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American Express Online

> Overview   > Details

Thumbs Up: Tiny advertisement, no usage limits, fast connections, easy setup, newsgroups, free webspace

Thumbs Down: Available only for American Express Cardholders, no access in Canada, no Mac version. IE 5.5 required

Rating: Review

American Express has put itself on the top of the free ISP game with American Express Online, its free ISP for cardholders. The service not only has very few ads, it also includes some extras most free ISP's don't provide.

While most free ISP's have been relying on paying advertisers to earn a profit, American Express has chosen to provide the service as a reward to its existing cardholders. As a result, they include some features normally reserved for monthly-fee ISP's, including 24-hour toll-free technical support, and advertising-free webspace. American Express Online is also the first service we've reviewed that provides access to Usenet newsgroups.

The service does still show ads at times, but they're normally shown only when the user is not actively clicking or typing. When the ads do appear, they're much smaller then the ads seen with other free ISP services, and don't take up any important space on the user's screen. Though I found the pop-up ads slightly irritating at first, I quickly became used to seeing them, and found the ads to be less irksome than the flashing banners shown constantly by other free ISP's. See the screen shots for examples of the advertisements shown by the service.

The one provided e-mail account is easily accessible either from Outlook Express or a snazzy webmail interface, and experienced users will have no trouble uploading a website to their 5 MB of free webspace using FTP. Those who are new to creating webpages aren't well served by Amex Online's webspace, though, and should consider using an easier web site host (Homestead is highly recommended for new web publishers).

Connections are generally speedy, and we've never experienced a busy signal. Software setup is also a breeze, and Amex Online doesn't choke if you have more than one modem installed. All users are, however, required to have Internet Explorer 5.5 installed, and users without the current version of IE will have to spend some time downloading the browser.

At this time, Canadian users are out of luck, as are potential subscribers with Macintosh computers. Amex says they haven't yet decided whether to provide service to either group.

We give American Express Online 4.5 out of 5 stars, and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a free ISP.

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