Your credit card is one of the most important tools for maintaining and improving your financial health.
Pick the right card and you can get cash back or other rewards on your most frequent everyday purchases.
Choose the wrong card and you could face sky-high interest rates and fees that ruin your credit score, sap your savings, or prevent you from qualifying for a mortgage.
With hundreds of cards to choose from—each with its own rewards, benefits, and drawbacks—evaluating a credit card issuer can be challenging, even in the best of times.
It becomes even more of an issue when you're looking at a company like American Express, also popularly known as AmEx.
AmEx has spent decades cultivating an aura of exclusivity around its cards, marketing them as the obvious choice for executives, jet-setters, and the well-to-do.
This is an accurate depiction—but only for some of AmEx's cards.
Yes, some of its cardholders get access to exclusive events, like private dinners hosted by Michelin-starred chefs, but not every member is the same—and not every AmEx card is, either.
AmEx also has cards for non-millionaires. If you have good credit and a consistent income, you can most likely get one of the company's cards designed for people without multiple commas in their bank balance.
Still, plenty of people assume that an AmEx card is out of their reach.
That's part of the reason why I dug deep into the data on AmEx as a company—to dispel that notion and to find out how AmEx Cards really stack up against their competitors.
On top of that, I'm also curious about what existing clients have to say about the quality of their services.
Aside from credit cards, AmEx is also at the forefront of providing financing to small and medium-sized businesses.
So if your company ever needs a cash infusion, it would be very helpful to find out if AmEx can offer you the best terms on a loan.
We've researched and collected the most relevant and up-to-date information on American Express and its cards, including data about their closest competitors, so you will be able to pick the best card option for you.
Read on to get a deeper insight into how AmEx actually works, and to find out if there's an AmEx card that's a good fit for your own lifestyle needs and personal buying habits.
American Express Overview
AmEx is one of the largest credit card companies today, with its customers spending $686.9 billion dollars with its cards in 2017, according to the Nilson Report.
That means AmEx controls 20% of the credit card market.
There are four important things to know about AmEx
Four essential facts about the company can explain its popularity and serve to help you determine whether one of its cards could be right for you.
AmEx is known for serving premium consumers. These cards are defined by annual fees costing hundreds of dollars and being favored by a wealthy clientele.
That's starting to change, though.
Competition and attempts at further expanding the company's market share are pushing AmEx to offer cards to more than just the rich.
Solid financing options for business. Small and medium-sized businesses often turn to AmEx for fast loans with competitive interest rates.
Its business credit cards also provide benefits for everyone from corporate employees to entrepreneurs.
An expanding list of partners. A main draw for AmEx is its ever-growing network of partners that provide cardholders with exciting rewards.
These include well-established industry names like Hilton, American Airlines, and newer ones like Uber.
It's looking towards a digital future. AmEx is trying to future-proof its cards by integrating them with Google and Apple Pay, and finding other ways to make them as seamless and easy to use as possible.
Cardholders can get high-quality discounted merchandise
AmEx's Membership Rewards website also highlights special deals where you can buy merchandise at discounted rates using your points.
Unlike other credit card companies, most of these featured items are fairly high-end.
This includes products from Kate Spade, GoPro, and Apple.
Know that other credit card companies offer similar deals
A lot of the partnerships with airlines, hotels, and retailers were innovative when they were first introduced by AmEx years ago.
However, competitors like Chase can now go toe-to-toe with AmEx by running similar deals through the Ultimate Rewards program.
For instance, you can swap out your Ultimate Rewards points for airline miles as well.
That's not to say that the partnerships and programs AmEx offers are bad by any stretch.
Just be sure that the deals they offer are right for you and your spending habits.
AmEx cards are now more accessible than ever, but think before you apply
After reading through this guide, you should be feeling much more confident when deciding whether a card from AmEx is right for you.
The trick is to not let the carefully formulated image AmEx has built up over the years cloud your perception of its cards as being for elites only or out of reach.
Look at the company's strengths and weaknesses when it comes to its cards, business financing options, digital capabilities, and partnerships.
Carefully consider your spending habits to see whether you would be better served by an AmEx card or if you should go with one of its many competitors.