Foodies rejoice: American Express Gold credit card review

Sep 20, 2019

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The American Express® Gold Card wants a seat at your table, whether you’re dining out or buying groceries. With 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 a year), along with airline and dining credits that almost entirely cover its annual fee, Gold is looking better than ever.
Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

When American Express first rebranded and updated the American Express® Gold Card with new benefits and earning rates in 2018, I was a little disappointed. However, the 4x bonus categories quickly made this card one of TPG’s best credit cards for dining, but they were limited to purchases in the U.S. Amex has since expanded the dining bonus category to offer 4x points for restaurants worldwide, and although transactions don’t always code properly, I’m finally able to use this card while living abroad as an expat.

The Amex Gold card sits squarely between entry-level credit cards with annual fees hovering around $100 and premium cards with annual fees starting at $450. Amex Gold offers $220 in annual statement credits, which make it easy to justify this card’s $250 annual fee (see rates & fees and offer benefits). Whether your perfect meal is at a fancy restaurant or at home, let’s dig in to see what makes this card worth it.

In This Post

Who is this card for?

If you like to dine out (or order in using delivery services like Seamless) and you can make good use of American Express Membership Rewards points, this card is a no-brainer with its valuable bonus categories and up to $220 in annual statement credits. It’s possible to offset the $250 annual fee keep your out-of-pocket cost for this card as low as $30. If, you’re a foodie, the 4x bonus points for restaurants and groceries will whet your appetite.

Further reading: Why the Amex Gold is the perfect ‘in-between’ credit card

Current bonus

The Amex Gold card is currently offering a public welcome bonus of 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. Based on TPG’s latest valuations, that bonus is worth $700. It’s not the most impressive bonus, considering that we see offers ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 points on other cards. But it may be possible to get a 40,000-point welcome bonus via referral links, or a 50,000-point welcome bonus through the Amex website or the CardMatch tool (offer subject to change at anytime). It’s definitely worth investigating one of these higher offers, which would be worth $800 or $1,000 respectively based on TPG’s valuations.

Perks

The Amex Gold offers the following benefits which go a long way toward offsetting the annual fee of $250. Note that there are no foreign transaction fees with this card (see rates & fees) adding to its value as one of the best rewards credit cards on the market.

$120 annual dining credit. Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at participating dining partners, including Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, some Shake Shacks and the recently added Boxed. This perk is a monthly statement credit similar to the Uber credit on The Platinum Card® from American Express. Enroll through the Amex website to get this benefit.

$100 annual airline fee credit. Each calendar year, you’ll receive up to $100 in statement credits toward incidental airline fees such as baggage fees and inflight purchases. This works the same as the $200 credit on the Amex Platinum cards. You must designate a qualifying airline, which you can change once a year.

The Hotel Collection. When you book a stay through the Amex Hotel Collection, you’ll earn 2x points on your purchase and enjoy a $100 credit toward dining, spa and resort activities at the property. Note that the credit only applies to stays of two consecutive nights or longer.

Baggage insurance. If your luggage is lost, stolen or damaged when you’re traveling with a common carrier and you purchased your ticket with the Amex Gold, you’ll be eligible for up to $1,250 in coverage for carry-on baggage and up to $500 for checked baggage.

Photo by Matheus Frade on Unsplash
Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at participating dining partners. (Photo by Matheus Frade via Unsplash.)

Further reading: Maximizing the American Express Gold Card

Earning

The Amex Gold card really impresses when it comes to its bonus categories:

  • 4x points on dining worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets (U.S. supermarkets capped at $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x)
  • 3x points on flights booked directly from the airline or amextravel.com
  • 1x points on everything else
  • Terms apply

The 4x on dining is an especially strong earning rate — equal to an 8% return based on our valuations. Even better, Amex recently expanded the bonus multiplier to apply to restaurants worldwide, matching the broader dining bonus category on cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

The 4x points at U.S. supermarkets is also very strong, though it’s capped at the first $25,000 you spend per calendar year (then 1x). Despite the cap, the Amex Gold is one of the best cards for grocery spending at U.S. supermarkets. The 3x points on flights purchased directly from the airline or at amextravel.com isn’t bad, either — equal to a 6% return based on TPG’s valuations. Although other premium credit cards like the Amex Platinum offer higher returns on airfare, many of them also have higher annual fees.

Redeeming

The Membership Rewards points you earn with the Amex Gold can be transferred to 22 travel partners: 19 airlines and three hotels. For instance, you can transfer points to Etihad Guest to book business-class flights to Europe on American Airlines for 50,000 miles each way (one of many great redemption options available through this unsung program). Virgin Atlantic also provides plenty of value, especially if you can leverage one of the transfer bonuses Amex frequently offers to score round-trip first-class flights on ANA for as little as 110,000 points, or Delta One Suites awards to Asia for only 60,000 miles each way. On the hotel side, you can transfer points to Choice Hotels, Hilton and Marriott.

