Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
There are exceptions to every rule.
In the credit cards industry, changes to credit cards are typically called a “refresh” — that’s usually a code word for “your annual fee is going up.” And many credit cards with low annual fees don’t offer many perks.
Enter the exception: the American Express® Green Card. The card has gained additional benefits over the years, with perks that easily justify its annual fee, yet the annual fee is still a modest $150 (see rates and fees).
But that doesn’t answer whether the Amex Green Card’s annual fee is worth it. What do you get for that $150? Let’s take a look.
Right now, new applicants can earn 60,000 bonus Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first six months of cardmembership. They’ll also get 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases in the first six months, up to $200 back in the form of a statement credit. TPG values this bonus at $1,400 (including statement credit), and you only need to spend $500 monthly for six months to achieve it.
This is the best-ever publicly-available offer we’ve seen on this card, meaning now is a great time to apply.
Membership Rewards points have numerous uses, including cashing out your points (not the best value) or redeeming with hotel and airline partners (can provide incredible value, depending on the partner.)
Excellent uses of Membership Rewards points include domestic flights on Delta Air Lines and flights to Canada with WestJet, a Delta partner. Flights to South America with LATAM can also provide excellent value, as can transferring your points to Virgin Atlantic for redemptions with ANA on flights to Japan.
American Express has its own set of application rules and restrictions when applying for a credit card. The most notable of these rules is the once-in-a-lifetime rule. The Amex Green Card has the following terms:
Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card or previous versions of the American Express® Green Card. We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.
Thus, you may not be eligible for the bonus if you’ve had this card previously (or previous versions of it before its makeover in 2019). Amex may also consider how many other cards you’ve had in the past and sometimes uses a pop-up window during the application to say you’re not eligible for the bonus.
Clear is an airport security program that can help you speed through the checkpoint by using biometrics to prove your identity.
Membership costs $189 per year, and you can get this reimbursed the full amount by paying for your Clear Plus membership with your Amex Green Card. There’s no prior enrollment required with Amex to use this benefit, but you will need to sign up with Clear Plus and complete your enrollment to use Clear security lanes at a growing number of venues and airports.
Even better, select Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus cobranded credit cardholders can get a Clear membership at a reduced price of $149. Since your annual benefit maximum on the Amex Green Card is $189, that’s enough to cover this reduced price and some of the cost of adding a loved one.
While this feature doesn’t provide free, unlimited access as you get with a Priority Pass Select membership offered on other credit cards, you can be reimbursed when paying to visit LoungeBuddy lounges each year.
Use your Amex Green Card to pay for these visits, and you’ll receive up to $100 in statement credits to offset these purchases each calendar year. There’s no need to enroll for this benefit in advance with Amex, though you do need to enroll with LoungeBuddy for a membership.
One of the best features of the Amex Green Card may be how you can earn points.
Cardmembers earn 3 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide, 3 points per dollar on takeout and delivery services in the U.S., 3 points per dollar on transit (including trains, buses, ferries and subways), 3 points per dollar on travel and 1 point per dollar on other purchases.
With broad travel and transit categories, this is one of the best credit cards for travel purchases and dining expenses. TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, meaning you can earn a 6% return on spending for your travel, commuting and dining expenses.
Related: Amex Green Card review
While the Amex Green Card earns less at restaurants than the 4 points per dollar provided by the American Express® Gold Card and doesn’t offer bonus points at U.S. supermarkets as the Gold Card does, the Green Card provides much better earning rates for commuting and travel.
Cardmembers also have access to other benefits. Amex Offers can provide rebates or bonus points on your upcoming purchases through targeted promotions, plus there are built-in shopping and travel protections that can provide both peace of mind and security during mishaps at home and abroad.
It’s also worth pointing out that the Amex Green Card is not a traditional credit card. Credit cards have a preset spending limit; you cannot spend more than that until you pay down your balance. You also can carry a balance (you shouldn’t, though, since you’ll pay interest) from month to month.
Conversely, the Amex Green Card doesn’t have a preset spending limit. How much you can spend on the card can change depending on your payment history and credit score, for example, and you need to pay your bill in full each month. Pay Over Time can be used on some Amex cards, but cards like the Amex Green, Amex Gold and The Platinum Card® from American Express are designed for you to pay your entire bill in full each month.
This can be a positive or a negative feature, depending on how you see it and whether you plan to make a large purchase on a card and pay it off over time.
As cardmember benefits have improved on the Amex Green Card in the past few years, the annual fee has remained steady at a moderate $150. If you can use the Clear benefit and LoungeBuddy passes each year, you can easily offset the annual fee.
However, you might not use these perks if you already have another credit card that provides lounge access and/or a card that reimburses your Clear Plus membership. The question at that point would be whether the earning structure on the Green Card provides enough extra Membership Rewards points each year to make keeping the card worthwhile.
Learn more in our full review of the Amex Green card.
Official application link: American Express Green Card with a best-ever 60,000-point bonus and 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases (up to $200 back in the form of a statement credit) in your first six months.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, click here.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox and Benét J. Wilson.