American Express EssentialTM Credit Card Review

Purchase APR
Annual Fee
Min Personal Income Required
Recommended Credit Score
740 850 670 739 580 669 0 579
Enjoy a low 12.99% interest rate on purchases!

Cardholders with high fixed expenses may need to forego paying the full credit card balance each month, and this can get expensive when purchase balance interest rates are frequently 24.00% or higher.

Fortunately, those who have had issues with this in the past can get a much-needed break on their obligations with the American Express EssentialTM Credit Card. Cardholders who make purchases or cash advances with the card will pay just 12.99% interest on this portion of their balance, providing the peace of mind to get ahead on other debts.

Also, stay connected with American Express® Experiences. You’ll have access to experiences like in-demand concerts and other events, special offers for food lovers and retail enthusiasts, and wellness experiences.

At a Glance

  • 12.99% regular APR
  • No annual fee
  • Free additional cards
  • Buyer’s purchase protections
  • Easy eligibility
  • World-class service from American Express
  • Front of the Line event access
  • Access special events and offers curated for Cardmembers with American Express® Experiences

Why We Like It:

  1. No Annual Fee: The lack of any annual fee on primary and additional cards represents savings of hundreds of dollars over time, as many similar cards charge up to $70 per year just for being a member. This benefit aligns well with the other money-saving functions inherent in the American Express EssentialTM Credit Card, providing a great solution for those individuals who want to put every dollar they save towards reducing their debt.
  2. Low-Rate Deal: The American Express EssentialTM Credit Card offers a special purchase and cash advance rate of 12.99%, but make sure to make minimum payments, or the rate will increase. Competing cards typically offer an APR of around 20% or more, potentially saving hundreds or thousands over the year.
  3. Purchase Protection: Buyers can rest assured that their expensive purchases made with the card receive extra protection. All warranties on items bought with the American Express EssentialTM Credit Card receive an extension of up to a year, and new items are insured against damage or theft for 90 days after purchase.
  4. Easy Eligibility: Often, a low credit score or smaller household income will hold back the neediest individuals from gaining access to the tools that can help them most. But entry barriers to the American Express EssentialTM Credit Card are relatively minimal. To qualify, applicants must be Canadian residents with an existing credit file, which indicates some history of taking out a loan or using a credit card. They must also be at or above their provincial or territorial age of majority.
  5. Amex Services: Members of American Express have an added advantage wherever they happen to be in that many potentially life-saving services are at their beck and call. Emergency card replacement, 24/7 customer service, fraud protection, prevention tools, and $100,000 worth of travel accident insurance help cardholders keep their cool in urgent circumstances.
  6. Exclusive Experiences: Members can access special events and offers with American Express® Experiences. You’ll have access to exclusives such as Front of the Line® services with live and special events, entertainment experiences with advanced movie screenings and theatre packages, private shopping excursions, and special dining experiences. You’ll also be privy to wellness experiences and on-site benefits.

Card Type and Interest Rate

The American Express EssentialTM Credit Card is classified by Amex as a ‘credit card’ rather than a charge card (which has higher interest rates). The card comes with a 12.99% interest rate on purchases and cash advances.

Purchase interest rates can increase to 23.99% and/or 26.99% if multiple payment dates are missed. Be sure to read through the card’s other relevant interest rates before you apply.

American Express EssentialTM Credit Card Fees

Annual Fee$0
Additional Card Fee$0 each
Late Fee$25
Foreign Transaction Fee2.5%
Funds Advanced$2.75 each
Dishonoured Payment$25
Statement Reprint$3
Balance Transfer/Amex Cheque0% each
Installment Program8%

Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility requires Canadian residency, a Canadian credit file, and age of majority in the province or territory where you live.

Is It Worth It?

For those who are having difficulty paying off their purchase balance and want a tool that doesn’t make it so painful, there are few better options than the one offered by American Express with their American Express EssentialTM Credit Card. A low regular rate of 12.99% gives cardholders a break from the high-interest charges that amass on purchases and cash advances. Alongside some valuable features from American Express, like extended warranties and other purchase assurances, a lack of any annual fee helps bolster the benefits of this card and make it an effective savings tool for cardholders of all varieties.

American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click the Apply now link. Conditions apply.

Author Bio

GreedyRates is Canada’s go-to resource for all things personal finance. Our expert articles and videos cover every topic under the financial sun, including credit cards, credit scores, loans, bank accounts, budgeting, investing, RSPs, TFSAs, GICs, taxes, and more. Want our advice on a personal finance issue? Send us an email at [email protected] and we’ll gladly give you some free tips.

Article comments

Marlon says:

The above said credit card in the review is no longer at 8.99% APR. It is now 12.99%.

Nate Siegel says:

Hi Marlon,

Astute observation. You no doubt received some sort of mail from Amex recently that notified you of this adverse change, and it’s unfortunate because at 8.99% the Essential card used to be the best in Canada! Boosted 4.00% and it’s now outclassed by cards like the Desjardins Modulo Visa card, which offer 10.9% interest rate, plus the ability to earn BONUSDOLLARS on purchases. If you’re disappointed with Amex’s change to your Essential card and are looking to switch, the keep Desjardins in your mind.


Jobe & eileen reidpath says:

Looking for a low-interest card

Nate Siegel says:

Hey Jobe and Eileen,

If you two are looking for a credit card with low interest on purchases, then the Amex Essential card above is certainly in the running. Another option is the Desjardins Modulo Visa, which has a 10.90% rate on both purchases and cash advances as well. There are many other options depending on your situation, and for instance if you have a credit card balance right now, a balance transfer with a low interest promotion would also be relevant.

You can simply move your outstanding balance from your current card to a new card and pay less interest on it for a promotional period. That’s what the MBNA True Line card is for: transfer from another card to your approved credit limit and pay 0% for 10 months on it. Afterward, the rate goes up to just 12.99%, which may already be a lower interest payment than what you’re tolerating now!