Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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When you look closely at each of the credit cards in your wallet you’ll find the name of the financial institution that issued your card. Additionally, you’ll notice the distinct logo of the payment processing network responsible for facilitating every transaction you make with the card.
These processing networks serve as links between the financial institution that issued your card and the merchant from which you’re making a purchase.
Visa and Mastercard have a singular purpose of operating as card networks and do not actually issue credit cards. American Express, however, plays a more expanded role, serving as both a card issuer and a payment processing network.
American Express excels when it comes to issuing a diverse collection of card options, adding benefits that relate to each card’s target audience, and making it easy for nearly every consumer to find a card that fits.
With those attributes as a foundation, we’d like to offer our take on the collection of American Express cards that are potentially the best in each category.
|Card||Welcome Offer||Annual Fee||Best For|
|Best for Travel & Lounges|
|Best for Earning Points|
|Best Mid-tier Card for Travel|
|Best for Cash-back|
|Best No-Annual-Fee Cash-back Card|
|Best Business Card for Travel & Lounges|
|Best Business Card for Earning Points|
|Best Business Card for Amazon|
|Best Premium Delta Card|
|Best Premium Hilton Card|
|Best Premium Marriott Card|
There are several options for earning rewards with American Express cards. Membership Rewards provide value and flexibility, cash-back rewards offer liquidity, and co-branded airline and hotel cards earn miles or points that add to your loyalty program rewards balances.
Let’s look at the types of reward-earning possibilities with Amex cards.
Membership Rewards points are 1 of the most valuable types of rewards points you can earn due to their flexibility at redemption time. Redeem Membership Rewards for the best value on flights via Amex Travel or American Express transfer partners.
Cash-back is one of the most flexible types of rewards as it can directly affect your bottom line. Cash-back earning structures and redemption processes are also generally easy to understand and execute.
You’ll find cards that automatically apply cash-back each billing period as a statement credit and cards that allow cash-back earnings to accumulate over time.
American Express issues cards that are branded with both airline and hotel affiliations earn rewards in the form of miles or points in the affiliated loyalty rewards program of that brand. For example, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card will earn Delta Air Lines SkyMiles.
Travel rewards cards have specific earning and redemption options that focus on travel. Additionally, the right travel rewards card for you will save you money, make your travels more comfortable and provide travel-related protections and benefits.
American Express understands the traveler and steps up to deliver card options for every traveler from the domestic road-tripper to the seasoned world traveler.
Known as the premier travel rewards card, the Amex Platinum card offers one of the best collections of benefits available, plus earning and redemption options that deliver strong travel-related value.
In addition to worldwide lounge access, elevated earnings on select category purchases, and the statement credits listed above, the Amex Platinum card offers these additional benefits:
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of earning Membership Rewards points is the ability to redeem points by transferring to airline and hotel travel partners to enjoy premium travel experiences.
This flexibility inspired us to search for and write about some of the best ways to maximize the points for luxury travel.
Hot Tip: Find out if you meet the required credit score needed for the Amex Platinum card by reading our guide.
While the Amex Gold card functions powerfully as an everyday spending card, it also carries enough travel benefits to make it a contender for a place in your wallet if you’re a traveler.
Enjoy earning well at U.S. supermarkets and restaurants, and qualifying flight purchases, but also know that your card is earning valuable Membership Rewards points that can be redeemed for great travel value.
Here are some of the additional benefits you can expect with the card:
We like that the Amex Gold card has a dual life earning well on everyday purchases, yet comes through with good value when purchasing flights or redeeming points for travel experiences.
Perhaps you’re not a seasoned world traveler but want to get started with a travel rewards card that doesn’t charge a high annual fee, yet offers a nice rounded collection of travel-related benefits.
With the Amex Green card, you’ll receive bonus earnings at restaurants worldwide and on travel purchases. All other purchases receive 1x earnings.
Here are some additional benefits you’ll find on the card:
American Express shines when it comes to rewarding everyday spending with cash-back rewards. Cash-back is earned on every purchase in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
Here are 2 of the most popular cash-back earning American Express cards.
Cash-back rewards add up quickly when you qualify for the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card‘s initial welcome bonus, plus receive bonus-level earnings in the form of Reward Dollars on qualifying purchases you make on a daily basis.
We like these additional benefits offered on the card as well:
Making everyday purchases without earning cash-back is simply missing out. Especially when the no-annual-fee Amex Blue Cash Everyday card could make the process seamless.
In addition to everyday earning power, you’ll receive these added benefits:
At some point in the midst of growing your business, you realize the value of keeping personal and business expenses separated by utilizing a business credit card. You may have also realized the benefits of organization, balancing cash-flow, and the additional business-related features a business card has to offer.
American Express knows the needs of business owners and reflects that knowledge in its card offerings. Here are some of the best Amex business cards.
When your business operation requires a lot of travel, you’ll want a card that can live up to the associated demands. Receiving statement credits for airline incidentals and having worldwide lounge access is certainly a good start, but the Amex Business Platinum card offers much more.
Here are some of the benefits, in addition to those mentioned in the snapshot above, that you can expect with the card:
Unlike bonus earnings on the personal Amex Gold card, the Amex Business Gold card focuses its earnings on common business-related expenses and offers features/benefits that businesses can utilize.
No pre-selection is required as cardmembers receive 4x bonus earnings automatically. Each statement period your highest 2 expenses from these qualifying purchase categories with receive 4x earnings, up to $150,000 per year:
While bonus category earnings focus on business-related expenses, so do these card benefits:
If your business involves high-volume purchasing on Amazon, the Amazon Business Prime Amex card could add some serious cash to your bottom line. And with no annual fee, the Amazon Business Prime Amex card could also serve as the perfect companion card to a primary business card.
If Delta is your airline of choice, the Delta Reserve card will enhance that relationship with Delta-specific perks, earnings, and redemption options.
While the Delta Reserve card is top of the line when it comes to Delta-branded cards, American Express issues additional cards that may offer better value for the Delta loyalist:
To review all the Delta-branded cards available, including business cards, visit our article on the best cards for Delta loyalists.
If you frequent a particular hotel brand, you may be familiar with how loyalty program status can enhance your experience with that brand. A hotel-branded card steps up that experience even further.
Here are our choices for some of the best hotel-branded American Express cards.
In addition to the exceptional earnings mentioned in the card snapshot above, the Hilton Aspire card offers these premier benefits any Hilton Honors loyalist would enjoy:
For an in-depth look at all of the best cards for Hilton loyalists, we’ve created an informative overview.
Designed for the ultimate Marriott Bonvoy loyalist, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card delivers elite status, top earnings at Marriott, free hotel nights, and travel and shopping benefits.
There are several Marriott Bonvoy-branded cards available. Some of these cards are issued by American Express and others issued by Chase. You can find the best of both in our article on the best credit cards for Marriott Bonvoy loyalists.
With American Express functioning as a card issuer, payment processing network, and benefits provider, the resulting collection of cards is diverse.
Nearly every consumer, regardless of spending habits, annual fee preference, or desired benefits, can find an American Express card that’s a potential perfect match.
And while you may currently need a backup Visa or Mastercard when traveling globally, the American Express acceptance network has expanded greatly as evidenced by its domestic acceptance now at over 10 million merchants.
If you’re curious how American Express stacks up to its competitors, check out our post comparing Amex to Chase.
The information regarding the American Express® Green Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the American Express Cash Magnet® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amazon Business Prime American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, click here.
American Express issues dozens of cards, each one with features and benefits that offer advantages for a specific type of consumer.
The best American Express card for you will be the 1 that aligns and rewards your greatest expenses. In addition, you’ll want the card to offer redemption options, whether cash-back, Membership Rewards points, airline miles, or hotel points that match your objectives.
The card’s benefits should also be useful to you and finally, the annual fee will be one you’re comfortable paying.
Visa is the largest payment processing network and widely accepted globally, more than any other.
American Express, however, is the top issuer of credit cards domestically and now accepted by 99% of U.S. merchants.
If you travel internationally, you’ll want to have a back-up card (Visa or Mastercard) in case your American Express card is not accepted. Domestically (in the U.S.), the chances of it being accepted are quite high.
An Amex third-party card is a card that uses the American Express payment processing network but the card is not issued by American Express.
For example, Wells Fargo bank may issue a credit card and select the American Express network to process transactions between the merchant and Wells Fargo.
The card would be a Wells Fargo card but you will see the Amex logo on the card as well because Amex serves as the processing network. Amex may also provide some of the benefits that come with these third-party cards.
Membership Rewards points are one of the most valuable rewards currencies due to their flexibility at redemption time. If you’re a traveler, having the ability to transfer rewards points to airline and hotel partners to receive potentially greater than 1 cent in value per point makes Membership Rewards better than cash-back.
If however, you want simplicity in your redemption options and prefer using cash-back rewards for statement credits, cash-back may be a better choice.
American Express issues several cash-back cards including the popular Amex Blue Cash Everyday card and the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card. You earn cash-back on each eligible purchase (minimum 1%) and elevated bonus earnings on specific category purchases, such as supermarkets.
Cash-back is earned in the form of Rewar Dollars which are deposited into your rewards account. Rewards are available for redemption once your statement period ends and you have made at least the minimum required payment on your account.
You can redeem Reward Dollars for a statement credit, gift cards, or merchandise. As long as your card is active, rewards do not have an expiration date.
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UP's Bonus Valuation
This bonus value is an estimated valuation calculated by UP after analyzing redemption options, transfer partners, award availability and how much UP would pay to buy these points.