Amex Green Vs. Amex Gold: Which Is Better?

Filed Under: American Express, Credit Card Comparisons
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This past fall we saw the introduction of the refreshed American Express® Green Card (review), which is significantly more compelling than I was expecting. This refresh follows the American Express® Gold Card (review) also getting a revamp earlier in 2019, making these two of the best cards for earning Membership Rewards points.

So, which of these two cards should you be using for your spending? In this post I wanted to take an updated look at the differences between the cards when it comes to a variety of factors, including the annual fees, points earning structures, annual credits, and more.

Comparing Annual Fees

Annual fees are one of the biggest considerations that people have when deciding on a credit card. There is a significant difference between the fees on these two cards:

So the Green Card has an advantage there, since it will cost you $100 less every account year.

Comparing Points Earning Structures

Both the Amex Green and Amex Gold offer generous category bonuses, though they do differ.

The Amex Green Card offers:

  • 3x Membership Rewards points on dining, travel and transit
  • 1x Membership Rewards points on all other purchases

The Amex Gold Card offers:

  • 4x Membership Rewards points on dining
  • 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases annually)
  • 3x Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com
  • 1x Membership Rewards points on all other purchases

As you can see:

  • The Green Card has the advantage of offering 3x points on all travel purchases (and not just airfare purchased directly with airlines), and on transit
  • The Gold Card has the advantage of offering 4x points (rather than 3x points) at restaurants, as well as the advantage of offering 4x points at supermarkets

Earning 3x points on all travel purchases is awesome

Which of those is better? Obviously it depends on the type of consumer you are, and what other cards you have. Personally I think:

  • If you spend a lot at supermarkets then the Amex Gold is definitely the better option, since you’re earning an extra 3x points per dollar spent
  • If you spend a fair amount on travel and transit, then the Amex Green Card is the best option; 3x points on dining is still excellent, and you’d have to spend a lot on dining for the difference in annual fees to justify getting the Amex Gold for the extra point per dollar spent

Both cards offer great returns on restaurant spending

Comparing Annual Credits

Both the Amex Green Card and Amex Gold Card offer annual credits that can help offset the annual fee.

The Amex Green Card offers:

  • A $100 CLEAR credit every calendar year; just charge an eligible CLEAR purchase to your card, and you’ll receive a statement credit
  • A $100 LoungeBuddy credit every calendar year; use this to buy lounge access at lounges through LoungeBuddy

There’s huge value in the $100 annual CLEAR credit

The Amex Gold Card offers:

  • A $100 airline fee credit every calendar year; this can only be used towards select purchases on a designated airline
  • A $120 dining credit every calendar year; this comes in the form of a $10 monthly credit to be used at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations

Use your airline fee credit for airline ticket change fees

Like everything, which of those is most valuable depends on what kind of a consumer you are.

For example, in my particular situation I see the following value in the Green Card credits:

  • The CLEAR credit is more or less worth face value, since I would otherwise spend more than $100 per year with CLEAR
  • I definitely won’t get face value out of the LoungeBuddy credit, since there’s so much overlap with Priority Pass lounges, though I’d still find ways to use it and get at least some value

Meanwhile for the Gold Card credits:

  • While the $100 airline fee credit comes with lots of restrictions, in reality I’d probably still get nearly face value out of it
  • The $10 monthly dining credit is something I value at almost nothing, since I don’t often dine at the restaurants or with the services that are included

In my particular case, I think both cards offer me roughly $100 worth of value per year from the credits. Perhaps I’d value the Green Card credit a bit more, since I spend $100 with CLEAR per year “no questions asked.” Of course if you value the LoungeBuddy credits or the dining credits, your math could work out vastly differently.

Other Considerations

The Green Card and Gold Card also has some other things in common, including:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Access to Amex Offers, which can save you a lot of money or earn you bonus points
  • Both cards are charge cards for the purposes of getting approved; this means neither of these cards is subjected to Amex’s five card limit, or to their limit of being approved for two credit cards in 90 days

As far as differences go, one other thing worth noting is that as of 2020 the Amex Gold Card comes with trip delay coverage. You’re entitled to up to $300 per trip for necessary expenses, like hotels, meals, and other essentials. You can claim this benefit 2 times per 12 consecutive month period. The Green Card does not have this benefit.

Bottom Line

American Express has done a great job with the refresh of both the Amex Green Card and Amex Gold Card, and these cards now both offer powerful points earning potential.

Generally speaking I think it only makes sense to have one card or the other, since there is quite a bit of overlap. As far as picking the right card goes, I’d say the major considerations are as follows:

  • Decide how much value you’d get out of the CLEAR & LoungeBuddy credits, vs. the airline fee & dining credits
  • If you spend a lot at restaurants and supermarkets, then the Amex Gold Card is probably the best option
  • If you spend a lot on dining and travel (but not at supermarkets), then the Amex Green Card is probably the more well rounded and reasonably priced option for you; in many ways the rewards structure of this card almost exactly overlaps with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (since both cards offer 3x points on dining and travel, including transit)

Personally I recently picked up the Amex Green Card and love it, as it better fits my spending profile than the Amex Gold Card.

Where do you stand — do you prefer the Amex Gold or Amex Green?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees), and American Express® Green Card (Rates & Fees).

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Comments
  1. Amex is very selective in what codes as a “restaurant.” Some places that are plainly a restaurant in the common meaning of the terms (establishment that primarily sells prepared meals meant to be eaten on-premise) but then often code as a “cafe” or “bar” (depending on their merchant code). It’s not easily distinguishable. For that reason the CSR is my go-to for miscellaneous dining and travel purchases. I use the Amex Gold for eateries that I know code as restaurants (or am fairly sure will code as a restaurant *fingers crossed*) and groceries. Plus you get to diversify currencies. I’m happy with the strategy.

  2. American Express is too complicated. I’ll keep my Chase Sapphire Reserve. The travel credit of $300 is real, no monkey business like Amex. So I pay $150 per year for solid bonuses, lounge access and great rental car protection.

  3. After holding multiple cards with multiple issuers, I think I will work pretty hard to downgrade cards and consolidate before annual fees hit next year.

    One of the biggest disappointments with Chase is that they don’t offer a regular grocery category (especially given the fact that their grocery code is much wider than Amex). Their biggest upside is the 1.5 cent travel portal (I just made a nice JetBlue Mint redemption using this). It is hard to really give up either Amex or Chase given their different approaches.

  4. Do the travel, transit, and dining membership points apply to only purchases made in the US or is it worldwide?

  5. I’m surprised you don’t value the $10 monthly credit on the Gold Card. You say that you basically live off Postmates so it would be pretty easy to order from Grubhub once per month to get the credit.

  6. Isn’t there a $100 credit for a new Away luggage purchase? Personally, I think they are overhyped Instagram bags and I’ll keep my Briggs and Riley but might be something a few people will value.

  7. The Green card I would only get for a signup bonus and then there is no compelling reason to keep it. I have the CSR that only costs $150 with the easy travel credit and gives me the same bonus categories and overall better benefits.

    The Gold card is a bit more interesting since it provides 4X on dining and groceries. Unfortunately using the airline credit is difficult and at $250 I don’t think it is worth it. I can already get 6% cash back with the Blue preferred card and will 4X points may be a bit better, I don’t spend enough in those categories (as a single guy my groceries may be $60 a week).

    For a while now I haven’t seen any useful good bonuses to sign up for ($50K spend isn’t practical). I might try to gold card for the bonus and one of the Delta cards since I’ve been flying them a bit more. Would like to find a good 75K/100K signup with lesser spend ($5K?).

  8. Agree with Alan. Amex has bonus category in “restaurants” instead of “dining”. A pretty big difference as many places are not coded as Restaurants, but cafe, bar, etc.

  9. Gold is the clear winner for me. I value the Gold’s dining credit at face value and its travel credit at maybe $50 going forward (since AA gift cards no longer trigger the credit). I value all of the Green card’s collectively at $0, since there’s no CLEAR at ORD.

  10. @Adam L – I hear this a lot from Chase heavy users, but as someone who put almost my entire restaurant and dining spend on my Gold card until the Prestige introduced 5x on dining, I can assure you that bars and cafe’s give you 4x bonus points, despite not being coded as “restaurants” explicitly. Just going back in my old statements before I shifted spend, the Barclay’s Center beer cart coded as 4x, my local dive bar with no food coded as 4x, even the bodega across the street form my apartment got me 4x. I’ve never had an issue with this, and I’m not sure why its such a leaned on talking point. Its been pretty liberal for a long time now.

  11. I wish Amex would offer one metal card / one card number that automatically direct the charge to the most rewarding of the green, gold and platinum cards that you hold.

    One card number to rule them all.

    Shouldn’t change the amount of fees Amex would receive, but would make the customer journey better.

  12. My annual fee just hit on the Gold card and its still $195. Am I grandfathered in on this because I got it a week before they announced the new gold card + $250 annual fee?

  13. Amex has definitely improved the dining category. What hasn’t been improved is groceries, where my local bodegas, farmers markets, etc don’t code as 4x. Chase Freedom did when groceries were returning 5%.

  14. CSR meets mostly all of my needs. The only hole, as mentioned before, is Chase’s lack of Supermarket bonus. But that just isn’t worth it to me to pick up the Gold card. I’m seriously considering the Green card but am still on the fence about it.

  15. @Robert, AMEX and to a lesser extent Citi have surpassed Chase.

    AMEX: AMEX offers + transfer bonuses (almost yearly there’s at least a 40% to BA and a 30% to Virgin) + better overall earn rate. The only thing Chase has on them is that the AMEX travel credit has become almost useless for those who almost exclusively fly J/F.

    Citi: Even though devalued, 4th night free still has great value (Aman, Four seasons). 5x on dining + airfare + 3x on hotels + transfer bonuses (albeit not as frequent as AMEX) + useable travel credit.

    All Chase has left is Hyatt (Granted still very useful). The earn rate is suboptimal and there’s only been one transfer bonus ever (which was still less than AMEX’s to BA). Back in the day when they had Korean and the AMEX gold + new Prestige didn’t exist, it was easily top dog. Now, the prestige is maybe the 4th/5th best card on the market (depending on where you put the plat).

    Gold>Prestige>Green>Reserve. Plat is up in the air based on one’s value of Centurion lounges + FHR. Not sure where I would put it.

    When people ask me, what are the two best cards to get if I dont want to do that much work? Hands down Gold + blue biz.

  16. @lisfranc – this is solely your opinion. As I said, CSR is still the best for me, if they had a supermarket bonus then I’d be perfectly happy. My travel patterns changed recently, also, as I changed jobs and now travel is mostly leisure vs mostly business in my past.

    –$300 travel credit is automatic
    –I’m rarely able to travel for 4 consecutive nights so the Citi benefit is useless
    –I’ve gotten crazy good value from Hyatt transfers…fantastic value
    –CSR gets me decent lounge access. I long ago gave up on the Centurion Lounges, rarely could find seating and the food selection bored me over time.
    –Companion Pass on WN plus transfers from Chase are invaluable now for me
    –CSR travel site $.015/point has been valuable as well, all the flexibility in the world with this

    Travel patterns dictate the cards I hold. After dropping my corp travel I quickly dropped the AMEX Plat card since it no longer fit my needs for the AF cost. Now Chase meets nearly all my needs. Your opinion about AMEX and Citi is based on YOUR value, not mine

  17. Let’s all settle down.
    Everyone is giving their answers based on their own usage styles.

    I am one who rarely flies. Three tickets to Europe can get pricey, though I see Amex Delta offering London from ATL for three at about 95k points.

    I happen to live where Delta is, so you could imagine why I’m a fan of Amex cards, but I also find plenty of benefit from Chase. That said, this has nothing to do with whether you go with a Gold or a Green so let’s get back to the actual topic at hand.

    That whole family of three thing along with my lack of significant travel means I’m sticking with my Gold. That point on restaurants alone is about $50, then the groceries absolutely cover the price difference.

    Then I get my grubhub and it’s no competition. For me. Not for everyone.

  18. To Quinn, the Away bonus is being offered by another blog site (I think YMMV) if you use their referral link. Not a part of the card per se.

  19. Robert, you’re stuck in 2017. There have been unprecedented card releases since, almost as if the banks can’t give the points away fast enough.

    People talk about the good ole days of this hobby. Even though there has been devalues on the redemption side, these earn rates + transfer bonuses have made today the true golden age of points and miles.

  20. Quinn – Agreed about Away. I’m in the market for a new carry-on but even the $100 credit wouldn’t sway me to buying one of their glorified Instagram bags.

    I also don’t see the same issues when it comes to Amex coding restaurants properly. Just flipped through my last two statements and had just one bar (which does not serve food) not give me 4x. Everything else was fine. There were some good and bad surprises though: TopGolf coded as Entertainment but I got 4x, while Total Wine coded as Groceries but I only received 1x.

  21. By far the most value you get out of these cards is from the sign up bonuses. These are strangely omitted from the article, probably because the above links give you 30k for the Green and 35k for the Gold, when there are publicly available offers for 45k Green and 40k Gold! Tsk tsk…

  22. Surprised no one has suggested combining one of the AMEX Everyday cards with the Green and compare that combo to the Gold. Maybe it’s unfair to compare two cards to one, but the combo would still have a lower annual fee.

  23. Sean you are incorrect as the Away credit is part of the relaunch and is good for all new cardholders thru 1/15/2020. I did my signup thru a generic incognito search to get the 45k MR bonus and made sure to read all the disclosures to make sure I was missing out on nothing else to gain the 45k bonus.

    Garrett, warehouse clubs are a completely independent category and do not code as grocery stores. However Amex does occasionally include Sam’s on their Amex offers. I currently have a 4x bonus (5x total) on Sams purchases thru the end of the year on my Gold card. Definitely going to be using this extensively.

    To all, this is very much a YMMV hobby (obsession???). All of my travel is leisure and i do not live in a hub, plus have two older teens. My spending and travel will be vastly different from a single millennial, someone who travels extensively for work, lives in a captive hub, etc. Also, quite honestly I’m too damn busy and not OCD enough to worry about maximizing every little thing when we are dealing with thousands of transactions worth literally pennies on the dollar. If I miss out on a few thousand points over the course of the year it is inconsequential to me and definitely not worth the hassle.

    I do not have a platinum as the credits are worthless to me and the ROI calculation is just not there. I was contemplating some Citi cards, but removing all of the insurance etc put the nail in that coffin. Chase FU is where all my monthly bills (water, electric, car insurance, etc) go to and Amex Gold gets groceries and restaurants. Picked up the Green as I figure it will easily pay for itself after the credits and Amex offers and any MR points are gravy.

    Do some calculations on what works best for you and roll with it and don’t argue with someone who probably has a completely different situation and tell them they are wrong because they don’t do what you do.

  24. After going through this with my fiancee, I think Gold and Green are gone and I’m going back to Chase, keeping my Platinum card for the Centurion lounge access. It’s too complicated, and I get 90% of my value out of Virgin Atlantic and Hyatt anyway. Chase needs to step it up with airline partners, but it’s just so much simpler to figure out what to do with them.

  25. @lisfranc – again, your opinion. Take it easy. For my redemption patterns there’s little better than what I’m getting. Sure, I could do better in some areas. Even then I agree with @CK

  26. @Lucky, the answer to whether Amex Gold counts to warehouse purchases at 4x s more nuanced than a flat out not. Walmart Neighborhood Grocery Stores and Instacart which includes Costco and Walmart Grocery Online do code as 4x.

  27. Several comments have touched on AmEx’s finicky point awards. Trying to get 4x points on restaurant purchases with the Gold card is an exercise in frustration. Even on my last statement, points for two restaurants (stand-alone, local restaurants no affiliated with a hotel, bar, etc) coded as “other” on the AmEx system. The same places code properly on a CSR. Also, AmEx makes a cardholder wait until the statement closes to rectify the situation, and requires a call to Membership Rewards team. With a CSR, one secure message on the Chase website handles the situation.

    I’m certain the Green card restaurant purchases will result in the same issues as the Gold card. While the Green card looks like a good deal, the constant AmEx caveats and coding issues prevent me from replacing my CSR with it. With a lack of travel protections and purchase coding issues, I feel like it’s a hard pass. Is it worth wondering if every travel or restaurant purchase doesn’t result in the a 3 points per dollar?

  28. For me, the Green card will be the best. I had been thinking about getting the Gold card, but for $100 less I’ll get what really matters, CLEAR and Dining/Travel/Transit worldwide and be done with it. I’m constantly traveling, and seldom at all shop at U.S. grocery stores or gas stations. I rather have the CLEAR credit than the Airline credit. I have the AMEX platinum card for everything else. Don’t need lounge buddy though that the Green card provides.

    One day I’ll consider CSR. But, for now I’m straight.

  29. Eat a lot, grocery a lot. Just order one grubhub a month to get the value since meal here costs over 10 anyway.
    Am I the only one here no problem with gold airline fee? As millennial, take off, buy wifi, and chat/Twitter. Unfortunately, Delta only allows WhatsApp and Facebook msg. Millennial doesn’t use those old school. We use discord and Snapchat. Not to mention my Asian background I also use Line.

  30. I, too, agree with Alan. AMEX is just too annoying. I recently had my birthday at a restaurant and the bill was over $2,000 (!!!). To ease the pain of the bill, I was looking forward to my 4x with my Gold Card. Well, surprise! AMEX did not code it as a restaurant, even though the charge name on the bill said SUNSET RESTAURANT. I called and after 25 minutes of trying to explain the situation, I did get the 4x points, but the moment I hung up the phone I realized “Is this really worth it? Who has time to be begging for points when this is an advertised feature?” On the flipside, everything is so easy-beezy with my CSR.

  31. @Bill.
    No, you can’t. I called them. Been a member with various colors for decades but no bonus if you currently hold a Green. As it’s coming toward Christmas spend and a couple of flights I may up to a Gold for the bonus. Which, I think, is 40,000 for $2,000 over 3 months. Worth the extra $100 for me as I’d keep the Amex anyway.

  32. Dunno about the whole restaurants not posting as restaurants with amex thing. I almost never have that issue and eat out all the time. For me the $120 credit is easy to use and with grubhub I get an extra point via amex offers for a total of 5 pts per dollar. To me the gold card crushes the green card. Is the green card the same product as the old card or can we get the signup bonus again even if we had green card in past?

  33. How is the Amex Green a better fit to your spending patterns when you spend all your airfare and dining on the Citi Prestige and all “other travel” on the CSR??

  34. You should begin with asking yourself with which airlines hotels you would like points. In my case since I would like to be able to transfer points to Cathay, Singapore, ANA, and Emirates. Accordingly Membershii Rewards is where I would like to accumulate. From there seeing my spending patterns the green card is better for me. I think every 3-4 years Lucky should do an ecosystem analysis…. with CSR there are few airline transfer partners so it’s value has dropped and quite dramatically at that too

  35. Seems as to me That the debate over the “which is best” and the search and loss of time and energy Will not provide agreed on conclusion for 100% of us. Moreover, the value of the card is largely dependent on the Consumer, Who chooses And uses: when, where, how frequently, for what . s/he uses the card for, and how often they monitor it’s use as related to the comings and going‘s of different amenities associated with cards. Some cards recently dropped a lot of travel coverage insurance; others did not. But you want to know which one still has it when you buy that ticket. Likewise, some added new features which may or may not be that important to you. The one that’s probably relevant to everybody is the cell phone insurance that some credit cards offer as supplemental to any other Other phone insurance you might have, and also includes theft. But if you don’t have that card paying yourphone bill, you won’t get the claim approved.
    In the end, I think it’s probably wise for 95% of us to use two or three cards 95% of the time so it becomes a low demand hobby. value is calculated by a cost benefit analysis which also includes one’s time and energy in playing the game. honestly I can’t keep up with which card with extra restaurant earnings is 3% or 4%, but if I have them both in my wallet, I’ll pull one of them out and I still I’m going to get a pretty good deal in earnings. So to me, the best advice is to have in your wallet the card they give you the best bang for your buck for the purchases that you make most frequently that’s going to be the easiest way to do it and probably will beat the St&P500 rate of return LOL. When I travel and I know I’m going to stay at a Hilton I’ll pull out my Hilton aspire card and bring it. Otherwise it stays in the drawer. That’s about as good as I can do.the branded cards for airlines or hotels are used for those brand purchases and probably only that, unless there’s something else that it provides it no other card provides. For most of my spending, it’s either the American Express Gold card, and the Citi Prestige card. I also spent 25k b on the Chase United card (Rewarded! Lolol)because it helped make their spending requirements for platinum elite status without restricting to United services. They’re changing that for 2020 so that goes out the window and so does my United platinum Prestige status I’m sure. Which other than the citi fourth night free offers Me the greatest travel perk. And since they just revamped their mileage plus program, other travel bloggers have written that getting upgrades to business class will be even easier with their new program. However getting platinum status will be harder because they pulled out the credit card spending option.

  36. I have just been approved for the Gold card, using the review yesterday. I cook a lot and spend a lot at grocery stores – at least $20k per year. The $250 cost is 14,705 points. Plus twice the 2x points I get on dining from the CSP makes it a no-brainer. It is the Platinum card I am questioning continuing to hold…. $550 per year is steep and I am not sure I get the full benefits. Will analyze for the next year.

  37. I currently have the Gold and would be better off with it than the Green if I had to choose one or the other. Grocery and other food spend is my main expenditure I put on credit cards and basically it lets me earn 4x more points without spending a dime more compared to my old 1x airline card.
    On another note… if I didn’t already have a CSR, I would carry both Green and Gold, putting travel spend on the green and using its credits to offset the AF.

    The Amex ‘restaurant’ coding is definitely an exercise in frustration at times… I am aware that this line exists in the terms ‘You may not earn additional rewards at a restaurant located within another establishment (e.g. a restaurant inside a hotel, casino, or event venue)’ but it’s applied so inconsistently. The restaurant inside the Hilton Boston Airport coded 4x while the restaurant inside the JR Blossom Fukuoka coded 1x, both charges came up as the restaurant name. I’m guessing the latter may come up 3x if I used a Green or CSR if it was coded Hotel.

  38. A disciplined financial analysis assigning a not overly optimistic redeemed point value including target annual bonus and non-bonus spending to calculate net return (compared to a 2% no annual fee cash back card) after high annual fees and irritating breakage inducing credits which destroyed great bonus categories and which will not return the total credit value, indicates that for most folks, neither of these cards is worth regular use or even really acquiring. There are better options which might include the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the AMEX Hilton Aspire. AMEX really should be embarrassed by both of these cards because it would be easy to leave home without either of them. I am actually an ardent AMEX fan but many of their current credit card offerings are just plain disappointing. The AMEX Hilton Aspire can be mostly rationalized by the resort credit, annual free night, and Diamond status since airline credits just force useless spending.

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