global Services & 1K elites get it for free elites get CLEAR Plus membership for free.
If you have a top-tier Delta or United status, this card’s CLEAR benefit is worth nothing to you. For others, it’s worth, at most, $40.
Up to $300/year in Equinox credit (terms apply and enrollment required)
Since the beginning of 2023, card_name offers cardholders a statement credit of up to $300 when membership fees for Equinox memberships (which include complimentary access to the Equinox+ app as part of membership) or fees for a stand-alone membership to the Equinox+ app are charged to the card.
To receive this benefit, Card Members must access the Equinox website through the link provided in the benefits section of their American Express online account or mobile app to enroll in an eligible Equinox or Equinox+ membership or to validate their eligibility to apply the benefit to an existing eligible membership.
For anyone with an existing Equinox membership or subscription (or anyone considering taking out an Equinox subscription), this can be a very nice money saver and will help justify the card’s annual fee.
For those of us who have other gym subscriptions, who have no need for the Equniox+ app, or who live nowhere near an Equinox location, this benefit is considerably less useful.
$300 SoulCycle at-home bike credit (terms apply)
As of 7 October 2021, holders of card_name get another Equinox-related rebate in the form of a $300 rebate on up to 15 (yes, fifteen!) individual SoulCycle At-Home Bike purchases per calendar year.
Amex says that a 12-month Equinox+ membership (costing $40/month + tax) is required to purchase a SoulCycle At-Home bike, but as this offer stacks with the monthly Equinox membership credit mentioned above (which includes an Equinox+ membership), this doesn’t have to be as expensive as it may sound.
Up to $240/year in digital entertainment credit (terms apply and enrollment required)
Holders of the card_name can enroll their card to earn up to $20/month in statement credits for spending made with very specific “entertainment” providers. Namely: Audible, Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and the New York Times.
If you already subscribe to one or more of those entertainment providers, there’s no doubt that the monthly credit will be very welcome. For everyone else, this probably isn’t one of the card’s bigger selling points.
Walmart+ membership credit (terms apply and enrollment required)
As of 7 October 2021, holders of card_name who use their card to pay for a monthly Walmart+ membership will have the full membership fee refunded ($12.95/month, plus applicable taxes).
The card offers access to airport lounges (terms apply)
card_name gives cardholders complimentary access to Amex’s popular Centurion Lounges at airports like JFK, LAX, Dallas Fort Worth, Las Vegas, Seattle, San Francisco, Miami, and more, but most cardholders can no longer bring two guests into the lounges with them at no extra charge*.
*As of 1 February 2023, holders of card_name are now charged $50 for each guest they bring into a Centurion Lounge unless they spend at least $75,000 per year on their card (in which case they receive complimentary lounge access for two guests).
For travelers flying with Delta, card_name gives cardholders access to Delta SkyClubs as long as their Delta flight is departing on the day of entry to the lounge. Sadly, guests are not permitted.
If an airport doesn’t have a Centurion Lounge or if you’re not flying with Delta, card_name doesn’t leave cardholders waiting at their gate as it also offers Priority Pass Select Membership (this membership does not include access to Priority Pass restaurants) and access to Amex’s Global Lounge Collection.
If your elite status doesn’t grant you access to airport lounges, if you travel through airports where your preferred airline doesn’t offer a lounge or if your elite status doesn’t allow you to bring guests into your preferred airline’s lounge, the lounge access benefits of card_name can be invaluable.
Complimentary hotel elite status (terms apply and enrollment required)
Holders of card_name are given Hilton Honors Gold status as well as Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status for as long as their card is active.
Hilton Honors Gold status is widely considered to be the most valuable mid-tier hotel staus available (it offers guests complimentary breakfast/a food credit, 80% bonus points on all Hilton stays, late checkouts subject to availability, and access to Hilton’s excellent 5th night free on award stays benefit), so this is a great benefit for this card to offer.
Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status is less impressive (its key benefits are limited to late check-outs where available, 25% bonus points on all Marriott stays, and occasional room upgrades), but as it’s always better to have some kind of elite status when visiting a hotel than no status at all, this benefit can still be useful for cardholders who don’t earn Marriott status organically.
Access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts (terms apply)
card_name gives cardholders access to Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program which is a program that can significantly improve a hotel stay.
Hotel rates available through FHR often give guests access to benefits that they wouldn’t have access to when booking through other channels and, importantly, these additional benefits are usually offered at a price comparable to the one offered directly by the hotel.
These benefits can include:
- Daily breakfast for up to two guests
- Room upgrade (where available)
- A property amenity (often a $100 property credit, a free spa treatment, etc…)
- A guaranteed 4 p.m. checkout
- Noon check-in (where available)
- Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi (exclusions apply)
On top of this, bookings made through FHR are treated as direct bookings by the various hotel loyalty programs, so guests booking through FHR don’t have to give up any elite benefits they may be entitled to (as they would when booking through most other 3rd party sites) and, where applicable, their bookings will earn points in the hotel’s loyalty program too.
Trip delay coverage (terms apply)
At the beginning of 2020, Amex improved the travel benefits on a number of its cards and one of those improvements was the addition of Trip Delay coverage to the card_name.
If a round-trip is paid for entirely with card_name and a covered reason delays cardholder’s trip more than 6 hours, Trip Delay Insurance can help reimburse certain additional expenses purchased with the same card.
Coverage is for up to $500 per trip with a maximum of 2 claims per card per 12 consecutive month period.
With bad weather often causing significant disruption to travel all around the world, the fact that card_name offers the best Trip Delay Coverage of any US-issued credit card makes this a big reason why so many travelers choose to book their airfare with this card.
Amex insurance disclosure:
Up to $500 per Covered Trip that is delayed for more than 6 hours; and 2 claims per Eligible Card per 12 consecutive month period.
• Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply.
• Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details.
• Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company
card_name is a card you hold for the great travel benefits that it offers, the fantastic earning rate on airfares (5 points/dollar), and the statement credits that help drive down the card’s annual fee.
It’s fair to say that over the past few years, Amex has made it harder for cardholders to recoup the card’s annual fee by making us jump through an annoying number of hoops to trigger the various rebates, and by adding rebates that not all cardholders will find useful.
However, that being said, I still think that if you’re a keen traveler and can use the great benefits that this card offers, card_name can still be a great card to hold as it’s a card that can significantly improve the quality of your trips.
The key to making sure that you’re someone who will benefit from adding card_name to their wallet is to consider just how many of the statement credits you’ll be able to use, and to then see exactly how much the card will cost you every year.
Once you know what your net out-of-pocket expense of holding this card will be, you can compare it to the benefits that the card offers and make an informed decision on just how much value the card can offer you.
Personally, I can’t imagine not having this card as part of my portfolio because I get an incredible amount of value out of the benefits that it offers, but that may not be the case for someone who travels infrequently. Think carefully about how much use you’ll get out of the benefits that card_name offers and only apply if you can justify the cost.
For rates and fees of card_name, please visit rates & fees