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The American Express Gold Card is definitely one of the most valuable travel credit cards out there. It shines with its lucrative bonus categories and mid-range annual fee (not to mention the metal). However, the card does have some faults that you want to be aware of. In this comprehensive review article, I will tell you everything you need to know about the American Express Gold Card.
The Amex Gold Card intro
The American Express Gold Card is one of the most valuable travel rewards credit cards available because of the potential to earn so many points on dining and groceries. While this is an amazing card, I would first get a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred since that card is subject to the Chase 5/24 rule (and also has better travel protections).
The 5/24 rule means that you cannot get approved for a Chase card if you have opened up five or more accounts in the past two years. So it is almost always better to prioritize Chase cards before jumping on American Express cards if you want to have the best available options.
Because the Gold Card is a charge card and not a credit card, it is not subject to all of the American Express application rules like the 1/5 rule, the 2/90 rule, and the four or five card limit.
However, this card is still subject to the Amex once per lifetime rule which states that if you have ever had this card before you cannot receive the welcome bonus again.
It is also worth noting that if you had the Premier Rewards Gold Card in the past, the welcome bonus for this card will not be available to you.
By the way, if you want to automate the calculations for all of these credit card rules, you should check out WalletFlo which will help you optimize your cards and automate all of these things.
- 35,000 points to 50,000 points
The bonus on this card can range from 35,000 points to 50,000 points, depending on the offer. The standard offer available to the public is for 35,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.
However, if you get a little bit lucky you can use Google Incognito browsers to find offers up to 50,000 points and referral offers are usually stronger than 35,000 points as well. At a valuation of 1.75 cents per point, 35,000 points amounts to $612 worth of travel!
But you can get a lot more value with your points if you transfer them out to partners like the ones listed below and use your points for premium cabins, such as business class and first class.
Below you can see the list of airline partners and a valuation for each. (The valuation is lower because those valuations are not focused on premium redemptions which can often be close to $.10 per point!)
|Airline Program||Ratio (MR to airline)||Airline mile value (est.)||Transfer wait time|
|Cathay Pacific||1:1||1.2||48 Hours|
|Iberia||1:1||1.3||24 to 72 hours|
|Singapore Airlines||1:1||1.3||24 to 72 hours|
Here is a look at the hotel partners:
|Hotel Program||Ratio (MR to partner)||Hotel point value (est.)||Transfer wait time|
- 4X points at Restaurants
- 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in spend per calendar year)
- 3X on airfare
4X points at Restaurants
4X at restaurants is one of the features that makes this card so special. When compared to other cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve which only earn 3X on dining, this 4X at restaurants worldwide really stands out.
You might be curious about other dining cards like the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card that earn 4% back on all dining purchases.
The important distinction here is that the Savor Card earns only cash back while the Gold Card earns points that can be transferred out to travel partners allowing you to earn wayyy more than 4% back. I’ll talk a little bit more about the valuations below.
4X points at U.S. supermarkets
I also really love the 4X at US supermarkets. There is the limitation of up to $25,000 in spend per calendar year but that is a lot of spend each year. I feel like I spend a lot in grocery stores each month and still have plenty of room for these 4X earnings.
3X on airfare
Earning 3X on airfare is not too bad. You can earn this on airfare purchases made directly with the airline or through Amex Travel. It is worth pointing out that the Platinum Card earns 5X on airfare though and that the travel protections are not that great for the Gold Card (more on that below).
If you value American Express points at 1.75 cents per point, earning 4X is like getting 7% back on your purchases. That is a ton of value going back into your wallet and it is the reason why I use this card for almost all of my dining and grocery expenses.
It does not take much spend to offset the annual fee for this card entirely. If you spent $3,571 on US supermarkets and restaurants that would earn you approximately $250 worth of Membership Rewards at 1.75 cents per point.
Now imagine if you utilized the dining credit and airline credit that I discuss below which would knock the effective annual fee down to a mere $30. In that case, if you spent just $428 in one year on dining and supermarkets, you would earn enough points to offset that effective annual fee.
This is why the $250 annual fee does not bother me at all. I know without question that I am coming out on top with the Gold Card and it is not even close.
$120 dining credit
The Amex Gold Card provides you with $10 monthly dining credits. These credits work on a monthly calendar basis. This means that they will reset at the end of each month, regardless of when you originally opened your credit card.
These credits can also only be used at select establishments, such as:
- The Cheesecake Factory
- Ruth’s Chris Steak House
- Shake Shack
Grubhub is a service you can use like Uber Eats where you can have food delivered to you from a variety of restaurants (take out is a possibility, too). Thus, this $10 credit can actually be used at a lot of different dining establishments. You can enter in your location here to see which places can deliver to you.
You’ll need to factor in potential delivery fees/tips into your orders though which can reduce the value of your credit and that’s one reason I recommend take-out as an option.
Seamless is another food delivery service that you can look into and they are part of the same company as Grubhub. You can search for what delivers near you here.
In the past, the terms and conditions stated that the prices for Grubhub and Seamless would remain the same as in-restaurant menu prices but they removed that language and now it’s possible that prices could be higher when ordering through Grubhub or Seamless so this is just something to keep an eye out for.
The Cheesecake Factory
The Cheesecake Factory operates over 210 full-service restaurants. Here’s a sample menu. A classic burger will set you back about $13 and many dishes will remain under $20. You can search for locations here.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Ruth’s Chris Steak House is an upscale chain of over 100 steakhouses across the United States, Canada and Mexico. For many steak dishes, you’re going to be shelling out $40 to $60+. You can search for locations here.
Shake Shack serves up some of the best burgers in the country for a fast food joint. Shake Shack is still growing and plans to have at least 200 locations in the U.S. and 120 globally licensed locations by 2020. You can have a single burger for around $4.85 and a double burger for about $7.40. You can search for locations here.
Note that this excludes Shake Shack locations in ballparks, stadiums, airports and racetracks.
$100 airline credit
The Amex Gold Card allows you to receive a $100 airline credit every year. This is a credit that can be used on things like incidentals. This credit must be activated each year and you must choose a qualifying airline to use your credit on.
What airlines work for the Amex airline credit?
Qualifying airlines include:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Spirit Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
Only the Basic Card Member or Authorized Account Manager(s) on the Card Account can select the qualifying airline.
It’s a good idea to review what types of purchases actually qualify for the airline credit because some of the exclusions might surprise you.
American Express officially states that the following qualify for the airline credit:
- Checked baggage fees (including overweight/oversize)
- Itinerary change fees
- Phone reservation fees
- Pet flight fees
- Seat assignment fees
- In-flight amenity fees (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, headphones)
- In-flight entertainment fees (excluding wireless internet because it’s not charged by the airline)
- Airport lounge day passes & annual memberships
Baggage fees are typically $30 for your first checked bag for a one-way flight with most domestic carriers like United. So with this credit you could cover one and a half round trips and not have to worry about paying for checked baggage. The reimbursement for change fees is also very handy since that could slice those expensive $200 change fees in half.
The other nice way to use this fee is for an airport day pass. I actually used my credit once for admission into the Admirals Club lounge which was nice because I got to enter the lounge in Houston and also in Dallas for my connection.
The following items are explicitly excluded:
- Airline tickets
- Mileage points purchases or mileage points transfer fees
- Gift cards
- Duty–free purchases
- Award tickets
The three biggest exclusions are upgrades, gift cards, and award tickets since those are commonly sought after purchases. There are often exceptions to these exclusions and sometimes these purchases can still trigger the credits but it often depends on the airline and the exact amount of the purchase.
Gold Card protections
The Gold Card has some solid purchase protections that make it a great card to use when shopping. However, many of the travel protections are on the weaker side. I will go through some of the top protections below to let you see how they compare.
The Gold Card will protect your purchases for up to 90 days from the date of purchase if the item is stolen, accidentally damaged or lost. The coverage is limited up to $10,000 per occurrence, up to $50,000 per Card Member account per calendar year.
This time period was recently dropped from 120 days down to 90 days. The drop is significant because the Chase Sapphire Reserve still offers protection for up to 120 days so now that benefit will cover you longer.
I usually forgo extra rewards when dealing with large purchases just so that I can ensure the best purchase protection. For example, I have cards that could earn me something like 1.5X on all purchases but I would rather have better purchase protection on a higher limit up to $10,000 then earn some extra points on a purchase.
For warranties of five years or less, the manufacturer’s warranty can be extended up to one additional year. In the past, this warranty would be extended for up to two additional years but now it is only extended one additional year.
However, the fact that it covers warrantees up to five years is still very significant because many other cards only cover warrantees for up to three years or less. So I would still rank the Gold Card as one of the best cards to use for the extended warranty benefit.
If your trip is delayed 12 hours or more, you can get coverage for up to $300 for the delay. You can use these funds for necessities like lodging, meals, and toiletries.
This coverage amount is not on par with the best premium cards that offer $500 but the biggest letdown is that it only kicks in after 12 hours versus six hours that other cards offer. Therefore, I would not rely heavily on this card for trip delay protection.
Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance
The Gold Card does not have trip cancellation and interruption insurance. Unlike other premium American Express cards like the Platinum Card or Hilton Aspire, the Gold Card does not come with any trip cancellation coverage. Once again, this is a big shortcoming when it comes to travel perks on this card.
Baggage delay protection?
Another protection missing here is baggage delay which would allow you to go and purchase toiletries and clothing items if your baggage was delayed. You can get this if you purchase the travel insurance through American Express but this benefit is not built into the Gold Card unlike other travel cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
- Baggage Insurance Plan
- Secondary car rental insurance
- No foreign transaction fees
- The Hotel Collection with American Express Travel (When you stay at least two consecutive nights get a $100 hotel credit and room upgrades when available)
- Personalized Travel Service
- Amex Offers
- Preferred Seating— access to premium seats for select cultural and sporting events.
I am absolutely in love with the American Express Gold Card when it comes to earning rewards with my every day spend in dining and groceries. That 4X really adds up in a hurry and I have netted a ton of value from this card and offset the annual fee really quickly.
The problem is that it does not have the best travel protections and so I don’t usually use this card for any travel purchases because I get so much better protections with other cards.
If you can catch the high 50,000 point offers for this card it is an absolute bargain but even if you have to settle for the 35,000 point offers, this can still be one of the most valuable travel cards that you will come across.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the digital smart wallet, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.