The New Amex Gold Card: How Are The Bonus Categories Defined?

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Yesterday we saw the introduction of the American Express® Gold Card, which I’d say is probably the hottest card to be introduced since the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

What makes this card so incredibly rewarding is the return on spend that it offers. Specifically, the card offers:

  • 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. restaurants
  • 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

Earning 4x points at U.S. restaurants without caps, and 4x points on up to $25,000 of spend at U.S. supermarkets annually, is an incredible return. I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so to me that’s like a 6.8% return in those categories.

I’ve received a few questions as to exactly what purchases do and don’t qualify for the restaurant, supermarket, and airfare categories, so let’s look at the points earning structure of the American Express® Gold Card a bit more closely.

Amex Gold Card 4x points at restaurants

The American Express® Gold Card offers 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. restaurants with no caps. According to the terms (and most of this is pretty obvious, but worth reiterating):

  • You don’t earn additional points for purchases made at a restaurant owned by a U.S. company but located outside the U.S. (e.g. Hard Rock Café in Paris)
  • You may not earn additional points for purchases at a restaurant located within another establishment (e.g. a restaurant inside a hotel, casino, or event venue)
  • You don’t earn additional points for purchases at nightclubs and convenience stores

Beyond that, dining is generally a broad category. Keep in mind that this all comes down to how the merchant is categorized, so American Express isn’t responsible if a merchant categorizes themselves in an untraditional or incorrect way.

As a general rule of thumb, the “restaurants” category should include everything from fast food to coffee shops to fine dining to many bars. It won’t include all bars, but based on my experience most bars categorize themselves as restaurants (the same isn’t true for nightclubs). Unfortunately in my experience food delivery services (like Postmates) aren’t categorized as restaurants for these purposes.

Earn 4x points at restaurants

Amex Gold Card 4x points at supermarkets

The American Express® Gold Card offers 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $25,000 of spend per calendar year. Superstores (Target, Walmart, etc.) and warehouse clubs (Costco, Sam’s Club, etc.) don’t qualify towards this category.

However, places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s generally do qualify. Also, while this won’t be the case across the board, I’ve also found that wine merchants and liquor stores are often categorized as supermarkets. Again, I can’t guarantee it’s always the case, but my favorite place to buy wine is categorized as such.

Earn 4x points at supermarkets

Amex Gold Card 3x points on airfare

The American Express® Gold Card offers 3x Membership Rewards points on airfare purchased directly from airlines, or through There’s no cap to how many bonus points you can earn, and no requirement that you be purchasing a ticket on a US airline, or even a flight originating in the US.

Private jet flights and charter flights are excluded, as are flights booked as part of a package deal, or through an online travel agency.

On the last point it’s worth mentioning that often when you purchase an airline ticket through an online travel agency you’re still charged directly by the airline, in which case you’d still qualify for triple points. But that’s not a guarantee, since you’re not always charged in that way.

Earn 3x points on flight purchases

Bottom line

The American Express® Gold Card is a killer new card, given that it offers 4x points at U.S. restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, which are categories that many of us spend a lot in. If you value Amex points similarly to me, that’s a return of almost 7% in those categories, which is unreal.

These are largely also pretty broad categories, so hopefully the above answers any questions regarding what type of purchases should and shouldn’t qualify for bonus points.

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  1. It is worth noting for Walmart that there are “Walmart Neighborhood Markets” which is just the grocery store (not the super store) and these are classified as grocery stores by American Express despite being under the Walmart name. I get 6% cash back at these Walmart Neighborhood Markets with my Blue Cash Preferred.

  2. My Amazon Prime Visa gives me 5% back (I think) on Whole Foods so this would be just for dining. CSR is equivalent for airlines. Still I may get the card

  3. @Marcus – Yes, the Prime visa does have 5% at Whole Foods.

    @Lucky – What bothers me is the limitation on US restaurants… why bother advertising no FX fees if you have no incentive to use it outside the US? It just seems kind of contradictory on AmEx’s part.

  4. My experience is different in that Amex has been stingy with the dining categories. My local coffee shop only gets me 1x (best coffee in DC). Also when I use apps of fast casual restaurants that rely on LevelUp (e.g. Sweetgreens, Takorean) those also give me only 1x. Also my campus cafeteria gives me 1x points with no bonus. In all those cases and many more, my Sapphire Reserve gives me 3x points. Amex is definitely stingier than Chase on bonus category. I’m not ranting about this, as it’s still a fantastic card and I’m especially pleased with the grocery bonus, but just want to correct the story here a bit. So my strategy going forward will be to use AMEX Gold at big grocery stores (I’m not yet sure how they code local corner stores and others) and at nicer restaurants, while probably about half or more of my dining dollars (including all meals in foreign countries) will stay with Chase. The big thing I’m waiting for now is the relaunch of the Citi Prestige benefits. If they give 5x points for dining it will be my go-to card for dining and I’ll just use the Amex Gold for groceries (and for my significant other, since they have no authorized user fee and easily sort purchases by user making it easy to share bills). I think Citi, like Chase, is far less stingy than Amex about what counts as bonus restaurant purchases.

  5. @trupp go through a referral link and you’ll get 50k point sign up bonus.

    It took me about 3 mins of googling to find one.

  6. AMEX has done a great job of confusing consumers, for most of us this card is a big yawn. The annual fee is too much for the benefits, you can’t count the food service credit as anything other than you’re prepaying for the food service whether you use it or not. The only upside is the capped grocery store amount, but I can do nearly as well as this via other options, there’s no point in me getting this card.

  7. Personally people calling this a CSR killer seem to be stretching it a lot

    If you specifically go out a lot in the US and spend a lot on groceries not at Costco ( that was 33% of my monthly bill at least) I can see why this would be better than the CSR.

    Otherwise at best it’s close in value and doesn’t have the same flexibility or benefits given the net cost. If one values the grubhub/food discount very little it’s close to the same net cost as the CSR with nowhere near the benefits.

    I will say this though for couples it might make sense for one to have the CSR and the other to have the Amex Gold

  8. Minor question for the group. I swear that my AMEX PRG used to give me 3x points for gift card purchases through the MileagePlusX app, but it no longer codes as airfare. Does anyone else remember that? It seemed like a good loophole at the time, but now I guess I’ll be going to the CFU.

  9. Hoping for an upgrade offer on my Amex EP. This would allow me to not have to open a new card. I would also get rid of my CSR and my wife will keep hers. We’ll use her CSR for any non-airfare travel (Amex Plat for airfare) and restaurants abroad.

  10. Another interesting aspect of this card that I haven’t seen mentioned is that this card might be the best way to rack up Marriott points now. While the SPG Luxury card only gives you 3x on dining, you can get 4x with the Gold card and then transfer to Marriott at 1:1 ratio. Not sure it’s still the best use of MR points but if one needs/wants Marriott points, this isn’t a bad way to get them.

  11. Grubhub/Seamless code as restaurants if I’m not mistaken. I get the bonus on bars I feel like maye 75% of the time? Nightclubs rarely.

  12. @George – they fixed this for both the PRG and Platinum cards a while ago, but yes, you were once able to buy Amazon gift cards through MPX, among other things. 🙁

  13. 7-11 convenience store is classified as groceries, and 7-11 with a gas station is classified as gas, at least on my Ascend card.

  14. Just apped and even though I had the PRG card in the past I was prequalified for this and didn’t get the popup so hopefully I will get the bonus.

  15. Anyone have data points as to whether restaurants/food trucks using Square are categorized as restaurants?

  16. You can also buy gift cards at grocery stores to get your 4x at target, gas stations etc.
    And amex frequently have offers to add to the bonus. They had an extra point at whole foods a while ago and that lasted 6 months. Their offers is where I get some crazy bonus. In some cases as much as 10x on hotel stays.

  17. Just as I was about to upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve I am now a bit torn. I spend ALOT on restaurants although a decent amount ex-US, but little at grocery stores,

  18. Based on my first month of using this card, nearly 2/3rds of the restaurants I go to aren’t giving 4x credit despite being listed as a restaurant on my AMEX statement. AMEX says it has to do with IRS coding. They’re looking into it, but if this is truly the case, this card in my case is next to worthless and will get canceled in a week. What a joke! It is very disappointing as usually AMEX has good customer service and perks – I’ve had a Plat AMEX for over 15 years and haven’t ever regretted it.

  19. I’ve noticed a similar issue with mine as well. No bonus for Square transactions at restaurants despite being categorized correctly on my statement. Very disappointing…

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