Which Amex US Credit Card Should You Get First?

Disclosure: I receive a referral bonus if you choose to apply and are approved for some of the credit cards featured in this article.


Canadian Amex cardmembers have the opportunity to initiate an American Express Global Transfer to a US-issued Amex card, as long as their Canadian card has been open and in good standing for at least three months. It’s one of the easiest pathways to get started with US credit cards, since you don’t need a SSN or ITIN to get approved via Global Transfer.

Indeed, applying for a US card via Global Transfer is usually as easy as accessing the regular credit card application on the US site, and then selecting “I’ve had a credit card in Canada” in order to transmit your Canadian credit information to Amex US through a service called Nova Credit. After that, you’ll likely receive a call from the Global Transfer team to verify your identity before your application gets approved.

In this article, I wanted to share my thoughts on the best credit card product to choose as your first Amex US credit card during the Global Transfer process. Several factors need to be considered when making this decision, such as:

  • Business credit cards in the US do not contribute to your personal credit history, so your first Amex US credit card should definitely be a personal rather than business card

  • You’ll want to hold onto this card for the long term in order to build your US credit history, rather than getting it purely for the signup bonus and then dropping it after one year

So, what are the best choices among the Amex US credit card lineup that satisfy those criteria?


The American Express Hilton Honors Card

I’ve just added a Guide to Hilton Honors to our collection of in-depth guides on popular points programs. In the guide, I mentioned how Hilton unfortunately doesn’t issue any co-branded credit cards in Canada, so the only way for Canadians to rack up Hilton points quickly is by doing an American Express Global Transfer to one of three Amex Hilton co-branded cards in the US.

The Hilton Honors Card, the Hilton Honors Ascend Card, and the Hilton Honors Aspire Card respectively cater to the entry-level, mid-range, and luxury segments of Amex’s customer base. Among these, I think the Hilton Honors Card is a standout choice for Canadians hoping to obtain their first American credit card.

 
 

The card has no annual fee, which means it’ll be a card that you can hold onto for the long term without having to worry about whether you find value in keeping it. Even if you never use the card and no longer get any value out of it, there’s no harm in keeping it around, since it’ll continue to help you steadily build your US credit history. 

(In my opinion, this is one of the most important considerations when choosing a first US card. Many years ago, I myself had chosen my first card to be what’s now the Amex Gold Card, which comes with a US$250 annual fee, so I now find myself facing a decision every year as to whether to keep the card around at significant expense, or cancel it and risk a negative impact to my credit health.)

Moreover, as a signup bonus, you’ll earn 75,000 (or more) Hilton Honors points upon spending US$1,000 in the first three months. US$1,000 is one of the easier spending requirements among Amex’s US card products, so it should be a comfortable way for you to test drive your first-ever minimum spend on a US card. 

Redeem 72,000 Hilton Honors points for a night at the Hilton Paris Opéra

Redeem 72,000 Hilton Honors points for a night at the Hilton Paris Opéra

Once you’ve done the spending, 75,000 points will be good for one night at a higher-end Hilton property or several nights at a lower-tier hotel. Unfortunately, Hilton Honors doesn’t publish an award chart like Marriott Bonvoy does; instead, the only way to figure out how many points per night is required is to search for your desired hotel stay. 

Speaking of Marriott Bonvoy, if we look at the big picture of hotel loyalty programs for Canadians, Marriott is the clear winner in terms of the relative ease of earning points through the twin personal and business Amex Bonvoy credit cards. The other big hotel chains are definitely more challenging for us Canadians to participate in, so doing a Global Transfer to the Hilton Honors Card is a great way of diversifying your hotel points and expanding your range of options along your travels. 

After all, despite Marriott’s larger global footprint, there are many places around the world where Hilton retains a stronger presence – New Zealand and Colombia are two places that comes to mind based on cursory searches I’ve done in the past.

Redeem 60,000 Hilton Honors points for a night at the Hilton Queenstown

Redeem 60,000 Hilton Honors points for a night at the Hilton Queenstown

The Amex Hilton Honors Card has no annual fee, a strong signup bonus, and a relatively low minimum spending requirement; on top of that, it represents an easy way for Canadians to diversify into another hotel loyalty program beyond Marriott Bonvoy. If I had to recommend one Amex US offering as your first US credit card, this would be it.

