Sorry regular cards: The venerable American Express Venture Card, which has been a common shopping tool for travelers for more than 20 years, has got an entirely new — and better — offering.
Merchant owners can only accept these cards in increments of $250 or $500 — as opposed to $1,000 for most standard credit cards — and they have been dropping in favor of Visa and MasterCard. That’s another boon for the Venture Card, which has been outpacing its competitors in face-to-face consumer acceptance. “American Express has done a really good job at making its card accepted at a lot of smaller merchants, which is good for their merchant business,” says Barry Pinsky, a veteran travel banker who owns Bloomingdale’s Travel. “But they’re not doing so great at building up their merchant relationships, and they are too restrictive on taking Visa and MasterCard.”
Tried and true
AmEx has gone even farther than competitors in promoting its small-business-sending feature, which it calls “Send AmEx.”
Ask the 17,000 American Express Partners — businesses that use American Express as their payments processor — about the card, says Jim Rush, senior vice president for the Travel Partner Network, and they will rattle off the numbers: 1.5 million cards shipped to small-business owners over the last few years. More recently, he says, Send AmEx has been a big part of AmEx’s efforts to reach out to high-income consumers, to the point where some AmEx merchants can offer it as a rewards bonus.
It’s a “near perfect” approach for the company, says George D. Williams III, a professor of retail management at Eastern Kentucky University. “Small business is a very loyal market for AmEx.”
The card’s other features are status upgrades, such as points that can be redeemed for air travel, instead of just merchandise. Its annual fee, which doubles with the card, ranges from $79 to $99, and other fees are less than that. You don’t have to prove you own the use-it-right-now card — you just give it to someone you can trust to swipe it when needed.
Round-trip, nonstop flights for these high-spending consumers will cost $750 to $900 a ticket on American, Delta, United, JetBlue and Virgin America, not including baggage and airport-security fees. But if you’ve got an annual spending cap of $5,000 on the card, you’ll qualify for an even better deal: round-trip, nonstop flights for $1,250, the $1,000 onboard credit plus all taxes and fees.
The startup Green Card Plus, from GreenSky, is a straightforward credit card designed for people with nonstop flights between 200 and 1,500 miles. But it also offers an extra perk for travelers who have children: they can rack up twice the points on gas cards, purchases at Target and restaurants and gifts.
Adept travelers need more credit, not fewer. If you want money on your card with no access to a credit line or interest rates beyond your high current ones, the major credit card issuers have you covered. But you are wise to choose your card carefully. Here are some others that are useful to travelers:
American Express’ Passport Card ($450 annual fee)
A major upgrade from AmEx’s Serve card, the Passport allows you to quickly convert a balance into cash with no further action; however, at the rate the card is scheduled to go, it won’t be available until fall 2017. Another plus: cardholders can get a gateway to spend their points and miles on other cards, not just on American Express accounts. The card won’t be available in Southeast Asia, where the company has big plans.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card ($300 annual fee)
When a $300 fee is considered, you can’t go wrong with this card. It’s the best choice for frequent travelers because it guarantees you a free travel statement credit when you redeem points for at least one free ticket, as long as you redeem it by next May 30 (after that, you’ll have to pay). The card also provides perks like airport lounge access and free food and beverages at participating hotels.
Citi Prestige Card ($450 annual fee)
A smart choice for those who also want access to U.S. Airways domestic flights, JetBlue flights or Marriott International hotels.
Travelers Gold American Express Card ($450 annual fee)
Business travelers love this one because it’s guaranteed to earn points on everything from hotel stays to airline flights — and all at the lowest available rate on all travel. Plus, it’s the cheapest way to purchase airline flights, and,