Why I applied for the American Express Gold Card even without a welcome bonus
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
However, despite its obvious appeal, I held off on applying for the card when the revamped version first launched a couple of years back for one main reason: my inability to earn a welcome bonus. I previously held the card’s predecessor (the Premier Rewards Gold Card), and American Express’ once-per-lifetime policy for welcome offers includes previous versions of a product, as detailed on the application page:
“Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card or the Premier Rewards Gold Card.”
As a result, I wouldn’t be eligible to earn the welcome offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first six months of card membership — nor would I be able to use the CardMatch Tool to see if I was targeted for the 75,000-point offer (offer subject to change at any time).
Nevertheless, eventually, I pulled the trigger. I applied and was approved for the American Express Gold Card, knowing full well that I couldn’t earn the welcome offer.
Here’s why I did it — and why you should consider doing the same.
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I always try to maximize every single purchase that I make, mainly through the use of online shopping portals and credit cards with various category bonuses across different types of merchants. I love my perfect quartet of Chase cards — especially my Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 3x points on my travel and dining purchases — but there was one category in which I knew I could do better: supermarkets.
I had long used my Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card on these purchases, earning me 6x points for every dollar I spent. I had also used the card at Hilton properties, and with some other purchases each year, I was able to easily reach the $15,000 yearly spending threshold to earn a free-weekend-night certificate.
Suddenly, I had a more lucrative card to swipe at Hilton properties — and my ability to reach the spending threshold required for the certificate suddenly became much harder. I also no longer had a card with bonuses on groceries. The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex 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.
The Amex Gold (and its 4x earning rate at supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases each calendar year; then 1x) started to look much more attractive on an ongoing basis, but was it worth getting without a welcome offer?
Well … being a bit of a math nerd, I decided to crunch the numbers to figure it out.
In 2019, I spent $6,540.01 on purchases at grocery stores. Here’s how that translates to earnings on the two cards in question:
- Surpass: 39,240 Hilton points (worth $235.44 based on TPG’s most recent valuations)
- Amex Gold: 26,160 Amex points (worth $523.20)
In other words, if I had been swiping the Amex Gold for those purchases, I would have taken home an additional $287.76 in rewards in 2019 on groceries alone. This single category of purchases would be enough to cover the $250 annual fee on the Amex Gold card (see rates and fees) — without taking into account any other perks and credits on the card.
Then there are the 4x points per dollar spent at restaurants using the American Express Gold Card. I previously used my Sapphire Reserve for dining out to earn 3x points, yet swiping the Amex Gold would get me an additional point per dollar spend. And since TPG pegs both Amex and Chase points at 2 cents apiece, that’s an additional 2% return at restaurants.
Even better? After I added the card to my wallet, I found that my go-to meal delivery service (Sun Basket) coded as a grocery purchase — meaning that I could also earn 4x Amex points on these purchases. This is just one strategy to maximize these meal delivery purchases.
No annual fee for authorized users
Another aspect of the Amex Gold Card that’s so appealing is the fact that there’s no additional annual fee to add an authorized user (see rates and fees) to the card. Before applying for the Amex Gold, I used my Sapphire Reserve for all dining purchases. However, I wasn’t willing to add my wife as an authorized user to the card — which would incur an additional $75 fee each year — just so she could also get 3x points when she dined out for work or otherwise without me.
Instead, she used her Ink Business Cash Credit Card, which offers 2% cash back on up to $25,000 in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants every account anniversary year — or 2x Ultimate Rewards points when we pool our Chase points in a single account.
In 2020, she spent $2,661.52 at restaurants with the Amex Gold, earning 10,646 Membership Rewards points (worth $212.92). If she had swiped her Ink Cash card, her earnings would’ve been slashed in half — to just 5,323 Chase points (worth $106.46).
In other words, my wife’s solo or work restaurant purchases got us more than $100 in extra rewards last year.
When you consider the additional earnings on my grocery purchases and with my wife’s spending, I’ve already more than covered the $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) on the American Express Gold Card — so the additional perks on the card are just icing on the cake.
There are two in particular that were particularly appealing when I applied:
- Up to $120 dining credit: Another great perk on the card is up to $10 in statement credits each month when I use my Gold card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shake locations. That’s effectively $120 worth of dining credits over the course of the calendar year. Enrollment required for select benefits.
- Amex Offers: I’ve saved a ton of money (and earned a bunch of bonus points) by leveraging Amex Offers over the years, and adding another card simply opens me up to new discounts and rewards — something that you should check on a regular basis.
And since then, the card has become even more valuable, adding an up to $120 annual Uber Cash benefit as of February 2021. Whether you’re utilizing food delivery services or snagging discounts through Amex Offers, this card represents an incredible value proposition.
For a full breakdown of the card and its perks, be sure to check out our full Amex Gold review.
The important lesson
Not surprisingly, many award travelers love travel rewards credit cards with large sign-up/welcome bonuses. However, as issuers continue to tighten their eligibility requirements for these offers, I’ve shifted my mindset away from just focusing on a one-time influx of points or miles and instead begun focusing on optimizing my wallet for regular everyday spending.
- American Express Gold Card: dining at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x) (4x points — or an 8% return)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: travel (3x points — or a 6% return)
- Ink Business Cash Credit Card: telecommunications and office supplies (5% cash back/5x points on up to $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year — or a 10% return)
- Chase Freedom Flex: rotating bonus categories (5% cash back/5x points on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter — or a 10% return); drugstore purchases (3% cash back/3x points — or a 6% return)
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express: everyday purchases (2x points on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x — or a 4% return/1% thereafter)
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: everyday purchases where Amex isn’t accepted (1.5% cash back/1.5 points — or a 3% return)
In other words, I now get at least 3% back in rewards on virtually every one of my purchases — and 8-10% back on categories where I often spend a lot.
The take-away? Don’t give too much weight to sign-up bonuses. Sure, it’s nice to get that big pop of points, but that’s not the only thing to focus on when building a strategy to maximize your points and miles. I’m getting hundreds of dollars worth of additional rewards every year, simply because I looked past a welcome offer and recognized the value of the Amex Gold for my spending habits.
Bonus: You may get a welcome bonus anyway
One final note … if you’re a former holder of the Premier Rewards Gold card (the predecessor of the Amex Gold), it is possible that you might enjoy a welcome offer by applying for the new version. Even though American Express is clear in its language, I have read reports of some former Gold cardholders who still got a bonus. It seems that “once in a lifetime” may eventually — potentially — have an end date.
But remember: Even without a welcome offer, this card provides some incredible value — and with the Rose Gold version only available for a limited time, now could be the perfect time to pull the trigger and add it to your wallet.
Back in 2019, I must admit that I felt a bit like the black sheep at TPG team dinners, as I watched colleagues pull the shiny American Express Gold Card out of their wallets to earn 4x points. I resisted applying for the card myself, since I knew I wasn’t eligible for the welcome offer. However, when I finally sat down and ran the numbers toward the end of the year, I quickly realized that the card was a great fit thanks to the earning rates at restaurants and supermarkets.
The end result? I have been a loyal cardholder of the Amex Gold for over a year — and my Membership Rewards account balance has reaped the rewards.
If you’ve held off on getting the Gold card for a similar reason, I encourage you to crunch the numbers on your annual spending patterns to see if you’ve been missing out on valuable rewards.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.
Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy
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With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com.
- Rose Gold is back. You can now choose between Gold or Rose Gold.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
- Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, including takeout and delivery, and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
- Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
- $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
- $120 Dining Credit: 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.
- Get up to 12 complimentary months of an Uber Eats Pass subscription when you enroll with your Gold Card by 12/31/21.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- Annual Fee is $250.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees