Pros: New 3% gasoline benefit, and best when combined with Executive Membership.
Cons: Online application process slow, AMEX not accepted everywhere unlike Visa/Mastercard.
The American Express "True Earnings" card with Costco is a great combination of a Costco membership with the credit power of American Express.
Why Did I Sign-Up for the card?
1. I have an existing Costco membership and noticed my purchasing patterns reflected a high amount in Costco gasoline and frequent purchases inside Costco.
2. I wanted a rebate on my purchases at Costco and a better rebate on other services with the American Express card versus my other card that only provides 1% for everything.
3. I needed a decent credit card with Costco due to my purchasing limits on my ATM/Check Card.
Applying for the Card
There are a couple of ways to apply for the "True Earnings" card:
1. A person can apply at any Costco membership desk and fill-out an application form. After completing the form, the employee will input the information into the database system and will give you an instant decision if you qualify for the card or not. If you do qualify, you get your picture taken and you wait for approximately a week for your new card.
2. A person can apply by going to their website: Costco.com. From there, you will be linked to the American Express website to apply online. After completing the short application process, you will receive a confirmation of submission and you are instructed to visit any Costco within three days to get your photo taken. Once taken, it can take up to a week for your application to be reviewed and a decision made. If you get approved, it takes one week for the new card to arrive.
NOTE: When applying, make sure to have your Costco card number ready and know approximately how much in household income you make on a yearly basis.
Receiving the Card
American Express sends you two pieces of mail:
1. A letter from American Express about your card's pin number (industry standard process for all credit card issuers).
2 The actual credit card stuffed with information about the terms and conditions. What's really nice is they give you a color photo of your Costco membership and may thwart fraudulent use since your photo is on the card.
I really enjoy the big benefits about the card itself. One of the best benefits is that the card has no annual fee as long as you maintain your membership with Costco. Also, American Express is the only form of credit cards accepted at Costco locations. Costco does offer credit through their own store credit card (similar to a Macy's credit card), but provides no benefits.
You also benefit from the card's rebate offers:
1. 3% on gasoline purchases (including Costco). A lot of us charge gasoline to a credit card, so why not get a good return rate?
2. 2% on dining out. This includes full-service restaurants and fast food.
3. 2% on travel (including Costco Travel)
4. 1% on anything else, including Costco.
You will receive a rebate coupon every year in your February statement.
Here's a great tip to get the best benefits from the card and Costco membership
Pay an extra $50 and upgrade to Executive Membership at Costco. Executive membership (without AMEX) gives you 2% on your purchases inside the wherehouse, and additional offers on Costco travel, but nothing on gasoline.
If you combine the Executive membership with the AMEX card, here's how your benefits would be revised:
1. 3% on gasoline (AMEX)
2. 2% on food (AMEX)
3. 2% on travel (AMEX) and special offers on Costco Travel (examples: gift card or shipboard credit)
4. 3% in Costco - 2% on Executive membership & 1% on AMEX. This is the best benefit!
5. 1% on anything else (AMEX)
What I like about the Card (quick summary)
1. Great when combining with Executive Membership.
2. 3% on Costco gas.
3. No annual fee
4. Beats my other credit card that only gives me 1%.
5. Excellent customer service and website.
6. Easily link your checking account to make easy payments.
7. Additional AMEX benefits including warranty extension.
8. You do not need to be a heavy user of Costco to use the AMEX card. Even without executive membership, the rebate return will still benefit you.
Disappointments/Gripes about the Card
1. The wait after applying online is VERY SLOW, as American Express cannot give you an instant status update for the first week you submitted your application. Even the customer service people at AMEX will tell you to just go to Costco and do it.
2. You don't get all the full benefits that other American Express cards offer. For example, the card does not qualify you for special access to theater or Broadway style productions (a.k.a. "Gold Card" events). But what do you expect from a no annual fee card?
3. I cannot pay my card off early online before the credit card statement is issued. (UPDATE: I contacted customer service, and they told me that it is not permitted for the first month of the account). I have a card with Chase, and they allow me to make early payments on my credit account before the next statement is even issued.
4. American Express is not as commonly accepted as Visa and MasterCard. It may be in your best interest to carry your AMEX card with another credit card.
5. Do the math, if you combine your Executive Membership with the AMEX rebate offers, will you be able to get at least $50 back to cover your Executive Membership upgrade charge? If not, maybe you should not upgrade or drop back down to gold star status.
Lastly, the best tactic to use to gain the best benefits is to always charge your purchases to your AMEX card and pay-off on-time to steer clear of the APR. Your ATM/debit/check card may have some benefits, but at some banks the incentive is much less, like 0.25% than the industry standard for credit cards of 1% or Costco's that can go up to 3%.