American Express Auto Purchasing Program Review

When I purchased my last vehicle, I attempted to charge the entire price to my American Express card. But as expected, the dealer didn’t want to pay the processing fees so they capped the amount customers could charge at $5,000 (which I still did, because even at 1% cash back that’s still an extra $50 in my pocket). More recently, I heard about the American Express car buying program and it sparked my interest because I assumed it must be a program that allows you to pay for the entire value of the car on your American Express card.

Can you charge the car purchase entirely to your AmEx?

I called the American Express Auto Purchasing Program customer service number to ask if this program obligates the dealer to allow the charge of the entire purchase price to the card. As it turns out, the American Express Auto Purchase Program does not allow you to finance your vehicle purchase using your AmEx (which is understandable, I suppose, since that would put them in the auto finance business, which is not their area of domain). Rather, it’s a pricing service that allows you to get a no-haggle price upfront on both new and used cars.
However, the Amex Representative that I spoke with did say that all dealers that are part of the program are required to allow you to charge at least $2,000 to your American Express card. Anything above and beyond that amount is completely the dealer’s discretion.

Who can use this American Express car purchase program?

This service is surprisingly open to everyone – even to those without an American Express card. In fact from what I can gather, American Express doesn’t even operate the program – a company called Zag based in Santa Monica, CA is who runs it. This is probably a good thing, because it appears auto retailing services is all that Zag does, so they certainly will know more about it than if AmEx attempted to manage things.

Are additional benefits involved?

All vehicle quotes are guaranteed to be below the Kelley Blue Book retail value
There are more than 3,500 dealers participating
Vehicle history reports through CARFAX are included free of charge
There is a free warranty on qualifying vehicles

Are the prices really lower?

I ran a couple test scenarios for the Los Angeles area to see how the prices from the American Express car buying program compare to the advertised prices on the dealers’ websites.

Test #1: Porsche Cayman (used)

I found this used ’07 Cayman and here was the price on AmEx auto purchasing website:

quote for porsche cayman on amex website

The dealer’s name or contact information isn’t provided anywhere on the listing (you’re supposed to submit using the contact form on the right) but this particular car had the dealer’s logo on the main photo. My guess is that is against the rules, but nonetheless, it allowed me to go to dealer’s website directly to check the price. This is what I found there…

dealer direct price for porsche cayman

Verdict? AmEx was the same price as the dealer’s website. Not impressed.

Test #2: Ford Escape (used)

I came across this lovely ’09 Escape for $19,887 through the AmEx auto purchase program. Once again, I could see the dealer’s name (Sunrise Ford) in the picture.

amex quote for ford explorer

Visiting the dealer’s website revealed that the “internet price” was also $19,887…

listing for ford explorer on dealer's website

Verdict? American Express is the same price.

Test #3: Chevy Cruze (new)

Ah-so… so this is where it gets tricky to compare the American Express car buying program to the dealer’s price. Why? Because they only show stock photos of the cars…

price for new chevy cruze

On the next step they list unnamed “Highly Rated Certified Dealers” with their distances to the zip code searched. Based on that info, I suppose it might be possible to find out the specific dealer depending on your area and the vehicle you’re looking for.

Verdict? It’s difficult to make a black and white, sweeping generalization on this program. I have a good guess who the “Highly Rated Certified Dealers” are based on their distance but without knowing for sure, I don’t want to conclusively say one way or another.

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier, I was hoping this would be a program would entail being able to charge entire vehicle purchase price to an American Express credit card to earn crazy amounts of membership rewards points. Unfortunately, that’s not an option with the American Express Auto Purchasing Program. The prices on used cars may not be any better than the dealer’s internet price, either.

On the other hand, for new cars it looks like you will get a price lower than MSRP… but how much lower is the question? This is where I need YOUR help. If you’ve used the American Express car buying program for a new car, share your experience in a comment below about how much you did (or did not) save compared to lowest price on the dealer’s website.

Written or last edited on August 31, 2015

 
Comments
The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

I wanted to leave an update. So, today the AMEX TrueCar no haggle deal saved me $6900 off of the MSRP. I was working with a dealer on a 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee and found a dealer in the middle of nowhere who I used once before when I was looking at some quick deals for my kids first car. I changed the model on him last night after I ran AMEX True CAR just for a pricing and location confirmation. Well, I show up cash in hand and his numbers are about $2K off from the quote but his #s are really par with everyone else. The dealer explains how they could not get the True Car certificate to work. As I explain I pulled it through AMEX and would call the sales manager said “Please don’t call
AMEX”, when he left I found out a VP of AMEX used that dealership to buy a car and only wanted to pay what True Car stated. Today I scored a 2017 Jeep Grand Retail $44,207 at $38,000. Thanks AMEX!

You CAN charge your big purchases to your credit card, but you have to make sure that your credit limit is high enough to support that big purchase. It’s actually a pretty easy matter to settle if you’re able to work out a financing plan to pay off the loan from the credit card company, but it will tie up your credit until the bulk of the amount has been settled….

Thanks for that heads up. I contacted True Car and American Express and they confirmed what you said. They suggested I call the dealership first to confirm. If you know a dealer that allows you to charge the entire purchase on the Amex, please let me know. I have 4 Amex and 2 of the limits are $25,000. Thanks

I just purchased a new car using the Costco Auto Buying program. I compared several services including the AMEX service and none could compete with the benefits of the Costco Auto program. As an Executive member I was treated royally and was in and out of the dealership in less than 3 hours including test drive. Couldn’t have asked for more, than what I got and yes, I have a Costco AMEX as well.

