Why I became even more loyal to the Amex Gold during the coronavirus pandemic
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The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced travelers to rethink their credit card rewards strategy from the ground up.
This is especially true for more premium credit cards that have seen their value propositions completely upended. Normally, customers would pay several hundred dollars in upfront annual fees and slowly recoup that value through luxury travel perks, but that system has had to change with people not traveling right now.
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In response to this unprecedented slowdown in travel, issuers have added limited-time perks, statement credits and bonus categories across dozens of cards this year already. The keywords here are limited time. While it’s entirely possible that some of these promotions get extended, you shouldn’t get used to these new benefits, as most of them will disappear over the coming months.
The American Express® Gold Card is perhaps the most popular card that hasn’t had any limited-time COVID-19-related benefits added to it. Still, this pandemic, and the way it’s changed people’s spending patterns, has helped cement the Amex Gold’s spot in my wallet for many years to come.
Read on to see why I love this card so much and will happily be renewing it even without any limited-time perks this year.
Amex Gold overview
The American Express® Gold Card is relatively unique in an industry with a lot of similar card options. For starters, it straddles the line between premium and entry-level with a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).
The welcome offer is 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months. Select applicants may be targeted for incredible a 75,000-point offer by checking the CardMatch Tool. Note: These offers are subject to change at any time.
The annual statement credit for the card:
- Up to $120 annual dining credit. Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at participating dining partners (up to $120 total per calendar year), including Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, some Shake Shack locations and Boxed. This perk is a monthly statement credit similar to the annual Uber credit on The Platinum Card® from American Express, which helps offset its $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). It’s easy to enroll through the Amex website to get this Amex Gold benefit.
Another reason the card is such a fan favorite has to do with its foodie-friendly bonus categories. Amex Gold cardholders earn 4x Membership Rewards points per dollar on worldwide dining and at U.S. supermarkets (U.S. supermarkets capped at $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1x).
The card also earns 3x points per dollar on flights booked directly with the airline or at amextravel.com and 1x everywhere else.
Related Reading: American Express Gold card review
Great for dining and groceries year-round
If you’d asked me at the beginning of 2020, I would have said that travel was one of the most important things in my life. While I’m itching to get back on the road as soon as it’s safe to do so, this pandemic has also helped us separate our wants from our needs and reminded us what’s truly essential.
There isn’t much more essential than food, and that’s an area where the Amex Gold leads the pack. Its 4x bonus categories for worldwide dining and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x) are among the best out there. And when coupled with the up to $10 monthly dining credit, they help make this card a one-stop-shop for dining out, cooking at home or relaxing on the couch with takeout or delivery.
Related reading: The best credit cards for dining out, taking out and ordering in
At the moment we’re seeing many cards offering bonus points on grocery purchases, temporarily displacing the Amex Gold from its spot near the top of the list. It’s worth remembering though that many of these bonuses are capped and all of them have expiration dates.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® — with its $550 annual fee — had previously offered 5x points per dollar on your first $1,500 in monthly grocery purchases — but that ended on June 30, 2020.
However, Chase did add new limited-time perks and bonus categories through Sept. 30, 2020.
- 5x points on Instacart delivery and pickup orders — on up to $3,000 across the three-month promotional period
- Up to $50 in statement credits towards an Instacart Express membership (annual or monthly)
- 5x points at gas stations — on up to $1,500 across the three-month promotional period
- 10x points on select streaming services (such as Spotify or Netflix) — on up to $1,500 across the three-month promotional period
Related reading: The best grocery credit cards for 2020
Once this limited time promotion ends, the Amex Gold will remain a top choice in these popular categories while many of its current competitors go back to earning a measly 1x.
High value with a modest annual fee
While the Amex Gold offers some great bonus categories, it’s the high points multiplier that seals the deal. There aren’t many cards out there that offer the ability to earn 4x transferable points per dollar or higher in any categories, let alone essential ones such as dining and groceries.
In fact, only two other transferable points-earning cards come to mind as offering 4x points or higher: The Citi Prestige® Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express. The Citi Prestige, at $495 a year, offers 5x points per dollar in air travel and restaurants. The Amex Platinum earns 5x on airfare booked directly with the airline or Amex Travel (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). Also, earn 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel. The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
These cards carry annual fees of $495 and $550 respectively, nearly double the $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) that the Amex Gold charges. Of course, all three cards offer various statement credits to help offset the annual fee, but you’re still looking at twice the upfront cost with those other cards.
Many people simply don’t travel enough to justify holding an ultra-premium credit card or aren’t interesting in putting in the work necessary to maximize all the benefits to break even on the cost of the higher annual fees. The Amex Gold offers premium earning rates at a much more accessible price point. I’d personally much rather the card keep its 4x earning rate than raise the annual fee in exchange for a higher multiplier.
First, you have to select one designated airline to use your credits on, which can be challenging if you live in a city like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles that are served by many different carriers. Next, these credits aren’t eligible for airfare, only for a small list of incidental fees like checked bags and seat selection. These credits are an important part of the equation used to justify the card’s annual fees on both the Amex Gold and Amex Platinum, so more ease-of-use would be nice.
If these credits are tough to redeem during normal times, many people will find them downright impossible to redeem now. I understand why Amex didn’t tweak the earning rates on the Amex Gold card (they’re already so rich and generous), but this wasted up to $100 annual airline credit really stings. I would have loved to see Amex expand the use of the credit for this year to include groceries (at U.S. supermarkets), food delivery or dining the same way it did with other cards.
More often than not you have to pay a premium annual fee in order to unlock valuable bonus categories and benefits. I’ve always loved that the Amex Gold offers strong earning rates at a very accessible price point.
If anything, the slowdown in travel has only reminded me why I love this card so much. While there are a number of cards temporarily displacing it with limited-time bonus categories, once those promotions expire the Amex Gold will reclaim its spot near the top of my wallet — where I expect it to stay for many years to come.
Apply here for the American Express® Gold Card with a 60,000-point welcome offer.
Check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’ve been selected for 75,000-point welcome bonus (offers subject to change at any time).
Additional reporting by Chris Dong.
Featured image 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 worldwide, 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.
- 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 on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
- 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 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.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- Annual Fee is $250.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees