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

Feb 25, 2021

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When you look at mid-tier credit cards (which typically cost around $100 in annual fees) and premium credit cards (which can cost $450+ in annual fees), there is a pretty large gap between the two groups — both in annual cost and in the associated benefit.

So what do you do if you want a few valuable perks and benefits but currently can’t justify some of the larger annual fees on the ultra-premium cards because you won’t use all of those benefits? Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of cards that fit into the area between the two tiers.

However, there is one card that offers the perfect “in-between” balance — the American Express® Gold Card.

The Amex Gold (now available in rose gold as well as the standard gold card design) has never fit well into the premium card category, nor does it truly belong in the entry or mid-level tiers. In this case, being different is actually good news.

The unique nature of this card is especially important right now, as people are looking to hold on to their premium perks and strong bonus categories without paying hefty annual fees while travel is still on hold for many.

For each category, I’ll look at what you’d expect from a premium card, and a mid-tier card, and how the Amex Gold is different. Just note that I’m largely ignoring redemption options here, as Membership Rewards points can be redeemed mostly the same way whether they’re earned on an Amex Gold or The Platinum Card® from American Express (with the limited exception of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express Pay With Points rebate).

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In This Post

Annual fee

Premium: $450+

Mid-tier: Around $100, sometimes waived for the first year

Amex Gold: The annual fee on the Amex Gold is $250 (see rates and fees).

This is one of the most obvious ways in which it stands out as an in-betweener card. Premium cards are easily identifiable by their eye-popping $400+ annual fees, while most other cards hover at or just below the $100 mark. In the last few years, we’ve seen several of the most popular premium rewards cards raise their annual fees to $550 a year or more, making it even clearer that the Amex Gold represents a solid discount. With premium cards, your out-of-pocket cost often ends up being closer to $100-$200 after you account for generous annual travel/hotel/airline statement credits, while entry-level cards rarely have any credits to offset the fee.

We’ll go into greater detail about the Amex Gold’s up to $240 in annual statement credits a little later, but if you’re capable of maxing them out, your out-of-pocket cost each year will only be $10. This gives it a huge leg up on both the more expensive premium cards and the “cheaper” entry-level cards, and should certainly factor into your decision about whether this card is right for you.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus

Premium: Generally, 50,000-100,000 points, worth $1,000-$2,000, though there’s more variance across premium card welcome bonuses than there are with other card perks.

Mid-tier: 40,000-60,000 points, worth ~$700 – $1,000+

Amex Gold: Yet again, we see the Amex Gold offering a welcome bonus that is on the high end for many mid-tier cards but on the lower end for premium options. New applicants will currently receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points (worth $1,200 based on TPG valuations) after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first six months, although you could be targeted for an offer from 75,000 points with the same spending requirement through the CardMatch tool or via a referral link (offer subject to change at any time).

You could easily turn your Amex Gold’s welcome bonus into this view with a strategic redemption. (Photo by Cheryl Bronson/Getty Images)

The standard 60,000 point bonus should be more than enough for a domestic round-trip ticket or maybe a one-way international flight (with some points leftover) if you take advantage of one of Amex’s transfer bonuses. This bonus compares favorably to premium competition from the Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve — it also compares well to the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which offers a 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. (worth $2,000 based on TPG’s valuations).

If you are targeted for the higher bonus through CardMatch, the Amex Gold’s bonus becomes competitive even among ultra-premium credit cards. That offer for 75,000 Membership Rewards points would be worth $1,500 according to TPG valuations.

Related: How to redeem American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

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

Earning

Premium: 5%+ returns on travel, dining or other common bonus categories

Mid-tier: 2-4% returns on travel, dining, groceries, gas, etc.

Amex Gold: The real reason most people will want to get and keep the Amex Gold comes down to the card’s excellent bonus categories. In fact, these are valuable enough for some to apply for the card without any welcome bonus at all. The Amex Gold earns at the following rates (terms apply):

  • 4x points at restaurants
  • 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (capped at $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x)
  • 3x points on flights booked directly from an airline or amextravel.com
  • 1x points on everything else
(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

These categories combine to make the Amex Gold one of the most rewarding credit cards on the market for both dining at restaurants and groceries at U.S. supermarkets and give it a huge leg up on Chase’s Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards, which earn 3x (6%) on dining. These are premium-level (or better) bonus categories, without the price tag to match.

Related: Why I became even more loyal to the Amex Gold during the coronavirus pandemic

The big drawback for some, however, is that the 4x at U.S. supermarkets is capped at $25,000 in spending per calendar year (then 1x) and is only valid in the U.S. As an expat, it always frustrates me when travel rewards card are less rewarding to people who frequently travel out of the country. The 4x points at restaurants used to be restricted to the U.S. as well, but Amex expanded it to include restaurants outside of the U.S. as well in 2019.

Perks & credits

Premium: Lounge access, travel insurance, elite status, annual statement credits, concierge services and many more

Mid-tier: More limited travel insurance and purchase protection

Amex Gold: It’s easy to build a case that a card like the Amex Platinum is worth the $695 annual fee (see rates and fees) thanks to all the perks it offers — such as hotel elite status, annual statement credits, lounge access and more. But as many people quickly found out when the coronavirus pandemic grounded most travel back in 2020, if you don’t take advantage of many of these benefits, those premium cards might not be worth the cost.

For those who spend enough to take advantage of a couple of perks but don’t want the laundry list of benefits that have to be maximized in order to make a card worth it, enter the Amex Gold. The main perks to get excited about are the up to $240 in annual statement credits, which break down as follows:

  • $10 a month (up to $120 credit each calendar year) in Uber credits in the form of Uber Cash that can be used on U.S. Uber rides and Uber Eats purchases.
  • $10 a month (up to $120 credit each calendar year) in dining credits valid at the following dining partners: Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and participating Shake Shacks. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Between the restaurants and U.S. supermarket bonus categories and the annual dining credit, it’s clear that the Amex Gold is meant for foodies. (Enrollment required for select benefits.) Plus, you can use the new Uber credit on Uber Eats (perfect during a time when I’m not taking many Uber rides). Almost any purchase made at one of the dining partners will be $10 or more, so if you see yourself dining out or ordering in from one of those businesses every 30 days it shouldn’t be hard to maximize this credit.

Maxing out both credits brings your out-of-pocket cost down to just $10 a year, which can easily be made up for with your 4x bonus earnings.

(Photo courtesy Uber)

This is nowhere near as many benefits as the Amex Platinum, which basically requires an encyclopedia to fully document all of its perks. However, the perks that the Amex Gold card does offer are short, sweet and easy to understand — and significantly enhance the overall value that the card provides.

Bottom line

The American Express Gold Card is in a category of its own.

In exchange for an annual fee that straddles the line between mid-tier and premium, you’ll earn 4x points at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x). While the Amex Gold doesn’t offer as many perks as a true premium credit card, the up to $240 in annual statement credits brings your out-of-pocket cost down to just $10, making this one of the cheapest credit cards to hold relative to the benefits you’ll receive and the valuable bonus multipliers you’ll unlock.

This combination of affordability, high bonus categories, and practical benefits makes the Amex Gold truly one of a kind.

Related: Maximizing the Amex Gold in 2021

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

Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor. 

Featured photo by The Points Guy.

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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