Disclaimer: We pay out credit card bill in full monthly and thus are not subjected to stupid interest rates nor carry consumerist debts.
Having never lived in the States prior to moving in 2012, we have zero credit history. The US cares jacksh*t about your impeccable history outside of the country. Before our relocation, we contacted “The World’s Local Bank” (more like shittest bank) to set up an international premier account since we have had a long and strong credit history with them in HK. That was a useless pain we were put through.
When we finally got here, we brought enough cash to open up a checking account and was given a debit card as well as a credit card with a credit limit of USD 1,500. Yup, that’s all we were given even though we obviously had more asset under management with said bank. The dumbest thing was we couldn’t even front load the account with credit payment.
So we phoned up Amex UK and asked for a credit card in the States, and a day later we had a freshly overnighted card. Hands down Amex wins it for us; even with the hefty annual fees USD 450. Here is why.
1. USD 200 reimbursed annually on airline expenses
For those who have never flown domestically / regionally from the States, everything is chargeable. There is literally NO FREE LUNCH. This year we got our upgrades, baggage fees and inflight beers (Mr. P’s) for our DR trip covered. That means effectively the annual membership fee is down to USD 250.
2. Priority Pass Access
PP is a lounge access card and is valid in many airports globally. Mr. P no longer and I don’t travel a lot for work, it’s near impossible to chalk up upper tier frequent flyer membership unless you a longhaul US-Asia return flight in biz class once at least once a year and a couple of regional biz class flights. We are too poor to afford biz class on our personal trips without using mileage upgrade either and therefore without PP it’s hard to have “free” lounge access. I never bothered to check how much does a lounge access pass cost but we make full use of PP every.single.trip. The free wifi, space for C to roam about, free beer for Mr. P more than
3. Free travel insurance
What most people don’t realised is how quickly travel insurance can add up. We have never bought travel insurance because Amex has us covered. We had to cancel a BKK trip due to a Typhoon once and Amex refunded the prepaid hotel with no questions asked.
4. 1-for-1 points to air miles transfer for all major program
Very evidently we use this a lot. We stick almost all our purchases and bills on Amex to accumulate points. This in turn has brought us MANY flight redemptions, most recently my MIL’s AF flight from Toulouse to NYC in August. We also had to transfer 18,000 points to Cathay for my mum’s SG to NYC flight in September. Last year we used 90,000 points for 3 return tickets between HK and SG.
5. No foreign transaction fees
Most credit cards in the States charge a fee for spending outside of the US, and these add up when you travel. No such crap on the Amex.
6. BEST customer service ever
Hertz Ireland was trying shaft us with some crazy insurance fees saying that it was in our profile even though we had explicitly unchecked the all-singing-all-dancing insurance at the time of reservation. When we got home, Mr. P phoned them to put a block on the additional fees and instead they said the entire amount would not be posted until the investigation is completed. How can you beat that?
Early access, spend some get some rebate, etc. All wonderful fringe benefits.
There is however a major downside though, Amex is usually only accepted 90-95% of the time. It isn’t too difficult to live with I suppose. for the 5-10% of the time I still have my USD 1,500 credit limit visa card 🙂