You’ll generally get the most value from your Amex points by transferring them to a travel partner, though that isn’t your only redemption option. You can also use points to buy gift cards, cover charges on your billing statement, shop at Amazon or ride with Uber. You can also use points to book travel directly through Amex, though with the exception of transfer partners, all of these redemption options fall short of TPG’s 2 cents per point valuation.

Further reading: Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

One year of earning and burning with the Amex Gold

Although Amex Gold is one of the most valuable cards in my wallet, it is not the simplest to use. Getting the most value out of this card requires an effort to maximize both the dining and airline annual statement credits, and using the card at restaurants anywhere in the world and U.S. supermarkets. Everyday spending only earns 1x points. If you put in all that work, it’s fair to ask what you get in return, so let’s take a look.

For starters, in your first year will see you earn a welcome bonus worth at least $700, and possibly up to $1,000 if you’re targeted for the 50,000-point offer through CardMatch. That’s a solid haul, and although it’s not the best bonus on the market, it’s good enough for a card that shines long past the first year.

I use Personal Capital to keep track of my finances and make sure I don’t forget about bills on my two dozens different credit cards. I also love that it tells you how much you spend each year in different categories. According to Personal Capital, in 2018 I spent ~$4,500 in each of two categories: groceries and dining out. (Whenever I’m out to dinner with friends I try to put the bill on my credit card and have them pay me back over Venmo.)

So with $9,000 worth of eligible purchases in the Amex Gold’s 4x categories, I earned about 36,000 bonus Membership Rewards points in 2018, worth $720 based on TPG’s valuations. Add in the welcome bonus, and my total haul was worth $1,420.

Living outside the U.S., not only is it hard for me to use the 4x supermarket bonus category, but I also can’t use the $10 monthly dining credit easily. In order to get all the credits I’m entitled to, I made a deal with my brother. He has my Amex Gold saved on his Seamless account, so he gets my $10 credit each month and just pays me back for anything he spends beyond that. This works well for me because I get more bonus points. All told, I earned $1,420 in points in my first year with the Amex Gold. I paid $250 for my annual fee, but got $220 of it back in the form of statement credits, meaning my real cost was only $30. That brings my first year total haul to $1,390, which I’m incredibly happy about. I’ve already redeemed those ~70,000 Membership Rewards points, getting nearly $10,000 in value from them as I applied them toward part of a $16,000 ANA first-class award ticket.

Which Cards compete with the Amex Gold?

The Amex Gold $250 annual fee makes the card somewhat of a “tweener.”  So although there’s no direct comparison on the annual fee front, there are several cards that offer similar bonus categories and perks.

One of the most obvious comparisons is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, with a $95 annual fee and 2x earnings on all dining (and travel) purchases. We value Chase points at 2 cents apiece (our same valuation for Amex points), so you’re looking at an effective return of 4% with the Chase Sapphire Preferred versus 8% with the Amex Gold on dining purchases. The Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t offer annual statement credits like the Amex Gold does.

On the premium end, the Chase Sapphire Reserve deserves a mention, as it was previously the reigning champ for the highest return on dining spending with a 3x earning rate. But the Amex Gold now tops that card’s 6% return, as does the Citi Prestige with 5x on dining (though the Citi Prestige comes with a high $495 annual fee and ThankYou points aren’t worth as much as Amex points). The Sapphire Reserve also has a $450 annual fee, but as you’d expect, it offers considerably more perks than the Amex Gold, such as a $300 annual travel credit and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit.

If you’re enticed by the Gold Card’s 4x bonus at U.S. supermarkets, you could also consider the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Card from American Express. It earns 3x points at U.S. supermarkets on the first $6,000 spent each year, and if you make at least 30 purchases in a billing cycle, you’ll get a 50% bonus. That means you’d get a return of 9% with the bonus. This card also has a much lower $95 annual fee, but note the much lower cap on bonus earnings for U.S. supermarket purchases each year.

The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bottom line

The Amex Gold isn’t just a pretty card. Its 4x points on dining worldwide and U.S. supermarkets make it a strong pick for pretty much all food purchases. The $220 in annual statement credits — between the dining credit and the airline fee credit — add value, and also make the $250 annual fee easier to swallow. The welcome bonus doesn’t turn heads, but the American Express Gold Card still earns a spot as one of our best credit cards, and can rack up plenty of points through everyday appetites for  dining out or dining in.

Apply here for the American Express® Gold Card with a 35,000-point welcome bonus.

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.

American Express® Gold Card

With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at restaurants worldwide, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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