Forbes has partnered with The Points Guy for our coverage of credit card products. Forbes and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers. Some of the offers below may no longer be available.
When comparing different travel rewards cards on the merits of their welcome bonuses, benefits and ongoing perks, most of them are nearly identical when it comes to the mechanics of making purchases and paying off your balance. The most notable exception would be cards with no preset spending limits, a category which has been popularized by American Express.
These cards differ from credit cards in that they don’t come with preset spending limits; you can either pay your balance in full every month (which shouldn’t be a problem if you’re being responsible with your credit) or use pay over time features. Today I’m going to walk through everything you need to know about no preset spending limit cards and name my top picks for 2020.
New to The Points Guy? Sign up for our TPG daily newsletter for tips and tricks to make the most of your travel rewards.
Best no preset spending limit cards for 2020
The information for the Business Green card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
American Express also issues two other valuable cards, the Amex Centurion card and the Business Centurion card. These exclusive products are available on an invite-only basis to top spending Amex customers, and given their hefty fees (a $10,000 initiation fee plus an ongoing $5,000 annual fee), I’ve chosen to leave them off this list.
Before we dive in, here’s a comparison of the best no preset spending limit card offers and bonuses available right now.
Comparing the best no preset spending limit cards
The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Best for lounge access
- 5x on airfare booked directly with the airline, 5x on airfare and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel (Terms apply)
- $1,200 bonus value *
- $550 annual fee
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- Best for large purchases
- 5x on airfare and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, 50% bonus on purchases over $5,000, up to one million extra points per calendar year (Terms apply)
- $1,500 bonus value*
- $595 annual fee
American Express® Gold Card
- Best for worldwide dining
- 4x at restaurants worldwide, 4x at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar spent), 3x on airfare booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel (Terms apply)
- $700 bonus value*
- $250 annual fee
American Express® Business Gold Card
- Best for high spending businesses
- Earn 4x points on your top two spending categories each month from the following list, up to $150,000 total per calendar year (then 1x): Airfare purchased directly from airlines, U.S. purchases for advertising in select media, U.S. purchases for shipping, U.S. purchases at gas stations, U.S. purchases at restaurants, U.S. purchases made from select technology providers of computer hardware, software, and cloud solutions
- $700 bonus value*
- $295 annual fee
American Express® Green Card
- Best for broadly defined bonus categories
- 3x points on dining, travel and transit
- $600 bonus value*
- $150 annual fee
Business Green Rewards Card from American Express
- Best for low annual fee
- 2x points on eligible purchases at amextravel.com
- $300 bonus value*
- $95 annual fee, waived first year
The Plum Card® from American Express
- Best for paying your bills early
- Unlimited 1.5% cash back when you pay within 10 days of your statement closing date
- $250 annual fee, waived first year
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.
More details on the best no preset spending limit cards
Now let’s take a look at the details of each of these cards, including their welcome offers, bonus categories and some of the ways I’ve been able to put their benefits to use. American Express has also added a number of limited-time perks, bonus categories and statement credits to help customers deal with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus.
American Express added a new program for The Platinum Card® from American Express, the American Express® Gold Card and the American Express® Green Card giving customers access to a new program, called Amex Pay Over Time. It allows cardmembers to carry a balance from one month to the next, with variable interest rates applied.
These perks won’t move the needle on whether or not you should add a new credit card to your wallet, but they’re a great way for existing cardholders to save money during these difficult times so make sure to take note.
The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for lounge access, airfare and hotel elite status
Why it’s the best card for lounge access, airfare and hotel elite status: The Amex Platinum comes with access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection (which includes Centurion Lounges), Priority Pass, Airspace and Escape lounges and Delta Sky Clubs (when flying Delta). No other card (other than the business version) offers this kind of access. The card also offers an industry leading 5 points per dollar on airfare booked directly with the airline or Amex Travel, and automatic Gold elite status with both Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors.
Current welcome offer: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months (valued by TPG at $1,200). However, be sure to check the CardMatch tool to see if you’re targeted for a higher welcome bonus (offer subject to change at any time) including a 100,000 point offer with the same spending requirement.
