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The line between premium and entry-level credit cards is usually clearly demarcated. This means that consumers usually have a choice between more expensive cards that return outsized welcome offers, bonus categories and luxury perks, and cheaper cards that offer a foray into the world of travel rewards without too much of a financial commitment.
But, in the best way possible, the American Express® Gold Card has straddled the divide and inserted itself right in the middle. In doing so, the Amex Gold offers strong rewards and valuable perks for a $250 annual fee (see rates & fees). So instead of sticking to the binary decision of premium vs. entry-level credit card, today we’ll compare the mid-tier Amex Gold to the premium Platinum Card® from American Express. Hopefully this comparison will help you determine which card is right for you.
One area where premium credit cards reign supreme is the welcome bonuses they offer to entice customers to pay a sizeable annual fee ($550 in the case of the Amex Platinum; see rates & fees). The Amex Platinum is no exception, offering a publicly available bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, making the bonus worth $1,200.
You might be able to snag an even better bonus on the Amex Platinum through. Many people have been targeted for a 100,000-point bonus (worth $2,000) after the same $5,000 in spending by checking for offers through the CardMatch tool. (Offer subject to change at anytime).
Meanwhile, new applicants for the Amex Gold will receive 35,000 Membership Rewards points (worth $700 per TPG valuation) after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. Some readers have also reported being targeted for a 50,000-point offer through the Amex website or via referral links, and given Amex’s “once-in-a-lifetime” policy for welcome bonuses, it’s worth checking before you pull the trigger.
Verdict: The Amex Platinum is the clear winner here, especially if you’re lucky enough to get targeted for the monstrous 100,000-point bonus.
Describing the bonus categories on the Amex Platinum is a short and simple task, and not necessarily in a good way. For all the bells and whistles that accompany this heavy metal card and its premium price tag, there’s only one bonus category to speak of: 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare booked directly with an airline, and airfare and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com.
While the 5x return (10%) is a powerful benefit to have in your wallet, the lack of other bonus categories and heavy restrictions on what earns 5x means that the Amex Platinum doesn’t stack up well on the earnings front, especially against other premium credit cards.
Meanwhile, bonus categories are an area where the Amex Gold Card excels. Card holders will earn at the following rates:
- 4x at US restaurants
- 4x at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x)
- 3x on airfare purchased directly from the airline or through amextravel.com
- 1x everywhere else
- Terms apply
Earning 4x on spending at restaurants, which amounts to a 8% return, is better than what you’ll find on most premium credit cards. This means the Amex Gold Card provides a better dining return than the Chase Sapphire Reserve — which has historically been a favorite for dining purchases with its 3x earning (6% return). But, the Amex Gold Card isn’t quite on top due to the Citi Prestige Card‘s recent refresh that added 5x earning on dining (8.5% return).
The $25,000 cap on supermarket bonus spending for the Amex Gold Card isn’t ideal though, nor is the restriction of these bonus categories to purchases made in the US. But, strong earnings on airfare, US dining and US groceries is still worth getting excited about if you do most of your spending within the US.
Verdict: While the Amex Platinum’s one bonus category earns more points than any of the Amex Gold’s bonus categories, I’ll take three strong bonus options over one valuable but highly restrictive one any day. The Amex Gold wins here.
I’ll keep this section short and sweet as there aren’t any noteworthy redemption differences between the two cards, since both cards earn the same transferable Membership Rewards points. However, if you do have either of these cards or any other Membership Rewards point-earning card, make sure to familiarize yourself with the best ways to use Membership Rewards points. Here are some articles to get you started:
- Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards for Maximum Value
- Best Sweet Spots With American Express Membership Rewards
- How to Redeem Amex Membership Rewards Points for Hotels
- How Long Do American Express Membership Rewards Take to Transfer?
Verdict: It’s a tie!
Perks & Credits
To justify its $550 annual fee, the Amex Platinum really comes with a ton of perks — too many to list them all here, but we’ll go through some of the highlights. To start with, the card offers up to $500 in annual statement credits, including:
- $200 airline incidental credit — Not valid for the purchase of airfare, but it can be used for incidental charges like seat selection, bag fees, lounge access, etc. It’s also possible to use the credit for certain airline gift cards.
- $200 in annual Uber credits — It breaks down to $15 a month with a $20 bonus in December.
- $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit — $50 valid for purchases made between January and June, and another $50 for purchases made between July and December.
I don’t put as much weight into the last credit since I would never otherwise shop at Saks, but I take the first two credits at face value, effectively lowering the out of pocket cost for the Amex Platinum from $550 to $150.
To make up that remaining cost, the Amex Platinum offers the single most comprehensive lounge access of any credit card. Not only will you get the (now laughably ubiquitous) Priority Pass select membership, but you’ll also get access to Amex’s Centurion Lounges (note the new access restrictions though) as well as access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta.
Platinum cardholders will also enjoy Gold elite status with Marriott and Hilton, have access to premium concierge services, and a whole host of other lesser-known benefits such as travel insurance and purchase protection. And keep an eye on your mailbox as well, as American Express has been known to unexpectedly mail out luxury gifts to Platinum cardholders. While you will have to pay the $550 annual fee upfront at the beginning of your account year, all these perks make it easy to see how the Platinum card can pay for itself over time.
The Amex Gold has a much shorter list of benefits, but they still add a ton of value to the card. To offset the $250 annual fee, card holders will enjoy up to $220 in annual statement credits, including:
- $100 airline incidental credit — Like with the credit on the Platinum card, this cannot be used directly for airfare.
- $120 in annual dining credits — Up to $10 a month at the following merchants: Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
If you’re capable of maxing these both out, this will leave you with an out-of-pocket cost of $30 a year. Amex Gold card holders will also enjoy a $100 property credit and upgrade (when available) when booking hotel stays of two nights or longer through the Amex Hotel Collection, as well as premium roadside assistance that will cover select emergency services up to four times a year.
Verdict: The Amex Platinum card undeniably has more bells and whistles and offers a stronger value proposition over time, but you have to pay up to get those benefits. While I do give it the edge in this category, it’s very much a personal decision, and the Amex Gold might offer the better and more relevant benefits for your specific situation.
There’s absolutely room for both of these cards in your wallet if you decide you can get value from both of them. In fact, these cards complement each other very well. But, if you only want to pay up for one annual fee, you can frame the question like this: Do you want higher bonus earning rates on a wider variety of categories or do you want valuable perks that will add a splash of luxury to your upcoming travels? If the first option sounds more like you, then the Amex Gold is the card to get you there. If you resonated with the second scenario, there aren’t many cards better than the Amex Platinum to achieve that goal.
Have you decided on one (or both) cards? Here are the official application links: The Platinum Card® from American Express (60,000-point bonus offer) and American Express® Gold Card (35,000-point bonus)
Featured photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.
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WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply.
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees