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.
Troy Moritz says
Your article is flawed because there is a difference between FIA Amex and a “real Amex”.
A perfect example would be the fact that FIA SOLD out their amex customers to US Bank and we are now all going to become VISA customers. Real amex cards don’t transform into master cards while you sleep at night, do they?
Second, a real amex gives you life insurance during travel, price protection, and a bounty of other business professional features that don’t exist with FIA card services. So yeah, its not real there either.
Third, FIA has no apple pay integration.
Fourth, FIA has no quicken integration.
Fifth, FIA card services has terrible customer service. (opinion)
So, in conclusion, it never was a real Amex for if it were, I would not be getting notified that it is now going to become a VISA card without my consent.
Long Pham says
I’m sorry, but you’re wrong and misinformed. It was Fidelity’s decision to switch to Visa (not Mastercard) as the payment processor.
FIA is just the intermediary. They have nothing to do with Apple Pay integration. You can download your transactions into Quicken. And, ultimately, customer experiences may vary.
As I’ve explained, you do get all the same benefits as a “real AMEX,” as the consumer benefits and protections come from the payment processor – which is American Express. You will get virtually the same benefits as a Visa cardholder. Competition amongst payment processors has narrowed the gap in benefits quite a bit.
Credit cards do change hands all the time, and it’s not really without your consent – because it’s all laid out in the terms of service and customer agreements. I’ve had credit card accounts change branding, credit reward terms, etc. before – and this one won’t be the last.
Finally, I do some business with U.S. Bank. So far, I’ve had a good overall experience. I believe that those that found FIA’s customer service lacking will be happier at U.S. Bank. Although, the website interface at U.S. Bank isn’t all that great either (but I can’t think of any that does have a good user experience – even the “real” AMEX site).
Sean Buckner says
I came across your article as I was searching the differences between AmEx and FIA AmEx (mine is through Fidelity and FIA). I did the search specifically because I was unable to enroll in AmEx’s Premium Car Rental Protection. I didn’t realize my FIA AmEx was not eligible for this service until I tried to enroll. I called FIA Card Services to verify, and although yes FIA AmEx provides most if not all of the basic benefits (e.g. secondary insurance = Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance, secondary to your regular auto insurance) that a “real AmEx” offers, the fact that my card is not issued and serviced by American Express directly excludes me from participating in additional services/benefits/offers (e.g. premium insurance, monitoring, protection, etc.) available to “real AmEx” card holders.
I have no complaints about the services/customer service I receive through my Fidelity AmEx, but I was rather disappointed about this one missed benefit.
Long Pham says
Yeah, you’re right. Those are extra’s that you have to pay for on top of the basic benefits. Those are provided through the card issuer, not the payment processor (AMEX is the payment processor, FIA is the card issuer). I have to tell you though, that unless there are special circumstances, I would not pay for the extra car rental protection. I have been in a crash in a rental before. Between my regular car insurance coverage and the basic AMEX car insurance benefits, I wasn’t liable for anything – even the crazy car rental “loss of use” fees.
I compare the “premium” car rental protection benefits to the extended warranties retailers sell for electronics and whatnot. The risk/reward and cost/benefit ratio just doesn’t add up. I’m sure that if you did need it, you’d be glad you had it…but the statistics just don’t justify it for me.