American Express Gold Card Review (2019)

Filed Under: American Express, Credit Card Reviews
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The past couple of years American Express has refreshed their portfolio of cards, especially those cards earning Membership Rewards points. One of the changes that we’ve seen is that the popular Premier Rewards Gold Card was rebranded as the Amex Gold Card. In this post, I wanted to take a closer look at that card.

Amex Gold Card Basics

For someone looking to earn Membership Rewards points, the American Express® Gold Card is one of the most rewarding cards out there. The card offers up to 4x points in useful categories, and offers some annual credits that potentially help offset the annual fee.

So let’s look at what you should know about this card.

Welcome Bonus

The Amex Gold Card offers a welcome bonus of 35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months. Personally I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so to me those 35,000 points are worth $595.

Note that while this is the best publicly available welcome bonus, sometimes better offers are available through referrals from existing cardmembers, so that’s something to always look out for.

Redeem Membership Rewards points for travel in ANA first class

Card Eligibility

The welcome bonus on this card isn’t available to those who currently have the card, or those who have had the Premier Rewards Gold Card in the past.

However, if you have had this card or the Premier Rewards Gold Card before you’re still eligible for the card, but you’re just not eligible for the welcome bonus. In some circumstances it could still be worth getting the card in those situations if you’d benefit from it on an ongoing basis.

Annual Fee

The Amex Gold Card has a $250 annual fee (Rates & Fees), and it isn’t waived for the first year.

You can add additional cardmembers to your account at no extra cost.

Charge Card Vs. Credit Card

The Amex Gold Card is a charge card. What’s the difference between a credit card and a charge card?

  • The basic distinction is that a credit card allows you to finance charges over time, while a charge card requires you to pay off your balance in full each month
  • While credit cards have a credit limit, charge cards don’t

So a charge card can be useful if you’re making a big purchase, since it’s more likely to be possible on a charge card than a credit card where you have a defined limit.

There’s another important distinction here if you’re considering applying for this card:

  • Typically you can have at most five American Express credit cards at a time
  • Typically you can get approved for at most two American Express credit cards in a 90 day period

American Express charge cards are not subjected to this limit. This means that you could be approved for the Amex Gold Card even if you already have five American Express credit cards, and even if you’ve already applied for two American Express credit cards in the past 90 days.

Earning Points With The Amex Gold

What makes the Amex Gold Card so valuable is the bonus categories it offers, including:

  • 4x Membership Rewards points at restaurants globally
  • 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $25,000 in purchases annually
  • 3x Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com

This is an outstanding return on spending. Based on my valuations, that’s like a 6.8% return at restaurants globally and at U.S. supermarkets.

For dining this card even beats the 3x points that the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers on dining — this is one of the best credit cards for dining purchases.

Now let’s take a closer look at just how those bonus categories are defined.

4x Points At Restaurant

When the Amex Gold Card was introduced it only offered 4x points at restaurants in the U.S., but this has been extended to restaurants globally. There’s no limit to how many bonus points you can earn with this.

Generally speaking restaurants are defined pretty broadly, and includes everything from fast food to cafes to fine dining.

Just note that convenience stores, nightclubs, and restaurants located within other establishments won’t typically qualify for bonus points.

Furthermore, eligibility for bonus points is determined based on how the merchant chooses to be categorized. So there’s a chance that some merchants may not be categorized correctly at times.


The Amex Gold Card is great for dining purchases

4x Points At U.S. Supermarkets

The Amex Gold Card offers 4x points on the first $25,000 spent every calendar year at U.S. supermarkets. This excludes superstores and warehouse clubs, so don’t expect you’ll be able to earn those bonus points at Sam’s Club, for example.

3x Points On Flights

The Amex Gold Card offers 3x points on airfare with no limits on how many bonus points you can earn. This only applies when booking directly with an airline or through amextravel.com. Furthermore, charter flights and private jet flights are excluded.

Officially booking through online travel agencies (except amextravel.com) wouldn’t earn you bonus points, though in practice it may still sometimes code for 3x points. That’s because often online travel agencies still have the airline bill you directly when you book flights through them.

Earn triple points on flights with the Amex Gold Card

No Foreign Transaction Fees

The Amex Gold Card has no foreign transaction fees, so you can use it for purchases globally.

Redeeming Membership Rewards Points

The Amex Gold Card earns Membership Rewards points. This is one of the four major transferable points currencies, and is a favorite points currency for many. While I love Membership Rewards, I’d say that not everyone should be earning these points. Let me explain who should and shouldn’t earn Membership Rewards points.

Transfer Points To Airline & Hotel Partners 

The best way to redeem your points is to transfer them to one of the Membership Rewards airline or hotel partners. Points can be transferred to the following 22 partners, including 19 airline partners and three hotel partners:

AirlinesHotels
Aer Lingus Aer ClubChoice Privileges
AeroMexico Club PremierHilton Honors
Air Canada AeroplanMarriott Bonvoy
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Alitalia MilleMiglia
ANA Mileage Club
Avianca LifeMiles
British Airways Executive Club
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Delta SkyMiles
El Al Matmid
Emirates Skywards
Etihad Guest
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
Iberia Plus
JetBlue TrueBlue
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

The reason this represents such a good value is because you can get outsized value towards first and business class travel. These tickets are often super expensive if paying cash, while they can be a good deal on points.

On top of that Amex often has transfer bonuses, which can get you even better value.

Redeem your points for Lufthansa’s incredible first class

How Not To Redeem Membership Rewards Points

I’d note that while you can redeem Membership Rewards points towards the cost of merchandise, towards gift cards, or to pay off your statement, these aren’t good uses of your points. You’ll typically get less than one cent of value per point, so that’s not how I’d redeem them.

Furthermore, while you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points towards the cost of a paid travel purchase at a good rate (up to 1.5 cents per point), such a good rate isn’t available with Amex Membership Rewards.

So in general I’d recommend earning Membership Rewards points if your primary interest is transferring points to partner programs.

Amex Gold Card Benefits

The Amex Gold Card offers a variety of benefits that can help offset the annual fee of the card. This includes up to $220 worth of credits annually, in addition to other value-added features. Let’s take a closer look at how those work.

$100 Airline Fee Credit

The first perk is that the Amex Gold Card offers a $100 annual airline fee credit every calendar year. This is very similar to the credit offered on the Amex Platinum Card, it’s only half as much.

Here are the basic terms to be aware of:

  • Purchases by both the primary card member and authorized users are eligible, but you’re limited to a single credit no matter how many authorized users you have
  • You can use the credit for one purchase or over multiple purchases, and it will keep applying until you reach the $100 limit
  • The card member has to select the airline with which they want the credit
  • The credit is potentially valid for purchases with most major US airlines, including American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United
  • If you’ve already selected an airline, you’ll be able to change it one time per year, each January; if you don’t change it, the same airline will remain selected
  • The terms state that the credit should post within 2-4 weeks, though in my experience it posts much faster than that

So, what kind of purchases are eligible? According to the terms, here are the purchases that are and aren’t eligible for the credits:

Fees not charged by the Card Member’s airline of choice (e.g. wireless internet and fees incurred with airline alliance partners) do not qualify for statement credits. Incidental air travel fees charged prior to selection of a qualifying airline are not eligible for statement credits. Airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets are not deemed to be incidental fees.

Use your airline fee credit to cover an airline change fee

This credit can be useful for anything ranging from baggage fees, to ticket change fees, to close-in ticketing fees, etc. Note that in the past there was a workaround where this could often be redeemed towards airline gift card purchases, though that’s no longer the case.

$120 Dining Credit

The second perk is that the Amex Gold Card offers a dining credit of up to $120 per year. This gives enrolled members up to $10 per month in statement credits when you pay with your card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations.

The $120 dining credit is a bit more complicated:

  • This credit is valid for purchases with Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations
  • Purchases by both the primary card member and authorized users are eligible, but you’re limited to a single credit no matter how many authorized users you have
  • The credit comes in the form of a $10 monthly credit, for a total of up to a $120 credit each year
  • Shake Shack locations in ballparks, stadiums, airports, and racetracks, aren’t eligible
  • The terms state that this isn’t valid for gift card or merchandise purchases, though it’s anyone’s guess if that is enforced
  • Only purchases in the United States qualify
  • The terms state that the credit should post within 2-4 weeks, though in my experience it posts much faster than that

Get up to $120 per year in value with the Amex Gold dining credit

Amex Offers

One of the great features of Amex cards is access to Amex Offers, which offers savings or bonus points on purchases with all kinds of retailers. There’s huge value to be had in getting as many Amex cards as possible, so that you can get these offers on multiple cards.

