How I get free lunch twice a month with this one card
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There have been dozens of limited-time credit card benefit changes as a result of changing consumer behavior during the coronavirus pandemic.
Now that I’m covering the COVID-19 card benefits beat at TPG, I’ve noticed one card that has quietly stood out among the rest. In fact, this card has zero temporary bonuses, credits or annual fee reductions.
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The American Express® Gold Card has proven to be a card that is just as useful to me now as it was before COVID-19. The rich bonus points for dining worldwide and U.S. supermarkets are extremely valuable, especially at a time when I’m making more “essential” purchases. In fact, TPG’s Ethan Steinberg wrote about how he became even more loyal to the Amex Gold over the last several months.
To me, one of the biggest perks of the Amex Gold is up to $120 in annual dining credit, broken down into $10 monthly statement credits. Here is how I maximize that credit to its fullest, earning a couple of “free” meals per month.
Amex Gold benefits
As a quick overview, the Amex Gold is a relatively unique card that straddles the line between premium and entry-level. It has a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) which is significantly offset by two credits, one of which I’ll explain how I am able to maximize.
- Up to $120 annual dining credit. Once you enroll, you’ll earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at participating dining partners including through Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, some Shake Shack locations and Boxed.
- Up to $100 annual airline fee credit. Each calendar year, you’ll get up to $100 in statement credits toward incidental airline fees. Those are things such as baggage fees and inflight meals. You must designate a qualifying airline, which you can change once at the beginning of each year (although it is easy to chat with Amex to change throughout the year).
The card is currently offering a welcome offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards points (worth $1,200 based on TPG’s latest valuations) after spending $4,000 in the first six months. However, you may be targeted for a higher bonus through CardMatch or a referral link (offer subject to change at anytime).
Related reading: Full review of the Amex Gold
How I use my Amex Gold dining credit
In order to have two free lunches using my Amex Gold (in New York City, where I live), each meal would have to be $5.
Sure, it’s certainly not the norm, but a $5 lunch in an expensive city is actually possible. How do I get two free lunches a month from maximizing my card’s dining credit? Well, my (not-so-secret) secret is Grubhub and Seamless “Perks.”
Here in New York, food delivery is heavily utilized, especially now with indoor dining unavailable during COVID-19. Grubhub (which owns Seamless) is a major player across the country, including where I am.
When I’m not maximizing the Amex Gold dining benefit, I try to order from restaurants directly when I can (since delivery services take a significant cut).
Related reading: Best cards for takeout and delivery
The Grubhub (and Seamless) Perks program are essentially couponing and a rewards program for the digital age. Restaurants can opt in to discounts based on how many times you’ve previously dined, the time of the day you’re ordering and other criteria.
For instance, many restaurants will offer first-timer promotions or discounts at off-peak hours. Merchants can also include ongoing earned rewards as part of the offering.
The “Perks” tab is easy to find on the Grubhub or Seamless app — and yes, it’s only available through their respective apps. “Perks” isn’t accessible on the desktop or mobile website.
Related reading: Promo codes to save you money on food delivery
First, to preface, lunch is typically not a big affair for me. Give me a solid sandwich or salad and I’ll be set. To use my $10 Amex Gold dining credit, I’ll typically look at the Grubhub “Perks” tab for any local establishments that have a decent lunch option.
I don’t find it difficult to find two “Perks” options per month that will satisfy a lunch craving for about $5. That’s because many restaurants (at least in my neck of the woods) will offer a $5 first-timer discount with no minimum purchase, whether for pickup or delivery. Going for a walk or bike ride to pick up is my preferred choice anyway, and saves on delivery fees.
Sometimes, Grubhub and Seamless offer direct promo codes or have Amex Offers or Chase offers for bonus points. All of this can make your lunch even more lucrative, all while still using your Amex Gold dining credit.
The dining credit on the Amex Gold is something I easily max out within the first few days of each month. Getting 24 “free” lunches per year is a great perk, and I am able to make use of the 4x points at supermarkets and restaurants too.
Unfortunately, American Express has a pesky airline fee credit that may be sometimes difficult to use (especially during COVID-19). If that credit became just a bit more flexible — similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit — I would have zero complaints about this card.
Still, the Amex Gold is a worthwhile product in the era of COVID-19 — free lunch and all.
For rates and fees of the American Express Gold Card, please click here.
Featured photo by evrymmnt/Shutterstock.
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