[Updated] 6 Best American Express Cards

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I frequently offer appraisals of the very best cards, and the very best signup bonuses, but in doing so only offer one or two cards per bank. That means I don’t get down further — what card should you get next, or if you aren’t going to get the one I prefer for whatever reason?

And thanks to Chase’s ‘5/24’ limits where they won’t approve most people for new rewards cards if they’ve had 5 or more new cards in the last 24 months, American Express is increasingly where frequent flyers have looked to.

Here are the 5 best American Express rewards cards: And it’s worth noting that I have only two of these, and two of the Amex cards I have for niche or legacy reasons aren’t among the five best.

  1. American Express® Gold Card is great for earning Membership Rewards points quickly since it offers 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year) and 3 points per dollar on airline purchases. The card has a $100 annual airline fee credit and the up to $10 a month in statement credits using the card at participating dining partners.


    The Fat Duck Restaurant

  2. Platinum Card® from American Express is unmatched for airport lounge access, offering Delta SkyClub access when flying Delta same day; Plaza Premium, Escape, and Airspace lounges; and American Express Centurion lounge access. It also comes with a Priority Pass for airport lounge and Minute Suites (but not restaurant credits). It offers Hilton Honors and Marriott Gold status and National Car Rental Executive status.

    You get up to $200 a year in statement credits for airline incidental fees like checked bags fees, flight change fees, and onboard snack purchases. You can enroll to get up to $300 in statement credits annually by getting up to $50 semi-annually for purchases with Sakes and up to $200 with Uber. And the card comes with a credit for Global Entry or PreCheck.

  3. The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express earns 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar on your first $50,000 in purchases per year making this the best most rewarding card for otherwise-unbonused spend.


    Etihad First Apartment, Airbus A380

  4. Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has an initial bonus of 125,000 Hilton Honors points after $2,000 in eligible purchases with the product in your first 3 months of card membership.

    Each year you spend $15,000 on the card you’ll earn a weekend night reward, and $40,000 in a calendar year earns Hilton Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.

    Ongoing earn is 12 Hilton points per dollar on purchases directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio; 6 per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3 per dollar for all other eligible purchases.

    The real winner here is that it’s just a $95 annual fee card (See Rates & Fees) and still offers Priority Pass airport lounge access, 10 free visits every year.


    Escape Lounge, Reno

  5. The relaunched American Express® Green Card offers great value and is competitive with the best points-earning cards from other bank issuers, and arguably the best points-earning card at the price point.

    There’s an initial offer of 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.

    On an ongoing basis you earn 3 Membership Rewards points on eligible travel at restaurants worldwide. You get up to $100 in statement credits per year on your LoungeBuddy purchases for airport lounge access, and up to $100 statement credit per year to pay for CLEAR membership which is a nice unique benefit – especially if you already have Global Entry or PreCheck.

    There are no foreign transaction fees and the card has a $150 annual fee (see rates and fees).

    american express green card bonus points for hotel and restaurants
    Dining at Grand Hyatt Singapore Restaurant Straits Kitchen

  6. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card comes with Diamond status and also a free weekend night each cardmember year. $60,000 in purchases in a calendar year earns another weekend night. The card is providing a lot of value but bear in mind that Diamond status doesn’t promise much beyond what Gold offers (no commitment of suites or late check-out). This is not my referral link to the card, information is neither provided nor reviewed by American Express.

    You get a $250 airline incidental fee credit per calendar year (which no longer works with gift cards) and a $250 Hilton resort statement credit per cardmember year, and of course Priority Pass (which no longer includes restaurant credits when it comes via American Express).

    The card is actually worth using at Hilton properties where it earns 14 points per dollar which I value as being worth 5.6 cents (or a 5.6% rebate, edging out the 5.4% rebate on hotel spend from Chase’s Sapphire Reserve).


