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Understanding the American Express Credit Card

American express cards are different from normal credit cards in the way that they operate. Many people still don't fully understand the distinction between them and normal cards. This guide will examine the key differences and what the positive and negatives of owning an American Express card are.

In This Guide:

The origins of American express

Most of our normal monetary exchanges happen through our banks, however the banks don't control each part of the process. There are a number of companies that link your banks to payments that you make on your debit or credit cards. These companies are normally payment networks such as Visa and Mastercard, who don't give you a card themselves but instead just help to manage the transaction between the shops and the banks.

American Express on the other hand distribute their own cards, fund the transactions that you make and manage the transfer of the money. This service incurs charges from American Express that come in the form of interest or one off fees. They also receive a fee from shops to process their payments.

Types of American Express Credit Cards

American Express offers a diverse range of credit cards tailored to different spending habits and lifestyles. Below is a breakdown of the primary types of cards available:

Premium and Charge Cards

American Express's premium cards and charge cards are designed for those who often make large purchases and prefer to pay them off later. These cards come with luxurious perks and a significant accumulation of reward points, particularly beneficial for frequent travellers purchasing flights and hotel accommodations. However, these advantages come at a cost, including annual fees that can reach up to £575 for the Platinum card. Potential cardholders should assess whether the perks justify the fees based on their usage.

Travel Credit Cards

Travel credit cards are specifically crafted for those who travel frequently, allowing them to earn Membership Rewards or air miles like Avios on their travel expenses. These points can be redeemed for future travel costs, enhancing the overall travel experience. Additional benefits include access to Priority Pass airport lounges, making travel more enjoyable and stress-free.

Reward Credit Cards

Reward credit cards are ideal for everyday spenders looking to earn points on every purchase. These points can be redeemed for a variety of rewards, including discounts on shopping, theatre tickets, and exclusive events. Points can also be converted into gift cards with a range of American Express’ retail, travel, and entertainment partners. It's crucial for cardholders to pay their balance in full each month to avoid interest charges that can negate the rewards earned.

Cashback Credit Cards

For those who prefer straightforward rewards, American Express offers cashback credit cards. These cards provide a percentage of cash back on every transaction, credited annually as a statement credit to reduce the card bill. Like with reward cards, it is important to pay off the balance each month to prevent interest from eroding the benefits of cashback.

American Express Credit Card Levels Explained

American Express offers a hierarchy of credit card levels, each designed to cater to different spending styles and needs. Here's a closer look at the main card levels offered:

Platinum Card

The Platinum Card from American Express is tailored for high-spenders who frequently travel and seek premium services. This card can be availed as either a cashback credit card or a charge card. The suite of benefits for Platinum cardholders includes Membership Rewards points, annual cashback, global access to Priority Pass lounges, comprehensive travel insurance for the cardholder and immediate family, shopping credits, and exclusive dining experiences via The Global Dining Collection. Additionally, cardholders enjoy worldwide hotel benefits like complimentary room upgrades and a dedicated 24/7 Platinum Concierge service.

Gold Card

The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card is ideal for those who love travel and adventure, offering a wealth of travel-related perks. It provides a high rate of earning Membership Rewards points within the American Express rewards program. Benefits include two complimentary airport lounge visits per year, Deliveroo credit for Gold card members, access to American Express Experiences which offers advance tickets to events and shows, as well as purchase and refund protections.

Green Card

Designed for simplicity and efficiency in travel spending, the Green Card from American Express is a basic charge card. It lacks the airport lounge access provided by the Platinum and Gold cards but offers solid rewards and protections for travellers. Benefits for Green card holders include earning Membership Reward points, issuing two complimentary supplementary cards to help accumulate points faster, travel inconvenience insurance, and a 24/7 Global Assist hotline. Additionally, cardholders gain exclusive access to popular entertainment events and an extended warranty on purchases, alongside standard purchase and refund protection.

