No, The American Express Green Card Isn’t A Sapphire Reserve Killer…But It’s Still Pretty Good!


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I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labors for the past couple of weeks and actually spending miles and points rather than just writing about how to spend them so please forgive my late arrival to the “Green From Amex” party 🙂

I’m of an age which means that I remember the days when miles and points weren’t even a thing and when the number of credit/charge cards on offer was just a fraction of what we have available today.

In those days the American Express Green Card was one of the most recognizable cards around and its image appeared on most of the cash registers in my area as well as in most coffee shop windows…but that was a long time ago.

The American Express Green Card has been the forgotten card in Amex’s portfolio for a very long time but on 24 October 2019 American Express did what quite a few of us suspected it was gearing up do – it relaunched its iconic Green Card with a host of new earning rates and benefits… but is the revamped card any good?

First, here’s what you need to know about the American Express Green Card:

The American Express Green Card

Annual Fee:

  • $150

Welcome Bonus:

  • Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $2,000 on the card in the first 3 months of card membership.
  • Receive up to $100 in statement credits for purchases made directly with Away using the American Express Green Card within the first 3 months of card membership (offer available to successful applicants who apply by 15 January 2020).

Note: There may be an improved welcome offer available if you use incognito mode when browsing (I have not been able to replicate this but I know others have).

Earning Rates:

  • 3 points per dollar spent on travel
  • 3 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide
  • 1 point per dollar for all other spending

Headline Benefits:

  • Up to $100/calendar year in statement credits when you use the American Express Green Card to pay for CLEAR.
  • Up to $100/calendar year in statement credits when you use the American Express Green Card to pay for lounge access through LoungeBuddy.
  • Up to $300/trip in insurance coverage when a cardholder’s trip is delayed by more than 12 hours for a covered reason (coming from 1 January 2020)
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance (secondary coverage)
  • Baggage insurance plan (secondary coverage)
  • No foreign exchange fees

Thoughts

This Isn’t A Sapphire Reserve “Killer”

I’ve heard a few people claiming that this card is a Chase Sapphire Reserve “killer” but, to be frank and a little brutal, that’s nonsense. This card is good but it’s definitely not a Sapphire Reserve killer.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve may offer the same earning rates as the refreshed American Express Green Card (3 points/dollar on travel and at restaurants worldwide) while costing considerably more ($450/year vs $150/year) but this alone doesn’t tell the whole story.

  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a $300 statement credit on just about all travel spending which effectively reduces the card’s annual fee to $150 – exactly the same as the Green Card’s annual fee.
  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers primary car rental loss and damage insurance where the insurance offered by the American Express Green card is secondary.
  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with Priority Pass Select membership – the American Express Green Card does not.
  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers better trip delay insurance than the American Express Green Card will offer from 1 January 2020 ($500/trip with just a 6-hour delay if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve)
  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers trip cancellation insurance and a host of other insurances that you don’t get with the American Express Green Card.

As I said, the American Express Green card is definitely not a Sapphire Reserve killer….but that doesn’t mean that it should be ignored.

The Green Card Has Its Own Strong Points

So far I’ve only really mentioned the ways in which the American Express Green Card doesn’t match up to the Chase Sapphire Reserve but there are a number of ways in which this card is actually very good:

  1. The Amex Green Card earns Membership Rewards Points which transfer over to more partners than any other transferrable currency.
  2. The Green Card offers 3 Membership Rewards per dollar on a broad spectrum of travel spending (flights, hotels, taxis, ridesharing, and transit) which no other American Express card does.
  3. While a good number of credit cards now offer a credit for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck (e.g. the Platinum Card from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (link to more info)) the Green Card is the only card that I know of that offers an annual credit towards CLEAR membership.

Who Is The American Express Green Card Targeted At?

The American Express Green Card is clearly being targeted at those of us who travel a lot so if you don’t do a lot of spending on hotel stays, flights, taxis, ridesharing services, and transit tickets there’s a very good chance this card isn’t for you (the American Express Gold Card may be more to your liking if you enjoy earning Membership Rewards Points).

However, as you’re currently reading a miles and points blog which focuses almost entirely on travel, and as you’re a good way into a post on an American Express Membership Rewards earning credit card, I’m going to go ahead and guess that your travel spending isn’t insignificant and that you like earning Membership Rewards Points.

Assuming that’s true, the American Express Green Card may well be of use to you.

For Whom Can The American Express Green Card Be Useful?

If you like earning Membership Rewards Points and you spend quite a bit on travel then there really are only three personal cards for you to choose from…

…but they’re far from being equal.

The Amex Platinum Card offers an impressive 5 points/dollar on airfare spending but doesn’t offer any kind of bonus for all other travel spending (except if you book hotels through the Amex portal and forgo elite benefits and hotel loyalty points) and not everyone can justify the $550/year annual fee.

The Amex Gold Card offers the same 3 points/dollar on airfare that the Green Card does but doesn’t offer any kind of bonus for all other travel spending and it costs $250/year. However, the card does earn 4 points/dollar at restaurants worldwide (1 point/dollar more than the Green Card) and 4 points/dollar at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000/year in purchases) which the Green Card does not.

So, with all that in mind, I see the American Express Green Card being most useful for people who…

  1. Spend a reasonable amount of across a range of travel categories every year
  2. Struggle to justify the Platinum Card’s annual fee
  3. Don’t really need the bonus points for spending at US supermarkets (possibly because they already have a card like the Amex Everyday Preferred credit card)
  4. Are able to make good use of the $100/year CLEAR statement credit which would effectively reduce the annual fee to just $50.

I don’t think that the LoungeBuddy Credit moves the needle in favor of the Green Card (most readers will already probably have a Priority Pass membership which is superior), I don’t think the $100/year airline fee credit moves the needle in favor of the Amex Gold Card (it’s hard to use economically now that it doesn’t work for most gift card purchases) and for a lot of people the great earnings rate on airfare that the Platinum Card offers isn’t enough to warrant the high annual fee.

Bottom Line

When I first saw the details of the refreshed American Express Green Card I have to confess that I wondered how it would fit into Amex’s portfolio and what kind of person it would suit…but now I get it.

If one of your key aims is to earn Amex Membership Rewards points when you book travel you’re not going to find a better personal card than this.

The only other Membership Rewards cards that offer earning rates on travel that are as good as the travel earning rates offered by the Green Card either restrict those earnings to airfares or require you to (mostly) pass up hotel loyalty program benefits while costing significantly more.

With the American Express Green Card you can now earn a significant number of Membership Rewards points across a broad spectrum of travel categories without having to give up benefits that other programs afford you…and that’s why this card is good.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Posting is too long to read through. Suffice to say I had a purple Amex in 1958 and have now a green Amex I rarely use b/c of 2.8% forex load. I use my CSR. By now I have over 250k points on both. CSR is my default on ApplePay and I pay in full $3-$4k a month. Added to my 100k joining bonus from Chase. Hard to see whaT Amex can offer me except being a “charter member” and getting a congratulatory letter from Amex’s CEO every 10 years.

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