Amex Gold Card
A $10 per month Uber credit and a $10 per month credit for a small set of restaurants can partially offset the annual fee.
50,000 Membership Rewards points ($2,000 spend).40,000 points ($2,000 initial spend) with referral link
25,000 Membership Rewards points
$2,000 initial spend
($450 net value, .23/$)Signup Bonus Chart
4x Restaurants (≈6%)
4x Up to $25,000/yr at US Supermarkets (≈3%)
3x Airfare (≈4.5%)
1x Everywhere Else (≈1.5%)
No Foreign Transaction Fee
If you are comfortable earning Membership Rewards points and using them for frequent flyer tickets (especially for premium class tickets), the Gold card offers great rewards on Dining and Groceries (and potentially Airfare).
It is particularly worthwhile for people who are willing to purchase Gift Cards at their local supermarket and then use them at other merchants (or resell them).
The Gold Card is also interesting just for its signup offer (especially when there is a promotional offer and it is coupled with an Amex referral). Because it is a "charge" card, it is not subject to Amex's limit of 4-5 total "credit" cards.
Amex Gold Card Options
Amex has a Amex Business Gold Rewards Card but the features and benefits of the two cards are different enough that each is covered in their own guide.
Introduction to Membership Rewards Points
Membership Rewards is the name of Amex's own rewards program. Membership Rewards Guide
- Membership Rewards points can be transferred to many different frequent flyer programs. This gives you the flexibility to take advantage of award space on over a hundred different airlines. In many cases, you can choose to book a flight through one of several different partner programs, allowing you to take advantage of whichever program requires the fewest miles and fees for your trip.
- Membership Rewards has many more airline partners than the other big credit card reward programs, such as Chase's Ultimate Rewards and Citi's ThankYou Rewards. They also have many more credit cards with Membership Rewards bonuses. If you are willing and able to use your points to book frequent flyer tickets, especially premium cabin award tickets, Membership Rewards is the most valuable reward program.
- Amex frequently offers promotional transfer bonuses. When the promotion is active, you'll get extra airline miles when you transfer your Membership Rewards points to a specific airline. For example, if American Express is offering a 40% bonus for British Airways, you'll receive 14,000 British Airways points for every 10,000 Membership Rewards points you transfer. See Take Advantage of Transfer Bonuses to Get More Value from Your Reward Points for more information or visit Frequent Miler’s Current Transfer Bonuses page for a list of current (and past) promotions.
- Unlike Ultimate Rewards points, frequent flyer tickets are usually the only good option for redeeming your Membership Reward points. Membership Rewards' transfer rates for hotel programs aren't very attractive, it doesn't partner with any fixed-value airline programs (like Southwest), and you'll only get 1 cent per point when you use them to purchase travel through Amex.
- The only exceptions are for certain Amex Platinum cardholders:
- Amex BUSINESS Platinum Cardholders get a 35% rebate on some airfare purchases made through Amex. This works out to a value of 1.54 cents per point. While this isn't as much as we hope to get by using our Membership Reward points for frequent flyer tickets, you'll always get decent value from your points and don't have to worry about finding available award space. It is a lot better than purchasing travel at only 1 cent per point.
- Amex SCHWAB Platinum Cardholders get an option to cash out their points at 1.25 cents per point.
- We value Membership Reward points at 1.5 cents each. Because you can take advantage of award space and "sweet spots" from many different frequent flyer programs and the occasional transfer bonus, Membership Reward points are worth more than any single type of airline miles. If you highly valuable premium-cabin award tickets, Membership Reward points are worth even more. But if you want to avoid the hassles associated with frequent flyer tickets, they are worth significantly less. How Much are Points Worth?
Collecting the Signup Bonus
- It is worth signing up for this card just to collect the signup bonus. The typical signup bonus is 25,000 Membership Rewards points, valued at $380 (at 1.5 cents per point). Sometimes, even better targeted offers are available. You'll also receive $10 per month to use at one of set of different delivery and restaurant options and a $10 per month credit for Uber and Uber Eats. We value these credits at 75% of their face value.
- You can only earn the signup bonus once per lifetime. With Amex cards, you are normally not entitled to earn the signup bonus, if you've ever had the card before. However, you may eventually receive a targeted offer that bypasses this limitation, allowing you to earn the bonus an additional time.
- You may want to wait until you receive a better than normal offer. Since Amex will normally only let you receive the signup bonus once per lifetime, and frequently offers promotional signup offers, it can be worthwhile to postpone signing up, so you don't waste your bonus on a less valuable offer.
- You can earn Membership Reward points from many different credit cards. While you can normally only earn each signup bonus once, there are more than a dozen cards with Membership Reward signup bonuses. You can combine multiple sign-ups to earn hundreds of thousands of Membership Reward points.
After subtracting the annual fee and the opportunity cost of using the card for $2,000 of spending, the calculated net value for the initial year is $450 (23 cents per dollar spent). Your value may be higher or lower, depending on how much you value Membership Reward points and the two monthly credits. Introduction to 'Transferable' Reward Points.
Airline Incidental Credit
The Airline Incidental Credit is being phased out on the Gold Card. 2021 will be the final year for existing cardholders. New cardholders no longer get the benefit (even for 2021).
The airline incidental credit on the Gold Card works the same way as the one on the Platinum Card, except that is capped at $100 per year rather than $200.
- You can only use the Gold Card's airline credit for incidental expenses like baggage fees, inflight food and beverage purchases, and airport lounge access fees, not on actual ticket purchases or upgrades.
- Furthermore, you will only receive the credit for fees and incidental purchases made with a single airline. You choose one of the US airlines after you get the card and can only change the airline at the beginning of every calendar year (although if you haven't used the credit yet, Amex customer service will often let you make a change later in the year).
- The credit is automatically applied to any applicable charges. You simply use the card to pay the fee and it will be automatically offset on your credit card statement. If necessary, the credit will be spread across multiple charges.
- You were never supposed to earn the credit for airline gift card purchases, but up until recently, you could. Amex's terms explicitly exclude gift cards. But, since the introduction of the credit, it has been possible to purchase small denomination gift cards on at least some airlines. By buying $200 of gift cards, you could get full value from the credit and then use the "free" gift cards to purchase actual airplane tickets, either right away, or some time in the future (or resell the gift cards on the web). As of mid-2019, this is no longer possible.
- There are still some tricks to try to "cash out" your credits, but they involve more work and some risk. For more details see Get Full Value from Your Airline Incidental Credits.
- Because the airline incidental credit is issued on a calendar-year basis, you can qualify for two credits the first year you have the card. For example, if you sign up for the card in August, you can get up to $100 credit for purchases made between August and December and you can take advantage of another $100 credit between the following January and August.
- If you can take full advantage of the airline incidental credit, it makes the Gold Card's annual fee much more reasonable. And it boosts the value of signing up for the card for the initial year.
If you choose an airline that you fly most frequently, chances are that you already have a credit card or elite status that will let you avoid most fees. If you choose an airline you fly less frequently, there is a good chance you won't have an opportunity to be able to take full advantage of the credit each year.
Other Notable Benefits
- $10 per month dining credit. Every month, you can get $10 off any purchase from a set of participating US restaurants partners. You need to enroll first. When you make a qualifying purchase with the card, the credit is applied automatically. The current list is Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, and (most) Shake Shack locations. Grubhub and Seamless provide delivery service from a large number of different restaurants. If you want to avoid delivery fees, you can often use those services to place an order that you'll pick up yourself.
- $10 per month Uber credit. Credits can only be used within the United States, but can also be used for uberEats (and combined with the credit from the Platinum Card).
- Free year of Uber Eats Pass. You can activate a one-year subscription to Uber Eats Pass any time up until the end of 2021. With the subscription, you'll get a $0 delivery fee and 5% off purchases of over $15 at participating restaurants. Since the subscription is available on multiple cards, you might be able to sign up with one card for the remainder of 2021 and sign up with another card towards the end of the year for 2022. Once your year is up, they will automatically start charging the normal $10/month charge, so make sure to cancel.
- Free roadside assistance. The roadside assistance benefit that comes with most credit cards simply connects you a to nearby service provider. But this card actual pays for your roadside assistance services, including towing, lockout assistance, spare tire installation, jump starts, or emergency fuel. Free towing only includes the first 10 miles. Get Free or Discounted Roadside Assistance with these Credit Cards.
- Amex Hotel Collection. When you use this luxury hotel program program to book a two night stay at one of the participating hotels, you'll get a room upgrade (upon availability) and a $100 credit to spend on dining, spa, and resort activities. Hotel Collection Website.
- Access to Amex Offers. Amex continuously provides discount offers to their cardholders. Most of the offers are in the form of "Spend $x, get $y back", but other offers are in the form of "x% off your entire order" or "Earn an extra Membership Reward point on your purchases". To take advantage of the offers, you need to go to the Amex website, find the ones you are interested in, and "add them" to your card. Each offer will then be automatically applied when you use your card to make the corresponding purchase. Amex Offers Website.
- Free ShopRunner membership. As with all Amex cards, you are entitled to a complimentary ShopRunner membership, which provides free two-day and return shipping from around 150 of the largest online retailers. ShopRunner Website
- Exclusive access to entertainment events. Amex sponsors cardmember-only events around the country and also provides early ticket access for some other shows.
If you aren't going to have an opportunity to naturally use your credit in any given month, another option for ensuring that the credits don't go to waste is to purchase a $10 gift card at one of the participating locations.
The main reason to get the Gold Card is for its great reward rates on restaurant and grocery purchases. But the card has an expensive annual fee, so you need to make sure that the value of the extra rewards are worth it.
If you can get full value from the $100 incidental airline credit and the $10 per month dining credit, you can offset most of the ongoing expense of keeping the card. But if you can't use the credit, don't eat at the supported restaurants, etc., you may get very little value from the credits.
Also be sure that you are willing to deal with the complexities of using your Membership Rewards points for frequent flyer tickets. If you aren't and you don't have the Business or Schwab version of the Platinum Card, Membership Rewards points are only worth 1 cent each and the card's high bonus category reward rates are much less competitive.
- 4x Membership Rewards points is close to the most valuable reward rate on restaurant purchases. The best restaurant reward rate is probably the Citi Prestige's 5x ThankYou points (and because it is a Mastercard it is accepted at more restaurants). Other people might prefer the Sapphire Reserve, which offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points that can be easier to use or the the Altitude Go Card which earns 4% cashback. Best Credit Cards for Restaurant Spending.
- 4x Membership Rewards points is close to the best possible reward rate on grocery purchases. The only card that earns a higher reward rate is the Amex Everyday Preferred Card (assuming you make at least 30 purchases per month), which earn 4.5x Membership Rewards points. But even if you have the Everyday Preferred Card, you might still want the Gold Card. The bonus rewards on the Everyday Preferred is capped at $6,000 of grocery spending per year. The Gold card gives you bonus points on up to $25,000 per year. Best Credit Cards for Grocery Spending.
- The Gold card also offers decent rewards on your airfare purchases. You'll earn 3x Membership Rewards points, valued at 4.5 cents per dollar. This is more valuable than most other cards. However, the Amex Platinum card earns 5x Membership Rewards points, which is clearly better (but comes with a high annual fee). We would also prefer the Sapphire Reserve, which also earn 3x points that can be transferred to airline partners, but which provides better travel insurance and earns easier-to-use points. Best Credit Cards for Travel Spending.
- You don't want to use this card for your everyday spending. You'll earn higher rewards from a good general-purpose reward card. Get a Great General Purpose Reward Card and Use It for All of Your Spending.
At a valuation of 1.5 cents per Membership Rewards point, every $1,000 you spend on restaurants provides an extra an extra $10 in rewards compared to the Sapphire Reserve Card.
By taking advantage of gift cards available at most grocery stores, you can essentially earn 4x Membership Rewards points on a wide variety of purchases. If you can max out the $25,000 limit, you'd be earning 100,000 Membership Rewards points in grocery store rewards, valued at $1,500. Even at a 3% cash back rate, $25,000 in spending would normally only generate $750 in rewards. If you are willing to follow this approach, it is extremely easy to justify the Gold Card's annual fee. Maximize Your Category Bonuses using Gift Cards.
Getting Rid of the Card
- You need to be careful or you could lose your Membership Rewards points when you cancel your card. To keep your points, you need to hold onto at least one card that earns Membership Rewards points. If you don't have one, you either need to hold onto the card, downgrade it to the Green Card, open up a new Membership Rewards card (like the no-annual-fee Amex Everyday Card), or transfer all your points to your favorite airline program. Before cancelling, make sure to check that the card you're cancelling is linked to the same Membership Rewards account as your other cards (as it should be).
- Try to use your card's credits before you cancel your card. The airline incidental credit is based on a calendar year, so you ordinarily would have had plenty of time to use it. Ideally you would use the current month's dining credit before you cancelled.
- We usually recommend cancelling your card, rather than doing a product change. If you change to a card that you haven't had before, you won't be able to earn the signup bonus for that card in the future. In addition, signing up directly for the new card would earn a referral bonus for your Amex referral partner. And it usually isn't hard to get approved for a new Amex card when you need it.
- You can wait to cancel the card until after the annual fee shows up on your statement. As long as you cancel within 30 days of the statement closing date, Amex will refund the fee. After 30 days, you can receive a pro-rated refund by downgrading to a lower-priced card, such as the $195 Amex Green Card.
- You might be able to receive a retention offer to keep your card. It could be enough to make it worthwhile to keep the card.
You can product change between the personal Platinum ($550), Gold ($250), and Green ($195) cards.
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