American Express Credit Cards - Compare & ApplyBy Joe Taylor Jr.
Do you remember Karl Malden holding up a green American Express charge card and warning "don't leave home without it"? If that was before your time, American Express aims to change the way you use plastic. With a philosophy quite different from its competitors, American Express focuses on making business and travel easier for its cardmembers every day. A global customer support network, a comprehensive purchase protection program, and a fast-growing roster of membership rewards make American Express cards attractive for consumers of all ages.
The changing face of American Express
Since the late 1950s, American Express has issued a series of charge cards bearing the profile of a Roman Centurion. The company launched its cards to fight competition from Diners Club that could have eaten into its valuable travelers cheque business. Primarily used for business expenses, American Express charge cards offer varying benefits based on their color:
- Green Card. The "entry level" charge card includes access to Membership Rewards and American Express's purchase protection program.
- Gold and Platinum Cards. Graduating to higher status results in more rewards points and better perks, such as luggage fee reimbursement and airport lounge access.
- Centurion Card. The invite-only "black card" includes a dedicated concierge team and access to exclusive events.
You must pay the full balance of your American Express charge card at the end of every month, unless you want to risk paying late fees and the suspension of your charging privileges.
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By the 1970s, American Express updated the back of its cards with a modern, stylized logo in a blue box. That new logo would show up in a bigger way when the company launched its own version of the revolving credit card during the next decade.
American Express takes on banks with rewards credit cards
By the late 1980s, American Express officials recognized that they were losing market share to their competitors' zero interest credit cards. A former charge card customer could use a no-interest credit card at no risk, while enjoying the flexibility of carrying a balance when necessary. The company countered with its own credit cards, rewarding members' high credit scores with even loftier rewards. By the late 1990s, American Express launched "Blue," a series of credit cards that replaced the Centurion logo with a vibrant, blue field.
Today, American Express offers some of the industry's best credit card reward programs, with "Blue" cash back cards that offer rebates as high as 6 percent on qualifying purchases. Business travelers consistently rank the company's hotel and airline credit cards among the industry's best. American Express even offers its own zero interest balance transfer credit cards to lure customers away from mainstream banks.
Terms and restrictions apply.
American Express innovates with heritage at its core
American Express doesn't act like a typical bank, because it doesn't think of itself as a bank. Even though the 2008 financial crisis forced the credit card issuer to seek a commercial bank charter, American Express still calls itself a "global service company" in all of its public-facing communication.
During the 19th century, while banks were figuring out how to lend money more effectively, American Express agents rode the rails and trails, delivering cash and securities to clients from coast to coast. Connecting buyers and sellers while minimizing everyone's risk led the company to develop a unique approach to financial security and customer satisfaction.
That "spend vs. lend" philosophy means it makes most of its profit from membership fees instead of finance charges. The company's cash back cards often leapfrog the rewards offered by gas rebate cards and grocery credit cards, encouraging retailers to recognize card loyalty despite higher transaction fees. If you're looking for a card that offers superior purchase protection and increasingly valuable reward offers, compare the American Express cards on this page to see if there's a fit for your lifestyle.