- Personal Finance
American Express Credit Card Rewards and Benefits - Review
The following review of the American Express inherent "Benefits and Rewards" program is a reflection of my personal experience and consumer relationship with the company which extends over a period of several years while using a "Gold Card", and does not contain information extracted directly from the AMEX web site as it pertains to specific discounts or offers related to their wide range of diverse products and services.
This detailed, thought provoking entry includes my personal opinion and perspective, nothing more and nothing less. If you are looking for one individual consumer's interpretation and brief report to the public regarding key components of the American Express Credit Card line of product and services, then please read on. Compare it with additional online reviews authored by other users, and then of course, it's up to you to render conclusions and decide for yourself if this card is the right fit within a unique financial situation.
After using the Gold Card for several years to date, I'm prepared and quite confident in saying that after taking into consideration all aspects including Customer Service, Billing, Roadside Service etc., and combining them with a generous Benefits & Rewards program, the AMEX Card in my opinion is by far one of the best ways to finance low to mid priced consumer goods or items for the short term. I'm sure there are individuals and married couples who disagree and may not find this card as attractive or useful due to their need for financial control of payment flexibility, or a "Rolling Balance" option which is not required to be paid off at least once a month as the American Express Card demands, but for my specific needs, I believe it's the optimum product. As a matter of fact, according to my interpretation, it's not considered a "Credit" card per se since there are no interest charges applied if paid off on time.
Contained within the following evaluation, you will find a list of what I consider to be some of the most beneficial services AMEX offers its customers. In addition, I would recommend you conduct additional research regarding the required total monthly balance pay off, a mandatory element of card ownership which just might turn out to be the perfect incentive to control the number of transactions or even the dollar amount of your card purchases, which in turn, can significantly reduce your long and short term debt burden.
- For those of you who are familiar with American Express or own a card, the following might seem elementary. In either case, please do read on, the potential exists wherein the following information will shed light on a product or service you may have been previously unaware of until now. Please feel free to comment at the bottom of the page if you have any additional highlights to share.
>>> NO ROLLING BALANCE
At first glance, this may seem like an inconvenience to the consumer, but when you really think about it, paying off your credit card debt no later than 30 days after merchandise is charged can be a blessing in disguise. With American Express, it's mandatory that you pay off your existing balance at least once a month regardless of the amount. For instance, if your billing date is the 5th of every month, everything you charge up until the cutoff is due in full no later than the 5th. So unlike a MasterCard, Visa, or department store card which traditionally incorporate a feature similar to "Rolling Balances" which will accrue in perpetuity as long as minimum monthly payments are made, the American Express Card requires the customer to payoff the entire balance at least once every month. ( American Express also offers the traditional credit card payment option which includes applicable interest charges. Check with AE directly to verify ).
The requirement of paying off the entire balance every month may indeed be a detriment for consumers who need the flexibility of down sized payments which are stretched out over several months or even years, but for the casual shopper who uses the card primarily for incidentals or discretionary items or services such as hotel reservations, travel, or car rentals, it can be a huge money saver and debt reducer. The amount of interest alone that can be saved with an AMEX verses a traditional credit card can be substantial, especially when factoring a 20% plus interest rate charged by these rolling balance card companies. With a rate today hovering in the low to upper 20%, it's easy to calculate the potentially devastating finance charges which can swiftly accrue and snowball without end, even over the short or mid term.
>>> TRAVEL - HOTEL & RENT - A - CAR DISCOUNTS
Another benefit of owning an American Express Card is the discounted travel related offers. The discounts are usually applicable to "Retail" prices which typically means if the offer slashes 25% off a car rental, the actual savings realized is the equivalent of a more realistic 10%. I find the same discounts apply to hotel rooms and many other travel related purchases or services. There are so many other competing online sites that specialize in this high demand category I can usually find what I'm looking for at a lower rate without the assistance of my credit card company even though it's nice to know the modest savings are there in case I need to take advantage in the future. Realistically, if you compare the typical 10% equivalent discount American Express typically offers as opposed to a more substantial 50%, 60% or even 70% discount I can usually get through any number of other online travel services that deal specifically in this product, it becomes a little less attractive to reserve through American Express. This has been my personal experience over the years as a longstanding card holder and I understand your specific circumstances or relationship with the company may differ.
>>> FREE ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE ( Included In Annual Fee )
One of the absolute best perks of owning an AMEX card is the free roadside assistance which is included in the annual membership fee. On second thought, there is an annual membership fee attached, so I guess it's not really a "Free" service per se, however, I had planned on applying for and using the card anyway, so it turned out to be more of an extra added bonus than "Free" service, which is fine with me.
Until recently, when I found myself in need of this type of vehicle assistance in a real life scenario, I didn't even realize this service existed. Maybe I should reinforce my already laser focused attentiveness to detail and specifics of the deal to avoid this type of oversight becoming habit. Or, maybe my lack of awareness is due to the fact that this covertly submerged specific benefit of card ownership is rarely if ever promoted on television, online, or elsewhere, and I seldom have a pressing need to visit the web site. I actually discovered the roadside program during a routine call to customer service while engaged in casual conversation. The subject came up nonchalantly and the representative was kind and generous enough to inform me of the free program. She explained in general terms and I subsequently received a booklet in the mail about a week later containing pertinent, more precise information.
- The "Roadside Assistance" program, although not quite at the same level, is almost comparable to coverage you would receive from AAA who charges approximately $50 and up annually for membership. 4 assistance calls per year are allowed for basic mechanical issues such as battery charge, gasoline delivery, key retrieval from car etc. Towing benefits are similar to the Automobile Club, in some cases it's free and in others, depending upon the mileage, there may be a fee imposed. But overall, notwithstanding various minor divergences in policy and service, the coverage is essentially the same.
>>> YEAR END STATEMENT SUMMARY
A condensed copy of all your transactions for the previous year is prepared and sent making tax preparation that much easier. The statement arrives in January so you have a hard copy well before the tax deadline. It contains all necessary information at a glance to ensure that you don't overlook any pertinent tax write offs or deductions that can be applied to appropriate returns. It's a basic format that clearly lists everything you need to help identify Job Related Expenses etc.
>>> REVIEW / OPINION
- Overall, in my opinion, the American Express Card is a convenient and safe way to purchase certain consumer goods on credit for the short term. The benefits offered are not the most attractive in regard to cost savings but nevertheless, they are available if the same product or service cannot be found elsewhere at a better value. The "Rewards" program is a slightly more attractive if you can find the disposable free time to take advantage. The annual fee is reasonable in my opinion, especially when roadside assistance is included at no additional charge. Customer Service is excellent, every time I've called, which is not that often, the representatives on duty have been very courteous and helpful, also very knowledgeable regarding all aspects of the business. Their in depth expertise is very comforting, reassuring, and a tremendous time saver. All in all, the American Express Card is perfectly designed to help you plan trips, find discounts on certain products and services, and finance certain consumer goods for the short term at 0% APR.
- Bottom line, I use it & I like it.