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American Express Gold Card: A Luxurious Lifestyle Choice

by on August 31, 2010

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The American Express Gold Card is a status symbol. It’s only offered to people with superb credit, and since it’s a charge card, you are required to pay the balance in full each month.  This is a throwback to the American Express of yore, when these “charge cards” made you part of an exclusive club with benefits to match. And like all AmEx cards, the value of the Gold Card rests not on its rewards rate (which is slightly better than okay) but on its pretty impressive, very exclusive benefits.

High fees, but benefits to match

Even though the value of Membership Rewards Points may be lower than some cash rewards cards might pay you, a lot can be said for the fringe benefits, which are impossible to quantify.  Remember the old commercials that told you, “Membership has privileges?” Well, this is what they meant.

  • 24-hour Roadside Assistance, plus pretty extensive rental car insurance.
  • Baggage Insurance to cover loss or damage of your checked bags.
  • Global Assist Hotline, which is like a travel concierge that will take care of any issues you might have while away from home.  Lose your passport in Argentina?  Just call and have it taken care of.
  • Preferred Treatment and seating at concerts, sporting events, etc.  Get exclusive access to tickets before they go on sale, and sit with the other big spenders close to the action.
  • Purchase Protection, which means AmEx will reimburse you if something you just bought gets damaged or stolen
  • Return Protection will give the same coverage if you want to return an item and the seller won’t accept it
  • Warranty Extension will, as the name implies, extend a manufacturer’s warranty for one year

While the benefits are pretty impressive, they don’t match those of the American Express Platinum, the charge card often compared to the Gold. With the Platinum, you get concierge service, a 60,000-point advance, a $200 credit to offset airline incidentals like bag fees or inflight meals…You get the picture. If you can spring for the higher-fee Platinum, you’ll get unrivaled benefits.

The AmEx Gold Card earns 3 points per $1 spent on airfare, 2 on gas and groceries and 1 point elsewhere. That’s a pretty impressive rewards rate for a high-brow charge card. It pays rewards in the form of Membership Rewards, which we believe is one of the best points programs out there. The Membership Rewards program has three tiers, and the Gold occupies the middle level. You can get a points advance of up to 15,000 MR points (you can spend points you don’t already have) and earn bonus rewards when you shop with AmEx affiliates like Hilton and Jetblue. MR points can be used to pay for travel at any hotel or airline, and can also be redeemed for the standard gift cards and such. You can also use points to “top off” airline miles or hotel rewards that you’ve already accrued with the airline/hotel itself, rather than many rewards programs that require you to earn a ticket/night’s stay using credit card rewards alone. There are no blackout dates, and the points never expire. The rewards rate isn’t as good as AmEx’s “everyday” credit cards, like the American Expres Blue Cash or Costco American Express. The former gives 6% rewards on groceries, 3% on gas and department stores and 1% elsewhere; the latter gives 3% on gas, 2% on travel and dining and 1% elsewhere. As you can see, the Gold card privileges big-spender categories like airfare while the more prosaic cards give rewards on everyday purchases. But as we said, a rewards rate does not an American Express card make. It’s got some pretty great perks, which you should factor into your calculations.

The details

AmEx actually offers two different varieties of the Gold Card: the American Express Gold and the American Express Premier Rewards Gold.  The difference between the two versions lies primarily in the rewards payout.  The Premier Rewards Gold has a higher annual fee, but also pays more rewards and gives a bonus for those who spend more than $30,000 in any given year, making it great for the high rollers among us.  You can see the full breakdown below.

AmEx Premier Rewards Gold AmEx Preferred Rewards Gold
Details
  • Get 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn Points Fast: 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines, 2X points at US gas stations and US supermarkets, 1X points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • You can transfer points to over 20 frequent traveler programs or use points for gift cards at popular stores.
  • Use your Card for retail, dining, travel or groceries, then go online and use points towards your eligible charges.
  • As an added bonus, you can get 15,000 points after you spend $30,000 in purchases on the Card in one year.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175.
  • Terms and Restrictions Apply.
  • Access to Exclusive Benefits: Baggage Insurance Plan* when you travel, and shop with confidence with Extended Warranty* and Return Protection
  • Use points for gift cards for dining, entertainment, and to shop over 300 of some of your favorite merchants
  • Get discounts and low rates at hotels and resorts, plus a $75 hotel credit when you book through Gold Hotel Collection
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $125
  • Terms and Restrictions Apply
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