Just used amex gold to charge my entire purchase. it was exactly the price that the amex site said it would be [less tax tag and title] The site matched me to 3 local dealers total that participated in the program- 2 dealers had a cap on amex at 2000.00— However , one dealer allowed you to use my gold amex for ENTIRE purchase price. No gimmicks-no joke….very satisfied. Amex is most valuable card on the market imho.

I have an AMEX card but I think I’ll use the Costco Auto Program, which is a benefit of being a (Executive) member, when I decide to buy my Honda Fit. Nonetheless, thank you for the info.

The AMEX Car purchasing program is useless. I don’t understand why AMEX dirties its name with such a program. Prices are similar to everywhere and the dealer refuses you to pay with AMEX anyway. The dealers use AMEX as advertising and access to customers but still don’t accept AMEX car payment.

I put $5000 on my AmEx card in southern California at the Nissan dealer in Fontana back in 2005, I didn’t use the program then but your story just doesn’t seem legit, especially not letting you charge any amount to your AmEx card.

i stand in need of an automobile and cheap insurance for college and work and church how might i learn about dealers who will except the american express card?

it is a scam when you try to print prices do not print. Company running this is a subcontractor of Amex. bought one car and got good price went back to same dealer asked if they were still in program they said yes and they would mach amex price LOL scam. Amex gives different dealers each time no price does not print on certificate. Amex stiffs customers lol. Any body know of any law suits against Amex and their subcontractor buyer service.Buyer be aware. Look for other buyer service

This program is great! Its actually run by TrueCar (they have lots of commercials on TV now). The benefit here is you get extra savings for being an amex holder and you can see how much $$ dealerships will let you put on the card. I found one in my area that let me put the whole thing on amex and racked up 35,000 rewards points. Good price & great experience!

when they let you put the whole car on your car then that obviously mean you are using one of their charge cards,right? u have to immediately pay the whole thing off then you get the rewards points, is that what you were going after?

so you used one of their charge cars then where u have to pay the balance off by the end of the statement cycle. are you just interested in the reward points?

What dealer was that? I contacted True Car and American Express and they both said it would be like a regular large purchase. So, your story seems to confirm what True Car and American Express (representative) told me by phone. They also have a listed of dealers that will let you charge the entire amount, but recommended I contact the dealer first. I would greatly appreciate the name of your dealer…Thanks

I’ve been watching a 2004 Benz C320 for 2 weeks now. The dealer’s site and Amex show the same price; however, when I spoke to the dealership and asked the salesman what are the benefits of me buying through the Amex program he said – the automatically take $400 off the price of the car and the provide a 12 month warranty at no charge. Didn’t get into detail on what the warranty covers, but just wanted to share my experience.

the discount program is no different then going to the dealership off the street. On the new car discount certificates the manufacturer incentives are included as the discount. going in off the street and negotiating will more than likely get you a better deal. (I used to sell cars) all sales and discounts are just advertising to get you in. There is no better sale than any other sale. going in, taking your time, knowing what your doing and be able to walk away if needed will get you the best deal. Dealers teach sales people that if someone walks away with out making a deal theres an approx 90% chance they will never return and buy somewhere else. they dont want you to leave. So best advice is to be prepared to spend a long time there to get the best deal.

Works very good if car is discounted. Amex sent certificate and dealer honored, any changes were at invoice rate. Bought basic Nissan 270Z for $30,100. Well below invoice without haggling.

I used it to purchase 2011 Acura RDX back in July and then used it again on 2012 Acura TL. The quote for the RDX was about 3 weeks old and they would not honor that price so my mom ended up paying about 1000 more than the quote. When I bought my TL, they gave me the quoted price since the quote was only 3 days old. As far as price, I got $2800 off the MSRP which was $150 over invoice price. Only problem I ran into was some cars have so many options and its hard to figure out if you’re really getting a deal or not. Luckily Acura only have 3 or 4 different package with no additional options that it made the comparison easy.

Wow, you really missed the whole point of this tool. It is not about the exact dollar figure vs. what you can get elsewhere. The real power of it is that it compares the price you are being quoted today against prices other people have paid for that same model and trim level over the last 6 months. This shows you exactly whether you are getting a great, good or “fair” (i.e. rip-off) price on your quote. Also with the number of sales quoted, you can tell if demand is high or low. I think this is such an empowerment to consumers, and for free!

I always wondered if the Amex car purchasing program was any good. Thanks for sharing and thanks for the feedback from the fellow above me!

Used the program in April 2011 to purchase an Audi Q5, which is in extremely high demand. Saved me over $3,000 working thru a participating dealer in Chattanooga versus the local Birmingham dealer who didn’t participate in the program. To travel 2.5 hrs to save $3k was worth it.

I found 2007 BMW 6 series on American express auto purchasing program on sale. I printed the certificate and contacted the dealer. Dealers says price displayed is incorrect and they cannot honor the price. I contact American Express and they said same too that price is incorrect and they cannot honor it and will inform dealer to fix the display price.

been checking amex car purchasing program. not too good. i compare few sites. i found aol auto program is cheaper. it is also guarantee no haggling prices