How Credit Cards Work

Boost your card knowledge with a better understanding of the differences between credit and charge cards.

What is a Credit Card?


A Credit Card gives you the choice to pay for your purchases in full or to carry a balance and make minimum monthly payments. You can use it to pay for purchases online, over the phone or in person. You can even use it to pay for goods and services in other countries. There are other advantages to having a Credit Card – many offer benefits such as rewards and insurance related coverages. 


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What is a Charge Card?


Charge Cards differ from Credit Cards as they give you the financial flexibility of no pre-set spending limit for purchases1, and you must pay the balance in full each month. No pre-set spending limit doesn’t mean unlimited spending. Purchases are approved based on several factors including your current spending patterns, payment history, credit record, and financial resources. Proof of resources and security may be required.


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Discover American Express Card types


Different types of Cards exist so that you can choose the one that best suits your individual needs and the way you spend:


  • Cash Back Credit Cards – Enjoy cash back on every day purchases, from shopping at the supermarket to paying your bills.
  • Platinum Cards — Incredible rewards and luxurious benefits for those who appreciate the finer things in life.
  • No Annual Fee Cards – For those who’d like to experience benefits with a no annual fee.Low Rate Credit Cards — Enjoy more financial flexibility with a low interest rate on purchases.
  • Air Miles Credit Cards – You can earn AIR MILES®* Reward miles on all purchases you charge to your Card.
  • Aeroplan Cards – You can earn Aeroplan®** Miles on purchases you charge to your Card.


Explore our Types of Cards

How to Apply for a Card

To apply for a personal Card in Canada you need to meet certain eligibility criteria. To save time you click below for all the information you’ll need to apply for an American Express® Card. 


Find out how to apply for a Card

Understanding interest on purchases

It is important to remember that if you have a Credit Card and you don’t pay off your balance in full by the due date shown on your statement, you will be charged interest on all purchases shown on that month’s statement and interest will applied to your account. The amount of interest you may be charged is impacted by:


  • Whether you pay your Credit Card balance in full or make a minimum payment.
  • The amount you spend and the interest rate on your purchases.


When you receive your statements, the details of your purchases and the amount of interest you have been charged will be clearly displayed. 


Learn more about Card Interest

Credit Card Fees

Some American Express® Cards charge an annual fee – The amount will vary depending on the Card you apply for, along with the benefits and features available to you on that card. 

Learn more about Card Fees

What is Credit Limit?

When you open your Credit Card Account you are assigned a Credit Limit which is the maximum amount that can be outstanding at any time on your account. Every Credit Card comes with a Credit limit.  


Learn more about Credit Limits

Minimum Payments

You will need to pay at least the minimum payment requested by the payment due date shown on your statement. By paying off more than the minimum payment each month by the due date, you will pay less interest. To avoid paying interest, you should make a practice of paying your entire balance prior to your statement due date. 


Learn more about Credit Card Repayment

What is Credit Score?

Your credit score is one of your most important financial tools. Understanding your credit score can help you plan for the future and is a strong indicator of your likelihood of being approved for a credit card. 


Learn more about Credit Score

Where is American Express Accepted?

You can use your American Express Card for purchases big and small, including the places you love to shop at every day. American Express Cards are warmly accepted at thousands of Merchants across Canada.  


Find out where American Express is accepted

Using your Card Abroad

American Express® Cards are accepted around the world, so you can have peace of mind when using your Card to make purchases overseas.   


Find out how to use your Card Abroad

Useful terms

Explore our Types of Cards

Travel Rewards Cards


Enjoy all the benefits, convenience and security of an American Express® Card - with the added bonus of earning points for travel when you use your Card.

Platinum Cards


Looking for something special? Then consider one of our Platinum Cards to experience a level of membership that complements and enhances your lifestyle.

Cash Back Credit Cards


Get all the convenience and security of an American Express Card while earning cash back on all your eligible purchases with the card.

No Annual Fee Credit Cards


Want a Credit Card that meets your needs without having to pay an annual fee?

Credit Cards Explained


Has talk of interest, annual fees, rates and percentages left you feeling confused?


Our simple Credit and Charge Card guides are a great place to start.


Where is American Express accepted


How to apply for a Card


What Credit Card fees am I expected to pay


What is Card Interest


How to pay off your Card


What is Credit Limit


What is Credit Score


What is a Charge Card


Using your Card Abroad


Frequently Asked Questions

American Express Benefits


Your security and protection are our priority. Our technology has been designed to give you peace of mind when using your card



Access to our customer service is available 24/7 by phone, text or email.



Contactless is the quick, easy and secure way to make payments - simply touch your American Express Card on the reader, wait for the beep and you're done. What's more, with Amex Pay and Apple PayTM you can even pay with your phone.

Explore Our Credit Cards

American Express Offers a range of Credit Cards with different rewards and benefits tailored to your lifestyle and interests.



1. No Pre-Set Spending Limit on purchases does not mean unlimited spending. Your purchases are approved based on a variety of factors, including your credit record, account history and personal resources. Proof of resources and security may be required.


®, : Used by Amex Bank of Canada under license from American Express


®* Trademarks of AIR MILES International Trading B.V. Used under license by LoyaltyOne, Inc. and Amex Bank of Canada.


®**: Aeroplan, AeroplanPlus, the Aeroplan logo, Fixed Mileage Flight Rewards and Market Fare Flight Rewards are registered trademarks of Aeroplan Inc.