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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 cards popular among newcomers:

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

  • Our featured pick for Grocery Shopping: 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

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

American Express 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.

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Pros:

  • No annual fee.

  • Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.

  • Buy Now, Pay Later: Enjoy $0 plan fees when you use Plan It® to split up large purchases into monthly installments. Pay $0 plan fees on plans created during the first 15 months after account opening. Plans created after that will have a plan fee up to 1.33% of each purchase amount moved into a plan based on the plan duration, the APR that would otherwise apply to the purchase, and other factors.

  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%.

  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, and 1% Cash Back on other purchases. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits.

Terms Apply.

Cons:

  • Amex doesn’t include warehouse stores, specialty markets, or superstores in the U.S. 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 Grocery Shopping: 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 U.S. supermarkets and gas stations. Now, with new bonus cash back categories for statement credit, U.S. streaming subscriptions and transit and commuting, 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:

  • Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.

  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.

  • Buy Now, Pay Later: Enjoy $0 plan fees when you use Plan It® to split up large purchases into monthly installments. Pay $0 plan fees on plans created during the first 12 months after account opening. Plans created after that will have a plan fee up to 1.33% of each purchase amount moved into a plan based on the plan duration, the APR that would otherwise apply to the purchase, and other factors.

  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%

  • 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 and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more), and 1% Cash Back on other purchases. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

Terms Apply.

Cons:

  • There’s a 2.7% foreign transaction fee.

  • Amex doesn’t include warehouse stores, specialty markets, or superstores in the U.S. 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 an ideal American Express cards for all-around “food” rewards as you can earn 4x Membership Rewards® (MR) points at restaurants and U.S. 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. Unlike typical credit cards, this card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all.

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Pros:

  • Welcome offer for 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases within six months of account opening. 

  • Earn 4x MR® points at restaurants, 4x MR® points on the first $25,000 in purchases at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1x), and 3x MR® points when you book flights directly with an airline or with American Express Travel.

  • $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credit each month for purchases at Grubhub, Seamless, the Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and select Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required for select benefits.

  • Up to 12 complimentary months of an Uber Eats Pass subscription when you enroll with your Gold Card by 12/31/21

  • No foreign transaction fee. 

Cons:

  • The $250 annual fee.

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. Keep in mind, however that unlike typical credit cards, this card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges but not all. The annual fee is certainly steep, but the card’s various statement credits can help dampen the impact on your wallet.

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Pros:

  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

  • Get a $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.

  • Get a $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.

  • Get a $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax.

  • Get a $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.

  • Get a $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.

  • Get a $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on select Equinox memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.

  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide.

Cons:

  • The $695 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. 

You can read more about the card in our detailed review about the Amex Platinum card in our detailed review: Who should and who shouldn't apply for the American Express Platinum card?

How to apply for an American Express card with international credit history 

American Express partnered with Nova Credit to let newcomers to the U.S. apply with their credit history they've built at home. Newcomers from Australia, Canada, Mexico, India and the UK can use their hard earned credit history to apply for American Express Personal Cards. You can learn more at americanexpress.com/newcomers and read instructions on how and when to apply in our step-by-step instructions guide on how to apply. You can also send us an email anytime.

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 0.6 cents per point, or for gift cards at a value of around 0.7 to one cent per point. Alternatively, you can 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.

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