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Featured American Express cards for U.S. newcomers

American Express is one of the absolute best credit card providers for people with good credit. This article covers some of the best choices for immigrants.

American Express is a Nova Credit advertiser. This content is not provided by American Express. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express.

Louis DeNicola
Personal Finance Writer

If you recently moved to the U.S., you've probably experienced the necessity of a credit card. Maybe you've looked into American Express, one of Nova’s affiliate partners and a popular international issuer, and its variety of cards to choose from. Each has its pros and cons, and we highlight some of the top picks below.

As an international card issuer, American Express works with U.S. newcomers to help them apply for a new card. It’s one of the few card issuers that allows you to apply with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or passport rather than a Social Security number (SSN). 

Your income, credit scores, and credit history can still impact whether you get approved and the interest rate on your card. However, if you have credit in your home country, you may have options. 

But which card should you get? Here are some American Express credit cards and charge cards popular among newcomers:

  • Our featured pick for a No Annual Fee Card: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

  • Our featured pick for Groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • Our featured pick for Dining Out: American Express® Gold Card

  • Our featured pick for Luxury Travel: Platinum Card® from American Express

Moved to the U.S. from Australia or India?

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Our featured No Annual Fee Card: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Amex offers several credit cards that don’t have an annual fee, which could be a good fit if you don’t expect to regularly use the card or you simply don’t like the idea of paying a fee to have a credit card. The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express could be a good option if you often shop at supermarkets or department stores and commute by car. 

Important Note (applies for all Amex cards): On the American Express application page, you will have the option to click "I don't have credit history in the U.S." in the Social Security Number (SSN) field of the application page. When clicking this, you may be able to qualify for the card using your credit history from Canada, the UK, Australia, India or Mexico. No need to have built U.S. credit, yay!

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Pros:

  • No annual fee.

  • Intro offer for a $200 statement credit after spending $1,000 within the first three months of Card Membership.

  • Earn 3% cash back at US supermarkets on the first $6,000 you spend each year and 2% cash back at US gas stations and US department stores. Earn 1% cash back on other purchases. 

Cons:

  • Amex doesn’t include warehouse stores, specialty markets, or superstores in the US supermarkets category. You’ll only earn 1% cash back on purchases at these stores. 

  • There’s a 2.7% foreign transaction fee

  • Depending on how you’ll use your credit card, you may be able to earn more rewards with other cards that have an annual fee. 

Our featured card for Groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has long been a favorite for its high cash-back rate at US supermarkets and gas stations. Now, with new bonus cash-back categories for US streaming subscriptions and transit (such as taxis, tolls, trains, buses, and rideshares), the card is even more enticing. 

Before applying, review your budget and try to determine whether the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express or Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express will yield more cash back after taking the annual fees into account. 

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Pros:

  • Intro offer for a $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 within six months of account opening. 

  • Earn 6% cash back at US supermarkets on the first $6,000 you spend each year and 6% cash back on qualifying US streaming subscriptions. 

  • Earn 3% cash back on transit and at US gas stations and 1% cash back on other purchases. 

Cons:

  • The $95 annual fee (waived for the first year)

  • There’s a 2.7% foreign transaction fee.

  • Amex doesn’t include warehouse stores, specialty markets, or superstores in the US supermarkets category. You’ll only earn 1% cash back on purchases at these stores. 

Our featured card for Dining Out: American Express® Gold Card

The American Express® Gold Card is one of the best American Express cards for all-around “food” rewards as you can earn 4x Membership Rewards® (MR) points at restaurants and US supermarkets. The card offers a few travel perks and a nice intro offer as well, but the high annual fee might be off-putting to some applicants.

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Pros:

  • Intro offer for 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 within six months of account opening. 

  • Earn 4x MR points at restaurants worldwide, 4x MR points on the first $25,000 in purchases at US supermarkets each year, 3x MR points when you book flights directly with an airline or on amextravel.com, and 1x MR points on other purchases.

  • Receive $100 in airline fee credits each year that can offset the cost of baggage fees, in-flight dining, and other incidental fees on one qualifying airline of your choice. 

  • A $10 statement credit each month for purchases at Grubhub, Seamless, the Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and select Shake Shack locations. 

  • No foreign transaction fee. 

Cons:

  • The $250 annual fee.

  • You only earn 1x MR points on purchases at warehouse stores, specialty markets, and superstores, where some people prefer to shop for groceries. 

Our featured card for Luxury Travel: Platinum Card® from American Express

If you’re looking for a more luxurious travel experience, complete with airport lounge access, shorter airport lines, and complimentary upgrades to nicer hotel rooms, the Platinum Card® from American Express may be a great option. It continually ranks among the best premium travel rewards cards from all credit card issuers. The annual fee is certainly steep, but the card’s various statement credits can help dampen the impact on your wallet.

Important Note: On the American Express application page, you will have the option to click "I don't have credit history in the U.S." in the Social Security Number (SSN) field of the application page. When clicking this, you may be able to qualify for the card using your credit history from Canada, the UK, Australia, India or Mexico. No need to have built U.S. credit, yay!

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Pros:

  • Intro offer of up to 75,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within three months. 

  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards points when you purchase airfare from the airline or Amex Travel, and when buying prepaid hotel stays at amextravel.com. Earn 1X Membership Rewards points on other purchases. 

  • Receive up to $500 in statement credits each year, including $200 in annual Uber statement credits ($15 each monthly, plus an extra $20 in December), $200 each calendar year for airline-incidental fees on one eligible airline of your choice, and $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue statement credits ($50 for Jan. to June and another $50 for July to Dec.). 

  • Complimentary Uber VIP status. 

  • Get an additional $100 statement credit every four years to cover Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ membership.

  • Automatic Gold Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy and Gold status in the Hilton Honors hotel loyalty programs.

  • Extra perks at select hotels when you book through Platinum Travel Services or the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts® program. 

  • Access the American Express Global Lounge Collection®, which includes access to Centurion® Lounges, Delta Sky Club® lounges, and Priority Pass Select lounges.  

  • Through December 31, 2020, select Amex cardholders will receive up to $40 per month in statement credits when they purchase streaming service subscriptions and wireless telephone services.

Cons:

  • The $550 annual fee.

  • Other cards offer higher cash back or rewards points on everyday purchases. 

  • It can sometimes be difficult to use the statement credits, and unused credits don’t roll over to the next period. 

How Much Are Membership Rewards Points® Worth? 

If you’re looking for a rewards card, Amex cards offer either cash back rewards in the form of Reward Dollars or Membership Rewards® points (Amex’s rewards programs). The cards generally have a base rate of 1% cash back or 1X Membership Rewards points on purchases, and bonus points or cash back on eligible purchases from certain merchants. 

Many cards also have a welcome bonus for new cardholders, which can greatly increase the value of a card during the first year if you meet the minimum spending requirement within the required months of card membership. Consider the welcome offer, fees, and bonus earning rates as you compare the best Amex credit card offers and narrow in on which card will be the best fit. 

Figuring out how the value of Amex points can be tricky, though. With cash back, it’s easy to calculate and understand the rewards you’ll earn. But if you earn MR points, the value will depend on which Amex card you have and how you redeem your points.

For example, you could redeem Membership Rewards for statement credits and receive .6 cents per point, or for gift cards at a value of around .7 to one cent per point.  The best redemption options are generally for flights through American Express travel, in which case each point is worth about one cent each. Or, to transfer your MRs to one of the eligible hotel or airline loyalty programs, such as the Delta’s SkyMiles® program, and book rewards hotel stays or flights. With the latter method, you may be able to receive a value of around two cents per point.

Moved to the U.S. from Australia or India?

Apply for U.S. credit cards with confidence

Access your free international credit report to see which U.S. credit cards you could already be eligible for. No SSN required.

Select Country...

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American Express Blue Cash Everyday Credit Card Review