CNBC Select may receive an affiliate commission when you click on the links for products from our partners. Click here to read our full advertiser disclosure.
CNBC Select

Here are the best American Express credit cards, no matter what kind of consumer you are

CNBC Select analyzed American Express credit cards using an average American's annual spending budget and digging into perks and drawbacks of each to find the best based on your consumer habits.

American Express

American Express credit cards are known for lucrative rewards, countless perks and unique card designs. In fact, Amex released the first "black card," the Centurion® Card from American Express, in 1999 and created a lot of buzz nearly 20 years later when it offered the American Express® Gold Card in a limited-edition rose gold metal in 2018.

Beyond creative card designs, Amex cards offer a wide range of benefits for a variety of consumers, whether you're looking to earn rewards, get out of debt, travel or streamline business expenses.

While many Amex cards have annual fees that can reach nearly $600, you can find low and no annual fee cards with many of the same standard Amex perks offered on annual fee cards, such as shopping discounts through Amex Offers and free two-day shipping with ShopRunner.

Below, CNBC Select breaks down the best Amex credit cards in six categories, so you can find the card that fits your needs.

Best American Express credit cards

Best cash-back card

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
On American Express's secure site
  • Rewards

    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases on your new card within the first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    12.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Pros

  • High 6% cash back at U.S. supermarket spending (up to $6,000 a year, then 1%)
  • Unlimited 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • Unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit
  • A year of no interest on new purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • 2.7% fee on purchases made abroad
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $679
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,397

Rewards totals incorporate the cash back earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? If you're whipping up a new recipe, refueling your car or streaming your favorite TV show, it's a good idea to consider a card that rewards those purchases. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a great choice for anyone who regularly stocks up on groceries, drives or pays for streaming subscriptions since the cash-back program is tailored to those purchases.

Cardholders earn an industry-leading 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. Plus you earn 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit and 1% cash back on other purchases.

The list of eligible streaming subscriptions is longer than most cards and includes Netflix, Spotify, Disney+ and more. Learn more about how Amex classifies bonus category purchases.

In addition to rewards, you can take advantage of no interest for the first 12 months your account is open on purchases and balance transfers (after 12.99% to 23.99% variable APR).

This card does come with a $95 annual fee, but you can recoup it through the cash-back program. (See rates and fees.) There's also a no annual fee version, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which is the best no annual fee Amex card (more below). (See rates and fees.)

Best no-annual-fee card

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
On American Express's secure site
  • Rewards

    3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, 1% cash back on other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn back $150 after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (requested in the first 60 days from card opening)

  • Regular APR

    12.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees and our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarket spending (up to $6,000 a year, then 1%)
  • Unlimited 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores
  • Amex Offers, which provide statement credits or opportunity to earn more rewards at select merchants
  • 0% APR during the first 15 months on new purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • 2.7% fee on purchases made abroad
  • Not great for people who don’t regularly go grocery shopping
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $497
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $1,885

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? If you're looking for a similar rewards program to the Blue Cash Preferred card, consider the no annual fee cash-back alternative, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. (See rates and fees.)

This is a competitive no annual fee cash-back card for grocery shoppers with 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).

You can also earn unlimited 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. This is a decent rewards rate since all other purchases earn a standard 1% cash back.

The Blue Cash Everyday card also provides a special financing offer for new purchases and balance transfers with a 0% APR for the first 15 months from account opening. Once the intro period ends, a 12.99% to 23.99% variable APR applies.

Best balance transfer card

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

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

    2X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1X), 1X Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    12.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    $0

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees and our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 15 months of no interest on balance transfers
  • No balance transfer fee
  • No annual fee
  • Rewards program and welcome bonus, which is rare among no-fee balance transfer cards
  • 20% extra point bonus when you make 20 or more purchases in a billing period

Cons

  • 2.7% foreign transaction fee
  • Balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening
  • Transfer timeline: Balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening
  • Estimated total fees and interest on debt repayment: $452

Who's this for? If you have credit card debt on a high interest card, you might want to consider a balance transfer card like the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card. This card provides the chance to get out of debt, finance new purchases and earn rewards — all for no annual fee. (See rates and fees.)

Cardholders can take advantage of no interest for the first 15 months on balance transfers and purchases (after 12.99% to 23.99% variable APR). The Amex Everyday card also has a coveted $0 balance transfer fee, which makes the balance transfer offer more valuable and saves you the 3% to 5% fee many other cards charge.

Beyond special financing, this card comes with rewards: Earn 2X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. While this isn't the highest rewards rate around, you can receive 20% extra points after you make 20 or more individual purchases in a billing period (excluding gift cards, person-to-person transfers and other non-retail purchases). 

Best travel card

American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card
On American Express's secure site
  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide and shop at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $250

  • Intro APR

    Not applicable

  • Regular APR

    See rates and fees

  • Balance transfer fee

    See rates and fees

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees and our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Strong rewards program with 4X points earned on dining worldwide and 3X points earned on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • Up to $100 credit in airline fees, up to $120 in dining credits at participating partners and up to $100 hotel credit
  • 35,000 Membership Rewards® points welcome bonus after you spend $4,000 within first 3 months
  • Baggage insurance plan covers up to $1,250 for carry-on baggage and up to $500 for checked baggage that is damaged, lost or stolen
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • No introductory APR period
  • $250 annual fee
  • This is a charge card, which means you have to pay off your balance in full each billing cycle
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $824
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,719

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? Consumers that enjoy traveling and dining out can benefit from the rewards and added perks provided by the American Express® Gold Card. You can earn 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide and 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

One big perk for travelers to take advantage of is the automatic $100 annual airline fee credit that covers incidentals, such as seat upgrades and baggage fees after you activate and select a participating airline.

And when you book rooms through The Hotel Collection with American Express Travel, you can receive a $100 hotel credit to spend on qualifying dining, spa and resort activities. In addition, when you book a stay of at least two consecutive nights you can receive a room upgrade, upon approval.

Even if travel isn't top of mind now, you can benefit from earning rewards on U.S. supermarket purchases and receiving a credit on eligible take-out. Cardholders earn 4X points on purchases at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X), plus 1X points on all other purchases.

Plus you receive a $120 annual dining credit ($10 per month) to cover food from Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations.

While the Amex Gold card comes with a $250 annual fee, it can be effectively lowered to $30 with the $100 annual airline fee credit and $120 annual dining credit. (See rates and fees.)

Best luxury card

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express
On American Express's secure site
  • Rewards

    5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com, 1X Membership Rewards® points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 within 3 months of account opening

  • Annual fee

    $550

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    See rates and fees

  • Balance transfer fee

    Not applicable

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit Needed

    Excellent/Good

Pros

  • Up to $200 in annual airline fee credits
  • Up to $200 in annual Uber savings
  • Complimentary Global Lounge Collection access with more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130+ countries
  • Special benefits with Fine Hotels & Resorts, such as a $100 hotel credit and complimentary room upgrades
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • $550 annual fee
  • No special financing offers on new purchases
  • This is a charge card, which means you have to pay off your balance in full each billing cycle
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $818
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $1,290

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? If you're looking to travel in luxury and benefit from high rewards on eligible airfare and hotel expenses, consider The Platinum Card® from American Express. This card offers a competitive 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com, plus 1X points on all other purchases.

In addition to rewards, cardholders can benefit from up to $200 in annual airline fee credits to cover incidentals, such as baggage fees, seat upgrades and in-flight purchases (which is double the amount of the Amex Gold card). If you fly often, there's another money-saving perk that can allow you to speed through security — an application fee credit for Global Entry ($100) every 4 years or TSA PreCheck ($85) every 4.5 years.

You can take advantage of Global Lounge Collection access with more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130+ countries and special benefits at Fine Hotels & Resorts properties, such as a $100 hotel credit, complimentary room upgrades when available and free Wi-Fi.

You'll also receive up to $200 in annual Uber credits for Uber rides and UberEats ($15 each month, plus a $20 bonus in December).

This card does come with a pretty steep price tag of $550, but if you consider all the added perks, you can offset the annual fee. Just deducting the $200 airline fee credit and $200 Uber credit lowers the annual fee to an effective $150. Then if you factor in eligible hotel stays, you can lower it even further by $100 for each stay. (See rates and fees.)

Best business card

Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
On American Express's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases up to $50,000 per year, then 1X point per dollar

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    13.24% to 19.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, $5 minimum; N/A for new applicants

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Free employee cards
  • 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months on purchases
  • Straightforward rewards program

Cons

  • 3% ($5 minimum) balance transfer fee; N/A for new applicants
  • 2.7% foreign transaction fee

Who's this for? Small business cards, like the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, are a great asset for business owners that want to streamline business expenses while earning rewards.

This card provides an introductory interest-free period that lasts 12 months from account opening and applies to new purchases (after 13.24% to 19.24% variable APR). This is a helpful tool for paying off expensive business equipment.

Business owners won't have to pay an annual fee for this card or any employee cards. (See rates and fees.) And all spending — whether it's by you or your employees — earns rewards at a rate of 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases up to $50,000 per year, then 1X point per dollar. Eligible business purchases include most common expenses, such as office chairs, but exclude gift cards and prepaid cards.

You'll also receive various account management tools that allow you to simplify expenses and get helpful answers to any business needs. Cardholders receive Relationship Care® Service, which offers 24/7 support from representatives who are trained to understand business needs.

Update May 1: Amex adds new benefits to most of its premium cards in streaming, wireless, grocery and dining categories

Compare the best Amex credit cards

Category Best cash-back card Best no annual fee card Best balance transfer card Best travel card Best luxury card Best small business card
Credit cardBlue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressBlue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressBlue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressBlue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressAmex EveryDay® Credit CardAmex EveryDay® Credit CardAmerican Express® Gold CardAmerican Express® Gold CardThe Platinum Card® from American ExpressThe Platinum Card® from American ExpressBlue Business® Plus Credit Card from American ExpressBlue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
Annual fee$95$0$0$250$550$0
Rewards6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, 1% cash back on other purchases2X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1X), 1X Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent on all other purchases4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide and shop at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com, 1X Membership Rewards® points on all other purchasesEarn 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases up to $50,000 per year, then 1X point per dollar
See below for our methodologyLearn MoreOn American Express's secure siteLearn MoreOn American Express's secure siteLearn MoreInformation about the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.Learn MoreOn American Express's secure siteLearn MoreOn American Express's secure siteLearn MoreOn American Express's secure site

Our methodology

To determine which credit cards offer the best value for various categories, CNBC Select analyzed Amex 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.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, click here.

For rates and fees of the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card, click here.

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

For rates and fees of the The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

For rates and fees of the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, 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.