The American Express Gold Card is a fantastic card for lovers of food and travel. Formerly known as the Premier Rewards Gold Card, this card was revamped in 2018 to much acclaim. Amex raised the card’s annual fee to $250 (NOT waived the first year), made it’s earning structure more powerful, and added some new benefits.

The Gold Card is the most lucrative card for those who want to earn Membership Rewards (MR) points. That’s because it has the some of Amex’s highest bonus category multipliers in two useful categories. Plus, it’s one of the best-earning mid-tier cards on the market. This makes it a great option for those who want to earn points but not pay an annual fee over $450.

 

Earning

The Gold Card earns 4x MR points at Restaurants worldwide and at Grocery Stores in the United States. But the 4x points are limited to the first $25,000 in purchases per year. It also earns 3x points on amextravel.com purchases and only one point per dollar on non-bonus spend.

Furthermore, the Gold Card has a public sign-up bonus worth 35,000 MR points. You can earn it after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months. The minimum spend requirement used to be just $2,000 within the first three months. But Amex doubled it to $4,000 in October 2019 to better align with competitors. Unfortunately, this makes the Gold Card’s bonus much less desirable than it used to be. I wish Amex would raise the number of points to at least 50,000. This way, the bonus will be more valuable and competitive.

 

Burning

Earning points is fantastic, but points earned are useless if you cannot redeem them for anything of value. Amex has multiple options for redemption:

Transfer Partners

American Express’ transfer partners are this card’s most valuable redemption option. They are the reason why points and miles enthusiasts love Membership Rewards so much. Amex transfers points at a 1 MR to 1 partner currency ratio unless otherwise noted.

Hotels
  • Choice Privileges
  • Hilton (1 MR = 2 Hilton Honors Points)
  • Marriott
Airlines
  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeromexico (5 MR = 8 Premier Points)
  • Air Canada
  • Air Italia Millemiglia
  • Asia Miles / Cathay Pacific
  • Avianca Lifemiles
  • British Airways
  • Delta Airlines
  • El Al Israel Airlines (50 MR = 1 Matmid Point)
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue (5 MR = 4 TrueBlue Points)
  • KLM Flying Blue / Air France
  • Nippon Airways
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Your mileage may vary for each partner. But for most partners, you should be able to easily redeem your points for at least 1.5 cents per point (CPP).

Other Options

You can redeem points for paid travel, but I don’t recommend doing so. This option gives you a value of 1 CPP toward airfare, and between 0.75 and 0.85 CPP for hotels, cars, cruises, or whole vacations.

Gift cards, merchandise, and statement credits are not recommended. You will earn less than 1 CPP using these options. If cash back or gift cards are what you want, this card is probably not for you.

 

Benefits

The Gold Card does not have the benefits of the Platinum Card. But that’s fine because Amex doesn’t leave cardholders empty handed. Part of the Gold Card’s revamp in 2018 was the addition of new benefits.

Airline Incidental Credits

The Gold Card card offers $100 per year in airline incidental credits. Amex intends them to be used for “incidental purchases” like in-flight purchases and checked bags. And they have strongly stated their intentions by banning gift card purchases to trigger the credits. Unfortunately, this ban has limited the use of this perk for many cardholders.

Baggage Insurance

This benefit is a great one to have if your luggage goes missing while traveling. Amex’s Baggage Insurance covers up to $500 for checked bags and $1,250 for carry-on bags.

Dining Credits

You will receive $120 in dining credits for select restaurants each year. But the catch is that Amex gives you one $10 credit each month, making them hard to use. Amex did this with the Uber Credits on the personal Platinum Card.

These credits are only useful for tipping if you eat at the select restaurants. Otherwise, they are relatively useless.

Extended Warranty

You will receive an extra year of warranty on purchases with warranties of 5 years or less. This is a standard benefit on most Amex cards, the Gold Card being one of them.

Hotel Collection

After booking a hotel room through amextravel.com and using your Gold card to pay for everything, you will receive a $75 statement credit and a room upgrade. The room upgrade could be worth hundreds of dollars (and possibly justify the card’s annual fee), depending on where you stay.

No Foreign Exchange Fees

You will save 3% on all purchases made outside the United States with the card.

Secondary Car Rental Insurance

This benefit covers the entire loss, damage, or theft of your car rental after your regular insurance’s policy kicks in.

Trip Delay Insurance

Amex’s Trip Delay Insurance can reimburse you up to $300 if your flight gets delayed at least six hours. One use of any of this insurance can justify the card’s annual fee. This is a new benefit that was added to the Gold Card in January 2020.

 

Similar Cards

Check out one of these alternatives if the American Express Gold Card is not right for you:

American Express Everyday Preferred Card

The Everyday Preferred Card is a more conservative alternative to the Gold card. At $95, it has a much lower annual fee. However, the annual fee is NOT waived the first year.

The Everyday Preferred Card earns 3x MR points at US Grocery Stores, 2x points at US Gas Stations, and  one point for non-bonus spend. But you will receive a 50% points bonus if you use the card at least 30 times per month. This means you can earn 4.5x points at Grocery Stores, 3x at Gas Stations, and 1.5x on everything else with the bonus. It also means that the Everyday Preferred can potentially be a better earner at Grocery Stores for a much lower annual fee.

The Everyday Preferred Card has a sign-up bonus worth 15,000 MR points. It can be earned after spending just $1,000 in the first 3 months. This bonus is meager compared to most other transferrable points earning cards with similar annual fees. I wish that Amex would increase this bonus to be more competitive with the likes of Chase and Citi.

I would recommend this card over the Gold Card for those who don’t want to pay a $250 annual fee. People who cannot use the Gold Card’s perks will also be better off with this card. Both cards have the same redemption options and standard Amex perks. If you find Amex’s credits and the Hotel Collection useless, this card is a better alternative.

American Express Green Card

Another alternative to the Gold is the American Express Green Card. This card is better for those with more general travel expenses than grocery store expenses. Plus, it has a lower annual fee at $150 (NOT waived the first year).

The Green Card earns 3x MR points on General Travel and Dining. Fortunately, American Express includes flights, hotels, tolls, subways, ride-sharing services, taxis, and local commuter transit within the “General Travel” category. All other purchases earn just one point per dollar.

Furthermore, the Green Card comes with a public sign-up bonus worth 30,000 MR points. Bonuses have been as high as 45,000 MR points online. All bonuses can be earned by spending $2,000 within the first three months. The Green Card’s bonuses are decent, but competitors have much better bonuses.

Plus, the Green Card comes with two credits as its main perks. Both credits are great for those who do not have any premium cards; most of which come with better versions of the perks. You will receive a $100 annual LoungeBuddy Credit in lieu of lounge access. The card also comes with a $100 CLEAR Credit for those in lieu of Global Entry or Pre-TSA.

 

Final Draw

The American Express Gold Card is great for travelers who spend a lot on dining and groceries at home. It’s best suited for these purposes, despite not having any foreign transaction fees. However, there are many competitors out there that can be better options for travelers. Just be sure that you want to earn Membership Rewards points instead of (or in addition to) other transferrable points.

 

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