Amex Green, Gold & Platinum Cards: Which is Right for You?
Membership Rewards Cards

Amex Green, Gold & Platinum Cards: Which is Right for You?

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A stash of American Express Membership Rewards points can get you far. They are some of the most valuable points out there as they can be transferred to over 20 different hotel and airline transfer partners.

And when it comes to earning these valuable points, three cards will give you the most bang for your buck. The Platinum Card from American Express, The American Express Gold Card, and the American Express Green Card. And while they all earn the same points, there are some major differences between the cards that leave travelers asking: “Which Membership Rewards earning card is right for me?”

We’ll break down all of the benefits provided by each card and assign a winner in each category to help you decide which is right for your travel goals.

 

 

 

Click Here to learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express. 

 

 

Click Here to learn more about the American Express Gold Card. 

 

 

Click Here to learn more about the American Express Green Card. 

 

Amex Application Eligibility Rules

Unlike Chase with their 5/24 rule, American Express allows you to earn the welcome bonus offer on each of their cards once per lifetime. So in theory, there is nothing stopping you from holding all three of these cards at the same time as they all offer different perks and category spending bonuses.

Of course, that may not make sense for the average traveler. Picking up just one of these three may be more practical. Here’s what to consider:

Welcome Bonus Offer

The Platinum Card has a welcome offer bonus offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of card membership. But it can potentially get much better. Make sure to check if you are targeted for the 100,000 point welcome bonus offer after spending $5,000 in the first three months through CardMatch.

The Gold Card has a welcome offer bonus of 35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of card membership. And like the Platinum Card, you may be able to get a better offer of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months if you are targeted through the CardMatch tool.

Lastly, the Green Card has a welcome offer bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of card membership.

No matter how you slice it, the Platinum Card provides the biggest welcome bonus offer, though that requires the largest minimum spend to unlock it.

Make sure to read our guide on 8 Great Ways to Redeem an Amex Platinum Card Welcome Bonus

Winner: The Platinum Card from American Express. 

 

membership rewards cards

Annual Fee

The Platinum Card has an annual fee of $550 and it is not waived in the first year of card membership. The Gold Card has an annual fee of $250 which is also not waived in the first year of card membership, and finally, the Green Card has a $150 annual fee that is also not waived in the first year of card membership.

And while these annual fees are vastly different, you get what you pay for as each annual fee tier adds a handful of benefits that we will break down in future sections. But if we are just comparing the annual out of pocket cost for the annual fee, there is a clear winner.

Winner: The American Express Green Card. 

 

membership rewards cards

Authorized User Fees

Neither the Green nor Gold cards charge a fee to add an authorized card user to your account. And there is no limit to the number of authorized users you can have.

If you want to add an authorized user to your Platinum Card account, on the other hand, it will cost another $175 each year – which certainly isn’t cheap. But there are some alluring reasons why you might consider adding an authorized user – or several additional users.

For that $175 fee, your authorized user will get a handful of benefits that can certainly make it worth it. Here’s a brief rundown of what your authorized users will get.

  • American Express Centurion Lounge Access: Yes.
  • Priority Pass Select Lounge Membership: Yes.
  • Delta SkyClub Access (When Flying Delta): Yes.
  • $100 Credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry: Yes.
  • Earn 5x Points on Airfare Booked Directly with Airlines and Hotels Booked Through Amextravel.com: Yes.
  • $200 in Annual Airline Fee Credits: No.
  • $200 in Annual Uber Ride Credits: No.
  • $100 in Annual Saks 5th Ave. Credits: No.
  • Instant Hotel Status with Marriott and Hilton: Yes.
  • Instant Rental Car Agency Status with Hertz, Avis, and National: Yes.

 

And there’s an overlooked aspect of adding authorized users to your Amex Platinum card. You can add up to three total users for the same, $175 annual fee. So if you have several family members who could benefit, it won’t cost you any more to add up to three additional users.

So while your authorized users can extract a lot of benefits out of the Platinum Card, having at least one additional user pushes your annual out of pocket cost on the card to $725 ($550 annual fee + $175 authorized user fee).

Winner: Tie between the American Express Gold Card & American Express Green Card. 

membership rewards cards

Travel Portal Booking

All cards earn the same amount Membership Rewards points – albeit at different earning rates. But unlike the Chase Sapphire Reserve & Preferred cards, all three cards will also redeem for the exact same value through the American Express travel portal – amextravel.com.

That means if I have 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points, they will be worth $500 in the Amex Travel Portal, no matter which version of the card I hold.

Let me give you an example of how exactly this works. It was recently possible to fly nonstop from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic (PUJ) for $477 roundtrip. The screenshot below was taken from Google Flights, our favorite flight search engine.

 

membership rewards cards

 

Once you find the flight that will work, you can simply head to the Amex Travel Portal. Generally speaking, you should be able to pull up the same cash rate in the portal as you did in Google Flights give or take $10 to $20.

As you can see from the screenshot below, this flight can be booked for 47,675 Membership Rewards points if you hold a card that earns them. That’s because your points will always be worth 1 cent each when using them this way ($476.75 = 46,675 points).

 

 

And because none of the cards hold an advantage in this category, we’ve named it a three-way tie.

Winner: Tie

membership rewards cards

Points Transfer Partners

Regardless of which card you have, you will be able to transfer points to more than 20 hotel and airline partners, generally at a ratio of 1:1 (1 point equals 1 airline mile or hotel point). And since Amex has some of the best transfer partners out there, that’s a great deal. You can see the Membership Rewards transfer partners below. Read our guide on how to transfer Amex points.

 

ProgramTypeTransfer RatioTransfer Time
Aer LingusAirline1:1N/A
AeroMexicoAirline1:1.62-12 days
Air Canada AeroplanAirline1:1Instant
Air France/KLMAirline1:1Instant
AlitaliaAirline1:1Instant
ANAAirline1:11-2 days
AviancaAirline1:1Instant
British AirwaysAirline1:1Instant
Cathay PacificAirline1:11-7 days
DeltaAirline1:1Instant
El AlAirline50:1Instant
EmiratesAirline1:1Instant
EtihadAirline1:1Instant
HawaiianAirline1:1Instant
IberiaAirline1:11-3 days
JetBlueAirline1.25:1Instant
QantasAirline1:1Instant
SingaporeAirline1:112-48 hours
Virgin AtlanticAirline1:1Instant
Choice PrivilegesHotel1:1Instant
Hilton HonorsHotel1:2Instant
Marriott BonvoyHotel1:1Instant

 

Much like booking through the Amex Travel portal mentioned above, none of the cards offer an advantage over the other when it comes to transferring points. And because of that, we’ve declared this category another three-way tie.

Winner: Tie

membership rewards cards

Membership Rewards Bonus Earning

The rates at which each of these cards earn Membership Rewards points are vastly different, and depending on what categories you spend your money in, one card might suit you better than the next.

For starters, the Platinum Card earns an unlimited 5x points for every dollar you spend on airfare booked directly with the airline and all travel booked through the Amex Travel Portal. It earns 1x point per dollar on all other spending. And while that is the best rate you will find on booking flights, it won’t do you much good if you spend a lot of money in other categories.

The Gold card earns an unlimited 4x points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide and 4x points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 in spending each calendar year. You will also earn 3x points per dollar spent on airfare booked directly with the airline and through the Amex Travel Portal and 1x point per dollar on all other spending.

The Green Card earns an unlimited 3x points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide, and an unlimited 3x points on all eligible travel. This can include flights, hotels, Uber, Lyft, subway rides, etc. Anything that codes as travel from American Express will earn 3x points for every dollar you spend. It also earns 1x point per dollar on spending in all other categories.

And while the Gold and Platinum cards both have categories that earn more points than the Green Card, I think the Green Card wins this category because the bonuses are much more encompassing, and it is the only card that offers an incentive for travel outside of flights. That makes it a great choice for the average traveler.

Winner: The American Express Green Card.

 

Membership Rewards Cards

Annual Airline Credits

The airline credits you get from American Express cards are fairly straightforward … until they’re not.

The Amex Gold gets you $100 yearly, while the Amex Platinum clocks in at $200. Both of these credits reset each calendar year, not based on the month you opened your account. So you can use up the credits from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 – just beware they don’t carry over. Use them or lose them. The Green card does not offer an annual airline credit, but instead offers some other useful credits, as you’ll see below.

These credits aren’t as all-encompassing as the $300 you get from the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which kicks in automatically for any travel-related purchase. Only certain purchases on select airlines qualify. And you have to pick just one airline each year.

And what purchases will trigger the credit? Well, a lot. But it’s important to stress that buying airfare outright typically won’t work. To take advantage of this credit, think taxes and fees on award tickets, change fees, lounge access fees, seat selection, etc.

Read our guide on The Best Ways to Maximize Your Amex Airline Credits.

Winner: The Platinum Card From American Express. 

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Credit

If you hold the Platinum Card from American Express, you will receive up to $100 in credit once every four years to pay for the cost of either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. And since Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck, it’s the obvious choice if you plan to do any international travel. See our guide on how to enroll in Global Entry from start to finish.

Neither the Gold or Green Cards offer a credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. However, the Green Card is the only card out there that will help you offset the price of a CLEAR membership by offering an annual $100 credit to pay for a portion of the service. It’s one of the 4 reasons you should care about the new Amex Green Card.

But here’s the rub – without TSA PreCheck, CLEAR doesn’t do a whole lot for you. You are much better off with TSA PreCheck (or TSA PreCheck with CLEAR) than you are with just CLEAR, in my opinion. That’s especially true considering TSA PreCheck is offered at almost every U.S. airport, whereas CLEAR isn’t.

Winner: The Platinum Card from American Express.

 

Membership Rewards Cards

membership rewards cards

Other Credits

All three of these cards offer unique credits that can provide you with additional ways to easily justify the annual fees associated with any of these cards.

In addition to the $200 annual airline credit discussed above, you will receive $200 toward Uber rides each year. You will be issued $15 each month, and $35 in the month of December ($200 total). You must use the full credit each month or you will lose any remaining value. The credits do not carry over from month to month.

And even if you don’t often take Uber rides, the credit can also be used on UberEats, Uber’s food delivery platform. If Uber eats is available in your area, it makes it relatively easy to maximize this benefit each and every year.

You will also receive two $50 credits to be used at Saks Fifth Avenue stores. One $50 credit will be available from January through June, with another available July through December. Like the other credits available on the Platinum card, you will lose any remaining balance you have after the expiration date. The offer can be used both in-store and online, but per the terms and conditions of this offer, it will not work to purchase gift cards.

The Gold Card, meanwhile, offers a $120 annual dining credit which allows you to get $10 each month. The credit can be used for charges at GrubHub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Boxed & Participating Shake Shack locations. And like the other Amex credits, it doesn’t accumulate. You need to use the $10 each more or you will lose it.

Finally, the Green Card offers the $100 credit for CLEAR membership reimbursement, in addition to the Loungebuddy credit discussed earlier. While both of these credits are unique and solid for a card with a $150 annual fee, there is a clear winner in this category.

Winner: The Platinum Card from American Express.

 

Membership Rewards Cards

membership rewards cards

Airport Lounge Access

The Platinum Card wins this category, and it’s not particularly close.

Not only does it offer the best airport lounge access of these three cards, but you won’t find a credit card out there that offers better lounge access. Period. Just for holding the Platinum card you will get access to the following lounges:

Amex Centurion Lounges: These are the American Express flagship lounges and can only be accessed by Platinum cardholders. You are allowed to bring in up to two guests free on each visit. There are currently Centurion lounges in Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO), Las Vegas (LAS), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Miami (MIA), Philadelphia (PHL), New York (LGA), and Hong Kong (HKG), with many new lounges on the way. If you frequent any of these airports with any regularity, the Platinum card is a no brainer for this reason alone. See our master guide to the Centurion Lounges. 

