Maximizing the American Express Gold Card

Nov 29, 2019

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There’s a ton to be excited about with the revamped American Express® Gold Card. Although the card’s food-focused bonus spend categories and metallic makeover dominated headlines when the card relaunched in 2018, the Amex Gold offers a slate of other perks that can help you save on your travels. The annual fee is now $250, and isn’t waived the first year (see rates & fees and offer benefits), but if you familiarize yourself with the card’s unique benefits, you can easily make it pay for itself.

Welcome offer

The Amex Gold card comes with a welcome offer of 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. While it’s not as impressive as some other currently available travel credit card offers, the offer is still worth $700, based on TPG’s most recent point valuations.

Amex Membership Rewards points can be redeemed for anything from cash back, to free Uber rides to lavish flights in the new Singapore Airlines first-class suites. However, not all redemption options are equal. You’ll get the most value from this program by transferring points to partner hotel and airline loyalty programs. Here are some of the best uses of 35,000 points (these only require 25,000 points, so you’ll actually have 10,000 left over):

Even better, Amex regularly offers transfer bonuses which you can leverage to get as much as 50% extra value from your points. Just remember that we never recommend speculatively transferring points to a program without a specific use in mind, as miles can be devalued at any moment and transfers can’t be reversed.

4x Points on Dining and at US Supermarkets

It doesn’t matter if you prefer dining in or out; if you like food (I mean, who doesn’t?), you should have no trouble maximizing the Amex Gold’s bonus spend categories. The card awards 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets, up to a $25,000 annual cap at U.S .supermarkets (1x point thereafter). With our current valuation of 2 cents per point in mind, the Amex Gold yields a whopping 8% return on food purchases, beating out most other credit cards on the market.

(Photo by Ali Inay on Unsplash)
Photo by Ali Inay on Unsplash.

Pro tip: Although the Amex Gold doesn’t carry any foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees), the bonus points for grocery purchases are only awarded for spend in the US, so you’ll want to hold on to a card like the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card to earn additional rewards when buying groceries abroad. The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit 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.

3x Points on Flights

Earning 5 points per dollar spent on airfare booked directly through the airline or Amex Travel, the Amex Gold’s “bigger brother,” the Platinum Card® from American Express, remains the best card for airfare purchases. That said, the Gold card is still a solid alternative if you don’t carry the Platinum. The card earns 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly through the airline or on, amounting to a return of 6% based on our valuationPlus, 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.

$100 Airline Fee Credit

Each year, you’ll receive up to $100 in statement credits toward airline incidental such as checked baggage fees, lounge access and onboard food and drink purchases. The credit works the same way as the Platinum family of card credits, where you must select an airline to use the credit.

$120 in Dining Credits

On top of the annual airline fee credit, you get a $120 annual dining credit (allotted in $10 increments each month) that can be used at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations. Delivery services Grubhub and Seamless are available in most major US cities and it’s hard to imagine that a purchase at any of these merchants would cost less than $10 a month, so this benefit should be pretty easy to take full advantage of.

Much like the Saks credit on the Amex Platinumyou have to enroll through the Amex website to get this benefit. Also note the credits expire at the end of each month, so you won’t be able to roll any unused credits over.

The Hotel Collection

Book a stay of two nights or longer through the Amex Hotel Collection to earn double points, a room upgrade upon arrival and a $100 credit which can be used toward things like dining, spa and resort activities at the property. In some cases, you may also score lower rates depending on what Amex has negotiated with the property in question. It’s important to note that although The Hotel Collection may sound like a watered-down version of the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts Program available to Platinum cardholders, the two programs offer different participating hotels.

Travel Collection Membership

A lesser-known benefit of the Amex Gold card is complimentary access to The Travel Collection, a membership that normally costs $295 per year. In short, the program can help you score significant discounts with ten airlines, including United, Qantas and Cathay Pacific. You’ll also score the following perks when booking stays of two nights or longer at certain hotels:

  • Daily breakfast for two people
  • Room upgrade upon check-in (based on availability)
  • Guaranteed 1pm early check-in
  • Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi
  • A $50 USD hotel credit

As with the Hotel Collection, this might sound similar to Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts program, but the roster of participating hotels is completely different from the issuer’s other hotel programs. The partners in this program are primarily smaller boutique hotels, and The Travel Collection offers a “best rate available” guarantee so you’ll never need to worry about paying more for the additional amenities.

Bottom Line

There are many credit cards out there that come loaded with valuable benefits, but their value is only realized if you actually use them. Luckily, the Amex Gold card makes it easy to do so. Between the annual airline fee and dining credits, the card’s annual fee already effectively drops to $30 a year. Throw in the outstanding return on food purchases and perks you get when booking travel, and you’re sure to come out ahead.

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

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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