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Amex Cash Magnet review: A straight-forward cash-back card for all your shopping needs

CNBC Select breaks down the rewards, benefits and fees associated with the American Express Cash Magnet® Card to help you decide if it's the right card for you.

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American Express is basically synonymous with luxury credit cards. After all, the issuer is responsible for starting the "black card" trend. But these days, it also offers a host of high quality cash-back cards that don't come with crazy annual fees.

The American Express Cash Magnet® Card is one such example. This cash-back card offers a $150 statement credit as a welcome bonus for new cardholders when you spend $1,000 in your first three months. And you can earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases while enjoying some of the best perks that Amex is known for.

There's additional appeal if you have existing credit card debt you're looking to consolidate: When you're approved for the Cash Magnet card, you'll be able to enjoy 15 months of 0% interest on both balance transfers (when made within 60 days of account opening) and purchases. After that, your variable APR will range from 12.99% to 23.99% based on creditworthiness.

Using a balance transfer card like the Amex Cash Magnet could help you save significantly on interest while getting out of debt — especially when it comes with the additional benefit of cash back and a welcome bonus.

However, it's worth noting that you only receive the $150 bonus when you spend $1,000 in purchases, not balance transfers. This means that whatever amount you transfer to your new card won't count toward this minimum spend. 

Below, CNBC Select breaks down the rewards, benefits and fees associated with the American Express Cash Magnet Card to help you decide if it's the right card for you.

Amex Cash Magnet review

American Express Cash Magnet® Card

American Express Cash Magnet® Card
On American Express's secure site
  • Rewards

    Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    None

  • Intro APR

    0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from the date of account opening

  • Regular APR

    12.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 3%, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees and our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from the date of account opening (after 12.99% to 23.99% variable)

Cons

  • 2.7% fee on purchases outside the U.S.
  • Cash back comes in the form of a statement credit (with a minimum redemption of $25)

Amex Cash Magnet rewards

The American Express Cash Magnet Card gives cardholders 1.5% unlimited cash back on all eligible purchases. This cash back can be redeemed as reward dollars for statement credits once you earn a balance of $25 or more. Occasionally, Amex may offer you the opportunity to cash these rewards in for gift cards or merchandise from select merchants.

In addition, there's also a welcome bonus: You can get $150 cash back when you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases in your first three months.

CNBC Select calculated how many rewards the average American could earn if they optimize the way they use their Amex Cash Magnet. We worked with the location intelligence firm Esri, who provided us with a sample annual spending budget of $22,126.

The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953).

Here's a breakdown of how much cash back you can earn in each category, annually:

  • Groceries: $78
  • Gas: $33
  • Dining out: $55
  • Travel: $34
  • Utilities: $73
  • General purchases: $59
  • Total: $332

Based on the annual spending budget from Esri, the average American can earn an estimated $482 in the first year of card membership, including the welcome bonus, and $1,810 over five years. This assumes that cardholders are redeeming cash back for a typical value of 1 cent each. Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value, and you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your spending habits.

Additional benefits

While Amex is known for offering luxury perks with cards like the American Express® Gold Card, the Cash Magnet is a no-fee card that comes with some of the same well-loved benefits.

Amex Cash Magnet Travel Benefits 

The Cash Magnet card comes with car rental loss and damage insurance when you book the rental vehicle on your Amex card. It also provides a Global Assist® Hotline to connect you to assistance when you or a family member loses a passport, comes down with sudden illness, needs language translation or encounters a customs and border question while on vacation.

(Note: Global Assist® coordination services are offered complimentary, but cardholders must pay for any third-party services once Global Assist® connects them to the appropriate resource.)

Amex cardholders can also take advantage of Destination Family benefits when they use the Amex Cash Magnet card to pay for valid bookings through the American Express Travel portal. Participating providers include:

  • Abercrombie & Kent
  • Royal Caribbean International
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  • Travel Impressions

Your Family Destination benefits vary by provider and may not be available to residents outside of the U.S. The primary cardholder must be included in all vacation bookings, meaning you can't book a trip for the family but stay home yourself.

Another great travel benefit of the Amex Cash Magnet card is the Lowest Hotel Rates Guarantee. If you book a qualifying hotel at the prepaid rate on amextravel.com and then find the same exact accommodation for the same dates and number of family members at a lower price online, Amex will refund the difference (taking taxes and fees into account).

To qualify for Lowest Hotel Rates Guarantee, your claim must be submitted at least one day prior to your date of check-in.

For a travel credit card that gives you the opportunity to earn more on your hotel stays, you might consider Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, which give cardholders 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠ and 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase.

Amex Cash Magnet Shopping Benefits 

If you're a frequent online shopper, you may have heard of Amex's free ShopRunner benefit. When you verify your account's eligibility, ShopRunner offers free 2-day shipping at participating retailers. 

The Cash Magnet's Pay It® program lets cardholders split up eligible purchases over a fixed period of time for a set monthly fee with no interest as long as you pay your adjusted balance each month by the payment due date. (Pay It® is only available in the American Express® App)

Finally, Amex offers complimentary dispute resolution which helps you stay on top of your purchases and easily address charges you suspect to be fraudulent. (Not all of the disputes will be in your favor, but Amex commits to working with cardholders to resolve any issues.)

Fees

The American Express Cash Magnet card has no annual fee, but there is a 2.7% foreign transaction fee for purchases made outside the U.S. 

When the 0% intro period ends after 15 months, the variable APR is 12.99% to 23.99%. If you're planning to use this card to pay down debt, there will be a 3% balance transfer fee. You'll have to calculate whether the fee is worth it, but 3% is far lower than the average credit card APR, so in most instances a balance transfer can save you significantly.

Bottom line

The American Express Cash Magnet® Card is great for families and individuals who like the idea of a simple, no annual fee credit card that lets you earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all eligible spending. The $150 welcome bonus, which is redeemable as a statement credit, can add to your first-year earnings.

Consumers also benefit from having 0% APR for 15 months, which might make this card part of your debt repayment plan (depending on your credit score, your variable APR will range from 12.99% to 23.99% after the promotional period is over).

But if you have good to excellent credit, you may want to consider the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card, which is a balance transfer card with no annual fee and no balance transfer fee. It also offers rewards geared toward foodies: 2X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1X), and 1X Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent on all other purchases. 

Our methodology

To determine which credit cards offer the best value, CNBC Select analyzed 234 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.

CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

CNBC Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.

Information about the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

For rates and fees of the American Express Cash Magnet® Card, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.