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What You Could Book With a Year of Restaurant & Supermarket Spend on the Amex Gold

Oct. 25, 2018
9 min read
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The American Express® Gold Card made waves when it was introduced in early October 2018. It isn't just the shiny metal options for the card that got people excited; it offers significantly improved earning rates and additional credits for purchases that many TPG readers are probably already making.

But just how rewarding is this card when you consider the two highest bonus categories? We set out to determine exactly what you could book from one year's worth of spending at restaurants and US supermarkets on the Amex Gold.

Let's start with the basics. The card offers you 4x points on dining and 4x points at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in spending per calendar year, after which the earning rate drops to 1x point). In addition, the card is offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card membership, though you may be able to get a 50,000-point bonus through a referral from a friend (offer subject to change at anytime). Finally, the card offers up to $120 in annual dining credits valid at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and participating Shake Shacks.

All of this adds up to an incredible value proposition, but what rewards does it unlock? Well to answer this question, we first need to make some assumptions about our spending patterns during the year:

  1. You'll earn the full (standard) welcome bonus of 35,000 points.
  2. You typically spend $1,000 per month on dining purchases at restaurants (or $12,000/year).
  3. You typically spend $750 per month on supermarket purchases in the US (or $9,000/year).
  4. You max out the 20% off in the first three months and the $120 dining credit.
  5. You use the card exclusively on dining and US supermarkets.

The math thus works out as follows:

Welcome bonus: 35,000 points

Dining: $12,000 - $120 - $100 = $11,780 x 4 points/$ = 47,120

Grocery: $9,000 x 4 points/$ = 36,000

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TOTAL: 118,120 points

This is quite the haul, but what exactly could you book with it? Here's a sampling:

1. Up to Four Round-trip Economy Flights to Hawaii

If Hawaii is on your list, the Amex Gold card could be a great option for flights, especially for West Coast residents.

Getting to the Aloha State isn’t always the easiest proposition using points and miles. However, you have a couple of great options through the Membership Rewards program. My personal favorite applies to West Coast residents. By transferring points to British Airways, you can take advantage of the carrier’s distance-based award chart and its partnership with both American and Alaska Airlines to book tickets to Hawaii. Since round-trip flights from several gateways are just 25,000 Avios per person, you could snag four with this first year's worth of points. This includes nonstop flights from Los Angeles (LAX) and Phoenix (PHX) on American or San Diego (SAN), Oakland (OAK), Portland (PDX) and Seattle (SEA) on Alaska. And if there’s a transfer bonus going on when you’re ready to pull the trigger, you’ll easily surpass that threshold.

For those readers on the East Coast, you also have options to redeem this haul of points for flights to Hawaii. The first would be to transfer them to Flying Blue, the loyalty program of Air France and KLM. Since the carriers are a part of SkyTeam, you can redeem Flying Blue miles on Delta flights, though the program has recently complicated things significantly. Based on the new calculator, a round-trip economy award ticket from the US to Hawaii will run you 35,000 miles.

You could also transfer your Amex points to Singapore's KrisFlyer program to then redeem on United-operated flights to Hawaii from anywhere in the US. These awards are also just 35,000 miles round-trip (note that transferring to Aeroplan would require 45,000 miles). Of course, you'd need to find Delta and United award space to successfully redeem points through Flying Blue and KrisFlyer, respectively, but if you do, the earnings from the Amex Gold will get you and two friends/family members to Hawaii and back.

2. Round-Trip Business-Class Ticket to Europe

Though finding availability can be tough, you could get a round-trip business class flight to Europe on American through Etihad Guest.

Another great award option with this haul of miles is a round-trip business-class flight to Europe by leveraging the Etihad Guest program. Even though Etihad doesn't belong to an alliance, it still partners with a number of airlines around the world. For this particular redemption, you'll transfer your Amex points to Etihad Guest and then redeem them on American. While booking round-trip business class-flights to Europe through the AAdvantage program will set you back 115,000 miles, it'll only cost you 100,000 miles through Etihad.

There are a few other options in the program's American award chart (warning: PDF link) that would also be bookable with your earnings from the Amex Gold, including round-trip business-class flights from the US to Japan. Once again, you'd need to find award availability in order to book, but ExpertFlyer can be a big help in this regard, allowing you to set alerts and receive notifications as soon as award space opens up.

3. Four (or More) Round-Trip Nonstop Delta Flights in the US

Delta SFO
You have several options for booking Delta flights through Membership Rewards. Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy.

Another great transfer partner of Membership Rewards is the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Like Etihad, this carrier isn't a part of an alliance, instead choosing to strike agreements with individual airlines for earning and/or redeeming miles. One of its closest partners is Delta. Though much maligned for removing award charts and seemingly constant devaluations, Delta typically offers a consistent, enjoyable in-flight experience within the US. Unfortunately, pricing on its award flights is all over the place.

However, you can book Delta flights by using your Virgin Atlantic miles, and booking through the Flying Club program won't subject you to the variable pricing that SkyMiles uses. Instead, any nonstop Delta flight bookable with Virgin Atlantic would set you back just 25,000 miles round-trip. In some cases, this can result in some solid savings over transferring your Amex points to Delta. Just be aware that Virgin Atlantic does charge for each segment of an award flight separately, so lower award rates are generally only applicable to nonstop Delta flights.

That being said, if you're looking to redeem your Amex points on Delta, always compare the prices through SkyMiles, Flying Blue and Virgin Atlantic. I've seen short-haul flights price as low as 5,500 miles one-way through Delta, and since Virgin Atlantic uses fixed pricing on Delta, you'd definitely want to book through the SkyMiles program for those itineraries. For more information, check out Ethan Steinberg's guide on the Best Ways to Redeem Amex Points on SkyTeam Airlines.

4. Up to Three Round-Trip Nonstop Flights to Spain

A fourth (and final) great redemption option is for those of you looking to visit Spain. The Iberia Plus program is another transfer partner of Membership Rewards, and even though its currency matches that of the British Airways Executive Club (Avios), there are times where you are much better off redeeming Avios through Iberia. This is particularly true on its own flights; redeeming Avios through Iberia on Iberia-operated flights will incur minimal taxes and fees, while booking those same flights through British Airways would require hundreds of dollars more.

Here are some sample award rates for nonstop flights from US gateways to Madrid:

  • New York-JFK, Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) and Boston (BOS): 34,000 Avios in economy, 68,000 Avios in business class
  • Miami (MIA), Los Angeles and San Francisco (SFO): 42,500 Avios in economy, 84,000 Avios in business class

Note that these numbers are off-peak pricing, so you'll want to check Iberia's award calendar on the Using my Avios section of the site. Here's an example of what the next six months look like (red dates are peak dates and require additional Avios):

With this haul of Amex points, you could snag three round-trip flights from New York, Chicago or Boston to Madrid in economy or splurge for a round-trip business-class flight from Miami, Los Angeles or San Francisco to Madrid (with ~24,000 points leftover). Just like with British Airways, you also could extend the value even further with a transfer bonus.

Bottom Line

The American Express Gold Card has jumped to the front of many travelers' wish lists (and wallets) with the updated earning structure and added perks. I'm especially intrigued by the 4x earning rates on dining and US supermarkets, even though the latter of which is capped at $25,000 of spending each year (then 1x). With moderate spending in each of these bonus categories, you can unlock some incredible value. Keep in mind too that this could be even more lucrative:

  • You could open another card (like The Platinum Card® from American Express) to earn an additional welcome bonus and take advantage of other bonus categories.
  • You could get an even higher welcome bonus through a friend's referral link.
  • You could utilize the Amex Offers program to take home bonus points on a variety of purchases during the year.
  • You could put even more spending on the card and earn 3x points on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline or 1x point on all other purchases.

Any way you look at it, the new structure of the Amex Gold makes it a compelling option for many travelers. Hopefully you'll be able to utilize some of these redemption options for your next trip!

Featured image by (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)