At 50, American Express’ most famous card no longer holds its charge

The credit-card issuer announced Thursday that it had overhauled the iconic credit card, which debuted 50 years ago. Among the most drastic changes was switching the card, now known as Green from Amex, from a charge card to a credit card. That means that for the first time, card holders won’t have to pay off their entire balance every month.

The company also revamped the rewards categories for the card and upped the annual fee.

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“Amex themselves seemed to admit in their press release that the 50-year-old Green Card had gotten a little dated and needed a refresh for a new generation,” said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at

The reconfigured Green Card is emblematic of the changes occurring across the credit-card industry. Here are some of the ways Amex’s announcement are indicative of today’s payment landscape:

Consumers — and credit-card companies — want more flexibility in their wallets

Because the card was previously a charge card, Green Card holders used to have to pay their full balance off each month or incur a hefty penalty. Now, the card functions like a typical credit card — any remaining balance left at the end of each payment cycle will accrue interest.

The annual percentage rate on the card is now variable between 16.99% and 23.99%, depending on a person’s creditworthiness. Card holders who make one or more late payments or have a payment returned will be assessed a penalty APR of 29.99%.

“The knee-jerk reaction would be to say credit cards encourage consumers to carry expensive balances more than charge cards, but I think it goes deeper than that,” Rossman said. “Today’s consumers desire flexibility.”

The rise in personal loans, repayment plans and special financing exemplify this. Combining credit cards with personal loans is particularly attractive to young adults, Rossman said, because they’re wary of open-ended debt thanks largely to the pressures they face from student loans.

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