Last Updated: 10/5/2012
NOTE: American Express appears to have discontinued marketing of this card, and the application can no longer be found on their website. If you are interested in “The History of Credit Cards”, feel free to keep reading, otherwise you may want to check out our review of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, an excellent all-around cash back rewards card.
The team at GetDebit enjoys reviewing and analyzing cards like Zync from American Express®. Why? Because Zync (punned off of the 30th element in the periodic table-Zinc) has a complex rewards structure, making it very difficult for the ordinary Joe to sit down with a pencil and paper and figure out exactly what the card would be worth to him or her. Enter the GetDebit Ranking Engine. We’ve run several scenarios through the GetDebit Ranking Engine, and have arrived at some definitive conclusions about the Amex Zync card.
We have several “issues” with Zync from American Express®, briefly outlined right below and discussed in more detail further down the post:
- Firstly, in its raw form, it’s basically a 1% cashback card with an annual fee-not a winning combo there.
- Next, to get Packs (read below for how they work) to boost the performance of the Zync Card, you need to spend more $$.
- Thirdly, the Packs actually have spending caps.
- Lastly, Zync delivers MR Express Points, which are inferior in value to full MR points.
Call-out: some of our knowledgeable readers have brought to my attention that one of the value propositions of the Zync card is that it’s relatively easy to get approved for, and thus could be more appealing to those trying to rebuild their credit scores. This is a valid call-out and could change your individual decision-making calculus on this card, although our site definitely focuses on the rewards that can be earned.
Assessing the Value of Amex Zync Packs
Since Zync from American Express® is actually configurable by the individual cardholder (you can add various reward benefits, called Packs, at an additional charge), this means there are many variants of the Zync Card. GetDebit has modeled out what we believe would be 4 of the most common/important variants, and shown how they rank using the GetDebit Ranking Engine.
Note: these rankings are basically guaranteed to be out-dated shortly after their publication, so don’t take them as absolute truths, but rather as directional guidance.
|Rank (out of 32 unique cashback cards tracked by GetDebit)||30 (Packs: Go)
31 (Packs: Restaurant)
32 (Packs: None)
33 (Packs: Style, Go, Restaurant, Connect)
34 (Packs: Style)
|Value of rewards*||$606 (Packs: Go)
$604 (Packs: Restaurant)
$598 (Packs: None)
$587 (Packs: Style, Go, Restaurant, Connect)
$577 (Packs: Style)
|Value of rewards for top cash-back card* (Discover Escape)||$1,466|
*Based on GetDebit’s standard spending profile for 3 years of card usage. Includes impact of various fees, including annual fees and international fees. Also includes pack fees and assumes 4 packs: Go, Restaurant, Style and Connect.
Zync from American Express® Basics
The table below highlights some of the basic rewards and fees associated with the Zync Card.
|Base rewards||1 Membership Rewards Express Point per dollar spent|
|Bonus points||10,000 points after first purchase.|
|Card type||Charge card. Balance must be paid in full each billing cycle.|
|Reward Pack Details||See table below.|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||2.7% of each transaction after conversion to USD|
Zync from American Express® Rewards Overview
The Amex Zync card offers you the opportunity to add rewards packs onto the basic card. Each pack gives you additional specific category rewards, but also costs you (in addition to the base annual fee on the Zync card). The table below summarizes the key rewards packs. Note that after you reach the spend limit for a given pack, you continue to earn at the normal 1 point per dollar spent rate.
It’s also important to note that the American Express Zync Card belongs to the Membership Rewards Express Points program. GetDebit values MR Express points at $0.009 per point. For more information on why this is the case, please read our post, What is the Value of American Express Membership Rewards Express Program Points?
|Go||2x points on airfare||$25||$5,000|
|Restaurant||2x points on restaurants||$25||$5,000|
|Style||2x points on department store purchases and specialty retailer Gilt Groupe||$25||$5,000|
|Connect||2x points on mobile phone, cable, broadband, and internet purchases||$20||$5,000|
|Music||2x points on concert ticket purchases||$5||$5,000|
Click here for complete terms and conditions of the Amex Zync Packs.
The Zync Card At Its Best
So one of the reasons that Zync from American Express® ranks quite near the bottom of the pack is that in GetDebit’s default spending profile, none of the spending for any of the packs hits the $5,000 per year ceiling (a requirement for getting the maximum value out of each pack). So it’s only natural for our readers to ask: “Well, how good would the Zync Card be if I did max out the spending for each of the 4 packs?”
Of course, with the GetDebit Ranking Engine, this is as easy as apple pie to test. We re-ran the ranker, upping spending on airfare, restaurants, telecom/cable, and department stores to $5,000 per year. As it turns out, the Zync Card moves up to position #12, a huge bump up, but that does assume you are able to max out all the packs.
To take it a step further, if you were disciplined and only used the Zync Card to pay for purchases in categories where you had bonus packs, and maxed out on those packs (and not a penny more), you could actually move the Amex Zync Card into 5th position!
The math is pretty straightforward for these packs. 3 out of 4 of the packs we focus on cost $25 per year, and the most you can incrementally earn per pack is $45 per year (1 additional point on $5,000 spend per year, with each MR Express point valued at $0.009). So the most you can profit is $20 (the $45 you earn minus the $25 it costs to have the pack). So maxing out on all 4 packs will earn you roughly an additional $80 in rewards (actually $85 since the Connect Pack only costs $20/year).
One More Nugget of Gold: Linking Zync to Other Amex Cards
As one astute reader recently pointed out, the Amex Zync card can be linked to either Amex Green, Gold or Platinum. By doing so, you are then able to convert all of your MR Express Points into full-blown MR (Membership Rewards) Points. In our post, What is the Value of American Express Membership Rewards Points?, we assess the value of MR points at $0.0125, significantly higher than the $0.009 GetDebit estimates for MR Express Points. So if you can link, you’ll boost the value of the Zync Card rewards by about 25%-30%.
GetDebit’s Final Assessment of the American Express Blue Sky Card
Well, to give it to you straight up, the GetDebit nerdy geniuses cannot in good faith recommend Zync from American Express®. In fact, the only time this card should be considered is if a) you can max out each bonus pack category and b) you don’t use the card at all on non-bonus pack categories or on bonus pack categories once you have maxed them out. Even then, there are several cards that still kick the pants off of it (run it through the GetDebit Ranking Engine to see for yourself).
There are several core problems that make this card less-than-ideal as a general purpose cashback card:
- Firstly, the Zync Card is primarily a 1% cashback card with an annual fee. Ouch!
- As if that wasn’t bad enough, to even start the painful transformation (think Jeff Goldblum in The Fly) of turning Zync into a 2% cashback card, you have to pay through the nose for bonus packs. If you add the 4 key bonus packs we identified above, you’d be paying a base annual fee of $25 plus another $95 in bonus pack fees. Painfulll..
- To add insult to injury, Amex puts spending caps on these bonus packs, further ensuring Zync will never be anything close to a real 2% cashback card.
- And the last nail in the coffin…American Express Membership Rewards Express points are inferior to the full MR points, and are valued at only $0.009 per point.
For an all-purpose cashback card, you would be much better off going for one of the top-ranked cashback credit cards as found in the GetDebit Ranking Enginge. Start by checking out a vastly superior Amex Card, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card From American Express. This card generates massive rewards in a few major spend categories, and you don’t have to pay through the nose in annual and reward pack fees for that privilege.
Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.