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American Express Gold Card Review

The American Express Gold Card® is a premium credit card for individuals and families who spend significant sums at restaurants and supermarkets in the United States.

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The American Express Gold Card® is a premium credit card for individuals and families who spend significant sums at restaurants and supermarkets in the United States. 

If you’ve recently moved to the U.S., you may find this card appealing as its generous benefits are great for those seeking to explore all that life in the U.S. has to offer. Below, we review the fees and benefits of this popular card to help you decide if it’s the right option for you. 

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American Express Gold Card® benefits

Welcome bonus

The Gold Card provides a welcome bonus for new cardholders of 35,000 membership points for new cardholders if they spend $4,000 on their Gold Card within the first three months.

Rewards points are exchangeable in several ways. You can use them to pay your card balance, buy items at online or physical stores, exchange points for gift cards, book or upgrade travel or transfer points to another Amex card.

The value of these points differs based on the redemption options chosen by the cardholder. American Express estimates that 50,000 membership points on the Gold Card have a value of $350 to $500.

Individuals worried about the high annual fee for the Gold Card shouldn't worry about the first year: the welcome bonus more than covers the fee by itself. If a cardholder spends those welcome points on gift cards or to book or upgrade travel, they earn the equivalent of two calendar years of annual fees ($500).

Annual statement credits

The welcome bonus is not the only way to quickly “earn back” the annual fee associated with the American Express Gold Card®. There are three annual statement credits offered to Gold Card holders.

These credits include a $120 dining credit, a $100 Hotel Collection credit and $100 airline fee credit.

The dining credit is $10 a month when using the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Grubhub, Boxed, Seamless and some Shake Shack restaurants.

The travel credit only applies to a single qualifying airline of the cardholder’s choosing and can be used for baggage check-in as well as in-flight perks like food, drink or wi-fi.

Cardholders can also receive a $100 credit each year when they book rooms at participating The Hotel Collection locations when staying for at least two nights, The credit can be applied towards room upgrades, dining, spa and resort expenses. If a cardholder maximizes these bonuses, they can recoup greater annual savings than the $250 yearly fee.

Membership rewards points bonuses

American Express has designed the Gold Card to appeal to individuals who spend frequently at restaurants and supermarkets by offering 4x membership rewards points at grocery stores or while dining out. 

The enhanced 4x rewards program gives the cardholder 400 bonus points for every $100 charged to the card at a grocery store or restaurant. Amex also offers 3x membership rewards points (300 points for every $100 spent) on flights booked with airlines or on amextravel.com. 

There is a limit of $25,000 per year on supermarket spending for the 4x rewards points perk after which the cardholder receives 1 bonus point for every $1 charged to the card. There is no limit on eligible purchases at restaurants, airline websites or amextravel.com.

For all other purchases, points rewards follow a 1:1 ratio; each $1 spent earns 1 reward point.

Travel rewards

Frequent travelers will benefit from the airline credit as well as 3x membership rewards on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com. The card does not carry any foreign transaction fees and the American Express Personalized Travel Service makes it easy to book flights, arrange hotels and schedule transportation in cities around the world.

The Global Assist Hotline can help all cardholders traveling at least 100 miles away from their home city. This emergency line is available 24/7 to assist cardholders with medical, legal, and luggage-related issues.

The Gold Card also comes with a baggage insurance plan that provides coverage of up to $1,250 for carry-on and $500 for checked baggage, but you must purchase the entire fare for the trip on the Gold Card to qualify for this protection plan.

Skip rental car collision damage insurance fees: the American Express Gold Card® provides that coverage for free. The free car rental insurance coverage is available in countries around the world except for Australia, Italy and New Zealand.

Shopping and entertainment perks

The 4x membership rewards point bonuses on restaurant and U.S. supermarket purchases are key reasons why people may choose to get the American Express Gold Card®. But it is not the only shopping perk that comes with this premium credit card.

Amex routinely offers cardholder discounts and statement credits for use at restaurants, supermarkets, stores and airlines at which you frequently spend money. 

Gold cardholders also receive free membership to Shoprunner, a free two-day shipping service that applies to more than 100 online shops in the U.S. The complimentary membership is available as long as you hold a Gold Card.

Cardholders can also benefit from presales for theater shows, concerts, and sporting events in the U.S. before tickets go on sale to the general public.

