If you’re in the market for a new American Express card, you may want to take a look at a couple of cards at Charles Schwab. While Schwab is better known for its stocks and bonds, the financial conglomerate also operates an FDIC-insured bank; and it has two American Express cards for its brokerage customers. You do have to have an investment account to apply for one of these cards, although a securities account has no minimum balance requirement and no annual fee.
The first card we’re going to look at is the Platinum Card. This one is a charge card and it comes with a very hefty $550 annual fee. Whether this steep price is worth it or not will come down to how many of the card’s benefits you plan to use, and there are many of them.
For instance, the Platinum card charges no fees for overseas transactions. As we shall see, the other card does. Schwab’s Platinum card also comes with an annual customer appreciation bonus. It is $100 if your Schwab balances are at least $250,000 and $200 if you have a million dollars or more. Eligible accounts for this perk include brokerage accounts, trusts, estate accounts, 529 plans, self-directed IRA’s, and all the company’s bank accounts.
On top of this cash bonus, Schwab’s Platinum card comes with $15 worth of free Uber rides per month. In December of each year, the benefit goes up to $35. In addition to the free rides, cardholders are automatically registered for Uber VIP service.
The Platinum card is automatically enrolled in American Express’s Membership Rewards program where one point is earned for all purchases except flights and hotels. For these transactions, five points are earned. Hotels must be booked on amextravel.com to qualify for the five-fold increase.
Frequent travelers will also enjoy the card’s incidental fee rebates on airlines. Charges for in-flight purchases, checked bags, and other incidental fees are reimbursed, up to $200 per year.
Another great benefit for travelers is access to the Global Lounge Collection that American Express operates. It consists of more than 1,100 airport lounges spanning the globe. In total, there are 120 countries with at least one of these locations. Some of the cities include Madrid, Shanghai, Bangkok, Sydney, and Miami.
Another nice travel perk is a rebate for the U.S. government’s Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee. There is a maximum benefit of $100, and AmEx limits this benefit to once every four years.
Because the Platinum card is a charge card, there are no interest rates to speak of. A card’s balance needs to be paid in full every month. If that’s a problem for you, Schwab has a second AmEx card, which is a credit card.
The Investor Card has no annual fee. As a result, it doesn’t quite have the benefits that its Platinum cousin has. Foreign transactions have a 2.7% surcharge, for example. Despite these types of drawbacks, the Investor card has a 1.5% cash back program that has no caps on it. Rewards are automatically sent to a linked Schwab account.
American Express also provides assistance to Investor cardholders to find events and dining excursions. There is no charge for the service. Other benefits include car rental damage insurance and return protection. If you buy an item and the store will not accept a return, you can send the item to American Express in original condition, and they will give you a refund. That’s a pretty generous policy, but it does come with some caveats. The item must be returned within 3 months, and there is a maximum of $300 per item.
Both cards usually have bonuses for opening an account. These can come in the form of either a statement credit or thousands of Membership Rewards points. Although a balance can be carried on the Investor card, AmEx does impose some pretty hefty interest rates on this card, apparently to make up for the lack of an annual fee.