The 5 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 qucikly 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 airline purchases earning 5 points per dollar. It offers Hilton Honors and Marriott Gold status and National Car Rental Executive status.

    It’s also unparalleled 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.

    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. And the card has a benefit of up to $200 Uber Savings annually.

    There’s currently an offer to earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.

  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 Ascend Card from American Express is offering 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. [Offer expired]

    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.

    I don’t know of any other card that isn’t super premium which offers such a cool deal for Priority Pass airport lounge access, it’s not unlimited access but you get 10 lounge visits per year.

    Conrad New York

  5. 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).

    You get a $250 airline incidental fee credit per calendar year and a $250 Hilton resort statement credit per cardmember year, and of course Priority Pass.

    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, 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
  • 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 The Platinum Card® from American Express already.

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, 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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  1. “I don’t know of any other card that isn’t super premium which offers such a cool deal for Priority Pass airport lounge access, it’s not unlimited access but you get 10 lounge visits per year.”

    The Ascend card has been the big surprise in my card portfolio this year. And I am curious if they’ll try to upsell me on the Aspire card next year they way they tried to get us to upgrade our lousy Bonvoy cards this year.

  2. Useful post, though you might have undersold the Hilton Ascend card a bit. Another perk is that it comes with Gold status.

    I’d be curious about your thoughts about the Marriott Amex cards, especially in terms of their value for converting points to airline miles. I know the former SPG cards were better value and that Marriott customer service and IT are pretty bad. But I’m thinking that doing some spending on the Marriott Amex cards might be worthwhile in view of their being useful for converting points to some airline programs that Amex MR, Chase UR, etc. can’t be converted to.

  3. @ Gary — If one has the Citi Prestige card (5x dining and 5x airfare, with free travel interruption insurance and good cell phone insurance unlike AMEX), the Gold and Plat AMEX cards are largely useless. Yeah, you don’t get access to the Centurion lounges, but those are horrible due to overcrowding anyway. I would only pay the renewal fees for the Gold and Plat AMEX cards if big retention offers were thrown in (which they were for my Plat card).

    The Hilton Aspire card is truly amazing, but I’m not sure why one would pay the annual renewal on the Hilton Ascend card without a generous retention offer.

  4. @Gary, good summary thanks.
    Notable that the Delta AMEX card (which I am shortly going to ditch) is missing from the list.

    I think the Platinum Amex card is fair value for a higher-priced card *IF* you use the benefits. Question: Does the free Gold card that’s available to household members of business Platinum card members still get the extra grocery purchase points?

    I think it is a shame that as US card holders, we aren’t able to transfer points to Shangri-La hotels, because that’s a valuable trade (AMEX handles cards for Shangri-La). Also that in America, we may not obtain a S-L Platinum International Currency card.

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