Review of the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card

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The American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card is often regarded as one of the top premium travel credit cards. It earns good rates on different bonus categories like dining and groceries, can offer some valuable sign-up bonuses, and comes with some superior benefits, such as exceptional purchase protection. Here’s my review of the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card and why it’s one of the top travel cards to get in 2016.

AMEX LOGO

Charge card vs Credit Card

The American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card is a “charge card,” which means that it must be paid off in full each month or else you face a hefty monthly fee. The benefit to a charge card is that you’re not restricted to a credit limit and so you have a little more flexibility — you just need to be able to keep yourself in check to make sure you’ll pay off your balance in full each month.

Premier Rewards Gold Card 3d

American Express will often offer you the opportunity to “pay over time,” however. This essentially turns your charge card into a hybrid credit/charge card and allows you to carry a balance. Typically, American Express will monitor your spending habits for approximately one year and then offer you this option (though sometimes it comes sooner).

In addition to being able to carry a balance, there are two benefits to the pay over time option. One, American Express does not conduct a hard pull on your credit when they check your eligibility. They run a soft-check in conjunction with their own internal credit check system. Second, American Express will usually offer you some kind of incentive and reward you with Membership Rewards for opting into pay over time.

Transfer Partners

American Express cards earn you Membership Rewards. They are generally considered one of more valuable reward currencies and these points can be transferred to several different airline and hotel partners. Below is a list of the eligible travel partners.

Airlines

singapore-airlines-logo2
  • Delta Skymiles
  • Club Premier AeroMexico
  • Aeroplan Air Canada
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • MilleMigilia Club Alitalia
  • ANA
  • Asia Miles
  • Avios British Airways (250 points = 200 Avios)
  • Emirates Skyrewards
  • Hawaiin Airlines
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue
  • KrisFlyer Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin America (200 points = 100 Elevate points)
  • Virgin Atlantic

Hotels

  • Best Western Rewards
  • Choice Privileges
  • Hilton HHonors (1,000 points = 1,500 HHonors points)
  • SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) (1,000 points = 333 Starpoints)

There are a few things to keep in mind about Membership Rewards:

  • Bonus transfers are occasionally offered allowing you to transfer your points to partners for higher ratios. Check this thread for a history of these transfer bonuses
  • Your Membership Rewards cannot be freely transferred between you and any friend or family members
  • They don’t expire as long as you remain a cardholder

Redeeming Points

If you don’t decide to transfer your Membership Rewards to other travel partners you can always utilize them for travel redemptions or purchases.

Membership Rewards can be redeemed for between .5 and 1.0 cent per point for gift cards and only .6 per point for a statement credit/charge. If you go through Amex Travel you can redeem at 1.0 cent per point on air fare but only up  to .7 cent per point on hotels. Aside from maybe using them for air fare to earn or maintain elite status, I personally do not think these are good redemption rates. However, depending on the circumstances (no availability with travel partners), it might make sense for you to redeem your points through the Amex travel portal.

Sign-up Bonus

There are several different sign-up offers for the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card that appear for this card. Here are the main offers:

  • 25,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days of opening your card.  This is the current main public offer.
  • 50,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days of opening your card. Good offer but not as good as the one below.
  • 50,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of opening your card. This is the offer you want to seek out!
  • 75,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days of opening your card. This is an extremely targeted and pretty rare offer that you may not want to waste your time waiting around for. 

The 50,000 Membership Rewards offer can often be found via Google Chrome Incognito. Simply get on the American Express website and try refreshing your browser and see if the offer comes up. If it doesn’t come up, try it at your work computer, a friend’s house, etc. It should eventually pop up, although some report never having any luck with finding the offer.

One bonus per lifetime

You need to know that American Express has a once per lifetime rule for receiving sign-up offers for its cards. So that’s why you want to make sure that you receive the best offer. There are some exceptions to this and you can read more about them in the American Express application rules article

Bonus Category Earning 

The Premier Rewards Gold Card earns some pretty great rates on different categories.

Amex PRG bonus categories
  • 3X on Airline Tickets (4X through the Amex Portal)
  • 2X on Dining, Groceries, and Gas
  • 1X on all other purchases

Although I love the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, I think for the average consumer who makes frequent trips to the gas station and grocery store, the Premier Rewards Gold Card will earn them more points. Also, if you fly frequently for business travel and are allowed reimbursements, booking your flights through the Amex travel portal can earn you a whopping 4X on your air fare, which can add up ridiculously quick.

Amex Offers

Amex Offers is one of the most underrated aspects of any American Express card. It’s basically a set of constantly updated promotional offers that are available to all Amex cardholders. Some of these offers will essentially provide you with free money, often giving you back $5-$15 off purchases at department stores or random online retailers, though some offer more significant savings on hotels and airfare. If you used consistently and effectively, you can easily save yourself $100-200 a year on items you would’ve likely purchased anyway.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

  • The Premier Rewards Gold Card has no foreign transaction fees.

Annual Fee

  • $195, waived the first year

This annual fee, which is $100 higher than the Sapphire Preferred® and Citi Thankyou® Premier, makes some people shy away from the card. However, when you consider the $100 airline credit, the annual fee is effectively cut back down to $95.

 

Purchase protection

The American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card has some of the best purchase protection on the market since it updated its terms to protect purchased up to $10,000 per claim. That’s much higher than other similar cards and is one reason I like to put large purchases on my Premier Rewards Gold Card. Here are some of the highlights of the protections:

  • Covers your new purchases for 90 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of five years or less.
  • You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $300 per item, $1,000 per year.

Travel protection

  • Car rental coverage is excess
  • Travel accident insurance of no more than $250,000 (death, dismemberment, etc.)
  • Will pay a benefit for the Replacement Cost, up to $500, for each Covered Person on a Covered Trip for Loss of checked Baggage.

Final Word

Overall, the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card is a great option if you’re looking for a card with a reasonable annual fee that has superior earning potential and a solid sign-up bonus that can help you be on your way to valuable travel redemptions as quickly as you can. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred vs AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card: The Best Travel Card?

Two of the best travel rewards credit cards out available right now have to be the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card. I’ve got both of them and figured I’d give my own personal take on these cards.

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Transfer Partners

Membership Rewards

The Premier Rewards Gold Card will earn you Membership Rewards that can be transferred to a variety of travel partners listed below: 

Airlines

Membership Rewards Airline Partners
Membership Rewards Airline Partners
Membership Rewards Airline Partners
Membership Rewards Airline Partners

These partners do not have all have the same transfer ratios as you can see below:

  • Delta Skymiles
  • Club Premier AeroMexico
  • Aeroplan Air Canada
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • MilleMigilia Club Alitalia
  • ANA
  • Asia Miles
  • Avios British Airways (250 points = 200 Avios)
  • Emirates Skyrewards
  • Hawaiin Airlines
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue
  • KrisFlyer Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin America (200 points = 100 Elevate points)
  • Virgin Atlantic

Hotels

Membership Rewards Hotels

  • Best Western Rewards
  • Choice Privileges
  • Hilton HHonors (1,000 points = 1,500 HHonors points)
  • SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) (1,000 points = 333 Starpoints)

There are a few things to keep in mind about Membership Rewards:

  • Bonus transfers are occasionally offered allowing you to transfer your points to partners for higher ratios. Check this thread for a history of these transfer bonuses.
  • Your Membership Rewards cannot be freely transferred between you and any friend or family members but you can transfer them to authorizes users’ rewards accounts. 
  • They don’t expire as long as you remain a cardholder

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Sapphire Preferred earns “Ultimate Rewards” that can all be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to a variety of travel partners listed below.

Airlines

  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Hotels

  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards

Which reward program is better? 

Both programs have their strengths and weaknesses and lots could be written in a comparison between the two but here’s a brief look at some of the key highlights of the travel partners.

Membership Rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards

Two partners overlap each program:

A lot of people seem to favor Ultimate Rewards over Membership Rewards and value them a little higher. Aside from hotel partners, though, I’d put Membership Rewards right up there with Ultimate Rewards and argue that the winner would just depend on one’s personal circumstances. 

Sign-up Bonus

Example of a targeted offer.

The standard sign up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred ranges from 40K to 50K, with an additional 5K for adding an authorized user. The sign-up bonus for the Premier Rewards Gold Card can range from 25K to 75K. The spend requirement for the Sapphire Preferred is typically higher at $4,000 while the Premier Rewards Gold Card’s spend requirement can fluctuate from $1,000 to $3,000. 

I think I’d give the nod to the Sapphire Preferred since it seems like the standard offer is usually higher than the standard offer from the Premier Rewards Gold Card (the offers above 25K are usually targeted and the 75K offer is a highly targeted offer that is very rare).

Bonus category earning potential 

Which card earns better bonus category earnings will obviously depend on your personal spending habits.

The cards earn the following rates: 

Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • 2X on Travel (This covers a broad range of expenses from tolls, parking, bus fairs, train tickets, and of course, air line tickets)
  • 2X on Dining worldwide

Premier Rewards Gold

  • 3X on Airline Tickets (4X through the Amex Portal)
  • 2X on Dining (at US restaurants), Groceries, and Gas
  • $100 Airline credit for incidentals

If you spend a lot on airfare, groceries, and gas, it’s possible that the Premier Rewards Gold Card will be the better earner for you. However, the travel category on the Sapphire Preferred is very broad so it all depends on how you spend most of your money. 

