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Edinburgh’s Gleneagles Townhouse: A city hotel that's costly but close to perfection

Oct. 20, 2022
23 min read
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It’s never a good idea to go into a hotel review with a preconceived notion, but I did just that earlier this month heading into Gleneagles Townhouse — a cross between a Soho House-style membership club and a historic luxury hotel in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland.

The new Townhouse brand is part of Ennismore, a lifestyle hotel collection of which Paris-based Accor is a majority stakeholder. Prior to Accor taking a majority stake last year, Ennismore was probably best known to American audiences for The Hoxton hotel brand. But several other Accor brands like SLS, Mondrian and Delano now fall under the Ennismore umbrella. Additionally, the Townhouse is an offshoot of Gleneagles, an ultra-high-end Scottish country estate hotel about an hour north of Edinburgh.

If the original Gleneagles is about spa treatments, sporting and other activities best enjoyed while decked out in Barbour fashion, the Gleneagles Townhouse is the sultry city sibling that knows how to have fun into the wee hours of the morning — while retaining the traditional design and service elements that make the original Gleneagles so special in the first place.

I must admit I went in with a healthy dose of skepticism. Ennismore founder and co-CEO Sharan Pasricha has been making the travel conference rounds in recent months boasting of how his company does lifestyle hotels.

“Gleneagles Townhouse is a really exciting progression of the brand after 100 years,” Pasricha (who was not aware that I would be reviewing Gleneagles Townhouse) told me at a New York University hotel conference this summer. “Our design team and our [operations] teams and our creative teams have done a phenomenal job to kind of re-imagine an urban oasis for Gleneagles in what is Gleneagles Townhouse.”

I’m always a little curious how a hotel with a membership club component can keep non-member guests satisfied while cordoning off certain parts of the property just for members.

After two nights at Gleneagles Townhouse, I must say that while Pasricha might be boastful, he isn’t wrong. The property offers a stellar city hotel experience without being stuffy or impersonal.

The only downside? All this luxury comes with a high price tag.

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Booking details

When I started thinking about reservations, Gleneagles Townhouse was not showing up as an option to book via the Accor Live Limitless loyalty platform, nor is it on booking platforms like American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts, though it is a member of Leading Hotels of the World, so if you're a member of that association's Leaders Club, you can book through there and earn points and perks.

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Accor Live Limitless loyalists shouldn't hold their breath, either, unfortunately. A company spokesperson told me via email this week that most Ennismore brands (Mama Shelter, 21c Museum hotels, Delano, SLS, Hyde, SO/, Mondrian, 25hours, Tribe, Jo&Joe) are currently participating in ALL, and The Hoxton is expected to integrate next year. The Gleneagles brand family isn't expected to integrate into ALL, and further details weren't provided.

I ended up booking directly via the hotel's own website for a rate that was initially 550 British pounds a night (around $676 at the time) for a Nook Room, the most affordable accommodation category at the hotel.

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However, thanks to the pound plummeting in value, by the time I arrived, a Town Room (one tier up) averaged a slightly more affordable $646 per night (even though the nightly rate was 550 pounds the first night and 625 pounds the next), including taxes as well as breakfast for two each morning. For comparison, Town Rooms were going for 625 pounds (about $767) a night when I initially booked. Rates for the largest room at the hotel — dubbed the Master Room — get as high as 850 pounds ($954) a night, per the hotel’s booking platform, for later this year and into the spring of 2023.

Travelers should know that a deposit equivalent to the nightly rate is taken at the time of booking and everything else is settled at checkout.

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Getting there

My review stay took place at the end of a weeklong trip in Europe and the United Kingdom with my husband and a few friends, and we drove into Edinburgh from the Scottish Highlands (making sure to stop at the original Gleneagles for lunch along the way to make a comparison).

However, the hotel is about a half-hour drive from Edinburgh Airport and cost us about 20 pounds ($25) in taxi fare the morning we flew out. Gleneagles Townhouse is also only two blocks away from the Edinburgh Waverley train station, the city’s main rail hub.

