One of the things I’ve given Sharon a hard time about since I got started collecting points and miles was her insistence on keeping her Green American Express card. No matter what, it always had a place in her wallet. Her argument about knowing her number by heart wasn’t enough of a reason for me to keep a card with a $55 annual fee that gave us no benefits. The only reason I didn’t push the issue was that it’s her card with the longest credit history. Not that she couldn’t take the hit to her credit score, This is the woman who, for two months, maxed out her FICO score.
So when I saw the email from American Express, along with posts from every other blogger out there, about the long-rumored refresh to the Green card, I was thrilled that we already this card and could immediately take advantage of the new benefits while not having to pay the higher annual fee until our renewal date in 2020.
In case you haven’t seen, here are the benefits of the newly relaunched American Express Green Card.
Annual Fee – $150 per year (not waived for the first year).
Sign Up Benefits – This card currently has a sign-up bonus of 35,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $2,000 in purchases for the first three months. If you use our referral link, you’ll also get up to $150 in statement credits for purchases made directly with Away (Apparently, I’m not hip enough to know what Away is. In case you’re wondering, it’s a store that sells self-branded bags and luggage where $150 won’t buy you much more than a backpack or some luggage cubes).
We do get a referral bonus of Membership Rewards points if you sign up using our link.
Spending Bonus Categories – The Green Card earns three Membership Rewards points per dollar on eligible travel purchases including airfare, hotels, cruises, car rentals, campgrounds, trains, taxicabs, rideshare services, tours, ferries, tolls, parking, buses, subways, on third party travel websites, and on amextravel.com. This is a vast improvement when the card only earned 2 points for purchases on Amex Travel.
The card also earns three Membership Rewards points for each dollar charged at restaurants worldwide. Per AMEX’s terms,
You may not earn additional points for purchases at a restaurant located within another establishment (e.g. a restaurant inside a hotel, casino, or event venue). For example, purchases made at a restaurant located within a hotel may be recognized as a purchase at a hotel, not a restaurant. You will not earn additional points for purchases at bars, nightclubs, cafeterias, and convenience stores.
I guess we’d have to see how this works because there have been reports of the dining benefit of the AMEX Gold Card having problems. I think this wording is to prevent people from complaining about missing points down the road.
No Foreign Transaction Fees – As you would hope a card that gives bonus points for restaurant and travel expenses worldwide, the Green Card does not charge any foreign transaction fees.
Credits – To offset the annual fee, American Express offers several ways to get back money in the form of statement credits. They really offer some unique credits that differentiate the card from their other cards and cards from other banks.
- You receive up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits when you pay for your CLEAR membership with the American Express Green Card. This almost pays the fee for CLEAR each year since anyone can get a membership for $119 or less. You can also add three additional adults to your account for an extra $50.
- You can earn up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year when you use the American Express Green Card to purchase lounge access directly from LoungeBuddy through the LoungeBuddy website or LoungeBuddy app. This is yet another benefit directly related to American Express’ purchase of LoungeBuddy in 2019.
While I’ve said before that I didn’t think CLEAR was worth the money for us, I’m definitely keeping our memberships now that Sharon and I only have to pay $59.
Membership Rewards – With the American Express Green Card, you’ll earn points in AMEX’s transferrable points program, Membership Rewards.
While there are many uses for Membership Rewards, the best one is transferring points to one of AMEX’s travel partners.
- Are Lingus Aerclub
- Aeromexico Club Premier
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- Air France / KLM Flying Blue
- Alitalia Millemiglia
- ANA Mileage Club
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- Avianca LifeMiles
- British Airways Executive Club
- Delta SkyMiles
- El AL Madmid Points
- Emirates Skyrewards
- Etihad Guest Miles
- Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
- Iberia Plus Miles
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Singapore KrisFlyer Miles
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Choice Privileges Rewards
- Hilton Honors
- Marriot Bonvoy
I used Membership Rewards to help us book our $25,000 trip to Australia and Japan and the best award trip I ever booked (for someone else).
When a card gets refreshed, it often gets a deal of attention. In this case, the buzz in the Green Card is warranted. American Express took a card that had been overlooked for over a decade and turned it into a significant player in the marketplace overnight. The new bonus categories for travel and restaurant spending rival that of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. That card still has benefits the Green Card lacks like travel protections and primary car rental coverage but also comes with a $450 annual fee.
I’m not saying that this card will replace that one in my wallet. However, it does shake up the marketplace when an entry-level card earns as many points as a premium card for the same purchases. I’d even say that I find Membership Rewards to be more valuable for the average traveler than the popular Ultimate Rewards point.
For us, most of our hotel, toll, ride-share and restaurant spending is going to shift to this card immediately. I’ll still keep the airfare and car rental charges on the Sapphire Reserve because of the better insurance coverage that the card provides.
And for those of you not fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have kept this card in your sock drawer, remember that we have our referral link with the extra $150 bonus for spending at an Away store or online purchase.
(Note from Sharon: And I get to keep my green card without grief anymore!)
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary