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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

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

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 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card membership, up to $150 back.

  • Earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months of card membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.

  • Earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchase each year, then 1%), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and U.S. department stores, and 1% cash back everywhere else. 

  • All cash back is earned in the form reward dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.

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 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back.

  • Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.

  • Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. 

  • Earn 3% cash back on transit (including taxis / ride share, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more) as well as at at U.S. gas stations.

  • 1% cash back on other purchases. 

  • $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95.

  • All cash back is earned in the form reward dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.

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 worldwide, 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.

  • 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:

  • Welcome offer of up to 75,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first 6 months.

  • Earn 10X points on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases during the first six months.

  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards points when you purchase airfare from the airline or Amex Travel, and when buying prepaid hotel stays with American Express Travel.

  • Receive $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. Enrollment required for select benefits.

  • Complimentary Uber VIP status. 

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

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. 

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.

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.

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