What's the advantage of an American Express card?

From te recent GQ thread about AmEx, I began to wonder…why on Earth would anybody want one? As I understand it, a normal (i.e., not the Blue or Optima) card requires that you pay it off in full at the end of every month. In addition, there is a yearly fee. How is this in any way a good thing? The only way i can see it being good is that it forces one to pay everything off and therefore not go into debt. But why not just get a debit card, then? I mean, all AmEx is is a debit crd that you pay off later, not now. Yeah, there certainly could be a situation where I will have the money then but not now, so an AmEx might be handty, but for those purposes why not jsut have a Visa or MC and vow only to use it in those circumstances, and then pay it off in full as if it were an AmEx? I realzie that the temptation woudl be there to use it more/let it rollover, but honestly, it’s not like it’s that hard a thing to do.

So are there any benefits to havign an AmEx card that I don’t know about? Will they give me a foot massage every month? Can I get home-delivered hookers? Fill me in!

Well, I have one because I want to use a credit card at Costco, and that’s the only one they take (I have the cashback card, with payments that can be made over several months, not the classic, ‘pay it all now’ card).

I started with an optimus, because I was offered it, and I wanted credit card coverage (I mean that I already had a Visa/MC card, and wanted an Amex just in case the other was not accepted). They then offered me a ‘cash back’ card, which I used for quite a while, then I upgraded to the Costco-associated cash back card.

I don’t have a yearly fee (as long as I am a Costco member), and can pay over time.

There’s a currently active thread in which someone bought a lemon of a computer and was asking about perhaps calling his Visa card vendor and initiating a chargeback.

One advantage of American Express is that they are very loyal to their cardholders (or “cardmembers”). I have never had a bit of trouble cancelling charges to my card if I was dissatisfied with the product or service. I can’t say the same for any of the Visa or MasterCard vendors I’ve used.

Beyond the customers service they offer and the various benefits to card members, it has additional benefits that I’ve experienced a number of times.

Sometimes, simply by virtue of handing a vendor the care, you get your ass kissed a little more enthusiastically than the guy with the Master Card before you.

Some people are just impressed by a nice piece of plastic.

Thank you. :slight_smile:

Well, I used to work in Customer Services for Amex and this is true. I’ve done an awful amount of chargebacks back in the day to the point where I’m willing to bet the service establishments (see, I still know the lingo) probably do not like Amex very much as the onus is on them a lot to prove they are correct or they loose their cash.
Other than that, it’s a status symbol thing, I think.

Ditto the customer care thing.

It has been a long time, but, here is the story:

20 years ago my mom and I were traveling around Europe. We got mugged in Spain and mom lost her purse with everything in it (passports, money, cards, etc).

We were assigned to a local American expat at the police station. We called Amex from her house and told them what was happening. They said they would call us back in 2 hours.

1 hour later they called us back - they found a room in a hotel, made the reservation, had the hotel pay for the taxi ride over there, the hotel gave us an envelope with cash (I forget how much, but it was enough for a few days), and had a new card issued and in our hands a week later at our next stop. We were able to charge whatever we wanted to via phone, including airplane tickets to Marbella cuz we were sick of the trains and Madrid.

Now THAT is customer service. Maybe they have changed since then, but…They were most definitely there when we needed them most.


If you travel a lot on buisiness, which you later get reimbursed for, they are handy. There is no hard limit (sometimes they want to find out why so many charges, so you have to call them) So if you need to charge a bunch af air fares, hotels, car rentals, etc. you don’t need to worry about maxing it out, and there is no interest. Also there are some perks like automatic life insurance during the whole trip (not just the flight) when you buy a plane ticket using the card. A few years back I lost a coworker on travel, (he rolled a rental car for no apparent reason and broke his neck) and this paid off for his widow.

OTOH, at least a few years ago, if you had more than one account (to keep personal and buisness expenses seperate) and tried to pay using one check, one envelope, one stamp, it caused AMEX no end of confusion, which could not be resolved without interminable amounts of time spent holding.

I have one because my credit card company, MBNA, “converted” a Visa or Mastercard to it for some reason. Without asking me. Pissed me off.

So I got new Visa card from my bank, and guess what? It ends up being another MBNA card anyway.

I don’t think I’m paying a yearly fee on the AmEx, but I better make sure about that.

Current Amex employee here. I’m not in customer service, though.

Revtim, there is no fee for your MBNA Amex card.

Customer service is definitely a compelling reason why people carry the card. Amex also has by far the best fraud detection algorithms in the business. Also, if something sets off a fraud watchdog at the point of sale, a customer service rep will actually call the merchant at the time of purchase to verify the purchase. For V/MC, they will just shut your card off and not let you fulfill the purchase. You have to call to get your card reinstated. Very embarrassing and irritating, imho.

Amex also offers the best membership rewards. You can buy a whole hell of a lot more than airline tickets with your membership rewards points. Thousands of retail and travel items are also available, and even some products give you cash back. If you are really honking rich, you can trade in points to charter private jet flights and 24 hour personal concierge service.