    Conrad Koh Samui

I put airfare spending on my Platinum Card by American Express, and restaurant and grocery spend on my American Express® Gold Card, and I can transfer the points from those latter two cards to:

  • Star Alliance: Aeroplan, ANA, Singapore, Avianca
  • oneworld: AsiaMiles, British Airways, Iberia, Qantas
  • SkyTeam: Aeromexico, Alitalia, Air France KLM, Delta
  • Non-alliance: Etihad, Emirates, El Al, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic
  • Hotels: Choice, Hilton, Marriott

I keep saying I should get The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express which is the most rewarding card for unbonused spend. I just haven’t done it. I get my Hilton status from the Platinum Card® from American Express already so haven’t gone in for a Hilton card.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Green Card, click here

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. I cannot justify spending $450 for the American Express Aspire Credit card. I am currently Hilton gold and I have AA, DL, and UA credit cards so I do not need the incidental $250 airline credit. I also have difficulty finding good value when redeeming my Hilton points.

  2. Wow, how times have changed – just a few years ago I’d never imagine a list of the top Amex cards not including SPG.
    Great job, Marriott.

  3. I’m ditching the Aspire card. It is not worth $450 if you have lounge access through another card. The amex airline credits are very difficult to use, since they only work on a couple of airlines and more importantly they only work for a few things like luggage or seat selection fees. Fine if you will be flying the same airline multiple times in the year AND you don’t have airline status or even an airline credit card that gives you many of these things for free. The chase general travel credit is way better. I don’t think diamond status provides that much of a value proposition over gold status.

    Amex surpass card- this is an ok card. I have the business version, but the card is worth it if you don’t have hilton status already. 15K spend for a free weekend night is ok, but you can only use the cert on weekends and I have had difficulty at times using these certs at properties where I can get real value back. I have gotten substantial value from these certs in the past but it isn’t always easy. To me for the cert to be worthwhile in shifting my spend I need to redeem a cert for at least $450 a night. Otherwise I would rather just put that unbonused 15k on my amex BB+ where I feel like I can get more of a return on a premium flight redemption.

    The CSR is better and cheaper (at least for the time being) than the Plat, unless you fall into specific niches of people. Chase PP gives restaurant access. Again the airline credit is a pain to use with the plat unless you have multiple flights with the same US airline and don’t have airline status/airline credit card to get for free the few things they allow this credit to be used for. I could see the plat being better than the CSR if someone was a frequent Delta flyer who could use delta clubs or frequents an airport with centurion lounges. The hilton gold status with the plat is nice if you don’t have it via some other means. The marriott gold status is pretty much useless after marriott changed their program.

    Don’t see how the green card is such a great value. Currently the chase reserve has the same AF once you subtract the $300 travel credit (which is very easy to use). Better signup on CSR with PP membership and global entry credit. Maybe if you are just looking for a signup or have decided you are going to pay for clear anyway and don’t have status that makes it cheaper (even these things only give the card a value for the first year but not beyond), but just wouldn’t call the green card great value. Its mediocre. If you use the $10 monthly credit for seamless/grubhub etc that comes with gold that lowers the gold AF to $120 for what is a vastly superior card.

    Amex blue business plus and amex gold card. These two amex cards are way better than the other cards mentioned. The amex blue business plus is a no brainer if you have a business. 2 points per dollar on up to 50k of spend and no AF? Outstanding. FTF means its not good for overseas spend but for domestic non-cat spend it rules, because it does not require you to pay an AF on another card to be able to transfer the points to travel partners.

    The amex gold card assuming you can use the $10 monthly credit on seamless/grubhub etc has a $120 AF. Again the airline credit with Amex is difficult to use, but this card really shines with earning power. With an amex offer I am getting 5pts on all seamless/grubhub spend. In addition, the 4pts per dollar on grocery spend is a really useful category. 3 points on purchases directly from airlines. For me the gold and amex BB+ when used together allow the ability to earn large quantity of amex points.

  4. Good list. I have both the Hilton American Express Surpass and Aspire cards. The Surpass includes complimentary Gold status, while the Aspire includes complimentary Diamond status; both of which entitle cardholders (when booking through Hilton) to get free breakfast when staying at Hilton properties. Definitely a tangible card benefit that helps save money.

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