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TPG reader credit card question: What card pairs best with the Amex Gold?

March 08, 2021
9 min read
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The ultimate goal of maximizing credit card purchases is never earning just 1% or 1x on any given purchase. There are so many great credit cards out there that offer a stellar lineup of bonus categories, but even some of the best rewards credit cards will have gaps where other credit cards can help fill the earning void.

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[pullquote source="James H. "]I am looking for advice on the best card to use with my Amex Gold Card. I am relatively new to the world of credit card rewards and would like to take a bucket list trip one year using points/miles. The Amex Gold is a great card for me because the majority of my spending is dining and groceries. I got the card based on your reviews! I have one other credit card — a non-rewarding Capital One card from my college days. I am looking for the best card or cards for my non-reward spending. Ideally, I would like one other card, but I am willing to get multiple cards if that means I can achieve my dream trip. [/pullquote]

The American Express® Gold Card is one of the best credit cards out there — in fact, it's one of my own most-used credit cards. It's situated pretty perfectly between ultra-premium (and ultra-expensive) travel credit cards and more practical mid-tier credit cards. You're getting a stellar earning rate and a few solid perks to help offset the moderate annual fee of $250 (see rates and fees). But even the Amex Gold doesn't offer bonus rewards on every purchase. This is where strategic pairing comes into play.

Enter everyday spending credit cards. These are cards that earn at least 1% or 1x on every single purchase. For some, these cards offer an excellent way to earn rewards on every purchase without worrying about different categories. And for others (myself included), they act as a catch-all for any purchases that don't earn higher rewards with other cards.

There are quite a few options on the market, so let's run through which ones James should consider based on three potential goals.

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If you want to earn more Membership Rewards

Since the Amex Gold earns Membership Rewards points, you may want a card that also earns Membership Rewards points so that it's easy to pool rewards for redemptions. Now, there is a lot of value in diversifying the type of rewards you earn, but there's an argument to be made that beginners might benefit most from having one larger pool of points or miles to make redeeming an easier process.

(Photo by The Points Guy)

If you're interested in earning more Membership Rewards points with your non-bonus purchases, I'd consider the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express. You'll earn 3x on U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases), 2x on U.S. gas stations, and 1x on everything else. But the real value of the card in this scenario is that you can earn 50% on your purchases when you use your card to make 30 or more separate purchases within a billing period. So if you are confident that you'll use the card for at least 30 purchases each billing period, then you can earn 1.5x on all of your non-bonus purchases.

However, the downsides here are that the card does charge a $95 annual fee and only offers a 15,000-point welcome bonus after you spend $1,000 in qualifying purchases in the first three months of account opening.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express is also an option but won't give you as great of a return. You'll earn 2x on U.S. supermarkets and 1x on everything else, with a 20% points bonus when you make 20 or more purchases in a billing period — so a potential 1.2x return on non-bonus spending. But, it doesn't come with an annual fee.

The information for the Amex EveryDay and the Amex EveryDay Preferred 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.

Related: Best ways to use Amex Membership Rewards points

If you want rewards to cover other travel purchases

The thing about Membership Rewards points is that you're only getting substantial value when you're transferring your points to redeem with hotel and airline partners. But a dream vacation includes plenty of travel expenses that fall outside of those two categories. This is where the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card can be an asset.

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

You'll earn 2x miles on every single purchase, which makes it a great card for all non-bonus spending. And those miles can be redeemed in multiple ways: by transferring to airline and hotel partners or for 1 cent each as a statement credit for eligible travel purchases made in the past 90 days. Capital One defines travel as purchases made with airlines, hotels, rail lines, car rental agencies, limousine services, bus lines, cruise lines, taxi cabs, travel agents and timeshares. However, keep in mind that Capital One does not appear to include things like theme parks and other tourist attractions in this definition.

So if you know your upcoming trip will include any expenses made with any of those types of merchants, having the Capital One Venture could help you cover those expenses where your Amex Gold's Membership Rewards points should really only be redeemed for airfare and hotels.

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening — which easily offsets the $95 annual fee for the first year.

Related: Capital One Venture credit card review

If you want to earn cash back

But if you're looking for a card that you can use to offset literally any purchase, you should think about a cash-back credit card. They often get overlooked in favor of the more lucrative point-earning credit cards. Still, they can be an excellent tool to recoup some of the non-travel purchases you accumulate on a trip (think tourist attraction tickets, tips, souvenirs, groceries if you are an Airbnb fan like me and more). Because cash back can be redeemed as a statement credit or direct deposit into a bank account depending on what card you have, they are perfect for saving money on the aspects of a trip that don't get covered by points or miles.

Two of the top cash-back cards that I would recommend are the Citi® Double Cash Card or the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

The Citi Double Cash earns 2% back on every purchase (1% when you buy, plus 1% as you pay). You can redeem your cash back as a statement credit, check or direct deposit into an eligible, linked Citi savings or checking account (or any checking account from which you've paid your Citi credit card bill at least twice). As of 2019, you can also convert your cash back to Citi ThankYou points if you have an eligible Citi ThankYou card, but that's not applicable here. It comes with no annual fee.

Related: Citi Double Cash credit card review

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is another no-annual-fee credit card. It earns 5% back on Lyft (through March 2022) and travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You'll also earn 3% back on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% back on all other purchases. The Chase Freedom Unlimited is actually the card I use for all non-bonus spending right now. You can redeem your cash back at one cent per point as a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Another option is redeeming them through the Ultimate Rewards portal for travel, shopping at Amazon or buying gift cards.

You can also transfer your rewards to an eligible Chase Ultimate Rewards account to turn them into full-fledged rewards points that can be transferred to partners or redeemed for a bonus through the portal. But that's not at play in this particular situation.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited does offer a sign-up bonus — earn $200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Related: Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card review

Bottom line

The Amex Gold is one of the best credit cards on the market right now, and it's easily pairable with other credit cards to really round out your earning and burning potential. Hopefully, this gives James a good start to figuring out which card would work best for him to take that dream getaway someday with the help of credit card rewards.

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

Featured image by (Photo by The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.