The Clear from American Express was first launched back in 2005, hailing itself as the “first credit card with no fees.” At the time, that was a revolutionary concept – consumers were used to being nickel-and-dimed by credit cards with fees under dubious circumstances (remember, we’re talking about the days before credit card reform).
This is actually one of AmEx’s least popular cards. It’s not that the customer reviews are bad for it… it’s just that the rewards on the card are nothing exciting and with no money rolling in from late fees, balance transfer fees, etc. is it any surprise that the rewards are so dull? November 15, 2013 Update: The American Express Clear Card has been discontinued. You can no longer apply for it.The review below is now outdated since the Clear is no longer available.
But in all fairness, it’s still a good card. After all, you can’t have your cake and eat it too! Here’s a review of the pros and cons so you can decide if it makes sense for your lifestyle:
- No fees. Obviously the biggest benefit is that you have no fees of any sort. That means no annual fee, late fee, no over-limit fees, no cash advance fees, and no balance transfer fee. The latter of which does make it useful for balance transfers but not surprisingly, American Express never offers 0% BT for this card since there is no BT fee.
- Standard AmEx Benefits. The Clear credit card does come with the standard benefits you get on other American Express products such as extended warranty, return and purchase protections, car rental loss and damage waiver, and few others.
- High interest rates. Because there’s no money being made off fees, the interest rates tend to be steep compared to the other guys. As I write this review, the rates listed on the Clear card’s application were 17.24%, 20.24% or 22.24% depending on the accountholder’s credit.
- Low rewards. I am actually deliberating whether I should list the rewards under the pros or the cons. The card does give 1% on all spending without any limits (every 2,500 points = $25 AmEx gift card automatically mailed to the account holder). But the drawback or “con” is that 1% is pretty lackluster these days, ESPECIALLY compared to AmEx’s other cards on the market.
Ultimately I think it all depends on your lifestyle. For someone who regularly makes late payments, uses cash advances, etc. then I could definitely see the Clear card making sense. Because if that’s you, the amount of money you pay on fees probably exceeds what even the best cash back credit cards would be giving you.
However if you are someone that consistently has good credit management habits and doesn’t encounter late fees, then what’s the point of applying for the AmEx Clear and its 1% rewards? I can’t think of any. You would be much better off with one of their others like the Blue Cash card which gives excellent rewards and has no annual fee.