American Express Zync Card Review – An Important Warning
WARNING: Hold off on your American Express Zync card application until you read my review. There are many benefits but also big drawbacks you need to be aware of!
This is AmEx’s lowest level charge card. Since its launch a couple years ago, it has garnered quite a bit of attention on CreditCardForum because the minimum credit score/history required to approved is more relaxed than most of the credit cards from AmEx.
What is the Zync Card?
This is not a credit card, it’s a charge card. What does that mean? You need to pay your bill in full (you can’t pay over time). Interest rates won’t apply, since you won’t be able to carry a balance. Because of this, it’s a great way to manage spending. It’s also a better alternative than a debit card… charge cards show on your credit report and they offer a broad array of benefits and protection you can’t get with debit.
Please note the review of the Zync (below) is outdated since the card has been discontinued. The only reason I'm leaving it up is for historical reference. The card is no longer available so you can no longer apply for it.
2013 Update The Zync card has been permanently discontinued. If you're looking for a good AmEx to begin with, I would highly recommend the Gold Delta SkyMiles. I have heard from young people with scores in the high 600's getting approved. The benefits/rewards are significantly and you get a $0 intro annual fee for your first year. Check out my review of the Delta SkyMiles credit card to find out more. The Gold version is my #1 recommended AmEx card to start with. Give it a shot!
What are the requirements?
Charge cards are sometimes easier to qualify for than credit cards. This is because they’re less risky for the banks since you can’t use them to carry long term debt.
And that brings us to the American Express Zync requirements… what are they? Well I called up customer support to find out. The only “official” requirements they state are you must be a U.S. resident 18 years or older at time of application. They did not have an official (or at least one that is publicly stated) income requirement.
And the minimum credit score? Banks never disclose the lowest credit score needed for approval, but there have been people on the forum who have reported getting approved with FICO scores in the high 600’s.
And how about bad credit?[/B] Getting the AmEx Zync with bad credit will be a challenge. However if you have almost no credit or limited credit history, you still may have a shot because this is geared towards younger individuals, college students, and those recently entering the workforce (several 18 and 19 year olds on the forum have gotten approved).
What are the rewards? (hint: good, bad, and ugly)
For the $25 annual fee you get the “Express” version of the American Express Membership Rewards, which can be less valuable (will discuss in a minute).
Here’s my review of the reward packs. Some are okay, others are disappointing. For the ones with a price next to them, you have to keep paying that every year…
- Regular Purchases = for each $1 spent, you get 1 Membership Rewards Express point
- Other Purchases = The American Express Zync Packs offer the ability to earn extra rewards on some types of spending. You can add these packs during the application process...
- Personal Finance Pack ($0): This one is actually just a budgeting tool, it doesn’t earn you any rewards.
- Family Travel Pack ($0): No extra points, just provides advice and access to coupons/discounts for family-friendly hotels, vacation packages, etc. Not very exciting, especially for a bachelor like me!
- Eco Pack ($0): In my opinion this is the most valuable free Zync pack. With it you get 2x Membership Points at over 5,000 “green” merchants. So who exactly does AmEx consider green? Anyone listed at greenopia.com/amex. To give you an idea of who’s listed, I reviewed the LA area and there are a number of bars and restaurants (mostly local but a couple chains like Chipotle), grocery stores (only names I recognized were Whole Foods and Trader Joes), and then some mostly obscure beauty and clothing stores.
- Give Back Pack ($0): You get 1 extra point per dollar for donations made through americanexpress.com/give. You can volunteer through the AmEx Members Project and get 1,000 points per hour of work you do.
- Beauty and Spa Pack ($5): I’m surprised American Express charges Zync cardmembers for this, because it basically just gives you discount opportunities at a small handful of websites in this niche (and I see similar deals on coupon sites you can get for free).
- Vegas Pack ($5): Similar to the one above, this offers savings at a few hotels in Vegas. Getting a “15% savings on a deluxe room at MGM Grand” doesn’t appeal to me, because I would prefer to pay for a lower tier room instead (because we all know little time is spent in your room when you’re in Vegas, anyway).
- Music Pack ($5): You get 2x points through Ticketmaster and similar vendors. Not a very good deal when you consider the value of 500 points may be $5, so the extra rewards on the first $500 spent per year will basically be a wash.
- Health and Fitness Pack ($15): There’s 2x points for gym memberships as well as some discounts for related sites online. Unless you are charging like a $1,000+ per year to a credit card for this category, I feel like the $15 is quite steep!
