AmEx Gold vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred: Gold Wins, If You Can Use Credits

Pick AmEx Gold only if you'll be able to use its credits for dining and airline incidentals without overspending.

Claire TsosieJune 1, 2020
AmEx Gold vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred: Gold Wins, If You Can Use Credits

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the American Express® Gold Card have plenty in common: Big rewards for travel and dining. Transferable points. Flashy metal exteriors.

The big question: Which one is better?

The answer depends on your spending habits. For those who can take advantage of its rich credits for dining and airline incidentals, the American Express® Gold Card, which carries an annual fee of $250, generally comes out ahead.

But if you can’t use those side perks, it's usually a good idea to go with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which has an annual fee of $95.

When to choose the American Express® Gold Card

You’re able to use all the credits

The American Express® Gold Card comes with a suite of souped-up benefits, including two credits:

  • $100 airline incidental fee credit. This annual credit can be used toward certain expenses, such as checked bags, in-flight purchases and airport lounge day passes, through one selected qualifying airline. Terms apply.

  • $120 dining credit (split into $10 monthly credits). These monthly credits can be applied toward purchases made with select partners: Grubhub, Seamless, Boxed, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations. Terms apply.

If you can maximize both these benefits without spending more than usual, that adds up to an annual $220 in savings, effectively canceling out most of this card’s $250 annual fee. That could make the American Express® Gold Card a more valuable choice than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for some.

Of course, it’s worth noting that using fringe perks like these isn’t necessarily easy — especially if you don’t normally spend in these categories, which are narrowly defined. If taking advantage of these perks would drive you to spend more than usual, this card isn't the ideal choice for you.

You spend a lot on food in general, not just dining

Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the American Express® Gold Card reward spending on dining and travel in some way, though their bonus categories are defined differently. But the American Express® Gold Card goes a step beyond, offering bonus rewards on spending at U.S. supermarkets up to a yearly cap, which could make it a more valuable choice for some.

Here’s how the two rewards rates stack up.

The value of points on both cards varies, depending on how they're redeemed. Chase Ultimate Rewards® points on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed through Chase's travel portal. Membership Rewards on the American Express® Gold Card can be worth 1 cent each when used to book select travel through American Express.

Spend a lot at U.S. supermarkets? The American Express® Gold Card might offer more value in the long run.

When to choose the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

You want to transfer rewards to a domestic airline

Both the American Express® Gold Card and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card come with several transfer partners, allowing you to move your points earned on your card to various airline and hotel loyalty programs. Generally, you can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio on both cards (although some American Express transfer partners come with different ratios).

But when you’re moving points from the American Express® Gold Card to a U.S. airline transfer partner, you’ll have to pay an excise tax of 0.06 cent per point, up to $99 per transfer. That could make your rewards less valuable.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card doesn’t charge excise taxes for transferring points to any of its partners, and points can always be transferred at a 1:1 ratio. For some travelers, that could make it a stronger choice.

You’re looking for a lower annual fee

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a relatively modest annual fee of $95. You’d have to spend at least $3,800 on the card to make up for that fee in rewards — but for those who spend plenty on travel and dining, that’s an easy bar to clear.

The American Express® Gold Card comes with an annual fee of $250, which may be harder to justify, particularly if you’re not confident you can use the credits for airline incidentals and dining. Credits aside, you’d have to spend at least $6,250 annually after the first year on this card to make up for the annual fee. If you can't picture doing that, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card might be a better fit.

You want a bigger bonus

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card features a large sign-up bonus, front and center, though it requires some major upfront spending: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Meanwhile, the American Express® Gold Card features a more modest welcome bonus: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply. That's worth $350, based on NerdWallet valuations. If you're looking for big rewards from the get-go, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card could be a better pick.

Which card is right for you?

If you're all about dining and travel, deciding between the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the American Express® Gold Card generally boils down to one question: Can you take full advantage of the credits on the American Express® Gold Card without spending more than usual? If your answer is "yes," the American Express® Gold Card is your card. If not, go with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

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