If you’re interested in applying for the Amex Hilton Honors Card, I’d be grateful if you considered using my referral link, which helps support Prince of Travel.

While the public offer will give you 75,000 Hilton Honors points, the referral offer can give you even more. Open the link in incognito mode for best results, and don’t navigate away if you see the increased offer, because it might disappear!

princeoftravel.com/apply/AmexUSHilton


The American Express EveryDay Credit Card 

As I mentioned, I believe the absence of an annual fee is one of the most important factors when selecting your first US credit card, and the Amex EveryDay Credit Card fits that bill. By applying through a referral link, you’ll earn 20,000–25,000 US MR points as a signup bonus after spending US$1,000–2,000 in the first three months.

 
 

Beyond the signup bonus, though, the main reason I might recommend the EveryDay as your first Amex US credit card is that it operates on the Membership Rewards points system, which is one of the most lucrative points currencies you can collect in both Canada and the US. This has a few important implications:

  • In the future, when you’re collecting US MR points on more powerful credit cards like the Amex Gold Card or the Amex Business Platinum Card, you’ll be able to consolidate all those points into your EveryDay Card if you wish to cancel those higher-end cards and stop paying the annual fees

  • Once you have a US MR account with the EveryDay card, you’ll be able to transfer MR points between Canada and the US and take advantage of sweet spots on both sides of the border

In addition to all that, one very interesting thing about the EveryDay Card is that it’ll allow you to earn 20% more points as long as you use your card 20 or more times in one billing period.

The card ordinarily offers 2 US MR points per dollar spent at US supermarkets (up to US$6,000 per year) and 1 US MR point per dollar spent on all other purchases, but with the 20% bonus in play, those earning rates are boosted to 2.4 and 1.2 US MR points per dollar spent, respectively.

 
 

For a no-annual-fee card, that’s a pretty appealing return. Importantly, though, it’s worth noting that you should only use this card in the US itself, because this is one of the few Amex US products that does levy a foreign transaction fee of 2.7%. 

Overall, the Amex EveryDay Credit Card is a very strong contender to be the first US credit card in your wallet, as it gives you easy long-term access to the US MR program and allows you to safeguard your points in the future when you’re dealing with the higher-end MR products.

If you have limited interest in the Hilton Honors program, or if you’d simply like to get access to an US MR points as fast as possible, then I’d recommend the EveryDay Card for your Global Transfer.

As above, if you’d like to get this card, consider applying through my referral link to support the website. The referral offer seems to vary from person to person, but generally gives you 20,000–25,000 US MR points, which is significantly higher than the public offer of 10,000 US MR points. (Again, open it in incognito mode for best results.)

princeoftravel.com/apply/AmexUSEveryDay


What About Other Amex US Credit Cards?

The above are what I’d consider to be the best first Amex US credit cards to get via Global Transfer, but by no means are they the only Amex US credit cards worth getting. After you’ve obtained your first card, you can then begin applying for the other strong offers after having 3–6 months of history with Amex US. 

These might include the higher-end Hilton Ascend or Hilton Aspire cards, the Platinum Card (for its 5x earnings on airfare), the Gold Card (for its 4x earnings on dining worldwide), or the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card (for its signup bonus and annual Category 6 free night certificate, if you’re someone who stays at Marriott hotels very often).

Furthermore, you can look towards the business cards as well – in fact, if you have an eye on Chase credit cards in the future, you should arguably focus on the Amex business cards in the meantime, since they do not contribute towards your 5/24 totals. Some outstanding business cards might include the Business Platinum Card (strong signup bonus and annual WeWork membership) or the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card (for its signup bonus and annual Category 5 free night certificate).


Conclusion

There’s no better time than the present to get started with US credit cards if you haven’t already, and if you’re trying to decide on which Amex US credit card to get as your first, I’d recommend choosing between the Amex Hilton Honors Card and the Amex EveryDay Card. The former allows you to diversify your game when it comes to hotel points, while the latter gives you access to the world of US MR points; both have no annual fees, making them ideal for building US credit history in the long run.