Amex Offers could save you hundreds of dollars per year. You can access these offers by logging into your account and scrolling down to the bottom of your account summary page.

ShopRunner Membership

For having the American Express Gold Card you get a ShopRunner membership, which gets you free two day shipping on eligible items at a network of 100+ online stores. You just have to enroll in your complimentary membership and can then start taking advantage of it.

The Hotel Collection

For staying two or more nights at select luxury hotels you can receive extra benefits through The Hotel Collection. Benefits include a $100 hotel credit and a room upgrade if available.

This is different than Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, which requires having a Platinum Card.

Purchase, Return, And Warranty Protection

The Amex Gold Card offers some potentially valuable purchase protection, return protection, and extended warranty. While you’ll want to check your cardmember agreement for all the details, you can potentially expect:

  • Purchase protection, offering protection on eligible purchases that are accidentally damaged, stolen, or lost; valid for up to 120 days, and $1,000 per occurrence, and $50,000 per calendar year
  • Return protection, where Amex may refund a purchase in full when you try to return an item within 90 days and the merchant won’t take it back; valid for up to $300 per item, up to a maximum of $1,000 per calendar year
  • Extended warranty, where you can get up to two extra years added to the original manufacturer’s warranty, for warranties of five years or less

Is The Amex Gold Card Worth It?

The Amex Gold Card is a spectacular card for anyone who spends a lot of money on food (whether at restaurants or supermarkets), and who is looking to earn Membership Rewards points.

For a long time the Chase Sapphire Reserve® was the undisputed champ when it came to dining, but this card is now even more rewarding for dining (note that the Citi Prestige also offers 5x points on dining).

Just to give a bit of context, let me share some good complements to this card, as well as other cards to consider.

Best Amex Gold Card Complements

The Amex Gold Card could be a fantastic complement to some other Amex cards that earn Membership Rewards points, including:

While the $250 annual fee is steep, hopefully, many people can recover most of that fee using the annual statement credits. If you’re someone who could maximize those, this is essentially a card that will cost you $30 per year “out of pocket,” and offers lots of great opportunities to earn points.

Spend A Lot On Dining?

If you’re someone who spends a lot on dining but prefers to earn cash back, I’d also consider the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card (review), which has a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year, and offers 4% cash back on dining and entertainment.

Showdown: Amex Gold Vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

In many ways I’d say the most direct substitute to the Amex Gold Card is the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (review), which offers 3x points on dining and travel, a Priority Pass membership, the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards travel, and more.

The card has a $450 annual fee, though that’s offset by a $300 annual travel credit, which will automatically be applied towards any travel purchase.

So, which of the cards makes more sense? I’d say the Sapphire Reserve could be worth considering if you spend more on travel than grocery stores, if you want to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards travel purchases, and if you value a Priority Pass membership.

Meanwhile if you spend a lot at supermarkets as well, the Amex Gold Card is probably a better option.

Amex Gold Card Summary

The Amex Gold Card is one of American Express’ best credit cards for earning points. With 4x points on dining and supermarkets, earning Membership Rewards points is easy.

The card also offers some credits that are potentially useful, which for many will help offset the annual fee.

If you want to learn more about the Amex Gold Card or apply, follow this link.

Apply Now

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees).

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Comments
  1. Don’t forget access to the AMEX Hotel Collection. Offers the $100 resort credit and room upgrade

  2. I have this card right now (well technically I have the rose gold) and the amex offers alone ‘pays’ off the annual fee. Yes, even though that airline credit is not eligible for gift cards anymore, I’m still going to keep my amex gold simply because I easily save over $500 a year from the amex offers.

  3. IMO the Chase Sapphire Reserve (or Citi Premier) is a complement, not a substitute, because of the travel category and some of the different redemption options. It’s funny that Chase doesn’t offer grocery spending on its UR cards as a normal category (probably because people would abuse it with manufactured spending) while Amex doesn’t offer “travel” on its MR cards (not sure why this is, especially with Uber as a partner). Because of this you kind of need to have both cards in order to maximize.

  4. With Amex adding so many hurdles to utilizing their credits, and overlap between the secondary benefits (Amex offers, Shop Runner, Hotel Collection, etc) between the Gold and Platinum, I’m not finding much value in keeping both. One will be gone this year, though I’m not yet sure which it will be.

  5. This review couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Gold. With the airline credit now useless, I will be closing my card, even though I was super-excited about it just last fall. But the incremental returns over CSR are just not worth spending an extra $100 in fees for. As for the Amex Offers, sure they are great, but I rarely get offers on the Gold that I don’t also get on other Amex cards with much lower annual fees. And since the ability to redeem on multiple cards is gone as well…

  6. @weiskel This is exactly right and the unfortunate reality is the inability to utilize the airline credits hits Amex’s most loyal customers the hardest. For those holding a single card, it’s easy enough to find a way to use $100-200 per year, but for those with multiple cards, it’s nearly impossible to utilize these. For example, my wife and I have a Gold, Plat and 2 Aspires. There is no way we can use $800 in annual credits.

  7. @MattR I am not sure if I would agree with your definition of “most loyal customers.” If a customer resorts/exploits the gaps in contract to maximize their gain, I am not sure how “loyal” that customer is, or how valuable that customer is. Now, I am no supporters of “playing fair with the banks” (since the banks, Amex incl., don’t play fair anyway), but if you look at it from Amex’s point of view, how valuable are those customers who do everything in their power to extract every cent out of the system?

    Furthermore, I also am not sure how valuable customers with multiple cards are, especially if they also strive to maximize their card earnings. I would imagine (I may be wrong, of course) that the most rewarding spending categories are loss-leaders (i.e. they lose money when you make purchase, since they have to reward you more, but you may make more purchases elsewhere). Sign-up bonuses probably are also loss-leaders. As such, customers with multiple cards probably ain’t the most profitable ones, since these customers mostly spend in loss-leaders, which means they mostly cost Amex money.

    So, maybe Amex want to weed out exactly the kind of “loyalty” (read: losing money) customers you refer to? I don’t want to use the word exploitative (because, sigh, they respond in kind, so it’s not clear who exploits whom), but this kind of loyalty probably is not what they want?

  8. Agree with magice – the most “loyal” Amex customers are those that probably spend enough on an annual basis to get significant returns on the bonus categories regardless of the airline credits

  9. Just got the card last month and was easily able to find a referral link for 50,000 bonus points. Love this card.

  10. I do not think I would renew my gold card this year due to my spending pattern and MR usage pattern. To me the price has gone up by 155(annual fee +55 and loss of easy $100 airline credit) . While it is possible to offset it with Grubhub every month it is quite a hassle.
    I have other no fee/lower fee amex cards for amex offers. Also I still have the Platinum card so it does not make sense to pay another 250.

  11. @magice It’s actually quite the opposite. I would prefer to consolidate my spending with one bank/currency primarily, but Amex makes it prohibitively expensive. I can spend $975 in annual fees for my wife and I to carry the Plat and Gold, receiving maybe $200 in credits that I can actually use annually, or I can spend $525 for a CSR and CFU, receiving $300 in easily usable credits, and likely accumulate similar earnings either way. While Amex offers may offset a portion of that, that still heavily tilts toward Chase, unless you’re frequently utilizing Centurian lounges.

  12. @Joey, aren’t the no annual fee (or lower annual fee) Amex cards eligible for the same Amex offers? Or am I missing something? If so you may be able to get a better deal with another Amex card depending on your spending/travel patterns.

  13. And every Canadian Amex card holder is exploding right now because of the watered down version that is offered.

  14. I have the Gold as a complement to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. I like having the two currencies to earn on and frequent transfer bonuses with MR points are just an added bonus, not to mention Ebates transfers, etc.

    The only thing I’m not super thrilled about is Amex’s bizarre categorization of what constitutes a “restaurant.” To me, if an eatery has table service where I make a reservation, get table service, and pay the server with my card and then leave tip on the final tab: that’s a restaurant. Every time I use my Amex card and then see “1x points on cafes” I grumble a bit. They claim that it’s up to the merchant to correctly code themselves as a restaurant but I don’t see how that responsibility should fall to the customer. Whenever I’m in doubt, I stick with the CSR.

  15. The Gold with Schwab cash out into investments is hard to beat. 5% back on dinning and supermarkets, with CSR covering travel/insurance and dinning that doesn’t code with Amex.

  16. Thomas is 100% correct. Gold+Schwab+CSR+Freedom is a really unbeatable setup, and well worth the fees. Or you could do Gold+Schwab+Citi Premier

  17. I think it’s silly how many people are on a high horse about being a great customer to Amex when they just have sour grapes about not being able to exploit the airline credit anymore. Because bottom line that’s what you were doing. It was never intended to be used for gift card purchases, so I really don’t think Amex cares about losing your business. They never wanted it to begin with, and you’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise honestly.

    I also don’t like the Amex offer argument for justifying the fee as no fee Amex cards can get the same offers, so that argument makes no sense as far as negating the fee.

    I don’t think the Gold card is worth the fee for much of the population, but it’s still great for the right person. It’s just that people need to think about it more now that they cannot use loopholes to negate the fee. If you can organically make use of the credits to a degree, the card is still going to be useful for who it was intended for.

  18. Compared to the Canadian Gold Amex your benefits are wonderful. Jealous to the extreme.

    Caution to Canadians – this article DOES NOT APPLY to the CANADIAN CARD.

    Sure wish AMEX would listen to our complaints.

  19. This card has served me well but I’ll probably cancel it before the next annual fee due date and switch to the Citi Prestige. I managed to get through this year with the old $195 annual fee. I can’t make much use of the airline fee credits since having elite status means I don’t pay very many fees and is even more difficult to use now since gift cards aren’t being reimbursed. I can’t get much out of the dining credit either since I spend a large part of the year out of the US and even when I am home I live in a rural area so there are few qualifying restaurant choices. And that right there is the killer for many AmEx cards for me is how complicated the fee credits are to use. Citi and Chase’s are so much more straightforward and actually useful. If AmEx’s credits were more like those I would probably have gotten the Platinum Card already but with the way it is now I just can’t justify it. Add in the Prestige’s 5x points on airfare and 5x points on dining on top of the better fee credit and I think it’s time for me to move on from the Gold Card, even with the recent downgrades to the Prestige.

  20. I, for one, don’t believe that the Gold Card “new” benefits justify the increased annual fee. I’ve been an Amex card holder for over 40 years, and will have to decide if the increase in points earning will justify the fee increase to determine if I’m going to keep the card. I live outside the US about half the year, so the groceries and gas don’t work very well. Quite frankly, the $120 dining credit is totally worthless (I used $0 last year). If they would let you use the whole $120 on one trip to Ruth’s Chris, it might be worth it. As it is, it won’t buy a baked potato. And the $100 airline credit is mostly worthless (I used $10 last year). What used to be a good card has really deteriorated.

  21. Getting into the points game and need some advice. Majority of my spend is on travel and dining (~3/4). Trying to decide between the Amex Gold or the CFU/CSR combo. I spend enough on restaurants compared to non-bonus spend to make the 1x extra points on dining more appealing than the 0.5x extra points on everything else. Depending on how you value the points it also may offset the AF difference ($150 for CSR/CFU vs $250 for Gold since, as others have mentioned, the credits are now somewhat useless). My questions are:

    1. How widely accepted is Amex both in the US and abroad? If I can only use it ~75% of the time that significantly cuts down the earnings power.
    2. How do Amex offers compare to Chase’s?
    3. How frequently do people use the Priority Pass in US airports? From what I hear the lounges are mainly international.

  22. @curious From what you are saying it sounds like the Citi Prestige might be better than either. It offers 5x points at restaurants which sounds like by far the largest portion of your spend. AmEx is also much further behind both Visa and Mastercard in terms of global acceptance (the Prestige is a Mastercard). It has a $495 annual fee but comes with a no strings attached $250 annual travel credit so after that it works out to $245, cheaper than the Gold Card. It comes with a Priority Pass membership, Global Entry credit, basically all the bells and whistles that come with a card in that price segment. The only thing is that Citi doesn’t have an offers program like Chase and AmEx do. While we’re on that topic, to answer your second question, AmEx has a MUCH better offers program, although Chase’s has been improving in recent times.

    If for some reason you’re stuck with the two options you’ve given, however, I would personally go with the Reserve/Freedom Unlimited combo. I don’t know how much international travel you do but it sounds like at least some, in which case Visa’s better acceptance rate probably makes it worthwhile even if you’re earning 1 point less per dollar. With Priority Pass memberships, I think most major airports have at least 1 Priority Pass lounge (or restaurant) but once you get into midsize and smaller airports the pickings are definitely much slimmer.

  23. I have the Amex Platinum and CSR… I was thinking of downgrading the Amex to the Gold… Can I get the gold (and therefore accumulate the signing bonus) and then transfer my platinum points to the Gold card and close the Platinum card… thereby getting the bonus and keeping my points?

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