Who Should (And Who Shouldn’t) Get the New Amex Gold Card?

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The new American Express® Gold Card has only added to a wild 2018. This year has been a blockbuster  for credit card enthusiasts, with a seemingly endless parade of new cards being launched and existing products being revamped and made more competitive. One notable example is the American Express® Gold Card, which is an evolution of the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express with an increased focus on dining.

It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new card offering (especially when it comes in two different shiny metal forms), but some of the perks that make this card very exciting also mean that it isn’t perfect for everyone. Below, we’ll take a look at who should and who shouldn’t get the refreshed Amex Gold Card.

Key Benefits

The annual fee on the Gold Card has been raised to $250 (up from $195), and it’s no longer waived for the first year. To compensate, the card now offers up to $220 in annual statement credits. This breaks down to a $100 annual airline incidental credit (not valid on airfare, only on incidental charges like seat assignment, bag fees and lounge access) and a $10 a month (up to $120 a year) dining credit valid at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Shake Shack.

The bonus categories have also been massively improved, allowing cardholders to earn:

  • 4x points at US restaurants
  • 4x points at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in spending per calendar year; then 1 point)
  • 3x points on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • 1x everywhere else
  • Terms Apply

In addition to the standard welcome bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points (worth $475 based on TPG’s latest valuations) after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months, Amex is also offering a “We’ll Pick Up the Tip” promotion, giving new applicants 20% back at US restaurants (up to $100) during the first 3 months, for cardholders who apply by Jan. 9, 2019.

Another perk that remains from the old version of the card is the double points and $75 property credit when you book a prepaid hotel stay of two nights or longer through the Hotel Collection.

Who Should Get The Amex Gold?

1. People Who Spend a Lot on Dining & Groceries

While statement credits are a great way to offset a high annual fee on a credit card, you don’t apply for a new card to “break even,” you do it to get ahead. The new 4x bonus categories on US restaurant and US supermarket purchases amount to a 7.6% return based on TPG’s valuation of Membership Rewards points at 1.9 cents each. It almost goes without saying that people who spend heavily in these categories will get the most value out of this card.

The Amex Gold is not the first credit card to offer bonus categories on US restaurants and supermarkets, but it might be the most valuable one. 4x Membership Rewards points per dollar beats out the 3x Ultimate Rewards points on dining offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and while it’s possible to end up with a slightly higher return on purchases at US supermarkets by using the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express, the bonus categories on the Gold Card don’t require you to jump through any hoops like a minimum number of transactions per month to earn the highest rates. While these categories are restricted to restaurants and supermarkets in the US, this card doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees if you decide to travel with it.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
4x Membership Rewards points per dollar on dining. (Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)

2. People Looking to Complete the “Amex Trifecta”

No matter how much money you spend on dining and groceries a year, you’ll likely want to combine multiple cards to maximize your bonus category earning. The two biggest weak spots in the Amex Gold Card’s bonus categories (travel and everyday spending) can be easily fixed by pairing it with two other strong Amex cards: The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express.

If you combine these three cards and use each one for its bonus categories, you’ll end up earning anywhere from 2-5x points, or 3.8-9.5% back on nearly all of your purchases. And these cards really fit together like puzzle pieces, with the Amex Platinum providing luxury perks like lounge access and hotel elite status that the Gold Card doesn’t, and the Blue Business Plus elevating your base earning rate on non-bonus spending from 1x to 2x without costing you a penny in annual fees.

3. People Who Can Max out the $220 in Annual Statement Credits

One of the toughest things for many new points enthusiasts to wrap their heads around is the value proposition of a premium credit card. No matter how much personal value you get out of some of the perks, you still end up paying well over $100 a year out of pocket for the right to use them, and often paying $450 or more up front before you begin to get reimbursed by statement credits.

The Amex Gold makes the math much simpler, if you can max out both of its annual statement credits. While the $100 airline incidental credit can’t be directly applied to the cost of a ticket, many people have luck redeeming it for airline gift cards with select airlines. The $120 dining credit is broken down into $10 a month, similar to the Uber credit that comes with the Amex Platinum, but it also is pretty easy to maximize. I can’t think of a single purchase at any of the partner dining merchants (Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Shake Shack) that would cost less than $10 a month, so if you eat out or order in once every 30 days this should be easy to take advantage of.

If this sounds like something you can do, you’ll effectively end up paying $30 a year (after statement credits) to keep the Amex Gold, making it one of the cheapest cards relative to the benefits it offers. And it should be easy to earn back that last $30 by taking advantage of one or more Amex Offers, earning discounts on purchases you likely would have made already.

4. People Who Are Over 5/24 With Chase

Whether you have years of established credit or are new to the points world entirely, we at TPG almost universally recommend that you start by applying for Chase cards because of the pesky 5/24 rule. Simply put, this rule means that you will be automatically rejected for most Chase cards if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards in the last 24 months.

The question of what you should do after you’ve maxed out your 5 slots with Chase gets a little trickier, but the Amex Gold can be a great answer. Not only will you immediately begin earning the second-most valuable transferable points currency (after Chase Ultimate Rewards points), but the 4x bonus categories will help you earn your free vacation even faster.

I also believe that having access to multiple types of points makes all of your points more valuable, as it gives you more options to pick from for any specific trip you want to take. For certain Star Alliance redemptions, being able to pick between Aeroplan (transferring Amex points) or United (transferring Chase points) could end up saving you hundreds of dollars or thousands of miles.

5. People Targeted for a 50,000-Point Bonus

While the public welcome bonus on the Amex Gold is currently 25,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months and up to a $100 dining statement credit (available until January 9, 2019), some readers have reported being targeted for a higher bonus of 50,000 points through the Amex website and through referral links (offer subject to change at anytime). Since Amex has a “once per lifetime” policy with welcome bonuses, it always makes sense to check around and see if you can get a higher offer. Those extra 25,000 points would add $475 in value to your bonus, making your total haul worth $950.

Who Shouldn’t Get the Amex Gold?

While the new Amex Gold has the potential to be a very lucrative card, there are several groups of people who might struggle to get good value from it.

1. People Who Are Under 5/24

As mentioned above, Chase’s 5/24 rule is one of the most important considerations in building a starter credit card strategy. Five cards can seem like a lot to someone who has never even had one before, but those slots go by quickly and once you’ve used them up, you might never get them back.

The Amex Gold is going to be around for a while. There’s no reason to jump on an application right now, especially if it means compromising your strategy with Chase. There are at least three Chase credit cards currently offering bonuses worth $1,000 or more (the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card), while the value of the Amex Gold welcome bonus is barely half that. If you want to get this card at some point, make a mental note of that, but don’t get impatient and throw away your whole strategy.

2. People Who Live Outside the US

This one hits very close to home for me, because “home” at the current moment is Shanghai. Unfortunately, that means the new bonus categories on the Amex Gold, as well as the $120 dining credit, do me absolutely no good. In fact, if you live outside the US I’d say this card is almost entirely useless, as the other perks such as 3x on flights and a $75 credit when booking through the Hotel Collection can easily be overshadowed by other premium rewards cards.

Yes, there are no foreign transaction fees on this card, but if it’s only going to earn me 1x points on my purchases outside the US, I can’t see myself ever using it.

3. People Who Won’t Max out the Statement Credits

While the $100 airline incidental credit should be easy for most people to use, the $120 dining credit might be tougher depending on your personal circumstances. If you enjoy cooking at home or don’t eat at any of the partner restaurants, it might be a waste. Ordering delivery just to use the free $10 credit might end up being more expensive than it’s worth.

If that’s the case, you’re left with a card that might cost you more out of pocket than the ultra-premium cards like the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve. You’re left footing a larger bill and getting fewer perks in return, as the Amex Gold doesn’t offer any form of lounge access, elite status or even the ubiquitous Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit.

4. People Who’ve Previously Had an Amex Gold

I personally appreciate Amex’s rule on bonus eligibility, as it doesn’t require any complicated spreadsheets to keep track of. If you have previously earned the bonus on a credit card, you will not be eligible to earn it again. While the Amex Gold recently underwent a heavy makeover, it is still technically the same product it was before when it was called the Premier Rewards Gold Card. This means that people who opened the old version and closed it because they didn’t find much value in it will not be eligible for a bonus on the new product.

5. People Who Can’t Fit Another Metal Card in Their Wallet

Both literally and figuratively, the Amex Gold takes up a lot of space. While the statement credits make it incredibly cheap over the long term, you will have to pay the annual fee up front like you would with most credit cards. Even if you buy into the value proposition of this card, that might just be too much for you if you have a rapidly expanding wallet and hold one or more premium credit cards.

The other side of the coin is the new metal card itself. This is the ultimate #firstworldproblem, but it can be really difficult to open and close a wallet that has 2 or more metal cards in it. The sleek, limited-edition rose gold design is eye-popping for sure, but it should not be a deciding factor in whether you apply for a credit card. As always, make sure that “you have room” for the Amex Gold in your overall points plan, as well as your actual physical wallet.

Bottom Line

New and refreshed cards are always exciting, as they’re often accompanied by valuable perks and limited-time bonuses. More broadly speaking, increased competition always benefits the consumer as other banks will have to up their game or risk losing market share.

The new and improved Amex Gold is a valuable option for US-based customers who spend heavily on dining and groceries, and are looking for an in-between, “premium-lite” card that offers good returns without an obscene price tag.

If you can max out all the benefits this card has to offer, it might end up becoming a cornerstone of your wallet. But if you live or frequently travel outside of the US or for some reason can’t max out both of the annual statement credits, stop and think about whether this is the best card for you. Even if you decide against applying for the Amex Gold, make sure to check out TPG‘s list of the top travel reward cards of 2018 to find the right card to meet your travel goals.

American Express® Gold Card
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More Things to Know
  • Get the American Express® Gold Card in Limited Edition Rose Gold, only available until 1/9/2019.
  • Receive 20% back as a statement credit at U.S. Restaurants within the first 3 months, up to $100 back. Offer available to new Card Members who apply by 1/9/2019.
  • Plus, earn 25,000 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 US restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at US 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 participating dining partners. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per year for incidental fees at one selected airline.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
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Regular APR
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Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
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Recommended Credit
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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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.