If you close your eyes and picture an American Express card, you’ll probably conjure up an image of the iconic American Express Green card. Actually, it was just called “The American Express card” until the Amex line of cards multiplied into the dozens of products. So I guess Amex now has to call it by its color to distinguish it from their Gold, Platinum, and other cards.
So is carrying a Green card like wearing a classic piece of jewelry that never goes out of style? Or is it like listening to a Sony Walkman long after newer and better products became available? Let’s take a look…
What the Green Card offers
You earn one point per dollar spent in the American Express Membership Rewards program, and double points for booking travel through an American Express travel agent. Points can be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, and other goods, but they’re most valuable when transferred to frequent-flier miles with 17 different programs. When these miles are redeemed for premium-class international airfare, it’s often possible to receive three to five cents in value per point, instead of about a penny a point for other options.
The standard offer has no sign-up bonus, but individual customers are occasionally targeted with offers of 10,000 to 20,000 miles. There’s a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year.
What Green means to me
I’m a big fan of the American Express Membership Rewards program, since I travel a lot and love transfering my rewards to airline miles — when and where I want.
This card used to be a great entry-level gateway to that program, but it has since been supplanted by none other than American Express itself. Amex now offers its EveryDay card, which also earns points in its Membership Rewards program.
Everyday cardholders also earn one point per dollar spent on most purchases, but here’s the difference: You earn double points up to $6,000 spent each year at grocery stores. You also receive a 20 percent points bonus during each statement period when you make more than 20 transactions. Finally, there’s no annual fee.
Otherwise, the Amex Everyday card offers nearly all of the same benefits as the Green card — such as a roadside assistance hotline, car rental loss and damage insurance, and travel accident insurance. The Green card offers a baggage insurance plan that the Everyday card doesn’t, but that’s hardly worth the $95 annual fee, let alone the lower points earning potential.
So given the option between having the classy-looking Green card or earning more points and paying no annual fee on the Everyday card, the choice is clear. Like the Sony Walkman, the Green card is a great product that had its day. But the competitive world of credit card rewards has since passed it by.