You're right, you need an approved card to do ray-tracing. But when you say that "AE won't let you do 3D effects", do you mean it shuts down or is simply glacially show?
I get the feeling you need to spend a lot of quality time here:
All the effects that I do in a 3D environment will not show up on the new layers that I added. The old stuff shows up with the effects applied but when I export there are no layers at all. I just made this project last week and all was good and now it doesn't work.
Sigh.... use the active camera to double-check your stuff.