It has been a tough year or so for American Express. They lost their Costco and JetBlue relationships and have not really brought anything new or special to the table. Also, they have the terrible policy on their personal cards of receiving the bonus once per lifetime (this doesn’t just affect card churners) which I am sure has kept the number of new accounts to a lower number than in the past.
American Express Needs To Remove These 2 Letters To Be More Competitive
But, they still have some pretty great perks and bonuses – from the big bonuses that come and go on their Membership Reward earning cards to their category bonuses and reimbursement perks. All in all, there are many good reasons to have a couple of Amex cards in your wallet, at least. They have also made it easier to use them abroad as they have removed the foreign transaction fees from many of their cards.
Using Their Cards Abroad
But, it is that issue of foreign use that I want to take issue with. I have several Amex cards (actually, I happen to have 3 Hilton Surpass cards right now!) and have been using my SPG card more since they removed the foreign transaction fee on it. However, the problem is with their category bonuses. When I am buying things like gas abroad, I like that Chase still gives me the category bonus on gas, even when purchased at non-US stations (they do not exclude them). The same is true for Chase’s other category bonuses on their cards – I am always able to get these bonuses when shopping at foreign stores in those categories.
The US-Only Categories
That is not the case with Amex, however. The 2 letters they need to remove are – US. Those are the letters on their various category bonuses and they are written like this:
- 2X points at US restaurants
- 2X points at US gas stations
- 2X points at US supermarkets
- 3x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases(then 1x)
- 2x points at US gas stations
- U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
- U.S. purchases at gas stations
- U.S. purchases for shipping
- U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers
Those are just the category bonuses from 3 American Express cards – the Premier Rewards Gold, the Everyday Preferred, and the Business Gold Rewards. All of them have great category bonuses but restrict them to locations in the US only. For someone who travels frequently internationally, that is a huge negative when it comes to deciding which card to pull out and pay.
With my Chase Sapphire Preferred, it covers dining with the 2X points – everywhere. With my Chase Ink Plus, it covers gas stations with the 2X points – everywhere. With gas, that is especially huge in places like Europe where the gas prices are much higher in the US (which means you are likely to be spending much more on gas). Getting bonus points on that spend is great, which is why my Amex card stays at home and I pull my Chase Ink Plus out for that.
It is good that Amex has been making their cards more internationally friendly by dropping the fee, but if they want to be more competitive with issuers like Chase, they need to remove the 2 letters US from their category bonus terms. Being able to use their cards and receive those bonuses outside the US would be great. In the meantime, Chase is my card of choice for those categories when abroad.
There is a lot of money spent on American credit cards abroad – a good amount of that often being spent at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations (especially for longer stays). Amex is losing some ground with that opportunity by not allowing bonuses to be earned on that spending.
Are there Amex cards you do not use internationally because of those category restrictions? Which card would you be more likely to use if Amex dropped the US-only part?