Bonus Point Potential with Additional Chase Cards

One of the major reasons I prefer the Sapphire Preferred over the Premier Rewards Gold Card is that you can supplement your earning with great no annual fee cards. 

  • The Chase Freedom has no annual fee and rotating 5X bonus categories for things like gas, restaurants, Amazon, and other stores.
  • The Chase Freedom Unlimited has no annual fee and it earns 1.5X on every single purchase. 
  • The Chase Ink+ (which can be downgraded to the Ink Cash with no annual fee) has 5X bonus categories on things like phone lines, cable, internet, and office supplies. The Ink+ also has 2X on gas and hotels.

Thus, the bonus earning potential with the combo of the Sapphire, the Freedoms, and the Ink cards  are truly tremendous and if you go with the Ink Cash, it essentially transforms the Sapphire Preferred into a super card with a $95 annual fee that blows the Premier Rewards Gold Card out of the water from a bonus points standpoint.

You can combine the Premier Rewards Gold Card with the no fee Amex EveryDay and earn 2X at supermarkets up to $6K per year (in addition to a 20% monthly bonus), but you can’t put together the same type of no annual fee combination like you can with Chase cards. 

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No Foreign Transaction Fees

Both cards have no foreign transaction fees which is really nice if you have travel abroad a lot because those foreign transaction fees can add up pretty quickly.

Purchase Protection

The purchase protection on both are pretty similar but the Premier Rewards Gold Card definitely edges out the Sapphire Preferred with its purchase protection up to $10,000! Here’s a breakdown of some of the highlights of the purchase protection plans of the cards. (Note: the list below is not comprehensive, to read up on all of the benefits, check the links below.)

Sapphire Preferred

  • Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.
  • If a card purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days, you can be reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item, $2,500 per year.
  • You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $500 per item, $1,000 per year.

Premier Rewards Gold

  • Covers your new purchases for 90 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of five years or less.
  • You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $300 per item, $1,000 per year.

Travel Protection

Again, there are many similarities in the benefits for travel protection between these cards but I think I’d give the nod to Sapphire Preferred for the reason they offer primary rental car insurance and seem to offer better coverage for lost luggage and delays in travel. The below list is once again not comprehensive and only includes more info on CSP as Chase has a much more convenient way to access the terms of its protections.

Sapphire Preferred

  • Car rental coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.
  • When you pay for your air, bus, train or cruise transportation with your card, you are eligible to receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000.
  • If you or your immediate family members’ checked or carry-on bags are damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger.
  • If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.
  • If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.

Premier Rewards Gold

  • Car rental coverage is excess
  • Travel accident insurance of no more than $250,000 (death, dismemberment, etc.)
  • Will pay a benefit for the Replacement Cost, up to $500, for each Covered Person on a Covered Trip for Loss of checked Baggage.

Annual Fee

The annual fee for the Sapphire Preferred is $95 while the annual fee for the Premier Rewards Gold Card is $195, both are waived for the first year.

Obviously paying an extra $95 sounds like less of a bargain but remember that the Premier Rewards Gold Card has the annual $100 airline statement credit, which essentially reduces the fee to $95. And actually, the statement resets after the beginning of the year so if you time it right, you can actually get $200 in airline credit before your annual fee hits. 

Customer Service

Amex has great customer service but the customer service for the Chase Sapphire Preferred is pretty outstanding as well. For example, when you call in for the Premier Rewards Gold Card you have enter in your credit card info and go through the motions to speak with someone but for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, a live representative picks up the phone almost always immediately when you call. As for receiving your card or a replacement, both providers will overnight your cards so that’s always nice. I’m not sure one beats out the other for customer service, but I do really like both in this regard.

Appearance

It’s a little silly to value a credit card based on how it looks but I don’t think there’s anything wrong in taking a little pride in how your cards look. The Premier Rewards Gold Card is a sparkly gold card with the signature American Express signage. It look prestigious and it’s one of my favorite to pull out of my wallet. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is on another level in my opinion. The card is made of metal and has a heavy feel to it that other instantly recognize and often comment on. The card even reads on the back, “Contains Metal DO NOT SHRED.”

It has a pretty dark blue design with embossed numbers on the back. There’s also no indication of Visa on the front of the card, which sometimes results in a couple of seconds of confusion/intrigue for cashiers when you hand them your card. So while the PRG is nice and sparkly, the Sapphire wins out on prestige appearance due to its metal composition and sleek design.

The Verdict

I think that for me the better card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. However, if I didn’t have the Ink and the Freedom cards, then it wouldn’t be so clear. Still, I value Membership Rewards a lot so I think there’s plenty of value in the Premier Rewards Gold Card and that’s why I hold both of these cards.