American Express Review

American Express formed in 1850 when Livingston, Fargo & Company, Wells & Co., and Butterfield & Wasson consolidated. The New York City creditor didn’t start issuing its first American Express card until the green card, which was released in 1958.

The bread and butter of this financial juggernaut is still its credit card offerings. Customers can apply for almost 20 cards with far-reaching rewards systems.

In the digital era, American Express savings has grown substantially. Cardholders have the option to apply for an excellent high-yield savings account and CDs with decent rates. It still doesn’t have money market accounts or any kind of checking and has limited types of loans.

All things considered, you may find that American Express offers a wide variety of services with surprisingly competitive rates and perks.

How American Express Stacks Up

Pros
  • High-yield savings account with attractive APY
  • Flexible auto purchasing program
  • Excellent credit card options with excellent rewards programs
Cons
  • No checking accounts
  • No mortgages or home loans
  • No money market accounts

What’s Interesting About American Express

Few banks will have more credit card options with more extensive rewards programs than American Express. It also has above-average CDs and a pretty good personal savings account option.

Things to Consider

American Express isn’t a normal consumer bank. It doesn’t offer checking accounts, mortgages or home equity loans. You can’t take out a line of credit unless you’re applying for a credit card, using the auto-purchase program or applying for a personal loan.

Checking and Savings Accounts

There’s no option to get a traditional or online checking account through American Express. It does have prepaid debit card options, which can function similarly to a checking account.
American Express actually has an impressive high-yield savings account with a great rate of 1.70% APY. There’s no minimum balance to open the account, but there is a requirement for customers to fund the savings account within the first 180 days of opening it.

Money Market Accounts

Unfortunately customers won’t be able to get a money market account through American Express. One of its main competitors, Discover, does provide money market accounts at 1.55% APY for balances under $100,000 and 1.60% APY for balances $100,000 and over. Their money market accounts are largely free of fees. They have a relatively high minimum opening deposit of $2,500.

CDs

American Express offers seven CDs. The shortest terms are 6 months at 0.40% APY, 12 months at 0.55% APY and 18 months at 1.80% APY. Then, it sells 2, 3, 4, and 5-year CDs at 2%, 2.05%, 2.10% and 2.15% APY, rates that are above average.

Credit Cards

Creditworthy customers can apply for 18 different kinds of American Express credit cards. Four of the company’s most popular credit cards are part of its partnership with Delta, allowing cardholders to rack up Delta SkyMiles. For example, the Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit gives cardholders 10,000 bonus miles after they spend $500 in the first three months. Another four let customers obtain rewards points for stays at Marriott and Hilton.

The standard American Express Green Card has an APR between 16.74% and 23.74% depending on the customer’s creditworthiness, which is average as far as APRs go.

Personal Loans

American Express offers unsecured personal loans starting at $3,500 and are capped at $40,000. Personal loans are only available to preapproved American Express cardholders. Those card members have to supply at least nine months of credit history in order to qualify for a personal loan. Repayment must be done within 36 months, and the APR starts at 6.90%.

Some qualified American Express cardholders will be offered long repayment terms, but the APR on their loans will be higher.

Mortgage Loans

American Express does not offer direct-to-consumer mortgage loans. In October 2019, Business Insider reported that American Express partnered with two digital lenders, Quicken and Better.com, to start offering mortgage loans to select cardholders.

Quicken provides FHA loans, adjustable rate mortgages with 5/1, 7/1, 10/1 choices, 15-year and 30-year fixed mortgages and even jumbo loans.

Mortgage Refinancing

American Express also doesn’t do mortgage refinancing. One of its partners, Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, lets you refinance your mortgage to lower payments, to pay it off your mortgage more quickly or to invest in rental properties. Rocket Mortgage does not publish rates; it provides information once you apply online.

Home Equity Loans and HELOCs

Though there are personal loans available for home improvement projects, American Express doesn’t offer any home equity loan products. Quicken, American Express’s partner in digital lending, does have a cash-out refinance option that lets homeowners take out a line of credit on their home in exchange for cash. A cash-out refinance is not a second lien on your house; it is a new first mortgage.

Car Loans

American Express offers an auto purchasing program through its partnership with TrueCar. American Express cardholders can purchase new and used vehicles through TrueCar’s search engine, letting you choose the vehicle make and model, styles, exterior, interior and dealership package.

Once customers choose the vehicle and dealership package, they can put $2,000 or more of the vehicle’s purchase and then pay it off like a car loan. They also can apply to get up to $2,000 in post-sale benefits.

The Final Word

American Express is primarily known for its credit cards — and for good reason. Customers have the option to apply for nearly 20 different American Express cards, including ones that let them accrue substantial amounts of airline and hotel rewards points. This is the biggest appeal for American Express customers.

In addition to its credit card choices, American Express offers some great credit lending options, specifically through its auto purchasing program and competitive personal loan terms. It also provides great personal savings products, such as an attractive high-yield savings account and several CDs.

The two biggest downfalls in American Express’s service overview is the lack of home loan products and checking accounts, but if you’re looking for a bank that offers a wide variety of credit cards and a smattering of other financial products, Amex may be right for you.