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The American Express® Gold Card wants a seat at your table, whether you’re dining out or buying groceries. With four points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 a calendar year, then 1x), along with airline and dining credits that almost entirely cover its annual fee, Gold is looking better than ever.
When American Express first rebranded and updated the American Express® Gold Card with new benefits and earning rates in 2018, I was a little disappointed. The 4x bonus categories made this card one of TPG’s best credit cards for dining, but it was limited to purchases in the U.S.
That didn’t do me much good as an expat, and frankly, I was a bit disappointed to see a top-notch travel rewards card that didn’t work well for people traveling internationally. However, Amex has since expanded the dining bonus category to offer 4x points for restaurants worldwide — and although transactions don’t always code properly, I’m finally able to use this card while living abroad in Shanghai.
The Amex Gold card sits squarely between entry-level credit cards that have annual fees hovering around $100 and premium cards that have annual fees starting at $450 or more. The Amex Gold offers up to $220 in combined annual statement credits, which make it easy to justify this card’s $250 annual fee (see rates and fees). Whether your perfect meal is homecooked or at a fancy restaurant, let’s dig in to see what makes this card worth it.
Who is this card for?
If you like to dine out (or order in using delivery services such as Grubhub/Seamless) and you can make good use of American Express Membership Rewards points, this card is a no-brainer, with its valuable bonus categories and up to $220 in annual statement credits. It’s possible to offset the $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) to keep your out-of-pocket cost for this card as low as $30. If you’re a foodie, the 4x bonus points for global restaurants and U.S. supermarkets is a great way to earn bonus points with your American Express card.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has helped remind us that food and groceries are among the most essential line items in our budget, and the ones that are the most resilient during a recession. While other cards are offering limited-time bonus points for groceries and food delivery, in the long term, the Amex Gold is one of the best options in both of these categories.
Current welcome offer
The Amex Gold card is currently offering a welcome offer of 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening. Based on TPG’s latest valuations, that bonus is worth $700. It’s not the most impressive bonus, considering that we see offers ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 points on other cards.
However, it may be possible to get a 40,000-point welcome bonus via referral links or a 50,000-point welcome bonus through the Amex website or the CardMatch Tool (offer subject to change at any time). It’s definitely worth looking for one of these higher offers, which would be worth $800 or $1,000, respectively, based on TPG’s valuations.
The Amex Gold offers the following benefits, which go a long way toward offsetting the annual fee of $250 (see rates and fees):
Note that there are no foreign transaction fees with this card (see rates and fees), adding to its value as one of the best rewards credit cards on the market.
Up to $120 annual dining credit.Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at participating dining partners, including Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, some Shake Shack locations and Boxed. This perk is a monthly statement credit similar to the Uber credit on The Platinum Card® from American Express. Enroll through the Amex website to get this benefit.
Up to $100 annual airline fee credit. Each calendar year, you’ll receive up to $100 in statement credits toward incidental airline fees such as baggage fees and inflight purchases. This works the same as the credit on the Amex Platinum cards. You must designate a qualifying airline, which you can change once a year.
The Hotel Collection. When you book a stay through the Amex Hotel Collection, you’ll earn 2x points on your purchase and enjoy an up to $100 credit toward dining, spa and resort activities at the property. Note that the credit only applies to stays of two consecutive nights or longer.
Baggage insurance. If your luggage is lost, stolen or damaged when you’re traveling with a common carrier and you purchased your ticket with the Amex Gold, you’ll be eligible for up to $1,250 in coverage for carry-on baggage and up to $500 for checked baggage.
Trip delay reimbursement: This is one of the newest perks on the Amex Gold. If you purchase your trip with the card and your travel is delayed more than 12 hours because of a covered reason, you’ll be eligible for a reimbursement of up to $300 for eligible expenses, like meals, lodging and toiletries. You are allowed up to two claims per account every 12 months.
Despite not having the most impressive welcome bonus, the Amex Gold card really impresses when it comes to its bonus categories and long term earning potential (terms apply):
- 4x points on dining worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets (U.S. supermarkets capped at $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x)
- 3x points on flights booked directly from the airline or amextravel.com
- 1x points on everything else
The 4x on dining is an especially strong earning rate — equal to an 8% return based on our valuations. Even better, Amex has expanded the bonus multiplier to apply to restaurants worldwide, matching the broader dining bonus category on cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
The 4x points at U.S. supermarkets is also very strong, though it’s capped at the first $25,000 you spend per calendar year (then 1x). Despite the cap, the Amex Gold is one of the best cards to use at U.S. supermarkets. The 3x points on flights purchased directly from the airline or at amextravel.com isn’t bad, either — equal to a 6% return based on TPG’s valuations. Although other premium cards like the Amex Platinum offer higher returns on airfare, many of them also have higher annual fees.
The Membership Rewards points you earn with the Amex Gold can be transferred to 19 airline and three hotel partners. For instance, you can transfer points to Etihad Guest to book business class flights to Europe on American Airlines for 50,000 miles each way (one of many great redemption options available through this unsung program).
Virgin Atlantic also provides plenty of value — like the ability to score round-trip, first-class flights on ANA for as little as 110,000 points or Delta One Suites awards to Asia for only 60,000 miles each way. Another great redemption option is transferring points to Avianca LifeMiles for cheap rates on Star Alliance premium cabin awards. On the hotel side, you can transfer points to Choice Hotels, Hilton and Marriott.
You’ll generally get the most value from your Amex points by transferring them to a travel partner, although that isn’t your only redemption option. You can also use points to buy gift cards, cover charges on your billing statement, shop at Amazon or ride with Uber. You can also use points to book travel directly through Amex, though with the exception of transfer partners, all of these redemption options fall well short of TPG’s valuation of two cents per point.
One year of earning and burning with the Amex Gold
Although the Amex Gold is one of the most valuable cards in my wallet, it’s not the simplest to use. Getting the most value out of this card requires an effort to maximize both the dining and airline annual statement credits, though using the card at restaurants anywhere in the world and U.S. supermarkets is fairly straightforward. Everyday spending only earns 1x points.
If you put in all that work, it’s fair to ask what you get in return, so let’s take a look.
For starters, in your first year will see you earn a welcome bonus worth at least $700, and possibly up to $1,000 if you’re targeted for the 50,000-point offer through CardMatch. That’s a solid haul, and although it’s not the best bonus on the market, it’s good enough for a card that shines long past the first year.
I use Personal Capital to keep track of my finances and make sure I don’t forget about bills on my two dozen different credit cards. I also love that it tells you how much you spend each year in different categories. According to Personal Capital, the year before I moved abroad I spent roughly ~$4,500 in each of two categories: groceries and dining out. (Whenever I’m out to dinner with friends I try to put the bill on my credit card and have them pay me back over Venmo.)
So with $9,000 worth of eligible purchases in the Amex Gold’s 4x categories, I earned about 36,000 bonus Membership Rewards points, worth $720 based on TPG’s valuations. Add in the welcome offer and my total haul was worth $1,420.
Then there are the statement credits. I was able to use all of the monthly dining credits through Grubhub, and I fully utilized the $100 in airline incidentals as well covering checked bag fees when moving stuff home from college. In other words, I paid $250 for my annual fee (see rates and fees) but got $220 of it back in the form of statement credits, dropping my real (net) cost to just $30. That brings my first year total haul to $1,390, which I’m incredibly happy about.
For my last flight before the pandemic hit, I redeemed 90,000 Membership Rewards points for a $16,000 ANA first-class award ticket, further solidifying the outsized value I’m able to get from this card
Which Cards compete with the Amex Gold?
As noted earlier, the Amex Gold’s $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) places it between mid-tier and premium-level cards. However, although there’s no direct comparison on the annual fee front, there are several cards that offer similar bonus categories and perks.
One of the most obvious comparisons is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, with a $95 annual fee and 2x earnings on all dining (and travel) purchases. We value Chase points at 2 cents apiece (same as Amex points), so you’re looking at an effective return of 4% with the Chase Sapphire Preferred versus 8% with the Amex Gold on dining purchases. And while the fee is lower, the Sapphire Preferred doesn’t offer annual statement credits like the Amex Gold does.
On the premium end, the Chase Sapphire Reserve deserves a mention, as it was previously the reigning champ for the highest return on dining spending with a 3x earning rate. But the Amex Gold now tops that card’s 6% return, as does the Citi Prestige® Card with 5x on dining (though the Citi Prestige comes with a high $495 annual fee and awards less-valuable ThankYou points). The Sapphire Reserve also has a $550 annual fee, but, as you’d expect, it offers considerably more perks than the Amex Gold, such as a $300 annual travel credit and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit and Priority Pass lounge access. The information for the Citi Prestige cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
If you’re enticed by the Gold Card’s 4x bonus at U.S. supermarkets, you could also consider the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Card from American Express. It earns 3x points at U.S. supermarkets on the first $6,000 spent each year (then 1x), and if you make at least 30 purchases in a billing cycle, you’ll get a 50% bonus. That means you’d get a return of 9% with the bonus based on TPG’s valuations. This card also has a much lower $95 annual fee, but note the much lower cap on bonus earnings for U.S. supermarket purchases each year. The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The Amex Gold isn’t just a pretty card. Its 4x earning rate on dining worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets makes it a strong pick for pretty much all food purchases. The $220 in annual statement credits — between the dining credit and the airline fee credit — add value, and also make the $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) easier to swallow. The welcome bonus doesn’t turn heads, but the American Express Gold Card still earns a spot as one of our best cards and can rack up plenty of points for those with appetites for dining out or dining in.
Apply here for the American Express® Gold Card with a 35,000-point welcome bonus.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.
Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.