- Limited-time coronavirus benefits:Up to $160 in statement credits on select U.S. streaming services (up to $20 per month) from May through December 2020
- Up to $160 in statement credits on select wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers (up to $20 per month) from May through December 2020
- Up to $200 in statement credits toward prepaid Amex Travel purchases made between August 2020 and December 2021 (only for cardholders who renew their card between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2020)
Rewards rate: Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly with the airlines or through Amex Travel, and 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through Amex.
Perks and benefits: The Amex Platinum stands alone when it comes to luxury travel benefits. Cardholders get up to $200 in annual airline fee credits, up to $200 in Uber credits, up to $100 in credit at Saks Fifth Avenue and up to $100 credit for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee once every four years. Plus, you’ll get unparalleled lounge access, automatic Gold status with Hilton and Gold Elite status with Marriott, and extra perks with Avis Preferred and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive.
Annual fee: $550
Why it’s worth it: The massive bonus alone would be enough to land this card near the top of our list, especially if you’re targeted for a 100,000-point offer through CardMatch, but it doesn’t stop there. Platinum cardholders receive over $500 in annual statement credits to offset the card’s annual fee, as well as enjoying a luxurious travel experience with comprehensive airport lounge access and elite status with two of the largest hotel chains.
Among the Membership Rewards program’s travel partners is Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, which is the only way to book the ultra-premium Singapore Suites using miles. Other card highlights include an amazing 5 points per dollar spent on airfare purchased directly with the airline or through Amex Travel (equal to a 10% return on these purchases) and the ability to add three authorized users for a total of $175.
More information here: Platinum Card from American Express
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for large purchases
Why it’s the best card for large purchases: While the Business Platinum doesn’t have quite as many bonus categories as the personal version, it does offer a 50% bonus on purchases over $5,000, up to 1 million bonus points per year. In most cases this works out to a respectable earning rate of 1.5x Membership Rewards points per dollar, but if you make a purchase over $5,000 in one of the Business Platinum’s specific 5x travel bonus categories, you’ll earn a whopping 7.5x points per dollar.
Current welcome offer: Earn 75,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first three months, worth $1,500 based on TPG’s valuations.
- Limited time coronavirus benefits:Up to $160 in statement credits on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers (up to $20 per month) from May through December 2020
- Up to $160 in statement credits on U.S. purchases for shipping (up to $20 per month) from May through December 2020
- Up to $200 in additional statement credits for U.S. purchases with Dell: $100 in additional statement credits from May 1 through June 30, 2020, and up to $100 in additional statement credits between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2020
- Up to $200 appreciation credit upon renewal for select cardholders with renewal dates from now through November 2020 (not all cardholders will be eligible)
Rewards rate: Earn 5x points on airfare and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, and a 50% bonus on purchases over $5,000.
Perks and benefits: The Amex Business Platinum carries one of the highest annual fees of any publicly available card, but it also comes with a long list of benefits to match. You’ll enjoy many of the same benefits as the personal Platinum card, including the up to $200 annual airline incidental fee credit and comprehensive airport lounge access (including a Priority Pass membership and Centurion lounge access) and Gold elite status with both Hilton and Marriott.
The Business Platinum also offers a number of unique perks to stand out. Instead of Uber and Saks Fifth Avenue credits like the personal Platinum, cardholders get up to $200 in annual statement credits for Dell technology U.S. purchases (split into $100 each for the first and last six months of the year). The Business Platinum also offers a 35% rebate on eligible flights when you pay with points to book airfare through the Amex Travel portal (up to 500,000 points back per calendar year).
Annual fee: $595
Why it’s worth it: The 75,000-point bonus on the Business Platinum is the largest publicly available Amex welcome bonus, making this card a great choice to pad your Membership Rewards balance. While Amex already has one of the best collection of airline transfer partners, the 35% rebate when using your points to pay for first or business class flights or economy flights with your selected airline adds another valuable layer of flexibility to your redemption strategy.
More information here: The Business Platinum Card from American Express
American Express® Gold Card: Best for worldwide dining
Why it’s the best charge card for worldwide dining: When Amex rebranded the Gold card a few years back, it did so with a heavy focus on eating in and dining out. You see this reflected in the card’s bonus categories, which include 4x points at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x) and the card’s up to $10 monthly statement credit at eligible dining partners (up to $120 annual credit).