Lastly, the Gold Card also unlocks access to American Express Preferred Seating, a special program that grants access to reserved seating at specific cultural and sporting events. The ability of the Preferred Seating service depends heavily, however, on the popularity of the specific event you wish to attend and location in the U.S.

Add another Amex card

American Express grants Gold cardholders the ability to give any person 13 years or older an additional card, subject to the cardholder’s agreement. Additional Amex cards accrue membership points that go straight into the account of the Gold cardholder. 

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Redeeming American Express membership rewards points

We touched on American Express membership rewards points earlier in the review, but potential applicants need to understand how to redeem these points.

Membership points accrue on each purchase made with the Gold Card. Regular purchases offer 1 point for each dollar spent while you’ll earn 4x rewards points for supermarket and restaurant purchases and 3x points for plane tickets bought directly from an airline or amextravel.com 

Cardholders can redeem membership points at any time by visiting the American Express website or installing the Amex app on their smartphones. American Express points do not expire and there are no limits on points earned. 

There are six distinct methods for redeeming membership rewards points including: 

  1. Pay with points at checkout: Cardholders can use membership rewards points to pay for products and services at retailer websites. Partnering companies include Amazon, Best Buy, Expedia, GrubHub and more. The dollar value of the points depends on the retailer chosen.

  2. Redeem for gift cards: Exchange your existing membership rewards points for gift cards with a partnering airline, lodging, car and rail, dining, retail and other establishments.

  3. Cover your card charges: Cover the present balance on your credit card statement with your points.

  4. Book or upgrade travel: Cardholders can pay for flights through American Express Travel or upgrade existing tickets or reserve prepaid hotels. They can also take cruises, plan vacations or use points on expedia.com 

  5. Transfer points: Cardholders can transfer Amex membership points to a frequent flyer program with Delta or 16 other partner airlines. The dollar value of those points depends on the program chosen.

  6. Go shopping: Shop at Amex merchant partners and cover your purchases with the points on your account.

American Express Gold Card fees

American Express has a flat annual fee of $250 that applies from the first year of use. The annual percentage rate (APR) that a cardholder receives depends on factors such as age, credit history and income. American Express charges fees of $10 or five percent, whichever is greater, on cash advances. There is no foreign transaction fee, but the company does charge up to $40 for late and returned payments. These incidental fees are subject to change every year. Much like any credit card, the American Express Gold Card® has an annual percentage rate (APR) that applies to purchases that are not paid off by the due date of each monthly statement. Individuals who pay off the entire balance on their Gold Card every month do not incur any interest on those purchases as interest applies to the balance that is left over after a billing cycle.

Is the American Express Gold Card® right for you?

Where does the Gold Card shine most? On the 4x membership rewards on eligible charges at U.S. supermarkets and restaurants around the world.

If you spend $300 a week on groceries at supermarkets in the U.S., it comes to roughly $15,000 spent each year. With a 4x points bonus, you could end up with 60,000 membership rewards points every year. 

If you are a member of frequent flyer or airline loyalty programs, the ability to transfer points from your American Express card comes in handy. Those points can be used to earn free or discounted airfare and other services from specific airlines. The up to $1,250 carry-on baggage and $500 checked baggage insurance is another excellent benefit for frequent travelers.

The annual statement credits for dining, airfare, and hotel stays are only beneficial under specific circumstances. If you do not plan to spend money at GrubHub or the Cheesecake Factory, do not stay at a participating hotel, and do not book flight tickets through airlines, you’ll likely miss out on all those rewards. 

Unfortunately, the Gold Card does not have any bonus points related to airport lounges. Frequent travelers who wish to access lounge perks should go with another American Express card, such as an Amex Platinum credit card.

The takeaway

The American Express Gold Card® is a very appealing credit card if you’re a frequent spender at restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, or on plane tickets purchased directly from airlines. With the generous membership rewards benefits and other perks, you’ll more than recoup the hefty annual fee.

The welcome bonus is an attractive incentive, but remember there’s a catch: a cardholder must spend $4,000 on the card within the first three months in order to earn it. Given the APR associated with credit cards, you must be willing to spend and pay off that much money within three months if you wish to benefit from the welcome bonus.

The same advice applies for membership rewards points: while they might be appealing at first glance, they only provide significant value for individuals who spend a lot at restaurants and supermarkets or on airline tickets.

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