The Fidelity American Express is not a real American Express Card? What the what? This one is for all the hyper-credit card rewards optimizers out there.
A lot of people who are looking to maximize their credit card rewards/rebates look to the Fidelity American Express. What’s not to love? A flat 2% back on everything you purchase using the card with no annual limit. You can take the money out as cash once you transfer it to a Fidelity Cash Management account, or you can invest it in a 529 Plan, retirement account, or a regular taxable brokerage account (what I do). You can even split up the rewards into different accounts if your heart so desires.
So what’s the controversy about the card not being a real American Express card?
Third Party Issuers
American Express is a financial services company most well known for their superb customer service. In the past, they kept a tight reign on their network and issued their own branded credit cards. Recently, American Express has moved beyond its own network and have invited other financial institutions to issue American Express branded credit cards under an Independent Operator Agreement, Network Card License Agreement, or a Joint Venture Agreement.
What these agreements boil down to is that partners, or third parties, get to use the AMEX brand but are responsible for certain aspects of the business like credit risk, transactions, customer service, and billing. Think of it as franchising.
FIA Card Services
The Fidelity Rewards American Express Card is issued by FIA Card Services, N.A. Because of that, a lot of people (especially bloggers and credit card rewards optimizers) say that it isn’t a real American Express card. They say that they’d rather use their real American Express card, like the Blue or Costco TrueEarnings, so they can have access to the legendary customer service from American Express itself. They also say they prefer the real American Express cards because they get benefits like fraud protection, car rental insurance, and an extended warranty for purchases.
So that’s the part I don’t get. How often are you really dealing with customer service from your credit card company? If you’re contacting customer service that often, you’re doing it wrong. Seriously.
Sure, I wish FIA Card Services had a better website. However, it’s not that bad. I can get online, see my transactions, download my statements, automatically pay my bill every month, and set up automatic rewards transfers into my Fidelity account – all without a hitch. What more do you need or want?
Oh yeah, they say that since the Fidelity American Express Card is not a real AMEX card, you don’t get the benefits typical of an American Express Member. Really? Did you even bother to look at the documents that came with your credit card? Oh wait, the terms are plainly published online. Go ahead, scroll down to where it says Additional Card Benefits. That’s right.
Here are the benefits:
- $0 Liability Guarantee. You are not responsible for any fraudulent charge, including online purchases. Guaranteed.
- MyConcierge. You have access to a personal assistant who will book trips, make reservations, or find tickets to events.
- Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance. Provides reimbursement for damage due to collision or theft when you charge the rental to your card and decline collision damage waiver.
- Extended Warranty. May duplicate US manufacturer or store warranty for up to one additional year.
- Retail Insurance. Protects eligible purchases from damage or theft for up to 90 days from date of purchase.
- Travel and Emergency Assistance. Medical and other emergency coordination, cash wires, passport replacement, etc.
So yes, the Fidelity Rewards American Express Card issued by FIA Card Services has all the same benefits as standard American Express cards. And yes, the only thing missing from the secret sauce is that customer service is handled by FIA itself. But that’s just due to the nature of the branded credit card agreement.
In the end, the Fidelity American Express Card is a real American Express card. You’re getting all the same benefits wrapped up in a different package that has no annual fee, that is promoted by a reputable investment brokerage, and has an excellent rewards structure. Stop worrying so much, and stop optimizing so much. You’re hurting your brain. Just enjoy the unlimited 2% back and invest it like the financial genius you are.
* Note: The Fidelity Rewards American Express Card has been changed to the Fidelity Rewards Visa – which is now managed by Elan Financial Services.