Benefits of Having an American Express Credit Card

American Express is often synonymous with luxury and high-end perks, catering to those who desire a lavish lifestyle. Historically, their prestigious Centurion card—an invite-only offering—exemplifies this, demanding annual fees exceeding £1,000. Holders of this card gain access to an array of exclusive benefits such as entry to select airport lounges worldwide, gold memberships at top car rental services, and personal shopping assistance at luxury retailers.

Despite its elite status, American Express has broadened its appeal with offerings suited to a wider range of financial profiles. Today, they provide no-fee cards that offer attractive benefits such as cashback and Airmiles on everyday purchases, making these perks accessible to a broader audience.

These cards also come with additional features, including car and holiday insurance, enhancing the overall value and appeal.
American Express is acclaimed for its superior customer service, consistently receiving high marks for customer satisfaction. This is partly due to their generous rewards programs. For example, top-tier cards can offer up to 5% cashback on purchases along with Nectar Points and Airmiles, providing significant savings and benefits to frequent shoppers and travellers.

The combination of exclusive luxury benefits for high-end cardholders and practical, value-added features for broader customer segments illustrates American Express's commitment to serving a diverse range of needs while maintaining a high standard of service and customer care.

The Potential Downsides of American Express Cards

The primary drawback of American Express cards is the fact that they charge companies for the payments that they process. This is because they have their own payment network and don't rely on companies like Visa and Mastercard. This means that some businesses, especially smaller ones, may not accept American Express. In other cases, such as online shopping, you may have to pay a little bit extra in order to use one.

Another thing to be aware of is that American Express' additional extras often only last for a limited period. This means that you won't be able to enjoy the benefits of things like Airmiles or cashback for that long. Most of these offers are introductory offers that expire after a certain amount of time. Some of the offers do last beyond an introductory period but there are often minimum spends that are required in order to qualify for them.

Essentially when taking out an American Express card with nice introductory offers you should bear in mind that after these offers expire the card acts just like a normal credit card. This means that with the higher fees that they charge, you could end up paying more for the card than you save with the offers.

Should you get an American express?

When considering an American Express card it is important to be aware of how you are going to use it and if you are going to get your money's worth out of the extras it offers.

If you get an American Express that comes with car insurance, you will only benefit from this if you don't already have car insurance taken out. Similarly if the card you get allows you entry to exclusive membership clubs, you need to seriously consider whether or not you will ever make use of this feature.

On top of this, it is important to consider whether or not you are going to spend enough on the card to meet the minimum requirements for the offers to apply. If you don't generally spend as much as they need you to, then it is hardly going to be economical to increase your spending just so you can take advantage of these offers.

One more thing that you should consider when weighing up the option of an American Express is the fact that they tend to have higher interest rates than other cards. This is how reward credit cards make the most of their money back from their customers. This means that you should be extra careful not to leave outstanding debts on your card, beyond the interest free period.


Do I need a good credit rating to get an American Express credit card?

Yes, obtaining an American Express credit card generally requires a good to excellent credit rating. American Express assesses your credit score and financial history to determine your eligibility for their cards. Higher credit scores improve your chances of approval and may qualify you for cards with better benefits.

What will the annual fee be for an American Express card?

The annual fee for an American Express card varies based on the specific card and the benefits it offers. Fees can range from £0 for a basic everyday credit card with fewer perks to over £1,000 for high-tier cards like the American Express Centurion. It's important to consider the fee in relation to the rewards and services the card provides to determine if it's a good value for your needs.

Is American Express a hard card to get?

American Express cards are generally considered harder to get compared to other credit cards. This is due to their higher credit score requirements and stricter eligibility criteria, particularly for their premium cards which offer extensive benefits. Our comparison process has an inbuilt eligibility checker to help you get a better idea of whether you'll be accepted.

Is it worth getting an American Express card?

Whether an American Express card is worth getting depends on your spending habits and financial situation. American Express cards often come with significant rewards, including travel perks, cashback, and shopping protections, which can outweigh the annual fee for frequent users. Additionally, their customer service is highly regarded. Evaluating how well the benefits align with your lifestyle will help determine the card's value for you.