- Home Pack ($15): This one is actually a pretty sweet deal. You get a $20 Lowes gift card every year with it (which more than offsets the cost) plus another $15 gift card for every $150 you spend there. On top of that there are 2x points given there as well as at other home furnishing stores.
- Style Pack ($15): For this you will get double reward points at department stores and some additional savings opportunities from a couple companies American Express has partnered with: Gilt Groupe and REVOLVEclothing.
- Connect Pack ($20): There’s no denying that cell, cable and internet is expensive, but to pay $15 per year just to earn 1 extra point per dollar on those categories doesn’t make sense to me.
- Go Pack ($20): Gives you 2x rewards on airfare and some discounts at car rental co’s AmEx is partnered with. If you book a whole trip through American Express Vacations you will get a $50 statement credit.
- Restaurant Pack ($25): The most expensive of the bunch, this gives the 2x points at restaurants and some other ways to get deals at some of their partners. At the time of review they do give you $5 gift cards to 3 restaurants each year.
In a nutshell, most of the packs for the AmEx Zync card aren’t a good deal.
Also a major drawback with the "Express" Membership Rewards is that you cannot convert your points to frequent flyer miles. With the Gold, Platinum, etc. you can do a 1 for 1 conversion and get a lot more value.
So even though this card only has an annual fee of $25, once you start adding a few of these packs on, you might as well skip the Zync card application and spring for one the other cards that will give you more bang for your buck. For example, if you were to apply for the Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card you can earn a ton of bonus miles + get $0 intro annual fee for first year… that is a far better deal (and many say that card is easy to qualify for)
What are the benefits?
The American Express Zync Card benefits are the same as their no annual fee credit cards. These include things such as…
- Good Customer Service: It’s hard to beat American Express customer service. First of all, when I call I don’t have to press a million buttons to speak with someone, there’s never a wait, and I get to speak to an actual American customer service rep!
- Rental Car Collision Coverage: When you rent a car, if you decline the rental company’s coverage, then AmEx will provide you secondary collision coverage (secondary means that if you already have regular car insurance, then AmEx will only pay out what they don't cover). If you don't have personal car insurance, then AmEx will pay out first. Please note that exotics aren’t covered, in case you were planning on renting an Aston Martin or something. Also there are plenty of rules/exclusions and some types of damage like vandalism, weather, etc. won’t be covered.
- Return Protection: How many times have you bought something, wanted to take it back, but you couldn’t – either because you lost the receipt or the store won’t accept returns. Well, with the Zync Card, that will no longer be a problem because they will accept your return! Eligible purchases - up to $300 per item, $1000 a year total – will be refunded through American Express. Now try doing that with your debit card!
- Extended Warranty: Ever bought a new laptop, only to have it die on you a month after the warranty expires? Well with the Zync charge card, if the original manufacturers warranty is less than five years, AmEx will extend its coverage an additional year for absolutely free on eligible purchases. Being that most computers have a 12 month warranty, the potential to make that a 24 month warranty instead – for free – is a very useful benefit.
Great benefits, but you also will get these with AmEx's other cards, too!
- Purchase Protection: Ever bought a new shirt or sweater, only to accidentally rip it a few weeks later? Or just drop that new cell on the pavement? With this benefit you’re protected – for ninety days from date of a qualifying purchase – against theft and accidental damage, up to one thousand dollars per eligible incident.
Should you apply for Zync or not?
So would I apply for the American Express Zync card? Definitely not! I would only try it as a last resort if I was first denied for the Gold Delta. At least that's what I would do.
- Rewards are worth significantly less than other AmEx cards
- Zync can never be upgraded/converted to different card
- There is no bonus
- You have to pay an annual fee (they do NOT even waive it the first year)
Consider these 3 better alternatives depending on your needs:
For Your First AmEx = Gold Delta SkyMiles Card
With your first year free and a signup bonus that is worth up to a few hundred dollars, this is clearly the one to try for if you are looking for your first AmEx card.
For Good/Great Credit = Premier Rewards Gold Card
More than just a status symbol. It gives you 3x points on airfare, 2x on gas at US stand-alone gas stations, 2x at US stand-alone supermarkets, and 1x elsewhere. Tons of benefits. Generous bonus + no annual fee for 1st year.
For Good/Great Credit w/ No Annual Fee = Blue Cash Everyday
3% cash back at US stand-alone supermarkets, 2% on gas at US stand-alone gas stations and select major department stores, 1% elsewhere. Best of all there is no annual fee.