Standout features

My primary reference point for Edinburgh’s luxury hotel scene heading into this trip was The Balmoral, where J.K. Rowling famously finished writing the "Harry Potter" series from a suite. Just from seeing that hotel and its imposing clock tower around the corner and knowing a little bit of the history of Gleneagles, I assumed Gleneagles Townhouse was going to be a luxurious, albeit stuffy, kind of place.

Walking up to the hotel after dropping our rental car off at the train station, I was impressed by the breathtaking stonework and architecture of the hotel, which formerly housed the British Linen Bank and eventually the Royal Bank of Scotland. Gleneagles Townhouse certainly knows how to make a first impression, with ornate columns and classical statues adorning the facade's roofline.

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  • The Gleneagles Townhouse staff is by far one of the best in the business that I’ve encountered, especially during the pandemic recovery. Whether it was small details like remembering I had grapefruit the day prior in my gin and tonic or putting together a breakfast bag for us to take to the airport for a very early flight that departed well before the hotel restaurant opened, this is a team that knows how to deliver service with a smile. It felt like staying at a friend’s very chic home in the heart of the city.
  • The Spence's dining room is exquisite, with a massive overhead dome, columns and cozy seating areas that make the large space feel somehow intimate. The variety of chef Jonny Wright's menus throughout the day — from hearty egg dishes in the morning to juicy deer haunches and roast pumpkin and feta filo tarts at dinner — means guests are unlikely to get bored with typical hotel fare.
  • The guest rooms are cozy in every sense of the word. Thick, fluffy green robes and slippers were comfortable to lounge in before bed while green tiles in the bathroom continued the color theme. With only 33 rooms across the entire hotel, it makes for a very exclusive stay — even if you aren’t part of the Gleneagles Townhouse membership club
  • It’s hard to beat the St. Andrew Square location of the hotel, as it is convenient to the train station as well as a short walk from the Royal Mile and the Old Town section of the city. Guests can soak in the skyline and even the Firth of Forth in the distance while sipping drinks at Lamplighters, the cocktail bar on the hotel rooftop.
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Drawbacks

  • The hotel is spread across two buildings that are joined together, and this makes for some circuitous tromps up and down stairs or via various elevators to get to certain guest rooms, or the gym and spa facilities.
  • Nightly rates are high, even for the attic-like Nook Rooms, which have slanted ceilings and minimal views. Even the larger rooms aren't particularly spacious. High-end furnishings make these accommodations cozy — but so does the small square footage.
  • There is a certain part of the hotel reserved for members of the Gleneagles Townhouse club, and these are rumored to be some of the most beautiful parts of the property. Alas, I couldn’t verify this due to my non-member status and “just” being a hotel guest. Given how much fun I had at Lamplighters, The Spence and even in the fitness facilities, I never thought I was getting the short end of the Gleneagles Townhouse stick — especially since membership starts at 1,100 pounds ($1,240) for those under the age of 33 and jumps to 2,200 pounds ($2,480) for those 33 and over. It's slightly higher if you decide to pay monthly. That'll get you access to things like a members-only lounge, rooftop bar, coworking space, guest room discounts and invites to exclusive events.
CAMERON SPERANCE/THE POINTS GUY

The vibe

Gleneagles may be the grande dame of this small-but-growing brand family, but Gleneagles Townhouse is the stylish upstart that still knows how to execute luxury (and can be more easily replicated in other outposts around the world, unlike the 850-acre original in the Scottish countryside).

The service culture on display was casual yet professional, much like staff uniforms of polo shirts and slacks. There was nothing snooty about the ambiance, either, even though a place like this could probably get away with a posh vibe bordering on off-putting. Instead, it's very approachable and hospitable thanks to friendly interactions and a homey decor aesthetic ... that is, if your home were an elegant Edinburgh pied-a-terre.

There was a diverse mix of travelers from young families to older couples, as well as a sprinkling of girls weekend groups. I did get excited by the unintended fashion show traipsing through The Spence on our last night. There was an engagement party taking place in the back garden, and it felt like I was in an episode of "The Only Way Is Essex": big hair and big personalities. While approachable and unfussy, this still is a see-and-be-seen kind of place.

The room

It was quite an upstairs-downstairs journey to get to my Town Room. Luckily, a Townhouse staffer walked us from the lobby down a hallway and down a short stairway to another room that connected to an elevator that took us back up a level to where the room was. While this might make you think the property isn’t very accessible, there are accessible guest rooms closer to the lobby reached via elevator and not requiring such a winding route.

CAMERON SPERANCE/THE POINTS GUY

The staffer quickly showed us the ropes of the room, from how to work the lights to where to stow luggage (which another attendant carried to our room). Our early evening arrival meant the room had already received turndown service, with the lighting dimmed, shades drawn and slippers and robes out. If we hadn’t already scored a reservation for the evening at The Spence, I would have been more than happy to jump into the cozy bed.

While many luxury hotels these days appear to be leaning into minimalism and brighter colors, Gleneagles Townhouse goes in a richer, darker color direction.

This may be a city hotel, but the bathroom wallpaper of hunting dogs and greenery was clearly a nod to the brand’s original embrace of outdoor sports. In fact, green was a leading hue throughout, from darker glazed tiles to more summery shades of paint on the bedroom walls.

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“Should we re-tile our bathroom with green?” I have asked my husband multiple times since our departure — along with hinting how heated floors like those in the hotel bathroom would be so great for our winters in Boston. Let’s just say I’ll need to write quite a few more hotel stories before that venture is paid for.

The bed was inviting with a thick comforter, fluffy pillows and canopy crown headboard lined with pink tassels. There was a dark wooden chest of drawers for storing luggage and clothes while a large piece of cabinetry opposite the bed and under a large flat-screen television housed the minibar, Nespresso machine, tea kettle and a welcome note and box of chocolates from the Gleneagles team.

CAMERON SPERANCE/THE POINTS GUY

Dark wooden floors, golden curtains, a gray headboard and a feathered chandelier added nice pops of color in contrast to the dominant green. It may sound like a lot going on all at once, but it all pulled together nicely in a refined way.

The bathroom was my favorite part: An enormous rainfall shower head packed a punch with water pressure in the spacious walk-in shower. As mentioned, the bathroom floor tiles were heated — pleasant to walk on during the crisp mornings of our autumn stay and likely a much better amenity during Edinburgh winters. The hotel uses Scotch Heather bathroom amenities, sadly in larger bottles, meaning there were no minibottles of these products to take home as a souvenir to my guest bathroom.

CAMERON SPERANCE/THE POINTS GUY

Clearly, I’m not the only aficionado of hotel bathroom amenities, as the Gleneagles team had a note in the guest room noting that any toiletries found missing would be charged to a final bill and encouraging guests to buy a fresh supply down in the lobby. What toiletry party poopers.

Back in the bedroom, I found other pleasant touches like a radio set to a smooth jazz channel by turndown housekeeping, as well as ceramic blue and white reading lamps on the nightstand. Trash and recycling bins were concealed within a leather-bound container. There were ample electrical outlets that included USB-A ports on both sides of the bed to keep devices powered up during a stay (just remember to bring your U.K. power adapter for any non-USB charging).

The view was not the greatest from our room — basically we looked over the roof and at other parts of the hotel. It did make me wonder just how bad the vistas are from the Nook Rooms, as those are advertised as not having any views at all.

Turndown service each night was highly attentive, from tidying clothes that we left on top of our luggage to leaving out glasses of water for us to keep by the bed. We even returned one night to see a stuffed animal we got for our niece and had left on the table was now holding court on the turned-down bed — a cute, funny touch to make us feel even more at home.

Food and drink

Dining is clearly an area where the Gleneagles team excels. The Spence is both a beautiful space as well as a delicious experience. Once again, I expected a degree of stuffiness based on how refined the dining room was: elaborate crown moldings, an opulent dome and soaring columns all pulled together in the center by a bar adorned with profuse greenery and dramatic lighting.

CAMERON SPERANCE/THE POINTS GUY

The diverse menu is served by a friendly, attentive wait staff well-versed in what The Spence is cooking up along with humorous stories that once again made it feel like we were staying at a hospitable friend's home rather than an over-the-top luxury hotel. We met friends for dinner the first night, and it enabled us to get a true taste of The Spence.

We intentionally showed up a little early to give us time to sit at the bar in the middle of the restaurant and do a little people-watching. Feeling fabulous amid the crowd at Edinburgh’s newest hotel, we had glasses of Veuve Clicquot Champagne for 17 pounds ($19) apiece to kick off supper. Not the most original bottle of fizz in the Champagne world, but it was fun to sip while enjoying the ambiance of The Spence.

CAMERON SPERANCE/THE POINTS GUY

Once we made our way to the table, a beef tartare (or “spicy raw beef,” as The Spence calls it — see? Unpretentious even in verbiage) for 16 pounds ($18) and ceviche for 21 pounds ($23.50) kicked off the meal. We were eating on the later side at 9 p.m., so a beef filet for 40 pounds ($45) that had been recommended was sold out by the time we put our order in. The waiter recommended my friend and I split the chateaubriand for two — which came with hollandaise, roasted tomatoes and fries — off the sharing menu for 85 pounds ($95). It was a great recommendation, as the meat was seasoned perfectly and came out with lovely flavoring cooked medium. We all shared a roasted sweet potato side for 5 pounds ($5.50) that came with chimichurri and miso-honey butter.

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Others at the table enjoyed a corn-fed chicken breast for 25 pounds ($28) that came with a confit leg hot pot (basically, the chicken and seasonal vegetables were bathed in a gravy) as well as a seared salmon for 25 pounds ($28) with squash and other seasonal vegetables with an herb sauce. Both the chicken and salmon received their sauce baths at the table — a nice flourish of presentation for dishes that were juicy and filling.

Breakfast at The Spence was a beautiful start to the day. However, there were some dishes that stood out more than others. While included in our nightly rate, this was no mere hotel breakfast buffet. Ranging from healthy juices to hearty egg dishes, The Spence had something for everyone to indulge in for the most important meal of the day. This stay came at the end of a very busy week of travel, so it was nice to kick off the meal with an immune-boosting turmeric shot with cayenne, lemon and ginger before moving on to mains.

CAMERON SPERANCE/THE POINTS GUY

I had a “total eggclipse” meal comprised of eggs cooked to order (I went with crispy fried) and grilled cornbread. My born-in-the-South self was tickled to see this on a menu in Scotland.

This would usually cost 7.50 pounds ($8), and I then added three sides (spinach, grilled halloumi and sausages) that would cost 11 pounds ($12) for those paying out of pocket. It was standard breakfast fare and nothing groundbreaking, but my husband’s eggs shakshuka for 9.50 pounds ($10.50) was the winner of the meal — runny eggs, tomato and harissa sauce and labneh made for a spicy start to the day (and made me a little jealous I didn’t think to order it for myself).

While The Spence wasn’t cheap by any stretch (though breakfast was included and very affordable even if you were paying out of pocket), I did find the meals to be significantly more bang for the buck than dinner at the recently renovated Park Hyatt Chicago and just about any other high-end hotel restaurant that I’ve been to in recent memory. Additionally, it was nice to see a wine list that had quite a few options for under 100 pounds ($110) — an increasing rarity at hotel bars and restaurants. The Spence offered a plethora of options at all price points, starting at 28 pounds ($30) and moving up to 600 pounds ($680) for a bottle of 2003 Dom Perignon.

Keep in mind, the pound seriously tanked in value while the dollar remained strong when we were there, so prices may not be as affordable for American travelers in the future.

The other dining and drinking highlight of the stay was Lamplighters, the rooftop bar at the hotel that is open only to members of the club and hotel guests. Because it isn’t open to the general public, Lamplighters felt like a special retreat each of the three times I visited.

CAMERON SPERANCE/THE POINTS GUY

Bartenders and servers remembered small details about how everyone with me took their drinks, from the type of gin we preferred to various fruit garnish preferences. Depending on your gin preference, a standard G&T at Lamplighters ranged from 9 to 14 pounds ($10-$15). A DJ played music on the Friday night we arrived while the Saturday afternoon crowd seemed more like chic mother-daughter duos unwinding with a drink after a day of shopping next door at the Harvey Nichols department store. I primarily stuck to gin and tonics while at Lamplighters, which also offered a play on the classic cocktail with a libation called “Incandescence" (13 pounds, or $14), which had Tanqueray, Rinquinquin peach liqueur, grapefruit, pink peppercorn and tonic.

CAMERON SPERANCE/THE POINTS GUY

Amenities and service

The team at Gleneagles Townhouse reached out about a month before my arrival to ask if I had any requests for my stay. Unfortunately, I forgot about this and only remembered to make a dinner reservation at The Spence the day of my arrival, something the team happily managed to do and even initially snagged me a prime-time reservation at 7 p.m. (It was due to our own delays with stopping at the original Gleneagles that made us push it back to 9 p.m.). The Gleneagles team also encouraged me to visit the Telling Rooms Wine Bar, reminiscent of a library and French country kitchen, just off the side of The Spence — sadly, our later dinner reservation didn't allow us time to pop in. This cash bar is open to hotel guests as well as members.

CAMERON SPERANCE/THE POINTS GUY

The team at reception was very happy to help with anything from making dinner recommendations around town to offering tips on what sights to explore. I was happy to see the recommendations weren’t just standard high-end places most hotel concierges usually point out. Instead, waiters at The Spence doled out advice on even off-the-beaten-path spots to grab a curry instead of just telling us to go to Dishoom across the street.

Because I was curious about what parts of the hotel were open to guests and which were only for club members, I asked a few members of the staff. One had me briefly panicked when it sounded like the gym and spa were only for club members, but a front desk attendant was quick to note the only restricted area was one floor up. Again, this might annoy some people, but it was pretty removed from everything else going on at the hotel, so I really didn’t feel all that left out.

The gym and spa area, collectively called The Strong Rooms, were very well stocked by hotel gym standards and felt like a stand-alone fitness facility that would fit right in within any trendy city neighborhood. Treadmills, free weights, machines, spinning bikes and a fitness studio now make up what used to be the bank vault. While I didn’t indulge, Gleneagles Townhouse offers a variety of face and body treatments in the spa. Facial treatments start at 115 pounds ($130) for a 50-minute session while massages begin at 95 pounds ($107) for a 50-minute personalized treatment.

For those looking to refresh after a workout or spa visit, there were also very pretty hydration stations (think a piece of light wood cabinetry that would easily work as a backdrop on an episode of Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa” series) with farmhouse sinks, reusable water bottles and dry and cool towels.

Out and about

The Royal Mile leading up to Edinburgh Castle is about a 10-minute walk from the hotel. I liked being a little removed from this area, as there was a Scottish independence rally that weekend that made things a little noisy the closer you got to this sightseeing stretch. But it is an impressive boulevard to soak in Edinburgh's architecture and eventually reach Edinburgh Castle, which has stood watch over the city for more than 900 years.

The area directly around Gleneagles Townhouse is a high-end area for both shopping and dining. Harvey Nichols next to the hotel is only one piece of the shopping pie, as nearby Princes Street and George Street both offered a mix of designer shops, tony boutiques and more mainstream outlets like Primark and Marks & Spencer. The nearby Princes Street Gardens was a nice place to stroll and grab Instagram-worthy photos of Edinburgh Castle while Scotch drinkers will enjoy the Johnnie Walker Experience (part gift shop, part cocktail bar), also on Princes Street.

CAMERON SPERANCE/THE POINTS GUY

Accessibility

While the hotel might seem to be a warren of stairways, most areas of the property are accessible via a wheelchair-accessible entrance and elevator. There are guest rooms with accessible bathrooms by request.

Checking out

It was 3:45 in the morning when we sadly had to check out and head to the airport for our flight back to Boston. There was no reason for the staff at the Gleneagles Townhouse to go above and beyond at this hour of the morning, nor would we have expected them to.

Yet, the Gleneagles team was still at it, making sure our visit was enjoyable up until we hopped into our taxi. Wake-up calls and arranging airport transportation may be the baseline, but the team also made sure to pack us to-go juices and coffees since the hotel restaurant was only just beginning to prep for a busy day ahead.

It was a reminder up until departure of just how attentive this crew really is. While the question remains if the Gleneagles brand can keep a firm grip on its reputation for stellar customer service as more hotels get added to the portfolio, its first city hotel foray is a strong start for a brand I expect will quickly become one many parts of the world covet and want to have open in their own backyard.

Featured image by CAMERON SPERANCE/THEPOINTS 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.

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  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and 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.
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  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
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Best for the well-traveled foodie
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4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and 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 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees