Can You Pay for a Car with a Credit Card? (Helpful Tips) [2021]

There are a lot of purchases you wouldn’t expect to be able to pay on a credit card: lawyers, mortgages, tuition, taxes, loans, the list goes on. I’ve even heard of people paying child support with a credit card. But undoubtedly one of the most common large purchases that just about every person makes is a car.

So a lot of people wonder if they can pay for a car with a credit card? 

This article will walk you through the process of paying for a car with your credit card and give you some specific tips for how to best use a credit card to pay for a car. 

Interested in finding out the top travel credit cards for this month? Click here to check them out! 

Can You Pay for a Car with a Credit Card?

Yes. Some dealerships will allow you to pay for a car with a credit card. However, many dealerships place limits on credit card transactions so you might have trouble paying for an entire vehicle with your card and might have to settle for just making a down payment, usually around $5,000.

Tip: Check out the free app WalletFlo so that you can optimize your credit card spend by seeing the best card to use! You can also track credits, annual fees, and get notifications when you’re eligible for the best cards!

What dealerships take credit cards?

You’ll probably have to just ask around and call the dealerships anonymously to find out if they take credit cards.

I say anonymously because I would NOT reveal that I was using a credit card to make a purchase until it got time to close on the vehicle and the final price was already set in stone. Otherwise, you risk them manipulating the price to cover the cost of the credit card transaction fee.

So consider calling in weeks ahead of time and not revealing anything about your desired car — you might even have someone else call in for you so that they don’t recognize your voice if you want to play it really safe.

If you have an Amex card there’s a specific web portal you can use to locate dealerships that take Amex credit cards. You’ll be able to search for specific types of vehicles, sign-up to receive emails for deals, and even review prices that others paid for the car you want. The program will also show you which dealerships have credit card limits (like $5,000) and which dealerships will allow you to pay the full price for the vehicle.

And if you’re wondering about Carmax, they do not take credit cards.

Related: What to Bring When Buying a Car (Detailed Checklist)

Why car dealers deny your credit card

Many car dealerships will tell you that they can’t take credit cards or that they don’t. Sometimes they are just telling you that because they don’t want to pay the transaction fee on the purchase but there are some legitimate reasons as well.

Transaction (interchange) fees

Credit card issuers make money when merchants pay transaction fees of 2% to 4%, which is one of the ways many of these credit card companies make a lot of their money (especially Amex). So from the dealership’s eyes, they are losing out on maybe 3% of a large transaction which will affect their profits and commission. (The profit margins for car dealerships can be much lower than you probably think.)

While a dealership may refuse to take a credit card and may not be contractually obligated to take your card, you might be able to persuade them otherwise by offering to pay half or all of the transaction fee. Start with presuming you won’t pay any of the fee, then ask about paying half, then ask about covering the entire transaction fee.

Fraud and contested charges

Some dealerships are legitimately worried about fraud, especially if the purchaser is coming in from out of state and has other shady characteristics (e.g., urgent reason for needing a vehicle, etc.). If the dealership sells that car, they’re going to take a huge hit if that card was fraudulently obtained. Also, some people will contest their charges which could cause some major problems for the dealership.

Getting around limits on the purchase

Many dealerships place limits on the amount that you can put on a credit card. For example, I was once told there was a $5,000 limit on what we could pay with a card and other limits might be as low as $2,000 or $3,000. This, again, is sometimes just to avoid having to pay for the transaction fees so if you offer to cover that cost you might be able to get around these limits.

Other times it might just be company policy to limit transactions to $5,000, regardless of who is covering the transaction fee. You can ask them to run multiple purchases of $5,000 and they might be willing to work with you if that’s what is holding them back.

But some dealerships just don’t want any part of a huge transaction like that and won’t budge. If you really want to use your card you might to move on to the next dealership but I suggest trying to be reasonable. Sometimes you might need to consider it a win if you’re allowed to put any spend on a credit card at a dealership.

Some cars might be easier than others to purchase with a credit card.

Is it worth it to purchase a car on a credit card?

When trying to figure out if it’s worth purchasing a card on your credit card I think there are a few major considerations. The first is who is covering the transaction fee?

Dealership paying the transaction fee

If the dealership is paying for the transaction fee then it will usually be worth it to use your credit card whether you’re just earning points on the spend or if you’re hitting a minimum spend requirement. The key to remember is not to reveal you’re using a card too early so that the price doesn’t get inflated.

Tip: If you just want to save cash you could “decide” not to use your credit card at the last minute and offer to not use your credit card if they reduce the price by the amount of the transaction fee.

Customer paying the transaction fee

If you are paying for the transaction fee, then you’re going to have do the math to see if it’s worth it.

If you’re trying to make a huge purchase like a $25,000 car then you would be paying $750 in transaction fee costs (assuming a 3% transaction fee). If you were earning 2% back on that purchase with credit card rewards then you would be losing money on the purchase.

However, if you were meeting the minimum spend requirement for a card offering a huge welcome bonus like the Chase Ink Business Preferred then you might be earning $1,200+ worth of rewards. Plus you’d get $375+ worth of rewards from the 25,000 points you’d earn on the purchase.

So in total you’d come out with over $1,500 worth of rewards and paying a $750 transaction fee would cut into your earnings but still leave you with $750 extra left in your pocket.

If you’re not earning a sign-up bonus, it could still be worth it just to earn the credit card rewards on the spend.

For example, if you were using the Amex Blue Business Plus, you will earn 2X on your purchase (up to $50,000/yr) and if you value Amex Membership Rewards at 1.8 cents per point, then you’d be earning 3.6% back. So even if you paid a 3% transaction fee, you’d still come out on top.

However, in most cases a simple 1% or 2% back card won’t earn you enough rewards to justify a transaction fee if you’re responsible for paying it.

Interest you don’t want to pay

If you’re using a credit card to purchase a car or even make a significant payment you need to have a plan to pay off that bill as soon as you can. If you have 0% APR for an intro period then carrying a balance can make sense but generally rewards credit cards are going to have high APRs (10 to 20%+) and you’d be able to get much better financing through the dealership, a bank, or a credit union, at around 2% to 5% APR. Credit cards don’t make good car loans. 

Interest you might want to pay

You might also want to think about the rewards you’d earn by making the monthly payments with a credit card. There’s a service called Plastiq that allows you to use a credit card to send out checks. It comes with a 2.5% transaction fee but if you earn referral credits you can make payments for free.

If you got great financing and could minimize transaction fees using a service like Plastiq, a monthly car payment could allow you to more easily hit your minimum spend requirements for various credit cards over time and you could still come out on top with credit card rewards earnings.

Investing alternatives 

If you are going to pay off your credit card in full after making the payment on the car, don’t forget to factor in alternative uses for those funds, such as investing. Let’s say you earned $750 in rewards by using a card to pay for a $25,000 car like in the example above. That’s 3% back.

But if you’re a savvy investor you might be able to put that $25,000 to use and earn much more back investing, even factoring in the interest you’d be paying on an auto loan. Everybody’s going to be different but the goal is to maximize your rewards in a way that’s most comfortable to you. 

What about credit card benefits?

If you were hoping to get credit card benefits for your purchase like extended warranty coverage or something along those lines, automobiles are usually excluded from benefits like that.

For example, for the Amex extended warranty they specifically exclude:

4. Motorized vehicles (passenger cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, airplanes) and their parts, subject to high risk, combustion, wear and tear or mileage stipulations

So don’t expect to get any special coverage from your credit cards.

What cards can you purchase a car on?

Depending on the type of car you’re after, you might need an extremely high credit limit.

Charge cards

For car purchases, a charge card will often be the best route because they have no established limit. While they have no limit, you’re generally responsible for paying off the bill the next month.

The issue with charge cards is that it can take a while to build up the upper limits of your charge card’s “unofficial limit.” For example, if you opened up an Amex Gold Card last month and that’s your only card with Amex, Amex is probably not going to “know you well enough” to allow you to throw a $20,000+ purchase on your charge card. Your card would get flagged and the chances of that transaction going through would be very small.

So the best way to use a charge card to purchase a car is to maintain a relationship with Amex for a while and try to use it for as many large purchases as possible. Then, call into Amex and inquire about the spend power of your card (or check it online). That will tell you right there whether or not you’ll have the capacity to make the purchase.

The problem with this is that if you’re trying to hit a minimum spend requirement for the charge card, that doesn’t leave you that long to show Amex your spending habits. Luckily, there is a solution for this.

Make pre-payments

Something else that you can do is to make a pre-payment on your charge card. For example, you could make a $10,000 payment on your charge card so that your balance goes to -$10,000. That would effectively increase your credit limit by $10,000 — just make sure to run this by Amex or whatever issuer you’re working with before you do it. I know Amex will allow you to do this, but I’m not sure about other issuers.

High limit credit cards

If you don’t want to go the charge card route you can look into getting cards that offer high credit limits. These are typically premium cards like the Black Card and cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve but other issuers can also provide you with large credit limits.

If you have enough room on your credit card for the purchase, you should still contact your credit card issuer and put them on notice about the large purchase, since you don’t want the purchase to get flagged for fraud.

Use multiple cards

One of the best strategies is to simply use multiple cards to make your purchase.

As mentioned above, meeting a sign-up bonus for a credit card can easily justify the transaction fee. Well, if you end up meeting the spend requirement for multiple credit cards then you can earn multiple sign-up bonuses, which is definitely the best route for getting the most value from credit cards. 

The amount of cards that you are able to use will depend on what the dealership decides but some have been able to use a half dozen to pay for their cars!

Assuming around a value of $500 per sign-up bonus, that could be a way to earn $3,000 in sign-up bonus value alone (plus you’d earn points from the spend).

Utilizing several credit limits will be necessary if you don’t have very high limits on your credit cards and it could help you stay under mandatory $5,000 limit transactions.

Note that certain issuers like Chase will allow you shift credit between your cards so you could always allocate to one credit card to maximize the limit with that card. Also, some issuers like Citi will allow you to request a credit limit increase (sometimes without a hard pull) so you could always raise your credit limit that way.

Cash advances off

Whatever card you use, it’s a good idea to bring your cash advance limit down to $1 to avoid the purchase coding as a cash advance. Sometimes bringing down your cash advance to $0 can cause processing issues, so I generally bring it down to $1 when I’m worried about something coding as a cash advance.

Pay for a Car with a Credit Card FAQs

Should you pay for a car with a credit card?

Paying for a car with a credit card can often make sense if you are earning lucrative rewards (especially a new welcome bonus). Just make sure the car dealership is not increasing the price of the vehicle to cover the transaction fee.

Does American Express allow you to buy a car with their credit cards?

American Express has a special web portal to help you find dealerships that will accept American Express cards.

What is the fee for buying a car with a credit card?

Some car dealerships may not charge a fee while others will charge a 2% to 4% fee.

Are car dealerships required to accept a credit card?

No, car dealerships are not legally required to accept a credit card.

Can I get an extended warranty when buying a car with a credit card?

Typically, motorized vehicles are excluded from the terms of conditions when it comes to extended warranties on credit cards.

Final word

Using a credit card to pay for a card isn’t always easy. You’ll often be hindered by limits but if you shop around enough and negotiate properly, you should be able to find a dealership that will work with you. You’ll need to factor in the transaction fees you might have to pay, but even if you have to pay them, it can still make sense to use your credit card to pay for a car.

What to Bring When Buying a Car (Detailed Checklist) [2021]

Buying a new vehicle can be an overwhelming process but you can make things a lot easier on yourself by knowing what type of items to bring and what to expect.

In this article, I will break down everything you need to bring when buying a car.

Before you head to the dealership

Be in a good state

Sometimes buying a new car can be a long process that drags out for several hours. (I’ve been involved in vehicle transactions at dealerships that have taken four hours or so to complete for various reasons.)

For that reason, you want to make sure you are well-rested and well-fed before heading to a car dealership. (Think about heading to the dealership like you would about preparing to take an important exam like the SAT.)

There’s nothing worse than being tired and hungry as you deal with a bunch of bureaucratic back-and-forth and wait for endless piles of paperwork to be filled out.

So make sure you take care of yourself the morning you head out to the dealership and you might even want to bring some snacks and drinks along with you.

Tip: You can also use hunger to your advantage by scheduling an appointment a couple of hours before lunch so that the salesperson might be more willing to give in to hunger as they work to finish your deal.

Contact your insurance company

I would recommend to call up your insurance company before you head over to the dealership and notify them that you are planning on purchasing a new vehicle.

This is a good idea because they can put you on notice of any requirements that need to be taken care of such as adding the new vehicle to your current insurance (which I will talk about below).

It’s also a great idea because you can get a quote on what your new insurance rates might be.

They will likely ask for the VIN but you should be able to get that by calling the dealership or even finding it online.

Get quotes from other dealerships

If you know what type of vehicle you want to purchase, do some research and find some prices from other nearby dealerships.

This will help you negotiate your price down and give you a better idea of the range of prices that will be negotiable.

Sometimes you can use portals like the American Express Auto Purchasing Program to scan different dealerships for great deals.

One tip I have is to email a handful of salespersons with all of your details and have them essentially bid for your business.

Items to bring when buying a car

A “bulldog” companion

The number one item to bring when buying a car is a companion who can help you sniff out the BS and arrive at a good deal.

Try to find someone who is direct and confrontational. If that is already you then great but if you are not confrontational, you might get walked over by an experienced salesperson (often without even realizing it).

Your companion’s main mission is not to simply give you company during the buying process or even to ask relevant questions about car features.

Instead, you want your companion to focus on actively questioning and calling out your salesman as you try to get the best deal possible.

My rule of thumb is that if your salesperson is at ease and comfortable throughout the entire encounter, chances are you are leaving a good deal of savings on the table.

Bringing a so-called “bulldog” along with you will ensure that you don’t miss out on a good deal and fall victim to a charismatic salesperson.

Driver’s license

You should already have your driver’s license on you at pretty much all times but you especially want to bring it with you to the dealership when buying a new car.

The dealership is going to want to make sure that you are a legally licensed driver before they handover the keys to a new vehicle.

So make sure your driver’s license is active and in good standing.

Proof of insurance

You’ll also want to have proof of insurance.

No respectable car dealership should allow you to drive off with your vehicle if you do not have proof of insurance.

Remember, as soon as you sign the bill of sale, that vehicle becomes yours and you are liable for it which means that if you were to crash the vehicle on your way home you would be responsible for the loss.

The big question is should you add your new car to your insurance policy before you purchase the car or after?

If you know exactly which car you’d like to purchase, you can contact your insurance provider and add the car to your insurance before you ever leave the dealership so you’ll have insurance from the very beginning.

Basically, you can wait until the deal is going to be finalized and then contact your insurance company right at that moment and add the new vehicle.

If you have already contacted your insurance company before heading over to the dealership, they should already have things in order and should be able to send over confirmation via email or fax in a timely manner.

If you don’t plan out your insurance in advance, it is still best to get some details regarding how you can transition your current insurance over to the new vehicle.

Typically, you will have a grace period for adding the new vehicle to your insurance. This grace period might be around 2 to 4 days but some insurance providers might have a much wider window.

Be sure to contact your insurance provider to find out exactly how long you have.

Form of payment

If you are planning to purchase your vehicle with cash or making a down payment, then you will need to have the proper form of payment with you.

Some people could purchase a car with actual cash but a lot of times it is common to use something like a cashier’s check for a large purchase such as a vehicle.

You could also consider writing a check but checks can be problematic because they take so long to clear so a cashier’s check would almost always be preferred.

You might also think about purchasing the new car with a credit card. Not all dealerships will accept credit cards but there are some tips and tricks to using a card to purchase a vehicle from a dealership.

Tip: Check out the free app WalletFlo so that you can optimize your credit card spend by seeing the best card to use! You can also track credits, annual fees, and get notifications when you’re eligible for the best cards!

If you are planning on financing your vehicle then you will need to take some necessary steps to ensure that you have the proper documentation when you visit the dealership.

There are a few different routes you can take for financing and they will determine how you prepare.

Pre-approved financing

To make the transaction as clean as possible, you should consider lining up your financing before you even arrive at the dealership.

You can do this by narrowing down your vehicle options and getting a price range from the dealership (either online or by calling).

You can then contact your lender to get pre-approved so that you will have a guaranteed loan up to a certain amount with a specific interest-rate.

When going this route, always make sure that you are getting an approval for financing based on the walkout price which includes TTL (“tax, title and license”).

You can also work backwards.

With this method, you will tell the credit union the maximum amount you can afford for a monthly payment. They can then give you an amount for your entire loan and you can find cars within that range.

Pre-approved financing is definitely the way to go if you want to streamline the transaction.

Tip: Contact local credit unions for some of the most competitive interest rates.

Financing at the dealership

Allowing the dealership to finance your transaction can be advantageous sometimes as they can offer you some great rates like 0% APR.

If you choose to let the dealership take care of the financing for you, it’s a good idea to go in with the following documents.

Credit score and report

You definitely want to check all of your credit scores before you head to the dealership so that you know what type of credit you are working with.

It is also a big help if you have your credit score and report on hand for all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

You can get your (non-FICO) TransUnion and Equifax score through CreditKarma and you can also get your Experian score here.

This will help you know for sure what your credit score is and you will know what credit bureau is the best bureau for the lender to pull your report from.

Just keep in mind that lenders will pull from different types of credit scores so the credit score you bring may not line up with the scores that the lenders pull for you.

But by having your credit score and report on you, you will at least have a ballpark idea of what your score should be and you can verify negative items on your report.

Most lenders use the FICO model so try to get at least one of your FICO scores.

Proof of income

If you are relying on the dealership to find you financing, some of the lenders may require you to show proof of income in order for you to get approved for your loan.

Typically, you can prove your income with the following:

  • Paycheck stubs
  • Bank statements
  • W2

You may also have to show proof of residence which can be shown with different types of documents including recent utility bills, credit card statements, etc.

It’s best to call ahead to the dealership to find out what their lenders may require.

A list of references

If you have a questionable track record such as poor credit or a lot of negatives on your credit report, you might have to supply a list of references.

Try to have a list of individuals who do not live with you or are not related to you on hand just in case they are needed. Typically, you will need to provide a phone number, address, and explain the relation to you (e.g., co-worker).

Discount information

If you plan on taking advantage of a discount then be sure to print out the discount or have a physical copy with you.

You might also be able to pull up the discount on a mobile device but it will make things easier if you have a hardcopy that you can hand over.

Keep in mind that car dealerships are always looking for ways to get out of these discounts so be prepared to state your case as to why you are entitled to a discount.

Pay very close attention to the fine print and to any eligibility criteria such as eligible vehicles or dates. Be prepared to call corporate to sort out any disagreements over the terms and you might even want to call them beforehand to verify the validity of the discount.

Rebate eligibility documents 

Many dealerships offer special rebates for folks like military members, students, etc.

In some cases, you might need to provide proof of your status such as a verification of enrollment for students or active military ID.

So be sure to call ahead to see what type of documents you will need for your proof of eligibility.

Notes on your vehicle

If you already know that type of vehicle you plan on purchasing and have a clear idea on the features, you should bring along some type of print out with all of those features listed.

It will be helpful to break them down into two categories: must-haves and wish list.

Just in case something comes up and you end up having to look at different vehicles, you will have a feature list already on hand to compare the other cars to.

Buying a Car Out of State

Purchasing a vehicle out of state is a little bit more difficult at times because there is a higher suspicion of fraud and you may have to deal with different regulatory rules.

Inspection (for used vehicles)

Before you drive out of state to purchase a used vehicle, it can be a good idea to have someone inspect the vehicle for you.

It’s not uncommon to hire a local mechanic to evaluate the condition of your potential used vehicle. They should even be able to test drive it for you.


Some states will not charge you tax on a vehicle purchase. These include states like New Hampshire, Oregon, Delaware, Montana and Alaska.

If you purchase a car from a state with no sales tax but register it in a state with sales tax, you will likely still owe sales tax.

Title and registration

After you purchase a vehicle from out of state, you will have to pay for a new title and registration in your home state.

You should check with your home state to see about the grace period for how long you have to wait until you need to complete the title and registration.

The time allotted varies but you can expect 30 days or longer and some states.

Trading your vehicle in

If you plan on trading in your vehicle then you will need to bring some additional documentation with you.

Current certificate of title

One of the most important documents you will need is the certificate of title (pink slip).

This is the document that contains information like your VIN, year, make and model, ownership, etc.

On the back of the document, you’ll see how to assign ownership to the buyer and typically a dealership can take care of these fields for you or at least walk you through it.

If you do not currently have your title just contact your local DMV and they should help you get a duplicate (for a fee usually).

Make sure you have the current certificate of title if you are planning to trade in your vehicle.

Current vehicle registration

It will also help if you can provide current vehicle registration.

You should still be able to trade in your vehicle if your registration is expired but you might have to cover the cost of the registration (even if that means the buyer factoring in the price without telling you).

A polished (and clean) vehicle

If you have any scuffs or small dents on the exterior consider paying someone to rub those out or fix them because those can cost you a lot on your valuation.

It’s also not a good look if you try to trade in your vehicle with tons of trash or debris scattered in your vehicle. Many people prefer to have their car detailed before they sell it for optimal presentation.

Service records

Buyers of used vehicles are very interested in the service records and repair records. You can build a stronger case for a higher valuation if you have a detailed and accurate record of all of the services and repairs.

Account number for loan

If you still owe money on the car that you are trading in, then make sure you have all of the loan account information.

Buying a car FAQ

Do you need a driver’s license to buy a new car?

No, but you will need one to drive the vehicle from the dealership to your home.

Can I add my new card to my insurance before I leave the dealership?

Yes, your insurance provider should be able to add the new vehicle to your insurance before you drive off.

Do I need insurance to purchase a new vehicle?

Most dealerships will require you to have insurance before they allow you to drive the vehicle off the premises.

What forms of payment are accepted at a car dealership?

You can pay for your vehicle in a variety of ways including cash, cashiers check, and even credit cards.

Will I have to show proof of income?

If your credit is suspect, you may have to show proof of income which you can do with the following documents:

– Paycheck stubs
– Bank statements
– W2

What do I need to bring when buying a car?

– Someone to help you negotiate (if needed)
– Driver’s license
– Proof of insurance
– Form of payment
– Financing documents
– Credit score and reports
– Proof of income and list of references (if needed)
– Discount information
– Rebate eligibility documents 
– Notes on your vehicle

Final word

Purchasing a new car can be overwhelming but if you break down everything step-by-step you can be well prepared and the entire process will be a lot smoother than you might think.

American Express Car Buying (Auto Purchasing Program) Review [2021]

Offers contained within this article maybe expired.

A lot of people have no idea that American Express actually has its own TrueCar portal to help you purchase automobiles and potentially cash in on savings. It’s a cool feature for Amex cardmembers but is it worth it? Or can you actually find better deals elsewhere?

In this article, I will explain what the American Express car buying (Auto Purchasing Program) process looks like and also give you some real-world examples of the discounts and prices I found.

What is the Amex Auto Purchasing Program?

The Amex Auto Purchasing Program is an online portal powered by TrueCar where you can find TrueCar certified dealerships that allow you to purchase vehicles with American Express cards (at least partially) and get special discounts and other perks with your purchase.

TrueCar is an “automotive pricing and information website for new and used car buyers and dealers.” The way TrueCar works is that TrueCar gets compensated by dealerships so they can obtain potential buyers’ contact information and potential car buyers get access to online reports showing what others have paid for cars.

The Amex Auto purchasing program is basically a special version of TrueCar. 

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

How much can you save with the Amex Auto Purchasing Program?

American Express states that: “Between 7/1/16 and 9/30/16, the average savings off the MSRP presented by TrueCar Certified Dealers participating in the American Express Auto Purchasing Program, was $3,272.”

The thing about this number is that it only talks about the savings off the MSRP — it doesn’t mean that the average savings were $3,272 compared to dealerships. So I would not go into this assuming that you will be saving money with the Amex Auto Purchasing Program compared to normal dealership prices.

Related: What to Bring When Buying a Car (Detailed Checklist)

What American Express cards can you use with the Auto Purchasing Program?

You should be able to use any American Express card with the program. So it doesn’t matter if you have one of the premier cards like the American Express Platinum Card (full review here) or the American Express Gold Card or if you have a card like the Amex EveryDay card, you should qualify for the benefits.

How much can you put on your Amex card?

The total amount that you can put on your American Express card will just depend on the dealership. All of the dealerships that you find accept at least $2,000 towards a down payment, but you might even be able to find a dealership that accepts more.

In the past, the portal would indicate if you could put an entire purchase on your card. I did not see any of these buttons when I searched for vehicles so I’m not sure if the feature is no longer available or if I just was not able to find a dealership that accepted the entire purchase.

For this reason, you may need to contact the dealership individually and inquire about purchasing an entire car with your American Express card.

How the American Express Auto Purchasing Program works

The first thing that you want to do is go to this link right here and begin the search process.

On that homepage, you should see an option to begin searching for either new or used vehicles. To initiate the search simply select your make and then enter in your ZIP Code. In my case, I went ahead and searched for new vehicles.

You should then be directed to a page where you can choose the model. In my case, I selected Jeep so I went ahead and selected Jeep Grand Cherokee (which happens to be what I actually drive).

I then had the opportunity to customize my preferences for the vehicle. For example, I chose four-wheel-drive and also chose the Jeep Trailhawk in white. I could also customize other features like the color of the exterior, interior, and popular configurations such as choosing a type of sunroof.  Note: the search results will not only include your preferences.

After you choose your vehicle and preferences you will then need to verify your information.

Verifying your information

In order to take advantage of all of the features you will first need to verify your information. This is a four step process that will only take you a minute or two to finish, but you will want to make sure that you know what you are agreeing to.


The first step is to provide your email. I would advise you to create a throwaway email that you will use exclusively for this search feature. The reason is due to the terms and conditions which state:

I agree that TrueCar and its Certified Dealers may communicate with me via email, text, or phone. Some dealers may use automated technology.

After you provide them with your email address, you will receive many emails and your inbox will be flooded. I think it is just much easier to create a throwaway Gmail account and handle all of these transactions through that.

On the plus side you will have instant contacts at various dealerships that you can work with. I have heard of some people “ccing” sales reps from different dealerships in a single email and allowing them to essentially out-bid and out-hustle each other for your business.

I haven’t personally tried this method but this could be a way to potentially save yourself both time and money.

After providing your email you will need to provide your full name and your phone number. You’ll then be able to choose your contact preferences which can be either by email or by phone and email. Again, I would suggest that you only select email to minimize getting overwhelmed by people reaching out to you. And finally, you will need to provide your address.

Viewing the search results

After you finish verifying the information that’s when you can really get in and see some of the details. You should see a search results page with a few dealerships and the vehicles you are interested in along with prices.

If you click on a vehicle and scroll down on the page you can see a graph showing you the average market price that people actually paid as well as the MSRP. Keep in mind that this average price is for your local area that you input the ZIP Code for. So in my case you can see the price below for Houston.

On this page, you can find details about things like the transmission, sound system, miles per gallon, and all of those other basic details you would be interested in. You can also view photos of the vehicle.


You might also be able to select some incentives that could reduce the cost of your purchase (these didn’t show up for every search). Here are some of the incentives that did show up for the Jeep Grand Cherokee:

  • 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Retail Customer Cash Allowance: $1,750
  • 2019 CCAP Chrysler Capital Financing Retail Bonus Cash: $1,000
  • 2019 Chrysler Capital Standalone APR Special Financing
  • 2019 Chrysler, Dodge, FIAT and Jeep National Association of Realtors Bonus Cash: $500
  • 2019 Chrysler, Dodge, FIAT, Jeep and RAM Military Cash Allowance: $500
  • 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Lease Bonus Cash: $2,000
  • 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Lease Cash Allowance: $250
  • 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Lease Loyalty Bonus Cash: $1,500
  • 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4WD IDL Lease Bonus Cash: $3,750
  • 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Special Financing
  • 2019 Returning Lessee Loyalty Bonus Cash: $500

Many of these incentives cannot be combined with other incentives and some have expiration dates so make sure that you read up on the terms and conditions. You can find those terms and conditions and the drop-down arrow next to the incentives whenever you are selecting them.

And finally, if you are not sure about which incentives to qualify for it might be a good idea to make a list of them and then to inquire with the dealership to see which ones apply.

The pricing

This is where things got a little bit interesting.

The results showed me a full price breakdown with all of the different applicable discounts. But I wanted to cross check this with the prices listed on the website of the actual dealership. This is very easy to do because they give you identifying information like the VIN and the stock ID number so that you can easily locate the exact vehicle at a dealership’s website.

Well, whenever I located a couple of the Jeep Grand Cherokees on the dealership website, I found that the prices were cheaper on the dealership website. For example, here is one that is about $500 cheaper.

And here is another one where the price is over $1,000 cheaper. Again these are the same exact vehicles.

Now, if you notice, the “conditional final price” for these vehicles is even cheaper. In fact, it is cheaper by a few thousand dollars. However, I did not trust what they meant by conditional final price and so I just assumed that those discounts did not apply and went with the final price.

I am not saying that you can’t get these lower final prices with the Amex Auto Purchasing Program. However, I do think that it is very valuable to know that the prices listed on there are not as cheap as the final prices listed on the dealership websites.

So when it comes to using the Amex Auto Purchasing Program, I highly suggest that you do additional research and cross check the prices with the actual dealership’s website.

Post-purchase benefits

The Amex Auto Purchasing Program offers benefits that you can take advantage of after your purchase. Basically you can get up to $2,000 worth of coverage for auto repair in for auto deductible payments when you purchase through a Certified Dealer.

Auto Repair Expense & Reimbursement

You can get reimbursed for 20% of your payment made to repair your vehicle. This covers up to a $500 reimbursement on repairs and includes parts and you can use this up to two times per year. Just note that this service not available in New Hampshire or New York.

Auto Deductible Reimbursement

When you file a claim with your insurance company, you can get reimbursed for your insurance deductible up to $500, two times per year. Again this not available in New Hampshire or New York.

Auto Expert Opinion

You will be able to talk directly to a certified mechanic to discuss questions you might have on recommended repairs and cost, sounds your car is making, etc. You can take advantage of this perk on an unlimited basis.

Report Your Purchase

In order to get these perks you first need to buy your new or used vehicle from a Certified Dealer. Purchases at non-certified dealers will not be eligible for TrueCar Buyer’s Bonus benefits.

You will then need to register online.  After you buy your vehicle from a Certified Dealer, return to the Auto Purchasing Program webpage within 45 days and enter your email to get started.

You will need to have your VIN, dealership details, and personal information handy. Once you report your purchase you will be registered for the TrueCar Buyer’s Bonus. You can choose to use one benefit or use them all.

Buying a car with a credit card

I put together an article breaking down how to use a credit card to pay for a car and I highly recommend that you read that article. Basically, if you want to use a credit card to purchase a vehicle you are probably going to have to contact multiple dealerships and try to negotiate something.

Many dealerships will not be happy if you want to use your credit card and will likely limit you to a certain amount such as $5,000 or even lower than that.

However by being a tactful negotiator sometimes you can get them to accept more by splitting up your payment into smaller payments or even making an agreement to split the transaction fee. So check out that article if you want more tips about this.

Final word

The Amex Auto Purchasing Program Seems like a pretty cool program. You can easily locate dealerships that will be okay with you putting at least a partial amount of your down payment on a credit card and you can find the data on the prices that others have paid for the same type of vehicles and you can also get some cool savings after you purchase your vehicle on deductibles and repairs.

The key thing to look out for here is that the prices on the Amex Auto Purchasing Program might not be the lowest available to you. So it is a good idea to check the dealerships websites to see how much cheaper you might be able to find your vehicle price.