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American Express Business Gold Card Offers 50,000-Point Signup Bonus

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For a LIMITED TIME ONLY (9/5/12 – 11/26/12), the American Express Business Gold Card is offering a 50,000-point signup bonus, worth $500, if you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. In addition to the $0 annual fee the first year for primary cardholders, AmEX is also offering a $0 annual fee for additional cards for the first year, and then $225 the following year for more than one card. It doesn’t matter if you have one or two additional cards, the cost is still $225 ($50 fee for 1 or more additional cards).

The Business Gold card has its ups and downs. It boasts the impressive 50,000 Membership Rewards Point bonus and maintains the 3% reward rate on airfare and 2% on advertising, gas and shipping. Unfortunately, it hasn’t reinstated its big spender bonus, but we think the higher rewards rate more than makes up for it.

If you spend $12,500 on advertising, shipping and gas (leaving out airfare entirely), you’ll have made up for the spending threshold bonus. And while the $50 bump in the annual fee is less than ideal ($175 from $125), the doubled signup bonus covers the increase in the annual fee for 5 years.

The American Express Business Gold card is one of American Express’s premier rewards charge cards. It’s also among the most popular, with good reason: it has better perks and rewards than the Green Card without the $450 annual fee of the AmEx Platinum.  While the rewards rate doesn’t top the list (though it comes fairly close), the American Express Gold card excels on the value of its generous perks. Like any premium credit card, you’ll need to look beyond the simple percentage value of the rewards rate and consider the value you’ll get out of travel and purchase benefits.

Starting off simple: the rewards and fees

The AmEx Gold has a base rewards rate of 1%, plus 2% on shipping, advertising and gas and 3% on airfare. It also has a signup bonus of 50,000 Membership Rewards Points if you spend $5k in the first 3 months, a perk worth $500. The card has an annual fee of $175, waived in the first year.

You can also earn bonus rewards, from 3% to 10%, through the Membership Rewards Store. Available exclusively to AmEx cardholders, the MR Store offers you discounts with its extensive list of affiliates. To earn, you log into the Membership Rewards Store, click through to the website of the desired retailer, and purchase with your AmEx Gold card. As we noted, American Express has a number of affiliates listed here. Business-friendly discounts include 3% back at the Apple Store, Microsoft, FedEx, Office Depot, and Staples.

The perks: travel, purchase protection and more

The American Express Gold, as a premier credit card, comes with any number of great perks. These tend to focus on purchase/warranty protection and extensive travel benefits. We’ll start with one that’s more or less unique to American Express cards: moving up a notch in their three-tiered rewards system.

Membership Rewards Points: Membership Rewards are divided into three levels: credit cards fall into the lowest, AmEx Membership Rewards Express; the Green and Gold charge cards belong to the standard MR program; and the Platinum and Centurion get the high-level MR First. Check out our blog post on American Express Membership Rewards points for a more detailed explanation of each tier.

At the Gold’s level, you can receive a points advance (redeem points before you earn them) of 15,000 points, up a substantial margin from the credit cards’ 5,000. In addition to the points advance, MR distinguishes itself with its good all-around redemption rate and flexibility. You can redeem for cash or gift cards from $25-$100 at a 100 point : $1 rate, unlike with many programs that require you to accumulate, say, 10k points before getting their full value. You can also transfer your points to most hotel and airline loyalty programs to “top up” the miles or points you’ve accumulated there, supplementing, say, airline miles with MR points to purchase a ticket in full. Because of this, we consider the AmEx Membership Rewards points to be fair and flexible.

Travel perks: AmEx gives a hotline to provide medical, legal and other emergency assistance while you’re abroad; up to $1,750 a year in baggage insurance; and roadside assistance that will tow your car, fix a flat or fill an empty tank, up to $50 an incident and $200 a year. AmEx provides decent standard credit card rental insurance: it has the longest coverage period of the four card networks, but is otherwise on par with Visa and MasterCard. It does, for a small fee, give added protection that covers injury, property damage and more.

Purchase protections: AmEx also gives purchase protection: if your purchase is damaged or stolen within 90 days, the card refunds up to $1,000 per occurrence and $50k a year. It also has return protection. If the seller won’t accept a return, AmEx will refund up to $300 per incident and $1k a year, less shipping and handling. Finally, it extends the warranty on items put on the card for one year, up to $10k an item and $50k per account per year.

When is the AmEx Gold good for my business?

I pay off my balance every month: The Gold is a charge card, so you’re expected to pay off your debts each month. If you don’t, the APR is something along the lines of 35%+.

I like the card’s perks: The main value of the Gold comes not in its rewards rate (which is just okay) but in its extensive travel/purchase-related benefits. The Membership Rewards Store, in particular, can stretch your dollar even further.

When should I skip the AmEx Gold?

I use my credit card for capital: If you’re financing your business with your credit card and carry a balance month-to-month, you should look for a business credit card with a low APR rather than one with rewards.

I don’t care about perks: If you don’t get value out of the fringe benefits, you can look for a card with a higher rewards rate. The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business gives a flat 2% cash back, along with a 10,000 No Hassle Miles signup bonus (we value that at $100). It only has a $59 annual fee, too, also waived the first year.

I can spring for a $450 annual fee. The American Express Business Platinum comes with amazing perks, but for a much larger annual fee. It’s also a charge card, so stay away from those monthly balances.

Whether this card is right for you and your business depends what your business needs are.

If you need access to credit and will occasionally carry a balance month-over-month, then this card won’t help you.  American Express charge cards like this and the Business Platinum require you to pay your balance off each month.  You still get the month of free float until your bill comes due, but you won’t have the luxury of spending beyond a month’s cashflow.

Also, credit standards for this card are pretty high.  Your business needs to be cash flow positive and have good credit.  You need to have at least two employees and make $250,000+ in annual revenues.  And being registered with a business credit reporting agency like Dun&Bradstreet helps.