Priority Pass: The Amex Platinum Card also offers Priority Pass Select membership. If you are not familiar with Priority Pass, it is a network of airport lounges all over the world that are typically not affiliated with any airline. Just for holding the Platinum card, you will get free membership and be able to bring in up to two guests free with you on each visit. Priority Pass will even allow you to eat at a growing list of airport restaurants at no additional cost. However, as of Aug. 1, 2019, Priority Pass memberships issued from American Express have lost that restaurant benefitSee our master guide to Priority Pass Lounges. 

Delta Sky Clubs: If you often fly Delta, the Platinum Card is a no brainer. Just for holding the card, you will receive complimentary access to any Delta Sky Club as long as you are flying with Delta. You will not receive any free guesting privileges with this lounge access, but you can bring up to two guests in with you for $29 each. See our master guide to the Delta Sky Club. 

The Escape Lounge: The Escape Lounge is quickly becoming one of my favorite airport lounges. It offers a great alternative to the Delta Sky Club at MSP as it is often less crowded. There are Escape Lounges all over the country at many smaller regional airports. The Escape Lounge allows Amex Platinum cardholders to bring in up to two guests at no additional cost.

 

Membership Rewards Cards
The Escape Lounge MSP has a great food spread and ample seating.

 

The Gold card doesn’t offer any lounge access, and the Green card provides an annual $100 credit to be used at Lounge Buddy to purchase single access lounge passes. Because these start at $25 each, at most you will get four complimentary lounge visits each year with the card.

If you spend a lot of time in airports, the lounge access you can unlock from holding the Platinum Card can be reason enough to justify the card’s annual fee.

Winner: The Platinum Card from American Express. 

 

membership rewards cards

Trip Delay & Cancelation Coverage

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, American Express is adding trip delay and cancellation coverage to the Platinum Card (among other top-tier Amex cards)Add in the 5x points per dollar you earn when booking flights directly with the airline, and the Platinum Card will become the absolute best way to book flights starting in 2020. To qualify for coverage, flights must be round-trip. One-way flights will not qualify for these travel coverages.

If you pay for your round-trip flight with the Platinum Card – or put the taxes and fees from an award flight on it – you will be eligible for:

  • Trip Cancellation Insurance: You can get reimbursed for up to $10,000 of nonrefundable expenses – and up to $20,000 a year total – if your flight is canceled due to weather, an injury or illness, and other “covered reasons.”
  • Trip Delay Insurance: If your flight is delayed by more than six hours, you are eligible for up to $500 in reimbursement for lodging, food, and other associated expenses.

It doesn’t sound like the Amex Gold or Green cards will be receiving this coverage.

Read more about Amex’s travel coverage here

Winner: The Platinum Card from American Express.

 

Membership Rewards Cards

Our Analysis

By the numbers, the Platinum Card won eight categories, the Green Card won five, and the Gold Card won three. But that doesn’t tell the entire story.

These cards are very different, and each could appeal to different people for various reasons. The Platinum Card is tailor-made for the frequent traveler. For those who don’t travel as much but spend a lot on dining and groceries, the Gold card’s appeal is undeniable. And the Green Card tries to appeal to both, offering some travel perks while remaining a great all-around option.

Everyone will weigh these categories differently. At the end of the day, pick the card that makes sense for how you travel, and your individual financial situation.

While the upfront cost of the Platinum card is higher with a $550 annual fee, many should easily be able to recoup that (and then some) through the benefits and travel credits it offers. 

And if $550 sounds like too much, I think the Green Card is a fantastic option and provides a lot of value for its $150 annual fee. Amex seems to be targeting leisure travelers with this card, where the Gold and Platinum appear to be more geared towards the more frequent traveler.

 

Bottom Line

The $550 upfront annual fee on the Platinum card is not for everybody. If you can’t stomach this fee, the Green and Gold cards are still both excellent options that allow you to earn valuable Membership Rewards points.

However, we encourage you to always do the math before ruling out credit cards with a high annual fee. If you play your cards right, you can come out way ahead on your annual fee.

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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