The American Express Green Card is an amazing credit card that is perfect for beginner travelers who have just gotten into the world of credit cards. It is currently offering a targeted 45,000 Membership Rewards, “MR” point sign up bonus over the normal 30,000 MR point one, for both after spending $2,000 on the card in the first three months. Compared to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, arguably the top travel card, which offers a 50,000 Ultimate Rewards, “UR” point sign up bonus, but after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months, some may argue it has a better sign up bonus. If you factor in the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $450 annual fee, compared to the Green Card’s $150, the Green Card wins again. The Green Card is more attainable for beginners due to it having a lower credit score threshold to get approved, from the higher end of good until excellent, whereas the Sapphire Reserve requires an excellent credit score. None of this is saying that overall the Green Card is better than the Sapphire Reserve, both have some strengths and weaknesses, but for a beginner in the credit card world, or for someone who only travels once or twice a year, the Green Card may be more beneficial, while the Sapphire Reserve would be better for a more frequent flier or someone more experienced in the credit card world.
The 45,000 points sign up bonus after $2,000 in spending the first three months can be valued as at least worth $900 but can easily be worth more if put towards premium cabin airfare. In addition to the sign up bonus, if you apply for the AMEX Green Card by January 15th, 2020, you are eligible for a $100 Away luggage credit, which can be used as a statement credit towards new Away luggage in the first three months of your card opening. You can use that credit for their amazing carry on suitcases, or for any of their other products. With the $150 annual fee, you get an array of great benefits specific to the card as well as AMEX’s other great benefits. The card comes with an annual $100 LoungeBuddy credit, which can be used towards access to a variety of airport lounges, such as The Club at BUF or the Turkish Airlines lounge at IAD. The $100 credit will most likely get you into 2 lounges over the course of the year but can be stretched out to 4 passes. The credit is great and can be very useful as long as you don’t already have a Priority Pass from another premium travel credit card, such as the American Express Platinum Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve, which would get you free, unlimited access for even more lounges. But the Green Card isn’t targeted for the heavy traveler, meaning, that for beginners, lounge access a couple of times a year will be great.
Another great benefit is the yearly $100 CLEAR credit. CLEAR is expedited security in some of the busiest airports in the United States, as well as expedited security at a number of sports arenas and fast lane with Hertz, to help you get your car and get out quickly. Unless you are a United or Delta top elite, where you would get CLEAR for free, you can get CLEAR for as low as $119 a year through your United MileagePlus account. After the $100 credit that price drops to only $19 a year for a service that can save you a lot of time in airports, especially when traveling during peak periods. If you are currently saying to yourself, “CLEAR isn’t valuable to me; I have TSA PreCheck,” think again. CLEAR is the PreCheck of PreChecks, getting you through security quickly and easily, with a much, much shorter line. If you do have CLEAR, you can add your significant other, or any 3 random adults of your choosing, to your CLEAR account for only $50 more per year. Anyone under 18 traveling with a CLEAR registered adult can get through for free. Lastly, if you’re a student, you can get CLEAR for $50 a year. These two travel credits, when put to use, can easily offset the $150 yearly credit. Even if you barely use the card, just having it and paying the annual fee would leave you ahead.
Let’s talk bonus spend categories. The American Express Green Card earns 3x MR points on travel and dining, as well as 1x points on everything else. There are no limits to how much you can spend in each category, meaning that you can earn a great number of MR points if you travel and/or eat out frequently. American Express loosely defines “travel,” meaning that anything from flight, to hotels, to public transport and taxis count. The Membership Rewards points can be used to transfer to one of American Express’s 22 airline and hotel partners. You can even use the points to fly the amazing Emirates first class on their A380 or their new suites on the 777. A similar mid-tier travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, along with the Green Card, makes up two of the best travel rewards credit cards for beginners. The Sapphire Preferred has similar spending categories as well: 2x UR points on dining and travel and 1x on everything else. Although the Sapphire Preferred has a lower annual fee, coming in at $95, the bonus points and travel statement credits can easily outweigh the difference in costs. The point earning is more similar to the Sapphire Preferred’s older sibling, the Sapphire Reserve, which earns 3x on travel and dining, but, as said earlier, has a much larger annual fee at $450.
Overall, the American Express Card is a great mid-tier travel credit card. Although it doesn’t offer top of the line benefits such as a Priority Pass, a $300 yearly travel credit with the Sapphire Reserve, or a $200 yearly Uber credit with the American Express Platinum Card, it’s not targeted to the audience that needs those benefits. It’s a great beginner travel credit card, but it is also paired well with high end cards such as the Platinum Card, meaning that a more experienced traveler may find it just as useful. With the annual travel credits, and the elevated earning on travel and dining, I would not be surprised to see a new American Express Green Card in my wallet anytime soon. Did I mention this card is made from entirely recycled plastic?
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