Handing an American Express credit card over to a salesperson says you have a good credit score and even better taste in the credit cards that you choose. American Express Company, formed in 1878, was the result of several business iterations and mergers beginning in the mid-1800s. The flagship credit card, however, was introduced to consumers in the late 1950s. In the nearly 70 years since the release of the American Express green card, AMEX – as it's commonly referred to – has created different tiers of American Express cards to accommodate their customers' needs.
American Express Purple Card
The American Express Company released its first credit card in 1958 – a credit card-sized paper document sent unsolicited to customers. This first credit card was purple, the same color American Express used for its money orders, which debuted in the late 1800s. In the 1950s, the U.S. population was approximately 160 million, so the American Express credit card rollout went to just a small percentage of the population. AMEX issued just 250,000 of this first credit card. A year after its first issuance, the paper American Express card became more sustainable (and usable) when the company switched to a hard plastic that enabled the transfer of the embossed numbers onto a bill of sale.
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Changing Colors to Reflect Status
Although the credit card was mailed to customers who didn't apply for credit, American Express was a sign that the credit cardholder had arrived, and in keeping with that notion, American Express changed the card color to green. Green is the color of money and the company promoted the card as the means to buy anything – from airline tickets to dinners – just like cash. Eventually, and presumably to not appear pretentious, American Express introduced several more American Express card levels in different colors from the late 1950s to the early 2000s, attracting a broad range of customers.
American Express Black Card
People notice when a customer lays down an AMEX black card, or the American Express Centurion Black Card. If you're interested in having an AMEX black card, you cannot apply for it. This is the only AMEX credit card available by invitation only. The credit limit for a black card is said to be as high as $300,000, and this credit card is offered only to high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs). For the price you pay in the initiation and annual membership fees, $10,000 and $5,000, respectively, you get enormous perks such as elite status as hotels around the globe and high-end concierge services. Most of all, you will likely get esteemed service where you purchase goods at the exceedingly high interest rate of more than 25 percent.
American Express Platinum Credit Card
If you never receive an invitation to become an AMEX black card, you can apply for the platinum card. The credit limit will likely depend on your income and income-to-debt ratio, but your annual fee is a little more than 10 percent of what it costs for that Centurion black card. It's only $695 a year, and as of August 2021, you can earn up to 100,000 points just by swiping your card. The points are good for travel and lodging, such as free airline tickets and hotel stays. In addition, you can take advantage of the airport lounges in more than a thousand airports.
American Express Gold Card
If the annual fee for a platinum card gives you heartburn, the yearly cost of an AMEX gold card is $250, or a little more than $20 a month for the privilege of suggesting to merchants that your credit rating is high enough to have more than the basic AMEX card. As with other tiers of American Express credit cards, there are perks and for the gold card, you have the option of paying your amount due in full each month or spreading it across months and maybe even years for an annual percentage rate (APR) that ranges from 16 to 23 percent.
American Express Blue Card
The old AMEX green card was the basic one, but now it's a blue card. The annual fee for the AMEX Preferred blue card is $95 after the first year. As of August 2021, American Express offers a $350 welcome bonus for the Preferred card and $250 for the AMEX Everyday blue card. While the blue card is reportedly the easiest AMEX credit card to obtain, you need a credit score of 670 or higher.