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Verdict: ZYNC, launched in December 2009, is less than three months old, but the concept is sound. No interest, no pre-set spending limit, and consumers get to choose the purchase areas in which they get Rewards points.
Unfortunately, other cards in the American Express family offer greater rewards, more flexibility and better benefits. Presumably, this card is open to consumers just beginning to build their credit history, making it easier to get than other AMEX offerings. AMEX may have made a wise decision, with a card and program aimed at building brand loyalty early with their charge cards.
But with many banks offering cash back rewards when you use their debit card as a credit card, the obvious response is, “Why not just continue to use my debit card and apply for a conventional credit card to build credit?”
Evaluating each “pack” individually, the “Travel Pack” offers the most value for the extra $25 annual fee.
Overview: A few months ago, American Express launched Zync from American Express® to appeal to young urban hipsters who didn’t want to carry their father’s AMEX card, so to speak.
The ZYNC card resembles a conventional AMEX card in many respects: The balance is due in full at the end of every month, and there’s no pre-set spending limit, so you don’t pay interest and you don’t have to worry about going over your limit.
The ZYNC marketing material is written in language that people new to personal finance can understand, with an emphasis on building a credit history. The card’s Rewards program is highly customizable, offering points for expenditures in four different areas that CardMembers choose when they apply for the card.
How This Card Works:
Zync from American Express® lets CardMembers choose from four different “packs,” each offering 2X Rewards in different categories, and different ways you can spend those Rewards points. Additionally, with each card, you get 1 point for every dollar spent, and 3X points at over 250 online retailers through the Bonus Points Mall.
The card carries a $25 annual fee, plus an additional $20 annual fee for three of the four packs; the “Eco Pack” has no fee, and lets consumers earn 2X points when they use their card at select green merchants.
Let’s explore the different “packs” offered by the ZYNC card:
Designed for frequent travelers, the Go Pack provides 2X Membership Rewards points on airfare, along with other travel-related benefits.
Earn 2X Membership Rewards points on restaurant and event purchases, plus special access to event tickets before they go on sale to the general public.
Spend a lot on cell phone, Internet, and other communications services? You can earn 2X points for all related purchases. Shop through membershiprewards.com for mobile devices and use 25% fewer Rewards points on your purchase, making those double points stretch even farther.
Interested in using your Rewards to make a difference on the planet? The Eco-Pack carries no annual fee, but offers plenty of benefits. Earn 2X Rewards points on purchases from green merchants selected by Greenopia. Make your points go further with 25% points discounts on eco-friendly merchandise and carbon offsets at www.membershiprewards.com/eco. Get free green-living tips with accept to Greenopia’s online Eco-Concierge. Additionally, for each Eco-Pack membership purchased, American Express purchases $1 worth of carbon offsets from TerraPass.
Of the four packs offered, the Go Pack offers the most added benefits, with:
- Annual membership in the Credit Card Registry, which includes Emergency Passport Replacement Assistance and up to $25,000 in reimbursements for eligible fraudulent charges
- Up to 25% off at Avis and Budget rental car agencies
- Up to 20% off at Hertz, plus GPS free for 2 days when you rent a vehicle for three days or more
- $50 credit on any American Express Vacations package when you book through 2010
All four cards also offer the following benefits:
- Online bill pay, automatic payments and online graphs and charts to track spending habits
- Download your spending information to QuickBooks®, Microsoft® Money, or Microsoft® Excel
- Extended warranty up to one year on purchases with a warranty of 5 years or less
- Return and Purchase Protection
- Fraud Protection Guarantee with no deductible
- Rental car insurance and 24-hour roadside assistance
- American Express’ Global Assist Hotline when you travel more than 100 miles from home
- You select the categories to earn 2X points
- The American Express reputation
- Benefits standard to the AMEX family of cards
- Online financial management features
- $45 annual fee for all except the Eco-Pack
- Other American Express and Discover cards offer more generous rewards
- No cash back options on Rewards