Review: American Express Gold Card

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If you’re someone who enjoys food…and, really, who doesn’t…then the American Express Gold Card just might be the rewards card for you.

Add in its travel benefits, and you’re looking at an extremely powerful rewards points earner – the transferrable Membership Rewards points in this case – for those who want a credit card that’ll work for them.

Its major downside is its mid-level annual fee.

Stick with me, though, and you might decide the card’s benefits offset the higher than usual fee you’ll have to pay.

American Express Gold Card

First, let’s start off with a rundown of the card’s benefits.

The card earns:

  • 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. restaurants
  • 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases then 1x)
  • 3x Membership Rewards points for flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com
  • 1 Membership Rewards point on all other purchases

Dining Credit

Each month you’ll receive a $10 statement credit when the Gold Card is used to pay at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and participating Shake Shack locations.

While this won’t be good enough for a free meal each month, it is a nice savings if you regularly use one of the food delivery services or eat at one listed restaurants.

If taken full advantage of, this dining credit equates to a savings of $120 each year.

Airline Fee Credit

Select one qualifying airline and receive up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits when incidental fees such as baggage fees and more are charged by the airline to your Gold Card.

If you travel at least a few times per year, this airline fee credit can come in very handy.  You can offset those dastardly baggage fees the airlines so love to charge, seat upgrade fees, change fees, etc.  There are restrictions on what is considered a “fee,” so be sure to read the terms before charging something to the Gold Card and expecting it to be credited as part of this benefit.

If for some reason you won’t be taking advantage of the airline fee credit, there are ways to turn the credit into cash.

Airline gift card purchases at American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest all trigger the airline fee credit.  Meaning, if you purchase a $100 Southwest gift card from southwest.com, using your Gold Card to pay, you’ll get an automatic $100 statement credit, effectively giving you a free $100 to spend on Southwest airfare.

American Airlines gift cards purchased at AA.com, in the amount of $100, will also trigger the $100 statement credit.

Delta, however, isn’t quite as easy. Any Delta gift card purchase from delta.com over $50 will not triggerthe statement credit.  So you’ll need to buy two $50 Delta gift cards to get the full $100 airline fee credit benefit.

Keep in mind, the purchase of airline gift cards is not supposed to trigger the credit, but it does for the airlines listed above.  This could change at any time.

All of the above airlines will allow gift cards to be used toward airfare on that airline.

You can also turn those gift cards into cash by selling them on eBay, or for a more reliable sale, American and Southwest gift cards can be sold on cardcash.com for close to 80% of the card’s value.

If used in full, the airline fee credit can provide a savings of $100 each year.

AnnualFee: $250

Yes, the annual fee is a bit steep at $250, but when factoring in the benefits ($120 dining credit annually + $100 airline fee credit annually) an argument could be made that the annual fee is effectively $30.

Add in the Membership Rewards points earning power of 4x at U.S. restaurants and grocery stores, and the American Express Gold Card just might be the go-to rewards card for many families.

American Express Sign-Up Bonus

If you search for the American Express Gold Card on American Express’ website, you’ll see a current sign-up bonus of 50,000 Membership Rewards pointsafter spending $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of card membership.

50,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus is as good as it gets for this fairly new Gold Card.

There may be slightly better bonus offers in the future, but there’s no guarantee of that.

And, conversely, the sign-up bonuses can, and do, decrease.  In fact, just recently, the sign-up bonus showing on the Amex website for the Gold Card was just 25,000.

If you’re interested in the Gold Card, I’d jump on the 50,000 MR points sign-up bonus.

Currently, my Referral sign-up link to apply for the American Express Gold Card is offering 40,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of card membership.

That may change, offering an equal or better sign-up bonus than Amex is offering on its website.

I would encourage – and appreciate – you checking my referral link first if applying for the American Express Gold Card is of interest.

Referral Sign-Up Link for the American Express Gold Card

Obviously, I’d go for the highest sign-up bonus possible – which, as of the writing of this post is on the American Express website.

Sign-up bonuses do change, but even when they are lowered publicly, it’s possible to find the higher bonuses by using a few search tricks.  Depending on when you read this, and the current sign-up bonuses that are being offered, you might want to give the suggestions below a try.

First, I would recommend using the incognito mode on your browser and continuing to visit the American Express Gold Card link on the Amex site.  It may take multiple visits to get a new sign-up bonus to show.

Also, clearing your browser’s cache after each visit, or using a different browser – in incognito mode – may help.

And, finally, using a Virtual Private Network such as Windscribemight help in getting a larger sign-up bonus to show, as well.  And, as an aside, it might also be a good tool for browsing, in general, when using public wi-fi networks.

Full disclosure, should my referral link offer the best sign-up bonus at the time you check, I’ll get 10,000 Membership Rewards points for each approved application via the Referral Sign-Up Link above.  Thank you in advance should you decide to apply using the referral link.

Membership Rewards Points

After all that discussion of Membership Rewards sign-up bonuses and bonused earning on restaurant, grocery and airline spend, some may be saying…what are Membership Rewards points, anyway?

Membership Rewards is American Express’ rewards program.  Points are earned via spend on select American Express credit and charge cards.

Membership Rewards points can be used in a variety of ways, the most lucrative being to transfer to travel partners for free airline tickets and hotel stays.

Airline travel partners include (and their transfer rates):

AeroMexico  (1,000 MR to 1,600)

Aer Lingus (1,000 MR to 1,000)

Air Canada  (1,000 MR to 1,000)

Air France/KLM  (1,000 MR to 1,000)

Alitalia  (1,000 MR to 1,000)

All Nippon Airways  (1,000 MR to 1,000)

Asia Miles  (1,000 MR to 1,000)

Avianca (1,000 MR to 1,000)

British Airways  (1,000 MR to 1,000)

Delta SkyMiles  (1,000 MR to 1,000)

El Al  (1,000 MR to 20)

Emirates  (1,000 MR to 1,000)

Etihad Guest  (1,000 MR to 1,000)

Hawaiian Airlines  (1,000 MR to 1,000)

Iberia  (1,000 MR to 1,000)

JetBlue  (250 MR to 200)

Singapore Airlines  (1,000 MR to 1,000)

Virgin Atlantic  (1,000 MR to 1,000)

Transfers of Membership Rewards points to U.S. airline frequent flyer accounts incur an excise tax offset fee of $0.0006 per point with a maximum fee of $99.

For example, if you transferred 50,000 Membership Rewards points to your Delta SkyMiles account, your linked credit card would be charged $30. The same would be true for transfers to Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue. And hotel travel partners (and their transfer rates): 

  • Choice   (1,000 MR to 1,000)
  • Hilton   (1,000 MR to 2,000)
  • Starwood/Marriott   (1,000 MR to 1,000)

While transferring Membership Rewards points to travel partners oftentimes provides the most value, there are other ways to use your Membership Rewards points.

  • You can book travel via amextravel.com using Pay with Points
  • You can Pay with Points when checking out at select retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart and more
  • You can cover your charges by using Membership Rewards points to offset card charges with statement credits
  • You can use Membership Rewards points to “purchase” over 80 brands of gift cards
  • You can shop with Membership Rewards points, often using fewer points than offsetting already made purchases on your Amex card
  • You can donate your points to the charity of your choice through the JustGiving site

AMERICAN EXPRESS APPLICATION RULES

American Express has instituted a once-in-a-lifetime rule for getting credit card sign-up bonuses.

If you’ve received a sign-up bonus for the American Express Gold Card in the past, you will not receive the bonus again.

That is unlikely, though, considering the Gold Card was introduced late last year.

The Gold Card’s predecessor, the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is considered a separate product, so those who did receive a sign-up bonus for the American Express PRG card canget the Gold Card’s sign-up bonus.

That aside, you want to make any Amex application count and only apply for the highest sign-up bonus possible.

As mentioned earlier, for the American Express Gold Card that would be 50,000 Membership Rewards points.

Wrap Up

The American Express Gold Card is one of the “hottest” rewards cards currently available.

Its 4x points earning ability in categories – dining and grocery stores – many spend regularly, and in high amounts, makes it a great rewards card to have in your card arsenal.

Add in the dining and airline credits and the Gold Card can really benefit you.

Of course, the $250 annual fee may be a deterrent for some…which I totally understand.

The key is running the numbers on points earning for your specific situation and being realistic about how much of the credits you’ll actually use to see if the annual fee can be justified.

Keep in mind, holding the Gold Card will also allow you to access the potentially lucrative Amex Offers that can also offset an Amex card’s annual fee.

If American Express ever decides to waive the annual fee the first year of card membership as part of a sign-up bonus incentive, I wouldn’t hesitate to submit an application.

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