The credit card landscape has changed a lot in recent years, and then on top of that the pandemic has shifted consumer behavior.
With that in mind, I’d argue that one American Express personal card is better positioned for today’s evolving consumer behavior than any other. The card offers generous bonus points for dining and supermarkets, and even has a newly improved welcome bonus right now, which is particularly compelling. I’m talking about the Amex Gold Card, and I wanted to take an in-depth look at the card in this post.
Amex Gold Card Basics For October 2020
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 up to $220 in annual credits that help offset the annual fee.
So let’s look at what you should know about this card.
Amex Gold Welcome Bonus
The Amex Gold Card is now offering a welcome bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 within six months. Personally, I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so to me those 60,000 points are worth $1,020.
This is the best publicly available bonus we’ve ever seen on the card, and on top of that you have a full six months to complete the minimum spending requirement, which should be easy enough for most to accomplish, as that translates to under $700 per month in spending required.
Redeem Membership Rewards points for travel in Emirates first class
The welcome bonus on the Amex Gold 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.
Amex Gold 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 the Amex Gold at no extra cost, and you’d accrue points for their spending at the same rate you accrue points for your own spending.
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
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 (including takeout and delivery) 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.
Now let’s take a closer look at just how those bonus categories are defined.
Amex Gold 4x Points At Restaurants
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 the category includes everything from fast food to cafes to fine dining. This even includes delivery and takeout, which are increasingly popular ways to get food from restaurants in this era.
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
Amex Gold 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, and after that you’ll earn a single point per dollar. 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.
This is one of the best credit cards for grocery store purchases.
Amex Gold 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 (Rates & Fees), so you can use it for purchases globally. That’s especially useful when you consider that you can earn 4x points on dining abroad, all with no foreign transaction fees.
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:
|Aer Lingus Aer Club||Choice Privileges|
|Aeroméxico Club Premier||Hilton Honors|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||Marriott Bonvoy|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue|
|ANA Mileage Club|
|British Airways Executive Club|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles|
|El Al Matmid|
|Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
The reason this represents such a good deal is that you can get outsized value towards first and business class travel. These tickets are often disproportionately expensive if paying cash, while they can be a good deal on points.
On top of that Amex often has transfer bonuses, which can stretch your points even further.
Obviously right now travel isn’t as readily available as it used to be, so personally I’d view earning these points as more of an investment in future travel than anything else.
Redeem your points for Lufthansa’s incredible first class
How Not To Redeem Membership Rewards Points
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.
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.
Note that this benefit is valid through the end of 2021, at which point it will be discontinued. I think it’s highly likely that Amex will introduce another benefit to replace this, which may just be even more valuable.
Here are the basic terms to be aware of:
- Purchases by both the primary cardmember 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 two to four 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 airline baggage fees
This credit can be useful for anything ranging from baggage fees, to ticket change fees, to close-in ticketing fees, etc.
$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 two to four 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
Save Money Or Earn Bonus Points With 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.
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 And Warranty Protection
The Amex Gold Card offers some potentially valuable purchase 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 90 days, $10,000 per occurrence, and $50,000 per calendar year
- Extended warranty, where you can get up to one extra year added to the original manufacturer’s warranty, for warranties of five years or less
Trip Delay Coverage
Added in 2020, the Amex Gold Card offers trip delay coverage in situations where your flight is delayed by over 12 hours. You’re entitled to up to $300 per trip for necessary expenses, like hotels, meals, and other essentials. You’re eligible to make two claims per 12 consecutive month period.
This is all the more reason to put airfare purchases on this card, so you can earn triple points while getting some travel protection.
Is The Amex Gold Card Worth It?
The Amex Gold Card is a great 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, but doesn’t otherwise offer bonus categories that are as well rounded).
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:
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (review), which offers 2x points on the first $50,000 spent every calendar year
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (review), which offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines, and offers a huge number of benefits
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.
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, a $60 annual DoorDash credit, a one year Lyft Pink membership, and more.
The card has a $550 annual fee, though that’s offset by a $300 annual travel credit, which will automatically be applied towards any travel purchase. The way I view it, this card really costs you $250 per year.
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, Lyft Pink membership, and/or DoorDash credit.
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 don’t yet have the card, now is the time to get it. The card has an excellent new bonus of 60K points, which is the best public bonus we’ve seen on the card yet.
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees).