Living with credit

AmEx’s Zync card targets charge-happy youth

Tyler Metzger

Raise your hand if you use a charge card. OK. Put your hand down if you are over 30. I see. There are no hands up. Well, at least that’s what I’m guessing.


American Express is hoping I’m wrong, though. Its new Zync card, unveiled Dec. 8, is a charge card targeted at 20-somethings. The company hopes to lure a younger demographic to a type of payment card dominated by older cardholders by offering a lower annual fee and customizable point offerings.

A charge card, for those who don’t know, is a special piece of plastic that requires the user to pay the balance in full each month. That means no dodging your debt; you gotta pay up every month. This is generally viewed as a good thing because you avoid charges, but still have the convenience of deferring some money when you have to.

The Zync card has an annual fee of $25. That’s pretty reasonable, especially compared to the $450 annual fee for the AmEx Platinum card. The card offers an auto pay feature, too, which you can set up to pay off your balance each month automatically. But those aren’t the major selling points AmEx is using. It hopes to snag some newer, younger cardholders with customizable “lifestyle packs.”

The reward packs claim to offer different types of perks depending on where you plan to use your card the most. For example, the Social pack offers double points on restaurant and event purchases. The Connect pack gets you double points on mobile and cable purchases, and the Eco pack gets you double points at merchants rated by Greenopia, an online “directory of eco-friendly retailers.”

AmEx, ever hip, plans to offer more packs and maybe change existing ones depending on feedback they received from an online community dubbed the “Zync Tank.” How many 26-year-olds will be hanging at the Zync Tank? My guess is zero.

Thing is, American Express has been offering a charge card since 1958. And although the company has tried to target a younger audience before, its aim always seems to be too narrow. So why try again?

Another guess here: We kids spend money, and most of the time it’s money we don’t have.
According to a 2009 Sallie Mae study, 84 percent of college students have credit cards. That’s an increase of approximately 11 percent since the fall of 2004. The same study found that the average balance students carry grew to $3,173 in 2009.

It’s proven that 20-somethings like to charge, but will we take the bait? For me, I can def say no. I have one card in my wallet, and it will stay like that for as long as I can handle it. But maybe for those young ‘uns who swipe for things other than tuition or car payments, another card, no matter the form, is just that — another card.

See related: How young is too young for credit cards?, Quiz: Dude: Think you can handle a credit card?

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, we ask that you do not disclose confidential or personal information such as your bank account numbers, social security numbers, etc. Keep in mind that anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company's business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.

  • Steve

    I think the Zync Card might be a success. The card allows you to establish a credit, makes you pay off the balance every month, and is safer then using a debit card, which more and more people are using.

  • John

    You’re a moron. I’ve had an AmEx Green Card since senior year of college and recently stepped up to their Plum Card at the age of 24. Charge cards are a smart way of having the protections and conveniences of a credit card without ever having unpredictable “oops” moments that can really mess you up in the long run.
    The new Zync Card looks like a fantastic option that brings the main deterrent of a charge card, the annual fee, down to a very reasonable $25. For that small cost, people get to build credit, collect points (practically useless, but still) manage those tight spots between paychecks when times are tough, and protect purchases.
    This is the kind of card that will hopefully help the youth (and the misguided 30-somethings) avoid the fallacy stating that one must choose from a risky debit card or a costly credit card.

  • Muca

    I think it’s a great idea cause in addition to what Steve said, it gives us rewards, insurance, etc that debit cards don’t offer for a pretty reasonable fee.

  • Rick

    I have a Visa, a MasterCard, and an American Express card. I pay off the balance in full for ALL of my cards–not just those for which it is a requirement. I use AmEx more for points, purchase protection, and customer service. But all off deferred payment. Unless the assumption is that few of us can muster the discipline to pay off all charges each month unless it is REQUIRED of us, I’m not sure why paying off in full should be a big selling point.

  • Anon

    For those saying it’s more “secure” than a credit card, if you don’t pay off the balance in full it just turns into a regular high-interest credit card.

  • Jenn

    Silly! (previous poster) it’s not a line of credit! It’s a charge card! A promise to pay it @ the end of the month! That’s why there’s no APR and the default is so steep. It’s way more risky than a credit card if u try to treat it so. They make their $$$$$ from annual fees and pirate more from everytime you swipe it! Try and be more responsible. It’s much better than asking for a loan you don’t want/need and wasting moolah on interest for such a plague upon yourself… Just to build credit! And; truly? Why shouldn’t I build credit for the things I spend several hundred on every month anyway? I am sick of trolls trying to twist things beyond the natural laws of physics to make a false impression!

  • MommyMaverick

    I think John’s post is right on the money. I had the Green card as a college Sophmore and used it responsibly. It was actually my parents who were additional card users who screwed me over.
    I am now 30 something and have my AMEX back. Because it is a charge card, the mentality is different. When you hand it over, it’s with caution, not zeal. I don’t know about using the points but the Pay Over Time Feature for travel related expenses make having an AMEX a real plus.

  • laurat

    i love this card its like a debit off end of for me in many ways…salvation!!

  • Mark

    Americans are so stupid