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The Chase Sapphire Reserve took home the title of best premium card at the TPG Awards in December, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card tops the list of our favorite cards for getting started with points and miles.

Combine either of those cards with the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited, and you have a nearly unbeatable trio of credit cards — not to mention the fact that Chase Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most valuable rewards out there. That said, keeping track of three or more credit cards in order to maximize your earning can be intimidating and confusing, especially for those who are new to the hobby.

When shopping for your first premium-ish rewards card, the American Express® Gold Card shouldn’t be ignored. The Gold Card has an effective annual fee of just $30 (when you factor in its monthly statement credits at select restaurants and its airline fee credit), arguably better bonus categories than any Chase card and earns valuable American Express Membership Rewards points. Let’s dive into why else the Amex Gold is a great choice for new card users.

Overview

The Amex Gold earns 4 points per dollar spent at US restaurants, 4 points per dollar at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases each year; then 1 point per dollar), 3 points per dollar on airfare booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. In comparison, the Chase Sapphire Reserve only earns 3 points per dollar on dining and travel, and grocery purchases only earn 1 point per dollar. The Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t even come close, earning two points per dollar on dining and travel and one point per dollar on all other purchases (including grocery stores).

Welcome Bonus

While the normal welcome bonus for the Gold card is only 35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 within the first three months of account opening, Amex has been sending out targeted offers of 50,000 points. Check the CardMatch tool to see if you’re targeted (offer subject to change at anytime).

This is the one area in which the Gold card falls relatively short, as both the CSR (50,000 points) and CSP (60,000 points) have higher welcome bonuses. However, the spending requirements for the Chase welcome bonuses are both $4,000 in the first three months of account opening, which is twice as much as the requirement for the Amex Gold card. So if you’re at all worried about hitting a spend requirement for a welcome bonus, that’s one good reason to favor the Gold card.

Amex Offers

One benefit that makes Amex cards so valuable is their lineup of generous and ever-changing Amex Offers. These card add-ons offer additional Membership Rewards points or cash back when you use your card at certain merchants. All you have to do is opt in to any offers you wish to take advantage of and you’ll be set to earn bonus points on top of the Gold card’s built-in bonus categories. Along with helping to multiply your point reserves, these add-ons can make you more mindful of how and where you spend money and how you reap rewards.

Chase unveiled its own version of Amex offers — fittingly called Chase Offers — in late 2018. While the concept is similar, Amex offers are usually far more numerous, impressive and easy to take advantage of.

Membership Rewards

With the Gold card, you’ll be earning Membership Rewards points, which are fully transferable to 18 airline partners and three hotel partners. Membership Rewards points are worth 2 cents per point according to TPG’s most recent valuations.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are also transferable and also valued at 2 cents per point. However, Chase only has nine airline partners and four hotel partners. Granted, you can book tickets with any of the three major airline alliances (Star Alliance, SkyTeam and OneWorld), but having more options can’t hurt, and Amex has nearly twice as many.

Approval

While getting approved for a credit card is never a sure thing, getting approved for Amex cards like the Gold card tends to be easier than getting approved for a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Amex has no 5/24 rule, and there’s no minimum credit line requirement like there is for Visa Infinite cards.

The maximum number of Amex cards you can have open at any one time is five though, and you’re not likely to be approved for more than two cards in a 90-day period. But this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re just starting out.

Annual Fee

The Gold Card carries an annual fee of $250 (see rates & fees), which might seem like a lot, but it can be brought down to a very manageable $30 if you take advantage of a couple of the benefits that the card offers. First, the Gold Card offers up to $100 in airline fee credits every calendar year for one airline. You can use this fee credit to cover anything from checked bag fees to priority seat assignments — with some airlines you can even use it toward airline gift cards. You’ll also get a $10 credit every month at a handful of popular restaurants including Shake Shack and the Cheesecake Factory.

The Sapphire Reserve offers a $300 annual travel credit, after which the effective fee for that card is still a whopping $150. The Sapphire Preferred, while carrying a lower annual fee of $95, provides no offsetting credits. None of the three cards waive the annual fee for the first year like some other rewards cards do.

Bottom Line

Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership rewards are two of the most valuable point currencies out there, and you can do well with either. However, the Amex Gold Card has some clear benefits over the two premium Chase cards when we’re talking about a one-card strategy.

It’s always important to make an educated decision when it comes to points and miles. A seasoned award travel enthusiast knows how important it is to diversify your points. But the Gold card shouldn’t be overlooked, especially for those just getting started.

For rates & fees of the Amex Gold, click here.

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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 US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. 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 $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is 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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