The Best Charge Cards & Former Charge Cards: For Travelers, Foodies, and Business Owners
Credit Card Insider is an independent, advertising supported website. Credit Card Insider receives compensation from some credit card issuers as advertisers. Advertiser relationships do not affect card ratings or our Editor’s Best Card Picks. Credit Card Insider has not reviewed all available credit card offers in the marketplace. Content is not provided or commissioned by any credit card issuers. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information, though all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on any ‘Apply Now’ button, the most up-to-date terms and conditions, rates, and fee information will be presented by the issuer. Credit Card Insider has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Credit Card Insider and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. A list of these issuers can be found on our Editorial Guidelines.
Several of the best rewards “credit cards” used to be charge cards that had to be paid off every month, but now they’re more like typical credit cards. Explore your options, and pick a card with rewards and benefits that complement your lifestyle.
Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.
Charge cards are a type of credit card that usually must be paid in full each billing period — you can’t always revolve a balance from month to month.
That’s the most important difference between charge cards and other credit cards, but they also come with no preset spending limit. This means the max amount you can spend will change over time, but it doesn’t mean you can spend as much as you want.
|Premium Travel Rewards||The Platinum Card® from American Express (Review)|
|Dining and Groceries||American Express® Gold Card (Review)|
|Low Annual Fee||American Express® Green Card (Review)|
|Premium Business Travel Rewards||The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (Review)|
|Flexible Business Bonus Categories||American Express® Business Gold Card (Review)|
Enrollment required for select benefits; terms and limitations apply.
All of the Platinum and Gold cards below — both personal and business — are made of metal, giving them an impressive and sturdy presentation. Metal cards aren’t really any different from plastic cards, except for the flex value of course.
Best Former Charge Cards
American Express is currently the only major issuer to provide something like charge cards, but you don’t necessarily have to pay your balance in full each month. Instead, eligible charges can be included in a Pay Over Time balance, up to the Pay Over Time Limit. Eligible charges include purchases, foreign transaction fees, and annual membership fees.
Certain transactions are ineligible for Pay Over Time: cash advances, including cash and other cash equivalents, certain insurance premiums, and any other fees owed to American Express. The Pay Over Time Limit applies to the total of the Pay Over Time, cash advance, and Plan balances.
All charges not added to a Pay Over Time balance, monthly payment plan, or cash advance balance must be paid in full each month by the payment due date.
We don’t recommend using the Pay Over Time feature, because we never advise carrying a balance unless you have a 0% interest rate. Instead, pay your statement balance in full each month to avoid interest and help maintain good credit scores.
Best for Premium Travel Rewards
The Platinum card is much-loved for its Global Lounge Collection, providing more comprehensive airport lounge access than any other credit card (except the business version of this card). That includes the popular Priority Pass lounges, which are available with many credit cards, along with several others including Amex’s own Centurion Lounges. Take note that the Priority Pass Select membership available through this and other Amex cards excludes non-lounge experiences, like restaurants.
Cardholders also get travel and shopping credits to help offset the high annual fee, and elite hotel statuses (also best-in-class) to help save money, live more comfortably, and earn tons of extra points at hotels.
To earn a lot of points with this card you’ll need to book your trips through American Express Travel or purchase flights directly from airlines. If you can’t do that, you should consider a travel card with broader travel categories (but you might want this card for the benefits too).
Membership Rewards points are only worth up to 1 cent each through the basic redemption options, so we recommend you always wait to use them for a valuable point transfer. Point transfers could provide 2 cents per point or even more, giving you a cash back equivalent of 10% for the 5X categories, much better than most travel cards (but again, only for those limited categories).
Best for Foodies: Dining Out and Groceries
You might expect the American Express® Gold Card (Review) to be a lesser version of the Amex Platinum, but that’s not really the case. It’s more like a different card product altogether, designed for different people.
Where the Platinum card is all about travel, the Gold card is maybe 30% about travel and 70% about food.
Its rewards program offers industry-leading rates on food, whether you’re dining out or eating in. It’s rare to see a high rate for both of these 4X categories on the same card — usually you only see one or the other. You’ll also get annual dining credits worth $120, but they really only serve to help offset the annual fee.
So the idea here is to use the card for pretty much every bite you eat, and for the relevant travel categories. And then you should redeem the rewards for travel by transferring to airline miles or hotel points. Like the Platinum card (and every other card that earns Membership Rewards points) your most valuable redemption method will be point transfers. Transfers to qualifying airline and hotel loyalty programs could provide 2 cents per point, or even more if you find a good deal.
At 2 cents per point, you’ll be earning a cash back equivalent of 8% in the 4X categories, and 6% in the 3X categories. It’d be hard to beat that rate on food (but you can get close, or even a bit higher in certain situations).
Best for Low Annual Fee
Looking for a new card, but not ready to go for the Gold or Platinum? Consider the newly revamped American Express® Green Card (Review), featuring a more modest set of rewards and benefits for a lower annual fee.
You’ll get competitive bonus categories (the travel category actually covers more than the above two cards) along with solid travel perks that could completely offset the annual fee. Check out the benefits; if you could use the CLEAR and LoungeBuddy credits each year, this card might deserve a spot in your wallet.
The redemption strategy here is the same as for other cards that earn Membership Rewards points: Save them up for valuable point transfers.
If you could get 2 cents per point by transferring to an airline or hotel partner, that’d give you a cash back equivalent of 6% in the 3X categories, with 2% back for every other purchase. That’s better than most other cards at this fee level when it comes to travel and dining.