Current welcome offer: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, worth $700 based on TPG’s valuations.
Rewards rate: Earn 4x points per dollar on dining worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets (U.S. supermarkets capped at $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x), 3x on flights booked directly from the airline or amextravel.com and 1x everywhere else
Perks and benefits: If you can max out both of the Amex Gold card’s annual statement credits, you can lower your effective out-of-pocket cost to just $30 a year. The card offers an up to $100 annual airline incidental fee credit (similar to the credits offered on the Platinum and Business Platinum), as well as an up to $10 monthly dining credit valid at the following merchants: Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, some Shake Shack locations and Boxed.
Cardholders also receive baggage insurance, trip delay reimbursement and benefits including double points and an up to $100 property credit on eligible hotel stays booked through The Hotel Collection.
Annual fee: $250
Why it’s worth it: While many cards are offering limited time grocery bonuses during the coronavirus pandemic, the Amex Gold has long been the reigning card for foodies and chefs. The 4x points per dollar on worldwide dining and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x) make this one of the most consistently rewarding card for people who like to eat, and the two annual statement credits can drop your out of pocket cost to a very manageable $30 a year.
More information here: The American Express Gold Card
American Express® Business Gold Card: Best for high-spending businesses
Why it’s the best charge card for high spending businesses: The Amex Business Gold is one of the most unique cards when it comes to earning rates. Instead of offering fixed bonus categories, Amex will award you 4x points per dollar in your top two spending categories each month from a set list so that your bonus categories can change month to month to reflect your businesses changing needs.
Current welcome offer: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months, worth $700 based on TPG’s valuations.
Rewards rate: Earn 4x points per dollar on your top two spending categories each month from the following list, up to $150,000 per calendar year (then 1x):
- Airfare purchased directly from airlines
- U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
- U.S. purchases for shipping
- U.S. purchases at gas stations
- U.S. purchases at restaurants
- U.S. purchases made from select technology providers of computer hardware, software, and cloud solutions
Perks and benefits: The Business Gold card is relatively light on perks, with its primary benefits being expense management tools, including the ability to add up to 99 employee cards for a flat fee of $50 a year, waived the first year and double points and a $75 property credit on stays of two nights or more booked with The Hotel Collection.
Annual fee: $295
Why it’s worth it: The lack of any statement credits make the Business Gold card’s annual fee a bit harder to swallow, but the flexible 4x bonus categories are very tempting for any large business. Amex takes the effort out of earning rewards, allowing you to swipe a single card and trust that the bonus points will follow so you can focus more on growing you business and less on which credit card to use for which purchase.
More information here: The American Express Business Gold Card
American Express® Green Card: Best for broadly defined bonus categories
Why it’s the best charge card for broadly defined bonus categories: One frequent complaint from Amex cardholders is that the bonus categories on the Platinum and Gold (as well as other cobranded products) have too many restrictions, causing customers to miss out on bonus points they thought they should have earned. The Amex Green is a perfect answer to this complaint, offering 3x points per dollar on broadly defined travel, dining and transit categories.
Current welcome offer: Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first three months, worth $600 based on TPG’s valuations.
Limited time coronavirus benefits: Up to $80 in statement credits on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers (up to $10 per month) from May through December 2020
Rewards rate: Earn 3x points per dollar on dining, travel and transit and 1x everywhere else. It’s important to note that these categories are much more broadly defined than on other Amex cards.
Perks and benefits: The Amex Green card is clearly trying to find its own niche in an otherwise crowded field, offering an up to $100 annual statement credit for Clear expedited security in lieu of the now ubiquitous TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee credit. This credit drops the out-of-pocket cost for a Clear membership to $79 a year, but TPG readers can use the promo code TPG149 to get a discounted membership of $149 for the first year, or the promo code TPG2M to get a two-month free trial membership.
The Amex Green also offers an up to $100 annual LoungeBuddy statement credit, allowing you to buy access to up to three lounges a year. This can be a great option if you’re traveling through an airport with limited Priority Pass options, or if you don’t already have a credit card that offers a complimentary Priority Pass membership.
Annual fee: $150
Why it’s worth it: The Amex Green card gives the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve a run for its money on earning rates, offering the same 3x on travel and dining but pulling ahead with 3x on transit as well. It does all of this while charging an annual fee that’s $400 less than the Sapphire Reserve’s, before you even account for the $200 in annual statement credits. For many people, the Amex Green is a great way to unlock powerful earning rates without paying a premium annual fee.
More information here: The American Express Green Card
Business Green Rewards Card from American Express: Best for low annual fee
Why it’s the best charge card for low annual fee: The Amex Business Green card is one of the only Amex charge cards to waive its annual fee for the first year, and in subsequent years customers will enjoy that the annual fee is a very reasonable $95 a year (see rates and fees).
Current welcome offer: Earn 15,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, worth $300 based on TPG’s valuations.
Rewards rate: Earn 2x points per dollar for purchases made through Amex Travel and 1x everywhere else.
Perks & benefits: N/A
Annual fee: $95, waived first year
Why it’s worth it: With a low earning rate and no meaningful perks to speak of, the Amex Green card is a tough sell. Still, it’s the cheapest way to get your hands on a charge card and the inherent expense management benefits they offer. If you’re looking to increase your businesses spending power without committing to a more expensive premium card, this might be a good option for you.
Further reading: American Express Business Green card review
The Plum Card® from American Express: Best for paying your bills early
Why it’s the best charge card for paying your bills early: While many people use charge cards to increase their spending power, the Amex Plum Card will reward you with 1.5% cash back when you pay your bill within 10 days of receiving it.
Current welcome offer: N/A
Rewards rate: No rewards on purchases. Earn 1.5% cash back when you pay your bill within 10 days after receiving it.
Perks and benefits: Earn 1.5% cash back when you pay your bill within 10 days of receiving it.
Annual fee: $250, waived first year
Why it’s worth it: The $250 annual fee on the Amex Plum Card (waived first year) makes this quite an expensive card, considering that it doesn’t offer rewards on normal purchases. At best you’ll be looking at a 1.5% earning rate on all purchases if you pay your bill within 10 days of receiving it, but there are plenty of no-annual-fee, cash-back cards that offer better earning rates without any hoops to jump through.
More information here: The Plum Card from American Express
Frequently Asked questions
Some people actively seek out no preset spending limit cards to help manage their credit and expenses, while others pick them for the benefits and earning structure, without knowing (or caring) about what makes them different. I’m going to address a few of the most common questions about these cards.
Q: What’s the difference between a no preset spending limit card and a credit card?
A: No preset spending limit cards function almost exactly like credit cards do, but with one key difference: credit cards come with a preset spending limit. Purchases are approved on a case-by-case basis, meaning a business with a good track record can spend more than usual one month without getting in trouble.
Q: How can you pick the best no preset spending limit card?
A: There are a lot of good cards on the market, and which one is best for you will depend on your travel goals and financial needs. If you’re looking for a luxury travel lifestyle you’ll want the Amex Platinum, but if you’re looking to earn solid rewards on everyday purchases the Amex Gold or Amex Green may be a better choice.
Q: How do no preset spending limit cards affect your credit score?
A: One of the benefits of using these cards is the way they’re reported to credit bureaus. Normally your utilization ratio accounts for roughly 30% of your credit score. Because charge cards don’t have a preset spending limit, it’s impossible to calculate a utilization ratio (since there’s no denominator in the equation). This means that while the balances on your no preset spending limit cards are reported to the credit bureaus, they don’t actually impact your score, which is ideal for high spending businesses and individuals.
Q: What are the pros and cons of using a no preset spending limit card?
A: The cards on this list offer some of the best welcome offers, bonus categories and benefits of any cards on the market. Using them can help you earn points at a faster rate or enjoy new luxurious travel experiences, all while marginally improving your credit score.
Q: Who should use a no preset spending limit card?
A: If you’re in the market for a new Amex welcome offer, these cards offer some of the best ones out there. If you frequently have large expenses that you pay off every month (either for personal or business reasons) using a no preset spending limit card can help avoid the temporary impact to your credit score.
When we talk about the top travel rewards cards, we often lump in no preset spending limit cards and credit cards together, because their similarities outweigh their differences. Once you understand the few small things that set them apart, you’re ready to start using the former cards to improve your credit score and increase your points earning abilities.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.