This is another installment in my Maximizing Amex series where I examine the benefits of American Express cards and Amex’s Membership Rewards Program. The articles include; Post 1: Understanding the Card Offering. Post 2: Understanding Membership Rewards. Post 3: Understanding Transfer Bonuses. Post 4: Platinum Card Review. Post 5: SkyTeam Transfer Partners. Post 6: Oneworld Transfer Partners. Post 7: Star Alliance Transfer Partners. Post 8:Understanding Emergency Travel Assistance and Travel Accident Insurance. Post 9: Purchase and Return Protection and Extended Warranty. Post 10: Car Rental Benefits. Post 11: Gold and Premier Rewards Gold Card Comparison.
This post is all about the American Express Gold and Premier Rewards Gold Card charge cards and the differentiating factors. To be honest, for a long time I didn’t even know the Premier Rewards card existed – it’s branding just blended in with the normal Gold card, but there are indeed some key differences – particularly related to spend bonuses.
High level details:
Premier Rewards Gold: $175 (currently waived for the first year for new applicants)
Card type: Charge card (both), which means there is no pre-set spending limit, but you have to pay it off every month or else you get hit with serious fees and high interest rates.
Membership Rewards (both). Transfer points to a number of airlines (see below) or use points to buy travel (1 point = 1 cent and tickets/hotels purchased this way earn miles and elite status)
Star Alliance: Air Canada Aeroplan, Continental (Until September 30, 2011), Singapore, ANA
Oneworld: British Airways, Iberia
Skyteam: Delta, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Alitalia, Aeromexico
Other: Airtran, Virgin Atlantic, El Al, Frontier, JetBlue, Hawaiian
Gold:1 point per dollar spent, 2x points for travel, 4x through Amex Bonus Points Mall
Premier Rewards Gold: Earn triple points on airfare*, double points on gas and groceries**, and single points on virtually everything else. Earn a 15,000 points bonus when you hit $30,000 in spend (can only be earned once per year).
*Only purchases of tickets on all major U.S. passenger airlines and many international airlines
** Charges at U.S. stand-alone gas stations and supermarkets, are eligible for bonus points. Charges at tour operators, charter flights, departments of superstores, or warehouse clubs are not eligible for bonus points.
Global Travel Assistance?: Yes (both). See benefit details here.
Lost Baggage Coverage?: Yes (both). See benefit details here.
Foreign Transaction Fees?: Yes (both), 2.7% on all foreign purchases.
Point Expiration?: American Express Membership Rewards points do not expire as long as you keep your card open and the account is in good standing. If you plan to cancel a card, I recommend transferring the points out into your frequent flyer account or redeem them for travel/giftcards.
So in summary, the Premier Rewards card is a much better card for only $50 more. I see no reason why (barring an exceptional targeted offer) someone would open a regular Gold card right now considering the sign-up bonus is less, the annual fee is not waived and the card comes with less benefits.
Additionally, the only time a regular Gold card might make sense is if you spend very little on your card and don’t buy travel, gas or groceries.
If you currently have a Gold card and want to upgrade to the Premier Rewards, your best bet is to apply as a new applicant so you get the sign-up bonus of 25,000 points when you spend $2,000 within three months. Once you get the card, it’ll link to your existing American Express account and you can downgrade or close your Gold card. When applying for the 25k bonus make sure you are logged out of your Amex account and some people may need to clear cookies. American Express generally offers less points if you upgrade to a card than if you apply brand new (doesn’t make much sense to me, but that’s the way it is). As always, if you do decide to apply, I’d greatly appreciate if you used my secure referral link- I can vouch its for the 15k offer and it’s how I keep this site running.
Feel free to share your thoughts on either of the cards or your experience bumping their sign-up bonuses to 75,000!
If you travel a lot – especially internationally, it might make sense to step up to the Platinum card.
Previous post: Update on the LRA Paid Hotel Surveys