Best for Premium Business Travel Rewards
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (Review) is a close cousin of the consumer Platinum card above. They’re alike in many ways, but the business card has some important differences, such as:
- There’s an additional 1.5X reward category for large purchases and certain business categories
- There are no Uber or Saks credits, but you’ll get up to $400 in statement credits annually for U.S. Dell purchases, along with a variety of other business-specific credits
- You’ll get 35% of your points back when redeeming for eligible airfare
Those are probably the main features to look at if you’re trying to decide between the two versions. Unless you buy from Dell, Adobe, or Indeed every year, or plan to make a lot of expensive purchases, you’ll probably have an easier time finding value in the consumer Platinum card.
The redemption options are the same here as the consumer Platinum card, except for the 35% airline bonus. That would effectively give you a rate of 1.35 cents per point, which isn’t awful, but you could still do better with a point transfer to an airline or hotel.
That could give you 2 cents per point or more, so you’d earn a 10% cash back equivalent in the 5X categories, for example. For large eligible purchases over $5,000, you’d be getting a cash back equivalent of 3%, which is pretty solid.
Not sure if you’ll qualify for a business credit card? It’s probably easier than you think.
Best for Flexible Business Bonus Categories
Rather than steady categories, you’ll earn 4X points in the two categories (out of six) you spend the most in each month. This gives you some flexibility if you’re not sure what exactly you’ll be buying from month to month, which can make it tough to plan out a credit card strategy.
Just like with all Membership Rewards cards, you should aim to transfer your points to airlines and hotels.
If you could get 2 cents per point, which is generally considered a pretty good value, you’d be earning an 8% cash back equivalent in the 4X categories. That’s pretty good, especially for categories like U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants.
What Are Charge Cards, and Are They Right for You?
Charge cards are a type of credit card which usually require you to pay the entire statement balance in full each billing period. You can’t always revolve the balance from month to month like a regular credit card, so you may need to pay off the statement balance by the upcoming due date.
Since cardholders don’t typically have to pay interest charges, charge cards usually have annual fees to help the credit card issuer make money.
If all that sounds fine to you, there’s no reason not to explore charge cards along with regular credit cards.
Your options are pretty limited since American Express is currently the only major credit card company issuing anything like charge cards. You may need better credit to qualify for the Platinum and Gold cards compared to the others.
Credit Limits: How Much Can You Spend With American Express’ Former Charge Cards?
Amex’s former charge cards don’t have regular credit limits; instead, they have no preset spending limits. This might be a bit confusing, because it does not mean unlimited spending.
According to American Express’ website, “Purchasing power adjusts with your use of the Card, your payment history, credit record and financial resources known to us, and other factors.”
So your purchasing power will change over time as you use the card. Some people believe the best way to increase your spending limit is to charge large amounts each month, while maintaining a perfect payment record as you go.
Generally, these former charge cards are known to have relatively high spending limits, making them good for anyone with large monthly expenses.
Since you won’t have an exact credit limit to work with, there’s a danger of accidentally maxing out your card or being declined when you make a purchase. You can’t see your overall spending limit. But you can go to Amex’s Spending Ability page to see if a specific purchase amount will be approved. You can also contact customer service to ask by calling the number on the back of your card.
Other than the payment requirements and spending limits, the terms and features of these former charge cards are pretty much like any regular credit card. They have rewards, benefits, annual fees, etc., just like other cards.
Charge cards are like other credit cards in most ways but there are some important differences, such as how credit limits are reported to credit bureaus and treated by credit scoring models. That means they can have different effects on your credit scores. Read more about the differences between charge cards and credit cards.
Getting the Most Out of Your Charge Card
- Be prepared to pay: You must usually pay your charge card’s statement balance in full each month. Spending within your means is always important with credit cards, and even more so with charge cards.
- Match rewards and benefits to your spending habits and lifestyle: Pick a card with bonus categories that you already spend a lot in, and benefits that will help save you time, money, and hassle.
- Explore your perks: American Express cards come with quite a few benefits, so take the time to explore and understand them before making large purchases or traveling. You could miss out on reimbursement for a delayed trip, or you might stay at one hotel when you had an elite status waiting for you with another brand.
- Wait for good point transfers: No matter which card you have, the best (most valuable) way to redeem your Membership Rewards points is by transferring them to partner airlines and hotels. There’s an excise tax offset fee of .06 cents per point when transferring to U.S. frequent flyer programs, so those should probably be at the bottom of your list.
- Employee cards: If you have an Amex business card you can get up to 99 employee cards, although in some cases they’ll have annual fees of their own. You can easily track purchases and set spending limits for employee cards to help you keep an eye on monthly expenses.
- Amex Pay Over Time: If you have one of Amex’s former charge cards, eligible charges can be included in a Pay Over Time balance, up to the Pay Over Time Limit. Eligible charges include purchases, foreign transaction fees, and annual membership fees. The following are ineligible for Pay Over Time: cash advances, including cash and other cash equivalents, certain insurance premiums, and any other fees owed to American Express. The Pay Over Time Limit applies to the total of the Pay Over Time, cash advance, and Plan balances. All charges not added to a Pay Over Time balance or monthly payment plan or cash advance balance must be paid in full each month by the payment due date. We recommend avoiding this option because you’ll be charged interest — and who wants that?
These cards make up a small slice of the overall credit card market. Dig into a variety of cards, designed for all manner of people and purposes, by browsing the Best Credit Cards.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, please click here.
Brendan has been writing about personal finance for over eight years, and is now taking on the challenge of bringing high-quality credit education to the masses. He makes sure that Credit Card Insider is covering the most important credit topics transparently and precisely, and that we have up-to-date reviews of credit cards so you can find cards that are right for you.
Do you have a correction, tip, or suggestion for a new post? Contact us here.
The responses below are not provided or commissioned by bank advertisers. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers' responsibility to ensure all posts are accurate and/or questions are answered.