American Express Optima Card Discontinued or Not?

Posted by CreditCardGuru

Q: What happened to the Optima credit card from American Express? I went to their website and can’t find it anywhere!

American Express Optima CardA: The Optima was AmEx’s very first credit card (different from their charge cards, which require payment in full each month). It was first launched in 1987 but beginning in July 2009, American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) stopped accepting new applications for it (the exception being the “Oasis” applicants with less than perfect credit, discussed below, who are still offered it).

You can’t get an Optima unless you’ve been solicited for it with a targeted offer. If you call and ask to apply you can’t do it. So if you have less-than-perfect credit and want an American Express card, my recommendation would be to work on getting another non-AmEx credit card or two on your report. Then in another six to nine months, try applying for the Gold Delta SkyMiles card because based on feedback I’ve received from applicants, it definitely sounds to be the easiest American Express card to get. I hear from people with scores in the high-600′s getting approved for it.

For a good card that’s not too difficult to get, here’s one I really like:

No here are some caveats you need to know about the Optima if you’ve received a solicitation for it:

  • It’s not a true Platinum Card: There are two classes – regular and platinum. Although the latter is technically called the American Express Optima Platinum, don’t confuse it with the American Express Platinum Card which is a charge card — a high-tier one, at that. The Optima Platinum had no annual fee, versus the $450 fee for the Platinum Card. As you can expect, the differences in benefits between the two is like night and day.
  • The rewards program: The Optima credit cards use Membership Rewards, which is a points-based program (the other American Express charge cards also use it). It is a great program if you want to spend your points on travel and gift cards. but when it comes to cash back, it’s not a good choice. Why? Because if you choose a cash or equivalent (like statement credit) the value you get is less than 1 cent per point. You can sometimes get more that when you redeem for gift cards, and you can often get a much better redemption value if you shift your points into the program’s partner airlines and redeem them strategically. So if you wanted the card to earn cash back, it may not be the best fit..
  • The Optima Oasis is different: Still available, this program is for those who have burned bridges with AmEx in the past and are looking to make things right. After paying off an old debt in full, certain ex-cardmembers would be invited to apply for the AmEx Optima Oasis card, which would have a credit limit up to half the amount of the charged-off balance. This program is a very targeted offer and not available to everyone. To the best of my knowledge, AmEx’s partner collection agencies (such as First Source Advantage and NCO) are the ones who are responsible for offering the Oasis program.
  • Very few Optima accounts exist today: As mentioned the normal Optima card application was closed off in 2009 and since that time, many existing cardmembers have been converted to other AmEx cards. Long story short, the normal version of this credit card (not talking about the Oasis) is extinct and its probably only a matter of time before all accounts are switched to other American Express cards.

Best alternatives?

What made the Optima AmEx so attractive was that, for a long time, it was a no-annual-fee card that participated in Membership Rewards Program. That’s changed, though, thanks to the American Express Everyday card, which made its debut in early 2014. The basic Everyday card has no annual fee, earns Membership Rewards points and rewards you extra if you make a certain number of transactions each month. For more information (and a link to the application), go here.

Some other good current options with Membership Rewards:

Gold Card: A lot of benefits for a reasonable annual fee.
Platinum Card: This is the granddaddy, premier choice for a charge card. The $450 annual fee isn’t for everyone but if you travel a lot, it actually makes sense.

Other great American Express choices that have no annual fee:

Blue Cash: There are now two versions (one has no annual fee) and the cash rewards are hard to beat.
Blue Sky: For those that want a no annual fee travel rewards card with some extra perks.
Written or last updated August 15, 2014


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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

29 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. Building my credit back up June 17, 2014 at 10:59PM

    I had an Amex Gold Card when I was 20-22. I got in a little mess and charged off 6 k and did not pay it off. 8 years later after I ignored collections for so long they were able to get a court letter to garnish my check. I paid it off plus interest and fees and it came out to $7600. After paying it off “though garnishment” I recieved a letter a month ago that I was pre approved for a optima American Express card and that my limit would be $2200. I had to fill out a basic form with name, social and address and mail it. Can’t call or do it online. I
    Had to mail it. I just sent it a week ago so I have not received a response yet. Really my question is should I even take this offer or just shred the card if I am accepted? Also, has anyone else had this experience ?

  2. rodney danielsen June 4, 2014 at 5:39PM

    I have the optima amex card (since 2006)with a $500 credit limit. I pay my bill every month on time. Tri3d several times in the past 2 yrs tpo either increase the spending limit or get another card but I’m always rejected

  3. James April 29, 2014 at 6:24PM

    I would love to get The Optima Card…I already have The Amex Gold Card, I’m pre-approved for The Amex Gold Premeier & The Platinum…but I can’t get a little old Optima Card…Deep Sigh.

  4. Snorlax March 19, 2014 at 5:28AM

    I got my Optima Platinum card year 2005 and up to now they don’t charge me on my Membership Rewards points.

  5. normanlobban January 13, 2014 at 12:47PM

    I have an optima with a $500 limit. Can this limit be increased?

    • gary keith January 16, 2014 at 4:21AM

      what basis did they issue card on?

      they are pretty stingy if they issued to former cardholder that gave them trouble!

  6. Sandy September 24, 2013 at 3:46PM

    I really like this card! We have a Platinum AE card but I use this card for business travel as my employer is sometimes slow to reimburse. (I am an independent cortractor.) I have record of my purchases which helps at tax time. I carry both cards when I travel to maximize benefits.

  7. Charles July 30, 2013 at 11:02AM

    Best Card I have ever owned still have my optima card since 2006 and if you have the card already you will always have the card but AMEX no longer takes new apps for the card. I am proud to have a card not too many people have along with a $15,000 limit.

  8. Brian L July 7, 2013 at 10:02AM

    Bewilders me why Costco still exclusively accepts AMEX. They(amex) are so outdated and losing more ground everyday. Costco needs to switch to Visa, MC and Discover like Sam;s Club does. I mean REALLY. :(

    • JohnnyGP November 3, 2013 at 8:42AM

      “Losing ground every day”? American Express has grown to become larger than Mastercard. Sounds like “someone else” is outdated? ;-)

    • The Pilotman December 13, 2013 at 6:08AM

      AMEX is not losing ground at all. Just because one can’t qualify for an AMEX card doesn’t mean they are bad. They are fairly selective. I have an AMEX card with a $35,000 limit and have always paid my bills I time since having it in 2004. They’ve lowered my limit with a few financial problems during the last last 10 years, but we’ve always been honest with them and they’ve stuck by us. Even when we had out credit line lowered to $8,000, we’ve been forthright with them and likewise. It is my opinion the best cars with the best benefits in the world.

      Just my 2 cents.

  9. zane Moss June 16, 2013 at 10:15AM

    Does the bill each month have to be paid in full or can it be paid out? Zane Moss

  10. Sharon DeWerth April 24, 2013 at 8:52PM

    I’ve been trying to pay my bill on line & it won’t let me in.

    • Robert J. Jernigan September 12, 2013 at 3:15AM

      I cannot pay bill on line

  11. Antoinette Schiller April 19, 2013 at 1:32PM

    Please let me know how I can speak to a real person about an Optima account I had back in 2009. I no longer have a card, but have to have a record of it being paid off around that time. My husband is in a nursing home and we are applying for Medicaid and they are tracing back to all my debts., etc.
    Thank you.

  12. Carma20 March 30, 2013 at 8:03PM

    I also settled with A E a few yrs back. Recently got 100 check from A E, thought it was some kind of scam. They said something I was never told; I could reapply.
    I got an email that I was approved. 500 dollars. I went bankrupt over a yr ago. so I’m okay with $500 limit. Trying to re-establish credit little by little.

  13. Xhajki March 16, 2013 at 9:18AM

    Just got the application this week for the optima card. I had settled before now they are sending this card because when I settled they didn’t explain that I may not be able to open an account with Amex in the future. Apparently by the law they should have told me so they are giving me a chance to apply again.
    Wanted to do it online but I guess this application is paper only so let’s see if they approve me.

    • gary keith March 24, 2013 at 4:00PM

      same thing happened me!

      I also recd a $500 check from them a few days prior to that. they claimed I was paid $100 per applying to them 5 times in last 4 yrs!

      did you get a check?

  14. joe February 12, 2013 at 7:53AM

    have been a member since 1988 just activated new card.reading things recently. saying optima card not same as before, is there a fee now and no monthly payments toward balance?

  15. D. G. February 3, 2013 at 4:44PM

    Did the Optima give regular MR points or MR Express points like Blue or Zync? What was the difference between regular Optima and Platinum?

  16. Jon January 28, 2013 at 3:11PM

    The card doesn’t offer rewards for no fee, the interest rates are outrageous. We overburden the home lending industry to protect from predatory lending but these guys can charge 20+% interest to people who could barely make the payments on the interest free card!!

    • bridgette February 22, 2014 at 9:42AM

      This card has been with me since 97. 20k limit with great offers for fixed rates. I borrowed 18k at s fixed rate for 6%. unsecured. Now that’s service. All I did was czlk and they raised the limit.

  17. Tracey January 10, 2013 at 5:46PM

    I was just sent a preapproval offer with a 1900 credit line attached to it. I sent it back on January 6th and it was accepted Jan 8th 2013. I am a former customer of AMEX who had some problems last year but have since paid them what was owed. Immediately after the balance of the other card was paid off they offered us this one. I was under the impression that this card did not exist anymore for new customers. Does anyone have any information on that?

  18. Lacey January 9, 2013 at 7:38AM

    I ran into a little credit trouble with Amex and am finally about the pay it off. They are offering me to apply for the Optima card to regain a good relationship with Amex. So it’s not completely true that you can’t apply for this card anymore.

  19. Bridgette December 10, 2012 at 9:04AM

    I’ve carried the Optima card since 95. I love the card. No annual fee, balance can be carried month to month. The offers are great. Rewards are fair. Many times I receive flat rate percentage offers for the life of the loans. I just had my new card sent to me this month. I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

    • Michael December 10, 2012 at 10:19AM

      Congrats! You are lucky to have been grandfathered in with it. Unfortunately you can’t apply for it anymore.

      • sab December 22, 2012 at 8:41AM

        I just closed my Optima card yesterday. I already have a Blue card that gives the same reward points without an annual fee, and didnt find the Platinum Optima that great in the “Platinum” sense as you stated. It is ok if you want a revolving credit, but I dont need that enymore. If I had this card grandfatehred in, was there any other reason I should have kept it?

      • Laura May 7, 2013 at 9:01PM

        I also have an Optima Platinum card since 95. I just finished getting our kids their own cards on my account (this week). No one said, and it’s not written on their paper (that came with the card) that there would be any annual fee.
        Even though it says Platinum on the card I’ve never tried getting into an airport lounge with it (I imagine there would be some secret logo on the card for that).

  20. Lynn December 9, 2012 at 8:00PM

    I think the reason they got rid of Optima card is because they realized it would be stupid to give Membership Rewards points for free, when they charge for it on their other cards.

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