This is all in addition to the benefits cardmembers have while travelling. There are many little services you get from worldwide Amex offices, including fee-free travelers cheques and foreign exchange to access to Amex travel agents and tour operators.

Cardmembers also get consolidated spending reports. These can be enormously helpful for tax purposes, budget planning, and for small business and corporate cardmembers in general.

There are plenty of other benefits depending on your card product and on how much you spend. It is something of a niche product that really is very different from V/MC.

I’d like to point out that amex blue(I think optima too…) is a credit card(just like visa and Mastercard) and not a charge card.

I love my amex. It has way more cardholder benifets then Visa and Mastercard. Read the cardholder’s agreement! Oh, and no fee for my card, but it’s a student card. 2k limit, but I bet I could bump it up to 5k if I asked.

Thanks for the info Maeglin.

Just FYI, I’m not speaking ex cathedra or anything. I’d still call their service number to verify.

A lot of art dealers and collectors carry the Amex because of no pre-set spending limit.

Suppose you’re at an art auction, and a piece you like, or your client likes sells for more than originally estimated (not that uncommon) - with the Amex you pay whatever you need to pay for the piece and then reimburse later - EZ. You can’t really do that with a cashier’s cheque, a Visa or MC could have an insufficient limit, and most people don’t want to carry around that much cash (eg, $100,000 +), nor would most auction houses want to accept that much cash.

So, in some industries, an Amex is really the only way to go.

OK, thanks again/

I carry one that I got primarily for a trip I made for work last month (so I’m a recent cardholder).

I chose it because I have screwed up in the past with credit cards and I don’t want to do that again by any means. I will continue to use the Amex card, but because I can check it online, I watch to make sure I haven’t spent more than I can pay off in a month.

Also, with my past credit problems (all paid, and all come off my credit report next summer. Woohoo!), I feel like it helps me continue to rebuild my credit without carrying credit cards. And if something happens where I need to rent a car or the like, I’ve got that, which I didn’t have before.

20-year Amex cardholder here… primary card is a platinum optima card hooked up with Delta. Mrs Pagan and I run absolutely all possible expenses through it, earn double miles, and pick up about three free plane tickets a year (between household purchases, flight miles, and business expenses). Even though I pay a higher fee, I love the service and the tickets.

I met a guy on an business trip once and we started trading life on the road stories. He worked for HP in technical support. Anyway he was out of town somewhere trying to get a customer back up and running. His boss told him do whatever it takes to get the customer up. He determines that he has some bad hardware. A distributor in that area has one, but it is $25,000. :eek: He puts it on his Corprate Amex card. Customer is back up, life is good.
On Monday he gets a call from Amex.
Did you know that you have $25,000 charged on your card?
Yes. A few seconds of silence
You do know it due in full at the end of the month?
Sure Another few seconds of silence
Ah is there any way we could get a payment earlier?
Sure, I will turn in my expense report/ check request and I should have it this afternoon.
Gee sir that would be great.
That afternoon, when he called back to get the address to send the check to, the lady asked him if this was going to be a common occurence. He said it might be. Her response was that she was going to flag his account that they would not even call unless the balance went over $50,000. :smiley:
When I carried a Corprate card, mine only went to $10,000 before they made a phone call. :frowning:
I gotta tell you if you are not used to it, there can be a real shock when you open a bill for $14,000. Thank OG for expense reimbursement checks.

IANACardmember but I think I’d find that pretty insulting.

I have mine soley because my company issues Corporate AmEx cards. I pay a fee for an additional personal card, but get another personal card (for my wife) free.

I do this b/c they allow pooling of points on all three cards. I run up more than enough corporate expenses to cover the fees based on points trade-in, plus the spending of my entire household goes to one points program (our personal gold cards accrue 2x the dollar value of points the first year, and 1.5x on most purchases after that.
Last year, we took $900 off our kitchen reno expenses at Home Depot, where $5K points = $50.
Their points program is fantastic.

If you have a Platinum Card (the regular $395 per year Platinum - not the Costco or other kind of Platinum), you can get a free first-class companion airline ticket, no matter what the cost. If you fly first anyway and bring your spouse or colleague, this can save you thousands - well over the cost of the card itself.

My boss has a Citibank Visa with a $100,000 limit and he is cancelling it because Citibank has had the gall to put a freeze on his card because of a $40 wallet charge. Yes, he charges $30-75K per month, every month; yet when he charged a wallet in an airport duty-free shop, they called to “warn” him of possible fraudulent use and when they couldn’t reach him, they put a freeze on his card. So he’s in Europe and was embarrassed to discover that his card was denied. Citibank’s explanation: “But we’re watching out for your best interest.” WTF? When I charged the $15,000 in airline tickets for him, they didn’t call; but for a wallet, they get all concerned.

I doubt Amex would ever do such a thing.